If you’ve been around the whiskey world for a few years, you’ve probably been pitched on the concept of an infinity bottle at some point. This is a basic, long-term project that a whiskey fan can explore, typically by using an empty decanter (but any bottle will do) to hold the last few ounces of various favorite bottles of bourbon, rye whiskey, etc. as they are finished. As more samples are added to the infinity bottle, it theoretically grows more complex, and as the bottle is consumed and replenished, it grows and evolves. It’s a chance for the average whiskey drinker to experiment with the art of blending, attempting to tailor the blend to a specific taste profile by adding a few ounces of this whiskey or that whiskey to the decanter to push it in a specific direction. The process also symbolically makes a liquid immortal—even if you created your infinity bottle a decade ago, some small traces of the first whiskey you ever added to the blend are still theoretically present, as long as the bottle was never fully emptied. An infinity bottle is therefore a poignant way to preserve a favorite whiskey forever.
Now, bringing the theory of an infinity bottle to an actual, commercial whiskey brand, on the other hand, is a rather more difficult endeavor, but Old Elk found a way when they created their Infinity Blend project in 2021. In its first year, the 2021 expression served as a foundation, being a blend of Old Elk’s own in-house distillate (high-malt 6-year bourbon) and well-aged Kentucky bourbon. It took until this year’s 2022 expression for the concept to really be complete, however, because this year’s blend features a significant portion of last year’s blend added in. In this way, future entries in the Old Elk Infinity Blend project will always contain some amount of the original liquid, and will theoretically get more and more complex as the years go by.
It’s a lovely idea, the brainchild of Master Distiller Greg Metze, well known for his decades as a bourbon maestro at MGP of Indiana. The Infinity Blend is a great way to both feature Old Elk’s own evolving stocks of rye and especially wheat whiskey, and add some extra heft with extra matured Kentucky bourbon. One wonders if perhaps a few years from now, the Old Elk whiskeys involved will be old enough that the company might be able to cut out the small Kentucky portion entirely, effectively symbolizing the company’s own maturity.
Regardless, here’s what is actually in the Old Elk 2022 Infinity Blend bottle.
— 18% Old Elk 2021 Infinity Blend of Straight Bourbon Whiskies
— 15% Old Elk Straight Bourbon Whiskey, aged 7 years
— 52% Old Elk Wheat Whiskey, aged 7 years
— 9% Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, aged 13 years
— 6% Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, aged 12 years
There’s a lot I like about the philosophy here. I like that the previous year’s Infinity Blend makes up a genuinely significant amount of the blend, rather than being a token addition. I like that the Kentucky distillate is a relatively small flourish, for the sake of complexity and heft. The whole thing is a nice sentiment. So let’s get to tasting, and see how it strikes me.
On the nose, the Infinity Blend 2022 is very sweet and sunny, a positively cheerful profile that shows a lot of citrus, with impressions of candied lemon and chocolate covered orange. I’m also getting some peach-like stone fruit, along with toasted piloncillo sugar and perhaps a bit of tart cranberry. Overall it’s fruit forward and sweet, but with lots of fragrant cinnamon/cassia spice. It feels like this could be pretty decadent.
On the palate, those suspicions are confirmed—this is a big, assertive, sweet and desserty dram. Big deep caramel flavors intertwine with dark fruit impressions of cherry and brighter cranberry, coated in vanilla syrup. There’s creme brulee as well, or marshmallow, and although there’s also some old herbal oak notes involved, the structure the wood offers can’t really stand up to the big dessert sweetness. Overall, it makes this one pretty unbalanced in favor of the sweetness, most likely being delivered by all that wheat whiskey in the blend. It’s sweet enough, in fact, that I feel like there would be times that this whiskey blend would be simply too much for me, but I also feel like I would adore it at specific times when I’m really in the mood for what it’s offering.
Overall, this is a really decadent and fun dram, but drinkers should be aware that it definitely is among the sweeter limited release expressions I’ve sampled in recent memory. It’s one to seek out, if that’s what you’re looking for.
Distillery: Old Elk
City: Fort Collins, CO
Style: Blended American whiskey
ABV: 57.05% (114.1 proof)
Availability: Limited, 750 ml bottles, $150 MSRP
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.