Classification: Straight Bourbon
Company: Kings County Distillery
Distillery: Kings County Distillery
Age: 4 Years
Mashbill: 80% Corn, 20% Malted Barley
Color: Dark Amber
MSRP: $99 (750ml), $55 (375ml), $30 (200ml) (2020)
Kings County Distillery is New York City’s oldest and largest whiskey distillery. They are located in a 120-year-old Paymaster Building in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Co-owner and distiller Colin Spoelman cut his teeth distilling moonshine in his Brooklyn apartment before deciding to make it his fulltime job. Kings County Distillery notably uses Scottish copper pot stills and open fermentation to produce their whiskey. Their corn is from a local New York State farm, their barley for their bourbon is from England, and Scotland for their Peated Bourbon and Single Malt whiskey. Their whiskey is aged in 15-gallon barrels.
An expressive caramel scent emanates from the glass, followed by corn and vanilla. A bit fainter, but no less important, are layers of strawberry, buttercream frosting, and bread pudding that mingle in. Together these scents form an enjoyable aroma that work well, provide adequate complexity, yet aren’t overly showy either.
A surprisingly dark and rich flavor profile jumps out at first sip. Cocoa beans, dark brown sugar, and wet oak contrast against the whiskey’s noticeable maltiness. There is a touch of youth present that is more playful with the other flavors than something that stands out on its own. It is this dance between the dark flavors, oak, malt, youth, and thick mouthfeel that makes the palate quite interesting and memorable.
A bit of dryness develops on the finish thanks to a large presence of oak and bittersweet chocolate. A touch of leather, vanilla, and malt help round out and balance the finish. The viscosity from the palate follows through to the finish resulting in a lasting aftertaste and impactful finish.
Kings County Distillery definitely marches to the beat of their own drum when it comes to distilling and that is all too apparent at first sip of their Bottled in Bond Bourbon. Kings County’s bourbon tastes different than what you’re probably used to from Kentucky distilleries. This is all due to how Kings County crafts their whiskey. Using pot stills creates an undeniable texture to their whiskey, not only in its viscosity but also in its flavor structure. The use of only two grains versus a traditional three grain mashbill is also in stark contrast to the majority of bourbons in the market. Combining these with 15 gallon barrels for aging and the high amount of malt in its mashbill, creates a whiskey that stands out on its own. This isn’t a New York whiskey trying to emulate a Kentucky one. This is distinctly a Kings County Bourbon and its uniqueness is unequivocal.
The number of unique practices Kings County uses to create their whiskey unfortunately also comes at a cost to both them and the consumer. As a result, their whiskey is expensive even for craft whiskey standards. One way the company has combated this is by releasing their whiskey in different bottle sizes, an admirable move to get more people to take a chance on their unique tasting whiskey. Bottled in Bond (BiB) whiskeys comes in all different ages and prices of course, but at the minimum and most common 4 year mark, there are quite a few bourbons to compete with that are listed at a fraction of the price. Old Grand-Dad Bottled In Bond Bourbon is a notable standout in that sector at $25. While Old Grand-Dad sports some standout traits over other Kentucky bonded bourbons, it tastes largely like other mass produced value bourbons from a very high level view. Uniqueness does add value, but there's no getting around the fact that Kings County is on the high side when it comes to not only craft whiskey, but 4 year old whiskeys in general. If you put a high value on uniqueness, supporting trailblazers and their artisan whiskeys, then Kings Country BiB Bourbon will be your whiskey. If not, then you’ll very much struggle with Kings County’s pricing.
Brooklyn is known for their artisanal merchants, and Kings County is no exception, producing one of the more unique Bottled in Bond bourbons in the market.
A craft whiskey company releasing a four year old bourbon is a notable achievement for the company themselves, but usually ignored by the larger whiskey community. Too often the whiskey tastes young, or in trying to replicate Kentucky bourbon, it pales in comparison. Utilizing copper stills, open fermentation, a unique mashbill, and smaller barrels have combined to create a bourbon that tastes distinctly Kings County. The resulting bourbon has an unmistakable viscosity and flavor texture that finds a way to balance dark flavors against the brightness that comes from being 4 years old and with a high amount of malt in its mashbill. It's a dangerous tightrope to walk and it won’t be for everyone, but for some, it will stand out in a crowded field of like-minded competitors.