Classification: Straight Bourbon
Company: Stoli Group
Distillery: Sourced (from undisclosed distillery[ies] in Kentucky)
Release Date: April 2019
Price: $125 (2019)
Kentucky Owl Bourbon was founded in 1879 by C.M. Dedman and is currently led by Dixon Dedman. He recommissioned the brand and released his first batch of bourbon in 2014 and first batch of rye in 2017. The Kentucky Owl brand was purchased by the Stoli Group who plans to open up a new distillery under this brand name.
According to Kentucky Owl, “Confiscated pays tribute to the barrels the government seized from Dixon's great-great grandfather, C.M. Dedman, just ahead of Prohibition. Those barrels were never seen or tasted again. More than a century later, Confiscated is the first offering from Kentucky Owl that will be available in all 50 U.S. states.”
Hints of aged oak mingle with light caramel and leather. Delicate and understated, it’s interesting, and signals towards the whiskey being aged longer than I would have expected.
A nicely rounded mouthfeel delivers graham crackers, tobacco, and seasoned oak. The flavors are delicate here as they were in the nose, leaning away from sweeter flavors towards the savory side of the scale.
Slightly bitter, the finish turns towards a dry leather note at first. Cinnamon spice picks up later, bringing a satisfying pop of spice. Aged oak caps it off. It’s a long, complex, and surprisingly enjoyable finish.
While Confiscated doesn’t carry an age statement, the flavor profile suggests an higher age than I expected, with oak-forward characteristics. The bourbon also has dimension, with more complexity than average, and a finish that stands out.
But for me, when thinking about what makes a whiskey unique I always think about what’s beyond the glass. The process that goes into making bourbon is a large part of what makes it enjoyable to drink. Thinking about the recipe, the care it took to distill it, the year it was put into oak, where the barrel might have sat in the rickhouse. Maybe it’s released uncut and unfiltered giving drinkers a unique experience.
We don’t always know everything about the bourbon we drink, but in this case we know very little. Knowing simply that this bourbon was distilled in Kentucky and aged at least four years isn’t enough. The flavor profile is good suggesting experienced blending, but there's otherwise nothing provided to suggest anything else about this bourbon is unique.
A large part of my need for more background on this bourbon is driven by the price. If this was priced at $25, or even approached $50, it’s an easy buy based on taste. But it comes in much higher than that - $125. This whiskey has no distillery disclosure, no age statement, no mashbill disclosure, no details of sourcing or blending, and no details identifying something special about its creation. This makes its $125 price tag, quite literally, hard to swallow.
But looking at it from a different perspective Kentucky Owl is arguably smart to set the price high. If the market accepts it, then they set a bar for their brand proving that a widely distributed bourbon that simply bears the Kentucky Owl label, and nothing more, is worthy of an ultra premium price tag.
It's as if they've been working towards this since the first release.
Most previous releases saw low bottle counts, higher proofs, some age statements or at least details, and details about the whiskey's curation. They sold for a premium, which continued to increase with the previous bourbon, Batch 8, retailing for a whopping $300. These previous releases helped build an acceptable price point north of $100 for the brand.
Confiscated doesn't seem notably different than previous releases on first glance. To the unknowing consumer Confiscated looks no different. While it may be mass produced, widely distributed, and provide minimal details on what’s inside the bottle, many seeing it on the shelf won’t necessarily realize this.
But it’s not just about an age statement, proof, distribution, or bottle count. It’s about something. Anything. For $125, I want to know more about this bourbon than Kentucky Owl is telling us.
Confiscated is a well done bourbon with a flavor profile that suggests careful blending, though with little background to go by what may feel like a premium bourbon to some will most certainly feel overpriced to others.
While Confiscated tastes good, it's price just isn’t justified to the scrutinous consumer. But the average consumer likely won’t look deep enough to question it. It has a nice flavor profile bringing more depth and complexity than an average bourbon, but that's where it stops. In a way, I feel like I don't "know" this bourbon. More information about what’s in this bottle could bring me around to it. But until my questions are answered, I walk away seeing this simply as an overpriced bourbon that pushes the limits on what the market is willing to bear.
The sample used for this review was provided at no cost courtesy of Kentucky Owl. We thank them for the sample and for allowing us to review it with no strings attached.