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Friday, December 29, 2017

Sipp’n Corn Bourbon Review – Blade & Bow Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Blade and Bow is a Diageo brand that comes in a standard non-age-stated variety or with a 22-year age statement.  Both rely heavily on a tie-in to the famed Stitzel-Weller distillery in Shively, Kentucky.  I’ve never seen the 22-year version (containing bourbon distilled at the Old Bernheim Distillery and the George T. Stagg Distillery, but aged at Stitzel-Weller) for sale in Louisville, but the non-age-stated version is readily available.

Diageo uses the “Solera System” for this non-age-stated Blade & Bow, which essentially never quite empties the old surviving Stitzel-Weller stocks that are part of the blend.  This is a process where a series of five tanks are used each with progressively older bourbon at the bottom, in this case, bourbon distilled at Stitzel-Weller.  Only a fraction of the bottom / oldest tank is used for the blend, and then that tank is refilled from the next oldest stock, which is repeated through the succession of tanks, with the youngest bourbon used to fill the top tank.  The procedure is repeated for each new batch and while the percentage of Stitzel-Weller bourbon will diminish, there will be at least trace amounts for the foreseeable future.

Put in a lot less complicated terms, Blade & Bow has a tiny bit of Stitzel-Weller 20-something year-old bourbon blended in with bourbon distilled at an undisclosed distillery or distilleries.  Many critics call it a gimmick or decry Diageo’s use of its old stocks, but if I called the shots, I’d probably use the Stitzel-Weller name even more.  It’s legendary property that suffered the harshest consequences of the nation’s turn away from whiskey, and during the 25 years since its closure, thousands and thousands of barrels continued to age.  Why not tout that?

Bourbon:
Blade & Bow Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Distillery:
Undisclosed.

Age:
Unstated.

ABV:
45.5% (91 proof)

Cost:
$50.00

Tasting Notes

Appearance:
Medium amber.

Nose:
The aromas are subtle but very pleasant.  There is slight oak, but more of the polished-wood variety, and other aromas that are light and refreshing, like fresh citrus, spring grass, and a little mint.

Taste:
The taste isn’t as subtle as the aromas and it has some heat higher than its proof, but it’s consistent in its refreshing lightness, with light fruit (apple, pear), vanilla, and caramel sweetness.  A little pepper and baking spice round it out, but it’s missing a true spicy or oaky backbone.  Still, it is an elegant sipping whiskey.

Finish:
Blade & Bow finishes fast with lingering warmth and flavors of grain and char.  It’s pleasant again, but not a $50 finish.

Bottom Line

Some bourbon is contemplative, some is robust, and some is easy sipping.  That’s where Blade & Bow fits in; it’s an enjoyable, easy-sipping bourbon.  That’s what makes it an approachable bourbon and a great gift, especially when the Blade & Bow bottle adds its great presentation, which is why it made my 2017 Bourbon Gift Guide for a host/hostess gift.


Score on The Sipp’n Corn Scale:  3.0

The Sipp’n Corn Scale:
1 – Swill.  I might dump the bottle, but will probably save it for my guests who mix with Coke.
2 – Hits the minimum criteria, but given a choice, I’d rather have something else.
3 – Solid Bourbon with only minor shortcomings.  Glad to own and enjoy.
4 – Excellent Bourbon.  Need to be hyper-critical to find flaws.  I’m lucky to have this.
5 – Bourbon perfection.  I’ll search high and low to get another bottle of this.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Sipp’n Corn Bourbon Review – Wyoming Whiskey(s)

Even the novices all know—by now hopefully—that bourbon doesn’t need to be made in Kentucky.  Instead, it can be made anywhere in the United States.  Indiana, New York, and Texas all have thriving distilleries that make bourbon, not to mention Tennessee if they would just learn to call it bourbon.  But Wyoming?

Yes, Wyoming.

I had a chance to chat with David DeFazio, one of the founders of Wyoming Whiskey, after his marketing firm sent some samples.  DeFazio is a lawyer too, so we shared an appreciation for many of the legal technicalities associated with bourbon.  Beyond those technicalities, I asked all kinds of the in-the-weeds questions like proof off of the 38’ Vendome copper column still (120), proof off of the doubler (130), and barrel-entry proof (114).  We also discussed the specifics of the three brands that I tried, Small Batch, Outryder, and Double Cask.

