Simple, light, and buttery, this bourbon is an easy sipper that anyone should be able to handle.
Overall, this bourbon is simplistic to a fault and ends up underwhelming as a whole, especially considering its price.
In the modern whiskey climate where consumers are more savvy than ever, and more demanding than ever that producers meet at least a minimum transparency requirement, Black Saddle stands out as a black hole completely void of pretty much any information other than the fact that it is Kentucky straight bourbon and at least 12 years old. The only hint the bottle gives is in small print on the back label, stating that it was “bottled by Frank-Lin Distillers Products in Farfield, CA”. A further search for Frank-Lin Distillers Products reveals that they are a California-based bottler of a variety of spirits and wines. In Scotland, you would commonly refer to such a company as an independent bottler. In the bourbon industry we call it a non-distilling producer, or NDP.
So in a nutshell, Black saddle is a 12 year old bourbon distilled somewhere in Kentucky, aged somewhere, containing a mash bill of at least 51% corn and who knows what other grains, and bottled by a relatively obscure company in California. Alrighty then! The only other information you can easily find on Black Saddle is that it won a couple of awards at the San Francisco Spirits Competition in 2014. The bottle and label are aesthetically pleasing, and the age statement is a plus, but otherwise you are buying a complete unknown in a $40-50 retail slot that contains several other well-established bourbon brands. Luckily, curiosity gets the better of people like me, so you can inform yourself with at least one opinion on the contents in the bottle before you drop the cash!
- Distilled by an undisclosed Kentucky distillery
- Bottled by Frank-Lin Distillers Products in California
- Unknown mash bill
- Bottled at 45% ABV (90 proof)
Nose: Little besides ethanol comes out of the glass before this bourbon has had a good rest. After some air time, aromas of buttered popcorn, vanilla, and a bit of nougat emerge.
Palate: Simple and lacking much heft or depth. The arrival is buttery and the development is filled with vanilla, before a bit of pepper shows up on the back end. Nothing is offensive or off putting, but it’s devoid of any real complexity.
Finish: Slightly warming. Spicier than the nose or palate with some light pepper, vanilla, and a touch of citrus to round things out. Medium length.
Buying Recommendation: Worth buying a pour. I say that with caution. This bourbon’s goal is not to be big and bold, but rather to be a simple, gentle, laid-back pour. I can appreciate simplicity, but at a certain point it’s just underwhelming, especially when the price tag is considered. I can see how this bourbon would appeal to a certain demographic; it’s light, sweet, and buttery, and not offensive in any way. For my tastes, Wild Turkey Rare Breed, EH Taylor Small Batch, Michter’s and Knob Creek Single Barrel all offer a better overall experience than Black Saddle in the price range.
Going back to the awards won at the SF Spirits Competition in 2014, Black Saddle received greater accolade than Elijah Craig Barrel Proof and Jim Beam 12 Year Signature Craft – two bourbons that I’ve also had. For my tastes, Black Saddle should not even be mentioned in the same sentence as those two bourbons. Unless you value the traits of mellow, unchallenging, and easy going in your whiskey above all else, you can likely find a $40-50 bourbon that better suits your taste than this.