Classification: Straight Bourbon
Company: Lux Row Distillers
Distillery: Sourced (from undisclosed distillery[ies] in Kentucky)
Release Date: January 2021 (Ongoing)
Mashbill: 78% Corn, 10% Rye, 12% Malted Barley
MSRP: $25 (2021)
In January 2021, Lux Row Distillers announced the inaugural release of Ezra Brooks 99 as a new extension of the Ezra Brooks line. In years past, the Ezra Brooks lineup only had one bourbon that played in the 100+ proof category, and that was Old Ezra 7 Years 101, which was discontinued in 2018. With the introduction of Ezra Brooks 99, the company now uses a combination of two bourbons to fill in the space that Old Ezra 7 Year 101 once did - Old Ezra 7 Year Barrel Strength and Ezra Brooks 99.
The first thing that comes to mind is how light this nose is for a 99 proof bourbon. Light classic bourbon scents of charred oak, vanilla, and caramel waft up before being joined with a very faint peanut note. The nose is simplistic in nature with a focus on traditional bourbon scents versus anything else. There is nothing wrong with their composition, however it is disappointing how incredibly light they are. Instead of opening this bourbon with a bang, you’re greeted by scents that seem to come at you with a whimper instead.
Thankfully the palate is more in line with your expectations of a 99 proof bourbon in terms of boldness of its flavors. Immediately noticeable flavors of creamy caramel, vanilla, and light brown sugar come forth, followed by dabs of oak that weave in and out. They’re joined with white peppercorn and peanuts. It’s a very welcome and quite frankly, necessary midpoint to the sip after such a lackluster opening on the nose.
Creamy caramel and vanilla start things off. They’re replaced with dry oak, leather, peanut shells, and a layer of rye spice. This underlying level of spice delivers a subtle warming heat to the composition. It trails off with wafting hints of oak and peanut. Shorter in nature, the finish is a nice way to end the sip.
Non-age statement bourbons are a dime a dozen in the market nowadays, and this is especially true for higher proof bourbons. It wasn’t that long ago that a near 100 proof bourbon would grab folks attention. However as consumer demand continues to build at a frenzied pace for cask strength bourbons, anything beneath 100 proof tends to get easily overlooked.
This isn’t to say that these non cask strength bourbons are bad bourbons. In fact, Ezra Brooks 99 brings forth a nice sip that won’t disappoint anyone, but certainly won’t wow anyone either. However, when you compare it to other bourbons that are (near) 100 proof, like Knob Creek Small Batch, Wild Turkey 101, or a Four Roses Single Barrel, Ezra Brooks 99 doesn’t deliver the depth of flavors that these do. Instead, the bourbon just blends into the pack of other 90-99 proof bourbons sitting on the shelf such as Rebel Yell 100.
While Ezra Brooks 99 won’t necessarily impress you with its flavor profile, there’s a good chance it will win you over with its price tag. Priced at a wallet-friendly $25, this bourbon is actually one of the higher proof bourbons available at this price point. While proof in this case doesn’t translate to a flavor bomb, it does contribute to this bourbon's value, as it still provides plenty of versatility for bourbon drinkers. And versatility is exactly what Ezra Brooks 99 seems to be going for.
For those looking for an inexpensive bourbon that can be used in cocktails that calls for a slightly higher proof base, while still delivering a good flavor profile, this bourbon has you covered. Moreso, for those looking to get into higher proof bourbons but want to ease their way into them, you’re hard-pressed to beat the strong value that Ezra Brooks 99 delivers for you.
Ezra Brooks 99 is a bourbon that deserves a look due to its versatility and wallet-friendly price tag.
Ezra Brooks 99 is a bourbon that is hard to sing its praises, but is also hard to find fault with. The sip, while average overall, offers a fantastic gateway into higher proof bourbons, allowing those who haven’t dabled in this area to ease their way into them. Additionally, thanks to its higher proof point and classic flavor profile, it makes for a versatile base or additional ingredient in bourbon based cocktails. With a consumer-friendly price tag, it’s hard not to recommend Ezra Brooks 99 be given a try just once to see if it deserves a home in your regular rotation of drinking or cocktail-making bottles.