Every now and again, we have the opportunity to try something new. What does not happen every day is experiencing a resurrected brand that has been dormant for 95 years.
The story of the Kentucky Owl dates back to 1879 in north Mercer County. The original distillery was started by C.M. Dedman, an orphan who was adopted by a judge that gifted Dedman the distillery as a wedding present. Dedman operated the distillery until 1916 when the government shut down the operation and confiscated around 250,000 gallons of bourbon aging at the time. Sometime in 1919, after the passing of the Volstead Act, a mysterious fire destroyed the warehouse. It is speculated that the fire burned only bright enough to make the warehouse unusable and that a great deal of the bourbon made it out unscathed before the fire was set: It is thought that the bourbon made it into the hands of those that would sell it in speakeasies across the country. T.C. Dedman, the son of C.M. would fight tooth and nail to receive compensation for the loss, but never saw a dime. Despite insurmountable odds, the family came into ownership of the Beaumont Inn in Harrodsburg, KY, which is run by the Dedmans to this day.
Fast forward five generations, and the Inn is now operated by Dixon Dedman, 33, whose hands-on approach to the management of the Inn speaks volumes of doing things “the proper way” (Beaumont Inn). Several years ago, Dixon met Mark Carter, fellow innkeeper and proprietor of Carter Cellars in Napa Valley, California (Carter Cellars). After long discussions (and a few drinks), plans to bring back the Kentucky Owl, “the Wise Man’s Bourbon,” started taking shape. Dixon and Mark wanted to make sure that this first batch was done correctly and in a way that would pay tribute to the many generations that came before them. With that philosophy in mind, they decided that the first batch would come in at barrel proof and be uncut/unfiltered. Dixon and Mark believe that “the consumer should decide how they want to drink it.” After several iterations and consultation with some of the most respected folks in the bourbon industry, they decided on a blend of five hand-selected barrels that would yield a little more than 1,500 bottles.
We were thrilled and honored to have the opportunity to be one of the first to review this bottle.
Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Batch 1 Bottle 1366/1506
ABV: 59.2% 118.4 Proof
We allowed the bourbon to sit for about twenty minutes and did not add water to the first part of the tasting.
Nose: The nose was complex and evolved the longer the pour was in the glass. The aromas of vanilla custard/creme brulee/caramel, mandarin orange, dried apricot and ginger were well represented.
Palate: The palate was remarkably different than the nose. The initial hit to the front palate delivered a viscous mouthfeel that carried flavors of cinnamon candy, savory wood, evergreen, and molasses with an oily disposition.
There was little burn that did not make itself present until the finish. The finish is long lasting and pleasant with evolving citrus and candied fruit flavors. After adding a bit of water, we found that the savory wood was diluted, leaving more pronounced corn sweetness. If one were to use this in a cocktail, it would likely hold up well to ice and bitters.
Concluding thoughts: Overall we enjoyed this pour. One would not think this to be the first batch as the quality of the bourbon spoke volumes of the time that was invested to resurrect this brand. While we believe there is always some room for improvement, this pour was very nice. The bottle should be available in limited quantities in August and will be released only in Kentucky.
Overall grade: 90/100, Buy if you can find it.
If you want to experience Dixon’s hospitality, make a point to venture to Harrodsburg and stay at his Inn. There you can experience a variety of bourbons at the Old Owl Tavern, enjoy the historic charm of the Inn, and even make arrangements to have a bourbon tasting with Dixon.
Thank you to Bill Whitlow and the staff at Wiseguys Bar and Lounge for allowing us to use their venue. (http://www.goodfellaspizzeria.com/wiseguy.php)
The results are in! The Bourbon Guys and DEPs Fine Wine & Spirits hit a home run (well, two actually!) with the Russell’s Reserve Private Barrels, released on Tuesday, May 27, 2014, under the watchful eye of Wild Turkey Master Distiller, Jimmy Russell. With 40+ in attendance, Bourbon Guy Tim Beckelhimer led a group of bourbon drinkers that ranged from novice to professional through a variety of Wild Turkey selections. Beginning with an “off-the-shelf” Russell’s Reserve, attendees next enjoyed Wild Turkey 101 before experiencing the two Russell’s Reserve Private Barrel selections, then finishing up with Russell’s Reserve 6 Year Old Rye.
By night’s end, one barrel was nearly sold out! Should you find yourself in need of a truly excellent bourbon for sipping, mixing, or just as a gift, make your way to DEPs Fine Wines in Fort Thomas, KY or Covington, KY for a bottle of The Bourbon Guys & DEPS Russell’s Reserve Private Barrels. You better hurry, though, because they’re going fast and won’t come again!
Thanks to all who came and made this event such a resounding success!
(Images courtesy of Bourbon Guy Wife, Julie Parece.)
As many of you probably know, a new distillery is budding on the banks of the Ohio River. Situated at 24 Distillery Way in Newport Kentucky (that’s right, it has its very own street!), New Riff Distillery is the long-awaited addition to the bourbon scene of Greater Cincinnati. With many wonderful establishments such as The Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar, Arnold’s, Wise Guy’s Lounge, Japps Since 1879, and so very many more, the greatest gap in the area’s bourbon offerings was a functioning local distillery. Well, the folks at The Party Source have seen fit to fill that gap with the off-shoot that is New Riff. Brian Sprance, long-time brewer at barrelhouse. Brewing and Sam Adams Brewery, has been tapped as the New Riff Head Distiller. We know what you’re saying, “A Brew Master distilling whiskey!? Unconscionable!” Let us assure you, it makes perfect sense. Decision makers at New Riff wanted to make whiskey in a certain way, and they didn’t want their new Head Distiller to have to unlearn old habits. At the same time, they had a consultant waiting in the wings to provide decades of distilling knowledge gleaned from one of the largest distilleries in the industry. Larry Ebersold was engaged to guide Brian in the finer points of distillation used in the juices that so many other outfits have been purchasing from Seagram’s/LDI/MGP in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. You couldn’t ask for a better pedigree!
