Cream of Kentucky is a storied brand, having been founded by I. Trager & Co. out of Cincinnati, Ohio in the late 1800s. The brand rose to prominence after the repeal of prohibition and became a staple in the bourbon industry for decades. Interestingly, Norman Rockwell was responsible for the artwork for the company during its reign in the 1930s and 1940s. Unfortunately, the brand started to decline and was eventually discontinued.
Jim Rutledge, the renowned master distiller, revived the brand following his departure from Four Roses in 2015 and released the first batch of Cream of Kentucky in December 2018. A second batch was released in April 2019 and it is anticipated that at least one more batch will be released later this year.
This bourbon was sourced from an unknown Kentucky distillery and has been aged for 11.5 years. The mash bill has also not been disclosed. This bottle comes in at 102 proof (51% abv) and retails for $129.99.
Appearance – medium-dark chestnut. This bourbon forms thick, slow legs in the glass.
Nose – the nose is warm and sweet, beginning with a pronounced dark cherry syrup and a very soft rye spice. The sweetness is balanced nicely with plenty of oak, pecans, and a bouquet of warm baking spices.
Palate – this bourbon has a pleasant viscosity, creating a nice coating with the first sip. The sweetness of the nose transitions onto the palate, revealing plenty of dark fruit notes and brown sugar. There is some rye spice mid-palate, along with plenty of vanilla, oak, and some toasted pecan.
Finish – the finish is medium-long, somewhat dry, and full of the same oak and nutty notes. There is some heat initially but it fades quickly and ushers in a slight bitterness. Light caramel and baking spice finish out the pour.
Overall – I spent quite a bit of time looking for this bottle and I am pleased to say that it was time well spent! I have been a big fan of Jim Rutledge for some time and I had high expectations for this release, and once again he did not disappoint. This bottle is a little pricey for a daily sipper, but it is a great pick if you are looking for a rich and flavorful pour for a special occasion. The initial sweetness on the nose is wonderful, and while this sweetness also transitions onto the palate, the oak and nutty notes provide more of a dry, bitter finish, which is a pleasant surprise.
Cream of Kentucky is a great bourbon and a perfect example of why we should be excited about the future of the J.W. Rutledge Distillery. If you can find a bottle at retail, or close to it, I highly recommend adding it to your collection. Cheers!