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Jack Daniel’s has got to be the favorite child of the Brown-Forman corporation based on popularity and sales alone—after all, it’s one of the best selling whiskeys in the world. But there are also some excellent Kentucky bourbons that anchor the portfolio, including Old Forester, Woodford Reserve, and the high-proof and high-priced King of Kentucky, which just launched its 2023 expression.
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King of Kentucky has a long history as a brand, but of course things have changed over the years as they almost always do when it comes to American whiskey. According to Brown-Forman, the King of Kentucky label dates back to 1881 and it was created as a Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey, which it is today. At some point the brand was owned by a company called Select Kentucky Distillers, and Brown-Forman acquired it in 1936. It was changed to a blended whiskey in 1940 and then discontinued in 1968, around the time bourbon began to fall out of favor and vodka exploded in popularity. But Brown-Forman brought it back in 2018, making this the sixth modern King of Kentucky release.
The 2023 expression is a 16-year-old single-barrel bourbon bottled at barrel-proof (125.8) with minimal filtration before bottling. “This year’s release of 51 barrels came from one production date—July 19, 2007,” said Brown-Forman master distiller Chris Morris in a statement. “All the barrels were aged in Warehouse G at the Brown-Forman Distillery. This showcases what a difference each individual barrel has at this extreme age on the color, flavor, and aroma of this wonderful whiskey.” We got to sample the whiskey, and it is indeed full of flavor and not overly aggressive at this proof. Look for notes of oak, dark chocolate, dusty leather, burnt brown sugar, orchard fruit, cherry, and black pepper on the palate, with a bit of mint and spicy heat on the finish. And remember, taste will vary depending upon which barrel you get to try.
King of Kentucky is distilled and aged at the Brown-Forman Distillery in Shively, as mentioned in Morris’s comments. That’s also where Old Forester and the majority of Woodford Reserve is produced (some of the latter whiskey is also made at the distillery in Versailles, KY). According to the brand, there is no set annual volume of King of Kentucky because of how the barrels are selected, but this year’s release consists of around 3,800 bottles with an SRP of $300—but be prepared to shell out more than that, as last year’s edition is going for over two grand from websites like Frootbat.
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