Review: Milam & Greene Very Small Batch Bourbon Batch 1

Milam & Greene Whiskey‘s Very Small Batch Bourbon isn’t even close to the smallest batch release its ever made, but this initial release of 75 barrels — for a new permanent edition release — is nonetheless a pretty tiny one as whiskey releases go.

The whiskey marks a handful of milestones for the Texas-based operation. Per the company, it includes the “first bourbon distilled by Milam & Greene in Kentucky, the first whiskey to be finished with French oak staves, the first addition to the Milam & Greene core portfolio in over two years, and the first whiskey to be awarded a Gold Medal at the 2023 San Francisco World Spirits Competition before it was even launched.”

What’s in the bottle? As with most M&G releases, it’s a combination of bourbon distilled by master distiller Marlene Holmes in Kentucky using the proprietary Milam & Greene mashbill of 70% corn, 22% malted rye, and 8% malted barley (20%) mixed with sourced barrels of Tennessee bourbon (80%). Aging is done variously in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Texas, though no age statements are included on the bottle.

Here’s how that French oak stave finishing works:

To perfect the precise type of wood flavor without overpowering these refined ester notes, Very Small Batch Bourbon is finished with French oak staves. French oak casks that once held both tawny port wine and then Milam & Greene’s award-winning rye whiskey are broken down, then “cooked” in the 100-degree Texan summer sun, and finally house-charred to a crisp on the outside only. These crispy-on-the-outside, rye-kissed on-the-inside staves are tied in bundles and then steeped in Very Small Batch Bourbon for about two weeks in the vatting tanks. The distilling team tastes the bourbon daily during the finishing process to ensure a balance of flavors.

As is the norm, we experienced the whiskey on Zoom with CEO/whiskey nerd Heather Greene, and we have some thoughts.

I don’t think Milam & Greene has ever released an uncompelling whiskey and this one’s no exception: A deftly crafted blend of bourbons picked at just the right time. The nose has an immediately peppery, spicy quality, veering into menthol with time in glass. Greene mentioned a perfume/cologne note in her commentary, and it’s spot on — potpourri, split vanilla bean, and a little strawberry on the back end. Wholly drinkable, the whiskey pours on notes of vanilla and butterscotch, then moving into notes of chocolate and cherries. Reminiscent in many ways of prior Milam & Greene bottlings, the charred barrel stave, mint, and sweet vanilla notes work in beautiful tandem, creating a rhythm of sweet and savory that rolls right into the lengthy, toasted marshmallow finish.

Even at full strength — though I don’t think 54% abv is necessary here — the whiskey is approachable and drinkable. It doesn’t need water but you can drop some in if things get a little too toasty, coaxing out a nuttier character from the bourbon. All told: I’ve yet to find an M&G release that I didn’t enjoy, and this one is no exception to the rule.

108 proof. 18,000 bottles produced.

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