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In 2017, Brown Forman launched a brand new whiskey line called Cooper’s Craft. The significance of the name came from the cooperage that Brown Forman owns which makes barrels for their largest brands: Woodford Reserve, Old Forester and Jack Daniel’s. For this new line of whiskey, Cooper’s Craft is supposed to highlight certain barrel experiments that need the help of their coopers to help create.
All other major American whiskey brands use cooperages such as Independent Stave, McGinnis Wood Products and Kelvin Cooperage (just to name a few) to supply them with the barrels they need to age their whiskey in.
One of the main benefits to producing your own barrels, aside from the cost savings by cutting out the middleman, is that you can customize them quickly and easily to suit the needs of a new product or experiment.
This is why Brown Forman has pioneered some of the trends we’re seeing more of in whiskey making today. Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Select has custom grooves cut into the staves for more liquid to surface area contact. Jack Daniel’s No. 27 Gold gets finished in a barrel made from maple wood to impart different flavors that white oak cannot. And Old Forester 1910’s secondary barrel receives a #5 char (where the barrel is practically falling apart).
Cooper’s Craft 100 Proof
Cooper’s Craft 100 Proof expands on the concept of Sinatra Select by carving extra grooves into staves to maximize the liquid’s surface area contact. From there, they fill it with a blend of Old Forester’s standard bourbon mashbill of 72% corn,18% rye and 10% malt and the bourbon mash bill used by the Early Times brand – 79% corn, 11% rye and 10% malted barley. And to answer your question before you ask, yes, Brown Forman does still make limited amounts of that mash bill even though they sold the Early Times brand to Sazerac in 2020.
If the process of making this barrel is anything like Sinatra Select, it goes something like this: The barrel starts out as a standard charred 53 gallon barrel before the cooper removes the top metal rings from one side.
This allows him to remove the barrel head from the top, exposing the inside of the barrel. From there, a special carving tool is inserted into the barrel and grooves are cut into the already-charred staves. All of the debris that is now loose inside of the barrel is left in it, creating even more contact with the whiskey. The process is then reversed to seal the barrel back up.
Cooper’s Craft does not wear an age statement but since it’s a “straight bourbon” without an age statement it’s assumed to be just above four years old. Keep in mind that Old Forester products are generally aged for a shorter period of time than their competitors because they are aged in heat cycled warehouses.
These warehouses have steam pumped inside during the winter to raise the temperature to around 90 degrees for a couple of weeks. This helps foster the movement of the whiskey in and out of the wood staves.
Cooper’s Craft 100 proof bourbon (and it’s 82.8 proof sibling) are currently the only two products in the lineup. Despite that, Brown Forman has elected to keep their prices low with this one coming in at around $30.
This makes it somewhere between Old Forester 100 (Signature) Bourbon at $22 and Old Forester 1897 Bottled In Bond which comes in around $45. I already believe that OF100 (Signature) is one of the best values in bourbon and belongs on everyone’s, so would I think that Cooper’s Craft 100 does too? Let’s find out. I sampled this neat in a glencairn.
Nose: The nose starts out great with notes of fragrant oak, brown sugar and toffee. Light wisps of banana + pecan bread and vanilla bean keep the sweet scents humming. The only fruit notes I’m able to find are raisins.
Palate: Unsurprisingly the first notes I can taste are sweet oak, tobacco and barrel char. Charred marshmallow and flan are likely a result of increased wood contact whereas the sweet flavors of banana pudding are a classic Brown Forman trait. Further notes of vanilla wafers crisps, toasted pecans and baking spices provide a lot more of the flavors that are direct translations from the nose.
Finish: A nice touch of oak on the finish is accentuated by some caramelized sugar flavors. Cinnamon, clove and allspice add a bit of residual heat and complexity while a bit of licorice hangs around and reminds me that I am drinking a high rye mash bill.
I find Cooper’s Craft 100 Proof to be a nice addition to the Brown Forman lineup and to offer a great sip for the price. Regardless of what I say next, this is still a bottle that is very much worth the price of admission and should be in a lot of our collections.
The more I contemplate about the finer parts of this bottle, the more it loses its luster. The stave carving process is unique and represents a cool innovation that makes it unique.
This process undoubtedly makes it much more tannin-forward than Signature 100 too. I find more fruits and a slightly brighter profile in the Signature 100 whereas Coopers Craft tastes a bit flat.
I find more fruits and a slightly brighter profile in the Signature 100 whereas Coopers Craft tastes a bit flat. Of course the flavors of Cooper’s Craft makes it taste more mature, so the lack of brightness may not matter if you enjoy more oak and tobacco in your glass.
If you had to spend the night drinking out of this one bottle, I think that most people would be satisfied. But when it’s stacked up against competitors at the same age and price, the field quickly becomes crowded and it may no longer stand out.
Some may say it’s even slightly boring. But that’s the one thing about bourbon, there’s something for every preference out there. And if you’re a person that wants a bourbon that tastes much older than it is but don’t want to spend a lot of money, then Cooper’s Craft 100 might just be for you.
1 | Disgusting | Drain pour (Example: Jeffers Creek)
2 | Poor | Forced myself to drink it
3 | Bad | Flawed (AD Laws 4 Grain BiB, Clyde Mays anything)
4 | Sub-par | Many things I’d rather have (Tincup 10 year)
5 | Good | Good, solid, ordinary (Larceny, Sazerac Rye)
6 | Very Good | Better than average (Buffalo Trace, OGD BiB)
7 | Great | Well above average (Old Ezra Barrel Proof, Old Weller Antique)
8 | Excellent | Exceptional (Michter’s Barrel Proof Rye, Four Roses Barrel Strength)
9 | Incredible | Extraordinary (GTS, 13 Year MGP or Canadian Rye)
10 | Insurpassable | Nothing Else Comes Close (William Larue Weller)
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