Cleveland Whiskey Black Bourbon Review (Batch #001)

It was just over a month ago that I wrote an article on a new “micro distillery” in Cleveland, Ohio named none other than Cleveland Whiskey. Since publishing that article one of my brothers who lives in Ohio has been trying to get his hands on a bottle of Cleveland Whiskey’s Black Bourbon; however, he hasn’t had much luck. There just isn’t much to go around and there’s quite a demand for it back in the Buckeye state. Fortunately, one of my readers was kind enough to send me a couple samples from his bottle. Finally time to give this one a go.


If you would like any background information on Cleveland Whiskey or how this Black Bourbon is created, feel free to check out the article mentioned above: “Cleveland Whiskey: Breaking Tradition for Innovation”. It contains everything that you might have questions to.

Price: Approx $35/750ml
ABV: 50% – Non Chill-Filtered

Color: Russet / light mahogany
Nose: Acidic with notes of tree bark, wood spices, vanilla, pine resin, and slight hints of molasses and brown sugar.
Palate: Again, slightly acidic and bitter with notes of light vanilla, light spices, cedar, and perhaps a hint of toffee? Hardly anything going on here.
Finish: Moderate, drying, and bitter with hints of clove and cedar wood. The finish is very chalky towards the end as well. This is probably due to the high levels of sediment in the bottle.

Despite my predictions, I really kept an open mind going into this dram, but that didn’t help the outcome at all. To be honest it tastes quite like how it is made; a young whiskey being pressure forced through chunks of wood. It’s very unbalanced, simple, chalky and thin on the palate with quite a developing bitterness. There’s a lot of wood influence going on, but it’s nowhere near the same kind of influence that occurs over long periods of time (much longer than 6 days) in a cask. In my opinion, a failed attempt at cheating the clock. You’re going to want to mix this.

Grade D-

Big thanks to The Bourbon Enthusiasts Lounge for the samples!

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2 thoughts on “Cleveland Whiskey Black Bourbon Review (Batch #001)

  1. I’ll believe this review when he lines up a lot of similar (style and price)whiskeys on a table for a blind taste test, with the Cleveland whiskey in the lineup. I see it as no coincidence that he tasted exactly what he expected. In Psychology, this has been proven for ages. Tell/train someone for years how important time in a cask is, teach him to revere tradition, put it in old-timey bottles, sometimes with labels that are hard to pronounce.

    Now turn all of this on it’s head, and fully inform the reviewer that the next taste comes from someone who didn’t follow the rules.

    • Hi Herb. Sorry for the late reply, but like you and other readers had suggested, I thought I’d give this whiskey a go blindly alongside other whiskies before getting back to you. These were Knob Creek and Four Roses Single Barrel.

      These Bourbons are both bottled at the the same proof and are right in that 8-10 year market that Lix says his CW is comparable to. This was also a different batch of Cleveland Whiskey being used, so I was also hoping for some improvements. The show…

      Whiskey A: This stood out the most in terms enjoyment – with a delicate balance of fruit, spice, sweetness and oak. I thought to myself, “if this is the Cleveland Whiskey, I’ll fly out to Cleveland and shake Tom’s hand myself.”
      Whiskey B: Very woody, some sweetness in there but it’s quite subtle. Also some polish, hints of maple, vanilla and wet saw dust.
      Whiskey C: Quite a bit of oak with dark toffee, vanilla, maple, some char and a bit of caramel.

      Whiskey A: Spice, oak, dark and sweet fruits, caramel, toffee, even a bit of honey around mid-palate, some light cocoa and a hint of mint.
      Whiskey B: Much like its aromas, it was quite woody with slight touches of sweetness. It was a little thin on the palate and had some bitter wood notes that led right into the finish. I’m guessing…
      Whiskey C: From start to finish the oak influence doesn’t let up. This is coupled with rich toffee, again maple and all sorts of spices. Definitely a fire cracker with quite the barrel influence.

      Whiskey ‘A’ no doubt stood out as the champion – the balance, complexity and softness of this Bourbon made for a very enjoyable pour. Blind Grade: (B+)
      Whiskey ‘B’ was very simple, woody, and actually came off as young compared to the other two. There were notes of resin and cedar with some spice, but it was fairly simple with dry, bitter oak finish. Blind Grade: (D)
      Whiskey ‘C’ was an oak monster with all sorts of wood spice and dark sweetness. The finish was a little off, too, with lingering bitter oak. Probably good for cocktails. Blind Grade: (C)

      Whiskey A: It was guessed this was the Four Roses and I was correct.
      Whiskey B: This stood out to me as the CW and indeed it was.
      Whiskey C: There was only one left to place so of course I assumed this was KC.

      Cleveland Whiskey did slightly better in the blind tasting but there was no doubting the difference between the three here. The Knob Creek didn’t do so hot either, but there was absolutely no doubting the actual time it spent in barrels. Both KC and CW had that heavy wood/bitter influence but the two were polar opposite. Sorry, but you can’t fake this stuff. Psychology? No, just bad whiskey, my friend. I can tell you have a passion for Cleveland Whiskey, though, and if you like it, awesome. To each his own.

      It’s not about rules or traditions, it’s about making a quality product. It just so happens that the best way to do that is to follow the rules and traditions. It’s worked for hundreds of years for a reason. Take a few of these recent NAS whiskies floating around for example. You have a series of distilleries who are releasing young whisky at ‘normal’ cost to take advantage of spiked demand. Is that whisky good? No. Will people buy it and drink it? Yes. Mostly because they’re icing it down or mixing it, or maybe they just really don’t know much about whisky. Maybe the problem here is that I just know what good whiskey tastes like. Is Cleveland Whiskey good? No. Will it sell because it has “Cleveland” stamped on the bottle? Yes. It’s young, tricked whiskey that was made by cutting corners. Lix is a business man. These young NAS whiskies still follow tradition, they’re just cutting the clock short and trying to sell a product that lacks quality.

      I will also note this: Perhaps the Four Roses was a bad choice among the three here, but Knob Creek was a perfect contender, and there was no doubting the difference in quality.

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