The first time we wrote about Southern Grace Distilleries — the prison distillery located just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina — the space was only getting set to open. At the time, they had their white whiskey, and that was about it. Flash ahead to now (about a year later) and Southern Grace has launched their first aged whiskey: Conviction Bourbon.
Conviction Bourbon is aged in a mix of 10- and 15-gallon barrels for around eight months in the only rackhouse in North Carolina — not to mention the only rackhouse that used to be part of a prison. As the distillery begins producing more stock, Southern Grace is slowly transitioning away from the smaller batches to full-size, 53-gallon barrels.
The first release of the bourbon features a few different blends. Because of barrel size, the bottles have been drawn and co-mingled from a number of different barrels (usually two or three for each batch), all of which are noted on the bottle.
Appearance: Conviction Bourbon is a golden amber color.
Nose: On the front, notes of brown sugar and cinnamon. These are followed by oak and cinnamon. The nose of reminiscent of the children’s breakfast cereal Waffle Crisp.
Palate: Conviction has a fairly light body, with burnt caramel, oak, and candied fruit revealing themselves immediately. Honeyed cherries and toasted oak come through next, followed by hints of dark chocolate and vanilla.
Finish: Smooth brown sugar close the palate out, which is also when the heat shows up. The long finish lingers, with dry oak staying on the tongue to the end.
Final Thoughts: For a young bourbon — and a first aged release from a distillery — it may surprise you how good it is (especially when so many craft bourbons out there are released before they are ready). While eight months may not seem like a long time, the smaller barrels help speed the process up a little bit, delivering a whiskey that is mature beyond its time. It’ll be interesting to see future releases that have been stored in full-size barrels and to see how the team at Southern Grace manages the transition. If this bourbon is any indication, then there are good things on the horizon.
Conviction Bourbon is 48.2 percent ABV and retails for around $35. Southern Grace is now up and operational, and quite fun to tour if you’re in the area.