Blood Oath, Pact No. 1

Posted on by Eric Burke

Bourbon is big business. And even though it has a reputation as a cheaper option to scotch, it always has been. People throughout most of the history of this country have made a very good living distilling, aging, buying and selling this whiskey that we all love so much. 

For a long time, bourbon was cheap. Nobody wanted it. Whiskies aged to extreme age often just got redistilled into something else, vodka or fuel. Bourbons of middling age, six to eight years old, regularly made it into products that were nominally around four years old. It was good if you were a bourbon drinker, but in honesty almost no one was. You could barely give the stuff away.

Not to worry though, those days are firmly in the past. These days everyone wants bourbon. The more expensive, the better. Some days it feels like taste doesn’t matter nearly as much as price. And like good businesses, producers have given the folks what they want. Sure, most of the old value labels have stuck around, but almost everyone has gotten into the Ultra-Premium game. Wild Turkey has it’s $150 Master’s Keep, Diageo has it’s Orphan Barrels, And now Luxco, makers of Everclear and bourbons such as Ezra Brooks and Rebel Yell has taken a turn at bat. 

Even though Blood Oath felt like it was trying a bit too hard (it’s proof is blood temperature after all), I had some hopes that Blood Oath would be a decent bourbon. I’ve been a fan of a lot of the labels in Luxco’s Ezra Brooks line and even liked one of the new brand extensions for Rebel Yell. They obviously spent a decent amount on the new packaging. It is beautiful. They were trying something new by blending wheated and rye bourbons. All signs that a company is ready to make something special. Tossing a brand new bourbon out with a $100 price tag is a statement that they think people will want to buy it.

Blood Oath, Pact 1

Purchase info: $98.95, 750 mL bottle. Blue Max Liquors, Burnsville, MN.

Details: A blend of two rye bourbons and a wheated bourbon. 49.3% ABV. 

Nose: This has a very sweet nose, leading with maple and clove. That is followed by wet, old wood and a slight fruitiness that balances things out nicely. 

Mouth: This tastes almost nothing like it smells. Where the nose was sweet and a light, the mouth is heavy and on the dry side. The descriptor I immediately think of is “dusty.” It has the feeling of an old, closed attic where things have been stored for too long. It’s not a wet attic since there is no mildew, but rather old boxes and dust. After that I get maple, cocoa powder, a slight fruitiness (that isn’t nearly enough to balance the overpowering dust) and a good bit of heat. 

Finish: Warm and of medium length. The maple and slight fruitiness are carried over from the palate and transition to more dusty cocoa. 

A neutral face because this is just a whole lot of meh.

Thoughts: After tasting this, it feels like Luxco was making a cash grab. Wow! Disappointing. The nose takes me one direction and the palate takes me directly in the opposite direction with few notes overlapping. As I stated above, I’m a fan of the various bourbons in the Ezra Brooks line because they are tasty and a good value. This has neither of those things going for it. I found it heavy, closed, dusty and flat. For the price I paid for it, I can’t recommend it. It was an interesting idea, but is way overpriced and honestly just not that good. Hoping that a little oxygen might help this, I tried it at various times along a two month period until now when my last few pours yielded the review samples. No real change. 

In short, the bottle says that “this rare whiskey shall never again be made.” To my palate that’s a good thing. For the price I expected amazing. Instead, it’s one of the few bourbons I’ve regretted buying. is entirely reader supported. Click the support link at the top to buy a t-shirt, poster or mug or if you want to find out how to get bonus content, please go to to pledge ongoing support. Thank you.

Old Forester 1897 - Bottled in Bond

Posted on by Eric Burke

1897 was a momentous year in the history of bourbon. In March of that year, Congress under pressure from the famed Col. E. H. Taylor passed what would come to be known as the Bottled-In-Bond Act of 1897. If you want to learn more about it, Brian over at Sipp'n Corn has a great write-up of the act and it's significance. I suggest you read it. Go ahead, I'll wait. (Interested in reading the act itself? Click the button below to download a pdf.)

A few months ago, as part of their Whiskey Row series of Old Forester labels, Brown-Forman released a bottled in bond bourbon named Old Forester 1897 to honor the year that the regulation was passed. As I've a stated fondness for many Old Forester bourbons, I picked it up when I saw it at the liquor store. 

