Over the summer, we took a look at a bourbon and rye from North Carolina-based Southern Star Distillery, each of which included a portion of whiskey distilled at Ross & Squibb (formerly MGP). We mentioned then that the distillery had recently launched a line of entirely house-distilled bourbon dubbed Paragon and promised that we’d get to reviewing it in time. Well, that wait is over. Unlike the other bourbons in the Southern Star lineup, Paragon is made from a wheated mashbill that uses local North Carolina grains, specifically a recipe of 70% corn, 16% wheat, and 14% malted barley. The bourbon is available as a standard straight or cask strength single barrel, aged at least two years, and a bottled in bond, aged at least four years. Let’s give them a go, shall we?
Southern Star Paragon Straight Bourbon – This is a well-made grain-to-glass offering that begins with a soft, sweet aroma of caramel syrup, candy corn, cinnamon candies, and mild barrel char. There’s almost no youth here, but things are a bit restrained at this proof. The palate is light and sweet with notes of cotton candy, caramel apple, and some soft baking spice. The finish is warming but still gentle with fading notes of oak and butterscotch. A straightforward wheater with plenty to admire. 92 proof. B+ / $50
Southern Star Paragon Bottled-In-Bond Straight Bourbon – The increase in proof (and potentially age) sees more wood-driven notes on the nose with chocolaty barrel char, black pepper, and toasted oak. It skews more toward the savory end of the spectrum with notes of buttery caramel, creamed corn, and cinnamon toast. The palate is oily and a touch sweeter with notes of Cracker Jacks, caramel apple, orange peel, and pound cake while the finish showcases a bit of stone fruit and a generous, lingering warmth. 100 proof. B+ / $60
Southern Star Paragon Cask Strength Single Barrel Straight Bourbon – The aroma is toasty and woody with fresh oak and barrel char. Dark vanilla bean and a bit of Andes Mint arrive as things open up, but on the whole the nose is surprisingly unassertive for a cask strength bourbon. The palate is similarly approachable with a bit of early red pepper heat and lively notes of Mexican chocolate, RedHots, baking spice, and cocktail cherries. The warming, peppery finish is generous with notes of vanilla bean ice cream and peach candies. Reviewed: Barrel #00087. 102.4 proof. A- / $70