It’s impressive that Wyoming Whiskey is doing all of this from the ground up, all local, and all without sourcing.  They began production in 2009 and didn’t start selling whiskey until late 2012.  After beginning distillation with Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Famer Steve Nally, Wyoming native Sam Mead took the reigns as distiller.  The Wyoming climate and elevation is bound to add distinctive characteristics during aging, but Wyoming and Kentucky both have a natural source of limestone-filtered water and they share seasonal temperature swings (although Kentucky is usually about 10 degrees warmer, with much more humidity and rain).

Enough background; time to jump in with the three samples that I tried:

Wyoming Whiskey Small Batch Bourbon

It’s missing the key word “straight,” but like some Kentucky bourbons that omit this word too, DeFazio says they just wanted to focus on “small batch.”  I would use “straight” if I could, and, arguably, the regulations (27 CFR § 5.22(b)(1)(iii)) require the use of the word when a whiskey qualifies as straight.  Regardless, Wyoming Whiskey plans to add the word “Straight” to its next small batch.

Bourbon:
Wyoming Whiskey Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey Batch 44

Distillery:
Wyoming Whiskey, Kirby, Wyoming

Mash bill:
68% corn; 20% wheat; 12% malted barley

Age:
5 years

ABV:
44% (88 proof)

Cost:
$39.99

Appearance:
Medium amber.

Nose:
The aromas are fresh floral, vanilla, and slight caramel, with a bit of green wood.  The aromas aren’t deep, but they’re pleasant.

Taste:
While still having a refreshingly light quality, the flavors move into warm caramel, brown sugar, and sweet grasses.  It has some characteristics of a young whiskey, and while mostly one-dimensional, it’s very easy drinking.

Finish:
The short finish has just a hint of spice (I’d like some more), and fades with nice warmth.
There are a few stragglers on the shelves in Kentucky, but
Wyoming Whiskey recently pulled out of this market. 

Outryder Bottled in Bond Straight American Whiskey

Outryder has created a bit of controversy because it blends together one whiskey that doesn’t qualify as either bourbon or rye whiskey (with a unique mash bill of 48% rye grain and 40% corn) plus another whiskey that qualifies as bourbon whiskey.  While having the audacity to do something unique might be controversial enough, the real controversy among enthusiasts came about because Outryder is labeled “Straight” and “Bottled in Bond.”

So, obviously, I was going to spend most of my time with DeFazio talking about Outryder.  For starters, the ratio between bourbon and the “almost rye” is 2-1; they used 44 barrels of bourbon and 22 barrels of “almost rye.”  More interestingly, there’s a story of defiance behind the “almost rye.”  Defiance plays a huge role in bourbon history, so I’m in favor of celebrating it here, even though if it had happened to me, I wouldn’t have been as gracious as DeFazio.

The story behind the “almost rye” is that Wyoming Whiskey predicted that rye whiskey would make a resurgence just like bourbon whiskey, so they wanted former distiller Steve Nally to make it along with the wheated bourbon already being distilled.  Nally refused.  He hated rye and thought the only whiskey worth making came from corn and wheat.  The owners demanded it though, so Nally reluctantly and begrudgingly agreed, and produced 92 barrels of what he said was rye whiskey.  Fast forward a couple of years—Nally had returned to Kentucky, the “rye whiskey” was progressing fantastically, and renowned consultant Nancy Fraley thought it was some of the best rye whiskey she had ever had.  That’s when they dug out the mash bill records and saw that the 92 barrels were distilled with only 48% rye grain.  Nally hadn’t wanted to make rye whiskey, and it turns out he really refused to do it.

Fraley helped Wyoming Whiskey decide what to do with the “almost rye,” ultimately recommending a 2-1 ratio with a bourbon containing rye as the secondary grain that Nally distilled at the same time.  There’s enough for four batches, with each new batch aging for an additional year.  The first batch was almost five years old, and the upcoming batch is nearly six years old.

