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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Bourbon

Whiskey Row Straight Bourbon

We've been enjoying winter on the Gulf coast. Like many areas, it has been hard to find good bourbons at MSRP. I've seen significant markups at many of the local stores. The local ABC Select Spirits store has been one store that I haven't needed to complete a second mortgage to buy a bottle or two. This particular bottle caught my eye - Whiskey Row Straight Bourbon - a blend of bourbons distilled in Indiana and Kentucky.

An Eighteenth Century Recipe

Main Street in downtown Louisville, Kentucky during the latter half of the 1800s was referred to as Whiskey Row. Many distilleries found their offices and warehouses there, including the founder of Brown-Forman George Garvin Brown. Today, Old Forester has returned to Main Street, complete with a tourist venue and operating distillery and warehouse and has honored the Whiskey Row tradition with their Old Forester Whiskey Row series..

The region's limestone-filtered water source as well as access to large quantities of corn and the ability to transport both the raw materials and the finished product made Louisville an ideal location. Located along the Ohio River, with connections to the Mississippi River in Cairo, Illinois provided a water-powered transportation network. In bourbon's earliest days, it was primarily a corn-heavy whiskey (or even entirely corn liquor). More modern bourbons continue using corn as the primary grain (at least 51%), but also use rye, malted barley, and wheat as secondary grains.

Whiskey Row's nod to bourbon's earliest days utilizes a 100% corn mash bill. The label shares that the product is distilled in Indiana (I'd think MGP in Lawrenceburg, Indiana is a sound bet) and in Kentucky (at an undisclosed site - more on that in a bit). The label states it is blended and bottled in Kentucky by Whiskey Row Distillers, Crestwood, Kentucky.

A little more searching leads us to Kentucky Artisan Distillers. Founded in 2012 by Steve Thompson, Chris Miller, and Mike Loring, operations take place in Crestwood at the former Kentucky Ice Cream Distributors building. Their concept was to offer true contract distilling in Kentucky with production as small as a single barrel to over 3,000 barrels annually. Much of the grains come from fields less than a mile away at Waldeck Farm. All distilling is done in pot stills. If KAD sounds familiar, it's because KAD are also the distillers of the popular Jefferson's Reserve lineup.

The Tasting

As mentioned earlier, the mash bill is 100% corn. The finished, blended bourbon has been aged for 4 years, and is bottled at 80 proof. The packaging is a tall, traditional whiskey bottle with an antiqued green woodcut illustration depicting Whiskey Row in downtown Louisville. The label shares that this is barrel number 17 from batch number 2.

Eye: Golden Amber

Nose: Corn on the cob and vanilla. Pear and apple are also present.

Palate: A thin mouthfeel. True to the nose with vanilla and light fruit notes (pear and apple).

Finish: Short. Vanilla and very gentle spice and light oak. Again, light is the word.

Overall: This was an ok bourbon priced at $24 for a 750ml bottle. A quick online search found this at a large, regional chain of liquor stores in the $15 range. Based upon the low-proof to this particular expression, a sub-$20 price tag is probably more suiting. The 100% corn mash bill is an interesting differentiator. Kentucky Artisan Distillers certainly has a history of trying some innovative techniques and finishings with its popular Jefferson's Reserve brand.

My only real issue is the low-proof (and I said the same about Jefferson's Reserve). Whiskey Row recently announced a bottled-in-bond expression is hitting the markets. At a higher proof, that one will likely hit my palate better and stand up to ice. In the meantime, for a bargain, low-proof sipper, this wasn't bad and makes a fine warm-weather pour. My go-to at this price point, though, might still be the Heaven Hill White Label that offers a more interesting flavor profile.

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