When I moved to Denver a couple of years ago, all I heard about was craft brewery this, craft beer that, craft, craft, craft….Well I tried most of the beers at most of the breweries and thought 95% of them were pretty bad. However, just a couple hours north, I found some of the best beers in Fort Collins, Colorado.
I’m hoping this translates to whiskey because today I’m going to be reviewing Old Elk Bourbon out of FoCo, Colorado. While it doesn’t appear that they distill their own whiskey, technically speaking, I’m still excited to see what they have to offer. We’ll cover more on that shortly.
In this Old Elk Bourbon Review, we’re going to briefly discuss Old Elk’s story, but focus on the tasting notes and quality of their whiskey. Is Old Elk Bourbon good? Let’s find out.
Old Elk History
Old Elk was founded in 2013 by Curt Richardson. Richardson was the founder and CEO of Otter Products, the producer of widely popular phone case brands such as OtterBox and LifeProof.
Old Elk does not currently distill any spirits of their own. They source, blend, and distribute their whiskey from their ‘distillery’.
Old Elk Master Distiller
One reason Old Elk has seen media coverage and popularity is due to their master distiller/blender, Greg Metze. Metze served as master distiller for MGP prior to coming on at Old Elk. MGP (Now Ross & Squib, previously LDI) is one of the largest producers of whiskey in the world. If you ever see a bottle of whiskey that was distilled in Indiana, it probably comes from here.
A couple of our favorite whiskeys on our Best Rye Whiskey Under $50 article are produced at MGP.
Old Elk Bourbon Overview
- Spirit: Blended straight bourbon
- Owned By: Curt Richardson
- Distilled By: Sourced from three distilleries
- Aged: 5 years
- ABV: 44%, 88 proof
- Mashbill: 51% corn, 34% malted barley, 15% rye
- Price: $42-50
You know how I mentioned at the beginning that Old Elk doesn’t distill their own whiskey, technically speaking? Well, one of the distilleries they source their whiskey from is MGP. The master blender and distiller at Old Elk spent nearly 40 years at MGP…. So, in a way he distilled part of the whiskey that’s going in every bottle of Old Elk.
The other key component of Old Elk is the mashbill. With 51% corn, it barely passes as bourbon, but it’s the malted barley that’s a real change-up.
Most bourbons use rye grain as the accent, or 2nd most prevalent, grain. Most of the time, you’ll see bourbon use 4-15% malted barley, but Old Elk has a whopping 34% malted barley. Due to the fact that there’s only 51% corn, this allows them to still have a good portion of rye at 15%. It’s a very unique mashbill that hopefully leads to a unique and flavorful whiskey.
Old Elk costs around $45, carries a 5 year age statement, and is bottled at 44% abv. It’s nice to see that they go over the 4 year age requirement for NAS whiskey, but I wouldn’t mind seeing it proofed closer to 95 proof.
Old Elk Bourbon Tasting Notes
Now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to get to the specifics. With such a unique mashbill, what does Old Elk taste like?
Nose: Honey, vanilla, coated wood, and a light citrus green apple come out of the glass first. After letting it sit for a minute a get a much nuttier profile. Nougat, walnut, some chocolate. Some clove and rye spice sitting in the background as well.
Palate: There’s a good bit of oak but it’s reminiscent of a polished or finished wood, a touch of paint or medicinal quality to it. The nutty profile on the nose is more of a peanut/natural peanut butter on the palate. There’s a little bit of the citrus and mint, but a touch of red fruit along with it. A touch of spice and brown sugar. Smooth, pleasant mouthfeel.
Finish: medium in length, but fades quickly. Some of the rye spice kicks in with nuts, and oak. A little dry on the finish but stills coats your mouth nicely.
Taste Summary – Is Old Elk Bourbon Good?
I like Old Elk Bourbon. It’s a nice changeup from the many corn and rye dominated bourbons on the market. Malted barley brings in some of those chocolate and nutty flavors.
There’s a touch of a paint or medicinal quality, like finished wood furniture. It’s not a lot, but it’s there. It doesn’t bother me so much because I actually like that on the nose. I think I experience a bit of nostalgia with that smell, but it may turn some people off of Old Elk.
Old Elk Bourbon reminds me a bit of Elijah Craig with the nutty and chocolate notes. Elijah Craig has stronger dark fruit notes, and Old Elk has extra wood, honey, and citrus.
Like I said, I like Old Elk Bourbon. The only problem is the price. I got my bottle for $42 which is think is a pretty fair, market value price. However, a lot of people outside of Colorado may be looking closer to the $50 mark.
I’d vouch for Old Elk all day long if it were under $40, it’s a fair and easy sipper in the low-mid $40’s, but a solid, 88-proof blended bourbon that’s sourced from MGP isn’t going to cut it at $50. And I love MGP, too, I think they produce some of the best whiskey on a large scale.
If you like a chocolate-y and nutty bourbon and you can find this at a decent price, it’s definitely worth it. If that doesn’t sound like you, then maybe go a different direction.
Old Elk Bourbon Summary
While I love when distilleries actually distill their own whiskey, I’ve always been a fan of MGP. Does it make it better that the Master Distiller/Blender was the distiller at MGP prior to joining on at Old Elk? I’m not sure. However, Old Elk Bourbon does use a custom mashbill, and a unique one at that, so there is still plenty of authenticity behind this whiskey.
I always appreciate when a company does something unique, and 34% malted barely certainly is. The whiskey inside the bottle isn’t going to knock your socks off, but it was a fun whiskey to try and one that I’ve so far enjoyed.
Who Makes Old Elk Bourbon?
Old Elk Bourbon is produced by Old Elk Distillery. The whiskey itself is sourced from three distilleries, one of which is MGP.