The controversy over labeling Outryder as “Straight” and “Bottled in Bond” is a good sign that consumers—or at least enthusiasts—are paying attention.  A whiskey that is “Straight” can only include blends of straight whiskeys of the same type produced in the same state.  27 CFR § 5.22(b)(1)(iii).  Calling a bourbon and an American whiskey the same “type” of whiskey is debatable, in my unsolicited opinion.

Calling Outryder “Bottled in Bond” is much easier.  The Bottled-In-Bond Act of 1897 (29 Stat. 626, Comp. St. § 6070 et seq.) was drafted to protect the public and to give assurances about the actual spirits contained in a bottle.  The initial requirements have changed slightly over time but now the current restrictions require the contents to be the same kind of spirit, produced in the same distilling season by the same distiller at the same distillery with the same class of materials, aged at least four years in wooden containers, unaltered (except that filtration and proofing is permitted), and proofed with pure water to exactly 100 proof for bottling.  27 C.F.R. § 5.42(b)(3).  Outryder meets all of those requirements with the only disputed issue being the “same kind of spirit.”

What’s it take to be the “same kind of spirit?”  According to the TTB, spirits are divided into “classes,” one of which is “whisky.”  “Whisky,” in turn, is divided into “types,” such as “bourbon,” “rye,” corn whiskey,” etc.  The word “kind” isn’t used, and it’s indisputable that the two components of Outryder are American Whiskeys, and that’s exactly how Outryder is labeled, so while the controversy is a nice exercise, let’s move to how it tastes.

Bourbon:
Wyoming Whiskey Outryder Bottled in Bond Straight American Whiskey

Distillery:
Wyoming Whiskey, Kirby, Wyoming

Mash bill:
44 barrels of bourbon whiskey—68% corn; 20% winter rye; 12% malted barley
22 barrels of “almost rye”—48% winter rye; 40% corn; 12% malted barley

Age:
NAS (but about 5 or 6 years depending on which batch you find)

ABV:
50% (100 proof)

Cost:
$54.99

Appearance:
Deep but bright amber.

Nose:
The aromas are mostly sweet—dessert sweetness like melted caramel—but balanced with grain and that fresh country barn scent, along with and a punchy spike of cinnamon.  It has intriguing, layered aromas.

Taste:
Whereas the aromas were mostly comforting, the flavors of Outryder have more of a feisty quality.  It has a great interplay between rye and baking spice on the one hand, and bread pudding and vanilla custard on the other, and added complexity coming from flavors of black pepper, strong tea, cinnamon, and dried dark fruit.  A single ice cube made Outryder buttery, but probably diminished the rye and baking spice too much, so I’ll drink it neat.

Finish:
Medium finish with big spice balanced with just enough caramel and vanilla.  With that single cube and plenty of meltage, the finish reversed to predominantly sweet—like candy sweetness—with only slight rye spice.  So again, I preferred it neat.


Wyoming Whiskey Double Cask Bourbon

Finally, Wyoming Whiskey’s Double Cask Limited Edition Bourbon takes a route that I think we’ll be seeing more of in the future, as brands try to distinguish themselves.  Here, Wyoming Whiskey finished their bourbon in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks after five years of normal aging.

Bourbon:
Wyoming Whiskey Limited Edition Double Cask Straight Bourbon Whiskey finished in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks

Distillery:
Wyoming Whiskey, Kirby, Wyoming

Mash bill:
68% corn; 20% wheat; 12% malted barley

Age:
5 years (before finishing)

ABV:
50% (100 proof)

Cost:
$59.99

Appearance:
Deep copper.

Nose:
Dark dried fruit and clear sherry influence, with some oak and earthy aromas and a little nuttiness.  It’s an “inviting” nose, especially over these recent cold days.

Taste:
More dark dried fruit, but as opposed to the nose, sweetened dark dried fruit.  Caramel, cinnamon apples, fresh-baked cinnamon cake, and candied cherries round out the predominantly sweet flavors, with some balance of oak and the nuttiness carrying through from the aroma.  This is pure dessert, and probably a one-glass limit.

