Heaven Hill Set to Expand their Bernheim Distillery in Louisville

A Distillery a day is popping up, or at least that’s what it feels like. Meanwhile Heaven Hill is going big and expanding their Bernheim distillery in Louisville.

At a press conference at Bernheim Distillery, representatives from Heaven Hill gathered to celebrate the latest news of the distillery’s $25 million expansion, which the company says will make it the largest single bourbon-producing site in the world.

“About 18 months ago, we realized we would be in big trouble if we didn’t expand rapidly enough to keep up with demand.”

Heaven Hill Master Distiller Denny Potter said the goal was to build a distillery within a distillery, in order to expand production by 33 percent to fill 400,000 barrels of whiskey a year.

The Belmont Distillery was the first distillery built on the site in 1881, and the Bernheim Distilling Co. later purchased it and relocated its Bernheim Distillery to that location in 1933.

There are 11 bourbon distilleries either operational or planned to open within the next year around Louisville, up from zero just 6 years ago.

Heaven Hill has been quiet on the experimental front relative to some other big players, we have to wonder if this means they will look to mix things up in planning for the future of bourbon whiskey.

George Dickel Bottled In Bond
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Head-to-Head Tennessee Titans: George Dickel Bottled in Bond vs. Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7

Joe Cornwall, a guest contributor for the Slurred Speech blog shares a side-by-side review of George Dickel Bottled in Bond vs. Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7. Grab a glass and follow along!

In May of this year, I saw an announcement about the imminent release of a new whiskey.  It was a bottled-in-bond expression, and that always gets my attention. What really grabbed me was the age statement on this new release; 13-years with a suggested retail under $40! There was no way this wasn’t ending up in my liquor cabinet!

George Dickel Bottled In Bond
Photo by Joe Cornwall

Until I purchased this bottle, I don’t think I’d ever tasted any George Dickel Tennessee Whisky (Dickel stands by the traditional Scottish spelling).  To give this review some perspective I needed to compare the George Dickel Bottled-in-Bond to a reference whiskey. The reference brand couldn’t have been more obvious.

Almost every serious whiskey drinker has at least tried Jack Daniel’s.  When the words “Tennessee” and “whiskey” are in the same sentence it’s almost always a reference to the 4th bestselling spirit in the world.  While I’d never had any George Dickel before this bottle, I’ve had some Jack over the years. I enjoy Gentleman Jack on ice a few times a year, and a Jack & Coke is a safe bet on a flight.

Is Jack Daniel’s Bourbon?

Let’s get something out of the way right upfront.  Tennessee whiskey is bourbon.  It meets all the other requirements including a mash bill of a least 51% corn, aged in new, charred American oak barrels, distilled to no more than 160 proof, bottled at 80 proof or higher, etc.  Both expressions examined here are classified as Tennessee whiskey, hence they are also bourbons.

Although Jack Daniel’s meets the regulatory criteria for classification as a straight bourbon, the company disavows this classification and you won’t see “bourbon” written on the bottle.  Brown Forman sells Jack Daniel’s solely as a Tennessee whiskey. As defined in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Tennessee Whiskey is classified as a straight bourbon authorized to be produced in the state of Tennessee. Tennessee law (57-2-106) further requires most (there is at least one exception) producers of Tennessee whiskey filter the spirit through charcoal made from maple wood prior to aging.  This is called the “Lincoln County Process.”

The Lincoln County Process is an additional manufacturing step in which the whiskey goes through a charcoal filtration while it’s still White Dog, prior to barrel aging. For several days the distillate drips through sugar maple charcoal, removing impurities to ensure a “smooth” drinking experience.  The whiskey may be charcoal filtered again after aging and before bottling. This dual filtration is what sets Gentleman Jack apart from its more pedestrian sibling.

Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 has an interesting story behind its name.  According to legend, Jack was originally assigned a district tax assessment number of 7. But while consolidating districts within Tennessee, they arbitrarily gave him the number 16. So as to not lose his customers, nor bend to the law, Jack began labeling his bottles ‘Old No. 7’. Officially no one knows if this is the true story, including Jeff Arnett, the seventh master distiller of the brand. Today Old No 7, is the jewel in the crown of the Brown-Forman portfolio.

