By Andrew Graham
Let’s start 2021 off with something kind of crazy: a 15 year old single barrel American whiskey that’s bottled at 141.8 proof.
The folks behind Jacob’s Pardon, Palm Bay International, bring some history to the table. The duo behind the brand, president and CEO Marc Taub and his son, Jake, are a couple generations removed from legit bootleggers. Abner and Jacob Taub, Marc’s great-uncles, were reportedly busted during Prohibition for transporting barrel scrapings. After doing the sensible thing and ending the whole charade, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt pardoned the Taubs, and the family has been in the liquor distribution business ever since.
The brand’s initial release lineup is two high proof, single barrel expressions aged 15 years — one bottled at 141.8 percent ABV (Barrel No. 23), and the other at 139.5 percent ABV (Barrel No. 37) — along with a small-batch expression labeled Recipe No. 1 that blends the 15-year whiskey with an eight-year Tennessee whiskey and gets bottled at a mere 48.6 percent ABV. The 15 year whiskey was distilled at MGP at a mash bill of 99 percent corn and 1 percent malted barley, and it’s all aged in used barrels. I tasted Barrel No. 23 for this review.
With the ABV being as high as it is, I poured a dram and let it sit in a Glencairn glass for a good ten minutes. Initially, the nose wasn’t as expressive as one might imagine, but as the whiskey opened up, I found notes of toffee and maple syrup, with a subtle earthiness to it. The nose has plenty of nuance and doesn’t give away the whiskey’s proofing.
On the palate, the whiskey presents an immediate, and very brief, rush of intense sweetness that reminds of simple syrup or cake frosting before retreating towards comparatively balanced flavor notes of honey buns, sweet corn, and macerated peach. The finish is very peppery and long, turning herbaceous and leaving a minty sharpness. Once my palate got introduced to this whiskey’s boldness, particularly the finish, it was easy to drink. There wasn’t a residual alcohol burn.
The initial punch of sugar on the palate could be overwhelming to some, but we’re talking about a whiskey that’s so high-proof that it technically isn’t allowed on airplanes, so it’s not like some intensity isn’t advertised. I would wager that the intensity is the entire point. This is a very fine whiskey that gets scored up a notch because of the uniqueness of it.
A bottle of Jacob’s Pardon 15 Year retails for $200, and there are just 106 bottles from Barrel No. 37.