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Congressmen Seek to Cut Excise Taxes on Distilled Spirits

Two Congressmen introduced a bill to cut taxes on distilled spirits. Sponsors of “HR 2520: Distillery Innovation and Excise Tax Reform Act of 2015,” Rep. Todd Young (R-IN) and Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) both represent states with significant distillery interests.

Yarmuth obviously represents the distilling state of Kentucky, but Young’s Indiana is ripe with distilleries, including Huber’s Starlight Distillery and MGP Ingredients.

According to a press release, the Congressmen worked with the Distilled Spirits Council and the American Craft Spirits Association  to pursue the decrease of the current tax rate of $13.50 per proof gallon to $2.70 per proof gallon on the first 100,000 gallons for all distillers. The bill sets a rate of $9.00 per proof gallon on all spirits above the 100,000 gallon threshold, the press release said.

The two trade groups agreed that these rates should apply to all distillers regardless of size, and to imported spirits as well as domestic products, the release said.

Similar bills have been introduced before. They’ve never passed.

Silver Trail: Still ‘failed massively’

Since the Silver Trail Distillery fire, I’ve been trying to reach their still maker, Revenoor Stills. They disappeared from the Web, everywhere. Silver Trail posted this onto their Facebook page, explaining what happened to Revenoor:

“Please Friends share this WARNING. If you own any size Revenoor brand still built by Terry Wilhelm of Yamhill Oregon – DO NOT operate until you have spoken withthe Kentucky State Fire Marshall office in Frankfort Kentucky phone # 502-673-1702. The model 300 gallon Revenoor used by Silver Trail failed massively hurtling 50 feet and bending a 10′ X 10′ sliding steel door before landing in the gravel lot. Second Distiller Jay said it was totally without warning and occurred four gallons in on a normal run. Mr. Wilhelm was not present, nor did anyone from the Revenoor Company choose to attend the Fire Marshall and engineer meeting. The very day of the accident Mr. Wilhelm began placing Revenoor Stills into bankruptcy and pulled the website down according to the insurance investigation. Also we ask your continued prayers for Kyle’s family and that Jay keeps on improving during his long recovery. Thank you all for your love and support. Amanda Powell – Silver Trail Museum Manager”

Revenoor’s Wilhelm tells WhiskyCast the above Silver Trail statement is “not true” and that the company is in the middle of a ownership dispute. He said the still was out of its warranty and that he is willing to assist with investigators. Read the full story here.

Bourbon Review: Wild Turkey Master’s Keep 17-Year-Old

Wild Turkey Master's Keep hits stores in August for $150.

Wild Turkey Master’s Keep hits stores in August for $150.

Wild Turkey Master’s Keep 17-Year-Old (Media Sample)

About this bourbon: Wild Turkey Master’s Keep hits stores in August with an MSRP of $150 and is 86.8 proof, which is this product’s barrel-proof. (Eddie Russell offers a proof explanation at At 17 years old, it’s the oldest Wild Turkey released to date.

Color: Light brownish amber. For a 17-year-old, I hope for it to be a little darker. 6 out of 10.

Aroma: The nose is beautiful with pronounced cherry blossoms, lilac and fresh spun cotton candy with hints of smoke and a whole lot of caramel and vanilla. Very vibrant! 39 out of 40.

Palate and Finish: The mouthcoating mouthfeel immediately surrounds the palate, dripping into every pocket, every crevice, delivering tickles of spice, caramel, roasted marshmallows, fig, praline and a crème brulle note that reminds me of the old school Wild Turkeys from the 1980s. The finish is long with an interesting hint of smoked corn. 45 out of 50.

Total: 90

More (Updated): For those who’ve been following Wild Turkey for awhile might recognize the 86.8 proof. I’ve got a few older bottles at home with this proof, and this really reminds me of those expressions but richer.  Of course, nowadays, folks want 90 proof and higher. I am normally in that camp, but there’s something to be said for bottling the whiskey at its perfect proof. If Wild Turkey cut this whiskey to 80 proof, its unique nuance would be gone. My only knock to Master’s Keep is its color. When compared to bourbons in this age range at barrel proof or at the same proof, Master’s Keep is several shades lighter. Why is that important? Color is an examination of how the bourbon faired in the new charred oak. The deeper the color, normally, the more rich and vibrant the character, while light color typically indicates a poor nose and palate. This appears to be the exception.

After this story published, several readers contacted me, asking about the unique barrel proof and issues I addressed in the above revision. I’ve reached out to Eddie Russell to discuss why this barrel-strength bourbon is 86.8 proof beyond what he told the Bourbon Review Magazine. He’s on vacation, but in a short email he replied proof-lowering happens always in the “Brick warehouse or bottom floors.”

It is not inconceivable that a barrel goes down in proof instead of going up. It happens in Scotland, and former Maker’s Mark master distiller Kevin Smith once told me it happens in bourbon, too. Russell told Bourbon Review that a lack of circulation inside the brick warehouses (formerly of the Old Crow Distillery) contributed to the proofs.