The History of George A. Dickel

George A. Dickel the man was a German immigrant who founded the George A. Dickel and Company wholesaling firm in the latter half of the 19th Century.  Victor Emmanuel Shwab, Dickel’s brother-in-law brought the company into distilling whiskey at the turn-of-the-century, only to see the business die with the onset of Prohibition.

The George Dickel we know today was established as a deliberate market competitor to Jack Daniel’s by the  Schenley Distilling Company. Its first mash was produced in 1959 and its first bottles filled in 1964. Dickel’s home is in Cascade Hollow at what is now called the Cascade Hollow Distilling Co. which is part of the Diageo group, the largest producer of spirits in the world.

Bottled-in-Bond means that this whiskey must be distilled by the same distillery, in the same distilling season, aged at least four years in a federally bonded warehouse, and bottled at 100 proof.  George Dickel Bottled-in-Bond, a 13-year old whisky, is the first product to originate from the creative mind and prodigious skills of master distiller Nicole Austin who came to Cascade Hollow Distilling from scotch whisky legend Tullamore D.E.W. in 2018

Onto The Notes

Now that we know a little of the fascinating backstory of these Tennessee titans, let’s explore what’s in the bottles.  I compared these whiskeys neat from a Glencairn glass after allowing them to sit for 10 minutes after the pour. Let’s start with the Old No. 7

Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 is bottled at 80 proof with no age statement.   The mash bill includes 80% corn, 12% barley and 8% rye.

Both liquids are similar, with Jack Daniel’s being just slightly lighter in color.  It is more gold than brass to its tone.

On the nose, I get a distinct acetone (nail polish remover) aroma over a banana-flavoring note.  It’s not offensive, but it smells artificial to me. I don’t find the nose complex or involving. In a world where highly processed fast foods are a core dietary complement, this fits right in.  Like the Big Mac of alcohol. Its weakness is evident upon comparison to a more mature, more complex liquid.  

Tasting Jack Daniels Old No. 7, I get elements of sweet cinnamon gum, circus peanuts candy, and a slight warmth at the back of the throat.  It has a short, weak finish with some vanilla and a little bite. Nothing about this is challenging. I might even call it boring.  

I scored one of the first bottles of the George Dickel Bottled-in-Bond to make it to the Tampa region.  It was released in select states in May and started showing up across the country by late June. Bonded Dickel comes from a mash bill of 84% corn, 8% rye and 8% malted barley. It is aged 13-years and bottled at the prerequisite 50% ABV.

Compared to Jack Daniel’s, the Dickel shows a slightly darker tone with a rich, rose-brass coloration.  

On the nose, I get caramelized sugar, oak, and barrel char.  It’s got some interesting things going on.

On the tongue, the increased proof of the Dickel is readily apparent.  There are a nice bite and an engaging strength. The mouthfeel is creamy, almost oily.  The oak barrel notes are forward without overpowering the flavor; no small thing for a whisky this old.  I find it to be beautifully balanced. The flavor palate includes cherry cola, bananas, dark rum, cinnamon, and white pepper. There are notable banana and rum notes, reminiscent of a Bananas Foster dessert. 

The finish is nicely tapered sweet, and warming. 

Perhaps it was unfair of me to compare George Dickel Bottled-in-Bond with Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7.  After all, Jack Black is almost exactly half the price. At 2/3 the price we have Gentleman Jack. I didn’t taste them side-by-side for this review, but I’ve found the Gentleman Jack tends to push the acetone notes aside and focusses more clearly on the underlying JD flavor profile. It’s sweeter, softer and less aggressive. 

An even more apt comparison would be Jack Daniel’s Bottled-in-Bond, but that’s only available at duty-free travel shops and its 35% more expensive.  Or at 25% more expensive we have Jack Daniel’s 100 proof Single Barrel. The closest current analog to Bonded Dickel is Jack Daniel’s Legacy at 43% ABV and $30.  I’ll be sure to give it a go and continue the research.  

