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Cigar Spirits: Pure Kentucky Small Batch Bourbon

6 Jun 2013

Despite the hundreds of bourbons on the market under an almost countless number of brands, nearly all of them come from not more than a handful of distilleries. Pure Kentucky is no exception, only you don’t know exactly which one it comes from.

Pure-KentuckyThat’s because the “small batch” Pure Kentucky is bottled and aged by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers (KBD) which, despite the name, doesn’t distill any of the bourbon it sells (at least not yet, although it has recently opened its own distillery). It does, however, bottle many well-known bourbons including Noah’s Mill, Willett, and Rowan’s Creek. (For more on the sometimes controversial phenomenon of non-distiller producers read here and here.) KBD is open about the fact it doesn’t actually distill what it bottles, and as long as they’re honest, it really doesn’t bother me.

What’s important is what the consumer buys, and if they enjoy it. According to the back label, Pure Kentucky is 12-year-old (or older) bourbon bottled at 107-proof. Available for $30-35, it has the potential to be a great value considering many similarly aged bourbons cost quite a bit more.

My bottle came from batch QBC No. 12-121 (there have been reports of significant variation between batches). Once you open the slightly infuriating plastic cap beneath a layer of blue wax, the copper-colored spirit reveals a nose of molasses, oak, and mint. The flavors are overly woody with vanilla, lots of wood spice, and a good bit of mouthfeel. The finish continues the woodiness as it lingers for seemingly a minute on your tongue.

There is a school of thought in bourbon that after nine or ten years, aging becomes detrimental to flavor. Obviously, such excellent bourbons as Van Winkle, AH Hirsch, and Jefferson’s Presidential Select 18 are the counter to that. But Pure Kentucky might be a case for limited aging, as the barrels seem to have overpowered this spirit, sapping its complexity and leaving mostly old tasting wood and spice flavors behind.

Curiously though, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a bourbon I wouldn’t pick up again. That’s because when mixed with younger bourbon it can add that well-aged flavor that can be so hard to find. (I’ve experimented with combining it with many other straight bourbons and found my favorite to be equal parts Maker’s Mark and Pure Kentucky. The result is, in my opinion and others I’ve shared it with, a reasonably close approximation of the impossible-to-find Pappy at an average cost of $30 a bottle! Try it and let me know if you agree.)

As for cigar pairings, in its pure form it requires a strong, full-flavored, spicy cigar to hold up to the spice, like a La Flor Dominicana Air Bender or Opus X. When you start playing mad chemist and mixing and matching, the possibilities become limitless.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Drew Estate

2 Responses to “Cigar Spirits: Pure Kentucky Small Batch Bourbon”

  1. Timothy Black Thursday, June 6, 2013 at 9:22 am #

    Mixing them! That is an interesting idea. I know KBD says they don't distill what they bottle but they also don't say where it comes from. I say that to say that the 107 proof makes me think of other 107 proof stuff that is highly wheated like Weller and Van Winkle from Buffalo Trace. So maybe that's what this is, a wheated BT that when mixed gives that Pappy feel?

    • The Stogie Guys Thursday, June 6, 2013 at 10:55 am #

      You wouldn’t mistake it for the genuine article, but yes that’s the basic math: the sweetness of wheated Makers plus the old woody flavors of the Pure Kentucky produce something in the PVW style.