Craft Spirits Spotlight Spirits The Connected Table at Sante Magazine Vol. 26 No. 04

Penelope Pitstop: This American Light Whiskey Deserves the Checkered Flag


I have to admit that I was, at first, hesitant to try the bottle I received of Penelope American Light Whiskey – which clocks in at a whopping 133.6 Proof (66.8% ABV) – as I thought to myself, how can they call it “light” at that proof?

So, I proceeded to do a little sleuthing on the word “light” as it pertains to whiskies made by MGP Ingredients, Inc., the venerable distilling company with plants in Kansas and Indiana, from whom Penelope gets its juice – they say so right on their website, gang, it’s no secret – and besides, MGP’s Lawrenceburg, IN. distillery, originally founded in 1847 and at one time owned by Seagrams who sold it in 2007 (MGP has owned it since 2011), has a long history of making very good whiskey and makes it for a number of brands you know and love.

Anyway, back to “light.” According to MGP, the distillery made it for a few years as part of a counteractive measure by bourbon producers to fight a perceived lack in sales due to the popularity of scotch whisky at the time. Unlike the bourbons it was created to save – with bourbon’s rise in popularity, now totally unnecessary – Light whiskey could contain more corn and was allowed to be aged in used and/or uncharred barrels, which bourbon cannot, making it cheaper to produce. The batch used for Penelope’s American Light, was made in 2008 and shows 13 years old on the label.

Penelope Bourbon, founded by Mike and Kerry Paladino to celebrate the birth of their daughter, Penelope, in 2018, produces a number of bourbons and whiskies. The American Light is a corn whiskey aged in 2nd fill barrels. The bottle I received was bottled at cask strength (so it was not cut with water to a lower proof prior to bottling). This whiskey is part of the Penelope Founders Reserve line of products, which are curated barrels of, usually, significant age and quality. One of the things I love about sourced barrels like this, is their uniqueness. Once the batch is gone, you’ll not taste it again.

Showing notes of vanilla, cinnamon, caramel and creme brûlée, this is a spirit to sip and savor. Kudos to Penelope for finding this whiskey and bringing it to market before it got blended off to enhance something of lesser quality.

My advice: to get the most out of this mesmerizing spirit, cut it with about 1/3 filtered water. Otherwise, the heat of that 133 proof, will be a hindrance to all those layers of flavor you’ll find in its depths.    insta: @penelopebourbon

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