The selection of Kentucky Vintage was not the result of the most pointed recommendation process. I had never read or heard anything about it and it was recommended to me at LeNell’s only after it became clear that I had already exhausted the my guide’s first few rounds of suggestions. That’s what this blog is all about though, right?
Kentucky Vintage comes to us from the folks who make Johnny Drum, Rowan’s Creek, and a few other familiars on liquor store shelves. Judging by their website, Kentucky Bourbon Distillers has a broad and slightly disorganized product range in a variety directions – all the more for us to taste, I suppose.
The labeling on Kentucky Vintage seems to be a distillation of everything I complain about in bourbon labels: faux-aged, faux-burnt edges, Comic Sans-esque lettering, and (three!) long winded descriptions. To top it off, they’ve dipped the plastic screw-top in wax. Yet, to their credit, it seems their hand-numbering is legit, as is their medallion pressed into wax on the front.
The bourbon is small batch, 90 proof, and of an age only described as “long beyond that of any other bourbon,” hmmm. This doesn’t mean anything other than it’s older than four years, legally, but it would be nice to imply a range from which they’ve selected.
To the nose Kentucky Vintage is pleasant, if subdued. Dominated largely by char and a saltiness, there are also notes of sweet pears and oak. It is neither rough nor complex, but hits a middle ground that just misses the “boring” range and lands in “pleasant”.
On tasting KV’s dominant sensation is saltiness start to finish. Further inspection reveals that there isn’t too much more than that except corn and a hint of char in the middle. This really tastes much greener than something aged “long beyond that of any other bourbon” should taste. In a blind tasting, I’d be surprised if this were even four years.
I was hoping that the clumsy presentation of Kentucky Vintage reflected an honest concentration on the bourbon itself – as it should be – but I was ultimately disappointed. Judging by the range of bourbon sold by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, they would do well to take a hard look at some of their expressions.