Lux Row’s Ezra Brooks brand is getting the glow-up treatment, with new and reformulated versions of two of its entry-level products, Ezra Brooks Straight Rye and Bourbon Cream. Both are changing proof, recipes, bottles, and labels, so let’s dig in and see if these changes are for the better.
Ezra Brooks 99 Straight Rye (2023) – Lux Row’s Ezra Brooks line hasn’t always been the most exciting brand, but the brand should be commended for continuing to work at things. Ezra Brooks 99 Straight Rye is a new expression with no connection to the older Ezra Brooks Straight Rye (though that older version appears now to be discontinued). This 99 proof expression is made from a 51% rye, 45% corn, 4% malted barley mashbill and is charcoal filtered before it goes into the barrel, though it is still made by MGP in Indiana. (The older, 90 proof version is a vastly different 95% rye.) Both, however, carry a 24 month old age statement.
Ezra 99 is a step up, though it remains a youthful, scattered spirit. A bit beefy on the nose, the rye spice character is muted, allowing the barrel to take more of the focus. Notes of mint are prominent on the palate, though a spray of random green herbs takes hold quickly. A chewy, almost gamy quality grips the tongue, though notes of almonds and nougat sweeten the experience up just a bit. As it lingers in the glass, the whiskey becomes increasingly doughy and tough, with some astringency on the finish. Better than Ezra? Yes. But that was a ’90s band. 99 proof. C+ / $30
Ezra Brooks Bourbon Cream (2023) – Released as a sugar-laden monstrosity back in 2017, Ezra Brooks Bourbon Cream has been reformulated with, notably, a higher proof — jumping from 25 to 33 proof, making it “one of the highest proof levels of any offering in the Bourbon Cream category,” per the company. It is still however made with Kentucky bourbon and real cream. Good news: The sugar is less heavy-handed this time around, too — or perhaps the boost of alcohol has dulled it — which allows more spice notes of cinnamon and nutmeg to show themselves instead of the blunt butterscotch and vanilla that was endemic to the 2017 release. Both of those sweeter qualities are still present here, but they are mercifully tempered, creating a more traditional, classic, and straightforwardly enjoyable expression of bourbon cream. Notes of maple and cinnamon toast on the finish aren’t unwelcome this time around, though do note the price has jumped considerably. 33 proof. A- / $22 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]