When we last looked at Pinhook, it was the 2018 release. My initial thoughts were good – but I really wanted to see another year on it. The 2019 release – Bourbon War – added the extra year I was seeking. Would the extra year add what was missing? Let’s take a look at what’s inside this elegant golden wax-dipped bottle.
The story behind the name is a tale in itself. “Pinhook” refers to a thoroughbred racing term used to describe the process of purchasing young thoroughbred horses, raising them until maturity, and selling them to become racehorses.
In a similar vein, the founders of Pinhook have been “bourbon pinhooking”, seeking out top barrels from distillers, aging them, and then selling the finished product. Every 6 months, a new, limited batch of bourbon gets released, and each batch is a unique blend and proof of distillate. Until recent years, much of the bourbon was sourced from MGP, but since 2017, upstart Castle and Key Distillery has been providing the new distillate as well as aging the sourced barrels. Rumor had it that Master Distiller Marianne Barnes was having input to the selecting and blending of the sourced barrels as well as crafting the distillate that Castle and Key was providing prior to her departure in mid-2019.
Bourbon War (the horse) made his debut on January 18, 2019 at Gulfstream Park as a 3-year-old colt out of Grade 1 stakes winner Tapit. I had my eye on him at both the 2019 Belmont and Preakness. During his 9 starts in 2019, he placed (1st, 2nd or 3rd) in 4 of his 9 starts.
The bottle here is a unique one in the bourbon industry. A tall golden, neatly-wax-tipped bottle with a matching golden label – looks like it should be filled with chardonnay instead of bourbon. This 2019 rendition is bottled at 98 proof. The bottle indicates a 4-year age statement and has a golden wax dip.
The long, slender bottle carries a photo of the 16.0 hand racehorse Bourbon War. This is likely one of the last bottles of distillate provided by Lawrenceburg, Indiana MGP and is made from a mash bill of 75% corn, 20.5% rye, and 4.5% malted barley. According to the Pinhook website, we should notice a bright nose of tropical fruit, butterscotch and cedar leading to a rich and vibrant palate of dried fig, cocoa, roasted peanut and clove. Let’s see if Bourbon War is a win, place, or show.
Eye: Light amber. There are thick legs dripping down the side of the Glencairn glass.
Nose: Light and bright with some vanilla and caramel followed by lighter floral notes and warm banana bread. This is quite lovely for a 4-year-old bourbon with a decent amount of complexity.
Palate: Light and smooth with vanilla and honey (I’m tasting Honeycomb cereal from my youth). Additional fruit notes and wood come in late.
Finish: Medium-short with vanilla and oak. As those notes step aside, a peppery finish takes over.
Overall: Pinhook has delivered another strong contender. While not super complicated, there was something about it that kept me going back again and again for another pour of this very solid bourbon. I found this for about $40. I’m looking forward to the day (very soon) when Pinhook will have a product that is 100% theirs.