Jacob’s Pardon Wants You to Rethink “Light Whiskey”

A maligned whiskey style from the 1960s gets reborn in an 18-year expression

February 14, 2024 5:00 pm
Jacob's Pardon Small Batch No. 3 "light whiskey" on a table with a newspaper announcing Prohibition ended.
Jacob's Pardon — what we're drinking this week.
Jacob's Pardon

What we’re drinking: Jacob’s Pardon Small Batch #3

Where it’s from: Based in Kentucky, Jacob’s Pardon is led by Marc and Jake Taub, who also run a wine and spirits import business. The Taubs come from a long, colorful line of whiskey makers (see below).

Why we’re drinking this: So, what the hell is “light whiskey”? We got a brief history of the odd, mid-century trend via Jacob’s Pardon Master Blender F. Paul Pacult, who is also a longtime spirits educator and writer. “Americans were drinking whiskey like crazy in the ‘50s and early ‘60s…and then something came along called vodka,” he told us at a recent tasting. “It was clear and cheap to make and you could bottle it within 30 seconds of distillation. It became a drink of choice for a different generation.”

With the American whiskey industry suddenly tanking, producers created “light whiskey” to combat the vodka craze. “It could be distilled up to 95% alcohol, it didn’t have much color and it could be sold very, very quickly,” Pacult says. “And that didn’t go so well, either. The American whiskey industry shot themselves in the foot.”

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Still, it’s an interesting style, featuring a mashbill of 99% corn and 1% malted barley. “And if you allow it to age in used or uncharred new barrels, it can take on some amazing qualities,” Pacult says. 

So what we have here with the third iteration of Jacob’s Pardon Small Batch is an 18-year-old American light whiskey produced by Indiana’s MGP with a mashbill of 99% corn and 1% malted barley and aged in uncharred new barrels, coming in at a whopping 142.7 proof. And yes, it is weird that “light whiskey” is actually very, very high in alcohol (though the lack of barrel character means you’re not getting something too punchy).

Can a previously disliked but currently trending style of whiskey overcome its past? Let’s try it out.

A close-up of the Jacob's Pardon Small Batch #3 bottle
A close-up of the Jacob’s Pardon Small Batch #3
Jacob’s Pardon

How it tastes: A cask strength release at 71.4% ABV, the nose brings forth sandalwood and caramel. On the palate, it has a creamy viscosity and flavors of red fruits, butterscotch, milk chocolate and caramel corn. Given the high proof, it’s surprisingly sippable and approachable — and wonderfully unique. 

Fun fact: What’s behind the brand’s name? As they tell it, Jacob and Abner Taub crafted and bootlegged whiskey during Prohibition to support their family but were soon caught. After being pardoned years later by FDR, the brothers started Baltimore Club Whiskey, and various family members followed in their whiskey-making path. 

Where to buy: Jacob’s Pardon Small Batch Recipe #3 is available nationwide for $195; you can find it online at Total Wine.


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