There’s a reason Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 is the best-selling American whiskey in the world.  It’s approachable and easy to drink. It’s a whiskey for people who don’t really like whiskey (or at least don’t like a strong whiskey).  You know how it tastes, and if you don’t you can get a pour at nearly any stocked bar in the world.

George Dickel Bottled-in-Bond is a horse… er, whisky… of a different color.  It’s well-aged, full-flavored and legitimately complex. It is an excellent whisky, and it’s not a limited release.  That means it might even sell for MSRP, unlike some other well-aged bottled-in-bond expressions that owned the $35 space for decades only to end up on the ‘tater list at double the retail and then some.  

Make no doubt about it, I’m getting another bottle or two of this Dickel soon.  You know, just in case… – JC

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Russell’s Reserve 2002 Review

Russell’s Reserve 2002 Review

This Russell’s Reserve 2002 review was written by a fellow bourbon sipper and guest contributor, Matt Sims. (@thebourbonbard on IG)

Bottler: Wild Turkey

Mash Bill: 75/13/12 corn/rye/barley

Cask: New Charred Oak

Age: 15 years

ABV: 114.6

Filtration: NCF

Price: $249.99

Russell’s Reserve 2002
Photo Credit: Matt Sims

Russell’s Reserve 2002 packs a punch with the normal spice you’d expect from Wild Turkey but with the flavor and complexity of a bourbon that’s been aging gracefully for over 15 years.

Master Distiller Eddie Russell said, “When I tasted 2002 for the first time, I knew I couldn’t mess with it. It was exactly what I had envisioned, and I wanted Bourbon connoisseurs and collectors to experience the liquid in all its glory. The sweet spot for our Bourbon is normally eight-to-12 years, but every now and then you find a barrel that defies expectations.”

This limited release of Russell’s Reserve 2002 is a blend of 25 barrels filled in 2002, laid to rest in Wild Turkey’s Camp Nelson rickhouse in Jessamine County, and barreled in 2018 uncut and unfiltered. Those barrels only yielded 3,640 bottles and were only available in AZ, CA, FL, GA, IL, KY, NC, NV, NY, OH, OR, TN, TX, and WA.

2002 follows in the footsteps of Wild Turkey’s Russell’s Reserve 1998.

Now what everyone is waiting for . . . the tasting notes:


The minute I popped the bottle I smelled bright citrus. Further attention produces peaches, honey, malt, with a subtle white pepper spice and toasted cinnamon. The nose is delightful and complex.


Black pepper and oak show up on front of the palate. Mid palate light caramel pops in with peaches briefly hitting the top of mouth. Spice and oak round out the back. The mouth feel is oily.


Get ready for a good ol’ fashion Kentucky Hug. Oak, tobacco, and the classic Wild Turkey spice finish the race.  

Overall, this is the kind of big, bold, complex bourbon that bourbon nerds love to drink. For me, even at the higher price point, it’s well worth hunting for and buying. If you love the standard Russell’s Reserve, you won’t be disappointed by this Kentucky slugger.

Single Barrel Review

Three Affordable Single Barrel Bourbons You Should Try

It’s very easy to buy an amazing interior design experience when the design budget looks like the gross domestic product of a small city.  It’s much more challenging to create a high-quality experience that includes texture, color, lighting style and comfort when the project is constrained by a budget.  This is true of most anything. Hyper-fast cars are readily available, if your budget extends well into six figures. Exquisite international air-travel experiences are readily available, if you don’t mind spending an average worker’s month’s salary on the tickets. And the best bourbon can be right at your fingertips if $100 plus bottles don’t make you blink.

Single Barrel Review
Photo courtesy of Joe Cornwalll

What happens when reality intrudes on our plans?  Well that’s when we compromise. Compromise, contrary to the opinion of political pundits, isn’t hard to do.  You do it every day. One $60 bottle or two $30 bottles for the month? The calculus is instant, and responsibility insists we live within our means.  Does that mean we have to drink less than world-class whiskey?

