James E. Pepper 1776

James E. Pepper 1776

100 Proof Straight Bourbon Whiskey

In 1776, two important things happened–America declared its Independence and Elijah Pepper moved to Kentucky and started distilling whiskey.  His son Oscar Pepper took over the distillery in 1838, eventually building a new, larger distillery which was named the Old Oscar Pepper Distillery, which is where he and Dr. James C. Crow (“Old Crow”) basically invented the sour mash process.  Oscar’s son James E. Pepper took over the distillery in 1867.  After Pepper’s death in 1903, his family’s Old Pepper Distillery was sold, and the brand continued to do well until the 1950s when the industry took a hit, and the distillery in Lexington was closed.

What we are drinking today is a relaunched expression of the (supposedly) original Old Pepper recipe, now owned by the Georgetown Trading Co.  The company’s family roots run deep in the whiskey trading business, and it looks like they are doing a pretty good job of reestablishing this brand in the modern age.  The comic on the back of the bottle is a Benjamin Franklin original, published in 1754 to illustrate the importance of unifying the Colonies.  Adds a nice touch to the already nice bottle.

This is a sweet and spicy bourbon, almost 40% rye in the mash bill.  On the nose I get vanilla and honey, and on the palate I get tons of rye, more honey, clove, and a bit of cocoa on the finish.  Not a super woody bourbon, leads me to believe it probably isn’t aged more than 5 or 6 years, though I can’t find an age statement anywhere on the interwebs.

I like this bourbon, but I don’t love it.  They have also released a 1776 Rye, plus a 15 year expression of both the Bourbon and the Rye, neither of which I have not had the chance to try but am eager to do so.  I can’t help thinking a couple more years in the barrel would have made this bourbon much, much better, so who knows what 10+ years would do.

Rating: 6.7 / 10

Bought at J’s Bottle Shop in Athens, GA for $29.99

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