Welcome to a review of what may be the most handsomely packaged bottle of bourbon in 2015 – Yellowstone Limited Edition Bourbon. True, design is only skin deep but I’m not going to hide my love for the packaging of Limestone Branch Distillery’s latest release. The marketing folks behind this one did a solid job of creating a bottle and tube design that takes it cues from traditional print techniques and lettering while still retaining enough modern flair to not look out-of-place. Whether you ultimately like the juice inside may not matter as the bottle is going to look fantastic sitting on your bar or in your bourbon
As we previously blogged back in March, St. Louis-based Luxco announced in December 2014 that they were acquiring a 50 percent equity position in Limestone Branch Distillery. The initial focus of the joint venture would involve Limestone Branch distilling the original recipe for Yellowstone bourbon and aging the product in 2015. In addition, “Limestone Branch Distillery plans to develop other hand-crafted spirits using various mash bills for bourbon, rye and continuing to work on their white spirit products.” The release of Yellowstone Limited Edition appears to be the first product release resulting from the partnership–albeit using sourced whiskey.
Here’s some background information on the release from the official press release issued by Limestone Brand Distillery.
(Lebanon, Ky.) September 1, 2015 – Limestone Branch Distillery introduces Yellowstone Limited Edition, set to hit the market in October. With only 6,000 bottles produced, this ultra-premium bourbon is the marriage of a seven-year rye, a seven-year wheated and a 12-year rye – a combination that creates an exceptional depth of flavor and complexity.
“I hand-selected the barrels of the 12-year bourbon to add just the right notes and create a truly distinct, well-rounded flavor profile,” says Steve Beam, president and distiller of Limestone Branch Distillery. “Given our partnership with Luxco and the access they have to high-quality bourbon, we were able to hand-select ‘honey barrels’ for this small batch to find the best complementary flavors to enhance the seven-year bourbon and create just the right combination so the bourbon hits different areas of the palate for a superior experience.”
Once he found the perfect bourbons, Beam added his own distinctive spin to the final product. “Some of the bourbon was chill-filtered, some of it was not; but what makes this combination unique is that we took the 12-year rye bourbon out of its barrels, and poured the seven-year bourbon into the 12-year barrels to enrich it and extract more flavors. This process of reusing the barrels allowed the younger bourbons to pick up the more mature notes, adding a cinnamon and caramel taste as well as some smoky notes.”
Yellowstone Limited Edition, bottled at 105 proof, celebrates the 105th anniversary of Steve Beam’s great-grandfather, Minor Case Beam, selling his Old Trump Distillery to Joseph Bernard Dant, a pioneer distiller and relative from his mother’s side.
“It’s been a dream for my brother Paul and I to return the Yellowstone brand back to our family,” says Beam. “With this bourbon, both sides of our family – the Beams and the Dants – and their distilling heritage, come together. It was one of the main reasons we partnered with Luxco, to bring Yellowstone back home and begin distilling and bottling it right here at Limestone Branch.”
Steve Beam and his brother Paul Beam opened Limestone Branch Distillery in 2011. The distillery is known for its Moon Pie Moonshine, T.J. Pottinger Sugar Shine and Precinct No. 6 whiskey. With a history of distilling on both sides of their family, the brothers are seventh-generation distillers.
Yellowstone Limited Edition will be officially launched during the Kentucky Bourbon Festival, held in Historic Bardstown September 15-20, 2015. Suggested retail price for the bourbon is $105.
For more information on Limestone Branch Distillery and Yellowstone, please visit www.limestonebranch.com, www.yellowstonebourbon.com or www.facebook.com/limestone-branch-distillery.
My initial reaction to news of this release was to question whether or not this was just a riff on Luxco’s most recent release – Blood Oath bourbon. I spoke with Limestone Branch’s representatives who assured me that “Yellowstone is not the same juice as Blood Oath. It was all hand-selected by Steve Beam, truly his vision and taste profile. Also, the filtering techniques used are unique to this product as well as refilling the 12 year barrel with the 7 year bourbon.”
While everything may not be identical I wouldn’t be surprised that there’s some overlap since Limestone Branch used Luxco’s access to bourbon stocks to make the blend. As usual we’ll never know for sure but ultimately it’s the taste that matters. Let’s go ahead and dispense with the background info and dive into our Yellowstone Limited Edition bourbon review and formal tasting notes.
Yellowstone 2015 Limited Edition Bourbon
- DISTILLER: Limestone Branch Distillery (most likely sourced from Heaven Hill)
- MASH BILL: Undisclosed
- AGE: NAS – Blend of a three different bourbons – a seven-year rye, a seven-year wheated and a 12-year rye.
- YEAR: 2015
- PROOF: 105 (52.5% ABV)
- MSRP: $105.00
TASTE: Sweet Honey Vanilla | Leather | Bitter Oak
FINISH: At first your tongue is greeted by a nice sweet dollop of honey and vanilla but it’s quickly replaced by a bitter blast of leather and oak. Once that begins to fade it’s replaced by cinnamon and mint–thanks to the rye forward bourbons–that evolves into a dry oak finish that attempts to surge forward with a shallow throat burn but ultimately comes up short.
SHARE WITH: This is a bourbon for someone who knows bourbon and enjoys a dry, tannic oak profile. If I had tasted this one blind I would have guessed it was much older based on taste alone. Sharing with someone with a distinct flavor profile preference that aligns with this release is important. Lesser developed plates are likely to find it too bitter and oaky.
WORTH THE PRICE: I’ll ask the question that no one seems to be asking…Is any new bourbon above $50-60 range worth the price? Given that the suggested retail price for Yellowstone Limited Edition bourbon is $105, I feel the need to scream, “Stop the madness!!!”. Just as mid-20th century bourbon marketers convinced the American public that older bourbon was better and therefore should cost more (to help move his excess glut of aging bourbon of course), modern bourbon marketers are leveraging the phrase “limited edition” to charger prices well above what the juice is worth based on how it tastes.
I personally don’t feel that Yellowstone Limited Edition is worth the $105 price tag. Not because it doesn’t fall into my preferred flavor profile. It’s because I feel it’s all marketing hype and at the end of the day there are more accessible bourbons at lower price points that are just as good, if not better. I believe new limited edition release should be required by law to allow purchasers to sample before they buy. Doing so would help some people avoid making a bad purchasing decision. But upon further reflection, I wonder how many people who actually buy these limited editions drink them versus flipping on the secondary market. Makes my head hurt just thinking about it.
BOTTLE, BAR OR BUST: If you’re a fan of bourbons that are dry and tannic this one is a good fit for you – excluding concerns about price. If you prefer bourbons with a richer, more traditional flavor profile that lead with vanilla, caramel and honey I’d pass on it until you can try a sample.
Disclaimer: Limestone Branch Distillery 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.