Review: Ironclad Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey

DSR – VA – 001 – Ironclad Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey

Company/Distillery: Ironclad Distillery Company

Location: Newport News, Virginia

Mash Bill: 70% Corn, 10% Wheat, 10% Rye and 10% Malted Barley

Age Statement: No Age Statement; Distiller Owen King stated an average age of 14-16 months for the small batch bourbon.

Proof/ABV: 90 Proof/45% ABV

Color: Amber; Fresh brewed tea

Purchase Price: $38.69 for 375 ml at VA ABC Store (2/21/2020)

Bottle Label Information:

Neck Label: Batch No. 35, Bottle No. 454, Date Bottled: 6/25/2019, Barrel Tag: BRKL, Forecast: Hot

Outer White Label: “Mighty Ships inspired our name. That’s why we’re sticking to our guns. We make authentic bourbon. That’s it. Nothing else. It’s our Ironclad rule.”

“We source select Virginia grains, ferment, and distill one batch at a time. And then let the brackish air from the James River and our charred oak barrels do the rest.”

Inner Black Label: “In 1862, two pioneering Ironclad ships waged the most famous battle between their kind. The small USS Monitor and the heavily armed CSS Virginia attempted to destroy the other’s mighty cladding. After hours of close-range action, neither had sunk. Their story, however, went down in history”.

Distillery Background

Ironclad Distillery

There is no denying that the state of Virginia is soaked in history. The state is home to the settlement of Jamestown (1607), boasts the title of being one of the original 13 colonies, and is the birthplace of 8 U.S. Presidents. Virginia is so rich in history that one could read for a month straight and still not scratch the surface on its history.

One chapter in the state’s history occurred on  March 9, 1862 just outside of the city of Hampton Roads. On this day two naval vessels, the C.S.S. Virginia and the U.S.S. Merrimack, would battle for four hours to a draw in what is now referred to as the “Battle of the Ironclads”. (To read more about this famous battle, head on over to US National Park Service.)

It is from this Civil War battle in Virginia that the Ironclad Distillery takes its name. Established in 2015 by Stephen King (father), Owen King (son), and Kara King (daughter), Ironclad Distillery is located within eyesight of this battleground in the historic S.W. Holt & Co. Warehouse in downtown Newport News. The distillery has come a long way in a short amount of time. Ironclad Distillery began production in 2015, hitting Virginia ABC stores in late 2016 then going on to win a bronze medal in the 2017 American Distilling Institute Awards.

Small Batch Bourbon

Ironclad’s Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey is a 4-grain bourbon that uses 70% corn and 10% each of wheat, rye and malted barley in their mash bill. The entire process of fermentation, double-distillation, aging and bottling all occurs in the Newport News facility. The distillery ages its small batch bourbon an average of 14 to 16 months in 15 gallon new American oak charred barrels made by the McGinnis Cooperage out of Cuba, Missouri. Distiller, Owen King, told Rickhouse Ramblings that “the smaller barrels have a great surface area and it allows [Ironclad Distillery] to bring better color and more maturity to the bourbon in a quicker amount of time.” The distillery is currently aging some of its bourbon in industry standard 53 gallon barrels for longer aging and future releases.

For the curious consumer, Ironclad Distillery offers a barrel tracking tool on their website. This tells the consumer what happened to the barrel after their bottle was filled. Our barrel tag ID# was BRKL and the barrel was later used to age maple syrup and has since returned home to Ironclad Distillery to be used with its maple syrup finished Bourbon product. We really appreciated the extra insight into what happened with our product’s barrel after it aged our bourbon.

Other Ironclad Distillery Products:

  1. Ironclad Bourbon Finished in Coffee Casks
  2. Ironclad Bourbon Finished in Maple Syrup Casks
  3. Ironclad Bourbon Finished in Honey Casks
  4. Ironclad Straight Bourbon
  5. Coming Soon: Ericsson’s New Make Whiskey

Tasting Notes

Tasting Date/Vessel: February 29, 2020 – Neat in Glencairn Glass


Christian: Pleasant notes of butterscotch, caramel, and melted butter.

Mike: Chewing tobacco, plum, brown sugar, and some butter.


Christian: Flavor is bold. Heavy leather notes with hints of oak. Mouth feel is a little thin and smooth.

Mike: Dried cherries, leather, and light floral notes. Slight hint of pepper.


Christian: The finish on this one is dry. The rye brings a spicy/peppery finish to this bourbon that lingers a bit on the tongue. Addition of a drop of water toned down the spice a tad on the finish.

Mike: Long and dry. Spicy. Slight bitterness at the end, but not off putting.

Our Rating

Final Thoughts

Christian: Being totally transparent, I entered this review a little skeptical and hesitant due to having very little background knowledge of Ironclad’s Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey. All I noticed when I went into the ABC store was the price and the size of the bottle. DO NOT make this mistake.

Ironclad Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey is an undeniably enjoyable and complex whiskey. The sweet aromas and flavors on the nose and mouth, consistent with wheat offerings, transition with a little punch of spice and peppery finish brought out by the rye. This is an unexpectedly superb whiskey!

Mike: Ironclad is a 4 grain bourbon and it is very complex in flavor.  A drop or two of water opened up some sweetness in the mouth for me and softened the finish a little.  This is a unique bourbon that I unquestionably enjoyed.

It’s interesting to point out that Ironclad uses 15 gallon barrels to age this bourbon for approximately 14 to 16 months. Fifty-three gallon barrels are the industry standard. There are purists out there that argue against this, but taste is what matters most to me. I would attest that this product from Ironclad looks and tastes older than 14 to 16 months.

Conclusion: At the current price point of $39 (equivalent to $78 for the standard fifth), the Ironclad Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey would probably not be considered our everyday drinker. However, the complexities of the nose, mouth, and finish of the whiskey make it a prime choice to keep stocked in your bar and to be enjoyed with good friends who share a true appreciation for quality bourbon whiskey. Don’t be afraid to pick one of these up when visiting Virginia and enjoy a pour! We know we will!


2 thoughts on “Review: Ironclad Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey

  1. Thanks for the review. I share your appreciation of this small distiller’s bourbon. I’m fortunate to work only blocks away from the distillery so I frequently enjoy their handiwork after a long day.
    By the way, Hampton Roads is the name of the waterway where the battle of the ironclads took place, and now also the general name of the area. But it is not the name of a city. You may be thinking of one of the city of Hampton.

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