The Making and Marketing of Legent
Blending and finishing is nothing new. Whether it’s “Oops, we put our rye in our bourbon vat” (Forgiven by Wild Turkey) or “you put your bourbon in our brandy barrels” (Collaboration from Bardstown Bourbon Company) or “you put your chocolate in my peanut butter”…we are all familiar with this concept inside and outside the Whiskey World. Legent is putting its own twist on these familiar concepts.
Legent starts with Fred Noe (Master Distiller for Jim Beam) taking 4 year old Kentucky straight bourbon and aging it in sherry and red wine casks. Then that finished whiskey goes to Japan and Shinji Fukuyo (Chief Blender for Suntory) who blends that with more Kentucky straight Bourbon. The wording on the bottle explains: “Two True Legends. One Truly Unique Bourbon”. There is no doubt that these two men are, indeed, true legends.
But, Is It Truly Bourbon?
You probably know that all Bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is Bourbon. You probably also know that there are certain legal requirements that must be met for a whiskey to be called “Bourbon”. It must be 51% corn, aged in new charred oak containers, etc. Additional requirements are that there be no coloring or flavoring added to the Bourbon. If there has…then it is no longer Bourbon.
On the Legent website (www.legentbourbon.com) it states “Legent picks up unique flavors from the different (wine and sherry) casks”. Could that be considered adding flavoring?
The website also says “these casks give Legent its deeper, reddish color”. Could that be considered adding coloring?
A more liberal interpretation may view “adding flavoring” as dumping a tub of caramel flavoring into a vat of whiskey. Or that “adding coloring” refers to Red Dye 40 and the like. Whatever your interpretation, once the flavor of Bourbon is impacted by more than the water, the grains and the new charred oak barrel then we are on a bit of a slippery slope on what should be legally be called “Bourbon”.
According to Legent’s COLA (Certification of Label Approvals) with the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) it is registered under the classification of “Whiskey Specialties” not “Straight Bourbon Whiskey”.
When I started researching and tasting Legent, one of the things that struck me was the content on the label and the website. Specifically, what was missing from both. There is no mention of “Jim Beam” on the Legent label. There are only a couple of mentions of Jim Beam on the website. One mention came as part of Fred Noe’s bio and another was made by Fred, himself, during a video on the site about the process of making Legent.
While neither Knob Creek nor Basil Hayden (also Beam Suntory brands) mentions Jim Beam on their respective labels or websites, wouldn’t a new brand with an international influence benefit from the name recognition of the number one selling Bourbon in the world?
It also appears the target market for Legent is a younger crowd (maybe not your typical Jim Beam drinker). This is also evidenced by the home page of the website which uses background video of highly man-scaped thirty-somethings gathered around a bottle of Legent. Who knows? Today’s Legent drinker may become tomorrow’s Booker’s drinker. Bringing new people into Bourbon isn’t a bad thing for Jim Beam or the industry as a whole.
So Should I Drink It?
Regardless of how Legent is classified or how it is marketed, the big question is: should I drink it? Let me start by saying that emptying my glass is the only “finish” I am a fan of when it comes to Bourbon. Most of the time I feel that secondary cask finishes only serve to ruin good Bourbon or try to mask bad Bourbon. Knowing my usual dislike for a finished whiskey, I was surprised by my thoughts on Legent.
Mash bill: Assumed to be standard Jim Beam mash bill of 75% corn, 13% rye and 12% barley.
Age: Four years according to the website
Proof: 94 proof (47% ABV)
Color: As the website described, it is has a reddish color due to the wine and sherry cask finishing.
Nose: Fruit (cherry and plum) and a bit of chocolate. The influence of the cask finishing is very evident.
Palate: The prominent fruit note becomes tart cherry. The classic Beam nuttiness is evident on the palate, too. That familiar flavor will be a welcoming note to any Beam fan.
Finish: The tart cherry is still there and is joined by a touch of oak.
Overall:My first taste of Legent was at a tasting room. I thought the cask finishing completely overpowered the underlying Bourbon. However, when I’ve tasted it subsequently (working my way down my own bottle) I have enjoyed it much more. To me, it is one of the better finished whiskeys on the market. This is especially true when you consider the mid $30 price point. Regardless of how it is categorized or how it is marketed, it is definitely worth your time to taste and I suspect you’ll want to purchase a bottle to add more variety to your liquor cabinet.