- DISTILLER: Blue Run Spirits is the producer. The distiller is undisclosed as this is a sourced product.
- MASH BILL: Not disclosed
- AGE: 13 Years
- YEAR: 2020
- PROOF: 113 Proof (56.5% ABV)
- MSRP: $169.99
- BUY ONLINE: Wine-Searcher.com
NOSE: Brown Sugar | Honey | Faint Walnut
TASTE: Caramel | Clove | Sage
FINISH: Finish begins at mid-palate and trickles down the throat. Not burn, per se, but certainly warms the chest.
SHARE WITH: Your good friends and folks you are celebrating something with, especially those who love Heaven Hill products.
WORTH THE PRICE: The $170 price tag is tough to justify considering everything else on the shelf. A lot of the cost resides in the design of the bottle and the fact that this is their first release of a sourced, 13 year old bourbon. However, considering other bottles in this ballpark, I would lean to this release, and certainly over bottles like the Orphan Barrel collection.
BOTTLE, BAR OR BUST: This is definitely a bar pour. The hefty price tag is not doable for most, but the juice inside is delicious. This is certainly for the curious drinker and is worth trying.
OVERALL: The price is a tough sell for me but the bourbon itself is exceptional. It certainly reminds me of one of my all-time favorite expressions (Elijah Craig) and when I had my boyfriend taste it he asked, "Is this Elijah Craig?" It is fitting, as the proximity to Elijah Craig's Scott County homestead ("close enough to throw a nerf football and hit the front door") is what originally inspired one of the co-founders to launch a bourbon brand.
Though the source of the bourbon is kept under wraps, it was expertly chosen. The folks from Blue Run - a diverse crowd from tech to marketing to politics - recognized themselves as industry outsiders and lacked the sophisticated palate required to select an exceptional bourbon, not to mention optimal proof. So they brought in an industry veteran with proven bourbon chops to thumbs up or down their barrel selections.
The legendary Jim Rutledge was engaged as the "Liquid Advisor" for the brand to help identify which sourced barrels were worthy for release. Rutledge needs no introduction but according to Mike Montgomery, Blue Run's CEO, the former Four Roses Master Distiller has "the best palate in the world." As part of the selection process, 30-50 samples were sent to Rutledge and only one - the whiskey in the first release - made the cut. Others were ruled out for not having a worthy-enough flavor profile, or for having unpalatable characteristics, such as pine tar or a medicinal tinge. Though I should say that Jim does not like to give negative notes, but it is always a possibility with a distilled and aged product to manifest less-than-desirable notes. This is why an experienced palate is so key.
It should be clarified that Jim did not, however, distill this first batch. Earlier this year, Blue Run laid down its first new make at Castle & Key Distillery, but subsequent releases will continue to be sourced until their own product is adequately matured.
So what does Jim have to say about all of this? Well, I asked him and he gave a lovely account of his part in this venture:
"I’ve primarily worked with two of the Blue Run Spirits founders - Mike Montgomery and Jesse McKnight – the past couple years. They are very enthusiastic and passionate about Bourbon and their brand. We’ve developed an excellent relationship of both professionalism and friendship during this time. They’ve also built an excellent team of professionals – from industries and backgrounds outside the world of Bourbon – to make an impressionable impact on Bourbon connoisseurs and enthusiasts with their first release."
As someone who has lived and thrived in the bourbon business for many decades, Rutledge certainly enjoys his time as a "consulting distiller," especially as Blue Run's own new make is being distilled and barreled for future releases. "They’re obviously in the business for the long-haul," says Rutledge.
Beyond the liquid in the bottle, Blue Run's central focus is on design. The brand aims to shift the aesthetics of the bourbon world, away from the typical labels that bear the name "ancient" or "old" and feature sepia-toned portraits of old white guys, and into a more modern presentation geared to new demographics and a younger clientele. This is why they enlisted Nike's Devon McKinney, who helms the Air Force One sneaker line, to generate a bottle befitting their mission. The end result is a multimedia presentation with gold lettering (22k, that is), that features a metal butterfly badge (a nod to the Viceroy, the Kentucky state butterfly) and a cleaving from the usual rusticity of other branding. Blue Run aims to "sneakerize" the bourbon industry, by placing significant effort in the design aesthetic with small, limited releases buoyed by well-marketed buzz.
Blue Run's design philosophy is reminiscent of how Elmer T. Lee reshaped bourbon with the first marketed single barrel and a luxury presentation to match in Blanton's. In 1984 (and in the years prior), bourbon was your grandpa's drink, far from the refined connoisseur's product it is considered today. Elmer T. Lee crafted the concept of a luxury bourbon in every aspect: an exceptionally chosen barrel of whiskey in a decanter bottle modeled after a bourbon barrel, embellished with lux details, such as the original hang tag, famous horse stopper (the collectible letters were not added until 1999), hand-written label, all tied up in a velvet, drawstring bag.
Blue Run's first release is very limited with only 2,600 bottles available in a limited market (Kentucky, Georgia, and online). Other releases will follow this inaugural expression.