Here are three bottles of single barrel bourbon that each retail for under $40.  All of them are very tasty and you won’t need to make any excuses about serving them.  Whether in a cocktail, highball, on the rocks or sipped neat, each of these distillates is up to the task and will please the most discerning palate without breaking the bank.  All of them are worthy of consideration as an addition to your liquor cabinet.

Jim Beam Single Barrel, Barrel No 4-102, Bottled on 2-6-14

Jim Beam Single Barrel
Photo courtesy of Joe Cornwalll

Jim Beam Single Barrel pours a coppery, clear serving with mild sheeting along the sides of the glass. I think the Jim Beam is just a little more yellow/gold than the other two.

This whiskey has an immediate and powerful smell.  Sweet corn and a big dollop of vanilla battle with distinctly menthol and ethanol notes. The whiskey sheds some of its unrulier aspects after a dozen minutes of swirling in the glass.  Barrel oak emerges from the cacophonous opening chords, along with maybe the slightest hint of crisp apple. Overall, this whiskey isn’t going to make a living on a sophisticated aromatic experience.  I found it pleasing after a wait, but was turned off by its aggression when fresh out of the bottle.

I refrained from tasting this whiskey until the nose had settled in, and I’m glad I did.  First impressions are of a faintly sweet caramelized sugar opening note that quickly gives way to vanilla and almost a cake frosting aftertaste.  There is a little bite and some harshness. There’s a robust mouthfeel and I didn’t get the same impression of peanuts that I tend to get from other expressions of Beam.

There isn’t any real complexity to this bourbon.  It’s not like it’s bad when served neat, it’s just not competitive with a bunch of other things I’ve had that were both more appetizing and more interesting. The most obvious competition comes from Jim Beam itself.  I haven’t tried them side by side, but I recall enjoying Jim Beam Bottled-in-Bond and Jim Beam Distiller’s Cut more than this.

A drop of water tames the nose of this liquor another notch, bringing brown sugar notes forward.  The whiskey is significantly tamed on the palate by the addition of a drop of water, making it smoother, sweeter, and maybe a little less interesting.  

I’ve enjoyed Jim Beam Bottled-in-Bond (very tasty) and Distiller’s Cut (even tastier) and I think they are both better choices than this, but memories are notoriously unreliable.  I had a bottle of ordinary Jim Beam White Label and I think this Single Barrel expression is better than that. But it’s clearly cut from the same fabric. I didn’t really care for the White Label, and my first impression is that I don’t really care for this whiskey either.

Henry McKenna, Barrel 6254, Barreled On 4-22-08

Henry McKenna Single Barrel
Photo courtesy of Joe Cornwalll

Out of the bottle Henry McKenna is visually almost identical in color to the Jim Beam, presenting coppery clear, if just a semitone darker and redder. Sheeting on the side of the glass was accompanied by a bit more tears than the Jim Beam, perhaps indicating a more viscous nature.

The Henry McKenna is much more restrained on the nose.  Crème Brulee and a bit of mint morph into a vanilla and caramel sweet note.  This whiskey has a little bit going on, with some elements of fresh paint, honey and a mix of ephemeral elements that make me want to explore a little more.  I won’t call this sophisticated, but it’s solidly refined and civilized.

On the palate this whiskey seems silkier and smoother than the Jim Beam Single Barrel. Barrel char and oak tastes have depth and staying power.  There’s no cloying sweetness, but instead a steady, smooth flow of rich flavor. The finish holds on for several seconds, exhibiting traces of ethanol and black pepper.  

The mouthfeel is silky and light, with no oily elements.

A drop of water attenuates the nose but doesn’t change the tune.  If anything, it brings forward a bit of menthol. The water softens the whiskey, prolonging the finish at the of the intensity of the flavors up front.  With a splash of water, and especially if served over ice, I can see this bourbon as a very approachable introduction to complex American whiskey. It’s really a very nice and easy drinker!

Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage, Barreled on 7-23-10, Barrel 335, Bottled on 3-27-18

Evan Williams Single Barrel
Photo courtesy of Joe Cornwalll

Like the other two bottles considered here, Evan Williams Single Barrel pours a clear copper that is nearly identical in color to the others.  Give the whiskey a swirl and there is ample sheeting and long tears as the viscous fluid settles back to the bottom of the glass.

