I first heard of Pinhook bourbon from one of my local Facebook groups. A member gave us the lead on bottles that he found in a local liquor store. He commented that he’d never tasted it, but the Secondary Market was showing great interest and demand in Pinhook.
I had not given it another thought until I came across a single bottle of it sitting alone on a shelf in Washington, DC. I tried looking up reviews for this particular batch (Fall 2018), but surprisingly couldn’t find any given the demand for it on BSM. Reviews for previous releases had been favorable so for $43, I decided to give it a shot.
The Pinhook Backstory
Have you ever been drinking with friends sharing your love of bourbon and throw out the idea that you all should pitch in and buy your own private barrels? I’m sure that thought has crossed a lot of our minds, but the founders of Pinhook actually followed through on it. The founders all shared their love for the state of Kentucky, whiskey, and it’s equestrian history. They knew they wanted their creation to pay homage to all three.
Pinhooking is a term used to describe the process of purchasing young thoroughbred horses, raising them until maturity, and selling them to become race horses. Similar to how whiskey is made, a successful pinhook is made on instinct, experience, and an appreciation for quality.
The founders of Pinhook have been doing “whiskey pinhooking” by seeking out barrels of MGP from 2008. Every six months, a new limited batch of bourbon gets released from these same barrels and mashbill from 2008. Each release of whiskey is a unique blend and proof of MGP distillate, along with a name after a young thoroughbred horse. Supposedly, those horses that end up doing well in their race career later generate higher demand for collectors and secondary market buyers.
Up until 2017, Pinhook was exclusively derived of MGP distillate. They have since contracted with Castle and Key to distill for them and ultimately blend and proof their releases. Their Castle and Key distillate still won’t be ready for another few years. Therefore, they are still using their MGP barrels, but they now have the expertise and assistance of Marianne Barnes to fashion some unique and exquisite releases.
Pinhook Bourbon – Fall 2018 “Bourbon Country”
This Fall 2018 “Bourbon Country” batch marks the 8th release of Pinhook bourbon. I believe this is the initial batch that Marianne Barnes of Castle and Key worked on since it is the first time that she is credited with as blending and proofing (even though blending was occurring at Castle and Key since 2017). The previous release had only credited Sean Josephs, who is Pinhook’s usual blender and proofer.
I was a bit hesitant to buy this bottle since it was only aged at least 3 years according to the label and the bourbon looked very light. I was worried this bourbon would be too young and thin for my liking. It’s also your typical low-rye mashbill of 75% corn, 20.5% rye, and 4.5% barley which I don’t tend to drink much. I prefer high-rye bourbons for their added complexity of spiciness in the bourbon.
Nose: A bit bright and sweet, some dried fruit and pear. The pear notes eventually get more noticeable the more sips I took.
Palate: Not as thin at all as I was expecting for the age, but nothing complex either. Maybe a bit of apricot came through after swirling in the mouth a bit longer.
Finish: More flavors emerge on the finish such as pear, honey, and pepper. A good, light amount of spice lingers in the mouth.
Conclusion: Although this batch is not the typical profile of bourbon I’d seek out, I was pleasantly surprised by “Bourbon Country”. I was expecting to scoff at it due to it’s young age statement and light color. Nor am I into sweet or fruit forward bourbons, but I could find myself enjoying this on a hot summer day.
I am sure those who prefer this type of mashbill over a higher-rye, will love this release. It’s very smooth, easy to drink, and refreshing. I actually found myself migrating back to this after having a pour of Buffalo Trace.
Could this be considered a preview of what we can expect from Marianne Barnes and Castle & Key once their bourbon is ready for release? If so then, I am more excited to see what she has planned for us when her own bourbon reaches maturity in a couple more years.