Old Forester 1897, Bottled in Bond

Purchase info: $48.99, 750 mL. Total Wine, Burnsville, MN

Details: As required if labeled Bottled in Bond: Distilled by Brown-Forman Distillers Company, Louisville, KY, DSP KY 354. Bottled by DSP KY 52. 50% ABV.

Nose: Cinnamon, cloves and allspice lead the way followed by brown sugar, apples and a nice floral note.

Mouth: The interesting thing here is that the notes are inverted from the nose. Caramel apples and floral notes lead the way and are followed by baking spices. There is a nice bit of heat to go with the spice.

Finish: Warm but a bit on the shorter side with floral notes fading to a pleasant bitterness. 

Thoughts: I think this might be my favorite product released under the Old Forester name. Until the finish, there is little of the typical Brown-Forman "plastic/paint/chemical" flavors that people often complain about. And even then there are only hints of it that present as more floral than chemical.

It is the most expensive regular release in the Old Forester line. Is it worth it? For the price I paid, yes. I really like it. I like it much more than the 1870 and am willing to pay an extra $10 to get this over that. I found it much more complex than either the 86 proof or the Signature. So, yeah, I'm already planning to buy a second bottle. is entirely reader supported. To support the site, click the support link at the top to buy a t-shirt, poster or mug. Or if you want to find out how to get bonus content, please go to to pledge ongoing support. Thank you.

Breaking my personal price ceiling: Wild Turkey Master's Keep, 17-year old bourbon

Posted on by Eric Burke

I’ve got some momentous news. I’ve made the decision to increase my personal price ceiling for bourbon. For the last 5 years or so, it’s been sitting firm at $125 per bottle. At the time I set it, it was a safe price, only Van Winkle would have broken it and honestly, I’ve never been a fan of wheated bourbon. But I could see the trends happening even then. I instituted it as a self-imposed way to keep me in line.

To say that prices have been increasing over the past few years would be an understatement. Though super-premium bourbon starts at around $25, and good bourbon can still be had for less than that, newer expressions tend to skew a bit more…up-market from that price point. Forget super-premium bourbon, we now live in the world of Ultra-Premium. It is no longer unusual to see new expressions at an MSRP of around $100 right out of the gate. And while I am among the herd of people who bemoan this fact, it remains that people don’t even seem to blink an eye at this price anymore. In fact, in a weird bit of human psychology, they seem to just want it more. 

Things have gotten so bad that even my value favorite, Wild Turkey has gotten in on the action. Their last two releases Diamond and Master’s Keep have shattered the $100 barrier. With the latest, Master’s Keep at a suggested price of $150 for a 750 mL bottle. 

Master’s Keep is a 17-year old bourbon. Bottled near barrel proof it is 86.8° proof. And I can hear you now questioning that last statement. As we discussed in June, a barrel of bourbon can either gain or lose proof depending on it’s aging environment. According to Wild Turkey, this 17 year old bourbon had an interesting aging history. The bottle says it started life in a wooden warehouse. At some point in it’s life, they ran out of room and rented some space from another distillery who happened to use stone warehouses. Once space opened up, the decision was made to bring the barrels home to the wood and metal Wild Turkey warehouses again. The theory is that the time in the stone warehouse allowed the bourbon in to rest in the barrel with less interaction with the wood and lowered the proof from an entry proof of 107° to a dumping proof of 89°. In any case it produced a bourbon that, while old, doesn’t taste over-oaked. 

And though this has next to nothing to do with the bourbon inside, as a designer I did geek out a little on the packaging. The box is a nice matte black with foil, embossing and hidden magnetic closures. The painted bottle is simple and elegant with an embossed flying turkey. The closure is cork, with a heavy wood and copper top. It really is beautiful and will be on a display shelf long after it is empty.

Wild Turkey Master’s Keep

Purchase info: $169.99, 750 mL bottle. Wild Turkey Distillery Gift Shop. (I saw it for sale in Minnesota today for $154.)

Details: 17 years old. 43.4% ABV. Batch 1, bottle #46237. 

Nose: Floral and fruity. Cherry blossoms, brown sugar, vanilla, baking spices, mint, oak and hint black tea.

