King of Kentucky label

Long live the King (of Kentucky)!

Step aside, mere mortals, because the King of Kentucky has returned.

You won’t find him holding court on a liquor store shelf, oh no. He’s too in demand for that nonsense. If you’re lucky, you can try him by the pour at your favorite watering hole — but it might cost you a pretty penny and a whole lot more.

King of Kentucky bottle

So who is this king and why should we care?

The King of Kentucky is an annual release by Brown-Forman. It’s a single-barrel expression of older Brown-Forman bourbon. This is the fourth release of the series, and the barrel-strength juice is 14 years old. Master Distiller Chris Morris hand-selected 33 barrels for this 2021 batch. That’s about 2,700 bottles.

“This year’s release comes from two production days — 14 years ago — but a mere 12 days apart,” said Morris in a news release. “Given the fact that each bottling is of a single barrel, the very slight difference in age is undetectable. All the barrels that were selected for this year are of the highest quality.”

The brand’s name is a throwback to a popular bourbon from 1881. Brown-Forman acquired the rights to the name and brand in 1936.

King of Kentucky retails for a suggested price of $249.99, but again, it’s going to be damn near impossible to hunt one down. It’ll range in proof from 125-135 and will only be available in Kentucky, Ohio and Illinois.

I was fortunate to get a small sample of this year’s King, and I can assure you it’s worth all the hype — and more.

Of course the color is a gorgeous deep amber given its age and the fact that it comes from a heat-cycled warehouse. On the nose, I get raisin and fig, with a little bit of maple syrup for good measure.

And after a sip — wow! It reminds me of those chocolate-covered modjeskas they sell at the Old Forester gift shop. It’s rich caramel, milk chocolate, a hint of that Brown-Forman banana and even a little toasted coconut. The finish lingers, reminding me of taking a bite of a caramel apple but getting more caramel than apple — as was my goal always.

Bottom line, the King is worth the hunt. This is the bourbon legends are made of.

King of Kentucky will make its 2020 debut very soon

Bourbon huntin’ season is officially upon us, and each week brings welcomed announcements for highly sought-after releases.

King of Kentucky 2020Today, it’s King of Kentucky’s time to shine, as word of the 2020 batch spreads like wildfires.

Here’s what we know: The 2020 release comes from 37 barrels that were aged 14 years. Since Brown-Forman heat-cycles their rick houses, many of these barrels were only half full, or even less.

That resulted in 1,900 bottles total for the markets of Kentucky, Ohio and Illinois (the latter two new this year).

This is the third iteration of King of Kentucky, which features barrel-strength, minimally-filtered, single-barrel bourbon. (If you’re curious about the brand, I wrote about its relaunch in 2018.)

“The King of Kentucky continues to teach us about the impact that long-term heat-cycled maturation has on barrel yield and flavor presentation,” said Master Distiller Chris Morris in a news release. “Some barrels yield as little as one case of King but are not over wooded or astringent — in fact they are incredibly complex and flavorful. This is another stellar release of rich, dark Kentucky bourbon flavor at its best.”

The suggested retail price (if you can find it on a shelf) remains $249.99, and the proof will range between 125 and 135. Each release has been in that same range of proof, however the 2019 batch came from 15-year-old barrels, while the 2018 was 14 years old.

So how’s it taste???

Damn good! How’s that for an answer?

I’ve been a huge King of Kentucky fan since the relaunched get-go, and it’s always been in my top 5 of the year. Now, 2020 has been a shit-kicker of a year, but the KoK doesn’t disappoint. It’s got that big vanilla and baked cherry bouquet on the nose, and those sweet, sweet flavors bring even more vanilla, with sprinkles of caramel, pancakes, that famous Brown-Forman banana note and baking spices.

It’s actually quite complex and nuanced, and the more I let it sit, the more deep those notes get.

This does not burn like a typical whiskey would at 130 proof (the proof of my sample), but instead it coats the mouth with warmth and familiar flavors, like biting into a big, juicy caramel apple covered in peanuts, and then having a bite of a chocolate covered banana.

The pleasant, sweet finish lingers a long time, and when it’s gone, your taste buds beg for more.

The 2020 King of Kentucky will be out soon, so keep your eyes peeled. And don’t ask me how to score a bottle, because I’m not going to tell you. I want all 1,900 for myself.