The Tasting Panel magazine

August 2013

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Page 24 of 148

Spirits of '76 REViVAL BRAnd JAMES E. pEppER iS A STudy in WHiSKEy HiSTORy T he whiskey business lives and dies by history. We relish legends and celebrate icons. Occasionally, a legend is lost with time and forgotten by contemporary whiskey lovers. Fortunately, today there's an uptick in companies saving whiskey heroes and resurrecting these lost histories. One such company is the Georgetown Trading Company, which purchased the rights to use the name James E. Pepper, a historic bourbon figure who greatly contributed to Kentucky's whiskey explosion in the mid to late 1800s. Founded by Amir Peay, a former wine magazine publisher, Georgetown Trading also created the John L. Sullivan Irish Whiskey and Pow-wow Botanical Rye brands. But since this is an American whiskey column, I'm sticking to James E. Pepper 1776 Whiskey. (For a review of Pow-wow, see Blue Reviews on page 81. —Ed.) The 1776 Straight Rye and 1776 Straight Bourbon are both 100 proof and labeled as "Old Style," verbiage that Peay says is used to pay homage to the old ways of making whiskey. "The idea with the Old Style bottlings is to reference the old grain bills, tastings from the old bottlings, old bottling proofs, old production methods—sour mash, non-chill filtration, etc.—but not to necessarily be limited by them," Peay says. "We spent years doing historical research, collecting original recipes and original preserved whiskey from the old distillery. We have distilled using the original grain bills with [Bowling Green–based distillery] Corsair and with our independent bottlings. We are laying down new stocks and constantly looking for ways to improve our whiskey and stay true to the Pepper legacy."  History aside, the 1776 whiskies pack a spicy punch. No doubt, that's the heavy rye influence. The rye whiskey is made with more than 90 percent rye and malted barley. No corn is used to create the rye. The bourbon even has 38 percent rye, making it a super-spicy bourbon, but it still offers balance that would be attractive to a cocktail shaker. But the true gift Peay has given whiskey drinkers is in his older whiskies—a 15 Year Old Rye and a 15 Year Old Bourbon. The James E. Pepper 1776 15 Year Old Bourbon, bottled at 92 proof, sings a tune of spice and sweetness with caramel, vanilla and fresh oak coming through the nose and the slight hints of dark cherry, chocolate and salted caramel. The palate is spice city, with cinnamon and nutmeg finishing this delicious bourbon. The 15 Year Old is meant for sipping and would almost certainly make Mr. Pepper proud. For more on the history of this brand, visit 24  /  the tasting panel  /  august 2013 TP0813_001-33.indd 24 7/24/13 9:46 PM Tour

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