Paul Sutton Bourbon went to market this March, but it has roots that reach back a century. The Kentucky bourbon is based on a family mash bill that was devised in 1916, lost, and reverse engineered back into existence by a seventh-generation family member. Today it’s distilled in an 18-inch column still from a mash of corn, rye, and malted barley, and aged for a minimum of four years in charred new American oak barrels.
The spirit pours ruddy bronze in the glass and has vanilla, warm honey, fudgy caramel, bitter orange peel, and a hint of sea salt on the nose. It proves medium in body with a pleasant, rolling presence on the palate and initial flavors of nutty malt, vanilla, and fudge that are lightly seasoned with salt at the center. Towards the back, we’re hit with a wave of warm, spicy clove that almost acts as a sort of built-in aromatic bitters; when combined with the bitter orange that soon surfaces, there’s a distinct Old-Fashioned quality. The palate grows beautifully chalky in texture as we finish, thanks to its high corn content, and we’re treated to salted vanilla fudge before a powerful but patient measure of spice closes the affair. The palate is left hot and tingling until long after the last drops have dried up.
Paul Sutton proves a very interesting bourbon. It’s not typified by the oak and vanilla you might expect, though there’s certainly vanilla and dry spice. What’s more interesting are its ample reserves of clove and dry citrus, and the wonderful, walloping heat that the bourbon provides—even as it somehow feels softer than its 100 proof.
In an Old-Fashioned, Paul Sutton does a bang-up job. Those bitter citrus notes really come through at the start, with fudge at the center and clove at the back, where the spice dovetails beautifully with the bitters. And texture-wise, that pleasant chalky quality is only heightened. I’d go as far as to call it an ideal Old-Fashioned maker.
It’s no less successful in a Manhattan, where the chalky corn quality adds more textural interest and its nutty malt notes are emphasized. Once again, the rush of clove syncs with bitters to usher in a beautifully spiced, dry bourbon.
Paul Sutton’s a decidedly out-of-the-box bourbon, leaning into that familiar chalkiness while avoiding the too-sweet pratfall and tacking on delicious flavors of citrus, fudge, and a full-bore shot of clove. This is one you’ll want to enjoy neat, but shouldn’t hesitate to use in cocktails to reap its full benefits.
— 50% ABV