James E. Pepper, a historic brand purportedly established in 1780 (NOT in 1776) but mothballed in 1958, was distilled at several sites in Kentucky including the long-abandoned James E. Pepper distillery in Lexington, KY. In 2008 the rights to the brand were purchased by the Georgetown Trading Co., and re-launched as a line of several bourbons and three ryes using sourced whisky from various distilleries. … The bourbon bottlings were originally contracted out of the Corsair distillery in Kentucky, but are now all sourced from MGP as well.
Here we have yet another sourced bourbon, this time from Kentucky Bourbon Distillers (also known as Willett). Johnny Drum is sold in three expressions: an entry-level Green Label ($20), a Black Label with and without an age-statement (12 years), and this Private Stock bottling that lost its 15-year age statement in a rebrand years ago. The usual vague assurances on the Internet that it “still contains some old whisky” are not even backed up by the tried-and-true “a dude at the distillery told me” type of hearsay.
Distilled by “Rebel Yell Distillery, Louisville, KY” (The Internet Which Knowest All Things says this is probably Heaven Hill), the bottle contains Kentucky Straight Bourbon bottled in “small batches” from a wheat-flavored mash bill (like Luxco compatriot David Nicholson 1843) at 45.3% ABV. Long a resident of the bottom shelf club, Rebel Yell is a favorite of everyone from the college-guy-sent-to-the-liquor-store-with-a-fistful-of-fives-to-get-booze to the hobo-on-the-corner-with-enough-class-to-not-be-drinking-vodka.
Although it shares a striking label resemblance to the 1843 line, the Reserve is a rye-flavored mash bill and not wheated. It’s also sourced from an undisclosed distillery in Kentucky, possibly Heaven Hill, and bottled by Luxco in St. Louis. Soon, however, distillation will move to the new Lux Row distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky.
The David Nicholson brand was previously distilled at Stitzel-Weller (don’t get excited, it hasn’t contained SW juice for decades) and the 1843 bottling – named after the year grocer David Nicholson began selling his own blend of bourbon at his store in St. Louis – in the Stitzel-Weller tradition. Bottled without an age statement at 100 proof (50% ABV), the 1843 is a Kentucky straight bourbon bottled by Luxco in St. Louis, MO.
Shortly after I started this blog, a very (VERY) kind reader sent me a pair of Pappy samples. … The 20-year is bottled at 45.2% ABV (contrast with the 15-year at 53.5%). Most of the dismissive “too cool for Pappy” commentary on the ‘net would have you believe that the 20- and 23-year are overly oaky and that the 15-year is best.
Enter competitor TerrePURE Spirits, based in Charleston, South Carolina. A little Googling can tell you what you need to know about the technology, so I’ll just summarize it by saying that they use ultrasonic vibrations to induce chemical reactions in a young spirit (in this case, 2 year-old sourced bourbon), likely with inserted oak staves. This has a variety of effects, including filtering out congeners which cause off-flavors, building mouth-feel by esterification of fatty acids, and improving color absorption from the wood without added colorants.
So what DO we know? Not much. … Michter’s releases have come from a variety of distilleries, by rumor, including old stocks of Stitzel-Weller (not anymore, I guarantee it), KBD (the logical choice), and possibly Brown-Forman. … The bottle claims the whiskey inside was distilled and bottled in Kentucky, and as a Straight Bourbon with no age statement, must be at least four years of age and aged in new charred oak barrels.
The annual tasting of an Angel’s Envy Cask Strength bourbon (2017), which is as close to an annual tradition as we get around here. This time, I’m able to do a side-by-side comparison against the 2016 edition. Wait until you see the price increase over 2015, however…
Elijah Craig is a small-batch bourbon made by prolific distiller Heaven Hill in Bardstown, Kentucky, and is named after Reverend Elijah Craig who is apocryphally credited with the invention of oak aging of corn whisky to create bourbon. This version replaces the old 12 year-old bottling, and is instead comprised of whiskey aged between 8 and 12 years.