Classification: Straight Bourbon
Distillery: Sourced (from undisclosed distillery[ies] in Kentucky)
Release Date: Discontinued
Age: 7 Years
Mashbill: Undisclosed (High rye mashbill)
Price: $25 (2020)
The Luxco bourbon portfolio consists of Rebel Yell, Ezra Brooks, Yellowstone, David Nicholson, Blood Oath, and Lux Row Distillers Double Barrel Bourbon. The company has largely been a non-distiller producer and is thought to have sourced their bourbon from Heaven Hill. In 2018, they completed construction of their own distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. According to the company, Lux Row Distillery features 18,000 square feet, six barrel warehouses and a 43-foot custom copper still. They are capable of producing 3 million gallons of spirit per year. When fully complete they’ll have the ability to process 50 thousand barrels of whiskey annually, and their own distillate will replace their sourced whiskey when it comes of age.
Old Ezra 101 Proof was officially discontinued by Luxco when they introduced Old Ezra Barrel Strength in 2018. The company points to David Nicholson Reserve Bourbon as a replacement, which they say is also a 7 year (although the bottle is NAS), high-rye bourbon, but at 100 proof.
A warm and nicely layered aroma of rich caramel, vanilla, and oak. Despite leaning heavily on a traditional bourbon aroma, additional scents of orange chocolate, menthol, and lemon help bring dimension and a welcomed pop. Largely conventional on the surface, its underlying richness helps elevate it to satisfying levels.
A playful sweetness of caramel, vanilla, and oak form a quintessential bourbon palate. This backbone is offset by additional notes of mixed nuts, light cinnamon, and butterscotch. The palate isn’t immediately shocking in its flavors or construction, yet it all comes together nicely.
At medium length, the bourbon’s hot and dry finish doesn’t stick around long. That isn't necessarily a bad thing as it's unimpressive and far too familiar. Oak is the star, overpowering the bourbon’s caramel and vanilla theme. Its heat is amplified by a drop off in sweetness found in its palate as it becomes more spice focused. Passable overall and nothing to get too excited about either.
Old Ezra 101 Proof has been around for a long time yet never seemed to garner much attention. Over the years, Luxco tried different label designs, presumably to combat this, to little avail. Even as age statements dropped like flies, it wore its “Aged 7 Years” proudly, yet it seemed like bourbon drinkers didn’t care to notice.
It comes across as a sad tale of an unpopular kid trying whatever they can to get noticed. Some of this might be attributed to Luxco’s weak presence in the bourbon marketplace at the time. Before the company started to turn heads with Rebel Yell Single Barrel in 2016, and made a big splash with Old Ezra Barrel Strength in 2018, Old Ezra 101 Proof sat on the shelves hoping to get seen.
It’s not that Old Ezra 101 Proof tasted dramatically different from its competition, even with its 7 year age statement, but this is a curious case where an age statement didn’t draw very much attention to the bourbon. Be it marketing, brand awareness, or lack of passion for its parent company, Old Ezra 101 Proof couldn’t be saved. Now discontinued, but surprisingly still available if you search for it, it was replaced by a barrel strength version that was able to make an impact where the 101 Proof simply couldn’t. In my Old Ezra Barrel Strength review, I noted how the extra proof doesn’t suddenly transform this into a unique tasting product, but the extra proof takes the foundations of the bourbon and makes it into a richer, fuller-flavored, and all-around great tasting bourbon. And that’s the rub, outside of its age statement, Old Ezra 101 Proof isn’t all that special tasting, but instead doubles down on another important trait, offering decent quality at a great price.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: a 7 year old bourbon for around $25 is a great value. Age statements are starting to claw their way back onto bottles and can be found on many bottles under $50, (e.g. Old Ezra Barrel Strength $45, Knob Creek 9 Year $45, and 1792 12 Year $50). Even craft whiskeys as they come of age, are sporting more impressive age statements while slowly dropping in price. It has been said that Luxco sources their bourbon for Old Ezra from Heaven Hill, who just rebranded their Bottled in Bond bourbon from a 6 year release for $14, to a 7 year for $45. It's possible the economics aren’t there anymore for Luxco to continue this release, not when Old Ezra Barrel Strength has performed so well in the marketplace. Luxco’s David Nicholson Reserve Bourbon can be an adequate replacement, but at $35 and featuring a weaker finish, isn’t the one-to-one alternative fans of Old Ezra 101 Proof may love.
Old Ezra 101 Proof with its 7 year age statement is a holdover from the past: a no-frills bourbon that offers decent quality at a great price.
We’re in the final moments of Old Ezra 101 before supply dries up and it’s gone from store shelves forever. It's tempting to go out and search for it now that it's discontinued and FOMO kicks in, however if you do, don’t have unrealistic expectations of it simply because it has an age statement. Its 7 years in the barrel helps give it a hearty caramel, vanilla, and oak backbone that often defines a quintessential bourbon profile, but it doesn’t offer much beyond that. Of course this is also true of the majority of bourbons in its price range.
With Old Ezra Barrel Strength born out of its ashes and improving on it in every way, that is the better buy. In a way it's sad that even after being discontinued a year and half ago it can still be found on store shelves. Perhaps after it's truly gone, opinions of it will change over time. I don’t think Luxco is ready to let Old Ezra 101 Proof fade into the sunset forever. They may let it rest peacefully for a few years before giving it another chance when their own distillate is ready for primetime.