First it was Diageo’s Orphan Barrels, then came Brown-Forman’s Whiskey Row, and now Campari (not to be outdone) gives us the Whiskey Barons series. I could probably blab on for another paragraph or two about these marketing initiatives, but I’d be wasting my breath (or finger energy, really). This is the state of bourbon right now – it’s a commodity, it’s hot, and it’s likely to be that way for a few more years (so expect more of this). So let’s just say that Campari is releasing a series of pre-prohibition inspired whiskeys …… in pints. Not for money, no. It’s because that’s how whiskey was sold in the old days. See? Legit.
In all seriousness, the first two Whiskey Baron releases are both Kentucky straight bourbons produced at Wild Turkey Distillery – Bond & Lillard and Old Ripy. I’ve yet to try Bond & Lillard, but hope to soon. As for Old Ripy, let’s start with the presentation. The bottle has excellent eye appeal, with thick octagonal glass, a beautiful artistic 19th century inspired label, and a classic cork strip. Obviously, a lot of design went into this bottle and I’ll give that the praise it deserves. The reverse of the bottle reads:
Hailing from County Tyrone, James Ripy left Ireland in 1830 and settled in Anderson County, Kentucky. In 1839, after renouncing his allegiance to Queen Victoria, Ripy became a naturalized American citizen. He opened a distillery that produced Old Ripy bourbon in 1868. Batch #1 is a tribute to the style and consistency of the original Old Ripy bourbon with a complex delivery of oak, toffee, and spice. The rich family history is enshrined in the elegant Queen Anne style Ripy mansion in Lawrenceburg Kentucky.
But I’m not here to review the packaging – it’s tasting time! At $50 SRP (plus taxes and unavoidable premiums) for a pint, this better be some yummy whiskey. Hey wait – the label says “medicinal” – it must cure something. I mean, medicines do cost a lot now. Maybe my insurance will cover it?
Old Ripy (2017) – Campari Whiskey Barons Collection Batch #1 – KSBW blend of various ages “up to 12 years old” – non-chill filtered and bottled at 104 proof – distilled and bottled by The American Medicinal Spirits Co. (produced at the Wild Turkey Distillery), Lawrenceburg, KY
Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …
Nose: spicy vanilla, “smokey” oak, nutty toffee, clove, banana nut bread, pepper, faint polished leather
Taste: (oilier than expected) sweet vanilla & toffee, spicy oak, banana nut bread, Double Bubble gum, pepper, clove, hints of leather
Finish: medium-long and pleasantly warm – sweet/spicy vanilla, dry oak, fading peppery spice
Overall: Old Ripy is a tasty bourbon whiskey, that while firmly grounded in modern core Wild Turkey notes, manages to have just enough off-profile supportive notes to make it somewhat unique. In some ways it reminds me of recent Russell’s Reserve 10-year batches (particularly the nose), as well as a few notes from Wild Turkey Rare Breed batch WT-03RB. It has a nice sweet/spicy flavor with a surprising oiliness (likely because it’s not chill filtered) – much better than Rare Breed batch 112.8, but nowhere near the excellence found in any standard Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel release. In fact, if price were factored into this review Old Ripy would not grade well at all. But value aside, this sips like a B-grade bourbon whiskey. It’s in my opinion what a modern Wild Turkey blend like Rare Breed should taste like. While Old Ripy isn’t necessarily mature, it lacks the grainy youth found in Rare Breed 112.8 and has a richer mouthfeel. The folks at Wild Turkey should take note. All said and done, I’m giving this one a *B- (price not factored, of course).
*Originally graded B upon initial publication, after spending additional time with this bourbon I feel B- is more accurate.