Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Kentucky Tavern Gets A Face Lift.

Kentucky Tavern has gotten a face lift. This is the new label.

Kentucky Tavern was the flagship brand of Glenmore Distillery, which had its offices in Louisville, with the distillery itself in Owensboro.

Glenmore also owned the Yellowstone brand, and its distillery in Shively (a Louisville suburb). Yellowstone was the bigger brand, but it was like Jack Daniel's is to Brown-Forman's founding brand, Old Forester. Kentucky Tavern - known as KT - was Glenmore's flagship.

Glenmore was the Thompson family's distillery. The Thompsons, Browns and Van Winkles were Louisville's leading distilling families of the post-Prohibition era. The Van Winkles sold Stitzel-Weller in 1972. 'Buddy' Thompson sold Glenmore to what became Diageo in 1991.

KT got beat up and bounced around after that, at various points becoming "Kentucky Whiskey," and even a blend.

Now owned by Sazerac and made at the Barton 1792 Distillery in Bardstown, it is Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey once again.

The KT brand was somehow linked to an actual Louisville bar of the same name, frequented by Louisville downtown business types because it was conveniently located between downtown and their northeast side homes. The bar's heyday was the 1950s, so one assumes the bar was named after the whiskey, which began in the early 20th century.

The names may even have been a coincidence, but came to be linked together in the minds of many. Both were called KT.

In the 1980s, when Glenmore was still independent and looked like it might be one of the survivors of bourbon's collapse, a new KT's was erected on or near the original location near Louisville's Cherokee Park. Good bar. Good sandwiches. No connection to the distillery or the original bar, just a tribute, and still in a good location.


Storcke said...

I want to put in a good word for KT bourbon. Sure, it's a lower-shelf bourbon, 80 proof, but it has a nice, friendly, unique flavor, and very little if any bitterness or harshness. I haven't been able to find out the mashbill, but it almost tastes like a corn whiskey with a little charred oak aging. Very little rye spice. Overall, well worth the ten bucks I paid for a liter.

K Rogers said...

I recently noticed that KT 80 proof is now labeled as bourbon with natural flavors, similar to Ten High. Is the straight bourbon no longer available?

Chuck Cowdery said...

It may vary by market, as does Ten High.

Anonymous said...

So, I want to verify what K Rogers is saying. Here in NC the new stock that's coming into our state run ABC system no longer says Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey but does say "Special Reserve" and under that "Bourbon with natural flavors" and since bourbon cannot have flavors added, the product is no longer a bourbon. Ditto Ten High, Kentucky Gentleman and a whole host of other bottom shelfers that used to be "straights". It would appear that the real bourbon is being redirected to make the high end stuff for obvious reasons. There is still lots of old stock here on the shelves that doesn't seem to move and unless it's been replenished since sometime late last year by my understanding, and I've talked to someone who sits on a local ABC board about this product, you'll might still encounter some of the "straight". but in stores where it does move it's being replaced with the new "Special Reserve". Sad but true

Chuck Cowdery said...

If it says "Bourbon with natural flavors" then that is what it is, and it is not a bourbon. It is a whiskey specialty. But the bourbon component is still bourbon, so the labeling is correct. Although this product is not, some whiskey specialties are "straight bourbon with natural flavors," so the distinction is not this versus straight either. What it is not is "pure" bourbon, which is a term we may need to revive for bourbon without any additives. I'm sure you can still find pure bourbon on the bottom shelf, but it may not be as cheap as KT.

K Rogers said...

Old Crow and Benchmark are still straight bourbon whiskies, around $10 a fifth.