On the nose this expression neatly splits the difference between the Jim Beam and the Henry McKenna, offering thick vanilla and crème brule interlaced with an ethanol bite and the slightest hints of mint.  Give it some time to oxidize and the ethanol fades away as caramel and creamed corn notes move forward. It’s not super complex, but there’s something happening here. Of the three whiskies considered, this one has the most enjoyable nose for me.

First impressions on the sip are that this is the least sweet and most woody of the trio.  That’s not to say that it’s over the top with barrel notes. It’s dry, clean and well-integrated. There is a bit of a bite with a short finish that evokes black pepper, ginger and paprika.  There is complexity, but the whole package falls short in the mid-palate to finish range. The flavor profile starts beautifully and then collapses on the finish. It’s lacking the midrange sustain of the finest bourbons.

This is an easy sipper.  Every swallow has a little adventure.  You won’t mistake this for a rarified top shelf denizen, but may immediately appreciate its level of quality and a competence that says “daily drinker!”  Evan Williams Single Barrel is most definitely a cut above average. Corn and leather, pepper and baking spices – this is a very, very solid bourbon.

Adding a drop of water takes the nose down a notch, taking the ethanol out and advancing the vanilla.  On the taste buds the water brought the woody barrel elements a bit more forward in the mix, adding to the sense of complexity.  This whiskey also drinks well on ice.

It goes without saying that I like the Evan Williams more than the McKenna, which I like more than the Beam.  At least I do when I have the advantage of knowing which label is poured into my glass. Let’s see how they stack up when tasted “blind”.

The Blind Tasting

My wife poured three measured half-ounces into identical Glen Cairn glasses and only she knew which was which.  I only knew A, B, or C. All three were poured and left for about 5 minutes before I came to the set, so any initial alcohols might have a chance to evaporate out leaving the essence of the whiskey for examination.  I experienced them in alphabetical order, first by nosing and then by tasting and following that with a final visit after adding a drop of water.

Whiskey A

Beautiful honey and vanilla sweet nose.  A little touch of ethanol, but not prominent at all.  Very approachable and from its aroma, I anticipate this will be sweet.

First impressions on the tongue is a little black pepper with some alcohol burn.  This is not as sweet as the nose would have you think. This is dry, and even a little intense.  Oak and barrel char notes come out on the tail of the flavor profile.

My guess after a first taste is this is the Henry McKenna.  

Adding a drop of water attenuated the nose to slight sweet vanilla and light oak wood. It tasted good, dry with a little peppery rye at the finish.  I like this whiskey and I still think it’s the Henry McKenna.

Regardless of label, this is a solid drinker and is my number 2 pick by a small margin.

Whiskey B

Sweet on the nose with a little more menthol than “A”.  I’m getting a little fresh paint and oak barrel. It’s subtle and neither “A” nor “B” have a big impact on the taste buds, they are both solid middle-of-the-road classic bourbons.

This drink is smooth and sweet on the tongue with a sweet note that stays through the finish.  It seems to turn a little bitter at the back end of the flavor profile. There is an oaky barrel note that quickly fades, leaving a creamed corn sweetness with just a bit of black pepper at the back of the throat.  From there it has a long finish, but not one I’m enjoying as much as I’d hoped as it’s something of a one-note affair.

My guess after a first taste is that this is the Jim Beam Single Barrel.

Adding a drop of water brings the paint odor a bit farther forward. It’s not an unpleasant smell, but there’s something of a “manufactured” note.  It’s not sweet on the tongue but it leaves a lot of a woody note. The pepper finish is attenuated and there is a bitter aftertaste.

I’m sticking with Jim Beam as my guess.  

Regardless of label and when tasted blind this is my least favorite by a small margin.

Whiskey C

Whiskey “C” has a slightly stronger aroma profile that seems to have two major components; ethanol-menthol and vanilla.  

