MB Roland Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey

Paul and Merry Beth of MB Roland are my friends. Because I might be biased, I have decided to disclose that bias so that you can decide how much to trust the review.

It had been five years since I last visited my friends Paul and Merry Beth at their distillery. We’d met up in Bardstown a few times during the Kentucky Bourbon Festival where we hung out and had a lot of conversations (and on a few occasions a lot of drinks). But it had been too long since I went to visit them at their place. I was excited to see what had changed and learn about how things were going.

I met Paul and Merry Beth just as I was starting to explore distilled spirits. I hadn’t even started my bourbon journey yet as I was still playing with cocktails using inexpensive clear spirits. I was more interested in the flavors you could add to alcohol and how they worked together at that point than I was those flavors that were already there. As an example, I had a small refrigerator filled with tinctures (infused vodkas) of everything from fruit and fruit peels to herbs to spices. I even had a black pepper tincture at one point.

It was in this setting that I tasted my first bottle of whiskey. Not drank my first bottle, tasted. I mean, I did go to college after all. The flavors were amazing. And yes it was from MB Roland. Sure, it was a young whiskey, but I didn’t know better. I was just amazed that you could get all this flavor from a barrel. At that point I determined that I was extremely interested in whiskey. (In fact, it wasn’t until I started making my own house-made bitters for my whiskey cocktails that I remembered my interest in the flavors you could add to a spirit and that helped rekindle my love of cocktails.)

So since I made the trip to visit them, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to grab a few of their products that had come out since the last time I’d been down there. And there were a lot. The first one I opened was a straight wheat whiskey. Since I am taking the time to review it, you already know that I like it, but I should probably share my notes as well.

MB Roland Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey

Purchase Price: $54.99 for a 750 mL bottle at the distillery gift shop.

Details: Mashbill: 69% red winter wheat, 26% white corn, 5% malt. Barrel: New with a #4 char level. Batch 5, 55.8% ABV.

Nose: Clean hay, cooked cereal

Mouth: Cinnamon, Milky Way candy bar (milk chocolate, caramel, and nougat)

Finish: Medium length and heat. Lingering cinnamon and Milky Ways.

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Thoughts: I really like this one. The Milky Way candy bar notes make this just like liquid candy. As to be expected with a two-year-old whiskey this does have a few "young" notes but they are mostly on the nose and tend to be pushed into the background of the mouth and finish by the high proof.

Lux Row Double Barrel Bourbon

I’d like to thank Common Ground PR and Luxco for providing a review sample to me with no strings attached.

It was a the week before I was scheduled to drive to Kentucky for my annual shopping trip disguised as a Festival when I received a press release about a new bourbon out of Lux Row Distillery in Bardstown, Ky. It was to be a twelve-year-old, cask-strength bourbon and it was being released to celebrate the one year anniversary of the official opening of the Lux Row Distillery.

Sometimes you just get a feeling that a bourbon is going to be good. And a double digit age statement and a cask strength proof is a good start when looking at a bourbon’s spec sheet. So, because I’ve had a very high opinion of high-end Luxco bourbons lately, I decided to reach out and see if there were going to be samples available. Of course I also added a bottle to my “Kentucky Shopping List” just on the off chance that I happened across one. And then I promptly forgot about all of it because my active memory really only has space for about three things in it at any one time.

This has nothing to do with getting old. Shut up.

So, I was killing time in Bardstown between KBF events when I decided to stop in to the Lux Row Distillery gift shop. Honestly, I was on the lookout for a bottle of Old Ezra Barrel Proof and was hoping that if anybody had one, it would be them. When we got there, I also remembered the new bourbon that they were putting out. Mostly because it was sitting there right on the shelf, looking oh so pretty.

So I bought both. Yes. I blasted through my personal price ceiling without a second thought. Sometimes you just get a feeling that a bourbon’s going to be good.

Lux Row Double Barrel Bourbon

Purchase Info: $150 for a 750 mL bottle at the Lux Row Distillery. I also received a 200mL review sample (because I forgot to tell them that I’d purchased one until I saw the FedEx notification that it was on it’s way).