So you say you want good bourbon?
So you say you want to meet others who appreciate good bourbon?
So you say you want the inside scoop on what’s coming next in the world of bourbon?
Well The Bourbon Guys have news for you!
We are excited to tell you about the 2nd meeting of The Bourbon Society of Greater Cincinnati, an organization dedicated to providing a forum for people who love bourbon to connect and collaborate. Hosted by Todd Carnes, Chad Finni, Marc Collins and Butch Wilburn, the upcoming meeting will be held on April 14, 2014 at Summit Hills Country Club in Crestview Hills, KY, just 15 minutes from downtown Cincinnati. The Bourbon Guys were fortunate enough to catch the very first meeting of The Society, and what a great night it was. Continue reading
Over the past year, The Bourbon Guys have had the honor of tasting many great and different bourbons. As a follow up to last year’s “Sweet 16 of American Whiskey” we have decided to share our list of Sweet Sixteen Bourbons for 2013 and 2014. Once again we also wanted to release this list in honor of March Madness. We see this as fitting because it’s the start of the NCAA Basketball Tournament Sweet 16 and because we are likely to stir up a little “Madness” with our choices. Continue reading
If you’re reading this you are probably well aware that bourbon is booming. The spirit is seeing a renaissance of incredible magnitude. But how has the recent bourbon boom affected us short term and how will it affect us long term? Continue reading
Earlier this week, we had the unique opportunity to try Old Fitzgerald with our friend, and foremost bourbon historian, Michael Veach of the Filson Historical Society and 64 of our newest friends. This long running product of corn, wheat and malted barley comes in at 100 proof, but it is as smooth as any bourbon at least 10 proof points its junior.
Bourbon Name: Old Fitzgerald 100
Distiller: Heaven Hill Distillery
Age: At Least 4 Years, but the color implies older components
Color: Honey Burnt Orange
Nose: The nose began with sweet caramel giving way to that Heaven Hill nuttiness of pecans. One of our dear friends called attention to a silky “buttercup” – MW.
Taste: Pears present on the front palate with a prominent butter pecan. The mid-palate finds pepper spice and a rise in savory barrel elements.
Finish: The pepper carries through the long, long finish where it is met with a sweet vanilla, butter, and a return of the Heaven Hill signature nutty pecan.
Overall Rating: ( 86/ 100 ) Get It
Old Fitzgerald has proven once again why it has so long endured. From distillery to distillery, this label has undergone mild modification over its extensive history, but its quality carries on. At $15.00 per 750 ml, do yourself a favor: Pick up a bottle and have a friend set up a blind tasting with this one in the mix. I think you’ll be surprised at just how much you like it compared to your usual suspects.
A few days ago, we had the opportunity to revisit an old favorite, Old Forester Signature Bourbon. This 100 proof staple from Brown-Forman is a heartier version of its 86 proof sibling, and a solid offering form master distiller Chris Morris. This Straight Bourbon whiskey lacks an age statement, but we would peg it at least four years old. At less than $20 per 750 ml, this bourbon is a star of its price point.
Bourbon Name: Old Forester Signature
Distiller: Brown Forman
Age: 4+ Years
Color: Rich amber
Nose: The nose produced sweet elements of apricots and brown sugar. Mild rye spice and cinnamon rise up to balance the experience.
Taste: The front palate is dominated by candied walnuts, leather and brown sugar. Cinnamon spice rises on the mid-palate along with the caramels of charred oak. Mild rye helps to balance the sweetness, but we might have liked a bit more of this savory spice.
Finish: The finish is clean and relatively long for a bourbon of this price point. The sweet apricot notes and pleasant nuttiness return to bring the experience full circle.
Overall Rating: ( 88 / 100 ) A Definite Go-To
Old Forester Signature is an elevated offering from a staple in the bourbon world, Brown Forman. The sweet elements are balanced by pleasant, savory spice on the mid-palate where they become the star straight through to the finish. If you are looking for a well-crafted bourbon at an entry level price point, you may just have found it.
story by The Bourbon Guys contributor Maggie Kimberl
The bourbon industry has long been thought to be a boys’ club. For years it was run seemingly by men and only men, and men were thought to be the primary consumers of the spirit. But the more I’ve learned about the bourbon industry, the more I’ve come to realize that women have played a critical part not only as consumers, but also as distillers, tasters, and marketers. Continue reading
We recently had the opportunity to taste the new Jefferson’s Ocean bourbon. This craft offering from Jefferson’s is the latest round of seafaring whiskey in this grand experiment by Trey Zoeller. We had the opportunity to discuss the project with Trey at this year’s Bourbon Classic in Louisville, KY. He told us that the latest Ocean is a blend of roughly seven and eight year old whiskeys that were strapped to the deck of an ocean going vessel, kept out at sea for a full ten months, then proofed down to 90. At roughly $70 per 750 ml, we were particularly eager to see the end result. Continue reading