Cream of Kentucky is a brand that Schenley acquired when they acquired the Geo. T. Stagg Distillery during Prohibition. The brand dates back to 1891 when the Edel Bros. of Richmond, Virginia trademarked “Kentucky Cream” and “Cream of Kentucky”. They were rectifiers who purchased whiskey from the Stagg Distillery, but they went out of business early in the 20th century. This left the trademark with Stagg along with the barrels they had made to support the brand.
Schenley did some promotion of the brand using the slogan “The Heart of the Run”. Although it was not one of their flagship brands, they supported it for many years. Schenley made both Bourbon and Rye whiskeys for the brand, but it fell victim to the decline of whiskey sales during the 1960s and 70s.
Schenley discontinued the brand in the 1980s when they sold the Ancient Age Distillery to a group of Schenley executives. The whiskey was made at both the Ancient Age and Bernheim Distilleries. The result was that there were many barrels of the whiskey made for Cream of Kentucky brand in the Bernheim warehouse in the 1990s. This was both Bourbon and Rye whiskeys and the Bourbon was subsequently used in the Old Charter and I.W. Harper brands.
The Rye whiskeys were sold on the bulk market and Julian Van Winkle purchased many of them along with some Medley rye for his 13 year old Rye whiskey after his barrels of Fleischmann Rye ran out. Other barrels were sold to Even Kulsveen and that whiskey supported his bottlings of Willett Rye. Kulsveen also sold some of the barrels to brands like Red Hook Rye. The result is that the whiskey gained a good reputation in the 21st century.
The brand has been revived by Jim Rutledge a few years ago and sells for a premium price. This is a reputation the brand never achieved when this bottle of Bourbon was sold in the 1960s. Matt and I tasted this Bourbon from the 1960s and here are our notes.
Cream of Kentucky Bourbon
Age: No Age Statement
- Mike: Corn, leather, vanilla and a hint of oak.
- Matt: Rhubarb, vanilla, corn and oak.
- Mike: Corn, vanilla, leather and oak. Tasted with a dried cranberry and it is dominated by rich vanilla and corn. Tasted with a pecan and orange zest and white pepper come out in the flavor.
- Matt: Caramel, orange or some similar citrus flavor, leather and oak. The dried cranberry has range and sweet corn notes. Tasted with the pecan and it tastes of a Dreamsicle ice cream bar with lots of vanilla and orange flavors.
- Mike: Short and sweet with lots of vanilla and only a hint of oak. The dried cranberry brings out the citrus notes in the finish. The pecan made the finish a little spicier with white pepper, oak and some lingering citrus notes.
- Matt: Medium long with some sweet oak wood. The dried cranberry brought out a little spice in the finish. The pecan gave the finish some oak and cayenne pepper spice with some lingering citrus notes.
I would pair this whiskey with a mild cigar that would not dominate the flavors of this 80 proof Bourbon. I would reach for a Nat Sherman Metropolitan cigar. The vanilla in the smoke would go well with the Bourbon and bring out some other flavors in both Bourbon and cigar.
Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller
August 22, 2022 at 1:16 am
Thank you, my grandfather drank cream of Kentucky in the half pint, for years. He passed in 1981, he would be astonished at the price now