For those of you who may not have caught on, Lux Row/Luxco has been quietly sourcing distillate from Heaven Hill for decades now. Luxco, a St. Louis based company with deep roots in Bardstown, KY, has always sourced their whiskey for as long as they’ve been a company. It wasn’t until a few years ago that they finally broke ground and built a distillery for themselves in that very same town deep in bourbon country. But as we all patiently wait to see their own distillate come of age, let’s take a look at two bourbons that were separated at birth to see if we can spot any differences.
Many enthusiasts already know that the Rebel Yell and David Nicholson 1843 line uses the same wheated mashbill as Larceny and Old Fitzgerald, but Luxco also sources the ryed bourbon mashbill from Heaven Hill as well. Heaven Hill’s standard ryed-bourbon mashbill is famously 78% Corn, 10% Rye and 12% Malted Barley. You read that right, there is less rye used in the mashbill than there is malted barley.
Compared to virtually all other major Kentucky distillers, that’s the lowest ryed-bourbon mashbill out there save for maybe Buffalo Trace Mashbill #1 (which is undisclosed, but rumored to be 10%). There has been some misunderstanding recently when the website Breaking Bourbon lists two Luxco products (David Nicholson Reserve and Old Ezra 101) as using a “high rye mashbill” which it is definitely not. The confusion seems to stem from Luxco’s own website where they use the verbiage “extra-aged ryed bourbon mashbill.”
Also, Luxco themselves even publishes that they only use two different mashbills for their bourbon, one with wheat and one with rye. All of this is to prove a point that the bourbon that is contained within these two bottles is the exact same as its Heaven Hill counterparts.
In our comparison today, what we’re looking at today is which bottle is the better sipper? Did Heaven Hill save the better barrels for their own (now discontinued) product? Or did Luxco cherry pick better ones for their Old Ezra line? Although these bottles are both discontinued, both continue to have some cult followings because they can still be bought for relatively cheap if you find a person who is selling them.
In fact, if you look hard enough, Old Ezra 101 may still be on the shelf out there. So who bottled it better? Let’s take a look at these two in a blind side-by-side and see which one comes out on top. I tasted these both neat in a Glencairn.
Blind Glass #1
Nose: Caramel and peanuts come to the front and deliver the quintessential Heaven Hill low-proof profile scent. There’s a light scent of vanilla mixed with some oak as well, but as a whole, the nose is dominated by sweet scents with little complexity
Palate: Peanut brittle continues the trend of what I was smelling on the nose. There’s a little bit of pepper that flares some heat up every now and then, but it’s quickly quelled by the sweetness of butterscotch and vanilla. Oak is very faint, but present.
Finish: The peppery spice fades into the background and turns into more of a cinnamon spice while the caramel notes from the nose and palate continue. There is some oak still, but as a whole, the finish is simple and easy to enjoy.
Blind Glass #2
Nose: Much like Glass #1, the nose centers around caramel and peanuts. One thing I found odd is a note that is somewhat savory, but it’s hard to put it into words almost like the peanuts were salted). Some rye spice can be detected in small amounts which I didn’t seem to detect on Glass #1.
Palate: Butterscotch seems to be the dominate “sweet” trait I find on the palate along with a curious amount of citrus (leaning towards lemon rind more than the traditional orange). That telltale Heaven Hill peanut taste is still around as well, but the oak is harder to detect on this one than Glass #1. The mouthfeel is slightly thicker than Glass #1 though.
Finish: a slightly spicier finish than Glass #1, but the overall sweetness (now in caramel candies form) still dominates. The finish is short-ish, but pleasant.
Glass #1: Heaven Hill Bottled in Bond 6 years old
Glass #2: Old Ezra 101 7 years old
Winner: Old Ezra!
For such similar specs, there was enough difference in these two bottles to determine a clear winner. These were both great products and were priced so ridiculously low, that one has to wonder if they didn’t bring upon their own demise.
Heaven Hill clearly saw the market opening and perhaps somewhat selfishly removed their product just long enough to try and fool all of us that their new 7 year old Heaven Hill Bottled in Bond is worth 3x upcharge. But that’s a story for another article. In the end, although collectors and taters alike will gravitate towards the Kentucky-market-only Heaven Hill bottle, the Old Ezra 101 clearly is the better bottle.
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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