BLUE RUN KENTUCKY STRAIGHT BOURBON WHISKEY
POINTS OF DIFFERENTIATION
- Blue Run is bottled at a higher proof than most extra-aged Bourbons, providing more flavor because less water is added to reduce proof.
- While our proof is on higher end, Blue Run is exceptionally smooth and mellow, with little to no burn on the back end and a very long tail.
- Glossy amber with bronze highlights and a honey-tinted texture with a deep
glow, streaked with bronze highlights and a golden honey haze
- Alluring aroma of molasses and brown sugar with a toasted, nutty frame that reveals itself around dark cherry highlights, baking spices and cocoa
- Heady caramel and brown sugar burst with earthy overtones of oak and dense concentrated flavors of baking spices and cherry
- First note – A pop of brown sugar
- Midrange note – A pronounced, extended brown butter sauce
- Carries everything through to the finish which is long, sweet and dry
- Mouth feel - Velvety smooth
The inaugural Blue Run Bourbon is an instant classic. This 113-proof small batch temptation doesn’t need gimmicks or special finishes. It’s been aged directly into its sweet spot, delivering a mature, complex whiskey that offers an endlessly layered taste.
-Blue Run Spirits
BLUE RUN SPIRITS TEAMS WITH WHISKEY LEGEND JIM RUTLEDGE TO LAUNCH REMARKABLE 13-YEAR-OLD BOURBON; AIMS TO REACH YOUNGER, MORE DIVERSE CONSUMER
Nike and Facebook Veterans Helm New Whiskey Brand Matching
Contemporary Design and Marketing with Exceptional Heritage Liquid
GEORGETOWN, KY (October 22, 2020) – An exquisitely crafted 13-year-old Bourbon associated with Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Famer Jim Rutledge is sure to garner attention in the whiskey world, but when matched with modern marketing and cutting-edge design from a Nike veteran, its appeal will stretch far beyond typical whiskey aficionados. Blue Run Spirits today announces the launch of its first product – Blue Run 13-year-old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, available this October in the US.
Blue Run Spirits was started last year by a group of friends and Bourbon lovers – a Nike designer, Facebook’s first director-level employee, a hospitality executive, a political advisor and a philanthropist – that wants to evolve the Bourbon industry, creating fine products for the modern whiskey fan. Understanding that could never happen without an exceptional whiskey to start with, they teamed with Jim Rutledge, a 50+ year whiskey veteran and former master distiller at Four Roses, who serves as the brand’s liquid director.
Their first collaboration is Blue Run 13-year-old small-batch Bourbon. This precious spirit features all the hallmarks of a Rutledge whiskey – exceptionally smooth and mellow, with a long, sweet and dry finish; little to no burn on the back end – in a striking bottle unlike anything in the category today.
Rutledge carefully selects and distills every drop of liquid that goes into Blue Run Bourbons. In this first offering, a crescendo of flavor unfolds sip after sip as whispers of brown sugar and brown butter sauce give way to apricot and golden raisins. On the nose, crisp vanilla and hints of tarragon enhance the experience. Throughout, balance is carefully maintained leading to an exceptionally long tail.
“Blue Run is bottled at a higher proof (113 proof) than most extra-aged Bourbons, providing more flavor because less water is added to reduce proof,” said Rutledge. “While the proof is almost as high as a barrel-strength Bourbon, its smoothness could be compared to Bourbons with proofs 10-20 points lower.”
This incomparable Bourbon comes packaged in a striking, modern bottle designed by Devon McKinney, the creative mind behind some of the world’s most-sought-after sneakers. The weighty, hand-numbered bottle is perfectly proportioned, featuring the brand’s signature gold butterfly medallion which symbolizes the metamorphosis of the Bourbon industry as it reaches a broader audience which appreciates fine Bourbon through Blue Run.
“It was an interesting challenge: how to add contemporary design aesthetics to a centuries-old product,” said McKinney. “I think we achieved a perfect balance that will appeal to the younger, more diverse whiskey drinker who appreciates not only an exceptional liquid, but also modern, polished design.”
“We noticed that our broad, diverse group of friends also shared our passion for great Bourbons and ryes and, yet, no brand had reached out to them; no whiskey was speaking to them or shared their values,” said Mike Montgomery, Blue Run Spirits CEO. “We saw an opportunity to share the joy of truly exceptional whiskey, that only whiskey aficionados had enjoyed until now, with our friends, families, colleagues and others.”
Blue Run’s founders and advisory team (including Jordan Brand and Campari/Aperol marketing vets) will use their vast experience reaching today’s modern consumer with a 360-degree marketing campaign, including celebrity/influencer placements, hyper-targeted digital advertising/social media and public relations.
Blue Run Bourbon will be available at $169.99 MSRP through select Kentucky and Georgia retailers via RNDC and Savannah Distributing Company, respectively, as well as Blue Run’s website. It is exceptionally rare with only 2,600 bottles available in the first run and will be followed by other expressions selected or distilled by Rutledge, who has already crafted Blue Run’s next whiskey.
Disclaimer: Blue Run Spirits 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.