Whiskey and music collided last weekend in Louisville, Kentucky, during the triumphant return of The Bourbon & Beyond Festival. The festival is one of the biggest in the Ohio Valley, covering four days of whiskey tastings, whiskey panels, podcasts, food shows, and, yes, rock ‘n roll (with a little country thrown in for good measure). While the overall fest was a blast, I was there to focus on the whiskey, and I got to try some stellar pours.
Below, I’ve listed the top 10 pours of whiskey (all bourbon and rye) that I was lucky enough to sample. I’ve added my own tasting notes to each of my favorite pours to give you an idea of what you’ll find in the brown juice. I also added a link to buy these bottles. But, full disclosure, a few of these pours were Bourbon & Beyond barrel picks and you’ll likely not be able to get the exact bottle I tried. That said, each bottle has a link to buy the same brand/bottle just from a different source, which is about as close as you can get.
Lastly, I didn’t really rank these. They’re all too good (great, really) in their own way. Look at it this way: if you can get your hands on any of the 10 bottles below, you’ll be in for a real treat because these are all killer pours. Let’s dive in!
Kentucky Senator Bourbon 15 Years Release #1
Average Price: $199
This sourced whiskey celebrates both Kentucky’s bourbon heritage and U.S. Senators from the Bluegrass state. The juice is made with a mash of 78.5% corn, 13% rye, and 8.5% malted barley (sounds familiar?). The whiskey is left alone for 15 years before the team at Kentucky Senator Spirits blends and bottles this one, without filtering or proofing.
This whiskey opens with a medley of dry cedar, black cherries, burnt toffee, buttered sourdough pancake, old leather, cinnamon bark, and spiced chewy tobacco. The palate leans into the woody spices with cloves and anise taking center stage as soft maple syrup and pecan-cinnamon-butter create a spiced/sweet/creamy vibe on the palate. In the end, more woodsy spices mingle with rich cherry tobacco as old oak, salted caramel, and vanilla cream pie round everything out.
This is going to be harder to find but worth the hunt. This is classic bourbon with real depth, balance, and flavor.