Whiskey Review: KO Distilling Distillers Reserve Bottled in Bond Straight Bourbon Whiskey

, | January 27, 2021

Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by KO Distilling. This in no way, per our editorial policiesinfluenced 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.

Staring out my window through the damp drizzle of a Portland winter, my thoughts and my belly are warmed by the invitingly spicy notes of today’s offering. Present  are the necessary technical elements to showcase a small batch Bottled-In-Bond bourbon from KO Distilling’s line up of spirits. Their Distiller’s Reserve pays homage to the long history of the 400-year-old tradition of distilling in the United States.

Retired Merchant Marines and Naval Reservists, Bill Karlson and John O’Mara broke ground on their Virginia distilling facility in 2015 after a couple years of crafting and building their recipes. Their spirits feature local grains and a lot of heart. Their decision to bring on Ryan Hendricks as their distiller seems to be a smart choice geared to allow the company to focus on creating the flavors they envision with the expertise behind the wheel to bring the product to fruition. Much like my other experiences with Bottled-In-Bond offerings, this option of quality assurance has paid off.

Their spirits have garnered a nice array of awards and their menu of spirits ranges from three gins to a clear, un-aged whiskey. The Distiller’s Reserve that is the focus for this tasting is their first dive into a more refined whiskey and exhibits a thoughtful maturity beyond its 4-year aging. Yet another sign that a young company with an appreciation for quality and tradition can put forth a product that they can not only be proud of, but one that will delight a wide audience of drinkers with its bold flavor profile.

KO Bottled-in-Bond Distiller’s Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey

KO Bottled-in-Bond Distiller’s Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey (image via KO Distilling)

 Tasting Notes: KO Distilling Distillers Reserve Bottled in Bond Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Vital Stats: Bottled at 100 proof, this bourbon is comprised of a formula of local Virginia grains of 70% corn, 20% wheat, and 10 % malted barley. It is certified Kosher and is available for about $70.

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Appearance: It has an amber color that coats the side of the glass and holds on as you swirl it.

Nose: The nose is rich with fruit and other bright flavors such as red apple and pear. Spiced bread comes forth along with caramel and honey. There is a spicy accompaniment that is peppery and evolves into cinnamon and clove and finishes with the scent of fresh cut pine.

Palate: This bourbon has pleasant buttery mouthfeel. The bold spice notes of clove, nutmeg, and cinnamon add to its fruit cake characteristics. There is a sweetness of honey and caramel, especially over ice or with a splash of water. Pine needles and oak accompany the finish. There is a heat that is prickly that dissipates nicely, never getting in the way of the flavors, but enhancing them for the palette instead. The finish has a bit of white pepper and a bit of leather.

The Takeaway


Small batch bourbon has carved a niche in the American whiskey market and when done well it holds its own with the best. This Bottled-In-Bond entry ticks all the boxes to put it on anyone’s radar. I am always excited when a small, young company such as this focuses on their quality to enhance their brand, instead of relying on cheap marketing and market saturation to make their name.

I hope you enjoy your experience with KO Distilling as much as I have with this limited bottling. I hope they can keep momentum going long enough to continue to release interesting products with even more time to build into their aging processes and focus flavor profiles.

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John Dover

As the creator and writer of “Johnny Scotch”, John Dover has built his Jazz Noir world from the music he is immersed in on a daily basis and from his travels across the US as a professional musician. John continues to build the “Johnny Scotch” library through short stories, and...