I have heard and read about Kentucky Owl Bourbon, but never seen a bottle. I have seen and had turned down the opportunity to purchase Kentucky Owl Rye, as that is not the same thing and has a reputation for being overpriced. Dixon Dedman is their master blender and a descendant of the owners of this venerable pre-prohibition bourbon brad. I am not sure where he sources his whiskey, other than the fact that this in Kentucky Straight Bourbon whiskey, so this was distilled at one or more of Kentucky’s distilleries.
In January of 2017, Stoli bought the Kentucky Owl brand, and while Dedman is still the blender, the yields have gone up and possibly not for the good. A typical Kentucky Owl bourbon release would typically be less than 2000 bottles and this release is slightly over 9000. However, I wouldn’t know the difference, because, frankly outside of Kentucky, there was not much of this to be found. However, this bourbon has taken on cult status, and will run you in excess of $300 a bottle. I paid $319 for mine, which is good for retail and about half the secondary market price. Michael Veach, a pretty famous bourbon writer, has commented that he loves this bourbon but hates the price.
For me, the question is whether this bourbon really fits in the price range of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection/Pappy Van Winkle/Jefferson’s Presidential Reserve category. Is this really a $300 bourbon? Know this, that my local got one bottle; just one. For all the wider distribution this bourbon is now getting since Stoli bought it, a single bottle to Hokus Pokus in Alexandria really not wider distribution.
Batch 8 is reported to be from four different distillates, some aged 14 years, some aged 11 years, some 8, and some 5. It weighs in at a hefty 121 proof.
The color is shimmering light mahogany; very nice. It leaves sheets of oily long legs everywhere. On the nose, there is vanilla, apple, and baking spice, with slight oak. Very nice. On the palate this is tfirst buttery, then comes a ton of cinnamon, corn syrup, and complex oak. On the finish the sweetness melts away leaving the cinnamon and oak to battle it out with cinnamon coming out on top. Really quite lovely, but the finish is insanely long. I love a long finish on a bourbon, but I think it is possible to maybe have too much of a good thing.
If I had to guess, and this really is a guess, there is some old 1792 Barton barrels in there, and some younger but pretty high proofed Four Roses in there, but mostly Four Roses. The cinnamon in there is very reminiscent of Four Roses store picks I have had, but that oak reminds me of 1792 and the Amador releases that have 1792 juice in them.
So, is this on the level for its price range? Not sure. It is definitely a bourbon drinker’s bourbon. It has a great mouthfeel and color, so it fits the bill on that score. Keep in mind that cask strength and high proof bourbon is my thing; I drink a whole lot of Stagg Jr., Bookers, Knob Creek Single Barrel, Four Roses Private Selections, and so on. Most 100 proof stuff is pretty mellow to me.
This doesn’t have the lovely oak that George T. Stagg or William LaRue Weller have, where the age really makes a difference in the taste of the bourbon. But the flavors on this are all good; but they are very bold. Big and bold. And a finish that just won’t quit. A finish that makes me almost want to say what I say to drunk friends at my house after a party – you don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here.
If Pappy 20 with the cinnamon notes is your thing, then Kentucky Owl Batch 8 is that upped to cask strength. Yes, the MSRP of $300 is worth it, definitely. If you want the everlasting gobstopper of bourbon as far as finish, this is definitely your bottle as far as the MSRP. I am glad I have this bottle on my bar; it is cool, interesting, and oh, did I say anything about the finish? You can literally take a swig of Coke Zero and the finish says, thanks for that, but I am not even done yet…
But buy it on secondary? Uh, no. If the $150 bottle of bourbon, I would totally recommend this to my friends who really like bourbon.
So my final verdict is great, but overpriced, If I had tried a sample of this I would have still bought a bottle at retail, just to have the bourbon with the longest finish ever on my bar. But I would not buy it on secondary. Just buy a good Four Roses store pick or a Maker’s Mark Private Select if you just can’t find Kentucky Owl Bourbon, and imagine the cinnamon flavor amped up, to volume 13.