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King of Kentucky Bourbon Review

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“Given Brown-Forman’s 148-year history of crafting great Kentucky Bourbon, it is a memorable event to bring back to life a long retired brand and to introduce it to a new generation of aficionados,”Chris Morris, Master Distiller
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King of Kentucky Bourbon


  • DISTILLER: Brown-Forman
  • MASH BILL: 79% Corn  |  11% Rye  |  10% Malted Barley
  • AGE: 14 Years
  • YEAR: 2018
  • PROOF: 125.8 (62.9% ABV) for initial single release (expect variances)
  • MSRP: $199.00
NOSE: Overripe pineapple, bubblegum, nail polish, floral, nougat, melted milk chocolate | highly vaporous, stinging, even after a 45-minute rest in the glass.

TASTE: Powerful entry brings citrus hard candy followed by caramel, some toffee and ample oak | tannin and a bit of butter appear at midpalate | second sip is electrically sweet, a caramel bomb with cinnamon sticks | exhale through the nose to get dusty rose, barnwood | add water and texture richens immensely to nearly unctuous and tames The King’s fire.

FINISH: Tannic, dry and fairly short | despite high proof, little residual burn | adding water rounds it perfectly.

SHARE WITH: Bourbon fans. Irish and Scotch fans may be overwhelmed by high proof unless well-watered down.

WORTH THE PRICE: At $199, this is the highest MSRP ever for a Brown-Forman whiskey. Steep for sure, so value will be unique to the buyer. Had I the money to splurge and could find it, I just might. Fans of Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style will recognize this close cousin and perhaps take the plunge.

BOTTLE, BAR OR BUST: Given the price and power of The King of Kentucky, start at the bar. Also, this is a 960-bottle run will be released in June of ‘18, so we’re talking unicorn status.

OVERALL: Sipped at proof, The King of Kentucky is a fierce ruler of the palate. Born of the Early Times whiskey mashbill, it packs a punch that’s amplified by aging 7 of its 14 years in a heat-cycled warehouse. I prefer high-proof whiskeys, yet at full strength, The King subdued me initially. I tried everything to tame its wrath: letting it breathe at length, spreading samplings over many weeks, swirling and agitating to the point of repetitive strain. But nothing doing: still overpowering. Yet when I added water—to the point that I likely proofed it down into the 90s—it transformed it into a superbly creamy and luscious whiskey with dark candy and roasted fruit notes; it had become a benevolent monarch and I really wanted more. Sadly, for me, my small press sample was gone by that time.

Learn more about Steve’s whiskey preferences and check out more of his reviews…

“King of Kentucky was established in 1881 as a Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Brown-Forman acquired the brand in 1936 from Selected Kentucky Distillers and, by 1940, converted it to a blended whiskey until it was discontinued in 1968.

“King of Kentucky will be an annual/on-going periodic release of a single barrel inventory and feature a barrel-strength, minimally-filtered proof presentation.

“Due to the rarity of these barrels, there will be no defined annual volume. Just like the extra time it takes for the liquid to age, the package will also show a personal craftsmanship. It will feature handwritten details including proof, age, warehouse location, lot number, serial number, barrel number, and be hand-signed by Master Distiller Chris Morris.

BRAND’S TASTE NOTES

  • Aroma: Rich oak with intense dark chocolate and burnt caramel sweetness balanced with fresh leather and spearmint spice notes atop layers of tropical fruit (banana, pineapple, citrus).
  • Taste: Dark chocolate and fudge coat dark cherry notes with a refreshing range of aromatic spice character (spearmint, cedar, cardamom).
  • Finish: Long and spicy


Disclaimer: Brown Forman 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.


About the Author

Steve Coomes

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Steve Coomes is a Louisville restaurant industry veteran turned award-winning food writer. In his 27-year career, he has edited and written for dozens of national trade and consumer publications including Pizza Today, Nation's Restaurant News and Southern Living. As a spirits writer, Steve's byline can be found in Whisky magazine, Bourbon Review, WhiskeyWash.com and other publications. In 2014, he authored the book, "Country Ham: A Southern Tradition of Hogs, Salt & Smoke," and has authored other titles as a private ghostwriter.

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