My social media feed has been popping with Ezra Brooks sponsored ads for months. Earlier this year, I caught a glimpse of a bottle behind the counter at a local college-dive liquor store. The 7-year age caught my eye immediately. It wasn’t until I got home that I saw the barrel strength proof. What have I gotten myself into! Would I like this? Could my palate take that much heat?
Long Time Sourcer, Now a Producer
Like many connoisseurs, I like to know the story behind my bourbon. Ezra Brooks has an interesting one. The label states it’s bottled by Luxco, based in St. Louis, MO. Luxco? This sounds like a knock-off wannabe-luxury car brand.
You’ve probably seen some of their line-up: Rebel Yell, David Nicholson, Yellowstone, Blood Oath, Everclear (yes, you heard me right), a number of other vodkas and tequilas, and Ezra Brooks. Started in 1958 by Paul Lux and David Sherman, they were a private label bottler for many years. In 2006, they re-launched their brand as Luxco, a tribute to the founder, Paul Lux.
For years, Luxco purchased their products and served as a bottler-only. In 2018, they completed construction of their own distillery in Bardstown, KY and is now one of the newest members of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Lux Row Distillers features a 43-foot copper still that can produce 3 million gallons of spirits annually, along with 6 aging warehouses. Over time, they anticipate replacing their sourced product with their own distillate.
Luxco produces several variations of Ezra Brooks, including a 90-proof rye whiskey, an 80-proof blended whiskey, a 90-proof bourbon whiskey, a bourbon cream liqueur, and the 7-year 117-proof barrel strength, introduced in the Fall of 2018.
According to sources, the mashbill is a hefty 78% corn, 10% rye, and 12% malted barley. The label states “distilled and aged in Kentucky for Lux Row Distillers, Bardstown, KY”. Most have assumed that MGP and Heaven Hill have been the main providers of the Luxco brands; it is assumed that this expression was produced by nearby neighbor Heaven Hill.
Eye: Dark amber with long, thin legs in the glass
Nose: Alcohol notes initially – let this one open up a bit. Another breath – heavy notes of butterscotch and caramel. I even pick up a little bit of saddle leather. Nicely balanced.
Palate: It’s very light as it hits my tongue. I really expected a lot more heat at 117 proof, but this comes across light and balanced. Plenty more butterscotch and vanilla notes, with some spice and oak.
Finish: Long, oaky dry finish, with some peppery notes at the end.
Overall: I have sampled several barrel strength products – some that burned my eyebrows and others – like this one – that were actually quite good. As some brands have introduced barrel strength versions that are just plain hotter, this one actually has a rich, very drinkable profile.
I purchased this for about $40. For a stated-age product with high proof, this is a good addition to the home bar. Probably not one you’d start a newcomer with, but for those that have begun exploring more complex and interesting product, this is a pretty good value!