James E. Pepper


Nose: The first impression is a slightly moonshiney corn scent that is pretty mild. The second sniff brings out alcohol smells with a little bit or corn. Palate: This has flavors of corn, roasted grain, a little caramel and a little bit of vanilla. A second sip brings out a little bit of rye spiciness. The mouthfeel is very light/watery. It isn’t harsh or burning and the finish is short and undistinguished. There is a slight lingering aftertaste that is a balance of slightly sweet and slightly bitter, but which leaves a rye impression. Comments: This is yet another example of something that has been in the saloon for a while and which has changed since the time it was purchased. To make things worse, they changed their labeling (all their stuff is now called 1776). This version is 92 proof, but according to the James E. Pepper website, it doesn’t look like they bottle a 92 proof any more. And, they also had a 6 yr old 92 proof at one time. Although a very old name in bourbon, this current version is relatively new (they started in 2008). They source their bourbon from the Lawrenceburg Distillery in Indiana and began distilling at their own distillery in KY in Dec. 2017. The mash bill reportedly is 38% rye but I didn’t pick up that high a level on the taste. I seem to remember drinking this a while back and thinking, “how interesting, it is called Pepper and actually does have a pepper taste”. That said, I really didn’t get any pepper flavors when I tasted it this time. If memory serves me, this cost in the low $30’s when I got it. It isn’t bad at that price, but there are others at the same price that are better. I would, however, be very curious to try their barrel strength version and would be willing to give the stuff from their new distillery a try once it ages long enough. James E. Pepper also makes several versions of Rye (maybe that’s what I was thinking of with the pepper flavors?). A little bit of history about Colonel James E. Pepper (1850-1906) (from the James E. Pepper website): A Master Distiller, he was a larger-than-life Bourbon Industrialist and flamboyant promoter of his family brand. He was the third generation to produce 'Old Pepper' whiskey, "The Oldest and Best Brand of Whisky made in Kentucky," founded in 1780 during the American Revolution. His namesake distillery in Lexington, Kentucky was at one point the largest whiskey distillery in the United States. An avid and noted horseman, Col. Pepper operated the finest stable in Kentucky. His thoroughbreds competed in the Kentucky Derby and in races across America and throughout Europe. He traveled in an ornate private rail car named "The Old Pepper," painted with images of his famed whiskey label, and he spent a considerable amount of time in Manhattan, where he would travel to promote his brand. During his visits to New York, often at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Colonel Pepper was known to socialize with other American captains of industry, including John D. Rockefeller, Theodore Roosevelt, C.V. Vanderbilt, Charles A. Pillsbury, Fred Pabst, Charles L. Tiffany, & William Steinway. It was at the Waldorf that Colonel Pepper is credited with introducing the world to the “Old Fashioned” cocktail, which was said to have been invented in his honor by a bartender at the famed Pendennis Club in Louisville