Kentucky Distillers' Association

TASTING NOTES

Bourbon is amazingly complex. Strict federal guidelines – called “standards of identity”  – dictate how it’s produced and most of its ingredients.

But simple, subtle changes make each brand unique:  the distillers’ private yeast recipe, the different amount of corn, rye and other grains used in its “mashbill” and even the row where the barrel sleeps for years in the warehouse.

Here are tasting notes for many of our members’ premium brands. Try them all – responsibly, of course – and savor the nuances that make Kentucky Bourbon one of the world’s most flavorful, popular and iconic spirits.

Baker’s

Age
(YEARS)

7

Proof

107

Distillery

Jim Beam

Appearance

Warm amber, tawny, nut brown

Aroma

Fruit, vanilla, caramel

Taste

Toasted nuts, fruit, vanilla, silky texture

Finish

Sweet, smooth, medium-long

Basil Hayden’s

Age
(YEARS)

8

Proof

80

Distillery

Jim Beam

Appearance

Golden amber

Aroma

Spice, tea, hint of pepper­mint

Taste

Spicy, peppery, honey, light-bodied, gentle bite

Finish

Dry, clean, brief

Booker’s

Age
(YEARS)

7

Proof

120-127

Distillery

Jim Beam

Appearance

Deep, rich, smoky amber

Aroma

Strong vanilla and caramel, as well as charred oak

Taste

Intense, fruit, tannin, tobacco

Finish

Clean, long, intense

Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey

Age
(YEARS)

6-7

Proof

90

Distillery

Diageo, Bulleit Distilling Company

Appearance

Russet, medium amber, copper gold

Aroma

Oak, vanilla, honey, spice

Taste

Oaky, smokey and smooth with a rush of vanilla

Finish

Long, dry, smooth sultry finish with a slight hint of cherry. Leather and tobacco leaf, some tannins in the finish

Bulleit Rye Small Batch American Whiskey

Age
(YEARS)

5-7

Proof

90

Distillery

Diageo, Bulleit Distilling Company

Appearance

Topaz, medium amber, mahogany

Aroma

Biscuit, spice (allspice, sage, a hint of caraway), white raisins and a slight hint of dried apricot

Taste

A smooth entry, bolstered by sweet tones of maple and oak and a light fruity sweetness

Finish

Finishes long, satin smoothness, woody/resiny, light toffee with no burn on the throat; the dried fruit elements come back, adding flair; spices and cinnamon give an added zest.

Elijah Craig 12 Year Old

Age
(YEARS)

12

Proof

94

Distillery

Heaven Hill

Appearance

Burnished copper

Aroma

The aromas have a light touch, offering honey, caramel and cocoa in a straightforward, confident balance.

Taste

The flavors follow on the palate, with a full, spicy finish that explodes with simple pleasures.

Finish

Smooth, warm and comfortable, this is a sweet sipping whiskey that’s best in a snifter.

Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage 2003

Age
(YEARS)

10

Proof

86.6

Distillery

Heaven Hill

Appearance

Delicate amber gold

Aroma

Spicy and dry with notes of cinnamon, vanilla, and oak.

Taste

Lush and spicy. Oak with honey, apple and orange notes.

Finish

Long, hints of cinnamon, vanilla and oak.

Four Roses Single Barrel

Age
(YEARS)

Proof

100

Distillery

Four Roses

Appearance

Aroma

Dried spice, pear, coco, maple syrup

Taste

Hints of ripe plum and cherries, robust

Finish

Smooth, rich finish

Four Roses Small Batch

Age
(YEARS)

Proof

90

Distillery

Four Roses

Appearance

Aroma

Rich fruit, hints of oak and caramel

Taste

Rich, creamy, ripened red berries

Finish

More fruit, smooth, long finish

Four Roses Yellow Label

Age
(YEARS)

Proof

80

Distillery

Four Roses

Appearance

Aroma

Balance of subtle fruit and spices

Taste

Crisp fruit, caramel, vibrant spice

Finish

Mellow, long and pleasant

Knob Creek

Age
(YEARS)

9

Proof

100

Distillery

Jim Beam

Appearance

Copper to medium amber

Aroma

Copper to medium amber

Taste

Rich, sweet, woody, full-bodied, almost fruity

Finish

Long, rich and glowing

Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve

Age
(YEARS)

