*Sincere thanks to Lux Row Distillers and Common Ground PR for the sample.
Luxco’s Ezra Brooks brand has a relatively fascinating history. Established in the latter half of the 1950’s, Ezra Brooks’ made-up name, label, and bottle shape were deliberately designed to take advantage of Jack Daniels’ popularity. Predictably, things got downright litigious. While the Jack Daniels folk didn’t see the imitation as flattering, the courts didn’t see it as “unfair competition and trademark infringement” which allowed the Ezra Brooks brand to flourish and become quite popular. For a more in-depth look at the brand’s beginnings, check out my review of the new-ish Ezra Brooks Rye. And for a more in-depth look at the interesting lawsuit between Jack Daniels and Ezra Brooks, check out Sipp’n Corn’s excellent write-up of it all.
As far as I can tell, for most of its life, the Ezra Brooks line consisted of the black-labeled, lower-proof straight bourbon and the bottled-in-bond version. After a few ownership changes, the brand finally came to rest in the arms of the David Sherman company in 1993. Only then did the line begin to change. At some point in the 90’s, a 15 year old single barrel expression named Ezra B was added. According to Chuck Cowdery in his 2004 book Bourbon Straight, this was a great bourbon, one of the best 10+ year old bottles you could find. By the 2006, the David Sherman Company had changed its name to Luxco, the 15 year old was discontinued and a 12 year old had taken its place. I think I remember that one being well-regarded, too, but I never managed to try it. Fast forward to the present and the 12 year old is now long gone, and most recently the stalwart seven year old Bottled-in-Bond seems to also have disappeared from the lineup.
In the past few years, Luxco has taken a few big steps forward in terms of its whiskey offerings. The biggest step came in the form of a distillery. After years of trafficking in sourced whiskey, they’ve built their own, Lux Row, which began production in the beginning of 2018. They’ve also joined the high-end, limited edition bourbon craze with annual special releases like the Blood Oath series and the Yellowstone partnership with Limestone Branch. They’ve revamped and remodeled their core whiskey brands, Rebel Yell and now Ezra Brooks. In 2017 Ezra Brooks added a rye to its lineup, and this Fall, as the Bottled-in-Bond was quietly phased out, they introduced this one, the Ezra Brooks Seven Year Old Barrel Strength Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.
As with most of their other new whiskey offerings, this one features yet another exquisitely designed label by David Cole Creative who seems to be single-handedly establishing the current whiskey bottle aesthetic we’re seeing so much of lately. The Seven Year Old Barrel Strength Bourbon is generally assumed to be sourced from Heaven Hill which means a mashbill of 78% corn, 10% rye, and 12% barley.
The Nose: A rich and complex nose that just rolls out of the glass. Lots of sweetness throughout – dark honey, Demerara sugar, juicy orange, a bit of french vanilla ice cream, and subtle whiffs of maple sugar and macerated cherries. Behind that, sticky vanilla bean, almond cake, and a touch of cocoa powder. The oak is reserved, polished and lightly tannic. Nice baking spice notes, lots of cinnamon stick, nutmeg, and a little clove.
The Palate: This really is nearly 60% ABV? Wonderfully creamy mouthfeel with more complex sugars; caramel, orgeat syrup, orange blossom honey and bit of cherry juice. There’s also some nutty chocolate brownie…or maybe vanilla fudge (the fudge, not the band). A faint hint of toasty, peppery rye is there, too. The oak is more prominent, sturdy and grippy, with lots more cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla bean, and black pepper notes.
The Finish: Long and mouth-watering. All those sugars take on a slight burnt edge. A little blackened corn and barrel char is there, too. The oak and baking spices linger the longest.
Thoughts: Wow…fairly beautiful bourbon. This one’s definitely on the sweeter side, but it manages that sweetness nicely and provides enough complexity and counterpoint to balance it all. Those hints of almond and cherry help keep a somewhat expected flavor profile interesting. Impressively, this hardly ever comes across as a high strength bourbon. It’s not an in-your-face, robust powerhouse, it’s more languid and voluptuous making it dangerously easy drinking. Sure a bit of water adds some lushness, and it works very well over ice, and it makes a pretty great Old Fashioned, but I found it really hard to not just enjoy Old Ezra as a straight sipper. At around $40, when you consider what other “barrel strength” bourbons are going for these days, this one is actually a relative bargain. Definitely recommended.
- Corn, Sipp’n. “Copycat Whiskey – the Story of Ezra Brooks and Jack Daniel.” Sipp’n Corn℠. N.p., 25 Feb. 2015. Web. March & April 2017.
- Cowdery, Charles K. Bourbon, Straight: the Uncut and Unfiltered Story of American Whiskey. Chicago, IL: Made and Bottled in Kentucky, 2004. Print.
- “Jack Daniel Distillery, Inc. v. Hoffman Distilling Co. | 190 F.Supp. 841 (1960).” Leagle. United States District Court W. D. Kentucky, Louisville Division., 15 Dec. 1960. Web. March & April 2017.
- “Old Ezra Extra Aged Bourbon |Ezra Brooks Bourbon.” Ezra Brooks, ezrabrooks.com/whiskey/old-ezra/.