A Pair of Cask Strength Exclusives from Wathen’s at K&L California – American Whiskey News


Hand-Selected Exclusives from the Inimitable Charles Medley

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If you’ve enjoyed our past offerings from Wathen’s then you must give these two new exclusive barrels a spin. Charles Medley—the man behind the Wathen’s label—is one of the most respected names in Kentucky bourbon. His long-standing relationships in the business allow him access to some of the best barrels in all of Kentucky, only he won’t tell you where they are from. It matters little who is making the juice, as what’s in the bottle is proof enough of its excellent pedigree. We’ve been asking for barrels at cask strength and, at long last, Medley has obliged. This pair is a bourbon lover’s dream come true. Done in a full, rich, and potent style, they count among the better barrel proof bottlings we’ve encountered this year. That we are offering them for only $80 per bottle is almost unheard of nowadays. Cask strength exclusives are never around for long and that certainly holds true for ones this affordably priced. We are proud to be the sole representatives of these remarkable casks.

Wathen’s Barrel Proof “Barrel #89 NorCal Barrel” K&L Exclusive Cask Strength Single Barrel Straight Kentucky Bourbon (750ml) ) ($79.99)

Wathen’s is one of those interesting brands filled with mystery yet offering awesome products. Charles Medley has decades of experience distilling in Kentucky. He was for many years the Master Distiller at a plant in Owensboro and when that plant was closed, Charles was able to acquire some of the stocks and the old facility he ran. He never got the old plant up and running, but had success selling those casks with his son Sam under various labels. His good standing in the bourbon community has afforded Charles the ability to contract still time at an unnamed plant elsewhere in Kentucky and he distills to his own specifications a small run (presumably several hundred casks), each year. Those are marketed under the Medley and Wathen’s names, but it’s always been their single barrels that most interest us. After many years, Sam has finally agreed to bottle some of his excellent whiskey at full cask strength for us. While we don’t have an age, it’s safe to assume this is upwards of 8-10 years old. If we sold cask strength 10-year-old from any of Kentucky’s major distilleries for $80, it would be sold out in a day. So few of Kentucky’s producers are willing to bottle at cask strength that these barrels are a coup by any measure. Yet since we have little information about the source, these excellent barrels are often overlooked. We have two available now, and they’re both exceptional by any measure. Rich and full of sweet dried fruit and spice, few barrels available beat these excellent bourbons.

David Othenin-Girard | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: September 15, 2020

The delicious Wathen’s single barrels are the ultimate under-the-radar bourbon brand. It’s literally a two man team, father and son, Charles and Sam Medley. Charles has decades of experience distilling and thanks to his connections gets to take over an unnamed distillery for a tiny run of barrels for his brands every year. Sam sells us the bourbon his dad distills. They have extremely limited stocks, but a couple of years ago they finally agreed to bottle these up at cask strength for us. The tiny brand is one of the few truly hidden distillery brands that is actually responsible for the creation of their juice and if this bottle were in the distillery label it would have likely sold out months ago for twice the price. But here we are. We get two barrels of the cask strength a year, one for each the north and south, and they’re distinct in flavor profile. The NorCal barrel opens with dark black fruit and that lovely forest floor savoriness that bourbon can sometimes have. A twinge of pepper and sweet maple syrup complete the picture. On the palate this one is more focused on the caramel and bold cinnamon than the fruity aromatics on the palate. A tiny hint of dried grass and old wood round off the finish. A totally delectable little bourbon that, considering the hyper-intense interest in this bourbon market, should be at the top of many people’s to-try list. The simple fact that many haven’t heard of the brand is the only reason it’s still in stock.

David Othenin-Girard | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: September 15, 2020

The exceptional Wathen’s brand suffers from not having a team of marketing and sales people pushing it all over the place. But those who know understand that they’re offering some of the best stuff out there. It’s not sourced bourbon or contract distilled, but distilled by the owner Charles Wathen Medley at an undisclosed facility. They finally agreed to offer some single barrel selections at cask strength three years ago and if they’d put the age on these bottles they would have certainly sold out months ago. We can guess it’s between 8 and 10 years old from one of KY’s big distillers to Charles’ specifications. If you tried the Medley cask strength and loved it, this is the same stuff more or less for $20 less. Let’s taste: the nose starts with syrupy corn oil, vanilla bean, black tea, cinnamon and dried stone fruits. This is WAY less grassy than last years’, which were total grass bombs and much more in line with the traditional Wathen’s profile, which is to say sweet and spicy. On the palate: great balance, with the deep sweet oak coming through over the background baking spices. Lots of fuel in the tank here, richly textured and a long soft finish. There aren’t many sleeper bourbon brands left, but this here is easily one of the coolest KY bourbons that’s not on most bourbon nerds’ radar. But what counts here is just how damned good it tastes, inviting and familiar yet unique in character.

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