Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by 15 Stars. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
15 Stars is a new whiskey producer based in Bardstown, Kentucky. The brainchild of father and son entrepreneurs Rick and Ricky Johnson, 15 Stars’ debut release is labeled “Timeless Reserve.” It’s a blend of two undisclosed Kentucky bourbons: one aged 15 years and the other 14 years. As stated by Rick Johnson in a recent interview, “we feel strongly about blending.”
By carefully evaluating many different bourbons over a three-year period, they sourced two they felt “exemplified the craftsmanship of the time.” The time referenced would be 1795, the year Kentucky was made the 15th state in the union, and the 15th star added to the flag.
“Flavor proofing” is a term used throughout the brand’s website as well as described in interviews and the brand’s collateral material. The co-founders state that the purpose of flavor proofing is “to find the perfect proof that brings the best flavor out of the bourbon” and “if you’ve had the opportunity to try the same bourbon at a bunch of different proofs, you know it really can bring out different flavors.”
After working their way from 90 proof up to “cask strength” the duo settled on 103 proof for their inaugural product’s release. And if industry awards and recognition are any indication of quality (this is a whole other topic of discussion), 15 Stars hit the sweet spot (see their website for an impressive list of awards). But as always, the proof is in the sip.
Tasting Notes: 15 Stars Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Vital Stats: Aged 14 years. 103 Proof, 51.5% ABV. Mash bill: A blend of 14-year and 15-year bourbon, but the two specific mash bills are undisclosed. 750ML. SRP: $279.00
Appearance: As viewed in my NEAT glass both against a white/neutral background and then up against a backlight, the bourbon’s color is tawny brown and gingerbread.
Nose: A rich nose, but not one that jumps out at you. Warm butter, brown sugar, tree nuts and a trace of dried apple and plum fruit.
Palate: A much mellower and smoother front end than I expected from the 103 proof. I consider that a welcome characteristic for my palate. The mid-mouth feel is rich, darkly sweet and warm. That warmth carries through to the finish where it blossoms and lingers, but carries through subdued oaky notes – especially surprising considering its age
For a new brand and a sourced, blended bourbon, their debut release of this well aged liquor stands out from the crowd. The father and son team, by all early indications, are taking the legacy of Kentucky bourbon seriously – as well as taking their time in getting right the details that matter.
If you’re looking for more information on 15 Stars has in store for the future, there is an in-depth, quality video interview hosted by the BourbonBlog on YouTube. One of the areas the co-founders also cover in detail is the selection process and individual characteristics of the two mash bills.
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Devon Lyon has spent the past two decades producing video content as well as writing copy and scripts for clients around the globe. But no matter how strong his natural wanderlust, it’s the Pacific Northwest he calls home. Whether it’s the growing local craft spirit scene, world-class wines, or a...