Kentucky Owl The Wiseman Bourbon Review

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Originally established by Kentucky distiller Charles Mortimer Dedman in 1879, Kentucky Owl was a once-prosperous brand that faded out of memory after prohibition. In 2014 Dedman’s great-great-grandson Dixon Dedman and his business partners, Mark & Sherri Carter revived the brand, initially offering small-batch bottlings of barrel proof bourbon blended using stocks from undisclosed sources. The brand quickly earned a cult following for the quality of its releases and demand consistently outstripped supply. In 2017 it was announced that global ultra-premium spirits and wine company Stoli Group USA had acquired the brand from Dedman, taking over US distribution, sales, marketing, as well as the global rollout for the brand. With Stoli on board, the brand finally had the resources to go from a KY-only brand to a global brand with capital to secure future stocks, contract distillation,  plans for a state-of-the-art $150m distillery, consistent releases, new styles of whiskey being available, and numerous limited releases. 

Today the brand continues to grow domestically and internationally under the care of bourbon industry heavyweights such as Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame inductee John Rhea (KY Owl Master Blender) and David Mendell (President Of Kentucky Owl Real Estate Company). With work continuing on their own distillery the brand continues producing their own stocks in collaboration with the Bardstown Bourbon Co. with these stocks now finding their way into recent releases. 

Released in Sepetmber 2021, Kentucky Owl’s the Wiseman bourbon saw the first bourbon released by their then new Master Blender John Rhea who had taken the reins from Dixon Dedman following his departure in 2021. Featuring a marriage of 4y.o. wheat and high-rye bourbons along with 5y.o. and 8y.o. Kentucky-sourced bourbons, the younger elements offer fans the first taste of Kentuck Owl’s own bourbon stocks which were contract distilled in partnership with the Bardstown Bourbon Company. The final four-grain bourbon blend was then bottled at 90.8 proof and sported updated branding which I imagine was designed to distinguish it from Kentuck Owl’s more premium (and more expensive!) offerings.

Vital Stats:

Name: Kentuck Owl The Wiseman’s Bourbon
Age: NAS (blend of stocks aged 4 to 8.5y.o.)
Proof: 90.8 Proof (45.4% ABV)
Type: Kentucky straight bourbon
Mashbill: Undisclosed (predominantly wheated-bourbon)
Producer: Kentucky Owl – Stoli Group, NY 
Website: https://kentuckyowlbourbon.com/
Glassware: Glencairn

Review

Nose: The nose opens with sweet red fruit, peppery rye, buttery caramel, herbaceous charred oak, and earthy baking spices. As you nose deeper the earthy baking spice and fruit notes continue to build with notes of fresh strawberries jumping from the glass alongside cloves and nutmeg.

Palate: The palate opens with fresh red fruit turning a touch tart, before bright caramel, and vanilla emerges alongside deep earthy baking spices, roasted nuts, peppery rye and dark charred oak notes. As you keep chewing the profile remains dark and driven by the grains, barrel spices, and lingering tart fruit notes.

Finish: The finish opens with lingering peppery and earthy barrel spices with a hint of freeze-dried red fruit and gives an aftertaste of dry rye spice, charred oak, dark chocolate, faint orange peel oils and earthy baking spices.

Overall 

Consider me impressed! This has soft fruit notes, peppery rye notes, and plenty of spice-forward barrel notes all coming together to produce a bourbon that is flavourful and enjoyable. Yes, it does taste young in parts, but this is balanced out very well by the older elements and the overall profile strikes a working balance between the two. What I would say is not to judge this by the barrel-proof limited releases from Kentucky Owl because they’re not the same thing at all, instead, this four-grain blend does well to bring all the different flavour components together in a way that showcases the best parts of each. The closest KY Owl release I can think of to this would be the St. Patrick’s Day Limited Edition which also featured a four-grain blend. That release, however, was blended by someone with a different style of whiskey in mind so I’m not sure a direct comparison would be useful.  I’m also not sure what batch of Wiseman’s bourbon this is but I’m enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would given the reviews I had read before getting it. What I am sure about is that this batch is very enjoyable and if I saw this on a bar shelf in Ireland I would be bypassing offerings from more well-established distilleries to get myself a dram of this!

As Kentucky Owl continues on their new journey their future looks bright. As stated in the introduction, this bourbon features some of the young stocks they contract distilled at Bardstown and the quality truly shines through. Say what you want about the brand but their bourbon is made and blended by some of the best in the business and that quality definitely shines through on the finished product!

Try or Buy?

With a recommended price of $60, owning a bottle of whiskey from Kentucky Owl without forking out over $100 has never been easier! Although much more affordable than Kentucky Owl’s premium releases, this whiskey definitely pulls its weight with robust flavours and complexity. My recommendation would be to buy, however, if you’re not entirely sure a four grain bourbon would be to your taste, find a measure at your local bourbon bar and give it a shot – you might be as surprised as I was!

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Your contribution is appreciated and will ensure I can keep this website impartial, operational, and stocked full of new content. Cheers!

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