Bourbon is America’s native spirit, and though its provenance has been synonymous with Kentucky for decades, bourbon can legally be made in all 50 states. That includes Texas, which not only consumes a lot of the brown liquor but also makes an increasingly significant share, with dozens of bottles calling Texas home.
Old Forester King Ranch Edition combines the best of both worlds by highlighting the rich history of Kentucky-based Brown-Forman, which was established in 1870, and South Texas’s King Ranch, which traces its roots back to 1853 and is one of the world’s largest ranches.
The bourbon began as a proprietary batch of Old Forester that was aged in heavily charred barrels. From there, it was finished through mesquite charcoal that was created from mesquite trees grown at King Ranch. There were a lot of trees to choose from, as the ranch sprawls across 825,000 acres and covers an area larger than the state of Rhode Island.
“We slow-roasted five-to-seven-year-old mesquite wood for half a day over a fire to create a unique charcoal,” says Brown-Forman Whisky Innovator Cole Irvin. “Then we brought it back to the distillery and used the charcoal chips to filter our bourbon before bottling it.” The process brings a touch of Texas to the 105-proof bourbon, which retails for a suggested price of $69.99 and is only available in Texas.
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The maple syrup-colored liquid has aromas of dried cherries, cranberries, toasted pecans and marshmallows. Flavors of sweet dark chocolate, tobacco and leather spices mingle with toasted oak.
The mesquite-finishing process helps bring out bold flavors, such as those leather and spice notes, says Irvin. But it doesn’t create new flavors. Instead, the process enhances what’s already there.
This partnership has been several years in the making. Both brands have serious legacies and a combined 300-plus years of unique American history under their belts, but they’re also linked by the Kentucky Derby. Old Forester is featured in the Mint Juleps sold at Churchill Downs over Derby weekend, and King Ranch has owned three Kentucky Derby winners, including the 1946 Triple Crown winner, Assault, who is the only Texas-bred horse to ever win the Crown.
Today, the visitor-friendly King Ranch is home to more than 30,000 cattle and 200 quarter horses. It also runs an extensive agricultural business, growing everything from cotton and sugar cane to almonds and pistachios, and the land hosts recreational hunting expeditions and special events. Visitors can take tours, stroll through the on-site museum or stop into the saddle shop to watch saddles being handmade and to score some leather goods and outdoor gear for their next adventure. The point is, there’s a lot going on at the ranch. And while you may not be able to taste all that heritage and culture when you take a sip of the mesquite-finished Old Forester King Ranch Edition, now you’ll know it’s there.
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