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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Bourbon

Green River Bourbon

When I hear the phrase "Green River", I harken back to those childhood days drinking that green, lime-flavored soft drink. This Green River, though, refers to the re-branded Green River Distillery in Owensboro, Kentucky. Recently purchased by the Bardstown Bourbon Company, today we take a deep dive into this historic brand.


Green River Bourbon is produced by the Green River Distillery - the name for the re-branded O.Z. Tyler Distillery. You may recall that the O.Z. Tyler Distillery has made its mark with Terrapure technology to rapidly age bourbon. While I've tried several of these rapidly-aged products, I must confess that some things just can't be rushed - and I feel bourbon is one of them. With that said, Green River is a fully-aged product reflecting the rich heritage of its namesake distillery.

Founded more than 130 years ago by John McCullough, the distillery has been restored to much of its former glory and bears the Distilled Spirits Producer KY-10. Over the years, numerous brands were produced at this location before being sold off, including Ezra Brooks, Mellow Corn, Medley Brothers, Old Medley, Five Brothers, and Kentucky Beau.

The Green River straight bourbon produced in the day was world-renowned. It received the gold medal and Best of Show at the 1900 Paris Exposition and in 1905 was awarded the Grand Prize at the Liege Exposition. That same same year, it was made the official whiskey at the U.S. Marine Hospital (nope - I cannot make this stuff up!). At one point in its history, it was called the world's most expensive spirit, as 20 barrels were traded for interest in a gold mine in Colorado.

McCullough was a marketer in the truest spirit. It was praised as the "king among whiskeys". It was marketed with the tagline "The Whiskey without a Headache". As the United States entered the First World War, whiskey production at the site came to a halt as industrial alcohol was produced instead for use in munitions for the war effort. In 1918, the distillery experienced a catastrophic fire, burning rickhouses to their foundations, only to be struck again with the start of Prohibition the following year.

Schenley Industries purchased the brand name in 1933 and switched the premium product to a blended whiskey. The brand continued until it was discontinued in the 1960s. The facility itself was purchased by the Medley family and they continued production at the site until 1993. At that point, the facility was shuttered, and like many, fell into disrepair.

In 2014, Terressentia Corporation purchased the location and by 2016 began releasing their rapidly aged products under the O.Z. Tyler Distillery name. At the same time, though, they also began filling some more traditionally aged barrels. In 2020, the distillery was rebranded as the Green River Distillery.

The Tasting

This Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey comes in an attractive horseshoe shaped bottle with a faux tax stamp and wooden cork proudly bearing the DSP-KY-10 distinction. While it does not carry an age statement, the website shares that it has been aged over five years. The mash bill is 70% corn, 21% winter rye, 9% malted 2 and 6 row barley, and has been bottled at 90 proof. MSRP is an affordable $35. From the website we're told to expect warming spice notes, aromas of cinnamon, dried cherry, light leather, and flavors of vanilla, caramel, and chocolate mint.

Color: Firey chestnut with medium legs displayed inside the Glencairn glass.

Nose: Pleasant with notes of vanilla, caramel corn, nutmeg, and toasted oak.

Palate: Smooth sipping, thin and yet creamy, with sweet vanilla and spice - nothing overwhelming (or underwhelming, either).

Finish: Medium-short with cinnamon and toasted oak, followed with vanilla and light mint.

Overall: This was smooth sipping and a huge improvement over their former rapidly aged products. It's not overly complex, but nor does it have to be. At $35, roughly 5 years in age, in an attractive bottle with a great story, this beats many other younger, craft bourbons at a 50% or 100% more in price.

At 90 proof, this does pack some heat. I've heard that a Bottled-in-Bond expression may be on its way, so I'll definitely be on the lookout for it. In the meantime, this is probably one to be on the lookout for to add to your lineup.

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