In the early days of the Second World War, the 650 men of the 26th Cavalry were hard pressed, defending the Philippine Islands from the Japanese juggernaut. Called upon time and time again to check the advance, troopers mounted and dismounted, firing rapidly, and remounting to stem the tide. The Twilight Riders, by Peter Stevens, documents the final days of this unit, including a daring charge by Lt. Edwin Ramsey and 27 troopers on January 16, 1942 – the last cavalry charge made by a U.S. unit. If you’re looking for a bourbon to pair with and honor these troopers, Horse Soldier fits the bill.
Born in the Aftermath of 9/11
Fast forward 60 years to another generation of hard-pressed American soldiers turning the tide from the back of a horse. Horse Soldier’s story is based on the early days following the 9/11 attacks. Small teams of US Army Special Forces – Green Berets – were dispatched to northern Afghanistan. The rugged, mountainous terrain forced the teams to utilize wild Afghan horses to transport them and assault those responsible for the attacks on American soil. The teams – nicknamed Horse Soldiers – are honored today by America’s Response Monument in New York City. Even Lt. Ramsey would have been proud of their feats.
Today, the bourbon is distilled in Columbus, Ohio at the Middle West Spirits distillery. An additional facility in St. Petersburg, FL creates artisanal rums, vodkas and gins. A facility is under development in Somerset to bring the distillation and aging to Kentucky in the near future.
My daughter picked up this bottle for me in the Bluegrass for $45, and it’s a beautiful one. A heavy, squat bottle bears a striking copper label plate on the front, complete with a Special Forces operative galloping on horseback. Keeping with the 9/11 theme, the copper plate is pressed onto each bottle by a steel mold formed from the remnants of the World Trade Center.
Horse Soldier Straight Bourbon Whiskey is bottled at 87 proof. There is no age statement on bottle, however the label does reiterate the “straight bourbon definition” indicating it has been aged a minimum of 2 years. The website confirms that it is blended from small batches of 2-4 year-old bourbon. In addition, the bourbon is non-chill filtered, allowing some additional “chew”. The 2019 San Francisco World Spirits Competition awarded this spirit a Double Gold Medal – lets give this one a pour.
Color: Medium amber.
Nose: Sweet toffee and caramel dominate, with lighter notes of apple blossoms.
Palate: A buttery mouthfeel of corn pudding, caramel and vanilla, with light nutmeg spice.
Finish: Long with buttered sweet corn, peppercorns, and a dry oaky finish.
Overall: Some have indicated that the story behind this bourbon may be better than the bourbon. While it’s not very complicated, it was actually pretty pleasant. The long finish was surprising to me and it wasn’t overpowering.
I’d love to see some longer-aged versions of this one and will look forward to seeing their new facility in Somerset, Kentucky. The distribution footprint for this isn’t extensive – be on the lookout in the Northeast, Southeast, and Southwest – and raise a glass to those at the tip of the spear leading the charge.