The Rebranding of Luxco
When I first started learning about American whiskey back around 2007, one of the first things I noticed when talking and emailing with drinkers across the country was how much good, value-oriented, drinkable Bourbon was available outside of California. That's not to say we didn't have quality, inexpensive options here in the Golden State, but rather there didn't seem to be a real appreciation of them. Everyone was dead set on drinking "the best" rather than something dependable on the daily. I remember Chuck Cowdery at one point telling me to try Very Old Barton on my first trip to Kentucky, a whiskey not distributed out west that symbolized to him a great example of Bourbon's true value. To this day I buy a 1.75 liter bottle of Barton each time I visit. At the CVS in downtown Louisville you can get the giant Weller-shaped jug for about $22, which comes out to about $9.50 per 750ml. Whiskey at that price is suspicious to us snooty San Franciscans who think great Bourbon has to cost at least $50 to even be considerable.
The joke is on us, however.
Bourbon wasn't expensive when the boom hit back around 2009 and—with the exception of the oft-discussed, impossible-to-find trophy bottles—it still isn't priced like a luxury liquid in most places. Not only can you still get a top-notch bottle of Bourbon for less than $30, in many states you can get a decent bottle for less than $20. Two such brands that come to mind are Rebel Yell and Ezra Brooks, labels owned by Luxco—a St. Louis-based company that contracts much of its whiskey from Heaven Hill and MGP, but recently has begun production on a new distillery along the Kentucky Bourbon trail. While I often hear serious Bourbon drinkers and industry professionals discuss Luxco's labels with a smirk or a snicker, I'm not sure what's so ridiculous about quality Heaven Hill and MGP-distilled products between $10 and $20 a bottle. Am I supposed to be embarrassed? I don't get it.
The only thing that would have embarrassed me about drinking Rebel Yell Bourbon a few years ago might have been the label, but that's all changed now. Luxco has finally brought their new and improved packaging out to the West Coast so that we can finally get a taste of what $13 wheated Bourbon tastes like out of a more respectable bottle. The other kicker is the $24 bottle of 101 proof 7 year old Kentucky Bourbon from Ezra Brooks. It's the same price as Elijah Craig, likely comes from the same formula, and it's higher in proof. Again, what am I supposed to be snickering about? It's delicious, inexpensive, and easy to drink with a supple graininess that really hits the spot. If you're a whiskey purist, you can always take shots at MGP rye products that have the name of a different distillery on the front (like the Minor Case), but at the same time there aren't a lot of sherry-aged ryes out there to choose from. At least Luxco is offering you something different here, in a nice little flask no less.
Luxco's Bardstown distillery is still in the construction phase, but in the meantime enjoy the closest thing we have out here in CA to a Very Old Barton-like value. Ezra Brooks rye for $15? Wheated Bourbon for $13?
You wanna know what's funny? Watching someone pay $100 for a bottle of Weller 12, not $13 for a bottle of Rebel Yell.
(P.S. - We're sold out of Rebel Yell Bourbon until later in the week if you're searching the site now).