The region's craft distilling scene has continued to steam forward with ambitious new players, and many have been around long enough to begin producing spirits with the color of barrel age.
But that doesn't mean these liquors are necessarily mature.
Despite its deep amber hue, for example, one whiff of the now widely available Four Grain Bourbon from Bluebird Distilling in Phoenixville gives me a noseful of charred oak from a small aging barrel and the edgy green fruit aromas of a spirit still close to its unmellowed grain.
Where owner and distiller Jared Adkins artfully compensates with this 15-month-old whiskey, however, is a combination of grains that show an intriguing balance - a majority of corn for sweetness (and the bourbon pedigree) paired with rye for toasty, smoky spice, and then a touch of wheat and barley for smoothness.
And because Adkins is able to achieve a high enough level of alcohol on one pass through his still, he's able to limit this bourbon to one distillation, which preserves both maximum flavor and a mouthfeel I overall enjoyed.
As always, there's no true shortcut in whiskey for patience and time. But you also need a good product to begin with, and Bluebird's young bourbon clearly already has the makings of something special.
- Craig LaBan