Oh Taste & See: Early Times 354 Bourbon

You may have heard the buzz surrounding the release of Early Times 354 Bourbon a few months back. It's the first time since 1983 that the storied Early Times name has appeared on a bourbon available in the U.S. Early Time's only domestic-market product for the past 28 years has been labeled "Kentucky Whiskey" - a bourbon-like whiskey aged in some used barrels instead of all new ones, a minor distinction that meant it couldn't be legally called bourbon. I never thought much of Early Times Kentucky Whiskey, but the 354 bourbon isn't bad at all, and even earned a starring role in my Derby Day mint julep this year.

This new bourbon is a value-priced whiskey (about $16) that packs a decent punch for the price. It also has a very cool bottle that gives it an old-time, small-batch look. It's definitely one of the best-looking bourbons in the under-$20 price bracket, so not a bad option if you're looking for an affordable bourbon to take to a party or to give your whiskey shelf a little color.But it's always what's inside the bottle that counts.

Color: For a cheaper bourbon the color is very rich. A dark, caramel brown.

Nose: The nose is very sweet at first, and is pleasant but without too many complex aromas. There are subtle hints of grain, vanilla, oak, and peaches.

Flavor: Early Times 354 has a full mouth-feel with plenty of weight to it. The dominant flavors are sweet notes of vanilla ice cream, caramel, and chocolate fudge. There's also a toasty grain flavor and some oak flavors that balance this whiskey out keep it from being too sweet. A perfectly decent bourbon to sip, and a top notch choice for mixing duty.

Finish: The pleasant finish lingers for a while with only a bit of burn. The first flavors in the finish are chocolate and malted milk, fading to the taste of oak that lingers for a good long while.

Overall this is a good enough bourbon for any purpose, and a very strong choice in it's price range. As I said above the fact that it is packaged in a very unique bottle is also worth something. Brown Forman is still in the process of rolling out Early Times 354 nationwide, but I definitely recommend picking up a bottle when it gets to your area.