Ezra Brooks ‘Black Label’ Bourbon Review

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A historic brand connected to two prestigious Kentucky distilling families, the Ezra Brooks was a NDP brand created by a marketing team in response to the popularity and subsequent scarcity of Jack Daniel’s in the late 50s/early 60s. Released in a square bottle bearing their claim to using a sour mash process and to have been charcoal filtered, it wasn’t long before Brown Forman sued then owners “21” Brands Inc. for trademark infringement. 21 Brands won the case and Ezra Brooks continued to be produced by the Hoffman Distilling Co. Which was owned by Robert, Ben, and William Ripy.

In 1979, The Medley Distilling Company acquired “21” Brands and moved production of Ezra Brooks over to Owensboro, KY.
In further keeping with the Old No. 7 theme, they put the fact that they were in the 7th generation of distilling on the label so that number 7 was alson added. The Medley Distillery was later acquired in 1988 by Glenmore Distilleries and Ezra Brooks quickly became one of their flagship brands along with other historic brands Yellowstone, and Kentucky Tavern.  In 1991, United Distillers acquired Glenmore Distilleries and the brand fell into the abyss of their huge bourbon portfolio at the time. In 1992, United Distillers sold many of their brands to Heaven Hill, including Ezra Brooks and Heaven Hill in turn sold the brand to the David Sherman Co. from St. Louis, MO. Here Ezra Brooks found a long-term home and Heaven Hill agreed to supply the now renamed Luxco with barrels to support the brand. However as the sales of bourbon continued to skyrocket this arrangement became more difficult to maintain.
In January 2018, Luxco started operations in their state-of-the-art Lux Row Distillers distillery. Located on a 90-acre site, the facility boasts a 18,000 square feet distillery building, 6 barrel warehouses, a tasting room, an event space, and will eventually have the capacity to produce over 7 million proof gallons a year and store 20,000 to 50,000 barrels on site. Under the watchful eye of Head Distiller John Rempe, it is envisioned that this facility will become the source for Luxco’s extensive brand portfolio as demand for their products continued to grow. Although still a sourced product from distilleries like Heaven Hill, Luxco currently produces four whiskies under the Ezra Brooks brand including an 90 proof KY straight bourbon, a 90 proof straight rye whiskey, a 7 year old ‘Old Ezra’ barrel proof KY straight bourbon, and an 80 proof KY blended whiskey.

Released in Europe and the UK as an 80 proof KY straight bourbon (thank you taxes), Ezra Brooks bourbon is an award-winning sourced product from Heaven Hill – both Heaven Hill’s standard bourbon and this share the exact same mashbill. Following the Ezra Brooks tradition, this bourbon is charcoal filtered before bottling to create a more enjoyable drinking experience. This bourbon doesn’t carry an age statement like its older brother the Old Ezra 7, however, with designation as a straight bourbon I’d assume it falls somewhere in the 4 year old category or is a blend of ages for consistency.


Vital Stats:

Name: Ezra Brooks Bourbon Whiskey
Age: NAS (at least 2 y.o.)
Proof: 80 proof (40% ABV)
Type: Kentucky straight bourbon
Mashbill: 78%corn, 12% rye, 10% malted barley
Producer: Lux Row Distillers
Website: https://ezrabrooks.com/whiskey/kentucky-straight-bourbon/
Glassware: Glencairn

Review

Nose: The nose opens with light caramel and sweet red fruit fading to earthy baking spices with notes of charred oak spice, sharp dark chocolate, and rich citrus peel as you nose deeper.

Palate:  The palate opens semi-viscous with a dusting of earthy nuts and spices before a more subtle corn-forward caramel on the verge of being burnt emerges with vanilla and a touch of peppery rye on its heels. This fades to bitter charred oak, cacao, and some lingering barrel spices.

Finish: The finish opens with a peppery kick from the palate as warmth lingers and yields to faint dried fruit, earthy baking spices, and bitter charred oak.

Overall 

As an everyday sipping whiskey this ticks all the boxes; it’s viscous, well balanced, hits a lot of core bourbon notes, the grains come through nicely, and you’re left with a faint Kentucky hug when you swallow. At 80 proof, however, I can’t help but feel like this whiskey is a lighter version of what it could be at 90 proof. Sure, there are some really good flavours here, but I’d say the extra 10 proof points make a big difference similar to other brands that bottle at 80 proof instead of 90 proof in export markets. For me this is either going into my glass on a weekday or into a cocktail over the weekend, it tastes good and gets the job done without being overly flashy or with any world-stopping flavour surprises. In fact, if you have someone in your life who is either already a drinker of other styles of whiskey or who want to take their first steps this would be a perfect beginner’s whiskey that will open their eyes to the quality you can get at a lower price range.

Try or Buy?

In the UK, this retails for around £25 at which price you’re getting a fantastic introduction bourbon that looks the part and tastes great. Why not pick up a bottle?

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