Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Kentucky Senator. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review.
Originating with North Kentucky distillers Crigler and Crigler (1874-1916) and passing to Bardstown’s Double Springs, the once popular Kentucky Senator brand had fallen into disuse. The lapsed trademark was acquired and is now being revived by Andre Regard and KY State Senator (17th District) Damon Thayer whose yearly limited releases are taking inspiration from the Pinhook brand’s practice of giving each release an individualized name, christened with the names of the Bluegrass State’s former U.S. Senators. These releases are marketed alongside informational materials that detail their namesake’s political or historical accomplishments and legacies.
Last year, Kentucky Senator purchased 25 barrels with the intent of releasing six per year for four years. The third release, like its 2021 predecessor, is a sourced Kentucky-distilled bourbon with a mash bill of 75% corn, 21% rye, and 4% malted barley. In acknowledgement of the once widespread practice of barrel proof bottling, Kentucky Senator has been and is expected to continue to be bottled at 107 proof.
The third release is named for “Bourbon Democrat” Sen. John G. Carlisle (Covington) who represented Kentucky in the U.S. House and Senate before being appointed Secretary of the Treasury by Grover Cleveland in 1892. From this position he worked with Colonel E.H. Taylor Jr. to advocate for legislation to regulate and establish standards for the production of whiskey and in 1897 the Bottled in Bond Act, a landmark achievement for the liquor industry and consumer protection in general, was passed.
The previous two releases from Kentucky Senator were met with enthusiasm from the whiskey intelligentsia. Not having had any previous experience with the brand, I’m looking forward to finding out if this third release lives up to the hype.
Tasting Notes: Kentucky Senator John G. Carlisle
Vital Stats: Aged 7 years, 107 proof, available for around $120
Appearance: Clear, golden color. Medium-light body.
Nose: The nose is front loaded with classic bourbon notes of cornbread and sweet vanilla or almond. After a moment, aromas of apple juice become more prominent, punctuated by a spicy rye tingle.
Palate: This drinks smoother than the ABV might lead you to expect. Rich caramel and toasty oak form a consistent backdrop for white pepper and baking spices fading into gentle, but clearly pronounced tobacco notes on the finish.
An ideal sipper. There’s a lot going on here, but this isn’t a “busy” pour at all. In fact, it proceeds at an almost leisurely pace. The light rye spice and firm oak backbone combines with a buttery/creamy mouthfeel for a really well-textured experience on the palate that shows its maturity as the spice fades and clears space for flavors on the earthy/tannic side of the spectrum.
If Regard and Thayer hold to their now established plan, look forward to checking back in with this mash bill in the next two years as well!