Classification: Straight Bourbon Finished in Cognac, Port, and Rum Casks
Company: 15 Stars
Distillery: Sourced from an undisclosed Kentucky distillery(ies)
Release Date: July 2023
Age: Blend of 8 and 16 year old bourbons
Color: Reddish Amber
MSRP: $179 / 750mL (2023)
Raisin | Dark fruits | Black raspberry | Spicy heat
Dark fruits | Raspberry | Black cherry | Vanilla custard | Graham cracker | Hint of orange zest | Rich & spicy throughout
Surge of spice | Black pepper | Allspice | Lingering heat
Dark fruits meet intense spice in this triple cask finished blend of Kentucky bourbons.
15 Stars was started by father and son team Rick and Ricky Johnson, who bottle their whiskeys at Bardstown Bourbon Co. in Bardstown, Kentucky. Their whiskeys began hitting the market in late 2022, and so far have been relatively high aged sourced whiskeys originating from an undisclosed distillery or multiple distilleries in Kentucky. The name “15 Stars” originates from the fact that Kentucky was recognized as the 15th state on the second United States flag which included 15 stars and 15 stripes. This history is recognized in various ways within the company’s marketing, including details such as the bottle stoppers, which are metal and resemble the first U.S. coinage containing 15 stars, engraved by the American artisan Robert Scot.
Triple Cask begins as a blend of 8 and 16 year old Kentucky distilled bourbons, which are then finished in cognac, port, and rum casks for undisclosed amounts of time. The finished bourbons are then blended together to create the final product. What’s most notable is how spicy this finished bourbon is from start to finish. It begins with ample heat on the nose, raisin, dark fruits, and black raspberry. The dark fruit notes continue into the palate, which introduces vanilla custard, graham cracker, and a hint of orange zest while maintaining a rich spiciness. A surge of spice on the finish gives way to black pepper and allspice, culminating with a lingering heat.
It’s a nice whiskey overall, and I really enjoy spicy pours though in this case I would have liked to see less influence from the spice which is likely originating from the base blend, and more influence from the finishing barrels. Specifically, I didn’t notice any rum barrel influence, and while there are plenty of fruit notes likely driven by the cognac and port barrels, they compete with the underlying spice throughout, making for a whiskey that drinks higher than its 105 proof point.
15 Stars came out swinging with impressive releases from the get-go, demonstrating their ability to put out quality products. While this is a well above average whiskey, I would not be surprised to see a similar release from the company in the future that’s more acutely dialed in.