Finish:
The dried dark fruit and nuttiness carry through to the finish as well, but I felt like I wanted some spice to show through.  The finish is medium in length with great warmth.

Bottom Line

Wyoming Whiskey Small Batch can hold its own against many established brands in the $40 price range, and the less-pronounced oak and drinkability will be a selling point for many.  Personally, I prefer more oak, so I’ll be interested to follow the progression of Small Batch as older stocks become available. 

Outryder really impressed me, and I’m excited about the upcoming batches with more age.  It’s unlike any Kentucky bourbon that I’ve had, and hopefully that uniqueness encourages other brands to be as innovative with mash bills as Wyoming Whiskey.  Sometimes you need an outsider to shake up the status quo.  I’ll be looking (outside of Kentucky) for Batch No. 2.

Finally, when just comparing first sips of all three that I tried immediately, Double Cask was my favorite.  That initial impression was overtaken by Outryder and as I realized that Double Cask was really best as an after-dinner dessert, but the sherry cask finish still intrigues me and I’ll think that we’ll be seeing more finished bourbons and ryes.

Of these three, Outryder is a high buy recommendation.  Double Cask is great for dessert, and Small Batch is worth adding to your rotation for something different. 

Disclaimer: The brand managers kindly sent me samples
for this review, without any strings attached. 
Thank you.
Photo Courtesy of Wyoming Whiskey


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Sipp’n Corn Bourbon Review – Yellowstone 2017 Limited Edition

This is the third year that Steve and Paul Beam at Limestone Branch Distillery in Lebanon, Kentucky (which partners with Luxco), have released a limited edition variety of the historic Yellowstone brand.  I enjoyed both of the previous limited editions, but for different reasons.  The 2015 Yellowstone Limited Edition was a 105 proof blend of 12 and 7-year bourbons using rye as the secondary grain, and a 7-year bourbon using wheat as the secondary grain, that had robust oak, a black-tea tang, and a finish swelling with rye spice.  The 2016 Yellowstone Limited Edition was a 101 proof blend of 7-year and 12-year Kentucky Straight Bourbon (both with rye as the secondary grain), and finished in new wine barrels with varying levels of toast (i.e., not charred) that was a nuanced sipping whiskey.


2017 marks the beginning of a new era because this Yellowstone Limited Edition is the first to include bourbon distilled at Limestone Branch.  While the proportions are not disclosed, the 2017 Yellowstone limited edition blends together 4-year (the Limestone Branch contribution), 7-year, and 12-year Kentucky Straight Bourbon, which was then finished in wine casks.  Interestingly, the finishing casks provide continuity to the 2016 Yellowstone Limited Edition.  After that release, Steve Beam sent the wine casks back to Kelvin Cooperage for #1 level charring without scraping the barrels.  Then he filled them with the 2017 blend, providing the final step for this year’s Limited Edition.

Bourbon:
Yellowstone 2017 Limited Edition Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Distillery:
Unknown, but including Limestone Branch’s own bourbon

Age:
No age statement, but component bourbons include 4-year, 7-year, and 12-year

ABV:
50.5% ABV (101 proof)

Cost:
$99.99

Tasting Notes

Appearance:
Dark amber on the verge of brown.

Nose:
Aromas of leather and oak with cinnamon giving it some spark, along with butterscotch sweetness, pecans, and grassy fields.

Taste:
It needed some air to open up, but then it shined.  Consistent with the aromas, the prominent flavors are more earthy flavors, like leather, oak, tobacco and cinnamon again, along with dark, dried fruit.  The flavors seem much older than I would expect even from the oldest component bourbon.

Finish:
The finish ties it all together for this Yellowstone edition.  I imagined leather-bound books in an old library.  Oak and leather provide the backbone, rich caramel sweetness makes it indulgent, and the warmth and lingering flavors make the finish memorable. 

Bottom Line

Limestone Branch has been building its credibility with the Yellowstone Limited Editions and shows that it can be a player in the annual fall limited release season hysteria.  The 2017 edition is the most complex of the three to date, while not sacrificing consistency from aroma, to taste, to finish.  Perhaps most impressive though, the 2017 Yellowstone is robust without being a brute, which is a very fine line to walk.

