As a member of The Bourbon Flight’s Flight Club, you can participate in premium bourbon tastings. Recently, we held an event at the RD One Spirits tasting room in the distillery district of Lexington, Kentucky.
Back in 1865, Ashland Distillery was the first registered distillery in Lexington. Later, the distillery was purchased by William Tarr, who changed the name to the William Tarr Distillery. After a fire that destroyed most of the building, the brand built a bigger and better distillery that added an on-site cooperate and a rickhouse for additional aging space.
Later, Tarr began to focus on railroad growth and moved away from the spirits business. The distillery went up for auction and changed hands several times before its closure in 1919. In 2020, the brand was revived and named RD One Spirits as an homage to being the first registered distillery (RD) in Lexington. Now that you know a little history behind the brand, let’s move on to the tasting experience.
As the members arrived, we all assembled around long wooden tasting tables that contained the brand’s four signature bourbons and a food pairing: Kentucky Straight Bourbon (dried cherries), KSB Finished in French Oak (dark chocolate), KSB finished with Brazilian Amburana Wood (gingerbread cookie), and KSB Doubled Finished in Oak and Maple Barrels (pecans).
Our bourbon concierge took the group through a bit of the brand’s history before letting us taste the first sample. With most RD One products, the first sip immediately lets you know you are drinking straight bourbon as the natural oak, vanilla and brown sugar flavors shine. That assumption was proven true with the brand’s first release, Kentucky Straight Bourbon. The bourbon comes in at 98 proof, but it drinks much lower, with little heat. Pairing it with dried cherries brought out flavors of cardamom, cinnamon and star anise, which was a surprise.
Our second tasting was the KSB Finished in French Oak. At 101 proof, the nose casts caramel, honey, cherry and chocolate. I can see why the distillery pairs it with dark chocolate as it opens the nuances associated with the sweet delight. The finish is where this bourbon sets itself apart from other French oaks-finished bourbon. Pepper, oak and a sweetness that I partner with molasses trickle down the throat with a satisfying burn that lingers for just the right amount of time.
Third down the tasting line was a newer release. KSB Finished with Brazilian Amburana Wood is 110 proof, but you could not tell it was over 90. Amburana is a native tree in South America, used in furniture making and essential oils. The wood has a sweet/spicy flavor, which crosses over into the whiskey. Blackberry jam is a predominant flavor, with a slight hint of ginger, vanilla and baking spice. On the throat, I get raisins and a quick burst of dry oak. This dram gives you the Kentucky hug that I was wanting. Pairing it with a gingerbread cookie was a good match, as the second sip brought out more of the ginger than before.
The fourth taste was RD One’s newest release, KSB Double Finished in Oak and Maple Barrels. I would describe it as eating pancakes. Maple was the predominant aroma, to the point that I believed it would be too sweet. But was I wrong? Sipping the bourbon, I was flooded with cinnamon toast, brown sugar and, of all things, black pepper. Most of the maple came through at the end but was toned down by oak and cinnamon toast. This bourbon is in a class by itself; I have not had another one like it.
What sets RD One apart from other tastings I have been on is its attention to giving the taster an experience they cannot get anywhere else. That was proven true as we were allowed to drop our whiskey thief (a long copper tool used when removing small portions of bourbon from the barrel) into RD One’s cask-strength barrel.
The cask-strength tasting was a surprise to our members. Each of us was allowed to retrieve our fill and sample accordingly. Being cask-strength (not diluted with water), it was remarkably smooth, not overpowering. Since the bourbon is only available in the tasting room, everyone agreed it should be released to the public. Not worrying about the aroma, I had to dive right in. The initial taste of vanilla was pushed back with a heavy emphasis on cinnamon and dark brown sugar. The finish was amazing—no cask-strength bourbon should be that soft and delectable. Pepper and oak jumped out first, slowing down into a cinnamon rock-candy bite.
I highly suggest that you visit RD One’s tasting room in Lexington’s Distillery District. In addition to the bourbon tastings, they have a full-service bar with a massive TV to watch sports.
If you are wanting to know more about pairing food and bourbon, read Peggy Noe Stevens’ article, “The Secret to Bourbon and Food Pairings.”
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