- DISTILLER: Produced and bottled by KO Distilling in Manassas, VA. Distilled by MPG in Indiana.
- MASH BILL: 75% Corn | 21% Rye | 4% Malted Barley
- AGE: 6 Years
- YEAR: 2021
- PROOF: 126 Proof (63% ABV)
- MSRP: $72.99
- HOW TO BUY: Buy at the distillery or online
SHARE WITH: Share with bourbon drinkers who like a barrel proof bourbon or those who are MGP fans. It’s a winner!
WORTH THE PRICE: For me this is a yes. I am a huge fan of MGP bourbons. This has a great taste. The price fits in with what you find for barrel proof bourbons especially those that are sourced.
BOTTLE, BAR OR BUST: For me, this is definitely a bottle. I will be buying one or two once it gets in the ABC stores here in Virginia.
OVERALL: This is a great bourbon. Distilled by MGP, aged in Virginia. When KO Distilling opened, they sourced bottles from MGP and aged them here in Virginia. If care and feeding of aging barrels makes a difference, they nailed it on this one. It is the third different bourbon I have had in the past few months with this same mash bill. Totally enjoyable. It reminds me of eating a white chocolate truffle with a spicy filling of cinnamon, Yes, I am a huge fan of MGP bourbons and this mash bill.
This KO distilling release is one of the better MGP bourbons I have tried. According to the distillery, the cask strength bottles will range from 120 to 128 proof. The sample I received was 127.6. I find it drinks below its proof. I would say this is a must try. As I said before, I will be purchasing a bottle of this once it hits the Virginia ABC stores. This release is one of two whiskeys released to celebrate KO Distilling's 6 year birthday. Distribution is limited right now to Virginia, DC, Maryland and Delaware, and is being offered in cask strength and a 90 proof single barrel for $59.99.
SHARE WITH: Bourbon fans and especially aficionados that are at least aware of the difference between Independent Stave Co. barrels and barrels from Kelvin Cooperage.
WORTH THE PRICE: I think so. This is a very unique product. Who else has 6 year old MGP High Rye Bourbon at barrel proof that has been aging in VA in Kelvin Cooperage barrels? For more details, keep reading.
BOTTLE, BAR OR BUST: Bar – Try this at a bar or the distillery if you’re in the area. Their distribution is limited to the VA/DC areas. It is an extremely interesting product. It’s barrel proof and it’s 6 years old. If you’re in the area, be sure to stop by, they have a full bar where you’re able to sample their entire line of products and purchase on site if you find one that you really enjoy.
OVERALL: This was my first experience with KO Distilling, and it was good. When KO started distilling 6 years ago, they went out and purchased 2000 new barrels with a Number 3 Char Level from Kelvin Cooperage in Louisville, KY. They had those barrels shipped to MGP in Lawrenceburg, IN to be filled. KO purchased 2,000 barrels worth of MGP’s High Rye Bourbon recipe to be put into these barrels. The thought process behind this purchase 6 years ago was to make sure that KO already had barrels filled and laid down to rest when they first began distilling their own product. Once filled, all 2,000 barrels were shipped to their distillery and warehouse to age locally in VA.
For their 6 year anniversary, KO has begun releasing some of this single barrel product at cask strength. These bottles are hand numbered and each barrel is different. If you’ve ever doubted the difference a barrel can make, see below and be sure to seek out some different barrels and let me know what you thought.
Barrel 15-02: The nose starts out with some alcohol vapor but there are also hints of maple sweetness and ripe apples. There is some dry oak on the palate as well as a lingering white pepper flavor on the back of the tongue. There is a nice long finish but it DOES NOT drink like a 127 proof bourbon. I think that is what surprised me the most. This was enjoyable but not a bottle or barrel that I’d chase after. Full disclosure, this was the sample they sent for review.
Barrel 15-023 (126 Proof, 6 years): This barrel is nothing short of spectacular. The nose hits you with the smell of cocoa powder. Like if you stuck your nose in the tub of Hershey’s Cocoa Powder with a bit of alcohol vapor. After your first sip the nose on this one turns into hot chocolate with melted marshmallows. It’s nothing short of fantastic. There is a sweetness on the tongue that can best be described as a dark chocolate covered caramel from a local confectionary. Not a mass produced and boxed in cellophane gift box chocolate, but a walk into your local chocolatier and pick a winner from the glass case kind of treat. The finish wasn’t as long as it was from the sample from Barrel 15-02 but who cares when it tastes like this! This one also drank much closer to a bottled in bond offering rather than the 126 proof it was bottled at. Don’t get me wrong, there is a finish and a nice KY hug in your chest but you really don’t think about either of those with the flavors still dancing on your palate. This is a bottle that you are going to want to seek out. I don’t know if I was lucky and they happened to have a unicorn barrel for sale when I was visiting KO that day, but I can tell you I left there with a box of these bottles from barrel 15-023 to take back home with me. Barrel 15-02 was a BAR purchase, Barrel 15-023 is a BOTTLE purchase.
