Whiskey Review: Kentucky Owl Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey St. Patrick’s Edition

, | March 17, 2022

Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Kentucky Owl. 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.

In the spirit of St Patrick’s Day, Kentucky Owl has released a new collaboration, the Kentucky Owl Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey St. Patrick’s Edition. Kentucky Owl was originally founded in 1879, but closed during Prohibition. The producer was revived in 2014 by a descendant of the original owner and is now owned by the Stoli Group (which in turn is owned by Russian business man, Yuri Shefler, despite legal disputes with the Russian government).

Kentucky Owl Master Blender, John Rhea, blended this whiskey with Irish Whiskey Bonder, Louise McGuane. Rhea became Kentucky Owl’s Master Blender in 2021, after long-time positions at Four Roses and on the Board of Directors for the Kentucky Distillers’ Association. McGuane is known in Ireland for reviving the craft of Irish Whiskey bonding, which involves purchasing newly distilled whiskeys wholesale from distilleries to age in barrel, blend, and release.

According to the producer’s web site, the Kentucky Owl Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey St. Patrick’s Edition is a blend of Kentucky Straight Bourbons that range in age from four to eight years old (there appears to be some discrepancies in other earlier publications on the age range). Rhea and McGuane blind tasted casks and blends to achieve the final release, creating an Irish blended whiskey-style Kentucky bourbon.

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Per the press release, the goal was to create a fruit-forward and bold whiskey in keeping with the Kentucky Owl signature style. The tasting note mentions that rye was included to add spice and fruit, and that wheat was included to add sweetness and citrus notes. Personally, I found the vanilla note from the barrel aging to be dominate, not the fruit or chocolate aromas mentioned in the official tasting note.

Kentucky Owl Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey St. Patrick’s Edition review

Kentucky Owl Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey St. Patrick’s Edition (image via Suzanne Bayard)

Tasting Notes: Kentucky Owl Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey St. Patrick’s Edition

Vital Stats: Blend of 4- to 8-year-old Kentucky Straight Bourbons, aged in new white oak, 50% ABV, mash bill: includes rye and wheat, SRP $135/ 750ml bottle.

Appearance: This whiskey has a bold, yellow-orange color with mahogany undertones.

Nose: This opens with pungent notes of fresh vanilla pods and golden tobacco. There’s a faint acetone note like nail polish remover or fresh paint that is not overwhelming, but might not appeal to everyone. I thought it added a nice interest. The vanilla note is strong, leading into notes like candy corn, toasted white bread, and musk.

Palate: The heavy vanilla aroma is obvious on the palate, with notes of almond croissants, honey, and daisies. It’s smooth and oily with a sweet vanilla finish and a lingering warming sensation. The vanilla note is a bit overwhelming, bordering on cloying when neat. Over ice, it takes on a more citrusy impression, with notes of fresh lemon zest and sandalwood, though this also accentuates the tannins. My preference was for it neat, but the flexibility was a positive. I did enjoy the packaging: the label stands out with a bit of retro St Patty’s flair offset by the auburn color of the whiskey, and on closer inspection is quite detailed and lovely. Sure it’s green, but it’s not hokey in person.

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The Kentucky Owl Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey St. Patrick’s Edition is a fun experience for those head-over-heals in love with new oak. There is no question on popping the bottle what type of vessel this whiskey was aged in. This would make a great sipper, the aftertaste is extremely pleasant, or a lovely pairing with sweet, rich pastries such as cinnamon rolls or raised donuts. This would also make a fine accompaniment to a strong cigar. The vanilla note is profound, and I imagine will be somewhat divisive. But I found myself returning to it the next evening.

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Suzanne Bayard

Suzanne Bayard struck out to the West Coast with her now husband almost a decade ago to explore the intersection of wine and policy in its world-class wine regions. She manages a Portland, OR bottle shop by day as the wine buyer and newsletter editor. She is also the Director...