Score on The Sipp’n Corn Scale:  4.0

The Sipp’n Corn Scale:
1 – Swill.  I might dump the bottle, but will probably save it for my guests who mix with Coke.
2 – Hits the minimum criteria, but given a choice, I’d rather have something else.
3 – Solid Bourbon with only minor shortcomings.  Glad to own and enjoy.
4 – Excellent Bourbon.  Need to be hyper-critical to find flaws.  I’m lucky to have this.
5 – Bourbon perfection.  I’ll search high and low to get another bottle of this.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Sipp’n Corn Bourbon Heritage Month Reviews – Parker’s Heritage Collection 11th Edition & Four Roses 2017 Limited Edition Small Batch

Bourbon Heritage Month is here!  And just as we’ve come to expect, bourbon fans are clamoring for the mid-September releases from Heaven Hill and Four Roses.

Heaven Hill continues to honor its late Master Distiller Emeritus Parker Beam while also continuing to support ALS research and patient care with the 2017 release of Parker’s Heritage Collection, now in its 11th edition.  One of the beauties of Parker’s Heritage Collection has been its range and diversity, but this year—fittingly—Heaven Hill honors Parker with a single barrel run aged in the Deatsville.  Some of the best bourbon that I’ve ever had was aged by Heaven Hill in Deatsville, so I’m eagerly anticipating this single barrel release.

This year’s Limited Edition Small Batch from Four Roses comes on the heels of its spring Limited Edition release honoring Al Young’s 50 years of service at Four Roses.  The Al Young 50th was absolutely magnificent (and is the current leader for my “bourbon of the year”), so the fall release will forever be compared to it, which is unfair but inevitable.  A twist this fall for Four Roses is that Master Distiller Brent Elliott selected only “E” mash bill bourbons for the small batch (of about 13,800 bottles), which means 75% corn, 20% rye, and 5% malted barley, and none of the recipes using the 35% rye mash bill.  The Four Roses Limited Edition is always a highlight of September and for everyone visiting for the Kentucky Bourbon Festival, and it’s always a must-have for me.

Parker’s Heritage Collection Tasting Notes

Bourbon:
Parker’s Heritage Collection, 11th Edition (2017) Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Distillery:
Heaven Hill, Bardstown, Kentucky (distilled in Louisville and aged in Deatsville)

Age:
11 years

ABV:
61% (122 proof)

Cost:
$130.00

Appearance:
Brown with amber hints, and distinct legs.

Nose:
The aroma hit from the moment that I broke the seal, with leather, dark dried fruit, and spice, all predicting huge flavors.  The addition of water really tamped down the aromas, however, so be sure to appreciate the aroma first.

Taste:
This is an intense, robust bourbon, with more oak than I would have guessed for 11 years.  It’s a blast of spice and oak with an underlying sugary caramel layer and an overall buttery feel.  Try it neat, but also try it with a splash of water, which controlled the heat but retained all of the remarkable flavors.

Finish:
Long, with a dry, slow burn.  A splash of water made the finish even better.

Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch Tasting Notes

Bourbon:
Four Roses 2017 Limited Edition Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Distillery:
Four Roses, Lawrenceburg, Kentucky

Age:
15-year OESK – 20%
13-year OESK – 40%
12-year OESV – 40%

ABV:
53.65% (107.3 proof )
Note:  The sample bottle was labeled 53.95% (107.9 proof)

Cost:
$130.00

Appearance:
Glowing amber, lighter in comparison, and also with distinct legs.

Nose:
The nose is a classic Four Roses fruity, mellow nose, highlighting softer aromas like vanilla with a backbone of oak and spice.

Taste:
Fruit sweetness (think of ripe apricots and peaches) and brown sugar take the lead on this creamy bourbon.  It’s easy on the spice, but packs a punch of heat.  A splash of water added even more creaminess, but 107 proof has always seemed to be a favorite of mine, so I recommend keeping this one neat.