BRAND TASTING NOTES
Inspired by courage, strength, fortitude, and using our hands to get things done, Bare Knuckle whiskey is a play on KO – “Knock Out.” The Bare Knuckle High Rye Bourbon label features historic fighting figure and Boxing Hall of Famer Joe “Old Master” Gans.
Bare Knuckle High Rye Bourbon is made from 75% Corn, 21% Rye, 4% Wheat and was sourced from Indiana six years ago, when KO Distilling was founded. At that time, it was put into charred new American Oak barrels and has been aging in KO’s Manassas, Virginia, warehouse. In keeping with the Bare Knuckle brand, which honors historic fighting figures, this six year old Bare Knuckle High Rye Bourbon features International Boxing Hall of Famer Joe “Old Master” Gans – the first 20th century African-American World Boxing Champion and the World Lightweight Champion from 1902–1908. It will be offered in both single barrel and cask strengths.
This high rye bourbon offers maple, butterscotch, sweet cream, vanilla, and a toasty nuttiness on the nose. A light fruitiness with buttery caramel notes come through on the palate, followed by vanilla, cream, and smoked almonds on the clean finish.
KO DISTILLING’S NEW RELEASES CELEBRATE AMERICAN RYE
Building on the success of its first Bottled-in-Bond release and the popularity of American rye whiskey, KO Distilling announced the release of two new additions to its award-winning portfolio of American Whiskeys: Distiller’s Reserve Bottled-in-Bond Rye Whiskey and Bare Knuckle High Rye Bourbon.
As recently reported by Shanken News Daily, American rye whiskey has recently been among the hottest areas of the drinks market, fueling growth to nearly 1.26 million 9-liter cases in annual depletions last year—nearly doubling its total since 2015.
Distiller’s Reserve Straight Bottled-in-Bond Rye Whiskey is hand-crafted from 100 percent local Virginia rye, distilled in one season and aged for four years in charred new American Oak barrels. The result is KO Distilling’s second Bottled-in-Bond expression, a sequel to KO’s Distiller’s Reserve Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon, released in 2020, which was awarded a Double Gold Medal by the prestigious San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
Bare Knuckle High Rye Bourbon is made from 75% Corn, 21% Rye, 4% Wheat and was sourced from Indiana six years ago, when KO Distilling was founded. At that time, it was put into charred new American Oak barrels and has been aging in KO’s Manassas warehouse. In keeping with the Bare Knuckle brand, which honors historic fighting figures, this six year old Bare Knuckle High Rye Bourbon features International Boxing Hall of Famer Joe “Old Master” Gans – the first 20th century African-American World Boxing Champion and the World Lightweight Champion from 1902–1908. It will be offered in both single barrel and cask strengths.
“At KO Distilling, we take great pride in crafting spirits that reflect the perseverance that makes this country great,” said Co-Founder and CEO Bill Karlson. “Every bottle is a result of our careful approach to distilling, which combines state-of-the-art equipment with the skills of our production team to produce the best of American spirits. We’re thrilled to raise a glass and welcome these two new additions to our portfolio.”
KO Distiller’s Reserve Rye Whiskey and Bare Knuckle High Rye expressions will be initially available in Virginia, DC, Maryland and Delaware in early September. They will also be available online for shipments, where legal.
KO Distiller’s Reserve Bottled-in-Bond Straight Rye Whiskey
• 4 years old; 50% ABV
• Distilled by KO Distilling in one distilling season
• Hand-crafted from 100% Virginia Rye
• Certified Kosher, Craft Distilled, and Virginia’s Finest
• SRP: $74.99 (750mL)
Bare Knuckle High Rye Bourbon
• 6 years old
• 75% Corn, 21% Rye, 4% Malted Barley
• Distilled in Indiana, aged in Virginia
• Single Barrel (45% ABV) SRP: $59.99 (750mL)
• Cask Strength (~63% ABV) SRP: $72.99 (750mL)
These new releases join an ever-expanding portfolio which includes three American-style gins and eleven small batch American whiskeys.
Disclaimer: KO Distilling provided Bourbon & Banter with a sample of their product for this review. We appreciate their willingness to allow us to review their products with no strings attached. Thank you.