Possibly the most surprising thing about P’Nutty Peanut Butter Whiskey is just who makes it. Seriously – if you can accurately guess, I’ll be shocked. In case you didn’t gather from the name, it’s a peanut butter whiskey, which is all the rage right now and has a ton of copycats popping up from mass production distilling operations and bottling groups. And now it looks like one of the big names is getting into the game, too.
This whiskey is produced by K. D. Distilling Co, and claims to be bottled in Louisville, Kentucky.
Who owns K. D. Distilling Co? Buffalo Trace.
Founded in 1792, the Buffalo Trace distillery claims to be the oldest continuously operating distillery in the United States (with Burk’s distillery, current producers of Maker’s Mark, taking the title of oldest continuously operating bourbon distillery).
Distilling first started on the property in 1775 by the Hancock and Willis Lee brothers, and the first permanent distillery was constructed in 1812 by Harrison Blanton. The distillery remained open during prohibition to produce whiskey for “medicinal purposes” — one of the only facilities permitted to do so.
The distillery was given its first name by then owner Edmund H. Taylor as the “Old Fire Copper Distillery” or OFC.
In 1992, the distillery was sold to the Sazerac company, a privately held New Orleans based distillery conglomerate that is one of the major spirits producers in the United States (mostly through discount spirit brands). It was re-branded in 1999 to the Buffalo Trace Distillery which is the name it retains to this day.
The change of ownership has done the distillery well, with a recent $200 million investment in the plant happening in 2016.
This is a little strange, but I think I know what might be going on here.
Sazerac already has a peanut butter whiskey brand. Specifically, Sheep Dog which we’ve reviewed previously. That product is made and distributed directly by Sazerac, with a significantly more bland branding scheme and bottle design.
It doesn’t make sense that a company like Sazerac would have two competing products for such a niche area of the market. That would just canabalize their own sales and put their marketing efforts in direct competition with each other. So, what I think is going on (and this is pure conjecture) is that Sheep Dog was a stopgap measure to get something — ANYTHING — on the shelves to get their foot in the door, test the market viability, and give them time to come up with a more completely baked and polished entrant. And I think this is that second effort that we’re seeing here now.
This whiskey is marketed as a “whiskey with natural flavors and caramel colors” which is probably the least restrictive kind of appellation. There is very little that the company can’t do to this whiskey before it is packaged and shipped out the door.
Given that description, it is very likely that this started out life as a whiskey (hopefully some Buffalo Trace that didn’t quite make the cut for their prime product, but usually just a blend of whiskey and neutral spirits) that has had some natural flavors added to it to make up the peanut butter part of the equation. Exactly what those flavors are is not disclosed… so, while I’d like to hope that they used actual peanut butter, we just really don’t know.
Buffalo Trace is owned by the Sazerac Company, who also produce the Two Stars Kentucky Straight Bourbon we’ve reviewed before. Which just so happens to use this exact same bottle. I’m betting that to keep production costs down, they simply re-used one of their lesser known whiskey bottles for the purpose rather than trying to come up with something completely new.
Overall, the bottle sports a round and bulbous base, a long neck, and is capped off with a plastic screw-on cap.
The label is styled to look like an older hand written label, with perforations on the top and bottom along with a weathered and yellowed appearance. The text is written in a mixture of black and reflective gold ink, which makes it very hard to see against the yellow background. Faded in the background is a somewhat creepy portrait of an old man, possibly the eponymous “Shep ‘P-Nutty'” whom the label claims did the bottling. On the back is another label with a folksy story about how the whiskey “makes you wanna jump up and holler” printed in typewriter font.
It’s roughly on the same level for authenticity and ambiance as Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disneyland. But it seems to be leaning into the kitsch, which I can appreciate.
Usually these peanut butter whiskies can have a decidedly artificial smell coming off them, and that continues to be the case here. I suspect it’s the added alcohol content that’s throwing me off here, but while there’s a good hit of peanut, there’s also something medicinal about it.
The liquid in the glass is thick and viscous compared to a normal whiskey, but about the right color for a peanut butter spread.
Taking a sip, it’s very sweet, but there’s something different going on here compared to other peanut butter whiskies I’ve tried. Instead of being an in-your-face intense peanut experience, the peanut butter is almost secondary. There’s some vanilla and caramel flavors that are prominently on display as a good whiskey should, and the peanut flavor makes an appropriate appearance as the flavor develops.
That flavor lingers well into the aftertaste, but unlike other peanut butter whiskies there’s no sourness or bitterness that develops. It’s just a sweet whiskey with peanut flavoring.
It isn’t overpowering, and it isn’t disgusting. It’s a bit sweet if I’m honest, but it is approaching drinkable (and I say this as a person who hates these kinds of spirits).
With a little bit of ice, this surprisingly takes a more earthy tone with the peanuts. Instead of peanut butter, this is now like roasted baseball park peanuts. The caramel and vanilla flavors are still large and in charge and generally the flavors are all the same, just with a slight twist.
One thing I will nicely note is that this seems to be avoiding the problem that other similar spirits have with their flavors becoming “washed out.” Here, the flavors do change a bit with the added ice, but it isn’t that “diet coke that’s been open too long versus a fresh one” difference.
Cocktail (Old Fashioned)
You know, I don’t hate this as much as I thought I would.
There’s something interesting going on with the peanut butter flavor and the angostura bitters. I mentioned that the peanut flavor was a bit more earthy with the addition of some ice, and I think that really helped things along here. That earthy flavor aspect helped it blend better with the flavors in the bitters, and the result is something that actually isn’t terrible.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m never going to willingly make this again — but at least I’m not actively regretting my decisions as I have with other peanut butter whiskies.
Oh, and skip the sugar. It’s fine as-is.
This isn’t great.
But then again, this isn’t why you are buying this spirit. You’re probably buying it for drinking straight or on ice, which is fine. And I’m just doing this to ensure that there’s a consistent comparison of spirits in our reviews.
Just like with the old fashioned, this actually isn’t patently offensive. I’ve had peanut butter flavored whiskey before where I nearly retched after taking a single sip, and in this case I’m not bothered.
Whether that’s because the whiskey is actually good or if I’ve singed off my taste buds is a question I’ll leave to the reader, though.
Here’s the thing. As a standard whiskey, this isn’t my thing. But as a peanut butter whiskey, this is actually something that I might consider. It has a good flavor, isn’t offensive, and actually works in some cocktails. It’s better than the competitors I’ve tried so far and it has a fun and cheeky branding.
I’d say that Sazerac hit the nail on the head with their second crack at the challenge.
|Shepherd's P'Nutty Peanut Butter Whiskey
Kentucky, United States
Classification: Flavored Whiskey
Special Type: Peanut Butter Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 35% ABV
Price: $19.99 / 750 ml
Overall Rating: 4/5
I’m still not going to stock it on my whiskey shelf, but I definitely won’t be mad if someone serves it.