Sound the alarms: Another fledgling Kentucky distillery has finally passed into adulthood. Stephen and Paul Beam’s Limestone Branch Distillery (Lebanon, Kentucky) is officially releasing the very first bourbon they’ve distilled themselves rather than sourced, and it’s going by the name of Yellowstone Family Recipe. In doing so, they add their names to the long lists of Beams who have distilled and aged Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey in the state.
The Limestone Branch Distillery was founded in 2010 by the brothers “to continue their family’s 220-year legacy of making bourbon and moonshine using the same DNA as their great-great-grandfather did. They’re owned by Luxco, and thus in the broader MGP of Indiana family. To date, Limestone Branch’s Yellowstone brand has revolved around selling sourced bourbon—possibly from the more famous distillery bearing their own last name—while waiting for their own juice to be ready. Master Distiller Stephen Beam has now apparently decided the time is right.
Yellowstone Family Recipe is functionally situated as a mid-shelf entry between the company’s flagship Yellowstone Select Bourbon, and its yearly Limited Edition releases. It’s purportedly based on a recipe from Stephen Beam’s grandfather Guy Beam, written some 150 years ago, and made using cloned yeast from the yeast jug of Beam’s great-grandfather Minor Case Beam. It’s a straight bourbon, bearing a 6-year age statement, bottled at 50% ABV (100 proof). It’s intended to be an annual release, but that release is broken up into a few separate batches—in 2022, they’re meant to arrive in April, August, and the last quarter of the year. MSRP is a tad on the high side, at $70, but you can’t begrudge a company for charging a little bit of a premium on something they’ve waited so long to unveil.
One thing that is a bit odd, though, is the way the marketing on this release, including its press release, doesn’t really seem to hinge on the fact that this is Limestone Branch Distillery’s first aged distillate of their own. Perhaps they don’t want to specifically call attention to the fact that their other products to date have been sourced, but to bourbon geeks it’s always a big deal when a company like this puts out their first traditional, aged product.
So with that said, let’s get to tasting it.
On the nose, this one leads off with notes that strike me as rather savory and herbaceous—there’s a lot of tobacco-like notes here, and less sweetness or richness than I was expecting there might be. I’m getting seasoned oak and some roasted nut-like impressions, along with a grainy note of cornbread and hints of hot cinnamon. It has a fairly dry overall impression, and an earthy, tobacco-forward vibe.
On the palate, this one is pretty strong up front with pepper spice and tobacco-like herbaceousness, along with brown sugar and earthiness. It’s fairly roasty, with burnt oak meeting with something more resinous, like pine needles. There’s a nice sweetness up front, giving life to some dark chocolate notes, but things then turn more bitter and a bit astringent. I’m reminded of the flavor of peppercorns after they’re smoked. The more vegetal notes also seem a bit confusing to my palate, as the does the way it dries out the palate significantly after a few sips.
At the end of the day, I’m still not entirely sure what to make of this bourbon. There are promising elements, and I like some of the herbal notes, but the entire presentation simultaneously feels a bit off balance. Perhaps this will change in subsequent batches, or perhaps the emerging house style of the Limestone Branch Distillery is just something I need to adjust to. I’ll likely revisit this particular bourbon in the future, to see how it may be evolving.
Distillery: Limestone Branch Distillery
City: Lebanon, KY
Style: Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey
ABV: 50% (100 proof)
Availability: 750 ml bottles, $70 MSRP
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident beer and liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.