Breckenridge Bourbon Review

Breckenridge Bourbon

Breckenridge Bourbon hangs its hat on its many awards.  Take one look at their website, and it is clear that Breckenridge has taken its Bourbon on a tour of seemingly every whiskey competition around the world.   I won’t take issue with it success at these competitions.   But, I suspect that its the “Bourbon that Beat Pappy” marketing (it once hung on the neck of all its bottles) that likely put Breckenridge Bourbon on our map and not the awards themselves.

What?  Beat Pappy?

Yes, apparently at some competition, somewhere Breckenridge Bourbon scored a point higher than some Pappy Van Winkle product.  I think that point deserves no further research.  But Breckenridge nonetheless touted this point with high acclaim.  

Is it truly better than “Pappy”?  I doubt you will find many who would even give that question the time of day.  But it’s attention grabbing and likely sold many people on buying a bottle.  

So what exactly is this Pappy-beating bourbon?  Well, that may be the million dollar question, and one that Breckenridge has been coy in answering.

According to Breckenridge’s founder Bryan Nolt in 2013 (as reported by Chuck Cowdery), “Due to demand we function at max capacity but over deplete our Bourbon barrel inventory at times. When that happens we contract time at other distilleries to produce the identical mash bill, fermentation, and distillation process.”

At the time (2013), Breckenridge’s label only contained the words “Bourbon Whiskey” without any indication of “blended” or “straight.”  It had essentially only a 2-year age statement and the word “Bourbon.”  Not much could be learned from that.  But, with Nolt’s comments, we know that some of it is their whiskey, and some is not.

Today, the words “A Blend of Straight Bourbon Whiskeys” has been added to the bottles.   According to Breckenridge’s current website, their bourbon is a blend of straight bourbon whiskeys from Colorado (presumably their own distillate), Kentucky, Tennessee and Indiana.  Each is a high-rye mash bill consisting of 56% corn, 38% rye and 6% barley.

What does all this mean?  Well, we don’t know what exactly goes in each bottle.  We don’t know if it has changed over time.  But we do have a bottle of the 2013 to try side-by-side with a current 2017 release to help us form an opinion.  We will also sample alongside Breckenridge Bourbon’s “Reserve Blend.”  More on that below.

Breckenridge Bourbon

Breckenridge Bourbon (purchased in 2012 – labeled “special release” and without the “blend of straight bourbon whiskeys” indication) (86 proof)

Nose:  Rye floral and herbal notes; light dusty ground pepper; corn; dry young wood; banana cream and kiwi; wet barrel char; raisin.  Impressive for its age and reminds me a bit of younger Wild Turkey.  (3.5/5)

Palate:  Thin.  Corn; vanilla; rye and floral spice; pepper; caramel syrup.  Overall an enjoyable palate.  (3/5)

Finish:  Medium-short.  Lingering floral rye/pepper notes; light caramel. (2.5/5)

Overall:  Little sign of youth, but unfortunately thin.  I might question the age of my bottle as being a bit flat, but overall satisfyingly complex. (3/5)

Value:  At around $40 a bottle, I’m satisfied and would consider buying again.  (3/5)

Breckenridge Bourbon

Breckenridge Bourbon (purchased in 2017) (86 proof)

Nose:  Rye floral notes; wet wood; banana; light caramel; some lightly dried grapes.  Similar notes to the 2012 bottling but certainly more youth; heavier banana.  (3/5)

Palate:  Honey and corn; vanilla; herbal/floral rye; white pepper; caramel syrup.  (3.5/5)

Finish:  Medium.  Honey and floral rye spice; some tingle and dry oak. (3/5)

Overall: Similar yet different than the old bottling; not as thin, yet not as refined.  Creamier with more honey notes.  But the youth is more apparent here.  (3/5)

Value:  At around $40 a bottle, I’m satisfied and would consider buying again.  (3/5)

Breckenridge Bourbon

Breckenridge Bourbon, being a “Blend of Straight Bourbon Whiskies” that presumably takes its character from the sum of the unique parts, doesn’t have the luxury of producing a true “single barrel” offering.  If it were to be offered, likely it would have very different characteristics than that of the standard offering.  So instead, Breckenridge offers a “Reserve Blend” program, where instead of barrel samples, the retailer (at least in the Kansas three-tier system) selects from one of several curated blends.  The selected choice is provided to the retailer in a manner similar to how a barrel program would work.

Breckenridge Bourbon “Reserve Blend” – R&J Discount Liquor Pick (86 Proof) (Purchased in 2018)

Nose:  Perfume and floral; light brown sugar; rye grain; white pepper; cream. (3/5)

Palate: Honey and brown sugar; rye herbal/floral spice; ginger; corn; oak; vanilla; raisin. (3.5/5)

Finish:  Vanilla; brown sugar that seemingly chases after floral notes, but can’t keep up; raisin; some lingering caramel/vanilla oak; lingering ginger and herbal notes.  (3.5/5)

Overall: If you are a fan of Breckenridge, this is certainly one to pick up.  If you haven’t tried Breckenridge, this is a quality example of some of the best Breckenridge has to offer.  A very different take on a young bourbon.  (3.5/5)

Value:  Probably a better buy for the buck at the same $40 price point as the standard offering.  (3.5/5)

Breckenridge Bourbon

Scott Hill

Scott is a co-founder of Flight Club and a frequent writer and reviewer on the Club’s blog.

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