Where it’s from: Paul Sutton is a family-run and owned Kentucky bourbon brand utilizing a century-old bourbon recipe.
Why we’re drinking these: Besides some critical acclaim, Paul Sutton has something no other whiskey brand can claim: their CEO was previously an oncologist in New York. “I miss it, but I stepped out when I had my children,” says Myra Barginear, who spent more than 10 years at Mount Sinai and helped build the Dubin Breast Center of The Tisch Cancer Institute.
However, the tug of the family legacy soon called. Seven generations of Barginear’s family made whiskey before her, starting with Hardy Sutton, born in 1791. A final “perfected” family recipe came about in 1916 by Barginear’s grandfather. But when he passed away, he took the whiskey’s mash bill recipe with him.
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“We were left with mason jars of bourbon and barrels in the garden,” she says. Inspired, Barginear took a brief vacation to take a distilling class at the University of Kentucky and another at Moonshine University (which is a real thing). With the help from a few whiskey experts and some high-liquid chromatography — this is where a science background is helpful — she was able to reverse engineer and recreate the family’s mash recipe. Thanks to that tenacity, Barginear became the first woman to co-found and lead a solely owned and operated family-distilled spirits company.
So what sets Paul Sutton’s recipe apart? The use of Alabama corn and a sweet mash, aka each whiskey begins with fresh ingredients and no backset. Plus, they’re distilling this in small batches and barreling single bottles that are hand-labeled and numbered.
So let’s test these century-old (but sort of new) whiskeys out.
How they taste:
- Paul Sutton Bourbon is a bottled-in-bond (50% ABV) bourbon aged for six years. Barginear calls it a “table bourbon,” and it does sort of hit all the best parts of a greatest hits bourbon: vanilla, caramel, oak spice, a hint of burnt orange peel, a slightly oily mouthfeel and a wonderfully long finish.
- Paul Sutton Heritage Collection is a limited release of barrels aged 7 years (for the family’s 7th generation) and bottled at cask strength. The oak is a little more present here, and given the higher proof, more heat is, too. A drop or two of water brings out some fruitier notes (I got berries and a little cherry).
Fun fact: The company uses a restored Land Rover for events. “My husband found that Land Rover in a Walmart parking lot,” Barginear says. “We completely restored it and custom-built it with an empty barrel in the back and a full bar. We’ve hosted huge parties and brought it down; it’s a great marketing tool and we have fun with it.”
Where to buy: You can find Paul Sutton at local retailers or at Wine.com.
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