Old Ezra 15 Year Bourbon Review [In Depth]

Old Ezra 15 Year Bourbon Details

old ezra 15 year review header


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Old Ezra 15 Year Bourbon Details

Distillery: Lux Row (most likely sourced from Heaven Hill)

Type & Region: Bourbon, USA

Alcohol: 50.5%

Composition: 78% corn, 10% rye, 12% barley

Aged: 15 years

Color: 1.3/2.0 on the color scale (russet, muscat)

Price: $100 (what I paid in Japan)

From the back of the bottle:

15 years ago, a limited number of barrels of our rare old sippin’ whiskey were carefully stored away, not to be disturbed until they reach their peak of smoothness. For 15 long years that whiskey just kept slowly agin’, naturally mellowin’, right inside those select, heavily charred White Oak barrels. The result: OLD ARA, a 15 year old, 101 proof Sippin’ Whiskey…so sippin’ smooth you know it could come only from the folks at Kentucky Finest Little Distillery.

old ezra 15 year overview

Old Ezra 15 Year is another Heaven Hill-sourced bourbon sold by Lux Co that was unfortunately discontinued in the early 2010s, likely because Heaven Hill needed to save those stocks for the future. You know, because 15 years is a lot of time.
While Old Ezra 12 Year was only sold in Japan (or predominately sold in Japan), the 15 Year was also sold in the US, Europe, and Japan for decades, sometimes under the Ezra Brooks name as well. So in some cases, Old Ezra and Ezra Brooks are kind of interchangeable, and I’ve even seen them used on the same bottle. That also means that there are pre-fire versions of Old Ezra 15 Year out there, this just isn’t one of those.
In my case, I walked into a store and saw this sitting on the shelf. I absolutely freaked out inside because I’d been hoping to find one at a decent price. In this case $100 seemed reasonable because it was around MSRP. And based on what I’ve seen since, Japan doesn’t seem to have much of it lying around to find.
old ezra 15 year front label
As for the bottle itself, I’m guessing that this one was bottled in 2013 given the A13 laser code. This also means that the bourbon was barreled no later than 1998, 2 years after the massive Heaven Hill fire.
As a result, the bourbon inside the bottle could very well contain distillate from other Kentucky distilleries that Heaven Hill contracted production to help rebuild their barrel inventory. From what I read, that helping hand came from Jim Beam and Brown Forman.
These days, there are very few 15+ year old Heaven Hill bourbons, let alone those also over 100 proof. Evan Williams 23 Year and Heaven Hill 17 Year Barrel Proof come to mind, but both are super rare releases. That’s some unique company, so let’s find out what a 15 year old Heaven Hill bourbon has to offer in this Old Ezra 15 Year review.
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old ezra 15 year smell

Old Ezra 15 Year kicks off with roasted caramel and toasted vanilla, dried cherry, tobacco, dark chocolate, coffee beans, dry apple, cinnamon, clove, dried licorice and apricot. It’s quite roasty, similar to Michter’s 10 Year Bourbon, but with a hint more cherry, apricot, and licorice. The alcohol is pretty calm too.
After swirling and some more rest, I smell roasted caramel and vanilla, tobacco, dried peanut shells, roasted oak, cinnamon, clove, dried cherry, apricot, and licorice. As you’d expect, Old Ezra 15 Year is roasty and oaky-forward bourbon that shows off the woodier and older side of a 15 year old bourbon.
old ezra 15 year side label 1
Unfortunately, all that oakiness and oldness comes at a price – balance. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of oakiness and roastiness in and of itself is great, if blended appropriately. In this case, the fruity and herbal scents are often covered up by the oaky notes. It takes smelling coffee grounds to refresh my nose in order to pick out those behind-the-scenes delicate scents.

Unfortunately, this more recent 15 year doesn’t have the same beautiful fruitiness and balance as the 1996 Anderson Club 15 Year, which also comes from Heaven Hill (pre-fire). They may be cousins, but they’re drastically different.

