O.Z. TYLER

Some things can’t be rushed. Good bourbon is one of those things.

Bourbon Disasters

While O.Z. Tyler isn’t a name quickly recognized in the bourbon industry, mention “bourbon disasters” and several come to mind: the 2018 collapse at Old Barton, the bourbon warehouse fire at the Old Crow Distillery (used for storage by Jim Beam)… and another warehouse collapse in June 2019…at O.Z. Tyler. That’s where I heard that name, you say. A 20,000 barrel warehouse collapsed, spilling about 4,000 barrels of bourbon.

The O.Z. Tyler Distillery is located in Owensboro, Kentucky at the former old Medley Distillery which had been shuttered since 1992. In 2014, OZT’s parent – Terressentia – best known for its patented TerrePURE process – reopened the long-dormant facility.

Hours to Distill – Years to Perfect

Founder Orville Tyler – a chemist by trade – invented a way to “accelerate” whiskey aging. It takes a few short days to ferment the mash, about 48 hours to distill it, and years to age. Straight bourbon is ready at 2 years, and most 4-year bourbons are in the $15-$20 price range. Let it sit for a decade (or more) and you’re rapidly approaching $100 – $200 for a high quality bottle.

Tyler’s TerrePURE process can produce reactions to rapidly age spirits – producing profiles in hours that would normally take years. While this seems somewhat unscrupulous, it is science. A number of private label whiskeys (e.g. hotels, restaurants, and retail stores) are produced with this method. Spirits are pumped through an oxygenated chamber of high-intensity ultrasonic energy. In a mere 6 hours, one has vodka, and within 12 hours, you’re on your way to a darker-colored spirit. Master Distiller Ron Call (with forty years of experience at Jim Beam Brands), along with his son Jacob, oversee the distillery operations that may resemble more mad science than the time-tested ways to slowly develop a quality bourbon. 

Now for the big question: does the science work? Specifically, the process removes harsh-tasting impurities – called congeners – and leaves a more pleasant product without the typical alcohol burn and resulting in a smoother finish – and in a shorter time period. Is it award-winning? The distillery holds a number of awards. But as they say, “the proof is in the pudding” – or in this case – the bottle.

The Tasting    

O.Z. Tyler Kentucky Bourbon is made from a mash bill of 70% corn, 21% rye, and 9% malted barley and is bottled at 90 proof. The bourbon is rapid-filtered through parent company Terressentia’s TerrePURE process.  

The label states “aged a minimum of a year and a day in new, charred oak”. Typical cost is around $23 a bottle. I decided not to invest too much in this sampling – I found a special at a gas-station-liquor-store offering shooters 5/$5. My investment in O.Z. Tyler – $3. I felt I needed to be fair to this new offering. Here’s to hoping I don’t go blind drinking this…

Color: Very, very, very light straw. How long was this in the barrel, again?

Nose: Grain and corn notes – this is definitely very young stuff. No caramel or vanilla notes – just buttered corn.

Palate: Musty grain and sweet corn notes. The mouthfeel is very thin – similar to an inexpensive Irish whiskey. There’s very little flavor profile to speak of. As I swish it around for a Kentucky chew, there’s a hint of spice. I’m beginning to think that some things just shouldn’t be rushed.   

Finish: Short. More corn and a teeny-tiny bit of spice (from the alcohol, perhaps?). I was really hoping for something more.

Overall: For the price point, you could get a handle of Heaven Hill 6-year Green Label that is considerably better, or get change back from a bottle of Jim Beam or Evan Williams, or even upgrade to their Bottled-in-Bond offerings.  

If you want to try a scientific twist on old-world craftmanship, I’d recommend looking for a shooter to try. No need to buy more than one to experience this newcomer. I hope better bourbon is the future for this distiller.

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