Updated June 13, 2017
By Father John Rayls
Brown-Forman’s Coopers’ Craft Straight Bourbon Whiskey is the first new bourbon produced by that venerable company in over 20 years. This is the parent company of Jack Daniels and also produces Woodford Reserve, Early Times and Old Forester. The new brand is a recognition of the influence of the wooden barrels on the overall appearance and flavor of bourbon. Brown-Forman is where Master Distiller Chris Morris believes the barrel wood delivers all the color and over half the flavor, and is also the only whiskey company that owns its own cooperage.
Coopers’ Craft is a no age statement (NAS) bourbon that is at least two years old (as per the “straight” part), but likely a blend of four to six year old whiskeys. Unfortunately, there isn’t much information available on the mash except that it has less rye and more corn than some of the company’s other offerings. On a note that rings similar to stablemate Jack Daniel’s, the bourbon is produced using a special beech and birch charcoal filtering system, so don’t be surprised if you detect some similar flavors to a Tennessee style whiskey.
Coopers’ Craft Bourbon has a beautiful copper coloring in the glass. The legs are thin, but very apparent, and the liquid easily swirls in the glass. Light reflecting off of and through the bourbon shimmers with golden highlights.
At 82.2 proof, there is no alcohol burn on the very subtle nose. There is a light cereal aroma with very light hints of fruit over a vanilla and faint oak background.
This is not a complex whiskey, but is instead pretty straight forward in its flavor profile, which is light and pleasant. The first taste left me a little under-whelmed, but it quickly began to grow on me and became quite enjoyable. It is an easy drinking bourbon, with most of the action taking place directly on the tongue near the back. It brings a light vanilla flavor on top of a light charred oakiness. It’s not over-powering, and leaves room for hints of light fruit. The finish is medium and continues to linger with a very light spiciness.
Many have described this bourbon as a good mixer (think Kentucky Mule) or as an introductory bourbon experience for newbies. I think of it as much more than that, and can be enjoyed as a regular sipper, so I suggest trying it neat first and only then as a mixer.
Addendum by Richard Thomas
Coopers’ Craft looks like it should be on the thin side initially, due to a coloring that is so light on the red tones that it’s just a hair removed from being golden rather than coppered. The swish dropped a steady curtain of legs.
The nose is based squarely on notes of nuts and cereals, with smaller dashes of oak spice, apricot and vanilla on the sides. The whiskey is light on the palate, but delivers a respectable dollop of brown sugar, apricot and citrus zest flavor, seasoned with a touch of vanilla, licorice and charred oak. The finish is light, toasty and oaky.
Basically, this is a supremely easy drinking bourbon. It comes in light at its 82.2 proof, but it’s also more flavorful than that near-minimum alcohol level might suggest. Put this on the shelf for light, go-to sipping, summer sipping out of the fridge or upscale mixing.
Coopers’ Craft Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey is being offered at $29.99 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee beginning in early July. For the price, it’s definitely worth giving it a try.