I was walking through the liquor store attached to a Wal-Mart in Orlando, Florida looking for something to keep me occupied during a week long conference. As I was looking through the smaller bottles on the shelf one caught my eye that I hadn’t seen before, a small batch Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey. I was intrigued and brought it back with me for some… additional research.
This specific spirit doesn’t actually have any history, despite what the label might want you to believe. The Colville brand is simply a label produced by the Florida Caribbean Distillers company.
Founded in 1943, Florida Caribbean Distillers is a company based in (surprise, surprise) Florida that makes a large number of distilled spirits but primarily rum. Owned by the French Belvedere Group for a number of years it was recently purchased by Miami based CC1 Co. in 2011. After the purchase the company’s new owners expressed a desire to branch out, claiming in an interview that “we do it all.”
I really got nothing here.
Florida Caribbean Distillers primarily manufactures molasses based spirits, which bourbon ain’t. According to the bottle they outsourced the production of the spirit to an unnamed distillery in Kentucky and import the finished product for bottling in their facility.
According to the label this is a Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey, which means that this theoretically has corn making up the majority of the source grain bill for this spirit. It also means that this should be aged for at least two years in charred new oak barrels, but in this case the label claims that the spirit has instead been aged for a full five years.
The label also claims that this is a “small batch” production, but there’s no indication of what that actually means. How small is small? A single barrel? A small warehouse? No idea.
Like I said, all theoretical. We don’t know which distillery produced it, their process, or really anything more than the bare minimum.
The bottle is a pretty good design. A round body that’s tapered at the bottom and flared at the top is a good distinctive element that makes it stand out. From the flared top of the body there’s a sharp shoulder that ends in a longer neck. The bottle is topped with a wood and cork stopper.
There’s a bare minimum of information on the label. The brand “Colville” is a reference to a covered bridge in Kentucky that has no relation to the liquid that I can find. There’s a date of 1877 on the bottle that seems to relate to the date the bridge was constructed, but I’m betting that they thought it might give some impression of additional age to the liquor.
Honestly the packaging is all we have to go on with this spirit, and it’s being tighter lipped than an NSA spy. You get the impression of an established brand producing a good small batch spirit but that’s not backed up anywhere that I can find.
It smells exactly like any other bourbon at first: Vanilla and caramel, sweet with some oaky tones. The only difference I get here is a bit of citrus as well, perhaps a touch of orange in the background.
The liquid itself is surprisingly heavy in weight for being a 43% ABV spirit. I’d expect this from something closer to 45% ABV.
Once in your mouth the flavors start to creep in slowly. At first it’s just the sweetness from the corn spirits, but then the usual vanilla and toffee flavors start joining the party. It’s a pretty average flavor profile.
The aftertaste is where things start to go off the rails for me. Personally I get a bit of a bitter aftertaste. It’s not overpowering but it definitely makes this less pleasant than a shot of Jack Daniel’s.
The ice definitely helps. With a bit of dilution and some lower temperatures the caramel toffee flavor starts to really pop, and that bitter aftertaste is completely gone.
At this point, to me it’s actually drinkable.
Mixed Drink: Whiskey and Coke
Normally I’d go with something a little more classy and refined, but I get the feeling that cutting it with a little Coca-Cola is more apt for the usual use of this spirit.
Honestly, it’s not bad. With the whiskey added to the Coke you get something close to a Vanilla Coke with a little caramel flavoring added in for good measure. It’s downright enjoyable even.
Here’s the thing. This is roughly one step below Jack Daniel’s in my opinion, but more expensive. Add in the faux “small distillery” branding and I’m even less of a fan. I always prefer an honest mediocre spirit to a well-branded dishonest one.
Colville Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Owner: Florida Caribbean Distillers
Classification: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Grain bill: ??
Aging: 5 Years
Proof: 43% ABV
Price: $19.99/ 375ml
Overall Rating: 1/5
On its own this is a two star bourbon. Add in the lack of attribution and the dubious claims of “small batch” production and I’m knocking off another full star.