Peerless Bourbon: The Waiting Is the Hardest Part
What’s another 45 minutes when you’ve already waited 102 years? That seemed to be the attitude of this unusually patient Friday night crowd lined up outside the Kentucky Peerless distillery for the Bourbon pre-release party (the “official” release was on Saturday, June 22). The last time Peerless sold bourbon was 1917. All of that changed this week.
The pre-release party itself had no pretense or fanfare. There was no program. No speeches. No music. No hullaballoo or hubbub whatsoever.
Even the tasting took a minimalist approach. I saw the poor bartender answer patron after patron that the glasses on the bar were actually not empty and they did, in fact, contain a tasting of the new Peerless Bourbon.
Bourbon Front and Center
The muted celebration only allowed the true star of the show to shine brighter. The spotlight was squarely on the Bourbon itself and the opportunity to buy a bottle of first Bourbon produced by Kentucky Peerless in over a century. Corky Taylor, Peerless owner, and Caleb Kilburn, Peerless master distiller, were also on hand to meet, greet and sign bottles. The bottles at this event include a label honoring Corky’s father, Ace Taylor, with this first edition release. This tribute is a fitting nod to the “third generation” by a company that deeply values family.
If you haven’t heard Corky’s story I won’t spoil it for you. It is best told by him anyway. Come to Louisville and visit the Peerless distillery on a Saturday. It is there you’ll experience the best distillery tour in the city. Because on Saturdays Corky does the history portion of the tour himself and it is entertaining and fascinating. Let’s just say that he’s living a full life and has wonderful stories to share. Without his focus and determination the resurrection of the Peerless brand would have never happened.
As for Caleb, I have met him at a couple of promotional events for Peerless and he is always affable and down to earth. Being anointed a master distiller at only 28 years old did raise some eyebrows in the Bourbon community. Is it fair to compare Caleb to the likes of Jimmy or Fred? Of course, not. What is fair to say is that this young man has met this challenge. The proof is in the bottle and Caleb has produced some darn good whiskey here.
Since Peerless first released its two year old rye in 2017, the quality of the product has been mostly cheered by whiskey fans. Some, however, had some sticker shock at the $100+ price tag on a two-year old rye. The budget conscious among us will feel a little better about this Bourbon as it will be on shelves in the $75 - $80 range.
Worth the Wait?
This Peerless offering is a sweet mash, non-chill filtered, barrel proof Bourbon weighing in at 109.8 proof. While there is no age statement on the label, it is believed to be four-year old whiskey. The mash bill is not disclosed, but is reported to be 10% - 20% rye and 9% - 15% malted barley. The rest of the mash bill, of course, is corn.
In classic ABV Network fashion, as I am writing this...I drink (not much of a cork pop, FYI.). I am tasting the Peerless Bourbon for the third time. The first tasting was at the event on Friday. I could get some floral on the nose, but, honestly, there wasn’t enough in the glass to get much of the taste or the finish. I tasted it again on Friday night when I got home. My tasting notes from that pour are consistent with what I am getting right now.
Color: Light copper
Nose: Fairly complex for a relatively young Bourbon. It is floral, but also some oak and smoke along with slight sweetness from the corn.
Taste: The smoky floral is still there. If I give it a bit of a “Kentucky chew” I get some fun dark chocolate notes, too.
Finish: This has a medium finish with pepper and oak. I am not typically a fan of a lot of oak, but this is not overwhelming to me at all.
After adding a few drops of water, the nose gets more sweet than smoke. The taste is also a little sweeter from the corn and the dark chocolate disappears. The finish is a shorter version of the pepper and oak noted when tasting it neat.
Overall, I enjoyed this Bourbon. I would definitely suggest drinking it neat unless the proof point is too much for you. However, it doesn’t drink as hot as nearly 110 proof. This Peerless Bourbon has a unique tasting profile and is something that I think Bourbon enthusiasts will appreciate. As always, I would suggest trying this at a tasting room, bar or buddy’s house before buying, but I think you’ll likely want to add Peerless Bourbon to your collection.
Congratulations to Corky, Caleb and the Peerless team. The Bourbon you’ve produced is terrific in its own right yet leaves us looking forward to what we’ll find in the next release. We are trusting that it won’t take us another century to find out.