**Sincere thanks to MGP Ingredients and Gregory + Vine PR for the sample.
The rather unusual name of Eight & Sand Blended Bourbon apparently comes from an old railroading phrase. The “eight” part refers to the highest setting or notch on the throttle, and the “sand” part refers to the sand that would get spread on the rails as a train goes along, giving it better traction. Together, this was apparently a kind of railroad fare-thee-well. Wishing a fellow engineer “eight & sand” was a hope that their run would be fast, smooth, and without trouble. An unusual name, but also an evocative one, especially after learning the brand has committed to donating some of Eight & Sands profits to railway museums and restoration projects. Here in the Twin Cities, there’s a fair amount working on the railroad still happening all the livelong day, and there’s a fair amount of archival work and museums celebrating the importance of the railroad in the area’s history. When you have little kids, it’s easy for that awe and interest in trains to be rekindled, and I’ve very much enjoyed multiple visits to places like Twin City Model Railroad Museum, the Lake Harriet Trolley, the Jackson Street Roundhouse, and the Lake Superior Railroad Museum.
So, thumbs up on all that railroading jazz. Thumbs down on that one tone-deaf section of the brand’s website which invokes the abhorrent notion of Manifest Destiny and its role in the Western Expansion of the mid-1800s. That takes a little steam out of the choo choo. Whether it was the millions of murdered and displaced indigenous Americans, the ongoing enslavement of Africans and African Americans, or the era’s discrimination of the Chinese and Mexicans, we know all about the brutal human cost of that push westward. There’s really no need to try and white-wash and glamorize it further in some booze marketing.
Now then, the whiskey. One of the latest offerings from MGP Ingredients, Eight & Sand Blended Bourbon Whiskey is, as you may have read, a blended bourbon whiskey. A blended bourbon whiskey is different than simply a blended whiskey like Seagrams 7 or Kessler. According to Federal regulations, a blended whiskey must contain at least 20% straight whiskeys, the rest can be vodka for all they care. If a product contains at least 51% of a single type of whiskey, then it can legally include that type of whiskey in the labeling. So, according to the regulations, we know that the Eight & Sand Blended Bourbon Whiskey contains at least 51% straight bourbons. In addition to the MGP bourbons used, this one also reportedly includes MGP rye whiskeys, MGP corn whiskey (at least 80% corn), and MGP light whiskey (in this case, 99% corn whiskey that’s been matured in used or uncharred casks). Eight & Sand has specified that all whiskeys used are at least four years old. I expect that some bourbon purists will turn up their nose at the thought of this one, but bourbon purists have never been known as the most exciting bunch in the world. I think that even the small amount of “experimentation” and branching-out happening in the bourbon world is a good thing. With the range of whiskeys MGP produces and the general consensus being that they produce a very good range of whiskeys, they are well-positioned to get a little creative and try some new things.
The Nose: A solid, relatively straightforward bourbon nose. There’s caramel, Valencia oranges, and a little macerated dark cherry. Nice vanilla bean and toasty rye notes follow with a faint hint of buttered popcorn and white chocolate. The oak is present, but not prominent, with spice notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, and just a touch of mint.
The Palate: Comes across a little hot, initially, and follows the nose with more caramel and juicy citrus. There’s some dark honey and cherry juice, too. Earthy vanilla bean and herbal, spicy rye. The oak is much bolder, tannic and sharp. Towards the finish, there’s hot cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, black pepper, mint and a little burnt popcorn at the end.
The Finish: Lengthy, with that peppery, spicy rye and mouthwatering grippy oak bringing you back for more.
Thoughts: Interesting stuff as it has some expected and unexpected qualities. It’s certainly bourbon-y, though, on the nose, it feels like a lighter bourbon. As with the nose, the palate has a “brightness” that I might ascribe to the Light whiskey, but there’s also more rye and oak, and throughout, some nicely integrated corn notes. The palate is much bolder than the nose, but I feel like it doesn’t quite have the “weight” or depth to really balance that boldness. Of course, maybe that’s just me and my preconceptions about what bourbon and light whiskey can/should be. I’ve certainly enjoyed this in many ways; neat, on a rock, and in cocktails, it holds up decently in all those applications. As I said, overall, it’s great to see MGP experimenting with their many different whiskey styles. I see this ranging in price from the low $20’s to the mid $30’s. At the low end, I think this is an interesting one to try. Perhaps less of a value at the higher end of that range.
- “ALL ABOARD!” New Eight&Sand Blended Bourbon Whiskey, https://www.eightandsandwhiskey.com/.
- Japhe, Brad. “Blended Bourbon: The Next Trend in American Whiskey?: Distiller.” The Distiller Blog, 14 Apr. 2019, https://blog.distiller.com/blended-bourbon/.
- USC. Title 27: Alcohol, Tobacco Products and Firearms. Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. Web. 3 December 2019