Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by the party behind it. This in no case, according to our editorial policiesinfluenced the final result of this review.
One of the amazing things about the American whiskey scene these days is the myriad of non-distilling producers (NDPs) giving their opinions on what they think is the perfect bourbon or rye whiskey. One of those that seems to be more successful is the 15 Stars out of Kentucky, so named for its home state “being the 15th state and the second American flag (1795-1818) which represented Kentucky as the 15th state with 15 stars and 15 stripes.
15 Stars, whose whiskeys are distilled and bottled at Bardstown Bourbon Company in Bardstown, Kentucky, saw a release earlier this year, its First West Rye, win top honors at the 2023 NYWSC, including Best in Show for 2023 , Best Rye Whiskey for 2023 and Double Gold. Its new Sherry Cask Finish, which I review here, won in the same competition Best Bourbon of 2023, Best Finished Bourbon of 2023 and Double Gold.
This NPD, since its marketing in January 2022 under the leadership of the father/son duo Rick and Ricky Johnson, has in fact already won more than 60 competition prizes. Not bad at all for a small company that says the secret to its success begins “with highly aged whiskey, up to 19 years.” Their meticulous blending adds to the complexity and interest of the bourbon, while the aromatic fermentation provides the optimal flavor at bottling. Bottling is only carried out when it meets the duo’s high expectations.
15 Stars Sherry Cask Finish, announced in late September, is a blend of 13- and 10-year-old straight bourbon whiskeys from Kentucky and Indiana and finished in barrels pre-seasoned with sherry wine. Bottled at 115 proof and priced at $179, this is a limited release at select retailers in Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee, Missouri, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana and online via 15ÉTOILES.com.
An interesting footnote to the bottling of this release: it’s topped with a “classic metal cap inspired by America’s first coinage, which displayed 15 (and counting) stars engraved by American artisan Robert Scott.”
Tasting Notes: Finished in 15-star Sherry cask
Vital Stats: A blend of straight bourbons (Kentucky 13 years, Indiana 10 years) finished in ex-sherry casks; 115 proofs; $179.
Appearance: Typical orange-brown range seen with slightly older bourbons, although sherry barrel finishing gives it a deeper amber color. Nice viscosity, nice leg action inside the glass.
Nose: Sweetness straight away, a sort of sweet corn and warm brown sugar. The higher content does not cause burning in the nostrils, probably due to the softening of the sherry cask. Light nutty note.
Palace: This opens up nicely right away, with notes of warm butter, corn sweetness from the bourbon, and a bit of nuttiness from the sherry cask swap. It lingers long on the tongue, delivering a lovely decadent finish with a subtle burn that makes it an enticing offering to sip slowly and deliberately. It’s not too complex, enhancing its base flavors with notes of taffy, light spice, brownie and a very subtle touch of toasted oats.