Review: KO Distilling Distiller’s Reserve Rye Bottled-in-Bond and Bare Knuckle Cask Strength High Rye Bourbon

Review: KO Distilling Distiller’s Reserve Rye Bottled-in-Bond and Bare Knuckle Cask Strength High Rye Bourbon

As fall kicked off this year, KO Distillery in Manassas, Virginia announced the release of two new expressions, both of which are meant to satisfy whiskey-drinkers’ growing love of rye (or so says the press release). First up is Distiller’s Reserve Bottled-in-Bond Rye, the follow on to last year’s Distiller’s Reserve Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon made from 100% Virginia-grown rye. The second release is a new addition to the Bare Knuckle line, and its backstory is a little more interesting. This is a sourced, high-rye bourbon from Indiana that KO purchased when they first began distilling to have extra stock on hand in case supplies ran low (which they apparently have). The 75% corn, 21% rye, and 4% wheat recipe was barreled per KO’s standards in barrels from Kelvin Cooperage and aged six years on site in Manassas. KO is making it available as both a single barrel bottled at 90 proof and, like the sample we received for review, a cask strength offering. Let’s dig in!

Distiller’s Reserve Bottled-in-Bond Straight Rye Whiskey – Instantly cool and refreshing on the nose with big, green notes of garden mint, dusty baking spices, and a bit of sweet sawdust. The palate continues the trend with an initial rush of spearmint bordering on chewing gum that quickly transitions to something more earthy, showcasing notes of damp soil, dried herbs, and pink peppercorns. There’s a bit of astringency on the very back end as the mint returns alongside a few pesky tannins. More classic barrel notes arrive on the cooling finish that fades with notes of toasted sugar and grass clippings. Fans of greener rye whiskeys will find a lot to like here. 100 proof. B+ / $75

Bare Knuckle Cask Strength High Rye Bourbon – A knockout from start to finish. Rich on the nose with dark spices, black tea, Demerara syrup, and some barrel char. The palate is a rush of indulgent candy shop flavors, from caramel apple and Cracker Jack to toasted marshmallow-filled S’mores and Almond Joys. The finish sees a silky chocolate sauce note accompanying brighter elements of orange peel and brandied cherry. There are a lot of layers here, but it’s well-balanced, and even at a healthy cask strength, it’s remarkably approachable. If you live anywhere near Virginia, be on the lookout for this bottle. 127.6 proof. A / $73

Distiller’s Reserve Bottled-in-Bond Straight Rye Whiskey




Drew Beard is assistant editor for Drinkhacker and winner of several booze-related merit badges, including Certified Specialist in Spirits and Executive Bourbon Steward. A former federal employee turned hotelier and spirits journalist, he looks forward to his next midlife crisis.


  1. Dale W Neal on June 14, 2023 at 9:24 am

    I really enjoy the Distillers Reserve BIB Virginia Rye from KO. Thanks for the review.

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