Review: Old Ezra Kentucky Straight Bourbon 7 Years Old

Luxco has been behind several popular bourbon releases recently, including Blood Oath (Pact No. 1 and Pact No. 2) and Rebel Yell Single Barrel 10 Years Old. Luxco’s lesser-known Ezra Brooks line, of which Old Ezra is a part, is also quality bourbon for the price point, but before I get into what’s inside the bottle a note about some interesting things on the outside.

Old Ezra has no shortage of graffiti on its label, from “Rare Old Sippin’ Whiskey” to the unnecessary “Genuine Sour Mash” (almost all bourbons are sour mash). The presence of those statements, along with the square bottle and the number seven (denoting its age), are enduring reminders of attempts by the brand’s founders to cut into Jack Daniel’s market share in the 1960s. However, the statement “Charcoal Mellowed” tucked onto the side of the label deserves some clarification.

The kind of “charcoal mellowing” in Old Ezra is actually just a component of chill filtration which involves the use of a small amount of activated charcoal to filter the aged whiskey before bottling. It’s a process typical of most bourbon. In fact, the former Old Ezra label (only recently replaced) advertised “Charcoal Filtered” instead. This is not the same as the famous Lincoln County Process of charcoal filtering used by Jack Daniel’s (or George Dickel, for that matter), which involves filtering new make whiskey through large amounts of sugar maple charcoal before aging.

Even more interesting, the newest packaging for Old Ezra includes the statement: “Distilled and Aged in Kentucky by Ezra Brooks Distilling.” Luxco, however, only began building its first distillery last year in Bardstown, Kentucky. So how are they producing seven-year-old bourbon? With help from renowned whiskey writer Chuck Cowdery, I discovered that, like Ezra Brooks Black Label, Old Ezra is produced by a Kentucky distiller (most likely Heaven Hill Distilleries) which has registered a “doing business as” (DBA) with Ezra Brooks, making the statement technically true, if somewhat misleading.

The bourbon inside the Old Ezra bottle is actually quite good and pleasantly straightforward. The nose is soft for 101 proof, full of sweet vanilla and oak with faint notes of cloves and black pepper. Light on the palate, it’s dominated by vanilla with layers of turbinado sugar and butterscotch. The finish is a medium length with notes of cinnamon red hots and a nice residual heat, which is the only real evidence of its higher proof.

For only a slight price increase, Old Ezra provides more complexity and depth of flavor than the other lower proof, lower shelf Ezra Brooks expression. It’s a very enjoyable, if still simple, sipping whiskey with the bonus of offering plenty of reading material on the label!

101 proof.

B+ / $22 / ezrabrooks.com

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2 Responses

  1. Carl H. July 19, 2017 / 11:57 am

    Always a favorite of mine.

  2. Chad R. Larson September 15, 2017 / 3:38 am

    I’ve had a fondness for Old Ezra (lately renamed) for several decades. There have been two problems. The first is the shuffling of contract distilleries by Luxco , who own the brand but have only recently started production in their own plant. That has resulted in varying quality over the decades. But, under contract, Heaven Hills has been filling the bottles for the standard Ezra for some years now. The seven year old Ezra has been missing, or at least not available here in Arizona. But imagine my surprise and pleasure when it showed up on the shelf in my local Total Wine store. I’ve tried two bottles (so far) and it is a superior bourbon, especially for the price. At 101 proof, and aged seven years it is a bargain. Cheaper than Wild Turkey 101 and very, very much better tasting, probably due to the longer aging (much smoother). I hope Luxco makes a bigger effort to expand the presence of this fine bourbon. I almost said inexpensive, but that might leave an incorrect impression of cheapness.

    I certainly understand that starting up a product line that features something seven years old is a major investment. And obviously can’t jump into a market niche on a moment.

    For cheap, try Heaven Hill’s Evan Williams. The least rot-gut of the very cheap bourbons.

    The second problem has been the limited availability. Here in Arizona, the distributor who had the rights (don’t get me started on the idea of exclusivity for distributors) wasn’t interested. I asked one of the more connected liqueur stores here in Phoenix and they said the distributor (I’d tell you the name, but I don’t remember it–Southwestern something, I think) only wanted to sell the 1.75L jugs of the standard Ezra, as the well bourbon for slightly upscale bars. You’d be hard pressed to find it in your local stores.

    Oh, and to be fair, the 1.75L jugs of the 3 year old Ezra sell for about half what the 7 year old (per oz) at my local store. Seems fair, and not bad, if you’re on a tight budget.

    I hope this is a sign things are looking up.

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