kooper family single barrel bourbon review
Kooper Family Single Barrel Bourbon
Distillery: Kooper Family
Type & Region: Bourbon, USA
Composition: 75% corn, 21% rye, 4% barley
Aged: 4-5 years in virgin American white oak
From the Kooper Family website:
“Distilled in Indiana, barreled in the finest #3 Char American White Oak casks, and slowly matured in the warm winds of Fayette County, Texas. Soaking in the aggressive summer heat and evolving with every unreasonable temperature swing Texas offers, these proud single barrels slowly achieve aromatic and flavor sophistication. A full spectrum, nuanced Bourbon with enigmatic characteristics: fierce but elegant – intense yet dignified.”
kooper family single barrel bourbon overview
Kooper Family Single Barrel Bourbon is one of three bourbons currently offered by Kooper Family, the whiskey blending house based in Ledbetter, TX. To the best of my knowledge, this is their main single barrel bourbon offering, but I’ve also seen Sweetheart of the Rodeo Single Barrel selects at some Total Wines in Texas.
Like Sweetheart of the Rodeo, the distillate for this single barrel bourbon is sourced from MGP (75% corn, 21% rye, 4% barley mashbill) and matured in Texas. Unlike Sweetheart of the Rodeo, this single barrel is 46% ABV instead of 45%, if that makes any difference. I’m sure there are differences in age as well, but regardless, let’s learn more in this Kooper Family Single Barrel bourbon review.
*Thank you to Michelle and Troy Kooper from Kooper Family for sending this bottle. All opinions are still my own.
kooper family single barrel bourbon smell
Kooper Family Single Barrel bourbon greets my nostrils with dark roasted caramel, licorice, a mix of dried citrus peel and fresh orange, charred oak, preserved cherries, rosemary, thyme, eucalyptus, and then more dried citrus peel. This has a sweet yet dark and earthy personality, heavily influenced by the 24% rye in the mashbill, but there’s still that youthful roasted graininess, so it’s clear that it’s still relatively young. The scents are not so big or intense, but there’s still plenty there that I don’t get bored smelling this over and over again.
Swirling brings the same dark roasted caramel, licorice, fennel, dried citrus peel, cherry, roasted grains, charred marshmallows, oak, cinnamon, nutmeg, and dried black tea leaves with occasional hints of maple syrup and pecan that hint at pecan pie. As young as it is, there’s a lot of charred character and overall darkness, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Texas weather was the main reason for that, but it’s still balanced by the fruitiness as well. All together though, Kooper Family Single Barrel bourbon smells great and has very little heat, although I’d strongly prefer a higher ABV to get more richness and depth.
kooper family single barrel bourbon taste & aftertaste
Kooper Family Single Barrel Bourbon has a good pop of honey, licorice, apple, citrus, vanilla, oak, cinnamon, coffee grounds, lightly burnt popcorn, fennel, caraway seed, rosemary, and thyme. It’s a nice mix of sweet, herbal, and lightly earthy traits that’s quintessential younger MGP bourbon. The flavors are somewhat light, but not boring or underdeveloped, just under-proofed for me.
“Chewing” brings forth more licorice with caramel, honey, roasted vanilla, orange peel, pear, apple, oak, cinnamon, clove, fennel, coffee grounds, and a hint of pecan. The lower ABV shows up with middle of the road viscosity, but it’s still not at all thin or bland with the caramel, honey, and vanilla leading the charge. At the current ABV, this single barrel bourbon offers a gentle yet still fairly complex, interesting, and flavorful array of sweet, herbal, and roasted flavors that taste more mature than its 4-5 years of age would indicate. I believe that this would have been great at closer to cask strength, as the added water takes away more than I’d like, but it’s still very good as-is and I’m certainly enjoying every sip.
The finish leads with honey, licorice, fennel, orange, vanilla, and lightly gummy oak tannins – a sweet, herbal, and lightly oaky finish. After “chewing” there’s roasted caramel, oak, licorice, citrus peel, and toasted cinnamon that transitions into long-lasting eucalyptus, fennel, and mint after a few minutes.
Place on the Whiskey Shelf
Kooper Family Single Barrel Bourbon is my favorite Kooper Family bourbon so far. While it’s so easy to drink because of the 46% ABV, it doesn’t sacrifice too much depth and richness, still full of developed roasted sugars, fruit, oak, and rye character. This single barrel takes a gentler and more nuanced approach that I still find compelling and yummy, so I’ll be drinking this when I need something a little “easier” for a lack of a better term. For the most part, it smells and tastes older than the 4-5 years of oak aging would suggest, although those youthful grain notes are still present, but that’s normal.
I still believe that Kooper Family could be successful selling their single barrel bourbons at cask strength since Smooth Ambler has done well with their 5 year old single barrel cask strength (also MGP-sourced) bourbons. I wouldn’t be surprised if a Kooper Family Single Barrel Cask Strength Bourbon surpassed what Smooth Ambler currently offers, as the Texas aging adds to the secret sauce. Still, I’m sure Michelle and Troy Kooper have their reasons and are emphasizing subtlety and approachability rather than sheer power and intensity. In that regard, Kooper Family Single Barrel Bourbon is a success and a bourbon I’ll be enjoying over and over till there’s none left.