Whiskey Review: Backbone Bourbon Uncut

Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by The Backbone Bourbon Company. 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.

Recipes for success can be as nebulous as a mash bill. What worked for someone else might not work for you.  No matter how attentive you are to the amounts of inspiration, perspiration, and dedication you add, it may come down to just paying attention.

When Bill Kennedy and Nolan Smith conceptualized the idea of The Backbone Bourbon Company over ten years ago, they attentively noticed that bourbon was coming back, and it was going boom. Non-distilling producers have been around since there has been a commercial need for whiskey. For much of whiskey’s history, sourcing product from a distillery and then adding your own distinctive twist and labeling to make it your own was common practice. The gentleman of Backbone needed a supplier  when they attempted to source and brand a whiskey under their own labels using the specific standards. They were looking for high proof bourbon, and at the time they began, terms like “uncut” and “barrel proof” were not nearly as widespread as they are today.

The initial source for supply was a distillery in Indiana. That distillery backed out, citing “a need for bigger and better representation.” This is where the name Backbone originated from, according to the people behind the brand, as they wished their supplier had had more “backbone.” Fortunately for Backbone there is a lot of whiskey produced in Indiana and they were able to find another supplier in MGP. Not only do they have a lot of whiskey, they can get pretty specific to a client’s demands. MGP can also provide a couple of other necessary ingredients for a recipe for success: consistency and quality.

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Backbone has been consistent in disclosing the source of their product when labeling, as well as stating barrel and bottling dates and which batch each bottle came from. The first couple of releases were only available in Indiana, but they have since been able to expand their distribution to Arizona, California, Illinois, and Nevada.

Tasting Notes: Backbone Bourbon Uncut Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Vital Stats: Batch #20 tasted for review. 119 proof (59.5% ABV). Distilled in Lawrenceburg, Indiana and bottled in Bardstown, Kentucky. No age statement, but a barrel date of 7/2014 and a bottle date of 4/2019 are listed on the label. MSRP $60.

Appearance:  Light canary yellow blends into warm honey and wheat hues

Smell:  Hot oil, cotton candy and vanilla make you feel as though you’re walking through dessert stands at a summer carnival

Palate:  Burned sugar, hot caramel and deep spice greet the palate. It finishes smooth with flavors of carob and black strap molasses


The Takeaway


I can truly appreciate a spirit with “backbone”. Some of my more memorable drams have been of the high proof variety. I can also speculate as to how this particular offering may fare with a bit more age. I’m not sure as to the barrel size on this one, but I will assume it's a 53 gallon. It seems a little one dimensional in the character department, with heat being the predominant personality; I wonder what other traits would develop with a little more time? Cocktail-wise this would stand up great against any other ingredients, although it may be a little prohibitive at this price point.

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Jason Marshall

Jason Marshall has spent his career as a bartender advocate and mentor , providing an opportunity for the best new faces and ideas to flourish. The process has given him opportunities to stretch creatively, develop wonderful people who branched out to their own passions, and host cocktail competitions with a...