widow jane 13 year review

Widow Jane 13 Year Single Barrel Bourbon Magruder's Select

Widow Jane 13 year Magruder

Distillery: Widow Jane (sourced from MGP)

Type & Region: Bourbon, USA

Alcohol: 49.5%

Composition: 75% corn, 21% rye, 4% barley

Aged: 13 years in virgin American white oak

Color: 1.5/2.0 on the color scale (auburn, polished mahogany)

Price: $100

From the Widow Jane website:

“The whiskey aging process is influenced by time & place. Aren’t we lucky. These barrels have all been influenced by the greatly varying temperatures & humidity levels of their original source and their time in our Rick House in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The different rick house positions combined with climate variations have led to subtle deviations in flavor & alcohol strength.”

Company Website

widow jane 13 year overview

Widow Jane 13 Year Single Barrel Bourbon, also called “Lucky 13”, is the oldest offering from Widow Jane’s single barrel program. Apart from the extra year of aging, the 13 year single barrels for some reason also come in various ABVs between 46.5% and 49.5%. Given how popular MGP has become the past few years (this is sourced from MGP in Indiana), I’m surprised that Widow Jane has seemingly so many older barrels, but it’s possible that they bought them years ago and have been waiting to release them at 12-13 years, so aren’t they lucky / smart.

 

This particular 13 year single barrel comes from Magruder’s in Washington DC. I don’t have any prior experience with their picks, so I don’t have any good / bad bias as to their ability to pick barrels. Before I get to the review, because the only other Widow Jane bourbon I’ve had is the impeccable Widow Jane 12 Year Single Barrel Total Wine Select, I’ll be making comparisons throughout to help gauge how good this 13 year is. If you haven’t read that review yet, I highly recommend that you do to get a sense of what Widow Jane can really do with these single barrel bourbons. Let’s find out how lucky I am in this Widow Jane 13 Year Single Barrel Bourbon Magruder’s Select. 

 

Thank you to my friend Ryan S. for the sample. 

widow jane 13 year smell

Widow Jane 13 Year Single Barrel launches a blast of intense yet refined and fragrant roasted oak and smoke even after 30 minutes of air, but it does calm down with more time. After that, I smell honey, dark ripe peach, cherry, vanilla buttercream, candied pineapple, roasted oak, tobacco, licorice, roasted dark chocolate, toasted cinnamon, and hints of aged cheese funk from the long oak aging. It takes a little searching, but I occasionally find dried berries as well. It definitely smells 13 years old.

 

Swirling coaxes out lightly smoky and very sweet honey, candied pineapple, freshly cut orange, freshly sliced apple, dried blueberries, roasted oak, tobacco, cinnamon, licorice, and hints of rye bread and aged funk I get from port / sherry finishes and some older bourbons. The oak isn’t shy, but this 13 year old bourbon is not overoaked at all, well balanced between all the fragrant oak, sweetness, fruitiness, smoke, and spice, with little heat to get in the way. I do wish it was all a bit fuller and richer though, slightly dulled by the ABV. Still, Widow Jane 13 Year Single Barrel Magruder’s Select smells fantastic and sometimes nearly matches the much fruitier Widow Jane 12 Year Single Barrel Total Wine Select, which is exceptional.

widow jane 13 year taste & aftertaste

Widow Jane 13 Year Bourbon starts off with fairly gentle floral honey, cherry, vanilla, licorice, citrus, roasted oak, tobacco, cinnamon, clove and cocoa powder. There’s not much heat so I can attempt to thoroughly pick out each delicious flavor. Unfortunately, the lower ABV in this case tones-down the flavors, making them lack much punch, richness, or “wow” factor. It tastes great so far, but the impact of the added water is very obvious. With “chewing”, I taste funky honey, roasted vanilla, peach, citrus, apple, oak, tobacco, cinnamon, clove, candied ginger, coffee grounds, and hints of that aged cheese funk. The oak doesn’t go overboard, meshing well with everything else but still providing constant darkness and reminders that this is quite old, mature, and refined. The heat is well moderated, but as good as it tastes, I’m never totally wowed by it. 

 

That smoky, effervescent, and fragrant oak come back in the finish with candied pineapple and orange, cinnamon, clove, and tannins that wrap everything up nicely to end this bourbon. “Chewing” brings a wonderfully balanced mix of honey, oak tannins, licorice, vanilla, citrus, tobacco, and coffee grounds. The finish is not lacking at all, so while the flavors may be a tad thin at times, the finish carries itself well and leaves a long-lasting impression.

 

Let me reiterate that Widow Jane 13 Year Single Barrel Bourbon is still quite interesting and flavorful, but it’s clear to me that it suffers from the dilution. I’ve learned from the incredible Widow Jane 12 Year Single Barrel I previously reviewed that 49.5% can offer tons of depth and character, so it’s not a great excuse for watered-down traits. 

Place on the Whiskey Shelf

Top Shelf

Widow Jane 13 Year Single Barrel Bourbon Magruder’s Select is undoubtedly “Top Shelf” bourbon, largely in part because it smells incredibly mature, rich, and balanced, but the flavors, while great, don’t quite keep up and hold it back from being so much more. The scents really are the star of the show in how it expertly balances the old roasted wood, sugars, fruit, and spice to captivate me with every sniff. The flavors offer many of the same mature and balanced notes, but the lower proof crops up in the thinner mouthfeel and slightly dulled, but still excellent, flavors that hint at its unmet potential. 

 

Ever since I reviewed the absolutely stunning Widow Jane 12 Year Single Barrel Bourbon Total Wine Select (also 49.5% ABV but far from watered-down), I’ve been searching for the next great Widow Jane single barrel bourbon. This Magruder’s Pick isn’t it, but it’s still a strong representation of what Widow Jane has to offer. These days, it’s rare to find 13 year old MGP bourbon for around $100, so it’s not necessarily a bad value for what it is. $100 is still pricey, but there are few bourbons up to that price with this combination of easy to enjoy oaky and fruity traits, so I still think it’s worth it. The only other comparable bourbons I can think of around the same price or less are Joseph Magnus Bourbon and One Eight Untitled No. 13, both finished bourbons with similar oaky and fruity traits. As for me though, I’m going to keep searching.  

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