The other thing is that while there’s a lot of oakiness, roastiness, and darkness, at times it feels somewhat surface-level. It doesn’t have the darker and lower-end heaviness, roundness, or richness that I’ve found in older Wild Turkey Rare Breed, Lux Row 12 Year Double barrel Bourbon, or modern Elijah Craig Barrel Proof. It smells old yet sometimes underdeveloped, if that makes any sense.

old ezra 15 year taste and aftertaste

With my first sip, I taste roasty caramel, vanilla, dark chocolate, dried berries, roasted oak, tobacco, dry grass, cinnamon, dried apple, a little nuttiness. I like that slight dark chocolate covered berries vibe that often comes from older bourbons like Wild Turkey 13 Year Father and Son.
The oakiness really comes through, but also adds some bitterness on the back end. Already on my first impression, I think Old Ezra 12 Year may better balance the sweetness, fruitiness, and oak to offer a more complete experience.
After “chewing”, I taste roasted caramel and marshmallow, roasted oak, 90% dark bitter chocolate, smoke, dried licorice, cherry, and apple, clove, a little licorice and candied pineapple.
As expected, Old Ezra 15 Year is roasty and oaky-forward, very much a 15 year old bourbon. At the same time, it may be a bit too 15 years old so everything else, the fruitiness, herbalness, earthiness, floralness, etc, takes a back seat. I like oak, but this is a bit too oak-forward for my full enjoyment.
The oakiness especially reminds me of Michter’s 10 Year Single Barrel Bourbon, but Old Ezra 15 Year is a tad more viscous due to the 101 proof. And just like Michter’s, the oak is a bit unbalanced at the expense of everything else.

Even though it’s far from being overoaked, in general it feels sort of one dimensional and not exceptional enough in any one thing to get it over the top. There’s also not much low end roundness or viscosity, so I keep thinking surface-level. I can get into it more if one / a few traits done well, but I don’t get that.

old ezra 15 year side label 2

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Old Ezra 15 Year Rating

Mid shelf+
I’m conflicted with Old Ezra 15 Year. As much as I enjoyed smelling and drinking it, I just can’t quite justify giving it a “Top Shelf” bourbon, and that certainly pains me because I would have liked it to be one.
It’s 15 Year old Heaven Hill bourbon, come on! Fifteen year old bourbon doesn’t just grow on trees for everyone to take. Actually if you think about it, bourbon kind of comes from trees.
I think the main thing is that I just never feel all that impressed drinking it. It’s oaky and roasty-forward, very much how I expect a 15 years old bourbon to be, but it doesn’t excel enough with the oakiness to overcome the other deficiencies.
It’s not rich, deep, viscous, or complex enough in any other way to be a “Top Shelf” bourbon. And just like Michter’s 10 Year bourbon, it’s still a fragrant and tasty bourbon that doesn’t reach its full potential.
The irony here, and often a hot topic in bourbon, is that older does not always mean better. Since I reviewed Old Ezra 12 Year and Ezra Brooks 12 Year Single Barrel (both also from Lux Co) not too long before this 15 year, I have the unique perspective to compare them from memory.
Learn more about Elijah Craig Small Batch
Old Ezra 12 Year is more well-balanced across various dimensions, and is especially more fruity, lively, and complex. I can still smell and taste the mature oak, but it feels like a better-integrated part of the bourbon that enhances the overall experience. Long story short, it’s a “Top Shelf” bourbon for me.
Ezra Brooks 12 Year Single Barrel, like Old Ezra 15 Year, actually has a similar oak-forward personality, but did a far better job integrating it all into a complete package. All the very roasty, oaky, and spicy scents and flavors were there, but there was also a lot more roasted caramel, chocolate, vanilla, and dried apple/ cherry / apricot density and richness to fill it out. Ezra Brooks 12 Year didn’t skip leg day. As a result it was a strong “Top Shelf” bourbon.
I’ll wrap this all up by attempting to address the question – is it worth buying? If you happen to stumble upon one, likely in Europe and Japan, I guess it’s worth a shot at the right price – under $150 for novelty’s sake.
Based on the quality of the scents and flavors, this experience tells me that I don’t have a compelling reason to get another one. Then again, I have the fortune to say that after reviewing it, and you may still be very curious to find out for yourself. Good luck deciding, and you know where I stand on it.
Alex author
Meet the Author: Alex

I have far too much fun writing about whiskey and singlehandedly running The Whiskey Shelf to bring you independent, honest, and useful reviews, comparisons, and more. I’m proudly Asian American and can speak Cantonese, Mandarin, and some Japanese.

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