Some of you may remember our review of Witherspoon Texas whiskey. Well, for anyone out there who is a hardcore fan, we’ve got news for you: the distillery behind Witherspoon has come out with a new expression of their spirits — and they’re so confident in it that they’ve re-branded their whole operation to match. Quite literally betting the farm on this new spirit’s performance.
The Witherspoon Distillery was founded in 2012 by Natasha and Ryan DeHart. After a trip to Germany sparked their love of locally sourced craft spirits and beverages, they wanted to bring some of that local flavor to their hometown of Dallas, Texas.
The Witherspoon Distillery has recently re-branded in 2019 as the BENDT Distilling Co to match their new line of blended whiskey, on which they plan to focus their efforts on this line moving forward. Where this leaves their previous offerings, long term, is anyone’s guess… for now, they’re still listed on the website but still carry the Witherspoon branding.
This is a bit of a strange duck, actually. And not because of the process, but because of the business sense. Most distilleries focus on doing one or two things really well until they make a name for themselves, but Bendt seems bent on doing it all.
This whiskey starts as a batch of five distinct whiskies — a rye, a bourbon, a malt, a wheat, and something they call a “light” whiskey (which one of their distillers identified as a 175 proof version of their bourbon). The base for the spirit is that light whiskey (which probably makes up the majority of the volume) and a blend of the remaining four strains is added to taste. These five strains are produced separately and individually by Bendt at their Lewisville, Texas facility, aged, and then blended together to produce the No. 5 blend.
There’s very little information about the specific details of the five individual strains, unfortunately, other than that they were all produced in small batches in Texas.
The bottle is a nice traditional style, with a twist.
Overall it’s the usual wine bottle inspired shape: a rounded body that tapers at the shoulder to a long skinny neck. In this case, however, there’s also a taper at the waist, giving the bottle a slimmer appearance and a unique, modern feel.
One thing missing, though, is a thick glass base. This is something that was present in the older Witherspoon spirits bottles, and I find myself missing it here. Typically, these thicker bases make the bottles light up better on the back of a bar, so I’m guessing that this is being marketed more as a well drink than a “back of the bar” specialty.
The label is a nice clean design that shows off the distillery name and the required markings for the contents, and does it in a way that gives the whiskey a little room to shine through. It’s a nice touch, well designed and applied.
The whole thing is capped with a plastic and cork stopper.
There’s some different stuff going on here, that’s for sure. Instead of that usual punch of caramel and vanilla, what I get most in the nose is honey, apricot, and a little malty cereal. It’s closer to a blended scotch whisky, with the fruity and lighter notes in the foreground.
Things change slightly when you take a sip, but not much. The flavor is much closer to a traditional straight bourbon, with brown sugar and vanilla creeping in. But there’s still that honey and apricot sweetness from the nose, firmly in the driver’s seat.
It’s interesting, it’s different, and it works. There’s no bitterness or bite to the spirit, it’s a smooth experience that finishes without any unpleasant aftertaste.
Usually with a bit of ice and water, the more delicate flavors tend to drop out of a whiskey and only the bolder flavors remain. In this case, that’s partially true.
While the honey and apricot aroma is still there, it’s not nearly as powerful as before. And the flavors in the spirit have turned pretty much into a traditional bourbon palate with brown sugar, caramel, and vanilla. There’s a little bit of honey in the background, but it’s almost completely gone.
That said, this still isn’t bad. It’s not quite as unique as it was neat, but the flavors are still good and the overall experience is still pleasant.
Cocktail (Old Fashioned)
Since the spirit is on the sweeter and lighter side of the flavor spectrum, there’s not much for the angostura bitters to balance out and interact with, so it’s not quite as delicious as a well-aged bourbon. But it’s still pretty good. The lighter flavors don’t necessarily clash, there’s just not a whole lot of complexity at work.
The typical test for a whiskey on this blog is an old fashioned, but I think this might be more useful in something like a penicillin. It seems to want to behave like a blended scotch in some ways, and rolling with the sweeter aspects might be the smarter play here.
There’s a couple things I’m looking for here: (1) the sweetness of the whiskey to balance out the bitterness of the ginger beer; (2) some complexity to come through the overpowering elements and still be noticeable; (3) for the flavor of the whiskey to compliment the whole cocktail.
With this, there’s definitely more than enough sweetness to balance out the ginger beer, but there’s not really a whole lot more complexity going on. The sweet honey and apricot flavors are complimentary and almost get lost in the mix, but it’s the brown sugar that’s contributing the most here.
Once those initial flavors are gone, there’s not much left to the drink. There’s a sweet aftertaste, but there’s just not enough rye content to bring out that telltale peppery spice.
I can see why they decided to focus all of their efforts on this blend. It’s delicious when taken neat, and it reminds me a lot of the traditional Scottish blended whisky flavors. I can see it playing well in some cocktails, just don’t expect this to behave like a typical American bourbon.
|BENDT Distilling Co Bendt No. 5|
Produced By: BENDT Distilling CoOwned By: BENDT Distilling Co
Production Location: United States
Classification: Blended Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 41.5% ABV
Price: $25.49 / 750 ml
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Overall Rating: 4/5
Anyone who doesn’t like this can get Bendt.