Details: 59.2% ABV. 12-year-old bourbon. Batched from 2 barrels (numbers 5154523 and 5154524)

Nose: Brown Sugar, cinnamon, clove, anise, and oak

Mouth: Cinnamon red hots, leather from a well-worn baseball glove, cherry, and caramel

Finish: Warm and long. Lingering chocolate, cherry, baking spices and leather.

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Thoughts: Very warm and spicy. The cherry notes play nicely off of the leather and spices. This is a delicious Bourbon. Very rich. I'm very happy I picked up a bottle while I was in Kentucky. For $150 though, this will go on the special shelf where I am less likely to empty it quite so fast.


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A Visit to Castle and Key Distillery

If I may, I’d like to share with you my visit to the Castle and Key Distillery, located outside Frankfort Kentucky. Castle and Key is located about seven minutes past Woodford Reserve on McCracken Pike in the Historic Old Taylor Distillery. Much like their neighbor, Glenn’s Creek Distillery (located in the ruins of the Historic Old Crow Distillery about two minutes further down the road), Castle and Key is a craft distillery working to revitalize a historic property which had been abandoned by Jim Beam after they bought National Distillers in the 1980s.

In this case, the property was designed to be a showpiece of a distillery. Long before distillery tours were a form of tourism, Col. E.H. Taylor was bringing people to his castle-shaped distillery via train to show off what he had made. I’m guessing that he wanted to build his distillery into a work of art to impress upon people the value of the product that the distillery was making. It is a lesson that has been learned by many of the new distilleries that have popped up in recent years.

So not only was Col. Taylor the father of Bottled in Bond, but also of Bourbon Tourism. Let’s take a look at what is left today after the original distillery was bought and expanded by National Distillers, bought and abandoned by Jim Beam, and left to scrappers and the elements for thirty years before being purchased by the current occupants.

Upon entering the gate to the property, you immediately walk past the iconic castle. Inside the doorway is the distillery proper. There is a helpful gate guard to let you know that the gift shop where you report for your tour is not through that doorway, but past the castle, down the path and around the corner.

It is interesting to think that this property was in such bad shape that the current occupants purchased it for less than one million dollars. Of course, it took many more millions of dollars to remove the asbestos and trees from the buildings, excavate the property from flood debris and restore the buildings to the point that people could be in them.

Around the corner of the castle is a plaza that fronts the old boiler room (now the gift shop) and the old passenger train station (now the restrooms and the place you can purchase your cocktails). These are the public portions of the distillery. You can sit by the springhouse, walk down the botanical trail and enjoy a cocktail from Taylorton Station.

Of course, the other thing that the plaza leads to is the spring house. I’m sure you’ve all seen images of the spring house, even from before the renovations. This is as pretty as the photos lead one to believe. It is shaped like a keyhole and is one of the original springs on the property. According to our wonderful tour guide, you could empty it of water and allow it to refill twice per day should you want to.

Now you might think that Castle and Key, being a craft distillery, would be a small operation. The original owners thought that might be the case as well until they realized that all the original fermentation tanks could be easily cleaned and upgraded and reused. Each of the tanks holds over 11,000 gallons of fermenting mash and I saw a sign that called one of the tanks “No. 14.” As you might have guessed, all of a sudden this place had a different business model.

One side effect of all those fermenters is needing a much larger still, seen here. It comes from Vendome Copper & Brass and is quite large.

One of the interesting bits of trivia that our tour guide left us with was that, although everyone knew that Col. Taylor had two formal gardens on the property, no one knew where they were. It wasn’t until they were excavating in this area that they ran into something hard and realized they were on top of one of them.

While we were learning about the gin basket in the distillery a worker, who happened to be doing quality control, offered us a taste of the bourbon new make that was coming off the still. It was quite good, for new make. It was fun then that we got to see the same new make entered into barrels as we wandered past. One of the tour got the chance to pound in one of the bungs for them. He seemed quite happy with the opportunity.

