Old Ezra Barrel Strength, 7-year-old bourbon

I state in my Statement of Ethics that if I accept a review sample, I will disclose it at the beginning of the article. Please consider it disclosed. I’d like to thank the folks at Common Ground PR for providing this sample to me with no strings attached. As always, all thoughts are just my opinion.

I fear I might have made a grievous error. Last week I wrote a post that ended up with my wife getting a little miffed at me. My mistake was not in writing or in even posting said article. She is my proofreader, after all, and she agreed it was an apt description of the whiskey in question. No, my mistake was in telling...basically anyone that would listen...the story of how I got her to let me put that story on the internet. Which naturally included a repeat of the story itself.

In what I am assured is an entirely unrelated set of circumstances, my HoneyDo list for the weekend grew immensely. For example: the leaves needed to be raked and bagged, the lawn needed to be mowed, the floors needed to be scrubbed, the bathroom tub needed to be recaulked, the shower needed to have the grout cleaned and the tiles resealed, a bit of broken trim needed to be fixed, the carpet needed to be shampooed, the gutters cleaned, the siding washed, the walls, pictures and surfaces dusted...

You get the idea.

But now after a long weekend where the chores lasted from the time I got up in the morning to the time I went to bed at night, my penance has been paid...I mean, all those things that "just happened to need finishing" are done. I can finally sit down, relax and think about a whiskey.

And a decent whiskey at that. Recently, I received a sample of Old Ezra Barrel Strength, 7-year-old bourbon. You might be familiar with Old Ezra 101 proof, 7-year-old bourbon. Well as you might expect, this is a barrel proof version of that.

Old Ezra 101 proof has long been a favorite in my house. Even as the price was gradually increasing in my area, I still found it to be an excellent value. That was until I could no longer find it at all. I'd noticed it slowly disappearing from local store shelves. And at some point, it clicked that no one had it anymore.

Once I received this sample, I asked them if the Barrel Strength was a replacement for the 101 proof. Their answer: "We stopped producing Old Ezra 101 last summer and have been selling through the remaining bottles before releasing the new package this fall with the new bottle and barrel proof."

So I wasn't crazy. 101 was gone. I got sad momentarily, but then I remembered that the barrel proof version exists and that 117 proof is higher than 101 proof. After that all was right with the world.

Old Ezra Barrel Strength, 7-year-old bourbon

Purchase Info: This sample was generously provided for review purposes. Suggested retail is $39.99 per 750 mL bottle.

Details: 58.5% ABV. Age stated at 7 years old.

Nose: Oak, cloves, nutmeg, vanilla, and brown sugar

Mouth: Nice and warm with vanilla, brown sugar, nutmeg, cloves, and an oak sharpness.

Finish: Long and very warm. Lingering notes of oak and baking spice.


Thoughts: This is delicious. The proof bump does really well for this whiskey, allowing more concentrated flavors to come through. It’s a very nice step up from the previous 101 proof version. Unfortunately, the price has also taken a nice step up. But when I compare this to other barrel proof bourbons, I think price is more than fair.

In an era where other companies are removing age statements from products or discontinuing those age stated products altogether, it’s nice to see a company relaunch a product with both a proof bump while also keeping the age statement. And keeping it prominently displayed across the bottle at that.

Overall, there should be no reason to not have this be the barrel proof bourbon you keep on your home bar. Inexpensive enough to use in cocktails. Rich and complex enough to drink on its own.

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Lux Row Distillers: Distillery Tour

It’s Bourbon Heritage Month and as such, I am celebrating all things bourbon. Not just the liquid, but travel, tours, and book, as well. Tonight, I’m taking a look at the newly opened Lux Row Distillery in Bardstown, KY.

While in Bardstown, I made sure to stop in and grab a tour at the newly completed Lux Row Distillers. I was at the name announcement ceremony two years ago when the grounds consisted of a historic home and a large pile of dirt. I was really looking forward to seeing the finished result. I wasn’t disappointed. This is a beauty of a distillery. The fact that it is also very obviously a working distillery first and a tourist attraction second just adds to the charm.

Upon walking up to the distillery, I was struck by how welcoming it looked. I knew this was a manufacturing facility, but it looked like someone’s house. (A house well out of my price range, but a house none-the-less.)

The tour started with a movie. They all seem to. It’s a nice efficient way to bring everyone up to speed. After the movie we stepped out into the manufacturing floor. They had two 4,000-gallon cookers that feed twelve 8,000-gallon fermenters. Four of the fermenters were open for tourists to experience, the other eight were closed like the ones shown above.

After making our way around the cookers and fermenters, we were at the stills. The stills live in a lovely, though very warm, room with large windows to show off all the lovely copper.

