*Sincere thanks to Limestone Branch Distillery and Common Ground PR for the sample.
Luxco and Limestone Branch Distillery’s revitalization of the Yellowstone brand has created not just a great story, but some great bourbon as well. If you’d like, you can catch up here on all the juicy details with my write-up of the 2016 limited edition Yellowstone. Suffice it to say, an old, storied brand had fallen into squalor but then was, in part, turned over to the distilling descendants of the man who created the brand, and given a beautiful new look and the many steps up in quality that it deserved. Man, this sounds vaguely familiar, but I can’t quite put my finger on why…
The Yellowstone 2016 Limited Edition was comprised of both 12 year old and 7 year old bourbons which were then married and finished for a period of time in new wine barrels that were toasted rather than charred. The Yellowstone 2017 Limited Edition was similar to 2016’s with a slight twist and one important addition. The 12 year old and 7 year old whiskeys were joined by some of the first 4 year old straight bourbon produced at the Limestone Branch distillery. Those three whiskeys were then finished in the same 28 wine barrels from the 2016 release which had been given a light re-charring. The Yellowstone 2018 Limited Edition Kentucky Straight Bourbon also sees a little of Limestone Branch’s 4 year old straight bourbon joining sourced bourbons ranging up to 12 years old. Those same 28 wine barrels are once again pressed into service, being given a heavy re-charring before finishing the bourbons for several months. The 2018 run clocked in around 12,000 bottles and again features label and tube design by David Cole Creative. The ’16, ’17, and ’18 limited editions were always intended to be a trilogy that focused on the wine barrel finishing, so this one’s the last one in that regard. Rumor is the next limited offerings will focus more on a single age statement.
On a side note, one has to feel a little sorry for those 28 wine barrels, though, right? They barely get a moments rest, before they’re re-charred, re-filled, and re-racked in a warehouse. At this point they’ve got to be tired. I wonder if they get their own special place in the warehouse? And what’s going to happen to these barrels now that they’ve given all they can give? As far as I know, you can’t just put barrels out to pasture. You can’t put them out to stud and offer up breeding services. I mean, I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure barrel-making doesn’t work like that. Although if it does, then I have a whole new level of respect for the art of cooperage…
The Nose: A rich, oak, sugar, and fruit filled nose that oozes out of the glass. There’s brown sugar, grape juice, dark amber honey, juicy orange, and a little butterscotch. Behind that there’s a bit of burnt sugar, some sticky vanilla bean, candied pecans, and damp tobacco leaf. The oak is strong and tannic, think newly polished wood, with spice notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and soft, fine ground pepper.
The Palate: That sweetness and oak gets turned up a notch on the palate. More dark sugars, dark Bing cherries, raisin-y red grapes*, maybe even a bit of Concord grape, and spiced orange slices. Sticky, slightly smoky vanilla bean, roasted, candied nuts, and brûlée-d sugar. A bit more herbal rye comes through here, but it’s quickly subsumed by the rugged oak. Hewn boards and polished wood, tannic and weighty, with a hint of char in background. Spice notes of sweet peppercorns, earthy cinnamon, cocoa nibs, clove, and just little dried star anise.
The Finish: Long and oaky. That dark sugar and dried fruit sweetness hangs around for a while, but grippy oak, a bit of baking spice, and peppery barrel char linger longest.
Thoughts: Excellent whiskey. The most oak-heavy of the three, the 2018 edition is a rich, rugged, expressive bourbon…just like the two that came before it. Starting in 2016, the progression of this trio has added more complex oak and spice notes along the way on top of its deep sugar and fruit profile. With all three in mind, I think the 2017 edition edges out the 2016 and 2018 editions by a hair. Tasted side by side, I think that year’s model achieves the best balance between that sugars, fruit and oak profile. That said, the difference in quality is very subtle, the 2018 edition is still a heady, complex, beautiful whiskey. Definitely recommended.
*I admit that “raisin-y red grapes” makes very little sense, but hopefully it gives the senses the sense of things…
- Lemon, Peter. “Yellowstone 2016 Limited Edition Kentucky Straight Bourbon – Review.” THE CASKS, 7 Mar. 2017, thecasks.com/2017/03/07/yellowstone-2016-limited-edition-kentucky-straight-bourbon-review/.
- Lemon, Peter. “Yellowstone 2017 Limited Edition Kentucky Straight Bourbon – Review.” THE CASKS, 10 Jan. 2018, thecasks.com/2018/01/10/yellowstone-2017-limited-edition-kentucky-straight-bourbon-review/.
- “Yellowstone® Limited Edition Kentucky Straight Bourbon 2018 Launches this Month” 12 Sept. 2018. Press Release.