Past the barreling house is a building that has fallen down. They used the foundations of the building to create gardens which they use to grow the botanicals of the gin they produce (more on that later in the week). In the distance is the longest aging warehouse in Kentucky. It is currently full of aging product that they have made.

Of course, no bourbon distillery tour would be complete without a tasting at the end. Unfortunately, all the bourbon they have is still currently aging in the warehouse shown above. So they made us cocktails using their vodka and their gin. Let’s put it this way, I was impressed enough with the cocktail to buy a bottle of each of their gins. We will talk about those on Thursday.


BourbonGuy.com accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products and bourbon-related craft supplies I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts store. If you'd like to support BourbonGuy.com, visit BourbonGuyGifts.com. And hey, if you are an iOS user, look for Bourbon Guy in Apple News. Thanks!

Festivals and Fun: A September Week in Kentucky

While I was in Kentucky, I attended events where I had been comped tickets to write about the event. They include: From Field to Fermentation and The Science of Maturation at the Kentucky Bourbon Festival as well as Bourbon and Beyond.

As you may be aware, I’ve spent a large percentage of the last week and a half in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. While I was there, I attended a couple festivals, did a bit of shopping and snuck off to have some fun that had absolutely nothing to do with bourbon. If you’d indulge me, I’d like to tell you about it.

Kentucky Bourbon Festival: From Field to Fermentation

The first thing I did in Kentucky was attend From Field to Fermentation… Actually the first thing I did in Kentucky was visit my friends Paul and Merry Beth at MB Roland. They have been friends of mine since before BourbonGuy.com was even a thought in the back of my brain and since my visit was a social call, it is completely off the record.

So backing up, the first official thing I did was attend the From Field to Fermentation event at the Kentucky Bourbon Festival. The first thing I noticed about this event was that it was a bit hard to get to. It was held in Bardstown’s Spalding Hall and as we walked up, the Great Lawn was in the process of being set up just outside the front door. But that didn’t deter me! I had some learnin’ to do.

And learn I did. This was a fascinating seminar. It was hosted by Moonshine University and, as the title says, it covered everything from the rules of whiskey to the selection and milling of grain all the way to yeast and fermentation. If you are the type of person who thinks that the distilleries gloss over everything when they tell you how whiskey is made, then this is the event for you. It had charts and graphs and talked about microbiology. I highly recommend this one. We even got to taste some things. In this case, new make. We had four distillates: 100% corn, 100% rye, 100% wheat and 100% malted barley. I actually finished my 100% rye new make. It was quite tasty.

Kentucky Bourbon Festival: All-Star Sampler

I’ve been to the All-Star Sampler before. In fact, I’ve been there almost every time I’ve gone to the Kentucky Bourbon Festival. And I think that was my problem. I had a “been-there, done-that” sort of vibe this time around. I made the rounds, I tasted a few whiskies I hadn’t had before, and introduced myself to a couple craft distillers that I hadn’t met yet. All in all, I got bored a bit early in the night.

BUT. And this is a big but. This is all because I’ve been there so many times. This is a great event for people making their first trip to the Kentucky Bourbon Festival. You get to meet the Master Distillers of most of the big distilleries. There is music, good food and and you can try most distilleries’ entire line of bourbons (or at least a large swath of it).

Kentucky Bourbon Festival: Let’s Talk Bourbon

Let’s Talk Bourbon is my favorite paid event at the Kentucky Bourbon Festival. First off, it is held on the beautiful grounds of the Four Roses Distillery in Lawrenceburg, KY. Secondly, they serve a great breakfast. Eggs, bacon, biscuits and gravy, and this is where I realized that I really like garlic grits for breakfast. On top of that, you get a high-level view of how bourbon is made. If you think that the From Field to Fermentation event sounds a little too in-depth for you, then this will be right up your alley.

Castle and Key Tour

I’m not going to go into too much depth on this one since there will be an entire photo post about it next week, but I’m just going to say that this is probably the most fun that this history geek has had on a distillery tour in a long time. It ranked right up there with the visit I took to Old Crow a few years back and the good news is that everyone can take this tour.

