Ezra Brooks Black Label Bourbon Review


By April Manning

Rating: D-

Ezra Brooks Black Label Bourbon

Ezra Brooks Black Label
(Credit: April Manning)

Ezra Brooks has changed hands many times in its history with it first being produced in the 1950s by the Medley Distillery, which was first established in Owensboro, Kentucky in 1901 and is now Terressentia’s O.Z. Tyler Distillery. After being bought and sold several times it landed in the hands of the David Sherman Corporation (DSC) of St. Louis, Missouri in 1993. DSC later became Luxco, Inc.

Ezra Brooks is an authentic 90 proof sour mash, meaning it uses the prior batches yeast to ferment the new batch in a never ending procession. The spirit produced is then aged in new charred white oak barrels. It is charcoal-filtered to try for a mellower flavor, what Jack Daniel’s refers to as “charcoal mellowing.” The difference is that Jack Daniel’s filters through sugar maple charcoal before aging, a procedure known as the Lincoln County Process that serves as the legal basis for Tennessee Whiskey. Ezra Brooks is filtered through minimal amounts of charcoal (not necessarily sugar maple charcoal at that) after aging.

The Bourbon
Ezra Brooks has a deceptively pleasing color of a pale amber tint and a fairly mild nose. This is where the pleasantness ends and the distastefulness begins. The taste is more astringent than sweet with a hint of the sour mash coming out hard at the end. The charcoal, which did not mellow out this bourbon, hits first with an instant burn that finishes lightly on the tongue but continues to be caustic the whole way down to the belly and stays that way through the next day.

Since there is no age statement to be found on the bottle I can only assume they put it in the barrel, shook it up and poured it right back out.

It was found that if one allows it to just sit on the front tip of the tongue (i.e. if you don’t actually drink it) you can discover the sweet citrus undertones lying there. However, during normal tasting actions (i.e. actually drinking it) these flavors are held back by the dominant sour burn.

Contrary to the label this is not a whiskey to be savored – this is one to get through quickly and never look back. The label also claims it is for those with a rugged spirit…I say it’s more for those with a rugged palate.

Ezra Brooks may not be the bottom of the barrel, so to speak, but it is keeping a spot warm for whoever is!

The Price
$15-18. Remember, you get what you pay for!

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  1. Interesting… I have read 7 different reviews on this particular whiskey, from as many sites, along with dozens of comments from readers, and yours is the only one that did not like it, esp. for the price. I just bought a bottle and tried it – found it pretty good. Ah well, to each their own. Thank you.

  2. Point of fact they did not, as you say, “put it on the barrel, shook it up and poured it right back out” because it says right on the bottle “Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey.” Someone writing for a website called whiskeyreviewer.com ought to know that the “straight” indicated that it was in the barrel at least two years (and I suspect it actually spent the industry-standard four years in the barrel though, as you say, there is no age statement to verify that). As for the whiskey itself, it’s pretty standard bourbon-tasting as far as I can tell. Perhaps you should limit your reviews to scotch or Irish or whatever whiskey you actually like since, if you think this is that bad, you must just not like bourbon very much!

    • April is a diehard Wild Turkey enthusiast, and she knows perfectly well what “straight bourbon” means. Your specific complaint is an example of what we who are well-versed in literature call “sarcasm.”

  3. April knows of what she writes. Evan Williams is our go-to, bottom-shelf brand. Decided to grab Ezra because it was two dollars on sale and has more proof.


    Thank goodness we could dilute that wretch with Apple cider at this time of the year.

  4. I’ve been drinking bourbon for more than 50 years. Being Pappy Van Winkle’s great nephew, the original Old Fitzgerald was my favorite until the Van Winkles sold Stitzel-Weller and the successors started monkeying with the the recipe. (They also buggered up Cabin Still which was my cheaper stand by.) About 20 years ago the manager of a local ABC store recommended Ezra to me. I tried it and have never looked back. I drink Maker Mark when I go out mainly because the bars usually don’t have Ezra. I love Pappy’s but can’t get it and couldn’t afford much if I could. Ezra compares favorably with both…not equal, but holds its own.

    I don’t see how any real bourbon drinker could not like it.

  5. Ezra is the best cheap whiskey hands down. It could compete with makers in a blind taste test but half the price. Don’t know what this old bag is talking about.

  6. I have tried quite a few Bourbons in the under $30 range and have liked most of them. I recently picked up a bottle of Old Ezra 101, 7 year and like it. To me it compares well with Even Williams BIB and Wiled Turkey 101. 90 to 101 proof seem to be what I like best as 80 proof Bourbons just seem flat to me. I look forward to trying Ezra Brooks 90 and 101 side by side to see if I like the cheaper 90 proof more. Taste being subjective and changeing I prefer the wheated Bourbons at the moment over the high ryes.

  7. I have a bottle of Ezra Brooks rare old genuine sour mash Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.

    It has charcoal filtered 90 proof printed as well as
    Frankfort Ky (bottled at). The bottle says aged 7 years and has an Arkansas liquor tax sticker dated 1949.

    It’s cloudy but smells delicious! Do you think it’s safe to drink?

  8. I mark, if i was you begin with a little shooter. If the taste is ok no problem,,,i think,,,

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