Classification: Straight Bourbon
Company: Bardstown Bourbon Company
Distillery: Green River Distilling Co.
Release Date: Ongoing
Age: NAS (Company press release states it’s aged more than 5 years)
Mashbill: 70% Corn, 21% Winter Rye, 9% Malted 2 and 6-Row Barley
MSRP: $35 (2023)
Green River Straight Bourbon is crafted on the historic Green River campus in Owensboro, Kentucky. Over its storied past, numerous brands have been made there, including Ezra Brooks, Mellow Corn, Medley Brothers, Old Medley, Five Brothers, and Kentucky Beau. According to Green River, Terressentia Corporation purchased the distillery in 2014 and began renovation. In 2016, the distillery laid down their first barrels, and acting master distiller Ron Call passed the torch to his son, Jacob Call. In 2020, Green River Distilling Co. returned to its original name, and in 2022 was purchased by Bardstown Bourbon Company. The company, which traditionally had smaller distribution for its standard bourbon, expanded to 25 states in 2023. More information can be found in the company’s press release.
A wealth of brown sugar and caramel scents push forward over an even sweeter underlay of crème brulée and butterscotch. These scents make their biggest impact as they combine, creating layers of sweet intensity. There’s a touch of corn that follows creating a solid bed for the sweet scents to lay on, before leather closes out the nose. It’s a relatively soft and gentle aroma that is surprisingly grounded despite its sweetness, yet it's this sweetness that is the true highlight of the nose.
A mix of caramel cream candy and dark brown sugar begins the palate in a familiar place. Slowly, mixed nuts and dark fruit are added, before the sip turns decidedly herbal and floral. A very light oak base is ever present yet of little consequence. The palate is delivered with a silky smooth mouthfeel, which makes the bourbon drink extremely easy sipping overall. The palate doesn’t try to offend, or even challenge the drinker. Instead, it goes for pure drinkability with a flavor profile that is familiar with fleeting moments of herbal and floral curiosity.
The herbal and dark fruit notes of the palate carry over into the finish. Soon after, a layer of thick leather and mellow oak are added, before rye spice and pepper come barreling in. As with the palate, the finish stays manageable at all times, and its silky smoothness trails off thanks to a lingering roasted aftertaste.
Being purchased by one of bourbon’s largest suppliers of bourbon for non-distiller producers (NDPs), there is the assumption that Bardstown Bourbon Co. was looking to increase their production capacity, but also diversify their flavor profile. Bardstown was already one of the most flexible distillers for NDPs, often allowing contact distilling with bespoke mashbills and the ability for outside distillers to distill using Bardstown’s equipment. By acquiring Green River, they not only acquire a historic distilling facility and a low DSP number (for those who care about such things), but Green River offers bourbon that tastes distinctly their own.
Green River Bourbon has matured over the last few years, but compared to the batch I reviewed last year, they’re beginning to nail consistency within their production batches. While “smooth” is often a dirty word with bourbon enthusiasts, the larger bourbon-drinking community tends to use it extensively and often has a badge of honor for a bourbon that is above all else, highly drinkable.
Green River Bourbon is a silky smooth bourbon and its sweet flavor profile certainly helps it appeal to a wide range of bourbon drinkers. On the backend of the palate, the bourbon also uniquely introduces soft herbal and floral elements that are much more uncommon than you may think. Transitioning to spice and a pop of heat on the finish is a classic contrasting move that works here as it usually does. Where many average tasting bourbons mainly focus only on vanilla, caramel, and oak as their core flavor profile, Green River moves beyond that, and while the bourbon can’t be called complex, it's not simple, finding a happy place in between.
Bourbon startups or craft distilleries as they are more often called, typically have heavy costs as they ramp up their production. Those costs directly affect what a company charges for their bourbon and this results in a bourbon costing more than customers would like to pay. Even before Bardstown’s acquisition, Green River charged a remarkably low $35 for their bourbon. Outside the major Kentucky distilleries, this price is a very rare occurrence, especially for a new product. But given Green River Bourbon’s qualities, and who this easy-sipping, silky smooth bourbon is likely targeting, that is a magic price point that instantly gets their foot in the door. Its quality and mild uniqueness puts the bourbon in contention for someone’s everyday sipper. And its price instantly seals the deal.
An approachable smooth-sipping bourbon, Green River Bourbon seems to go out of its way to make you like it.
A couple of years ago when Green River first launched, they came across as another Johnny-come-lately. But over a short period of time and a mega buy-out from one of the most important suppliers in the sourced whiskey scene, Green River is impossible to ignore and foolish to overlook. Green River Bourbon doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have anything deliberately unique to offer either. It finds a happy middle ground that relishes in being approachable, easy-sipping, and value priced. Many experienced drinkers looking for a complex sip will likely not have a lot to grab a hold of, but there are plenty more bourbon drinkers looking for a reliable, everyday sipper that Green River Bourbon can easily slot into.