Whiskey Review: Espy House Washington’s Reserve Barrel Strength Bourbon

Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by the party behind it. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link in this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs. 

The Espy House in Bedford, PA is home to a recently launched distillery, but it can also lay claim to a more distant association with the history of American whiskey making. It’s common knowledge that our nation has engaged in robust production of wartime debt and fermented grain beverages since the early days of American democracy, but the connection between these two economic stalwarts was never so close as the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791-94.

It’s common knowledge that however much we may feel entitled to basic social services, Americans don’t care much for taxation as a concept. When the recently established Republic imposed taxes on distilled spirits it was promptly met with the first rebellion in its short history. Not only was whiskey gaining in popularity throughout the States, it was also a crucial source of income for farmers who could not always afford to transport spoilable grain to distant markets.

Excess gain of all sorts could be put to use in distillation, which meant the impact of a tax on spirits (known as the “whiskey tax” due to that drink’s particular popularity) was potentially further reaching than its authors had intended. Resistance was so violent in Western Pennsylvania that President George Washington personally led a well regulated militia to enforce collection of the tax. 

Washington’s base of operations, before handing over command for the campaign to Henry “Lighthorse Harry” Lee, was the Espy House. The handsome masonry and historical significance of the building have inspired current owner Todd Eichelberger to launch a line of whiskeys in commemoration of the structure’s place in local and national history.

All that said, I haven’t told you much about the whiskey. This year Espy introduced their Washington’s Reserve, a single barrel, barrel strength offering. This lends the Reserve both an air of exclusivity due to the limited quantities, and provides some room for variety between different bottlings due to the natural variation between barrels.

In general, this whiskey is a six year old Kentucky bourbon with an ABV that ranges from 112.9-124.3. It has what’s described as a 70/21/9 mash bill.

Espy House Washington's Reserve Barrel Strength Bourbon review

We review Espy House Washington’s Reserve Barrel Strength Bourbon, a six year old, single barrel, barrel strength Kentucky bourbon tied to a historical home. (image via Jacob Wirt/The Whiskey Wash)

Tasting Notes: Espy House Washington’s Reserve Barrel Strength Bourbon

Vital Stats: six year old Kentucky bourbon. ABV that ranges from 112.9-124.3. MSRP currently in the neighborhood of $120.

Appearance: Copper coloring which darkens noticeably at the center of the glass.

Nose: Not too hot on the nose despite the high proof. Aromas are brown sugar, cashew, light leather.

Palate: Begins with a quick salvo of black pepper, but once the spice tingle wears off the notes of leather and mixed nuts from the nose carry over. The spice returns as sweet Big Red chewing gum cinnamon and notes of custard round out the finish.

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