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DUKE Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

DUKE Kentucky
Straight Bourbon


By Robert Plotkin

After John Wayne, bourbon is America's most recognizable export. Worldwide demand for our indigenous whiskey is straining supply and domestic sales are skyrocketing. After 200 years, whiskies from Kentucky are on the charts with a bullet. In fact, bourbon has become something of a phenomenon in bars, nightclub and cocktail lounges. The recent release of DUKE Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey will only serve to fuel the trend.

Clearly, Americans can relate to bourbon. It's loaded with big, complex flavors and has about the most captivating aromatics of any whiskey. There's absolutely no pretense or snob appeal to bourbon. One doesn't need a refined, well-educated palate to appreciate its assertive character. In addition, bourbon is affordable. You don't have to spend a week's paycheck to bring home a world-class contender. Little wonder it's undergoing a popular resurgence.

Not surprisingly, America's most iconic screen star—John Wayne—appreciated bourbon's unique qualities and had aspirations of creating a whiskey that reflected his own tastes. Decades after the actor's death, his son, Ethan Wayne, found among his father's effects numerous bourbon bottles dating back to the early 1960s and handwritten notes in which his father discussed the qualities he wanted his whiskey to possess.

Upon finding the samples and his father's notes, Ethan set out to create the whiskey his father had envisioned a half-century earlier. Together with wine and spirit craftsmen Chris Radomski and Jayson Woodbridge he deciphered his father's notes and developed a blend of small batch bourbons aged in charred, American white oak barrels for 5 to 10 years. The whiskey was left unfiltered—naturally—and bottled at 44% alcohol (88 proof).

DUKE Bourbon is a superb sippin' whiskey with a velvety textured, medium-weight body and an alluring vanilla, cinnamon and caramel nose. The longer the whiskey is allowed to breathe, the more of its alluring aromatics come to the forefront. Its broad, flavorful palate features the flavors of toffee, mocha, caramel, cinnamon and nutmeg. The finish is long, smooth and thoroughly satisfying. Overall, it's an accessible and easy-to-drink whiskey, especially considering its elevated strength.

DUKE Bourbon is an excellent choice for use in classic cocktails, such as the Manhattan and Old Fashioned. That said, the whiskey is so well made and has so much character that you would be well advised to first sip it neat, or with a few ice cubes. You'll be glad you did.

The backstory behind the whiskey is as much about making great bourbon as it is about a son wanting to create a tribute for his dad. A quick sniff, sip and will swallow will confirm Ethan Wayne accomplished both.