It’s been five years now since Luxco announced the official creation of Lux Row Distillers as the parent company for such whiskey brands as Rebel Yell, Ezra Brooks, David Nicholson Reserve and Blood Oath, and a few things have changed in that time. Perhaps most notably, Luxco was purchased by MGP of Indiana for almost half a billion dollars at the start of 2021, and MGP has subsequently started using Luxco/Lux Row Distillers as a more recognizable parent company for its own, excellent George Remus bourbons.
At its core, however, Lux Row remains essentially the same sort of business it has been: One that primarily sells sourced Kentucky bourbon. Although they’ve been distilling and aging their own whiskey for a while now, good things take time, and the company has managed to carve out a niche for itself in the meantime using exclusively sourced juice. They don’t officially disclose their source, but given that the mash bills match up perfectly with Heaven Hill, it seems very safe to say that the vast majority of Lux Row brands are coming from the Bardstown icons.
One of the newer and lesser known of those brands is Daviess County Bourbon, which was first released in the beginning of 2020 and had its rollout swept aside on some level by the pandemic. Luxco is now putting another push behind getting Daviess County and its two variants (Cabernet barrel finished, and French oak finished) some exposure, however, and it’s not super hard to sell us on taking a look at this one, given its interesting makeup.
Daviess County Bourbon seems meant to be something of a hybrid brand—a meeting point between traditional bourbon (rye recipe) and a wheated bourbon mash bill. Both are presumably being sourced from Heaven Hill, meaning that the standard bourbon mash bill (78% corn, 10% rye, 12% malted barley) is the same stuff that makes up Evan Williams, Elijah Craig, etc., while the wheated mash bill (68% corn, 20% wheat, 12% malted barley) is what you’d find in Larceny or Old Fitzgerald. Here, they’ve been combined in a non-age-statement bourbon that we still would expect probably has at least decent age on it, given the $40 price point. In terms of strength, it weighs in at 48% ABV (96 proof). The company promises that the two mash bills together offer “balanced sweetness and spice.”
Let’s get to tasting and see if that holds true.
On the nose, this does seem a bit on the younger side, although the Heaven Hill wheated mash bill can also carry some of those younger, grain-derived notes. I’m getting some musty malt, caramel corn, green apple and considerable brown sugar here, along with some spicy ginger and a woodiness that evokes fresher sawdust rather than older, seasoned oak. There’s a certain brightness to it that is nice, but it does smell young.
On the palate, Daviess County is a bit more upfront and bold than I was expecting, with an initial rush of spice in particular. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by this, as the Heaven Hill wheated mash bill often reads as unexpectedly spicy to me, but I’m getting lots and lots of rye grass, peppercorn and cinnamon sticks here, along with a green tea note. It’s also fairly sweet, and here the operative word is “honey,” as there’s a pronounced floral quality to the sweetness, which is only partially tamped down by flashes of oak. At the same time, this bourbon drinks a fair bit hotter than the 96 proof would imply, combining to give an impression of sweet, spicy wildness. It strikes me as a bit more rough-and-tumble than the company may have been shooting for, particularly at this mid-shelf price point.
All in all, I do find myself admiring the effort that has been taken to make Daviess County stand out, and the concept in producing a four-grain bourbon blend. At the end of the day, it has some attractive qualities, and it’s certainly not hurting for volume of flavor, but it feels a bit unfocused and rough around the edges. When Lux Row’s own whiskey does finally arrive one of these days, one wonders how it will compare.
Distillery: Luxco (sourced)
City: Bardstown, KY
Style: Four grain Kentucky straight bourbon
ABV: 48% (96 proof)
Availability: 750 ml bottles, $40 MSRP
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident brown liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.