On the tongue this is delightful.  Starts with a nice hit of sweet vanilla and crème brulee. Then the oak and a hint of char show up.  Finally, there is a gentle peppery rye finish. The profile comes and goes cleanly, but quickly and that’s what keeps this from being a crazy good bourbon – the flavor profile is compacted and a little stripped down.  I wish this was barrel strength.

My guess after a first taste is that this is the Evan Williams.

Add a drop of water and it is honey & vanilla day at the donut shop.  The flavor profile becomes sweet with a little bit of oak barrel in the background, and a very fast finish that leaves me thinking I want another sip.  I’ll stick with my Evan Williams guess.

Regardless of label, this is my favorite of the three.

The Results!

Whiskey A is Jim Beam
Whiskey B is Henry McKenna
Whiskey C is Evan Williams.

I am blown away!  I’ve been drinking these three bourbons for a few weeks and thought I’d had the measure of them!  I was CERTAIN that Whiskey B was Beam, and I was wrong.  It’s my least favorite of the three when tasted blind, and it’s the Henry McKenna!  And I really like the Henry McKenna! But here’s the thing… I still do. I probably won’t buy another bottle of this specific barrel, but I’m certain to try it again in the future.  I’m just going to wait a few months before I do. I am really appreciating Whisky C, which is Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage bourbon.  It’s got everything an everyday drinker should exhibit – it tastes great and has essentially no fatal flaws.  It goes down easy and doesn’t make me work to like it. It has been my favorite of the three since the beginning.

Whiskey A is the Jim Beam and, in retrospect, I’ve clearly I’ve been looking for a reason not to like it.  The blind tasting humbled me. Jim Beam Single Barrel is a good bourbon and I think the rest of my bottle will happily find its way into tasty Manhattans and Boulevardiers.  I really do like the Jim Beam Bottled-in-Bond, and I liked the Distiller’s Cut even more. Working from memory I can say I like both BiB and Distiller’s Cut more than I like the Single Barrel, which is a bit more expensive.  I know, there’s no logic in this, it’s just how I feel about these bottles at this very moment. I can see that I’m going to have to do a Jim Beam shoot-out soon!

What did we learn from this?  First, a good single barrel bourbon can be had for under $30.  With all the madness brought about by special editions, limited releases and a hot market that’s encouraging all manner of juice to hit the shelves at fantasy pricing its nice to have a quality option that is doing it the old-fashioned way – one barrel at a time.

Another lesson we’ve learned from this is that labels can and do affect our perceptions of the contents more than they should.  Most people don’t buy cereal because of taste; often it’s bought because of a cartoon character on the box. Voters don’t vote for a candidate because of that person’s professional experience, understanding of facts and figures, or demonstrated leadership skills.  They vote for a contrived, artificial personality. And when it comes to liquor, marketing is no less critical. The bulk of the retail cost for most bourbons (or wine, or beer) is more about the appearance of the bottle and less about the liquid contents.

Here are three fine whiskies, each of which is beating the odds and delivering a quality quaff for a very fair price.  I’m glad I’ve tried them all and I’m confident I’ll find them in my rotation again.

Joseph is a guest contributor to the Bourbon Sippers blog. He does an incredible job articulating his thoughts about whiskey and we’re thankful for his contribution. We hope you enjoyed this thorough review as much as we did!

Ezra 7 Year Barrel Strength

Old Ezra 7 Year Barrel Strength Review

Old Ezra 7 Year Barrel Strength Bourbon Review

Ezra 7 Year Barrel Strength

Bottler: Lux Row Distillers
Mash Bill: Corn, Rye, Malted Barley
Cask: New Charred Oak
Age: 7 Years
ABV: 58.5% Barrel Strength (117 Proof)
Filtration: Charcoal Mellowed
: $40

We’re getting a ton of questions about this one, so let’s clear up the confusion and provide some clarity on Ezra 7 Year Barrel Strength and Lux Row Distillers.

Who is Lux Row Distillers?

Lux Row is the brand behind Blood Oath, Rebel Yell, David Nicholson, and of course, Old Ezra. While the whiskeys on that list vary in popularity, you have likely seen them on shelves near you. The Rebel Yell 10 Year has been a great pour that many in the bourbon sippers community have thoroughly enjoyed.

