• DISTILLERY:  Barton Distillery

  • MASH BILL:  51%+ Corn

  • CASK:  New Charred American Oak

  • AGE:  4 Years (48 months)

  • PROOF:  80 Proof (40% ABV)

  • PRICE:  $24.99 (1L)

3.4/5 - (170 votes)


I was looking for a decent pub or restaurant to enjoy the World Cup 2014 matches and wound up at J. Gumbo’s on the campus of the University of Louisville. Being the multi-tasker that I am I figured what better time to do a bourbon review?

Denise, our bartender, introduced herself cordially.

Me: “What’s the worst bourbon you have?” 

Bartender: “This stuff in the well, its $3” (Apparently “this stuff” was so bad that she didn’t want to mention it by name.)

Me: “I’ll take that – neat”

Bartender: [Shivers in disgust]

A three-finger pour OF Kentucky Tavern in a plastic cup is what I got. This was not going to be pleasant, I thought to myself.

Kentucky Tavern has been around since the trademark was registered in 1903. The brand survived Prohibition, two World Wars, and several acquisitions. The latest acquisition saw Kentucky Tavern purchased by Sazerac in 2009 as part of a package deal with Tom Moore Distillery/Constellation Spirits Brands.

According to “The Book of Bourbon” Kentucky Tavern is comprised of the same wheat heavy mashbill as Weller and Old Fitzgerald.  But given that the only places one finds Kentucky Tavern are in the hands of undiscriminating hobos and under the sink at dive bars, the mashbill likely won’t be a redeeming quality.

Strangely enough, when I give Kentucky Tavern a whiff, the nose isn’t off-putting. Pepper, sweetcorn, and cinnamon waft out of my plastic cup.




Even more surprising, this bourbon isn’t gag-inducing. The wheated mashbill presents a smooth, sweet, very light-bodied bourbon. Perfect for sipping on a hot summer day while eating Cajun Jambalaya. The burn is non-existent (which is expected from an 80 -proof), and the flavors are muted, save for sweet corn. In fact, Kentucky Tavern is barely above being a simple distilled corn whiskey.

The pepper, baking spices, and corn in the nose are prevalent on the palate, but if you aren’t paying attention, you wouldn’t realize you are drinking bourbon. What is somewhat notable is the fruit in the finish: really fresh pear apricot and cherry. But again, this stuff is so watery light-bodied that you would be forgiven if you miss all that.




Because of the very muted character of Kentucky Tavern, the low proof, and the generally unremarkable character of the whiskey, Kentucky Tavern is not a bourbon lovers bourbon. Whiskey drinking Bachelorette party attendees and frat rats will enjoy this. As will members of the blackout brigade (8 shots should get you where you want to be).

We give Kentucky Tavern Bourbon a C+.

How we grade bourbons. KT isn’t terrible. I have had much, much worse out of the well. But Kentucky Tavern does absolutely nothing for those who want quality. Maybe that’s why it sells for $9.99 a half-gallon at the drug store up the street.

Because of its light body and low proof, this is a bourbon that’s easy to enjoy in the summer. Just don’t mix it with anything, and if you are going to add ice, use a slow melting king cube or spherical ice ball.

Have you tried Kentucky Tavern Bourbon? If so, leave your own rating by using the stars below and click here to leave a comment.

3.4/5 - (170 votes)