Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Bardstown Bourbon Company. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review.
Bardstown Bourbon Company is one of the top ten largest distillers in the United States by production capacity, and a company at the forefront of modern bourbon. With that in mind, and with nearly 40 unique mash bills being produced onsite, it may come as a surprise that the distillery only opened in 2014. Still, that doesn’t mean the company is lacking for experience. Many members of their staff can claim credits from past work at distilleries like Jim Beam and Heaven Hill Distillery; one such man is Steve Nally.
Nally, a master distiller and 18-year veteran of Maker’s Mark, has been with Bardstown Bourbon Company from the very beginning. As the distillery’s very first employee and its resident master distiller, he has been responsible for over 50 unique mash bills and 30 products.
Nally and his work have been so influential that in 2007, he was inducted into the Bourbon Hall of Fame, an honor also bestowed upon his wife Donna Nally for her own work in 2015. Having grown up just outside the Maker’s Mark property in Loretto, Kentucky, it might be seen as a matter of course that Steve Nally entered the distillery business. Yet whenever asked, he insists just the opposite.
Apparently, he intended to be a farmer but found that the idea did not suit him. While considering where to take his career, he went to Maker’s Mark and applied for a job. Although he was initially producing yeast for the distillery, Nally made efforts to work every single job on site, from janitor to production to administration and everything in between. He did this, he claims, not because he became bored with the work, but because every facet of distilling fascinated him. It was a career founded on passion and interest, and it could be reasonably speculated that these traits are what carried Nally so far in the industry.
Discounting a brief retirement, Nally shows no signs of stopping any time soon. If anything, he may feel more motivated than ever after the release of Bardstown Bourbon Company’s Steve’s Legacy Kentucky Straight Bourbon. This is a blend named in honor of Nally as he reaches the milestone 50th anniversary of his distilling career, and in my opinion, it should do the man proud.
The bourbon is a blend of two five-years from Bardstown’s own production site, as well as another 15-year Kentucky Straight Bourbon from an unspecified source, and what a lovely blend it is! After finishing for 25 days in French Oak barrels, the whiskey emerges with both the lightness of an Irish whiskey and the distinctive sweet body of bourbon.
Tasting Notes: Bardstown Bourbon Company Steve’s Legacy
Vital Stats: Kentucky straight bourbon finished in French oak for 25 days. 100 proof/50% ABV. Mash bill: 52% 15-year Kentucky bourbon (corn 75%, rye 13%, malted barley 12%), 25% five-year Bardstown Bourbon Company bourbon (corn 68%, wheat 20%, malted barley 12%), 23% five-year Bardstown Bourbon Company bourbon (corn 60%, rye 36%, malted barley 4%).
Appearance: The bourbon is the color of browned butter. It is semi-viscous, the drops running rather quickly down the side of the glass — though not so quickly as to escape notice.
Nose: Refreshing and mildly sweet, with notes of red pear, mint chocolate, molasses, and macadamia nut. The scent is pleasantly nostalgic.
Palate: Very agreeable; the bourbon starts off with a soft mouthfeel and gradually climbs to a moderate intensity which leaves the gums tingling mildly. Initially creamy notes of cherries, oatmeal, grape leaf, and cantaloupe can be detected, after which a floral bouquet opens up beautifully. The finish leaves a lingering impression of salt and lemon juice. Overall, an extremely clean palate.
This is a very fine bourbon, flavorful enough to enjoy on its own but constrained enough to work as a food accompaniment if preferred. It is quite possibly the most refreshing whiskey I have ever encountered. The lasting impression is one of fresh, mellow sweetness with just a bit of bite, like lemonade on a hot day. Pick it up when you get the chance and enjoy it on a summer evening.
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Austin Scarberry is a writer and pastry chef based in Portland, Oregon. He uses his experience in the culinary industry to inform his reviews, letting the gentle thoughtfulness he learned from baking guide his work. Outside of The Whiskey Wash, he mainly writes poetry and fantasy/sci-fi. You can find his...