Stephen and Paul Beam’s Limestone Branch Distillery (Lebanon, Kentucky) was founded in 2011, and it’s still one of those younger Kentucky distillers that is working slowly and surely toward the ultimate goal: Producing its own whiskey brands entirely in house. To date, that hasn’t yet happened—the Limestone Branch Distillery juice continues to age away, awaiting its moment in the sun sometime soon, but the distillery remains just as busy as ever via the production of its Yellowstone line of sourced bourbons. Parent company Luxco (itself owned by MGP of Indiana) is of course helpful in that regard, with wide access to all sorts of Kentucky bourbon goodies, which make up the Yellowstone lineup. But the LBD manages to put its own authoritative stamp on one of those brands in particular, in the form of the yearly Limited Edition Bourbon, which typically contains portions finished in a variety of wine casks.
Last year, the 2020 Yellowstone Limited Edition Bourbon featured a 7-year-old whiskey conditioned in Armagnac brandy casks, blended with other Kentucky straight bourbon whiskeys. This year, the area of interest drifts southward to Italy, as the 2021 Yellowstone Limited Edition Bourbon features whiskey finished in Amarone casks.
Amarone is not particularly well known in the U.S., but it’s a prized style of Italian red wine that is produced from partially dried grapes in a handful of varietals. Like ice wine, this extra concentration produces a potent (ABV-wise), concentrated wine that is rich with fermentable sugars, while featuring flavors that tend to take on a darker, dried fruit dimension. One would likely expect these flavors to carry over into bourbon aged in an Amarone cask, but you can never say for sure.
This particular 2021 Limited Edition release seems to be made from whiskey in two age ranges: 7-year-old bourbon finished for an undetailed amount of time in Amarone casks, and 15-year-old Kentucky bourbon. The batch was blended and bottled at 50.5% ABV (101 proof), with roughly 22,500 bottles in the batch, a 50% increase in production over 2020. It carries an MSRP of $99, although I have to note that the words “limited edition” appear in very small and subtle print on this bottle, which makes me wonder whether many consumers might simply misinterpret what it is.
Regardless, let’s get to tasting and see how they did on this year’s LE.
On the nose, this one is quite pleasantly fruity, striking a nice balance between bright red fruit (raspberry) and darker, more vinous notes. The brightness lifts it, while the more brambly, jammy notes add some underlying mystique. The fruit notes are paired with hints of musty, older oak and some nuttiness/nut butter, evoking roasted pecans or almond with toffee. There’s a bit of maple, a bit of cocoa, and a suggestion of enticing richness.
On the palate, I like this more and more, with each sip I take of it. There’s again a lot of red fruit, with both those brighter top notes and darker, jammier, more concentrated notes, but there’s also some pleasant citrus as well. I’m getting bits of toffee, vanilla, and a good hit of spicy ginger on the palate, which made this one read as a bit hot for the 101 proof on the initial sips, but that suggestion of ethanol/spice heat is tamed over time. Ultimately, it reads as pretty well-structured heat. Sweetness, meanwhile, is moderate and dialed in to a nice level, while a kiss of mature oak rounds things out.
All in all, this is a nicely composed dram—one that features some flavors likely derived from the Amarone casks, but none so overt that they overshadow the base bourbon. By “limited edition” bourbon release standards, the MSRP isn’t even too prohibitive. It’s one to keep an eye out for.
Distillery: Limestone Branch Distillery (Luxco)
City: Lebanon, KY
Style: Blend of Kentucky bourbons
ABV: 50.5% (101 proof)
Availability: 750 ml bottles, $100 MSRP
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.