I recently pulled this bottle of Landry Stakes Small Batch off the shelf of the local liquor store purely on a whim. I had no idea who made it, where it came from, or anything about it — which made it especially appealing to someone like me, who sometimes feels like they’ve seen and tried it all. Imagine my happy surprise when some preliminary research revealed this to be a local Austin brand that just put out its first bourbon earlier this year.
Zach Landry has a long history of working in the banking and investment world, but he was born into horse racing. His grandfather and uncle both had owned and raced quarter horses in New Mexico, and in 1999 Landry followed in the family footsteps as part owner of a winning racehorse. In addition to racehorses, Zach also appreciated a good bourbon whiskey, and in 2021 he brought those two passions together when he founded Landry Distillery.
Founded in 2021 in Austin, Texas (with some help from Gary Crowell of Deep Eddy Vodka fame), the Landry Distillery imports their whiskey from other distillers and brands their releases based on famous quarter horses (a specific breed best over short distances, rather than the thoroughbreds that are commonly featured on other bourbon releases and run for the Triple Crown). The distillery released its first bourbon in January of 2022.
- Learn More: What Is Bourbon Whiskey?
The Landry Distillery doesn’t appear to actually make any of its own whiskey (at least not just yet) and instead imports their spirits from other distilleries, bottling them for sale under their own brand.
This Landry Stakes Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey is actually distilled in Kiln, Mississippi by the Crittenden Distillery, a small town distillery that doesn’t seem to mass produce their spirits for anyone else. Reportedly, Zach Landry had been working with the folks at Crittenden during the pandemic, perfecting the spirit that is in this bottle today.
As a bourbon, this starts out with a combination of grains (at least 51% of which must be corn to be a bourbon); in this case, that mixture is 70% corn, 20% wheat, and 10% barley. Those grains are milled, cooked, and fermented into a mildly alcoholic liquid that is then fed into the Crittenden Distillery’s whiskey still.
That raw whiskey is then placed into new charred oak barrels where it sits for a minimum of four years before being shipped to Austin, Texas. Once there, the whiskey is blended together from multiple casks and combined with Austin well water to create the finished product which is bottled and shipped for sale.
The bottle shape isn’t anything particularly new — it reminds me a lot of the Devil’s River bottle designs. It’s a flat rectangular cross section with rounded edges, which results in a ton of real estate on the front and back. The bottle is square and stocky with straight walls that round quickly at the shoulder, and a short neck that is capped off by a wood and cork stopper.
As for the label, I think they did some things right, but there might be a couple missteps here.
The front label is perfect. Clean and precise, it has all the necessary information laid out in an easy-to-read fashion. The font and design choices give it a retro feel, and I like that the distillery logo here is presented as a stamp or a brand (which fits with the livestock theme of the distillery). There is a racehorse image that appears to be sandblasted or etched into the glass, which continues the subtle incorporation of the racing theme. But what I like best is that all of this gives plenty of room for buyers to see and appreciate the color of the liquid inside.
The back label diminishes this effect, though. It’s a large white stamp of paper — way too large, if I’m honest. It takes up nearly the entire rear of the bottle and means that it is nearly impossible to see straight through the bottle. All of the information could have been conveyed on a much smaller scrap of paper, preserving that precious space a bit more.
There’s a really nice deep amber color to this bourbon — almost like a rusty brown, but with a shade of orange thrown in. On the aroma, I’m getting some very sweet brown sugar, caramel, and vanilla up front, followed by some raw corn. Mixed in there seems to be a bit of peach, orange, cedar wood, and nutmeg as well.
As soon as you take a sip, there’s a quick flash of burned caramel but without the usual associated bitterness. It’s a bit of a darker flavor that seems to provide a good baseline for what comes next. Following quickly thereafter is some delicious orange citrus that adds a nice cheery lighter tone to the mixture, then some baking spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, etc), brown sugar, vanilla, and finally ending with some black pepper spice on the finish.
As you’d expect, the added ice tones things down quite a bit. Instead of the vibrant flavors we saw before, this has become a bit more muted — but in some cases for the better.
What I really appreciate is that the charred caramel flavor has been significantly reduced, and what’s left is much closer to a good deep and rich brown sugar flavor. It still has some of that depth and complexity but without the potential roughness, and continues to lay a good baseline down for the rest of the flavors in the drink.
And thankfully, that orange citrus flavor hasn’t gone anywhere. It still provides some good complexity and balance, with a brighter tone to balance out the brown sugar and makes for a really nice sipping spirit in this configuration. Alongside that is a cereal flavor from the barley (which had been covered up when taken neat) and a bit of apple as well.
In reality, I think that the ice makes this a better tasting spirit. Which is an unusual (but appreciated!) turn of events, since more often than not we see ice having a negative effect on spirits. There’s more complexity and more flavors now, but it remains well balanced and tasty.
Cocktail (Old Fashioned)
This was already a pretty balanced spirit to start, with some deeper and more complex flavors available and at the forefront. That’s pretty much an ideal setup for a good and delicious old fashioned.
What the bitters are bringing to the table here is just a burst of herbaceousness that gives the drink something a little extra special, and really takes things to the next level. It accentuates the flavors in the spirit without overpowering them, and tastes much closer to a mid-century Old Fashioned (with that prominent orange flavor from the spirit) compared to a more traditional Old Fashioned.
For a garnish, I usually roll with an orange peel and that’s definitely ideal here as well. The orange citrus in the spirit still shines through here, and that little extra kick of essential oils from the peel will make it just that much better.
This is surprisingly delicious. I didn’t expect this to come out quite this good, actually — I thought that the flavor profile would fall a little flat. But in reality, this works really well.
Up front, the big challenge here is providing a balance for the bright and tangy ginger beer and lime juice flavors. These are components that can overpower the cocktail and make it bitter if not countered properly. In this case, I think the brown sugar and orange citrus are exactly the right components to balance things out. Not only do they provide enough sweetness, they also are in that same citrusy range to be complimentary flavors. It makes for a fruity cocktail, certainly, but one that works well.
On the finish, I also get some of that baking spice or black pepper kick. Not a lot, but enough to turn an otherwise flat texture into something just a bit more interesting. This is where a bit of rye content would probably go a long way towards lending a helping hand, but adding that might also negatively impact some of the other flavors they are going for. It’s a tough call to make, and I think they did well.
This is a good bourbon and a great first showing from a newer manufacturer. Even if the whiskey is sourced from a known quantity rather than distilled onsite, they are transparent about the origins and clearly went to some effort to find the right blend of barrels and get the flavors just right. In the end, these efforts don’t go unrewarded – the flavors, complexity, and balance here are really good.
The problem this runs into is that this specific area of the market is way too crowded — store shelves are lousy with $50 bottles of bourbon. This price point is where there’s a bit of elevation in the flavor profile, enough to justify the price tag, but it’s not quite premium or luxury tier. While the solid flavor profile and excellent performance in cocktails definitely justify the price here, there are just too many other (better) bottles competing in this race — and this one falls very much in the middle of a crowded pack.
|Landry Stakes Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey
Produced By: Landry StakesProduction Location: Mississippi, United States
Classification: Bourbon Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 45% ABV
Price: $54.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Brown sugar, orange citrus, and baking spices all in a tasty, well-balanced spirit.