Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Holladay Distillery. 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.
Kentucky whiskey folk like to believe – or at least have the rest of us believe – that the only real bourbon comes from the Bluegrass state. To be fair, a lot of the classic bourbon labels are, in fact, based in Kentucky. But these days, distillers in virtually every state are also making bourbon. Much of it is really good.
Still, when I picked up a bottle recently of Ben Holladay Bottled-in-Bond Missouri Straight Bourbon, my first thought was “there’s such a thing as Missouri Straight Bourbon”?
Not really, as it turns out, at least according to the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. The Missouri legislature in 2019, though, passed a state law that required “Real Missouri Bourbon” to be mashed, fermented, distilled, aged, and bottled in the state, to be aged in oak barrels made in the state, and to be made with corn grown in the state.
In any case, the Holladay Distillery in Weston, Missouri, is leaning into the concept with the Ben Holladay label. This six-year-old whiskey meets all the state legislature’s requirements for home-state bourbon – and, since it’s bottled-in-bond, arrives at 100 proof.
It’s aged in a level three, charred, Missouri white oak barrel. Each batch will apparently be pulled from barrels on different floors of Holladay’s pair of seven-story rickhouses, then blended. This first batch is all from Warehouse C, the larger rickhouse, with 80% from barrels on the fifth floor and the rest from ground-floor barrels.
Tasting notes: Ben Holladay Bottled-in-Bond Missouri Straight Bourbon
Vital stats: Mash bill of 73% Missouri corn, 15% European rye, 12% malted barley; 100 proof/50% alcohol by volume; $60 for a 750 ml bottle.
Appearance: Ben Holladay was a transportation baron known as the “Stagecoach King” in the late 1800s for creating the Overland Express stagecoach lines, which explains the stagecoach on the label. The whiskey inside is dark amber, almost orange.
Nose: You can definitely smell the rye; there’s something tangy underlying the sweet. Think ginger spice underneath soft gingerbread cake. There are traditional bourbon notes such as vanilla and honey. But the potpourri and spice predominates.
Palate: This whiskey is rich with molasses and dark cherries, and just a little bit spicy. It’s sharp at first, but mellows quickly and nicely. There isn’t much of a finish.
Whiskey Review: Ben Holladay Bottled-in-Bond Missouri Straight Bourbon
I have to respect a distillery that did things the slow way, waiting six years to release this initial batch. Kudos to parent company McCormick Distilling Co., which provided the funding to allow for it. It’s not an overly complicated bourbon, but it shows a lot of promise for a new label. This, I could see myself drinking regularly. And at $60 a bottle, I could afford to.
User Review3.29 (7 votes)
Scott Bernard Nelson
Scott Bernard Nelson is a writer, actor and whiskey reviewer in Portland, Ore. Scott works in higher education these days, but he previously spent 22 years as a journalist, covering 9/11 in Manhattan, crossing into Iraq with U.S. Marines and contributing to The Boston Globe's Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of sexual...