Kentucky Bourbon Festival: The Science of Maturation

If you can believe it, this might have been even more in-depth than the From Field to Fermentation event I’d attended earlier in the week. It covered almost everything that you’d want to know about maturation including the anatomy of a barrel, what toasting and charring a barrel each does to a whiskey’s flavor, what happens in a barrel, how warehouse variations affect how a whiskey ages, the effect of entry proof on bourbon and more. Plus there was a how-to on sensory evaluation of whiskey as well as a tasting of a whiskey through the aging process from new make through two, four and six years. And to top it off we tasted three single barrels bourbons that were from the same lot and that aged right next to each other for the same amount of time. That was fascinating!

Kentucky Bourbon Festival: The Master Distiller’s Auction

Now this is my favorite event at the Kentucky Bourbon Festival. I’ve written about it before so here are the Cliff Notes. All the items are donated. All the money goes to fund the Oscar Getz Museum. This is their main source of income for the year.

Now onto the highlights from this year:

  • First and foremost, the long-time auctioneer of the Master Distiller’s Auction passed away since last year. He was very entertaining and you could tell that he loved doing this auction. I didn’t know him, but I will miss him just the same.

  • The Auction raised over $25,000 for the museum.

  • $11,000 of that came from the five bottles in the Van Winkle line.

  • My wife spent $175 of our bourbon budget on a basket because she liked the diamond necklace in it. Much of the rest of the basket are things that I will be giving away in the next month or so (stay tuned!)

  • Someone paid $85 for a bottle of Heaven Hill Bottled in Bond 6-year old! That makes the half case up in my closet…something I will still happily drink.

Bourbon & Beyond

This year, Bourbon and Beyond was on the same weekend as BourbonFest. And to my eye, it looked as if it really bit hard into the Kentucky Bourbon Festival’s attendance. And I can see why, three days of music, food and bourbon is hard to beat. This was a great event. I had multiple delicious cocktails. I heard great music. It was fun, even though there were so many people there that it triggered my anxiety (I don’t do well with crowds).

Even though once you were inside the event it was a great experience, I do have some constructive criticism from the perspective of a non-native of Louisville. The parking experience was terrible. There were two to four events going on that day and there was no signage on how to get to the festival grounds from the parking. Helpfully, they provided free shuttles to the event from the parking lots, but they didn’t provide them to get back to the parking from the event. I walked a half hour back to my car and needed to use google maps to point myself in the right direction because, once again no signage.

Bottom line, this is a great event. But they assume that you have been there before and know where you are going. Which, as a visitor is more than a bit stressful. Luckily there is bourbon inside.

Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest

I have driven past this place for years. This trip, I finally decided to stop in and visit. It was great! This nature preserve was started by none other than Issac Wolfe Bernheim, whiskey man. You might recognize him as the IW in IW Harper and the Bernheim in…Bernheim Whiskey. This was a lovely and peaceful place to wander around, feed the fish and turtles and see a set of really cool sculptures called the Forest Giants. My vacation to Kentucky can be a little hectic as I try to pack it as full as possible. I might need to plan a stop to the Bernheim Forest from now on to allow myself a structured chance to chill.

Newport Aquarium, Newport, KY

My last night in Kentucky, I traveled north to the Southern suburbs of Cincinnati. I usually make the trip up there to visit the Party Source, but I’ve never stayed there before. I decided to this time because I realized that it took the same amount of time to come home from Shepherdsville, KY as it did from Newport, KY. While I was there I decided to check out the Newport Aquarium. While this isn’t as big or as cool as the other Newport Aquarium that I’ve been to (Oregon), it is still a nice way to spend an afternoon. I love aquariums so I really enjoyed it and would recommend it. Plus it is about 5 minutes from the Party Source so you can do a little shopping afterward too.


BourbonGuy.com accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products and bourbon-related craft supplies I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts store. If you'd like to support BourbonGuy.com, visit BourbonGuyGifts.com. And hey, if you are an iOS user, look for Bourbon Guy in Apple News. Thanks!