Two Stars… it’s an unfortunate name for a bourbon. Even on a three star system, it’s like they’re saying that their bourbon is sub-par. Name aside, today we put this bottle to the test and see just how many starts it gets on our five-point scale.
The Sazerac Company was founded in 1869, named after a bar they acquired in New Orleans, the Sazerac Coffee House. Following the establishment of the company, they started marketing and distributing brands of liquor under their name.
Sazerac maintains its headquarters in New Orleans, but has distilleries in other locations (including Kentucky). They produce liquor under various brand names, despite the lack of the Sazerac name anywhere on the bottle.
This bourbon takes its name from the two stars on the city flag of Louisville, Kentucky, which is where it’s manufactured.
All we know is what’s on the front of the bottle, and that’s just the appellation “Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey.”
According to the definition of that appellation, the grain bill for the whiskey needs to be at least 51% corn. Once distilled, it needs to be placed in charred new oak barrels for a period no less than four years. Since there’s no additional age statement on this bottle, all we know is this was aged for a minimum of four years.
Which exact distillery was it manufactured in? Where was it stored? What’s the actual grain bill? All these things and more are mysteries.
The bottle is a copy-and-paste from Sazerac’s other brand Very Old Barton. That’s not to say it’s a bad bottle, just that there’s not much original here. The base is wide and round, much like the cognac-inspired Maker’s Mark bottles but without the charm.
The whole thing is topped off with a plastic screw-on cap, which isn’t encouraging for a $20ish bottle of bourbon.
As for the label, it’s… not great. It looks like it’s trying to be simple, but it comes off as cluttered — quite the opposite, if classic and simple was the intended outcome. This is the same problem that stores trying to imitate the Apple aesthetic have: how do you have just enough product on display that the store feels full but not cluttered and clean but not empty. This label doesn’t quite make the cut.
It smells like a fairly normal bourbon, with notes of vanilla and caramel. However, in the background I think there’s a bit of that wheat or malted barley related smoothness that makes it smell more like a bowl of Cheerios.
The flavor is pretty nice, but once again, there’s not much deviation from the norm. It’s one standard unit of bourbon — like a Werther’s Originals in flavor: heavy caramel, very sweet, with a good bit of vanilla added in and perhaps a touch of cinnamon.
There’s a slight alcohol bite, but not more than the usual. I almost think that there’s a bit of peppery spice on the finish, but it might just be that alcohol bite fading away.
Usually with some added ice there’s a diminishing of the more subtle flavors, and once again this whiskey follows the same pattern.
With the ice, there’s less of that sweetness compared to taken neat and the flavors have shifted towards the earthier end of the spectrum. It’s less like a caramel candy now and more like licking an oak plank.
On the plus side, the alcohol burn has completely disappeared. With it went the peppery spice, though, so I guess we’ve confirmed our theory that there probably isn’t any rye in the grain bill.
Cocktail (Old Fashioned)
It’s fine. There’s no depth to the cocktail, but it works at a very basic level.
The biggest problem with using this bourbon in an Old Fashioned is that (as previously established) when adding ice, the flavor profile has shifts to a more earthy tone. When we add bitters on top of this, it doesn’t quite balance out properly. With a little bit of extra sugar, we can remedy that and make it drinkable… but not ideal.
Just like a lot of other mediocre bourbons, there’s nothing here that improves the flavor of this mixed drink. At least not beyond what you’d get from a vodka. There might be a touch of that earthy oak flavor coming through, but there’s no peppery spice to make the flavor profile interesting.
I’d actually prefer a terrible tasting cocktail to what I got here. At least that would be interesting. This is just boring.
It’s fine, but it’s a little expensive for just being fine. When there are other bourbons on the market like Old Grand-Dad, which are similarly acceptable but at a significantly cheaper price, there’s really no reason to shell out the extra cash for this bland looking (and tasting) bottle.
Two Stars Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Production: Louisville, Kentucky
Classification: Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey
Grain bill: Unknown
Proof: 43% ABV
Price: $19.99/ 750ml
Overall Rating: 2/5
Two stars for Two Stars.