Are you a fan of light whiskey? Probably not, as this category is still unknown to most whiskey drinkers. That could start to change, however, as people get to try releases like the new Jacob’s Pardon Batch 3, although the extremely high proof of this whiskey might be a challenge for some.
Like bourbon, light whiskey is a federally defined category, but with nowhere near the same name recognition. The “light” in the name doesn’t mean it’s clear, lower proof, or has less calories. Some describe it as having a lighter, less oaky flavor than other whiskeys—that’s because it’s distilled to a higher proof (between 160 and 190 to be exact) and aged in used or new un-charred containers (virtually always barrels), as opposed to the new charred oak required for bourbon. The category was created in the late ’60s at a time when drinkers were shifting from whiskey to vodka, so it was a way of trying to convince them to stick with brown spirits by showcasing a “lighter” more accessible style.
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Nowadays, there are a few brands and distilleries making light whiskey, and one operation that has kept at it is MGP in Indiana (now known as Ross & Squibb). Which brings us to Jacob’s Pardon, a brand owned by Palm Bay International that was created in 2020 by Marc and Jake Taub. Veteran spirits writer and consultant F. Paul Pacult was brought on as master blender, and this new release marks the third batch of Jacob’s Pardon. Batch 3 is strange creature of a whiskey, and probably unlike anything you’ve tried before for a few reasons. The details are as follows–it’s an 18-year-old light whiskey produced at MGP from a mashbill of 99 percent corn and one percent malted barley, and it was matured in new un-charred barrels. And, most importantly, it was bottled at cask strength of more than 142 proof (71.4 percent ABV to be precise).
Let that sink in. This whiskey is more than two-thirds alcohol by volume, which is one spicy, boozy meatball. Talk to Pacult and the folks behind Jacob’s Pardon, and they will tell you that the reason they selected this whiskey is because the palate belies its tongue-scorching proof. Well, yes and no—the whiskey certainly doesn’t assault your senses in the way one might imagine, but it still has a strong alcoholic slap. Adding some water to proof it down is highly recommended, and that actually opens up the palate to reveal notes of caramel, butterscotch, popcorn, vanilla, and baking spices like clove and cinnamon. There are some odd but pleasurable flavor reference points that pop up as well. At a recent tasting, one attendee noted that the whiskey almost resembles a Jamaican rum, something that Pacult agreed with (as do I). You could also close your eyes and imagine this to be a well-aged Canadian whisky, with a buttery caramel mouthfeel under all of that heat.
Any curious whiskey fan interested in going beyond bourbon and rye should give Jacob’s Pardon Batch 3 a try, and not just as a hazmat proof curiosity because there are some really deep and interesting flavors present. I understand the reason for releasing it at cask strength, but a whiskey this strong is hard to drink very much of (and probably not advisable to do so). So if you find a bottle, try a neat pour and then proof it down with a few drops of water, a large ice cube, or by mixing it into an Old Fashioned—you won’t be disappointed.
100: Worth trading your first born for
95 – 99 In the Pantheon: A trophy for the cabinet
90 – 94 Great: An excited nod from friends when you pour them a dram
85 – 89 Very Good: Delicious enough to buy, but not quite special enough to chase on the secondary market
80 – 84 Good: More of your everyday drinker, solid and reliable
Below 80 It’s alright: Honestly, we probably won’t waste your time and ours with this
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