Honey bourbon usually elicits incredulity from me. I’m on the record as not really digging the flavored whiskeys out there. I like a few for cocktails, don’t get me wrong. They have their place. But a vast majority of the “flavored” whiskeys are overly sweetened sugar bombs that hint at their signature “flavor” with a whiskey-ish background, maybe.
Belle Meade Bourbon Honey Cask Finish is what I wish all flavored whiskey was. First and foremost, the folks at Nelson’s Green Brier don’t flavor their bourbon. This is a special cask finished bourbon. They coax honey from a barrel that aged honey instead of adding honey liqueur or syrup to the whiskey. This makes all the difference in the world when it comes to making a nuanced honey whiskey.
I was lucky enough to get to taste some of this year’s release and was, again, very impressed. Here’s my review of this much-sought-after special cask finished whiskey.
Belle Meade Bourbon Honey Cask Finish
Average Price: Distillery Lottery Only (available on the secondary market)
This whiskey starts off by seasoning used whiskey barrels (from Nelson’s Green Brier’s warehouse) with honey. The distillery sends their barrels to TruBee Honey Farm in Arrington, Tennessee where the barrels are filled with wildflower honey. After the honey has finished its rest, the barrels are emptied and sent back to Nashville. Once they arrive at Nelson’s, they’re filled with Belle Meade’s award-winning bourbon for a six to eight-month rest where the honey makes its mark on the whiskey.
The floral honey notes from that honey really shine through on the nose. It’s supported by a slight woody yet sharp cinnamon that’s been stored in a cedar box with a hint of green tea lurking underneath that floral honey. The palate pushes the cinnamon to the foreground as a light touch of fresh brioche with butter and orange marmalade mingles with soft toffee and almost sticky honey cream, which creates a velvety mouthfeel. That honey and cinnamon combine on the mid-palate and lead towards a light note of vanilla pods and almond butter on the super-soft finish.
Belle Meade bottles are weighty and classic whiskey bottles. Their stature is almost proud and really stands out on any bar cart. The label has two big bees on it with a golden and yellow theme. It’s immediately eye-catching while informing you exactly what this bourbon is about.
Once you get a taste of this, it’s really easy to see why so many folks clamor for it. It’s like what we all wish flavored whiskey actually tasted like. It’s clearly bourbon that’s just touched with real honey that accents and builds instead of takes over with an overly saccharine idea of honey. It’s delicious, subtle, and very drinkable.
All of that being said, you’re going to have to be awfully lucky to get your hands on a bottle this year (and spend some serious cash). The best play is to pay attention to Nelson’s social media around the start of 2022 for their announcement of the next lottery and sign up to see if you can get a bottle.
98/100 — If there’s a better honey cask finished bourbon out there, we haven’t tried it … yet.