Normally, I would review an Irish whiskey for St. Patrick’s Day, but, this year, I am reviewing a bourbon with an Irish whiskey twist.
Kentucky Owl used to be Dixon Dedman’s whiskey project, wherein he collaborated with the Carters of wine-making fame. They then sold it to Stoli and then Dixon quit while the Carters founded Old Carter Whiskey Company. Kentucky Owl has been trying to get into the lower price point part of the bourbon market with its latest release of Wiseman’s Bourbon. I haven’t bought a bottle yet, as I mostly tend to purchase bottles that are 100 proof or more. But, they have also put out a special St. Patrick’s Edition, which is bottled at 100 proof (higher than Kentucky Owl Confiscated but lower than the original cask strength release). KO colloborated with Louise McGuane, an Irish whiskey bonder (read barrel selector) and John Rhea, an American whiskey blender. McGuane is the founder of JJ Corry Irish Whiskey Company, which is putting out interesting Irish whiskies sourced from other distilleries, in the same way that Cadenhead’s and Gordon & McPhail do for scotch, but blending them for the brand. Rhea is the former chief operations officer and blender for Four Roses and has been hired on by Kentucky Owl as their master blender. The used barrels are being sent to Ireland for McGuane to use to age Irish whiskey. This was bottled in Bardstown, Kentucky, rather than the Stoli plant in Lacassine, Louisiana, and was priced about $10 below Confiscated at $125.
The color is a decent amber; if I had to guess, this is a blend of bourbons in the seven to eight year old range. Nice film and thick legs on the swirl. The nose is very traditional bourbon, with some nice vanilla and fruity notes, and a hint of oak. On the palate is vanilla, clove, butterscotch, dark fruit, and black cherry cola notes, with a medium trending toward full bodied mouthfeel. On the finish the clove dominates with black cherries in the background, and the finish is very long.
Overall, this is a very good bourbon. I think it is better than Confiscated, partly due to the higher proof and partly due to the flavor overall. The price point is not terrible at $125 given today’s bourbon market. Moreover, if this is the beginning of the John Rhea era at Kentucky Owl, I think good things are in store for the brand. And, of course I just ordered a bottle of JJ Corry Gael with a Tuath Irish whiskey glass at their online store. The Tuath was free and made the shipping on the bottle free, so why not, especially because I can’t possibly have enough whiskey tasting glasses of various types at my house. I need a Tuath, right? More importantly, if this is how McGuane picks bourbon barrels, I am betting her Irish whiskey is pretty special and I can’t wait to try it.