Out the windows is a nice view of the 200 year-old house that was the main structure standing on the grounds the fist time I visited the property. They have plans for it that they didn’t disclose, but said that for now it is only used for storage.

I thought this was a nice bit of transparency. As you may know, until recently, Luxco was not in the business of distilling bourbon. They were in the business of buying, blending, and bottling bourbon. (In a fun tidbit, they admitted that the current stocks are coming from Jim Beam and Heaven Hill.) As such, with a distillery that has been producing spirit for less than a year, they are filling barrels, but not yet dumping any. And they told us as such when they pointed out the dumping station in the foreground. They roughly said: it’s here for when we need to start using it in four or more years. I liked that. It’s nice to see companies that are not trying to sell a fantasy.

After we saw where barrels are filled (if it wasn’t a Saturday during the Kentucky Bourbon Festival), we move over to where they are stored after they are filled. With this one, they took steps to make sure that the view was worth the walk over.

Unlike most of the Lux Row aging warehouses (or those from most other companies for that matter) this aging warehouse was built with visitors in mind and has a large viewing area inside the front of the warehouse. These very large beams keep all those barrels in place even though there would normally be more supports (and barrels) in their place.

I know every warehouse has a view something like this, but I just liked the photo.

We finished the tour in the tasting room. It was a lovely tasting room. Lots of copper. We tasted Rebel Yell, Ezra Brooks, and David Nicholson 1843. In the process we got to meet members of the Lux family who were in town for the festival. And in another fun tidbit, I learned that if you are looking at the labels of a Luxco bourbon, you can tell if it is wheated or not but the color of the label. All the wheated bourbons have a white label (aside from the Rebel Yell Single Barrel whose label is painted on).

I thoroughly enjoyed my tour at Lux Row Distillers. The grounds were as beautiful as I remembered. The distillery and gift shop were welcoming, and the information was accurate and transparent. Honestly, what more can you ask for?

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Yellowstone Bourbon Partners with NPCA

Twice a summer, when I was a kid, my father would take us kids on a 5-hour drive to Northern Minnesota to spend an extended weekend camping and fishing. For a while, we would camp in a State Forest. Eventually, we moved to Voyageurs National Park. Now, I wasn't aware that the area was a National Park at the time, I'm not sure that I even knew what a National Park was. But I did know that I loved spending time outdoors in an area that was quiet, unspoiled, and beautiful. 

Since that time, I have fallen in love with the National Parks. I've made it a goal to make it to as many Park Service units as I can before I shuffle off this mortal coil. I try to make sure that every vacation contains at least one stop at one of our National Parks. (To this point, I've made it to 65 of the 417 different units of the National Park System including 25 of 59 National Parks. As you can see, I've got a little ways to go.) My favorites have been Zion National Park, a desert oasis, that pt overwhelming feeling of being very small next to the canyon walls that tower above you, Rocky Mountain National Park for the sheer beauty, and Isle Royal National Park for the peaceful solitude I found there. 

When I find myself with enough of a cushion in my freelance work that I feel comfortable making a charitable donation, it is almost always to an organization that helps a Park. Sometimes it is a local "Friends of the" park organization, but lately, it has been to a national non-profit named the National Parks Conservation Association. 

And so it was with great pleasure that I read a press release from Limestone Branch this morning. I don't typically report on press releases, but since it touches on multiple subjects that are close to my heart, I'm going to pass along this one.

Yellowstone® Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Launches Program Supporting America’s National Parks

Brand partners with National Parks Conservation Association

LEBANON, KY (May 1, 2018) – Yellowstone Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey has launched a cause marketing program that harkens back to its iconic roots, as the bourbon was originally named after Yellowstone National Park. The brand is partnering with National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). Since their founding in 1919 – and with their 1.3 million members and supporters – NPCA has been an independent, nonpartisan voice working to strengthen and protect America’s national parks.

“When Yellowstone Bourbon was first launched in 1872, it was given its name to honor Yellowstone National Park, the new national treasure at the time and our first national park,” says Steve Beam, head distiller at Limestone Branch Distillery. “We are thrilled to be able to able to help preserve our national parks one bottle at a time.”

Beginning on May 1, the brand will be donating a portion of its sales proceeds to National Parks Conservation Association, to help ensure the nation’s 417 national park sites are protected for their 330+ million annual guests.

“NPCA is proud to partner with Limestone Branch Distillery, whose history is so richly aligned with one of our most iconic national parks,” said Theresa Pierno, president and CEO for National Parks Conservation Association. “Partnerships like this one are so critical to our work, both in funding our park protection efforts and in introducing new people to national parks. We look forward to coming together with Limestone Branch Distillery to protect these places now – and for generations to come.”

