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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 October 2018, Old Ezra was the latest addition to the Ezra Brooks lineup. Sporting revamped packaging in a beautiful bottle with intricate label design and a solid 7 year old age statement, Old Ezra was released to replace the now-discontinued Ezra Brooks 7 Year 101 Proof. Bottled at barrel proof this bourbon has taken the bourbon world by storm with bourbon drinkers climbing over one another to buy bottles when they’re available. Similar to its younger brother the NAS Ezra Brooks bourbon, this award-winning bourbon is also presumably sourced from Heaven Hill as both Heaven Hill’s standard bourbon and this share the exact same mashbill. Unlike its younger brother, however, this bourbon does not indicate that it is charcoal filtered before bottling.

This bourbon was released into the UK market in 2020 to much excitement and anticipation. Selling out in minutes from wherever it popped up it didn’t take long to pull wave after wave of bourbon drinkers towards the Ezra Brooks brand and the quality whiskies it contains which were previously mostly overlooked. Today I’ll be taking a look at the UK release of this bourbon. From what I can tell it’s similar to its US cousin in every way with this release also ringing in at a whopping 117 proof (58.5% ABV).

Vital Stats:

Name: Old Ezra Barrel Strength
Age: 7 y.o.
Proof: 117 proof (58.5% ABV)
Type: Kentucky straight bourbon
Mashbill: 78%corn, 12% rye, 10% malted barley
Producer: Lux Row Distillers
Website: https://ezrabrooks.com/whiskey/old-ezra/
Glassware: Glencairn

Review

Nose: The nose opens sweet and complex, with earthy baking spices complimented by deep caramel, cinnamon, and thick dried black fruit and candied orange peel with savoury smoky charred oak at the back.

Palate:  The palate opens with deep yet sweet maple syrup, vanilla, and dark chocolate followed by a wave of dark pepper spice that runs down the sides of the mouth and is accented with touch of citrus peel, earthy nut-heavy baking spices, tannic oak, and a char-driven mineral note of bitter smoky oak.

Finish: The finish opens with lingering spice from the palate alongside deep caramel, dark chocolate, dried red fruit, and roasted pecan nuts. This is followed by a faintly herbaceous and tannic aftertaste as well as a warm Kentucky hug.

Overall 

All I can say is wow! It has everything you could want from that classic bourbon flavour profile. It starts sweet and complex on the nose before moving towards more savoury notes of earthy nuts, charred oak, cacao powder, and baking spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. The palate is reminiscent of a pie filling with maple syrup, dark chocolate, dried cherries, and various baking spices all mixed in a pot and stewing until it has just started to become smoky. It’s complex, well-balanced between its sweet grain and dark charred oak notes, and bursting from every seam with deep flavours. Even trying to trace all the flavour intricacies as it moves across the palate is quite difficult with nuanced notes at every turn.

I can taste exactly why this has turned so many heads in the bourbon community and caused the stir that it has. This really is a fantastic bourbon and a much-needed injection of sense and quality into a market that’s losing age statements and raising prices across the board. Similar to Rebel Yell Single Barrel 10 y.o., Old Ezra 7 has become the crown jewel of the brand’s offerings, quickly drawing the attention of many in a very short space of time. Although this whiskey is sourced I’m a firm believer in the skill of the blender being a vital factor for determining the success of a blended product like this. I for example own many whiskies and can’t blend to save my life. What the team behind this brand have achieved has been a testament to their skill. To illustrate this I tried it side by side with 1792 Full Proof and found this to the superior bourbon with far more balance and complexity whilst still delivering that barrel proof experience. In fact, as I got further into sipping this I started getting those delicious perfume-like ‘dusty’ notes on the palate reminiscent of a dusty Wild Turkey bourbon that edges on a burnt and bitter herbaceous note. I’m left very impressed by this.

Try or Buy?

The RRP for this in the UK is £49.50 (at which price I’m really not surprised that it sells out almost instantly whenever it lands somewhere). For this money I’d buy two because you’re going to want a backup as soon as you taste this. Buy, buy, buy!

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