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. It’s probably older than 12 years old (which is what the cheaper Black Label used to have on the label). Probably.
As much as I respect the Kulsveen family and the products that come out of Willett (including their new distillate, which is awesome), I have a hard time with a sourced bourbon that not only loses its age statements, but also can’t be bothered to reveal a mash bill online. All I know is that it’s 101 proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon made… somewhere. Rye percentage? Wheat? No idea.
Nose: Sappy, with a lot of corn syrup elements. Hint of cherry. Deeper in the glass there are some molasses and caramelized sugar notes. Overall, the aroma is shy and dry.
Palate: Medium bodied. The initial wave of cherry juice is followed by an appreciable tongue burn. After, there are barrel tannins and a deep roasted hazelnut flavor. Still dry, but with more depth than was suggested by the nose.
Finish: Medium-long. Cherry-flecked, corn syrup (cheap pancake syrup) with very minimal charcoal bitterness. Fades without evolving.
With Water: Several drops of water bring a tart cherry top note to the aroma and brings out a bark-y, root-beer note on the palate. Worth experimenting with a little water on this one. And, for what it’s worth, it makes a perfectly passable Old Fashioned.
Overall: Other than that surprising hazelnut note in the middle of the palate, there isn’t much to be excited about here. The nose is reticent and the flavor profile – while well-balanced and with good depth – is dry and lacks robustness. For the price, I’d far rather have Eagle Rare 10 which comes with an age statement and is rounder with more depth of flavor and more sweetness. Johnny Drum is a decent, middle-of-the-road bourbon with an overly-optimistic price tag.