9

Proof

120

Distillery

Jim Beam

Appearance

Our darkest and deepest amber and henna color

Aroma

Robust vanilla and caramel notes; slightly smoky

Taste

Deep and complex flavors of vanilla, nuts and oak

Finish

Long and full; perfect for easygoing sipping

Maker’s 46

Age
(YEARS)

Proof

94

Distillery

Maker's Mark Distillery

Appearance

Rich and brilliant – see-through amber, but with a flame orange glint that tells of the warmth to come (*Available only at the distillery)

Aroma

Full, yet delicate; well-rounded; possessing a distinctive caramel aroma of the charred oak with a hint of vanilla; pleasant and inviting

Taste

Rich in flavor, yet soft on the palate with the taste moved forward on the tongue where you taste "sweet" with very little sour notes on the side

Finish

Refreshing and pleasant with lingering accents of caramel and vanilla flavors

Maker’s Mark

Age
(YEARS)

Proof

90

Distillery

Maker's Mark (Beam, Inc.)

Appearance

Rich and brilliant – see-through amber, but with a flame orange glint that tells of the warmth to come.

Aroma

Full, yet delicate; well-rounded; possessing a distinctive caramel aroma of the charred oak with a hint of vanilla; pleasant and inviting. 

Taste

Rich in flavor, yet soft on the palate. The taste moved forward on the tongue where you taste "sweet" with very little sour notes on the side.

Finish

Refreshing and pleasant with lingering accents of caramel and vanilla flavors.

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon

Age
(YEARS)

*

Proof

*

Distillery

Brown-Forman

Appearance

Aroma

Taste

*As a special yearly release, tasting notes and proof may vary year to year

Finish

Parker’s Heritage Collection

Age
(YEARS)

Proof

100

Distillery

Heaven Hill

Appearance

Deep topaz/bronze

Aroma

Dried fruits, oaky caramel, spicy char

Taste

Smoky molasses, honeyed nougat and cinnamon spices

Finish

Long, refined, oily licorice and buttery

Rittenhouse Rye

Age
(YEARS)

Proof

Distillery

Heaven Hill Distilleries

Appearance

Aroma

Taste

Finish

Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel

Age
(YEARS)

8-9

Proof

110

Distillery

Wild Turkey

Appearance

Aroma

Taste

Big vanilla flavor with hints of orange and licorice, non-chill filtered leaves more natural flavor

Finish

Rich, long finish

Russell’s Reserve Small Batch 10-year-old

Age
(YEARS)

Proof

90

Distillery

Wild Turkey

Appearance

Deep amber.

Aroma

Rich in vanilla, oak, toffee and a touch of old leather.

Taste

Rich and creamy, toffee, vanilla

Finish

Wild Turkey Rare Breed

Age
(YEARS)

6-12

Proof

Barrel prf

Distillery

Wild Turkey

Appearance

Deep, rich amber

Aroma

Full of spring flowers with a touch of black pepper and almonds mixed with layers of honey and dates

Taste

Medium to full body with remarkably smooth palate. Very assertive, with hints of light oranges and mint and tones of sweet tobacco

Finish

Long, warm and nutty finish lingering on the mouth with hints of peppers and well-toasted wheat bread

Willet Pot Still Reserve

Age
(YEARS)

8-10

Proof

94

Distillery

Willett Distillery

Appearance

Mahogany

Aroma

Floral notes--jasmine and orange blossoms, ginger, cinnamon, lots of bananas when water is added

Taste

Lemon, black tea, butterscotch, citrus, nutty, honey; with water added, bananas and milk chocolate

Finish

Medium; eucalyptus, herbal, rye, spicy, pepper, barber’s shop; with water added, light toffee & pecans

Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select

Age
(YEARS)

Proof

90.4

Distillery

Woodford Reserve (Brown-Forman)

Appearance

Soft, clear toffee.

Aroma

Strong, powerful vanilla overlays a rich fruit medley, sweet cocoa and a dash of black pepper spice.

Taste

A seesaw of subtle, sweet crème brûlée and apricot tart.

Finish

Clean, pleasantly sweet and cooling. Refreshing.

Woodford Reserve Double Oaked

Age
(YEARS)

Proof

90.4

Distillery

Woodford Reserve (Brown-Forman)

Appearance

Dark orange brown

Aroma

Soft, sweet oak character with rich notes of honey, spice and apple fruit

Taste

Subtly sweet notes of chocolate, honey and marzipan atop a layer of cinnamon and spiced apple

Finish

Warm and creamy with baked apple fruit character lingering on