I have a fondness for the James E. Pepper brand of Bourbon. It was one of the brands I researched when I was archivist for United Distillers. The brand has come a long way since those days and I was happy when Amir Peay purchased the old James E. Pepper brand and rebuilt the distillery in Lexington. I have enjoyed the whiskeys that Peay has released and enjoyed a visit there a couple of years ago. I was very excited to see that Peay has taken an old decanter design from the 1940s and used it to release a barrel proof version of their Bourbon. The whiskey has a mash bill of corn, rye, malted barley and malted rye. It was aged for an average of five and a half years and bottled uncut and un-filtered. Matt and I sat down and tasted this whiskey and here are our tasting notes.

Taste James E. Pepper Decanter Barrel Proof Bourbon

Proof: 105.5

Age: No Age Statement but the website says an average of 5.5 years.


  • Mike: Vanilla, apples, baking spices, and oak wood.
  • Matt: Creamy, buttery cocoa, vanilla, brown sugar and oak wood.


  • Mike: Vanilla, apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, and oak wood. Tasted with a dried cranberry and the vanilla is enhanced. Tasted with a pecan and the vanilla becomes a buttery caramel.
  • Matt: Buttery vanilla sugar cookie, hot peppers and oak wood. The dried cranberry brought out notes of cherries. The pecan made the flavor caramel, vanilla, spicy apple jelly and oak wood.


  • Mike: Medium long with oak, cinnamon and lingering vanilla. The dried cranberry enhanced the cinnamon in the finish. The pecan made the finish long and dry with oak, nutmeg, and lingering caramel.
  • Matt: Medium long with oak, pepper and lingering sweetness of vanilla sugar cookie. The dried cranberry added a lingering note of cherries. The pecan made the finish long with oak and black pepper spice.

I would pair this fine Bourbon with a Rocky Patel Decades cigar. I think the vanilla and tobacco flavors of the smoke would pair well with the vanilla and spices of the Bourbon.

Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller