Blue Run Flight Series II Bourbon (Miami Sunset) Review

Drink Reviews whiskey
Blue Run Flight Series II Bourbon (Miami Sunset) Review

The more bottles of whiskey we end up with crowding the shelves of American spirits aisles, the less patience I find that I now possess for concepts that are trying to sell themselves with seemingly anything other than the baseline specs of the spirit. I suspect that I may not be alone in this, either–especially at a time when the market feels particularly overcrowded with sourced brands and “blends of straights,” as they say, there’s so much well-aged spirit out there that it becomes quite an ask to hope that consumers will check out the latest non-age-stated batch from so-and-so boutique blender. Especially when that non-age-stated expression is still asking a premium price point of $100 or more. And that’s the scenario that Blue Run Spirits seems to find itself in these days.

Blue Run launched in 2020 with aims that now seem almost inevitably on the cynical side, as another NDP (non-distiller producer) scooping up mature whiskey from around the U.S. and blending it. After growing quickly, the company sold last year to Molson Coors Beverage Co., which had debuted its own Coors Whiskey Co. brand, Five Trail Blended American Whiskey, in 2022. Molson Coors is reportedly in the process of getting Blue Run’s own distillation operation off the ground, but in the meantime they’re still blending sourced spirit, some of it contract distilled by Castle & Key and other spirit that is not disclosed.

What seems like a constant is that especially recently, Blue Run has been selling relatively younger spirit, but still charging premium prices for it, leaning on the industry cache lent to the brand by its early association with former Four Roses Master Distiller Jim Rutledge, who is no longer involved with the brand as far as I can tell. Current batches are seemingly being overseen by previous Wild Turkey employee Shaylyn Gammon, who at Blue Run holds the title of Head of Whiskey Development and Innovation. And looking at the company’s new Flight Series II, you get the sense that they were told to make something as unique sounding as possible … within the parameters of still essentially blending the same collection of modestly aged, sourced bourbons.

This, the company has done in a series of “flights” that they call micro batch releases, consisting of at least two but no more than five barrels. An additional gimmick is that “much of the sensory aspect of its creation was done outdoors,” which the company says tailors these bottles around also consuming outdoors. What, specifically makes them more suitable to outdoor drinking? That’s hard to say, but the brand says the following:

In addition to sourcing barrels from different distilleries, Flight Series II is unique from Flight Series I (released October 2022) in that much of the sensory aspect of its creation was done outdoors. Shaylyn first experienced the blends outside, where the whiskey would react differently than in a still, climate-controlled lab. In the fresh Kentucky air, hovering around 80 degrees, the interchange between the atmosphere, wind, barometric pressure and whiskey molecules caused certain attributes to shine more brightly than indoors. The environment more quickly and more pronouncedly released the whiskey from the glass, really teasing the nose and taste buds right from the jump.

Well alright then, but what exactly does that mean to the consumer? This is a bottle with a $120 MSRP, and no stated age–is the selling point entirely that they’re all pleasant to drink outdoors, regardless of the fact that the six micro batches are also designed to be entirely distinct from each other? How do you line up that value proposition against something from Beam with a lower MSRP but likely three times older average age? How much value can the consumer assign to this one, specific bit of theming, when they have no other details about what is in the bottle?

Regardless, my own sample from Blue Run Flight Series II is of batch #3, which is dubbed “Miami Sunset.” This is a blend of four barrels, making for 150 total 6-pack cases. It’s non-age stated and bottled at a robust 57.5% ABV (115 proof). Blue Run doesn’t specify its sources. So with that said, let’s get to tasting it.

On the nose, Miami Sunset does not exactly have the most expressive or robust nose for this fairly advanced proof point. There actually are a decently wide variety of notes here–I’m getting creamy vanilla, faint butterscotch, rolled oats, a little grassiness and florals, fleeting hints of sawed lumber and shredded wheat. But all of those impressions are somewhat light in assertiveness, which has the effect of making the ethanol stand out a bit stronger than it otherwise probably would have.

On the palate, I am met up front by nougat and honey, along with vanilla and moderate sweetness that evokes something a bit confectionary, in the mold of vanilla frosting and powdered sugar donut. Subsequent tastes highlight the rye grain significantly more strongly, bringing bold rye spice to the foreground, with caraway, pepper and fresh cut wood. Youthful grain notes round things out. There aren’t a lot of “darker” notes on display here, with it overall embracing the rye grain and confectionery/vanilla sweetness, before turning slightly hot and finishing a bit drier than one might expect given how sweet it is on the front end.

At the end of the day, this is a capable bourbon blend with some interesting notes and a lighter style of presentation despite the higher proof point, but I question whether it’s the kind of thing you can ask people to pay a premium price for, especially at a time when more and more consumers are fed up with the endless parade of “limited releases” in the bourbon world in particular. The fact of the matter is, this drinks like a younger blend of straight bourbons at a decently robust price point, but not something with the maturity you would expect in almost any bottle of bourbon you were going to spend $120 to acquire. Whether you’re drinking it inside or outside, there’s really no escaping that.

Distillery: Blue Run Spirits
City: Georgetown, KY
Style: Straight rye whiskey
ABV: 57.5% (115 proof)
Availability: Limited, 750 ml bottles, $120 MSRP

Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident craft beer and liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.

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