Tincup Fourteener Bourbon

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Colorado-based Tincup has been a reliable non-distiller producer (NDP) for years at this point, primarily sourcing their bourbon from the mega-source that is MGP of Indiana. For the flagship whiskey, that high-rye Indiana bourbon is blended with a small amount of Colorado-made malt whiskey to produce a product that hits the shelves labeled simply as “American whiskey.” For its latest and oldest bottling, however, Tincup is introducing a new series dubbed Fourteener, which will showcase unadulterated, 14-year-old MGP stocks … and at a pretty fair price, we have to say.

Fourteener is intended as an annual release, celebrating the 58 mountains of Colorado that are over 14,000 feet tall—local climbers often keep a tally of how many “Fourteeners” they’ve summited. Each release in the series will celebrate a different mountain on the label, with this inaugural batch released at the end of 2022 celebrating Long’s Peak in the Rocky Mountain Front Range.

Fittingly, the whiskey chosen here is an exceptionally mature MGP bourbon, from one of their classic high-rye mashbills. There really isn’t a lot of easily accessible MGP bourbon on the market with that kind of age statement—especially for less than $100—which makes the $70 price tag here fairly notable. Granted, Tincup is able to offer that kind of price point at least partially because they’ve cut this one down from barrel proof with their signature “Rocky Mountain water,” to an approachable 42% ABV (84 proof). That will no doubt make the proof hounds in the audience turn up their nose, but the actual proof is in how it tastes. At the very least, Fourteener seems to serve a niche that isn’t always particularly well represented on the market—advanced age statements for lower-proofed drams.

So with that said, let’s get to tasting and see how Fourteener presents itself.

On the nose, this is quite bright and fruity right off the bat, with lots of freshly expressed orange oil, sweetened by brown sugar and lots of vanilla. There’s also significant oak, cinnamon and clove, along with something slightly evocative of toasted malt. Ethanol is low, as it should be for such a low proof. Over time, I’m getting more chocolate on this one—milk chocolate, more sweet than suggestive of bitter or roasty.

On the palate, Fourteener is likewise bright, fruity and sweet in character, with candied orange and dried apricot amplified by vanilla, and supported by cinnamon and nougat, giving it a bit of a “candy bar”-like impression. I’m reminded of something like a dusting of orange vanilla sugar that a bar might use to coat the rim of a dessert cocktail. There’s significant baking spice as well, and a rye presence, though the more peppery and herbal character of the rye can’t really out-compete the baking spice. Thankfully, there’s also a modicum of oaky balance, and a modest drying effect on the back end, which offers a counterpoint to all the sweetness. All in all, it still tilts in favor of the sweeter, fruitier and spicier impressions, closing with dried fruit and oak. Ethanol is again quite gentle, as it should be.

All in all, you have to commend the assertive degree of flavor that Fourteener manages to pack into an 84 proof expression, which is certainly a good thing. Some drinkers may find that one a bit one-dimensionally sweet, though I do believe there’s adequate complexity here when all is said and done. And with that attractive MSRP, it really does seem like a good deal for any 14-year-old expression of MGP bourbon, even taking the lower proof point into one’s calculations. Given the highway robbery that so many breweries are trying to get away with on just about any limited release these days, Fourteener seems like a pleasant alternative. MGP fans in particular should keep an eye out for it.

Distillery: Tincup Whiskey
City: Colorado (sourced, Lawrenceburg, IN)
Style: Straight bourbon whiskey
ABV: 42% (84 proof)
Availability: Limited, 750 ml bottles, $70 MSRP

Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.