Smooth Ambler Old Scout not only has an awkward name, it has an awkward composition: A “union” of two sourced American whiskeys blended in “hand-selected batches” that prevents the whiskey from being labelled as Bourbon. The first whiskey is an MGP-distilled 36% rye (“high-rye”) 9 year-old bourbon. The second is a Tennessee-distilled whiskey made from a bourbon mash which is aged for 5 years in re-charred used ex-bourbon barrels.
To be fair, these are wheat-recipe bourbons made by Buffalo Trace (where modern Pappy is also produced) and matured in the same warehouses. In my W. L. Weller 12-year review, I refer to Weller bottlings as “failed Pappy” which may or may not be blogger poetic license.
Stagg Jr. is an uncut and unfiltered barrel proof Kentucky straight bourbon. My bottle is 65.95% and does not indicate a batch number. … There is also no age statement, although the prose on the back states that it has aged “nearly a decade”. The first batch released in 2013 was a vatting of 8 and 9 year-old bourbon. Other Internet sources suggest 7 years, so it’s somewhere between 7 and 9. Stagg shares its “low rye” (under 10% rye) mash bill with Eagle Rare, George T. Stagg, and the eponymous Buffalo Trace bourbon. Stagg Jr. is bottled at barrel proof, which varies from batch to batch.
Elijah Craig is Kentucky straight bourbon. The Barrel Proof bottlings, made in three “small” batches per year, are aged for 12 years in new charred oak barrels and bottled uncut (without any water added) and without chill filtration. They are from the same low-rye mash bill as the cheaper 46% ABV (now NAS) small batch edition: 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% malted barley (for enzymes).
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.