With that said, Master’s Keep is the first product to market this phenomenon in a time consumers have grown accustomed to barrel-strength proofs reaching the upwards of 140 proof. Whiskey consumers have also become irritated with questionable brand marketing.

When Wild Turkey released its Forgiven series, where rye and bourbon were accidentally mixed at the tank stage, I was skeptical and then legendary master distiller Jimmy Russell told me it happened. Russell is a legend, an honest man, who’s not known for spinning. If he says it, I believe him.

Here we are with Wild Turkey’s second unique product with a production-oriented backstory. This time, Jimmy’s son Eddie is in the spotlight. And the whiskey is damn good.


Fred Minnick is the author of Bourbon Curious and Whiskey Women.

Bourbon Authors Unite for Silver Trail Fire Victims

When I learned about the Silver Trail Distillery fire, my heart sunk. I thought my days of covering such tragedy were over. I chose to build my career around the finer things in life after seeing man at his worst. Although I’m a mere writer in this spirits world, I wanted to help the Rogers’ cousins in anyway possible.

A couple years ago, the Louisville bourbon authors created a non-official club called “Team Bourbon.” We’ve organized joint signings and generally helped one another. We don’t view ourselves as competitors. Rather, we are all friends. And we all wanted to give back to the Silver Trail Distillery, especially after Kyle Rogers passed away.

On Saturday, June 13, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., Team Bourbon welcomes new members into the fold and joins forces with the popular liquor store Westport Whiskey & Wine for a benefit signing with Westport donating a portion of the proceeds to the KDA-established fund. If you can’t make it, please donate what you can to the aforementioned fund. We are in the process of creating a commemorative decal for each book’s cover and will have ways to donate without purchasing a book. What’s more, we’ll be sampling whiskey Westport barrel picks of whiskey.

Here is Team Bourbon:

Reid Mitenbuler, author of Bourbon Empire*

Chuck Cowdery, author of Bourbon, Strange and Bourbon, Bourbon Straight*

Mike Veach, author of Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey

Heather Greene, author of Whiskey Distilled*

Tim Laird, author of That’s Entertaining!

Susan Reigler, author of The Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book and Kentucky Bourbon Country

Lew Bryson, author of Tasting Whiskey*

Bernie Lubbers, author of Bourbon Whiskey Our Native Spirit

Chester Zoeller, author of Bourbon in Kentucky and Kentucky Bourbon Barons 

Sally Van Winkle Campbell, author of But Always Fine Bourbon

Albert Schmid, author of The Old Fashioned

Fred Minnick, author of Whiskey Women


Please join us for a great cause.


* = will not be in attendance but will be sending signed copies. 

Blood Oath Review

Blood Oath (media sample)

Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

About: Pact No. 1, 2/20/15. This is a limited-edition series that labels releases as “pacts.” According to a press release, this pact includes three mashbills. Two use rye in the mash bill and the other adds wheat as the secondary grain. (Note: This was not tasted blind.)

Blood Oath Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Blood Oath Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. (Photo: Global Newswire)

Color: Medium amber. It looks like 8-year-old bourbon, and the company says this is batch is a mingling of 6-year-old and 12-year-old bourbons. 7.5 out of 10.

Aroma: This is a very attractive nose, vibrant and filled with floral notes, more on the wildflower side than the fresh-picked versions. Fruits and sweet hints of caramel and vanilla jump out of the glass. Very good to great nose. 36 out of 40.

Palate and Finish:  At 98.6 proof, I hoped for a mouthfeel that dripped down the palate, drenching my mouth’s every inch with a velvety feel and the notes found on the aroma. Instead, I’m treated with an unwanted heat typically found in much higher-proofed bourbons. Given the nose was so beautiful, my first instinct is disappointment, but I taste again and then again two days later to ensure the alcohol texture is consistent. When the heat eventually dissipates, I’m treated with the fruits found on the nose opening up as banana and pineapple and a caramel covered apple. The finish is short with a hint of cinnamon. 35 out of 50.

Total: 78.5

After scoring, I added water and that general heat felt in the palate was gone. Perhaps this was bottled at the wrong proof? I don’t know. But at $89.99, I do not want to add water or ice. That’s the sipping whiskey price point.

I applaud its parent company, St. Louis-based Luxco, for entering more bourbon into the market. Luxco has a long history of working with Heaven Hill to bottle Ezra Brooks, Rebel Yell, among others, and now has an interest in Steve Beam’s Limestone Branch. Now that they’re bottling more premium expressions, I expect we’ll see great things from a company that the former Stitzel-Weller president Norm Hayden said was the best non-Kentucky bourbon company. Of course back in Hayden’s time, Luxco was the David Sherman Corporation.


Fred Minnick is the author of Bourbon Curious.