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There are a lot of rules that govern bourbon. At their core, those rules define the flavors that make the spirit so loved: aging in new charred oak, a majority corn mashbill, added to the barrel at no more than 125 proof. But it can be the small touches after those things are met that make a spirit really shine. Case in point: Watershed Distillery’s straight bourbon whiskey blend that uses a bourbon finished in apple brandy barrels.
On Watershed’s website, the brand offers two definitions for its namesake. There’s the physical, as in a region that’s defined by a common water source, and the more abstract, as in a pivotal moment worth celebrating. I didn’t think too much about the ecological side of the name while sipping this bourbon, but the latter definition certainly fits the bill for a whiskey that packs a lot of flavor into an incredibly affordable bourbon.
ABV: 45 percent
Where it’s available: Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Georgia, and select online retailers
How Watershed Straight Bourbon Whiskey Is Made
Watershed Distillery has made spirits in Ohio with a local focus since 2010. Its award-winning gin was its “watershed moment,” but today much of the focus is on bourbon.
The straight bourbon is a blend of three whiskeys, one sourced from Indiana and two from the distillery itself. One of those is a Watershed bourbon finished in barrels that used to hold Watershed’s apple brandy made with Ohio apples. The distillery sources its Char 5 barrels from the Jackson, Ohio, location of Speyside Cooperage (yet another regional touch). The high char level puts out a lot of barrel notes, but does so without overwhelming the spirit itself as it ages in a warehouse that’s open to the elements.
Single barrels and one-off releases capture a lot of attention these days. Blending is an art unto itself, and this bourbon proves the Watershed team has clearly mastered both.
What Watershed Straight Bourbon Whiskey Tastes Like
Like any good bourbon, Watershed’s blend leads with the whiskey and uses the barrels to boost desired flavors. Here, the standout is the addition of the brandy barrel finished whiskey that adds a pleasing apple finish. The aroma is a bit like caramel-covered vanilla ice cream, but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s saccharine. The 45 percent ABV keeps the spirit from falling into any sort of “sweet” whiskey categorization. Toasted cacao and oak hits the palate first, followed by a mellow apple-honey finish that rounds it all out and lingers after each sip. I personally can’t imagine myself mixing this into any cocktails and would rather enjoy all that the whiskey has to offer on its own. That said, it’d make a fine Julep or Paper Plane.
Why You Should Add Watershed Straight Bourbon Whiskey To Your Bar Cart
Every bourbon drinker has their standard go-to. Often it’s an affordable whiskey that you can find just about anywhere. While Watershed Distillery may not have the distribution footprint of one of the bigger distilleries, this blended whiskey punches way above its price point and is the perfect option if you’re looking for a go-to that stands out from the crowd without breaking the bank no matter how much you decide to share.