When declaring to be of aristocratic lineage, especially when the word “King” comprises 1/3 of your name, logic generally dictates the excessive pageantry surrounding your arrival becomes the order of the day. So, it is always a pleasant surprise when King of Kentucky lands with minimal fanfare, absent the bloated hype and trumpeting surrounding so many autumn Big Bourbon Time releases. And it is always great to see that King of Kentucky’s mashbill construction remains consistent (79% corn, 11% rye, and 10% malted barley). Brown-Forman has also increased the output for a third consecutive year, from 3500 bottles in 2022 to 3800 in 2023. We’re also a year older at 16 this time out.
Where last year’s sample submitted for consideration had no issue firing on all cylinders right from the bottle to the glass, this year’s sample presents a surprising bit of restraint and relief, allowing for notes of vanilla and graham cracker to present immediately. With some resting time in the glass, the graham cracker mutes itself and a delightful grape influence takes hold. Adding a few drops of water amplifies the Cognac-like note, but also unfolds greater complexity as notes of honey and dark cherry cut in.
The lower proof also plays a critical role in allowing the palate to become immediately approachable, with much of what is advertised on the nose being complemented by a heavy oak note never threatening to disrupt or annoy. The balance carries on through the finish, with slight baking spice and Ceylon tea notes lingering for a generous amount of time.
With a price increase of $50 over last year and an increase in allocation, it’s hard to deliver a flawless endorsement, but it is a nearly flawless bourbon in execution. Brown-Forman once again delivers another installment in one of the market’s most consistent and reliably enjoyable bourbon series. If you’ve enjoyed other editions throughout the years, you will be pleased that the tradition continues onward, and comfort in knowing the quality still delivers.
Traditionally, there is also a sibling 18-year-old offering exclusive to Kentucky, but Brown-Forman has opted to forgo this expression in 2023. A majority of the allocation will remain in Kentucky, but limited quantities will be available in Alabama, California, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, and Tennessee. So make travel plans accordingly.
125.8 proof as reviewed, but your bottle may range between 125 and 135. Reviewed: Barrel# 22.
A / $300 / brown-forman.com