Who Distilled Ezra 7 year if they (Lux Row) didn’t?

NDP’s, or Non-distiller producers don’t typically shout from the rooftops such details like where they source their distillate from… You know, since they’re working on building their own brand. With that said, considering their location in Bardstown, KY and the profile of the whiskey, it’s rumored that Ezra 7 and other Lux Row products are sourced from Heaven Hill.


Fruit, honey, oak, spice and chocolate


Honey and Corn, dark fruit, cinnamon, spice, oak, burnt brown sugar


Soft with Honey and Corn present, which transitions to vanilla heat.

The Label Reads:

Genuine Sour Mash Whiskey
Charcoal Mellowed
Old Ezra
Aged 7 Years
Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Distilled and Aged in Kentucky for Lux Row Distillers Bardstown. Kentucky
Barrel Strength
Alc. 58.5 Percent by Vol. 117 Proof

Is this the next Weller 12?

Yes and No


  • Ezra is only aged 7 years while Weller 12 is aged for 12 years
  • Weller 12 is a Buffalo Trace product and resembles Pappy Van Winkle
    • Which contributes immensely to the hype and scarcity
  • Weller 12 is 90 Proof while Ezra 7 Year is Barrel Proof  at 117 proof


  • Ezra 7 Year Barrel Strength has a flavor profile that appeals to the masses
  • Ezra has a $40 price tag that allows it to punch above the weight of the price tag
  • It is a buy it when you find it on the shelf at retail bourbon, no question

The bourbon world is becoming increasingly more chaotic as quality bottles are scooped up out of fear that they won’t be seen again. So, it’s always incredibly exciting to see new bottles hit the market that have the quality to back up the hype!

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Top 10 Whiskeys of 2018

Top 10 Whiskeys of 2018

Top 10 Whiskeys of 2018

It’s that time of year again – 2018 is coming to a close – which means it is time to release our best-of-the-year list.

As always, this year’s list comes with our standard caveats…

First, this is obviously a subjective exercise – everyone’s palate is different. Second, we were not able to try every whiskey produced in the world this year. Consequently, this list represents only those products we were lucky enough to sample. Third, we drink primarily bourbon and rye, so there are undoubtedly great Scotch and Irish whiskies that we are omitting.  And lastly, cost and availability were not taken into account here – these are simply our favorite pours of 2018. 

With that, on to the Bourbon Sippers top 10 whiskeys of 2018…

10. Jim Beam Little Book Chapter 2

Why we chose it: While “Noe Simple Task” is somewhat of a niche product (i.e. not everyone will like it), it is an unquestionably worthy follow up to last year’s “The Easy”. Comprised of a truly unique blend of 8-year Kentucky bourbon, 13-year Canadian rye, and 40-year Canadian corn whisky, this is easily the most distinctive pour on this list. If you are an adventurous drinker and don’t mind dropping $100 on a whiskey, Little Book Chapter 2: “No Simple Task” could be a perfect holiday purchase.  

9. Nikka From The Barrel

Why we chose it: From The Barrel is an absolute must-try for any fan of Nikka products. Although the fruity notes can be a little heavy at first, a few minutes in the glass brings out an incredibly well-balanced palate featuring stone fruit, coffee, and sweet caramel and butterscotch. At a retail cost of around $60.00 for a barrel proof offering, Nikka From The Barrel is one of the few remaining bargains in Japanese whisky.

8. 1792 Bottled in Bond

Why we chose it: Barton’s 1792 lineup has quietly become a standout among the mid-shelf options at most stores. The Full Proof release, given its ample 125 proof, is consistently heralded as a top value buy in bourbon. Well, at just $40 1792 Bottled in Bond isn’t far behind. In fact, as a daily pour, we prefer the incredibly well-balanced Bottled in Bond (sweet and tannic) over the full-on heat of the Full Proof. 1792 Bottled in Bond is an easy buy at #8 on our list.