Finish:
Long, with a shift to baking spice and cinnamon, with lingering warmth.

Bottom Line

These two limited editions showcase the range of bourbon, and they both have great finishes but they get there by a different route.  This comparison is also a reminder that higher-rye doesn’t always result in more spice.  Here, the Four Roses “low-rye” mash bill of 20% rye grain is still higher than the industry standard, and has twice as much rye grain compared to the mash bill used for this edition of Parker’s Heritage Collection (75% corn, 10% rye, 12% malted barley).  Instead, yeast and aging conditions seemed to take the lead here.

Sample sizes are getting smaller and I’d like to have had more time with both of these to be able to elaborate on the reviews, but I can certainly recommend both enthusiastically.  If I were forced to pick one over the other, Parker’s Heritage Collection is the easy choice though, based mostly on that punch of heat in the Four Roses.  

Be on the lookout for both in mid-September!

Disclaimer: The respective brand managers kindly sent me a sample
for this review, without any strings attached. 
Thank you.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Sipp’n Corn Bourbon Review – Rhetoric 23-year old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

According to its press release, Rhetoric 23 was distilled between 1990 and 1993 at the Bernheim Distillery while it was owned by United Distillers.  This time frame reported for distillation and the lack of “old” or “new” preceding “Bernheim” leaves some questions about whether Rhetoric 23 was distilled at the old Bernheim Distillery, which historically had been home to I.W. Harper and Old Charter, before United tore it down, or the new Bernheim Distillery, now owned by Heaven Hill since 1999, but built by United as a state-of-the-art distillery to consolidate its operations.  The new Bernheim Distillery opened in 1992, so I did some digging with the brand managers, who were able to determine that Rhetoric 23 was distilled entirely at the new Bernheim distillery.

One of the casualties of the new Bernheim Distillery construction was the famed Stitzel-Weller Distillery, which closed in 1992.  Master Distiller Ed Foote and all Stitzel-Weller production were moved to the new Bernheim Distillery, but of course, the Stitzel-Weller warehouses still needed to be filled, and that need was satisfied by the new Bernheim production.  As the orphan barrel story goes, that’s where Diageo found these old barrels of whiskey.

Regardless, Rhetoric 23 is the tenth overall release in the Orphan Barrel line, and the fourth in the Rhetoric sub-line, which is steadily progressing from 20 years to the planned finale at 25 years old.  Kudos to Diageo for this creative release schedule, allowing consumers to isolate age as a single factor and compare expressions.

Bourbon:
Rhetoric 23-year old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Distillery:
Distilled at the (old or new?) Bernheim Distillery, Louisville, Kentucky, aged at Stitzel-Weller, in Louisville, Kentucky, and bottled in Tullahoma, Tennessee.

Age:
23 years old.

Mash bill:
86% corn; 6% rye; 8% barley.

ABV:
45.3% (90.6 proof)

Cost:
$120.00

Disclaimer: The brand managers kindly sent me a sample
for this review, without any strings attached. 
Thank you.

Tasting Notes

Appearance:
Rhetoric 23 is not nearly as dark as 23 years in a barrel would impart, so I’m assuming that it underwent pretty substantial filtering, resulting in a medium-brown color with a hint of orange, and with prominent legs.

Nose:
The nose was mostly subtle, but I liked its darkness—oak, old tobacco barn, dark chocolate, rich coffee, polished wood, and leather.

Taste:
Despite the filtration, Rhetoric 23 is still creamy with a softness and the right amount of heat, with flavors like hazelnut, dark chocolate, vanilla, baking spices, and of course oak.  There’s no pucker though, which can come from too much oak.

Finish:
The subtleness of the aromas and the softness on the palate led me to expect a warm but uneventful finish.  Instead, after an initial swell of cinnamon spice, it has a satisfying, long finish.  While controlled by oak, again it’s not over-oaked, and transitions to a smoky, dry finish.

