It’s round three for Brown-Forman’s King of Kentucky brand, which has been cranking out limited edition Kentucky bourbons since 2018. As with the last two editions, it’s a single barrel release, this time composed of 32 barrels which will all be bottled individually at cask strength (proof ranging from roughly 125 to 135). It’s got the same 79% corn, 11% rye, 10% barley mash as prior bottlings, and this one is aged 14 years, same as the 2018 release. All bottles are “filled, bottled, wax-dipped, and numbered by hand with details including proof, age, warehouse location, lot number, serial number, and barrel number, all selected by Master Distiller Chris Morris.”
In keeping with prior editions of this whiskey, it’s an absolute monster that will challenge the palate of any drinker looking to tackle it straight from the bottle. Racy and aggressive, you’ll have to push through a woody, burly, alcohol-laden aroma to get to some fairly classic elements — baking spice and a fun maple candy character. On the palate, sans water, the heat is searing and enduring, with notes of cinnamon red hots — emphasis on hot — dominating. It takes some water and more than a little for King of Kentucky 2020 to really show its charms, with butterscotch, sweet caramel sauce, molten chocolate cake, and more baking spice all in effect. It’s a bit gritty and cayenne notes are never far away, but with water they’re held in check. Use an eyedropper to thread the needle and avoid overdoing it. It’s a tough calculus, but one that’s worthwhile.
As with prior KoK releases, this 2020 bottling is a charming winner that rewards patience and diligence. Just bring some filtered water for the experience: It’s dangerous to go alone!
130.6 proof as reviewed. Reviewed: Barrel #3.