We’ve always been proud of our Cask Strength Port Finish Bourbon. Even before Spirit Journal ranked it as the “Best Spirit in the World,” we knew we had something special on our hands. Kyle Henderson, along with his father, Wes, worked closely with Lincoln throughout every step of the spirit’s creation. “We had the idea in our heads, the three of us for a while. But everyone kept asking us to release a higher proof.”
Fortunately, the Hendersons had been planning ahead. “We had initially set aside about six or seven barrels. We weren’t sure what we were going to do with them, but they were special. Maybe one would have a particularly striking chocolate note. Maybe another would have a distinct plum flavor. But for whatever reason, this handful of barrels stood out. So when the conversation came up with the team, we thought we’ve got this whiskey set aside. It’ll be perfect. We can do a few hundred bottles of something really special. Why don’t we use those for an unfiltered barrel proof? In that first year, the initial 600 or so bottles we released were quite literally unfiltered. We dumped it right into the filler rather than running it through our filter, which picks up the particulate. So for the first year, there was a lot of wonderful particulate floating around in those bottles.“
This is a picture of the first pour from the first barrel that would become our Cask Strength. As a new brand, we weren’t sure if a limited Cask Strength release would be a success, but after his first taste, our Master Ambassador and Chief Innovations Officer Wes Henderson knew that these few rare barrels needed to be shared with the world.
While there are a lot of different factors that can influence the quality of the spirit, age is crucial. Kyle explains, “The first year, we took two or three of the first barrels we ever filled. By the time we got it to the bottle, it had spent more than two years in the port casks and if I remember correctly, the whiskey was five or six years old. It was well balanced and by the time we blended it together, I think it was 123.7 proof. Adding that extra time finishing in port barrels and at the higher proof — we won so many awards — so I think it did pretty well.
While Lincoln wasn’t surprised by the overwhelmingly positive reception, Kyle tells a different story. “Honestly, I wasn’t expecting it to do as well as it did. Lincoln probably did. He always had a special understanding of the industry. I knew it was good, but it was such a limited release that I really thought it would mostly excite brand enthusiasts. I was floored by the good ratings and cross-over appeal. We were just amazed by Spirit Journal’s review. So we kept looking for new barrels, and every 100 or so we find one. Maybe it’s got a nice raisin pop or something different, but you always know it when you find it. In 2013 we set aside maybe 16 barrels in total. We’re always looking for more, but we’re not going to specifically barrel whiskey for this product. It’s special. You can’t fake it. People would know immediately if we ever tried. Don’t get me wrong, our flagship bourbon is exceptional, but these barrels are just a step above. Maybe there was more port in a particular barrel, there are a lot of factors that can go into the nuances in flavor. And we’re always tinkering to find new ways to draw out these subtle differences.”