Old Medley

In 2013, the Charles Medley Distillery released 15,000 bottles of Old Medley, a 12-year-old, 86.8 proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.  Old Medley is made from the same recipe as Wathen's, the more affordable, NAS bourbon also from Charles Medley.  But who actually makes the bourbon is a bit confusing...

The moth-balled Charles Medley Distillery is located in Owensboro, KY and has been the site of whiskey production (albeit not continuously) since the late 1880's.  The Medley family has been invovled in distilling bourbon since 1812 (the Ezra Brooks brand traces its roots to the original Medley Distilling Company, which owned five distilleries and dozens of brands by the 1950's and 60's).  However, after several mergers and acquisitions, the distillery closed in 1987.  Glenmore purchased the operation in 1988.  In 1992, United Distillers acquired it from Glenmore and it has been closed ever since.

Later that year, Charles Medley, a seventh generation bourbon man, bought the family distillery back from United (which became Diaego), but was unable to restore it to former glory.  Rather, he has worked with other distilleries, investors, and family members (i.e. his son, Sam) to bottle and market Wathen's, Medley Bros., and Old Medley. So who actually makes the whiskey? 

Charles Medley Distillery was most recently owned by CL Financial, the parent company of the Angostura Company (of bitters fame).  They contracted with the Frank-Lin company of San Jose, CA to bottle their sourced products.  Where the whiskey is produced and aged is unknown, although some folks think that Buffalo Trace is involved considering that Sazerac advertises that it owns "some of the brands that were [once] produced at the distillery."  Others, like Chuck Cowdery, surmise that it's another big producer like Heaven Hill or Brown-Forman. 

On May 5, 2014, the South Carolina-owned Terressentia Corporation announced that it had purchased the old Charles Medley Distillery from CL Financial and will revitalize the operation through its subsidiary TerrePURE Kentucky Distillers.  Current plans call for the expenditure of several million dollars so that the old distillery has production capacity of 2 million gallons of bourbon. 

Here's the X-factor: TerrePURE has developed a "rapid maturation technology" (using ultrasonic energy) that it plans to apply to some of the products.  So while a historic distillery will be back in business, new and potentially troubling processes will be used to get whiskey into your cabinets more quickly.  Let's review...

Old Medley

Charles Medley Distillery
86.8 proof
12 years old
$54 at Southern Spirits in Rock Hill, SC

Color: Rich maple wood. 

Nose: The nose is complex and starts off a bit "tight" with lacquered wood and some nail polish astrignecy.  After time and significant aeration/swirling, a heavy dose of oak remains, but deep sweeter notes of cocoa and toasted marshmallow emerge.

Tasting Notes:  The sip is immediately hot with black pepper spiciness that seeps into the tongue.  My initial impression was that Old Medley is over oaked and drinks hotter than an 86.8 proof bourbon.  I've sipped it a few more times now and get a wet stone/flint note that isn't unpleasant, but the flavor profile lacks the sweetness to balance the spice.

Overall: C+.  Compare to Elijah Craig 12, which is half the price and maybe twice as good.  Old Medley carries an interesting nose, but the flavor profile is a bit one dimensional for $54.  Charles Medley called this offering the best 12 year old bourbon around.  I respectfully disagree sir! 

Peer Reviews:  

Breaking Bourbon

Bourbon Blog (video with Charles Medley)