Review: Hardin’s Creek The Kentucky Series: Clermont

Beam Suntory’s Hardin’s Creek line of rare whiskeys launched last year to significant fanfare — at least for it’s Jacob’s Well blend of 16 and 15 year old bourbons. Now Beam is back with more Hardin’s Creek — the first of a trilogy in what it calls “The Kentucky Series” — a trio which will explore the impact of aging in Beam’s rickhouses in three different parts of the state: Clermont, Frankfort, and Boston. All three whiskeys were laid down with the same mashbill at the same time, 17 years ago but aged in full at different campus locations.

“The Kentucky Series is a testament to the influence of location and how nature plays such a vital role in liquid maturation,” said Freddie Noe, Eighth Generation Master Distiller of the Fred B. Noe Distillery. “While these three bourbons were made with the same mash bill and aged in Kentucky, the micro-climates and environments at each location are distinctly different, which greatly impacts the taste of each product. As my Granddaddy Booker Noe said, ‘Set it and let nature take over.’”

First up is The Kentucky Series: Clermont, a 17 year old bourbon aged at Beam’s Clermont facility. Frankfort will arrive in August, and Boston hits in September.

Let’s kick things off with a trip to Clermont, which is centrally located, just south of Louisville.

As with Jacob’s Well, there’s plenty to love here. The nose is exuberant and classic: Well-matured bourbon that never feels “old” or austere, at least at first, though the upfront notes of dark chocolate, vanilla, and spices are undercut with a layer of underbrush, giving the whiskey a decidedly savory quality. This needs time in glass to develop, eventually evoking something akin to a rich beef stew.

The palate is all the best of Kentucky in a glass: Brightly sweet with spiced caramel, vanilla, and milk chocolate notes, it slowly unfolds to reveal some of those denser, more savory notes and a stronger influence of candied ginger and dark chocolate. The classic peanut character of Beam is evident but restrained in comparison to other expressions. Increasingly smoldering as it builds in the glass, the sense of both turned earth and barrel char slowly become palpable — and ultimately dominant.

It’s a bit too much at times, actually, ultimately weighing the experience down more than it should, though it’s nothing that’s offensive in the slightest. The finish is a curious mix of sweet and savory, some austerity finally creeping into the experience, a reminder that this spent 17 long years in the barrel. It may not be on the level of masterpiece as Jacob’s Well, but I still can’t wait to see what the next two whiskeys in the series bring forth.

110 proof.

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