This tall bottle sporting a jockey silk and the phrase “Bluegrass” was just too hard to pass up – both are iconic images of Kentucky. Founded by Sam Rock and Nathan Brown in 2012, Bluegrass Distillers isn’t a name you’ll see on many shelves. The first product hit the market in November 2015 and Master Distiller Kee Pyles continues to put true “craft” in a craft bourbon product.
Bluegrass Distillers is based near downtown Lexington, Kentucky. Grains are all locally sourced and are non-GMO. A good amount of debate has gone on in the industry surrounding historic bourbons with unchanged mash bills and aging as new juice is compared to that from decades past. Many have felt water sources have changed over the years or stills from a distant era “just worked better”. Others have felt that the GMO v. non-GMO grains may be the difference.
Either way, this young distillery generating young whiskey is turning out some unique spirits. In addition to a Kentucky Straight High-Rye Bourbon and an elusive Kentucky Straight Blue Corn Bourbon, you’ll find Wheated Bourbon and a hard cider finished bourbon. Today, Kee utilizes Kentucky Proud ingredients in a 250-gallon copper pot still, aging, and along with a small team bottle and label the finished product.
Both the High-Rye Bourbon and Wheated Bourbons are available “barrel drawn” when you visit their facility. Yes, you can stop by and actually fill and label your own bottles drawn at barrel strength (between 98 and 115 proof). Wow! Definitely on my bucket list!
Bluegrass Distillers Wheated Bourbon is bottled at 100 proof. Each batch is perhaps 4-5 barrels, so each batch is different. Mine was from batch #5 and from Mash bill #2 – 75% yellow corn, 21% wheat and 4% malted barley. The bottle states “straight bourbon whiskey” indicating it has been aged at least 2 years. I found this on the shelve of a major grocery-spirit store for around $40.
Eye: Medium amber. While the label states “aged at least two years”, this doesn’t look nearly that young.
Nose: Rich, buttered pound cake and sweet cream cornbread with subtle spice.
Palate: Creamy with crème’ brulee, rich caramel and buttery fresh corn sweetness.
Finish: Medium with vanilla rising to a balanced crescendo with subtle notes of spice, apricot, peach and stone fruit.
Overall: I really enjoyed this craft expression. While I’m uncertain of the age, I’d guess it’s in the 2-3 year range – I owe them a visit as it is next door to two of our favorite spots to visit – West Sixth Brewing (might I suggest the Amber Ale and Cocoa Porter) and Smithtown Seafood (fish and chips are to DIE for!).
I’d love to see a bottled-in-bond expression similar to nearby Wilderness Trail. Both offer high-corn and very corn-forward expressions. I raise my glass to the folks at Bluegrass Distillers and wish them all the best! Keep up the great work! Can’t wait to visit draw my own bottle straight from the barrel and perhaps snag that Blue Corn Bourbon limited release.