Whiskey Review Round Up: Bower Hill Kentucky Straight Bourbon - The Whiskey Wash

Whiskey Review Round Up: Bower Hill Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Editor’s Note: These whiskeys were provided to us as review samples by Kra-ze LLC. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review.

When we last reviewed Bower Hill whiskey in 2016, we shared the story around its name. Since it seems like politics is more volatile than ever, let’s briefly go there.

The Battle of Bower Hill was the first bloody clash of what was called the “Whiskey Rebellion.” The Rebellion originated from the Excise Whiskey Tax of 1791, which was supposed to recoup funds lost from fighting the British during the Revolutionary War. During the battle, resistance forces surrounded federal tax inspector General John Neville’s fortified home, Bower Hill. Guns were fired. People died, on both sides. Upon completion of the two day battle, the home was destroyed by fire.

A little grim, no? But…topical. Somehow.

Sigh.

Anyway! We recently received four Bower Hill bottles to sample, all Kentucky Straight Bourbon: Bower Hill Barrel Reserve; Bower Hill Single Barrel; Bower Hill Special Edition; and Bower Hill Barrel Strength.

Let’s get tasting.

Bower Hill Bourbons

The bourbons of the Bower Hill brand (image via Carin Moonin/The Whiskey Wash)

Tasting Notes: Bower Hill Barrel Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Vital Stats: 86 proof; mash bill of 70 percent corn, 28 percent rye, and 2 percent malted barley; aged in #3 char new American oak barrels 5-6 years. About $47.

Appearance: Extremely light, so light that I have a hard time believing it was aged as well as it advertises. A very light gold. But like a whisper of a gold. Like there’s something about this whiskey that already looks watered down.

Nose: The smell is pleasant, though. Woodsy like a forest before a rain. The oak really permeates. I like it. Also, spearmint.

Palate: Very light mouthfeel, almost tinny. Not in metallic taste, but it tastes watered down in addition to looks watered down. Minimal richness, not a lot of reward.

Final Thoughts: You know what this would be good in? A Bloody Mary. Use it instead of vodka. I can see this as easily being added to a cocktail and it would just enhance the flavor of its surroundings. Think like a really spicy Bloody Mary, with lots of horseradish, big chunky tomato hunks, and a raised rim of celery salt like the beach at low tide.

Score: 2.5/5

Tasting Notes: Bower Hill Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon

 Vital Stats: 94 proof; mash bill of 70 percent corn, 25 percent rye, and 5 percent malted barley; aged in 3 char new American oak barrels 5-6 years. About $70.

Appearance: Darker than the Barrel reserve. It looks like it took on more oak. It’s the color of like freshly cleaned, shiny oak flooring.

Nose: Very light. Extreeeeemely light. Honestly, I can’t get a read on it at all. Maybe like paste, slightly? Like nursery school paste? And newsprint? I’m not trying to be rude, but I really can’t get a nose on this at all. It smells like the tail end of a whiskey on the rocks.

Palate: This has a little more bite than the one I just tasted—and I welcome that. I get cinnamon and spice. It’s interesting because the palate is more assertive than the nose. By far.

Final Thoughts: Slightly hot but tastes more like an 86 proof like the one before it. I get roasted beets, if they were fermented. Or freshly grated red beets in a salad. I’d drink this, but wouldn’t go out of my way for it.

Score: 3/5

Tasting Notes: Bower Hill Kentucky Straight Bourbon Special Edition

Vital Stats: 106 proof; non-chill filtered; mash bill of 70 percent corn, 25 percent rye, 5 percent malted barley. Around $65.

Appearance: Its color is aomewhere between the first two. It’s a darker gold than the Barrel Reserve, but not as reddish as the Single Barrel. In the bottle it’s like a rich caramel color but in the glass it looks a little thin.

Nose: Its nose also lies also between the first two in intensity. Some spice and cinnamon, but also caramel, ginger, and surprisingly, coriander.

Palate: There is more complexity to this whiskey than its tasting predecessors. I thought aging would bring the depth and maturity but maybe it’s actually the proof for this brand, because the proof has been steadily rising as I go further into the round-up. It’s got a melted, burnt sugar quality that’s very good. I actually like this more than I expected to.

Final Thoughts: This reminds me of an after-dinner palate cleanser. Its high proof makes it a little lip-tingling, but it’s well-balanced and surprised me. It tastes like a really good spicy ginger ale. I wonder what it would be like in a really spicy ginger ale, with a wedge of lime. I’ll hang onto this one for sure.

Score: 3.5/5

Tasting Notes: Bower Hill Barrel Strength Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Vital Stats: Very Small Batch, Distilled and aged in Louisville Kentucky, 118.8 proof. Around $120.

Appearance: The darkest of the four—and that’s not super-dark, though this does have more of a presence in the bottle and can hold its own in the glass. In the glass, there is a shine to it.

Nose: This is also pretty potent. Butterscotch, but high-alcohol. Like vanilla, but vanilla extract, not the smell of vanilla. Cherries jubilee right when they add the booze in the restaurant and you sort of rear back and secretly fear your hair burning. It smells like the high alcohol that it is.

Palate: I’m not entirely sure what to think of this. This is definitely barrel strength. Like it’s sot of textbook barrel strength. I feel like it’s strong for the sake of being strong, which…doesn’t do that much for me. There is minimal complexity. My theory about it being more nuanced the higher proof you go for Bower Hill is incorrect.

Final Thoughts: So, if you want to try a whiskey just for trying a high-proof whiskey, you could try this. But there are so many other options that have more depth and complexity, I am not sure if I’d recommend this one. It tastes like booze. Really boozy booze.

Score: 2.5/5