In addition, the brand has also launched an online contest where consumers are encouraged to show their pioneer spirit for the chance to win a trip to Yellowstone National Park, as well as branded outdoor merchandise. The grand prize will allow five winners and guests to enjoy an all-expense paid to Yellowstone National Park in the summer of 2019. The contest runs from May until August of 2018. To enter, simply snap a photo enjoying the great outdoors and submit it at www.yellowstonebourboncontest.com.

About Limestone Branch Distillery
Steve Beam and his brother Paul Beam opened Limestone Branch Distillery in 2011, with the goal of crafting the finest whiskey in small batches, honoring their long family heritage. With a history of distilling on both sides of their family – Beam and Dant – the brothers are seventh-generation distillers. In 2015, by partnering with Luxco, they brought the Yellowstone brand back to the family, just in time to commemorate the brand’s 105th anniversary. As one of the founding members of the Kentucky Craft Bourbon Trail, Limestone Branch Distillery is located in Lebanon, Ky., in the heart of bourbon country. The distillery is well-known for its handcrafted products, including Yellowstone Limited Edition Kentucky Straight Bourbon, Yellowstone Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon and Minor Case Straight Rye Whiskey. 

For more information on Limestone Branch Distillery and Yellowstone Bourbon, please visit www.limestonebranch.com,www.yellowstonebourbon.com or www.facebook.com/limestone-branch-distillery

About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its 1.3 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.


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Ask Arok: Single Barrel is not the same as Barrel Proof

I got a comment on my last post (Rebel Yell Single Barrel) from MadHatter: 

Which begs the question: If this is a single barrel and unless the barrel contents were exactly 50 abv, why did they water it down to 50 abv?

I like this question. Not just because I know the answer, but because it is always good for me to remember that the audience for this site is not just experienced connoisseurs of bourbon. There are a bunch of people reading this who are just starting out on their bourbon journey. And to them, I say: "Welcome! The bar is in the corner, pour yourself a drink of something nice."

So let's break down MadHatter's question. The way I see it there are two parts:

  1. Is this really a single barrel bourbon and was the barrel proof exactly 100° proof?
  2. Why would they dilute it to 50% ABV if it didn't come out of the barrel that way?

So let's address the first part. I can tell you all with reasonable confidence that the Rebel Yell Single Barrel is actually a single barrel product. Not only because it says it on the label, but because last year I had bourbon from two different barrels side-by-side and though similar, they were noticeably different from one another. Also, I can assure you that the contents of the barrels used for Rebel Yell Single Barrel were almost certainly not all exactly 100° proof, because that would take a string of good luck that is pretty inconceivable. But just for the sake of completeness, I reached out to the company for comment. The following is from Head Distiller John Rempe by way of my contact at their PR agency:

"Yes, Rebel Yell Single Barrel is a legitimate single barrel bourbon. ... [We] dump each barrel independently and cut it to 100 proof, it is not a barrel proof product."

There now that the conspiracy theorists are satisfied (I kid, I kid... conspiracy theorists are never satisfied) we can move on to the second part of the question. But before we do, let's just lay out an underlying fact: single barrel bourbon and barrel proof bourbon are not the same thing, they are separate descriptors. Though there is no legal definition of either, they are generally held to mean the following: 

  • Single Barrel Bourbon: The product of a solitary barrel of bourbon, that has been dumped independently from other barrels, and then bottled as its own product.
  • Barrel-Proof Bourbon:  Bourbon that has not been diluted with water before bottling. 

Yes, some single barrel products are released at barrel strength. Jack Daniel's has one and most of the Four Roses Single Barrel private picks are barrel-proof. But most single barrel bourbons are not released at barrel-strength. Just think of Blanton's at 93 proof, Jim Beam Single Barrel at 95 proof, Evan Williams Single Barrel at 86 proof, Four Roses Single Barrel at 100 proof, Old Forester single barrel at 90 proof...I could go on and on, but I won't. Let's just keep it simple and say that a single barrel bourbon does not have to be barreled at barrel proof.

But as to why Luxco (and every other major producer of Kentucky Bourbon) dilutes their single barrel products? For the same reasons as they dilute all their other products. They either think it tastes best at that proof or they can make more money at that proof. More than likely it is some combination of the two. It tastes good at 90 or 100 proof and they can get more bottles out of a barrel that way. There may even be some tax incentives to bottle it at non-barrel strength. I can assure you, whiskey dilution makes a huge difference in the taste of the final product and companies that are trying to put out a premium product do not undertake it lightly. 

Do you have a bourbon question you'd like answered? Just get in contact with me using one of the icons in the sidebar to submit one. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll try to find it from someone who does.

BourbonGuy.com accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts Etsy store. If you'd like to support BourbonGuy.com, visit BourbonGuyGifts.com. Thanks!