King of Kentucky Bourbon is owned by Brown-Forman, the corporate entity behind popular whiskey brands like Old Forester, Woodford Reserve and Jack Daniel’s. While the new King of Kentucky whiskeys might not equal the level of the recent Jack Daniel’s Coy Hill as far as strength, they come respectably close. This year marks the fifth anniversary of the revitalization of the King of Kentucky brand name, which was first introduced in 1881. After Brown-Forman acquired the brand in the 1930s it was turned into an inferior blended whiskey, but now it’s back in all its bourbon glory as a single barrel, barrel-strength release that undergoes minimal filtration before bottling. And this year there are two whiskeys to choose from—but why choose if you are lucky enough to find them both?
The first release is a 15-year-old Kentucky straight bourbon, with 3,500 bottles available priced at $249.99. It was distilled on December 18, 2006, a simpler time when Nelly Furtado was busy making hits with Timbaland. The mash bill is 79 percent corn, 11 percent rye and 10 precent malted barley, and the bourbon is bottled between 125 and 135 proof depending on the barrel. The 43 barrels that were dumped for this had an average yield of just 35 percent after so many years maturing in Kentucky’s specific climate. Tasting notes include dark sorghum, oak, honey and a heap of dried fruit and cigar tobacco.
The second release is an older and much more limited-edition whiskey—an 18-year-old Kentucky straight bourbon that is pushing the upper limits of maturation. Just 250 bottles were released exclusively to the Kentucky market at a price of $349.99. The whiskey was distilled in 2004, which was a time many of us wanted to shout “Yeah!” with Lil Jon, Ludacris and Usher. Again, proof and flavor will vary depending on the barrel, but look for notes of molasses, caramel, with a bit of tea and dried fruit on the palate.
Master distiller Chris Morris is the man responsible for selecting the King of Kentucky barrels when he’s not busy overseeing the Woodford Reserve operation. “This brand demonstrates Brown-Forman’s commitment to and expertise in the growing American whiskey category,” he said in a statement. “This year’s releases come from two production days, two years apart. This showcases what a difference two years at these extreme ages make on the color, flavor, and aroma of this wonderful whiskey.”
King of Kentucky comes housed in a decorative tin canister, and each bottle is wax-dipped (black instead of red, this isn’t Maker’s Mark) with details like proof, age, warehouse location, lot number and barrel number hand written on the label. Happy hunting, and sip slowly if you snag a bottle, because these are some powerful bourbons.