Mouth: Nice mouthfeel with just enough heat, though more than I expected from sub 90 proof. Lots of rich flavors: leather, dark chocolate and cherry. More brown sugar and baking spices. Herbal mint. 

Finish: Nice warm finish that lingers for a while. More herbal mint and brown sugar. 

A heart because I love this one. I don't love the price though.

Thoughts: This is a very expensive bourbon, well over both my old and new price ceiling, purchased because my wife is a Wild Turkey fan-girl and really wanted to get it signed by Jimmy Russell who happened to be sitting in the visitor’s center. It is also a very old bourbon with a legitimately unique aging history. And it tastes fantastic. If you have the money, this is highly recommended. At this price, I won’t be buying a second bottle but I don’t regret breaking my price ceiling to buy the one I have.

Oh and in case you were curious, my new personal price ceiling is just the old one adjusted for inflation: $135. 

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The Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History

Posted on by Eric Burke

Have you ever been to Bardstown, KY? You really should go. It’s a small town at around 12,000 people or so. Most of those 12,000 people are fantastic. Helpful, nice people are the rule, not the exception. If you are looking for a bit of quiet, Bardstown is perfect. The stores downtown tend to close around five o’clock at night. The restaurants somewhere near ten. But the major thing Bardstown offers is that it sits smack dab in the heart of Bourbon Country. It’s a home to two major (and a couple small) bourbon distilleries and is a short drive from most of the rest.

Sitting just off of downtown is Spalding Hall. Spalding Hall was originally built in 1839 as part of St. Joseph’s College, the first Catholic College in Kentucky. As you drive down Stephen Foster Avenue, Bardstown’s main road, don’t feel too bad if you don’t notice it at first. It is tucked behind the Basilica of St. Joseph and the grounds of the current St. Joseph’s Preparatory School. But, if you turn onto 5th Street, you can’t help but notice it. A large green lawn with large trees fronts the large Federal style building. Though built as part of the college, it has served various functions over the years. It was a hospital during the Civil War, a seminary, an orphanage and a high school. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. Today it houses a restaurant and the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History. 

Oscar Getz and his brother-in-law were whiskey brokers before and after Prohibition. When the whiskey business started to change, they bought the Tom Moore distillery in Bardstown so that they could be assured of a steady supply of whiskey for their brands and renamed it Barton. Being an avid fan of whiskey history, Getz collected whiskey memorabilia and created a small museum on the distillery grounds to house his collection. Chuck Cowdery tells us that museum was open to the public. After Mr. Getz died in 1983, his wife donated the museum to the City of Bardstown in July of 1984 and it was moved to Spalding Hall.

Today the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History takes up most of the first floor of the three story building. There are two wings. The one to the left (as you enter the building) houses an exhibit on distilling and aging, a replica saloon, Abraham Lincoln’s liquor license, temperance and prohibition propaganda items and old bottles. Many, many old bottles. If you take a right, there are rooms that house exhibits that roughly trend around one or two of today’s major distilleries. Wild Turkey, Heaven Hill, Brown-Forman, Jim Beam, etc. Mixed in you will find more old bottles, labels, label printing plates, advertisements and much more. It really is a must stop for the bourbon lover who finds themselves in Bardstown. 

But there is a problem. The museum needs money. In talking to the volunteers, I found out that the museum doesn’t get any outside help. Though bourbon tourism is big business in Kentucky these days, drawing people in from all over the world, the state gives the museum no monetary help. And though it houses exhibits that are basically advertisements for many current brands, the distilleries don’t give the museum any money either. Though to be fair, I was told that Barton has a couple times in the past. Instead, the musuem funds itself through various other means. During my last visit, they had a table out selling old empty whiskey bottles. They’d had a large donation and were selling off ones they already had. I bought an Old Crow “traveler fifth” bottle and an IW Harper decanter bottle from the 60s for $5 each. 

Master Distiller’s Auction

The main way the museum funds itself is with the Master Distiller’s Auction held each year during the Kentucky Bourbon Festival. The auction is held in the chapel of the building. The auction is sponsored by the Van Winkles and provides most of the museum’s operating budget for the year. Items up for bid include old “dusty” bottles of bourbon, historical artifacts, signed bottles of special releases, gift baskets, and other interesting items. The items for sale are all donated. Most from the distilleries in the area.