7. Old Forester 1910 Fine Whiskey

Why we chose it: The last expression in Brown-Forman’s Whiskey Row Series, Old Forester 1910 Fine Whiskey certainly had big shoes to fill following the widely praised Old Forester 1920. Luckily, this double-barreled bourbon is a standout in its own right. 1910’s almost chewy palate features surprisingly sweet layers of burnt brown sugar, vanilla, and toasted graham crackers. The double-barreling takes center stage in the tannic, timber-like finish, making Old Forester 1910 Fine Whiskey an excellent choice for fans of both sweet and oaky bourbons.

6. Knob Creek Single Barrel Rye

Why we chose it: Knob Creek Single Barrel Rye opens a tad sweeter than we expected (candied fruit, caramel, sweet vanilla), but still delivers just enough cinnamon and black pepper to round out the full, viscous palate. As is the case with the Knob Creek Single Barrel Bourbon, there are some outstanding private picks of the Single Barrel Rye out there, so don’t hesitate to grab a bottle if you find one. With an ideal balance of sweet and spicy notes, Knob Creek Single Barrel Rye is the perfect winter pour.

5. Old Ezra 7-Year Barrel Proof

Ezra 7 Year

Why we chose it: If you’re looking for a classic, in your face bourbon – Old Ezra 7-Year Barrel Proof is the perfect whiskey for you. This may not be the most unique bourbon out there, but we can’t imagine any bourbon sippers being disappointed with this $40 retail steal. As far as the palate, think baked caramel apple pie, and vanilla mingled with well-structured oak tannins and spice. Old Ezra 7-Year Barrel Proof drinks well above the price tag at #5 on our list.

4. Belle Meade Cask Reserve

Belle Meade Cask Reserve

Why we chose it: At 4th on our list, Belle Meade Cask Reserve officially marks the boundary between the readily available and largely unobtainable bottles. We have long been fans of the Belle Meade Single Barrel releases, so it wasn’t a surprise that we enjoyed this offering. Packed with notes of burnt brown sugar, rye spice, and ample barrel char, Belle Meade Cask Reserve is our go-to pour of 2018. Note: We have noticed some variation between batches, but the batch we used for this ranking (6) was excellent.

3. Four Roses 130th Anniversary

Four Roses 130th Anniversary Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon
Photo Courtesy of Loren Simpson

Why we chose it: Every fall Four Roses drops another special release, and every year it makes it onto the Bourbon Sippers best of list (well, at least since we’ve been doing it). While not quite as good as last year’s world-class Al Young’s 50th Anniversary release, the 130th Anniversary does not disappoint. This is a complex, elegant pour that will offer you something slightly different with each sip. Check out our guest review here for detailed tasting notes.

2. William Larue Weller

Better than Pappy

Why we chose it: Yes, the Van Winkle releases are still the most famous (and overrated) wheated bourbons currently available, but they are not the best. That distinction belongs to William Larue Weller, the uncut, unfiltered, undisputed King of the wheaters. This 2018 version has all the typically candy-like sweetness that bourbon fans associate with the brand, but also serves up something a little unexpected – a touch of roasted spice that lingers through the finish. William Larue Weller once again comes in at #2 on your yearly list of best bourbons.  

1. George T. Stagg

Better than Pappy Van Winkle

Why we chose it: Simply put, George T. Stagg is the best bourbon currently and regularly being produced. Scratch that, it’s the best whiskey being produced. While the 2014 release remains our favorite (and one of the best whiskeys we have ever tried), the 2018 is an easy call for #1 on our list. Despite the uncharacteristically low proof (124.9), the trademark Stagg depth and complexity are there in spades, featuring layers of burnt sugar, dark cherries, vanilla, and ample oak spice. This might be a tamer beast than in previous years, but it’s still a beast. And it’s George T. Stagg through and through.

Bonus Bottle: J. Mattingly/Bourbon 30 Bald Monk.  Bald Monk didn’t make the list because we avoid ranking private picks, but we would be remiss if we didn’t at least mention it in this article. Controversy aside, this is just a fantastic bottle that clearly demonstrates the heights that a blended bourbon can reach when engineered by a knowledgeable group and a tasting legend like Ed Bley.

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