Early Times Whiskey Review


By Richard Thomas

Rating: C-

One side-effect of the Brown-Forman vs. Diageo clash in Tennessee was the focus it brought to super cheap whiskey brand Early Times. Diageo’s whiskey law proposal included a provision that would have allowed it to make used barrel whiskey and call it “Tennessee whiskey,” and the only product of note on the market that bears a resemblance is the Brown-Forman-made Early Times.

Early Times is billed as “Kentucky Whisky” for good reason, because under the law it does not qualify as any type of bourbon. New oak barrel aging is required to earn that title, and Early Times is aged for a minimum of three years in used barrels. The whiskey is bottled at 40% abv.

The Whiskey
The “used barrel” part is instantly obvious in the glass, as Early Times has a thin, semi-translucent amber appearance that is just a shadow of what bourbon aged three years-plus in new oak would have. With an appearance like that, the nose came as a surprise: fragrantly corn sweet with a nice current of vanilla with a touch of rye spice.

On the palate, the whiskey has surprising weight. The flavor balances corn sweetness, dry oak and rye spice, and caramel and vanilla surprisingly well. That said, the whiskey is rather flat, despite having all the core elements, and is tinged with a bit of a mineral spirits bite.

The bottom line is that Early Times isn’t great, but it certainly isn’t the rotgut it is sometimes made out to be. The stuff is actually a decent product, is simple enough that ice doesn’t ruin it, and is a big winner when you consider it’s low, low price point (see below).

The Price
Early Times typically retails for $12 or $13 for a 750ml bottle.

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  1. I don’t care what anybody say , Early Times is just damn good…..

    • Early Times is an old school whiskey that works well straight up. Many places use it as a bar whiskey. Saves me some money.

  2. You can buy a 1.75l bottle of Early Times in California for $14.99. At that price, it’s a steal!

  3. Early Times is a great bargain. It’s perfect for mixed bourbon drinks such as a Manhattan or Old Fashioned.

    • My family, on both sides, had varied cocktail preferences. One that attracted my eye was the Manhattan. When I became of age to drink the hard stuff, I ordered a Manhattan at a local high-end bar. It was good, but not as spectacular as it looked when growing up. I asked the bartender how many whiskys/bourbons he had on the bar. He said somewhere over twenty. So, my goal was to try each. I drank two drinks after work each night. I ordered each drink to be two different brands. When I exhausted the inventory, I was surprised to find Jim Beam Bourbon to be the best balance of flavors for the Manhattan. Of course, Martini & Rossi was the vermouth of choice.

      Last night I had a Manhattan at a great hotel before dinner. It was served in a large martini glass well chilled. I nearly gagged on the drink. It had been made with Early Times and some nondescript vermouth.

  4. Early Times great whisky and specially went I paid $7.46 tax free for 1.75lt. Just try it.

  5. I think Early Times is a good whiskey to sip on. It is plenty sweet,but not as rich as some of the bourbons I’ve tasted and, though I prefer Jack Daniels’, it is half the price. So I’ve got me a good whiskey to drink that won’t break the bank.

  6. If you like Early Times, you’ll love Evan Williams… just saying….

  7. Early Times was my old friend’s favorite whiskey. When I visit his grave, I have a shot or two with him, and in doesn’t break the bank to pour the rest of the bottle on his grave. I like it. It’s good stuff.

  8. Smooth. For the low end on the budget it savors well

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