What can one really expect from the first American whiskey released by a company as monolithic as Molson Coors? When they finally get around to exploiting the ever-expanding market for American whiskey, especially bourbon, how will a company of this scale choose to approach the category? What does one envision, when you picture a flagship for “Coors Whiskey Co.”?
The cynical choice would probably be a stock-standard, sourced American bourbon—that’s the easiest thing that the Coors Whiskey Co. could do, and sadly it would probably be the most successful. After all, American whiskey drinkers can easily be convinced to buy the same bottle of sourced bourbon they’ve already bought 100 times before, if it has a unique name on the label. And “the first whiskey from Molson Coors” does have a strange novelty to it. Another logical choice, meanwhile, would have been an American single malt whiskey, which would be perhaps the most appropriate to the Coors name—after all, you could more or less distill the company’s flagship beers and end up with malt whiskey ready for aging.
To their credit, Coors Whiskey Co. didn’t go either of those more simple, accessible routes. Instead, they decided to build a more complicated blend as their flagship, now known as Five Trail Blended American Whiskey. One wonders, in fact, if this concept was a bit overwrought or unnecessarily complicated—the four whiskeys brought together here feel almost like a result of design by committee, rather than a singular vision. What are we to make of combining the following:
— 15% 4-year-old Colorado single malt whiskey
— 35% 4-year-old Kentucky four grain bourbon
— 45% 4-year-old Indiana wheated bourbon
— 5% 13-year-old Kentucky bourbon
That’s a lot of balls they’re juggling. Four grain bourbon, wheated bourbon, single malt whiskey and more? It’s hard not to feel like these choices are being made with the goal of “let’s make something where we can highlight how complex and different each disparate whiskey is.” And if you’re wondering why it’s called “Five Trail” when there are four components, it’s because the fifth “trail” is that classic Coors promise of “Rocky Mountain Water.”
Granted, Coors Whiskey Co. was working with some talented people here, in the form of the team at the ultra-prolific Bardstown Bourbon Co. I would think that some of BBC’s spirit is likely here as well, in the form of the 4-year-old Kentucky four grain bourbon, while the other sources are not noted—though the Indiana one is probably clear enough. The whole package retails for $60, which isn’t excessive, though it’s also not the biggest value on paper, given the relatively low age statements propped up by a small amount of well-aged sourced bourbon. To its credit, it’s bottled at a pretty sturdy 95 proof (47.5% ABV).
So with all that said, let’s get to tasting and see how all these influences come together.
On the nose, Five Trail gives off strong impressions of brown sugar and somewhat green oak/lumber, along with apple pie and a little sweet cinnamon. Slight licorice/star anise lends some additional baking spice, while toasted malt suggests something almost in the vein of American amber ale. It’s a little musty and earthy, with hints of oatmeal cookie, along with the more expected impressions of caramel and vanilla. All in all, not bad, though it suggests a whiskey of significant sweetness.
On the palate, this is sweet and a little bit youthful. There’s a ton of vanilla, verging on scented candle territory, along with sweet malt syrup, hints of apple flesh, honey and caramel. Faint baking spice rounds things out, while the oak again feels on the green/fresh cut side. The most prominent impression is of an assertive, straightforward, slightly malty sweetness.
All in all, this is by no means bad, but it also doesn’t have the complexity or uniqueness of flavor you might expect or hope for with the focus being the complex blend that went into making Five Trail. Or in other words, I’m not sure these components came together to create something greater than the sum of their parts. The Coors Whiskey Co. does deserve credit for not simply buying a batch of moderately aged bourbon from Heaven Hill or Beam, slapping their own label on it and calling it a day, but but at the same time I’m not sure this release is going to inspire much devotion of its own.
Distillery: Coors Whiskey Co.
City: Golden, CO
Style: American blended whiskey
ABV: 47.5% (95 proof)
Availability: 750 ml bottles, $60 MSRP
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.