I’m a sucker for Texas whiskey. I love this state, and I love the independent spirit that the distilleries in this state bring to their creations. Kooper Family is a brand whose whiskey is much like my own journey — it might not have been born in Texas, but it was matured here into something much better.
Troy and Michelle Kooper have been in the distilling business for quite some time. After refining their craft working for other whiskey brands, they decided in 2012 to focus their combined knowledge on a family brand, opening Kooper Family Whiskey and starting down their own path.
While the label might say “made in Texas”, they don’t hide the fact that they source the raw whiskey from other distilleries around the country and bring that un-aged spirit back to Texas. Once in the Lone Star State, they age the whiskey in their own barrels and bottle it for sale.
As previously stated, the Kooper Family makes no effort to cover up the fact that this is a blended whiskey. They source their spirits from other distilleries, bring them back to Texas, and the age them in their own barrels before bottling. Personally, I always appreciate transparency when it comes to the source of my whiskey.
In this case, the whiskey is a blend of a five year old and a three year old rye whiskey, which typically comes mostly from rye grain. The label says that there’s also some corn in the grain bill, but since we don’t have a lot of information about the source of those spirits I don’t have a clear picture of exactly what’s in there.
The whiskey is blended prior to aging in the oak barrels, and the wild temperature swings of the Texas climate help force the whiskey into and out of the barrel typically providing a richer and deeper flavor. How long the whiskey stays in the barrel isn’t disclosed.
The bottle itself is a design we’ve seen time and again for craft distilleries: the round body that expands outwards towards the rounded shoulder and finishes in a medium length neck that bulges in the middle. The whole thing is topped off with a cork stopper. It’s a common design because it’s appealing and works well, but there isn’t much unique about it.
As for the label, it’s a fairly straightforward design. The square label is slightly off-white, and has the branding in striking black lettering with some gold accents. There’s an illustration of a boxer on the bottle, maybe an indication that this whiskey packs a punch? We’ll see.
You’re going to want to let this sit for a second. If you take a whiff as soon as you pour it in the glass you’re going to get some medicinal notes coming off it, but things improve quickly. After about five minutes letting the whiskey breathe, that aroma starts to change and morphs into a rich and deep caramel tone with a little bit of vanilla mixed in.
The flavor is pretty much exactly what you’d expect from that aroma, very strong and rich caramel with some vanilla mixed in. It’s a proper rye, with that peppery spice making itself known early but not so strong that it’s overpowering the rest of the flavor in the spirit.
Overall the spirit is smooth, rich and delicious… as long as you let it sit for a minute. This is a spirit where you need some of those offensive alcohol elements to blow off before you can enjoy it.
Sometimes the bold flavors of a whiskey are reduced or eliminated with the addition of a bit of ice, but in this case there’s no difference other than the liquid being a little colder than normal. If anything, it might just be that the boldness of the caramel is slightly reduced to a more enjoyable level, but the peppery spice is definitely still present.
What has changed is that the medicinal flavor seems to have completely disappeared without needing to wait for those elements to evaporate. It tastes great right off the bat, and smells even better.
Cocktail (Old Fashioned)
This is legitimately great.
The spirit by itself is rich, sweet, and full of deep caramel flavoring. With the addition of some bitters and some orange zest, the added brightness of those elements balance out the cocktail and make it so much more enjoyable. And the peppery spice from the rye content adds another layer to the cocktail without overpowering the whole concoction.
Even without the traditional sugar cube, this is a great cocktail (which is great news for those on a low-sugar / keto diet).
There’s a couple things I’m looking for here: (1) the sweetness of the whiskey to balance out the bitterness of the ginger beer; (2) the peppery spice to come through the overpowering elements and still be noticeable; (3) for the flavor of the whiskey to compliment the whole cocktail.
In this case, the whiskey passes with flying colors.
The bold caramel flavor balances out that bitterness quite nicely, adding some sweetness to the cocktail that takes the edge off the whole affair. And the pepper spice is present, but not overpowering. Just the way a good Kentucky mule should be.
This is a really good rye whiskey, as long as you give it a second to breathe. There’s some rich caramel in here and some enjoyable spice that makes it delicious and versatile. The only reason that it doesn’t make it all the way to that fourth star is the fact that there are some other really good rye whiskies in this price range — and while this is definitely worth the price, there’s that one stumble right out of the gate that’s keeping it from being truly great.
|Kooper Family Rye|
Produced By: Kooper FamilyProduction Location: Texas, United States
Classification: Rye Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 45% ABV
Price: $39.99 / 750 ml
Overall Rating: 3/5
More than three years in the making… you can wait one minute after pouring to bring out the flavors.