This might not be the fishiest spirit we’ve taste-tested at OTW, but if there’s one quality our Fish Booze Reviews have had in common thus far, it’s that they each find a way to give back to their communities. Tamworth Distilling’s Crab Trapper Whiskey removes invasive green crabs from New Hampshire’s coastal waters to create a crab-infused bourbon. Rhode Island’s Industrious Spirit Company distills their Ostreida Vodka using fresh-from-the-sea oysters harvested from local and regional shellfish farms. Now, Bluebird Distilling in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania has collaborated with the lifestyle brand, Jetty, to release a special edition bourbon designed to capture the flavor and essence of coastal adventure. The catch (no pun intended), is that 10% of Breakwater Bourbon proceeds are applied to the protection, maintenance and long-term care of our oceans and coastal waterways by the Jetty Rock Foundation.
Since 2014, Jetty—which was founded on Long Beach Island, NJ—and their nonprofit foundation, through events and donations, have raised over $2 million for coastal businesses, individuals and communities in need. A comprehensive look into their history of charitable donations can be found here.
Bluebird Distilling is most well-known for their small batch whiskies, and as someone who enjoys a good Manhattan on the rocks, I jumped at the chance to try this salt-spirited bourbon. As told by the distillery’s founder, Jared Adkins, Bluebird’s goal is to create craft spirits from scratch using local ingredients. An avid surfer himself, Adkins was eager to partner with the Jetty Rock Foundation to release a lightly smokey, smooth-sipping bourbon that captures East Coast adventure in a bottle.
Before even breaking the seal, I noted how the bottle alone exudes a coastal aura. There’s something about the stout-necked, cork-plugged look that resembles old-fashioned bottles of rum and whiskey that seafaring scalawags swig in the movies. If I spotted the aqua-blue label on a liquor store shelf alongside big brand names, I’d be intrigued by the aesthetics alone.
A couple weeks back, I rounded up the crew at the OTW office for a taste test of Breakwater Bourbon. After dishing out shots of crab whiskey to my coworkers a few week earlier, there was some understandable hesitation from the peanut gallery. However, no crustaceans were harmed in the making of this whiskey.
Upon cracking open the bottle, a pleasant and familiar aroma of charred whiskey barrels wafted into my nose, complemented by light notes of cherry and cinnamon. And while the smokey scent lingered as I tipped back my glass, it wasn’t overbearing in the slightest.
Breakwater Bourbon is aged for 5 to 7 years in charred American Oak barrels before being finished in Brazilian Amburana barrels. Admittedly, I can’t tell the difference between the two; to my unrefined palate, smokey tastes smokey. But the lightly charred flavor profile of the whiskey was swept away by delicate waves of cherry, vanilla and what tasted like a bit of caramel (which I later learned was toffee).
Like any good whiskey, Breakwater Bourbon doesn’t go down too smooth, like water. There’s a slight burn that lingers on the tongue, which I attributed to the tasting notes of candied ginger. If you’ve ever eaten a piece of candied ginger, it looks deceptively sweet, but it’s a bit spicy. I thought it was an appropriate addition to the flavor profile; because what angler, sailor or surfer has ever had a smooth, relaxing day on the ocean that wasn’t abruptly followed by a day of heavy wind and high swells?
For a 90 proof bourbon that rings in at only $55 a pop, Breakwater Bourbon is pleasant, flavorful and rugged all at the same time.
Whether toasting to a successful day on the tuna grounds back at the dock, or sipping around a creekside campfire, Breakwater Bourbon is a well-rounded spirit with a dynamic taste that can be enjoyed by whiskey aficionados, watermen and new drinkers alike.
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