If you’re looking for something as a mixer where Bourbon isn’t the dominant ingredient, like a cola, this might be worth having. For the most part, I’d rate this a bust. For my fellow Bourbon & Banter writers, I took one for the team.Jeff Schwartz
Trader Joe’s Kentucky Bourbon Straight Whiskey
- DISTILLER: Undisclosed, but evidence points to Buffalo Trace’s Barton 1792 Distillery as the source
- MASH BILL: Undisclosed
- AGE: NAS (no age statement) but should be a minimum of 4 Years as there is no age statement present on the label
- YEAR: 2016
- PROOF: 90 (45% ABV)
- MSRP: $14.99
TASTE: Young Oak | Spice | Cinnamon | Caramel
FINISH: It becomes obvious this is a younger Bourbon. Despite the candied nose, there’s a burn, but it is a short burn. What follows is a cough syrup taste that sticks around and makes me do the bitter beer face thing.
SHARE WITH: Friends who have been drinking a lot and you want to see if their taste buds are still working. You know, for a good laugh.
WORTH THE PRICE: I’ve had much better for less.
BOTTLE, BAR OR BUST: If you’re looking for something as a mixer where Bourbon isn’t the dominant ingredient, like a cola, this might be worth having. For the most part, I’d rate this a bust. For my fellow Bourbon & Banter writers, I took one for the team.
OVERALL: While Trader Joe’s Kentucky Bourbon Straight Whiskey offers highly desirable appearance qualities, in the end, what counts is how whiskey engages with my palate. Adding a splash of water improved the experience, but even so, I found this Bourbon to be an overall disappointment and earns its position on the bottom shelf.
When we decided it was time for Trader Joe’s to have a Bourbon Whiskey with our name on it, we knew we had to go to Kentucky’s best distillers to get it done right. And so, after tasting a number of different submissions, we fell in love with what would become Trader Joe’s Kentucky Bourbon Straight Whiskey.
Produced for us in Bardstown, Kentucky (in Nelson County), our Bourbon is sweet, fruity and spicy with hints of brown sugar and oak—it is aged for a minimum of two years in new (charred) white oak barrels. Its finish is long, appreciably spicy and dry, with accents of vanilla that linger on your tongue. We think Trader Joe’s Kentucky Bourbon Straight Whiskey stands up well next to some very high-end Bourbons, and we’re proud of our price of $14.99 for each 750ml bottle, significantly less than you’ll pay for “big name” Bourbons of this quality.
I am Mr. #RespectTheBottomShelf. I’m not afraid of “cheap” whiskey, and, in fact, when I see something super-affordable, it piques my curiosity. Normally, I make a mental note to keep the bottle in mind for my next bar tasting. There are times, however, when I come across something that I know won’t be at any bar, such as a store pick or something similar. There are just times when I’m willing to take a chance – if the price is right.
While shopping at Trader Joe’s, I stumbled upon an attractive bottle of Kentucky Bourbon. A closer look showed it was Trader Joe’s private label. The next thing I noticed was the $14.99 price tag. The wheels in my head started spinning. Trader Joe’s Two Buck Chuck is a $2.00 wine that gets some decent accolades. If you don’t mind how it is made, it can be a very attractive buy. This being a Straight Bourbon, I know it has to meet some pretty rigorous guidelines to be labeled as such.
The bottle shape looked very familiar, the label stated, Distilled by Bourbon Square Distilling Company in Louisville. I couldn’t place it, but the bottle shape left me very curious. Heck, it was only $15, I’ve spent more than that on a single pour in a bar many times over. This was relatively low risk.
As soon as I got home, the first thing I did was research online to discover that Bourbon Square Distilling Company is actually Buffalo Trace. That’s when the bottle’s familiar shape made sense – they used a Stagg, Jr. bottle, but with a screw top instead of cork.
I also learned Buffalo Trace used their Barton 1792 distillery to create the juice. That really got me excited because, at this price point, I was thinking Very Old Barton, of which I am a huge fan. I opened the bottle, poured myself a dram or so, and then let it rest for about 20 minutes before my first taste.
In the meanwhile, I was making my usual observations. The color is a slightly reddish amber. I have no idea how old the whiskey is, but it is an attractive color. Swirling it in my glass left surprisingly long legs that just stuck around. It was very enticing.