Thomas Tate Tobins’s – Taos Lightning – Single Barrel – Straight Bourbon Whiskey | 45% (90 Proof) , $ Free, a gift.
Color/Appearance: Golden amber though its a little lighter in color than most bourbons. Nice half bottle given to me by a good friend from New Mexico. Not that readily available. I like the vintage New Mexico style in the label and there is a some great historical information on the distillers web site (here). They mention on their site that they use chill-filtration. Small craft oriented operation in a sparsely populated state. Seems they have a loyal following in the area and are building through local connections. That type of grassroots effort is well suited to their market.
Nose: This one takes a little while to open up fully. Not a lot of spice on the nose. It seems to be a low rye mashbill. Sweet caramel, vanilla cream soda and a light mentholated dried herbal note. Very light nose here, rather delicate.
Palate: Smooth entry then finally the blast of flavors you were hoping for. Same flavors as the nose but thankfully amped up some, but still well shy of intense. A little of the rye comes through with some black pepper and cinnamon then butterscotch and a unexpected mineral gravel like flavor. Probably psychosomatic but I can taste the New Mexico rock and high desert plants with notes of dried bay leaf and juniper. I am out in the cold Pecos wilderness huddled around a dying campfire and this golden liquid warms me where the fire cannot. I can taste the dry journey that awaits me tomorrow but for now I am content and the easy going smooth liquid reminds me of the good friends I will soon see.
Finish: Medium in length with sweet caramel corn dying out slowly to again expose some menthol dried plantlike notes. Slightly young tasting with some notes of new make as it fades out. Would love to see this at about ten years, cask-strength and no chill-filtration. This expression is four years old, they have a six year old version that sounds promising.
Overall: This is some very light and young bourbon with a bit too little flavor for me. The dried herbal and gravel notes are unusual but not that off-putting. More of a fault is the lack of power and complexity. In the modern bourbon world there are lots of smooth, light and sweet bourbons that offer more than this. A nice interesting regional offering that could benefit from a little more time in the cask. Though they are not making this stuff for me. They are making it to please the palates of their immediate customers. I am intrigued enough that when my friend comes to visit again I will be asking if he can get some of their rye.