Bottom Line

Oak is the obvious topic for discussion with 23-year old bourbon.  Of course, I came in expecting a bunch of oak, and while oak is a big feature of Rhetoric 23, it’s not “over-oaked” to my subjective palate.  Rhetoric 23 is also receiving the full gamut of reviews, from “not recommended” to “A-,” which tells me that the oak might be more of a factor than I realize, or that I’m more tolerant of oak.  Whatever it means, I thoroughly enjoyed the sample and wished that I had more than the now long-gone 100 mL.  Price-wise, I would buy it at sub-$100.


Score on The Sipp’n Corn Scale:  3.0

The Sipp’n Corn Scale:
1 – Swill.  I might dump the bottle, but will probably save it for my guests who mix with Coke.
2 – Hits the minimum criteria, but given a choice, I’d rather have something else.
3 – Solid Bourbon with only minor shortcomings.  Glad to own and enjoy.
4 – Excellent Bourbon.  Need to be hyper-critical to find flaws.  I’m lucky to have this.
5 – Bourbon perfection.  I’ll search high and low to get another bottle of this.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Finish Line is in Sight for Lux Row Distillers.

Perhaps best known for Ezra Brooks and Rebel Yell (but readers need to add David Nicholson to that list), family-owned Luxco, Inc. continues to make progress on its path from merchant bottler to distiller.  Luxco’s Lux Row Distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky hit another milestone this summer with the completion of one of its six barrel warehouses and the installation of the guts of its new distillery.  
 The tree-lined approach to Lux Row Distillers adds to the ambiance.

I visited Lux Row yesterday for a hard-hat tour and saw that since the installation of the 43-foot Vendome column still this past March, hot and chilled water tanks have been added along with meal bins, the beer well, fermenters (8,000 gallons each), cookers (4,000 gallons each), and piping connecting everything.  Construction should be complete by the end of the year, distillation can begin in January 2018, and Lux Row should be open to the public by Derby 2018.

Creative Director Michele Lux described how she got tapped for her design expertise and planning for the visitor’s center and event space, while she and Distillery Operations Manager Tony Kamer showed us the shiny new equipment in the state-of-the-art distillery.  When the site is complete, the 18,000 square foot distillery will be accompanied by six identical barrel warehouses, each with six floors and each with a capacity of 20,000 barrels.  Within six months after the first distillation run, the 36-inch diameter Vendome still will be worked up to a pace of 25,000 barrels per year, but as with the rest of the distillery, Luxco has planned on being able to increase capacity.

According to my interview of Luxco President and COO, David Bratcher, during the groundbreaking ceremony in May 2016, Lux Row plans to stick to brown spirits, with bourbon mash bills containing rye or wheat as secondary grains, along with rye whiskey mash bills.  Current supply forecasts are sufficient, which allows this dedication to American whiskies, and which will also allow aging of at least five years (2023!) before the first Luxco brands will use Lux Row whiskey.


Now, in the meantime, if I could just convince Luxco to add a private barrel program for Rebel Yell 10-year single barrel, that might help tide us all over.


Joseph & Joseph rendering of the completed project.


Sipp’n Corn Calendar – Southern Whiskey Society Event on August 5.

Despite the occasional hiccups in the bourbon world—like fakes on the secondary market and certain brands doing shady things—one constant has been the generosity of bourbon enthusiasts.  True bourbon fans are always eager to share their whiskies with friends (and often with strangers), and they are always quick to support good causes.  I’ll be involved in a hotly-anticipated second annual event this coming fall, but in the meantime, there’s a new event in a couple of weeks that I encourage everyone to check out.

The Southern Whiskey Society inaugural event is set for Saturday, August 5 starting at 5:00 p.m. in Franklin, Tennessee, to raise money for a local 501(c)(3) charitable organization that preserves Civil War historical sites.  For those in the region who missed out on the Four Roses Al Young 50th Anniversary Limited Edition, this is your chance to try it, along with Batch 7 of Kentucky Owl, 30 other whiskies, and food from nine of the South’s most talented chefs.

Here’s the event link: https://2017-southern-whiskey-society.eventbrite.com, and as an added bonus, use the special promotional code SIPPNCORN for 15% off the General Admission price, but hurry, the code expires at midnight on Friday, July 28.  Enjoy!