Enter the brand revival from Rare Character. According to the story, this is a whiskey steeped in history:
At the height of America’s original whiskey boom of the late nineteenth century, a German immigrant named Phil Hollenbach crafted a brand called Fortuna that helped define the early days of the modern bourbon industry. Hollenbach left a lasting mark on the whiskey trade, having found great success in Louisville, Kentucky. He strived to delight customers far and wide by sharing some of the “Taste of Good Fortune” provided to his family.
Over a hundred years since its inception, Fortuna Bourbon has now been revitalized for a new generation of whiskey lovers to celebrate. Aged a minimum of six years and hand-selected by the folks behind Rare Character Whiskey, the spirit of Hollenbach’s passion and dedication lives on in this remarkable Kentucky Straight Bourbon.
Pete recently shared a side by side of the old, original label next to the new one. I have to say they did a fantastic job with the recreation!
I first tasted this with Pete and Pablo and was quite impressed, despite it getting stacked up against some incredible single barrel releases we picked afterwards. I was impressed enough to grab my own bottle (or two) so I can share my thoughts with you! Let's get into a quick review of the modern whiskey.
Company on Label: Fortuna Bourbon (Rare Character)
Whiskey Type: Bourbon
Mash Bill Percentages: Undisclosed traditional bourbon mash bill
Age: 6 years
Further identification: This is labeled as "Batch 1B" bottled on 9/2022 on the back label; it is crafted from a blend of 6 barrels in Stanford, KY
Nose: Bready caramel notes jump out of the glass first. Diving deeper I find it to be reminiscent of flan. The nose is quite sweet with vanilla softening the sharpness of the background nutmeg and cinnamon. A strong base of oak serves as the backbone for a delicate dance of allspice, peppermint pastel party mints, and soft floral tones. As the glass warms a lovely honey sweetness forms with crystalline sugar coming as close to reality as possible under my nostrils. The cinnamon notes almost venture into some of the aromas that tend to come off of amburana oak, though it's quite soft here. That note is the only one that detracts from the nose personally, though I know many folks are crazy for those finishes. Time for a sip.
The same notes persist post-sip, but the barrel funk volume turns up slightly alongside those aromas. Overall the glass turns rather simple. The empty glass smells of Lindt excellence intense orange dark chocolate bars; the orange aromas are delectable.
Palate: My first sip is incredibly soft. Caramel leads the way as it did on the nose, though cherry skins follow close behind here. The mouth feel is on the thinner side, but it's also so incredibly sweet that I think that is a positive here. Another sip shows off vanilla bean ice cream, chocolate, date and soft plum. Soft, sweet honey persists as a cherry hots tingles the chest. The finish is short, but sweet, suggesting another sip isn't far out on the horizon. My last sip is a great balance between confectioners sweets and soft tannins.
Overall this ended up drinking a little more simple & not quite as magical as the first taste I had with Pete & Pablo. Perhaps it was the atmosphere, or the slew of other pours that followed that skewed the mind. This is still a decent, crushable pick that I'm not at too disappointed to have two bottles of. Cheers!
December 2023 Update:
Thanks to my good friend Jes, AKA @gigglesnsips, I was able to try batch 1E of Fortuna to see if it tastes any different than my experience with 1B. All of the details & whiskey stats from above still hold true, this is just a different batch of barrels, presumably functionally limited by the size of the blending tank the team had to work with. Let's dive in to a bonus flash review!
The nose opens up with plenty of cinnamon, much like I recall on batch 1B. Slight barrel funk and coffee cake tones sting the nostrils slightly. Allspice and nutmeg dial the spice levels a little too far for comfort, ultimately reminding me of amburana finished whiskey which is not my jam unfortunately. Coming back from a sip amplifies the barrel funk characteristics that do suggest this is older than it appears, but it lands in a way that is sharp and ultimately uninviting to me. The end of the glass is the best part as caramel, creamy flan, and bready tones abound.
On the palate caramel leads alongside soft, dried cherry. The wandering path before me shows bitter tannins ahead. Another sip does well to remove that growing fear as cranberry and orange peel burst onto the scene. There's a slightly metallic feel to the linger which also carries raw honey and cardamom. A longer sip and swish reveals more citrus layers that sends a shiver up my spine. At last taste I find red raspberry and angostura bitters.
Now, was this tasting enough to change my rating?
No. Batch 1E drinks very similarly to batch 1B (good sign that their blending process is at least consistent), ultimately delivering much more cinnamon spice and strange barrel funk than I personally desire. If this is what the original (1880s) Fortuna tasted like, I'm not sure it should have been resurrected. Here's to hoping the Fortuna barrel proof releasing now will be a step up in quality!