On a recent outing to Costco, we ran across a new item, the Kirkland Premium Small Batch Bourbon. You might be thinking, really, Costco is making bourbon now? Well, Costco isn’t really making bourbon; they sourced it from one of the distilleries and private labelled it. Given the price at $19.99, I was game to try it. My husband and brother-in-law drink bourbon like it was 1818 (it’s almost a water substitute at my place, like it was in 1818 when Americans consumed on average 5 gallons of hard spirits, in addition to 1 gallon of wine and 34 gallons of beer and hard cider (stats from 1790). And I love Costco and purchase and consume many Kirkland brands, including their champagne, which isn’t bad.
We brought the bourbon home and tried it, we being the hubby, the brother-in-law and me. It looked like bourbon and kinda smelled and tasted like bourbon but there was something slightly off. The brother-in-law commented, it tastes like bourbon but lacks the fiery complexity that I like in my bourbons. In my opinion, he nailed it. The Kirkland bourbon was fiery but it was from the burn of the alcohol not from the subtle dance between the corn and the charred American oak barrels and lacked the nuanced flavors that good bourbons bring to the table.
I was intrigued. I wasn’t going to bring this review to you, our cherished readers, without doing a little research. I got out the crafty computer and did a search on Kirkland bourbon. Low and behold, most of the reviewers out there felt the same as our tasting trio. But, these reviewers had dug in further and found that the bourbon was a Jim Beam product (confirmed by the TTAB website and supposedly, a Costco representative). Then, the speculation was one with four leading contenders – Knob Creek, Basil Hayden, Jim Beam Black and a mix between Knob Creek and Jim Beam Black. Before we go further, I want to put out that we like Jim Beam and their products so for us, that was in no way a minus for the Kirkland bourbon (in fact, I used to like Jim Beam and Coke so much that we purchased by the handle at one point).
I was intrigued. Given the level of bourbon consumption that occurs at my house, I was only able to find a bottle of Basil Hayden and had to lean on recall for Knob Creek (which was easy given the hubby had one at the Comedy Club last night) and Jim Beam Black (I will admit, it’s been awhile). I did a side-by-side comparison with the Basil Hayden but the two bourbons were sufficiently different that I didn’t think the Kirkland bourbon was BH (BH had the nuanced flavor and bite I associate with good to great bourbons). I didn’t think it was Knob Creek (and neither did the hubby). To be honest, I couldn’t bring forth the Jim Beam Black enough to make a determination.
Enough with the back story and on with the review. Visually, the Kirkland bourbon was clear, with a medium to medium plus amber color with gold and brown hues. On the nose. the bourbon had a clean, medium intense aromas of corn, caramel, vanilla, yeast, cloves and allspice. The other flavor that came through on the nose was the alcohol, which you received a powerful whiff of when smelling the bourbon. However, this is not too surprising given that the bourbon was bottled at 103 proof.
On the palate, the bourbon is fiery (from the alcohol) with sweet notes of corn, oak, cloves, allspice, burnt sugar on the back palate and a hint of caramel. Again, the alcohol overpowered the other flavors and the subtle marriage of sweet, spice and fire was missing.
I can’t say that I would sip the Kirkland bourbon neat. But I do think that it would do nicely in a Mint Julep (where the ice and mint would tame some of the heat and water down the alcohol burn).