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Whiskymag 137 July _Aug 2016

Early Times Kentucky Whisky History

Tasting Notes Review

The History behind Early Times Kentucky Whisky


Early Times Kentucky Whisky, first distilled in 1860 outside of Bardstown, Kentucky, is a smooth whisky known for its rich heritage and mild taste profile. Although the year 1860 congers up images of “early times” today, at the time, the brand’s original distillers believed the industry was turning too modern, too quickly, and wanted a brand that captured the “good old days.”  Thus, the brand name Early Times was selected to remind consumers of the old-fashioned methods of making whisky - mashing grain in small tubs and boiling the beer and whisky in copper stills over open fires.


While Early Times is now made with modern methods, its name still invokes images of the good old days and still provides a welcome reward at the end of a hard day’s work.


Early Times Distillery 


In the beginning, the Early Times Distillery, located near Bardstown, Kentucky, was filling a mere 5 barrels a day all, which were sold in the Bardstown area. As demand for the brand increased, sales expanded to encompass surrounding cities and states.


The Early Times Distillery and its contents changed hands several times over the years and were eventually sold from S.L. Guthrie to the Brown-Forman Distilling Company in 1923. Although Brown-Forman never operated the old the Distillery, it did ship the Early Times barrel inventory to Louisville and bottled it as medicinal bourbon. Brown-Forman sold the Distillery and its surrounding farmland to local farmers.


In 1935 Brown-Forman began crafting Early Times once again at its existing distillery outside of Louisville, Kentucky.  In 1940 production was shifted to Brown-Forman's Old Kentucky Distillery in Shively, Kentucky.  Over the years this facility was enlarged and improved and was renamed the Early Times Distillery in 1953.


While the Early Times Distillery still remains at the same location, it has since been renamed the Brown-Forman Distillery to encompass all brands produced at the site, including Old Forester bourbon.


A Kentucky Whisky is Born


In 1983 the brand changed from a Kentucky bourbon to a Kentucky whisky, when Brown-Forman, the only distilling company who now owns its own cooperage, took advantage of its custom barrels and achieved the perfect mix of seasoned and new barrels for use in the maturation process of Early Times.  


(By law, whisky can only be called “bourbon” if it is aged in new, charred white oak barrels).


By allowing the whisky to mature in seasoned barrels, Brown-Forman was able to achieve a smooth, mellow taste, one that Early Times fans have come to know and love. While Early Times Kentucky Whisky reins king in the U.S., Early Times bourbon is still sold in select export markets.


Early Times to Modern Times 


From five barrels a day to the fourth largest Kentucky Straight Whisky in the world, Early Times has enjoyed a long rich history. Still true to its Kentucky roots, it is now sold in 28 countries around the world and proudly serves as the “Official Drink of the Kentucky Derby.”

Early Times Kentucky Whisky


Tasting Notes


Color: Light, bright honey


Nose: A fresh, sharp oak note ripens into a dry clove spice and hay, hints of leather, dill spice and fruit add complexity to a subtle foundation of white chocolate.


Taste: Smooth and creamy malt character with a light oak sweetness and herbal grass notes.


Finish: Mild and clean, fulfilling with a very pleasant soft, apple peel character.