I went to the auction for the first time last year and didn’t buy anything. This year on the other hand, we went in with a plan to come away with something. I was particularly interested in the dusties. Last year a few had gone at prices I could afford. This year, no such luck. A bottle of JW Dant and a bottle of Gibson’s Rye each from 1933 went for $1350 each, a quart of Old Sunnybrook from 1937 went for $500 and a pint of Prohibition era Crestmore bourbon went for $700. I was also interested in the prohibition whiskey prescriptions. Those went for about $200 each, also more than I wanted to pay. There were a couple of things I wish I could have bid on but knew I couldn’t afford and would have needed to be fairly local to use. One was a cocktail class by Joy Perrine that received no bids and that the auctioneer bought. The other was a tasting led by bourbon historian Mike Veach and that went for $400. 

I ended up getting a few things though. I bought an Old Forester gift box from 2008 commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Repeal of Prohibition for $95. I might have gotten a little carried away there, but it’s for charity so I didn’t mind overpaying some. But I also got a couple of things no one else wanted for less than retail. I got a bottle of 1792 plus a bottle of Bloody Kentucky bloody mary mix for $40 and a bottle of Wild Turkey Diamond plus a set of four glasses for $140. Overall I felt good knowing the money was going to support the museum and I got a couple things I would drink.

Of course the really big money was reserved for more current releases of Whiskey. Yep the Pappy was the big money prize of the day. A signed bottle of Pappy 23 came in at $1600, the 20 was $1150, 15 year old went for $900, the Old Rip Van Winkle 12 year for $750 and the 10 year for $425. Overall, as befitting the corporate sponsor, Van Winkle  bourbons brought in more than one quarter of the $17,000 that the auction brought in for the museum.

I really recommend that if you find yourself in Bardstown, you visit the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History. It’s free to visit, though there is a donation box. The building is old, the exhibits are old, the stuff inside the exhibits is old. But in this case, that’s a good thing.

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Why I go to the Kentucky Bourbon Festival

Posted on by Eric Burke

Last week, I went to Kentucky to do a little shopping...go to the Kentucky Bourbon Festival in Bardstown, KY.

You might ask, “Eric, you’ve been there before why keep going back?” And honestly, I’ve asked myself that very question. I tend to go to the same events. I visit the same stores and gift shops. To be honest, I don’t even consume that much whiskey. In fact, I almost didn’t go this year. We already had a trip planned for late August and didn’t think that we’d be able to go on another one that soon.

But the more I got to thinking about it, the more I realized that it isn’t the events or even the shopping that brings me back every year. Sure the couple of events I go to every year, I go to because I have a good time. And yes, I could have paid a good chunk of my mortgage with the amount of money I spent on whiskey in those four days. But the real reason is the people. I’ve made a lot of friends going to BourbonFest. I missed a couple of them this year, but I met new ones as well. 

I like to go to the All-Star Sampler™. Distilleries, big and small, are are pouring whiskey. And I see a lot of people there. Some I see every year and I almost always spend much more time talking with friends, old and new, than I do drinking. 

I like to go to Let’s Talk Bourbon™ at Four Roses every year both because it is at Four Roses and because it is always different. It always starts out the same, but the question and answer session always goes in directions you couldn’t anticipate. Plus this year we got to hear from new Master Distiller, Brent Elliot in addition to Jim Rutledge and Al Young.

The best event though is one it costs nothing to attend. Even though it might turn out to be the most expensive one you go to if you aren’t careful. And that is the Master Distiller’s Auction at the Oscar Getz museum. (I’ll have a full post about that one coming soon.)

Toss in the festival, the barrel races, the spirit garden and the crafts for sale on the lawn and it is a very good time. No, you probably won’t be wowed by the whiskey that is poured. It’s mostly the stuff you can walk into any store and grab on the shelf for under $30. But you know what? There is something to be said for sitting under a tree with a glass of old Grand-dad 114 talking to people who share your love of whiskey and your knowledge that friends are the best thing you can find in Kentucky.

This post is brought to you by readers like you who have pledged their support of Not a patron yet? Go to to pledge your support. Don’t want to pledge but still want to support the site? Click the support link in the navigation to buy a t-shirt or mug, share a link on your favorite social network or just tell someone about the site. And thank you.