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Cigar Spirits: Johnny Drum Private Stock Kentucky Bourbon

18 Jan 2012

I’m often on the lookout for a bourbon to try, bourbon being my go-to spirit in the winter.

Johnny Drum Private Stock caught my eye the last time I was at my liquor store. I decided to pick up a 750 ml. bottle since the price was right. At about $30, the cost places this 101-proof spirit comfortably between the lower-end bourbons and the most expensive bourbons. For me, this middle ground is the most fruitful to explore.

Most of the information I wanted to learn about Johnny Drum Private Stock could be gleaned from the label or the tiny pamphlet that comes affixed to the bottle’s neck. Without even browsing the web, true or not, I discovered that the spirit is named for a young lad who served in the Civil War as a drummer boy. “At the end of the war, legend has it that Johnny returned home to settle amongst the rolling bluegrass knobs of his native Kentucky, where he staked his claim among a beautiful spring,” reads the pamphlet. “Johnny soon learned the importance of finding a way to convert his excess corn crop into a profitable item…and it wasn’t long before Johnny’s determination produced an exceptional bourbon whiskey.”

Today, Johnny Drum Private Stock is produced by the Johnny Drum Distilling Company of Bardstown, Kentucky. It is charcoal-filtered and aged for 15 years before it is packaged in wax-topped bottles. (That wax, by the way, is pretty darn hard to get off, and underneath is a disappointing plastic screw top.) The spirit is a dark reddish color in the bottle and amber when poured in a glass. It has a very faint honey aroma with a buttery creaminess. I found very little spice on the nose and virtually no alcohol bite—all of which makes this bourbon seem very approachable based on first impressions.

Sipping the Private Stock neat, the first thing you notice is the tingly spice on your lips and the front of your tongue. As this spice lingers, a smooth sweetness moves in that’s reminiscent of toffee and nougat. There are also some charry burnt notes present that add balance. But the overall affect is fairly light and vanilla-like for a bourbon.

This lightness makes Johnny Drum Private Stock quite versatile as a cigar companion. In my experience, it works well with both fuller-bodied maduros and milder Connecticut-wrapped smokes. I think the Illusione cg4, for instance, pairs really well. But I encourage you to pick up a bottle and do some experimenting of your own.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

5 Responses to “Cigar Spirits: Johnny Drum Private Stock Kentucky Bourbon”

  1. Scott Wednesday, January 18, 2012 at 9:50 am #

    I have had this before and it's not bad for a straight bourbon. It's made by the same distillery that produces Noah's Mill, Old Bardstown, and Willett.

  2. Travis Wednesday, January 18, 2012 at 9:55 am #

    Never heard of this before. Thanks for the write-up. Upon further inspection, it looks like it was only available in Asia for some time, only recently being made available for sale in the U.S.

  3. dmjones1009 Wednesday, January 18, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

    I had been told on distillery tours in both Kentucky and Tennessee that charcoal filtering of a whiskey prevents it from legally being called a Bourbon…thus the "Tennessee Whiskey" appellation to Jack Daniel and George Dickel (among others).

    I'll give this a try if I see it on the shelves and make sure to compare it (mentally, anyway) with Jack and Dickel…and the next time I take a distillery tour I'm going to ask and see if the law has changed or maybe what I've been told in the past is just false.

  4. Peter Glad Wednesday, January 18, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

    I'll have to have this with my next mild CT wrap, great review.

    Peter G

  5. George E Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 1:46 am #

    dmjones1009 – I believe you'll find the filtering issue explained here: