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Cream of Kentucky 12.3 Year Bourbon Review

The Cream of Kentucky brand was originally introduced in 1888 by I. Trager & Co. of Cincinnati, Ohio. Just prior to the end of Prohibition, the brand was acquired by the famed Schenley Company and subsequently re-introduced in 1934. Through the 1930s and 1940s Cream of Kentucky grew to become one of the leading bourbon brands, with renowned artist Norman Rockwell provided much of the award winning artwork for the brand during its heyday. Cream of Kentucky is now owned by J.W. Rutledge, and Jim has recently purchased a limited supply of Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey he feels is worthy of the rebirth of Cream of Kentucky Bourbon as a premium whiskey.


Company on Label: J. W. Rutledge (Sourced from an undisclosed KY distillery)

Whiskey Type: Bourbon

Mash Bill Percentages: Undisclosed

Proof: 102°

Age: 12 years

Further identification: Batch #3; 12.3 year age stated; "Double Rich"


Nose: Sweetness I can smell from a distance here. This glass aired out quite a bit while I messed with a few projects that came up. Now that Fall temps are here I may be nosing some colder glasses or bottles, which is definitely true of this glass as I review from the porch tonight. Smooth citrus sweetness is delightful on the first nose. It's like a lemon vanilla frosting. Vaguely oaky, but more like crushed acorns or walnuts. This is a very crisp and bright pour on the nose. Ooh now some cherry perfume rolls through with a bit of dark earthy grass and more lemon zest. Okay now the oak presents itself more naturally. There's a deep lemon note persistent all throughout this that reminds me a little bit like Willett, but it present a little more like Knob 12. Post-sip the nose does not drastically change with more grass, oak and perhaps a touch more malt. On a swirl more vanilla abounds and citrus pepper presents fondly of an old-style cooking aroma. I took a break here to have dinner; notes from here are about 30 minutes of further resting in the glass. Oh a very fleeting group of stone fruit aromas unfortunately just vanished after one long inhale. The remainder of the glass has some meaty aromas, a smell I often get when there is some interaction with the cooking smells in the house. The oak has developed into an older, more seasoned wood now. Before I even thought about what age I was actually drinking my mind wandered right to the number 12 on this one. It is starting to get some of that dark leather and spiced cherry cola characteristic I would expect on an older age statement. Super vegetal and funky now on the tail end of my pour. This really screams 12 year Beam to me. The final aromas that feel trapped in the glass remind me of a New England lobster cookout at a big banquet hall; it reminds me of the local VFW in the town where I grew up. Nearing the last sip the nose turns a bit dusty and nutty; like a Booker's Granny's Batch peanut experience. The empty glass smells of fruit parfait, vanilla, and sawdust.

Palate: First sip pre-dinner is thin but zesty with plenty of that lemon forward profile coming out, but here it has a little more backbone with sweet tart sugar, smarties candy and a caramel linger. Finish is definitely short, but the flashes of flavors on the first sip were incredibly enjoyable. The first sip reminded me of the 2020 release Michter's 10 year bourbon. Slight chalkiness to the mouth feel after sitting a while. My next sip builds well in the spice and intensity. Malted popcorn, molasses and cinnamon dart across my tongue and leave a slight copper residue behind. A long chew makes this almost taste like an Irish produced on a pot still. There is that oily consistency and some sugar cookie flavors bubbling up now. The mouth feel improves very well if you swish and savor this sip. I took a break here to have dinner; tasting notes from here are about 30 minutes of further resting in the glass. Oh wow, there is a very punchy cherry and cinnamon present now later in the glass. The sweeter and richer profile is now inviting me to take larger sips with touches of nuttiness, dry tobacco then waves of syrupy cherry. This pour had quite the arc of flavors throughout it. I actually really like where it settled in the end, but wasn't as big of a fan of what was happening early on - if the notes didn't let on to that fact. Plum and a slightly tart raisin note now join the cherry sweetness. There is definitely a bit of bitter red wine in the finish or linger somewhere, but it's well hidden. The last sip is surprisingly vanilla forward, with a little ethanol linger and thick cherry cola effervescence.


Rating: 3/5

I wanted to like this a lot more than I did, but the overall experience isn't my favorite journey through a glencairn. I will say this was incredibly improved with time, but I fear many will not have the time or patience to allow it to reach the point at which I tasted. Kudos to you if you do!


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