DSR – FL – 002: St. Augustine Port Finished Bourbon
Company/Distillery: St. Augustine Distillery Co.
Location: St. Augustine, Florida
Mash Bill: 60% Florida corn, 22% barley, and 18% Florida wheat
Age Statement: Aged 3 years
Proof/ABV: 102 Proof/51% ABV
Color & Viscosity: Rich Mahogany/Strawberry Brunette. Thin tiny legs that were very slow to form.
Purchase Price: $80.00 at the Distillery ; 750 ml
Bottle Label Information:
“St. Augustine Distillery Co.”
“Florida Port Finished Bourbon”
“Fresh from Florida”
“Distilled, aged & bottled by St. Augustine Distillery Co., St. Augustine, FL U.S.A.”
“Aged 3 Years”
St. Augustine Distillery Co.
The St. Augustine Distillery Co. was co-founded in 2013 by Philip McDaniel and Mike Diaz. Mr. McDaniel is retired from the St. John’s County Florida Cultural Council and the Tourist Development Council. Mr. Diaz is a retired investor. Both men were looking for opportunities to invest in the city of St. Augustine and its history of being the oldest city in the United States. Within a few years of making an agreement to partner up and build a distillery, the duo, along with many investors, purchased the historic FP&L Ice Plant as their new distillery home. Originally built in 1907, the FP&L Ice Plant served as St. Augustine’s first power and ice facility. If being the first ice production facility in Florida wasn’t historical enough, the FP&L Ice Plant also became home to Florida’s first bourbon distillery.
In order to help get the distillery off the ground, McDaniel and Diaz turned to a giant in the distilling industry, Dave Pickerell. Mr. Pickerell, who was formally the Master Distiller at Maker’s Mark and well known for his work at Whistle Pig, would assist St. Augustine Distillery in designing the distillery as well as the blending of spirits. St. Augustine Distillery also consulted with Jake Norris, founding distiller of Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey. Mr. Norris would assist St. Augustine’s in the development of the recipe that is still used today.
In February 2020, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) awarded Mr. McDaniel with the Dave Pickerell Memorial Craft Member of the Year award. This award recognized McDaniel for his role in assisting the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act passed through Congress. This act is responsible for, “substantially lowering the federal excise tax for breweries, wineries, and distilleries.” (Source: National Distillers Organization Recognizes St. Augustine Distillery Co-Founder by Alex Wilson)
In addition to their Florida Straight Bourbon, St. Augustine Distillery also produces Port Finished Bourbon, The Saint Bourbon, Pot Distilled Rum, New World Gin, Florida Cane Vodka, and several other limited release offerings.
Port Finished Bourbon
St. Augustine Port Finished Bourbon starts by using the traditional St. Augustine Florida Bourbon and aging it for a minimum of 3 years in new charred oak 53-gallon barrels. After the Florida Bourbon is mature, it is then transferred to a port wine barrel from San Sebastian Winery, where it rest for an additional 3-6 months before bottling. In order to showcase the flavors created by this process, St. Augustine has chosen to bottle this offering at 102 proof.
Tasting Date/Vessel: December 23, 2020 – Neat in Glencairn Glass, then with the addition of distilled water, and finally in an Old Fashioned Cocktail.
Christian: Before we pour this whiskey into a glass, I take a quick whiff of the bottle. I am hit with a rush of vanilla bean that is rather exquisite. As I begin to nose in my Glencairn glass, I quickly notice the aromatic nature of this pour. A rush of brown sugar and sweet red grapes leap out of the glass, leaving no doubt that this whiskey is finished in wine barrels. As I swirl the glass and proceed further, subtle hints of maple syrup and more vanilla bean join in the experience. Adding distilled water allows vanilla bean and tobacco to move front and center on the nose while the wine influence takes a step back.
Mike: Lifting the glass to my nose reveals the dry wine qualities this expression offers from being aged in port barrels. Nosing in deeper and swirling the whiskey, I begin to notice dark brown sugar aromas, hints of vanilla bean and an ever-so-slight coriander and citrus spiciness. Pulling away and going back for a second nose, I pick up soft hints of leather and sweet tobacco.
Christian: As I take my first sip of this offering from St. Augustine the mouthfeel has a pleasant thickness that coats the tongue and mouth. Beautiful rich flavors jump onto my palate. On the front of my tongue, I quickly notice loads of fresh leaf tobacco. As I hold the spirit in my mouth and swish it around, sweet dark chocolate, strawberries, and brown sugar all create a symphony of flavor. To round out this experience, at the very end, I notice a slight hint of leather. This palate reminds me of my grandfather’s old pipe tobacco – a memory that I hold near and dear to my heart. The distilled water makes the mouthfeel a bit less viscous. A combination of leather and cinnamon really take the center stage.
Mike: Immediately, I detect dryness in the mouth. There is a very pronounced flavor of curing tobacco on the front of the palate. Dark chocolate, dried cherries, and a subtle note of rum soaked raisins are picked up mid-palate. There is a pleasant brown sugar confectionary sweetness that develops in the back of the mouth and can also be detected on the lips.
Christian: This port finished bourbon offers a short to medium finish. A nice warming hug is present but is in no way offensive or overbearing. I begin to notice a fresh baked bread and sweet grape jam present in the finish of the whiskey. An expected dryness sneaks in at the very end of this pour – reminiscent of the port wine influence. Distilled water actually adds a hint of bitterness to this pour. The dryness remains, as the sweetness of wine and grapes really shines through.
Mike: Rich flavors of Fig Newton cookies round out this pour. The finish is medium and dry with very a gentle spiciness in the back of the throat. A delicate minty aftertaste is detected briefly as flavors of dried fruits and fig overtake.
Christian: This is the second wine finished bourbon we have tried in the past few months. Historically, they have not been my favorite offerings, however, this pour by St. Augustine Distillery is a really pleasant drinking experience. The wine barrel influence can be detected in all areas of the pour – the nose, mouth, and finish. The complexity and balance in this whiskey really takes you on an enjoyable experience, leaving you wanting more. St. Augustine seems to have found the right proof point at 102. The whiskey is not overly spicy but really allows the flavors to permeate and stand tall. We tried this whiskey neat, with distilled water, and in an Old Fashioned and I really enjoyed it each way. Another versatile, flavorful, and approachable whiskey made by St. Augustine Distillery Co. I highly recommend that you find a Florida friend that can pick up a bottle for you to enjoy during these coming winter months!
Rating: 3.5 Rickhouses
Mike: The addition of water exposes a brown sugar oatmeal aroma that is pleasant. Also noticeable is a slight hint of fresh sliced apples with a drizzle of honey. Water substantially mutes the flavors in the mouth as it becomes very sweet overall, leaving the curing tobacco flavors strong enough to stand out. As with the mouth, the finish is shortened and dulled but notes of fig and hints of dark chocolate do shine through.
Earlier this year, we reviewed the St. Augustine Straight Florida Bourbon. This is the same product, aged an additional 3-6 months in a port wine barrel. I really enjoyed their straight bourbon, however, this port finish is pleasantly superior. This has a touch more wine flavor compared to another wine barrel finish we recently reviewed. Overall, this is a very well balanced offering. This is bottled at 102 proof and packs a punch with flavor but is not overly spicy and very manageable.
If you’re a fan of wine barrel finished bourbon, I would definitely recommend this product from St. Augustine Distilling.
Rating: 3.5 Rickhouses