Being a metropolitan Atlanta resident for more than the past 30 years, I was excited to see this Shortbarrel “The Bee’s Knees” release from a local company.
When it was released in the Atlanta area, there was a lot of talk about this honey barrel finished whiskey. I initially thought that it was bourbon, but it is not. It is an American straight whiskey with a mash bill of 91% corn, and 9% marked malted barley. I did not know what to expect from the taste since it was not listed as a rye nor a bourbon; based on the distillery's information. However, one of the owners said that it was aged in used barrels; so it cannot be legally called bourbon because bourbons must be aged in new oak barrels.
The First Sip
I did not enjoy the first sip after opening the bottle. This 5.5-year-old whiskey was very rough around the edges and seemed more youthful than its age statement.
There was a little red hot cinnamon spice and honey on the nose. The palate seemed youthful and hot, but certainly in line with a proof that is 9 points below HAZMAT. However, because it was too harsh, I let it sit for a few weeks.
Shortbarrel “The Bee’s Knees” Three Weeks Later
The second pour of Shortbarrel “The Bee’s Knees,” was better three weeks later. The nose was the same as my first experience, but the palate was much smoother and more manageable. There was also a creaminess that I didn’t discern the first time around. I liked the fact that the honey’s presence was not as strong as you’d find in an infused whiskey like Wild Turkey American Honey. The fact that it is not very sweet and the honey is not overpowering is a huge, huge plus. I believe this whiskey with a honey barrel cask finish would have been much better if it were a true bourbon or rye instead of a whiskey aged in used barrels. I didn't taste much oak and that could have enhanced the flavor and smoothness.
Unfortunately, on this second go-around, the finish was still rocky.
Additionally, at a retail price paid of $99 (MSRP $89.99), this really hurts its value rating because the tasting experience does not correspond to this pricing. Still, if this is Shortbarrel's first go-around with cask-finished whiskeys, I will be excited to see their future offerings.