The back story
It’s no secret that there’s a bourbon boom in this country: Over the last two decades, annual sales of American whiskey — a category dominated by bourbon — have increased from $1.3 billion to $4.6 billion, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. (Figures are based on supplier revenue.)
Hand in hand with the boom has been the growth in distilleries producing the quintessential American sip. In Kentucky, the state most associated with bourbon, there are now 95 distilleries — or three times the number versus 20 years ago.
Among those Kentucky operations is Green River Distilling, based in Owensboro, which is behind the namesake bourbon that hit the market this year. But this is a case of a “new” brand that’s already a legend of sorts.
Green River dates back to 1885 — and the spirit it produced in its early days, billed as “the whiskey without a headache,” proved quite popular, even winning a grand prize at a competition in Belgium. But the distillery was almost completely destroyed by a fire in 1918, and then had to contend with the Prohibition era.
The company continued operations for a number of years, making a variety of spirits, but production of Green River whiskey itself stopped. Eventually, there was no longer an active distillery, either.
Now, a new ownership has taken over and brought both the production facility and the bourbon brand back to life. The Green River team says they are fairly unique in that regard — when legacy brands return, they are often produced in places other than their original home.
“It’s all about authenticity” for Green River, says Jacob Call, the company’s master distiller.
It’s been no small effort to revive the privately owned distillery and brand. Company officials say the financial commitment to date has been in the tens of millions of dollars. Green River will produce a range of products, including those for other brands, but it’s pinning hopes on its namesake whiskey and aiming to increase its currently limited distribution in the coming months.
What we think about it
This isn’t a boutique bourbon — say, one that’s been aged for at least 10 years from casks that have been specially set aside. Instead, it’s an honest, good-to-drink bourbon with traditional sweet notes and a good kick of spice (that’s due to the rye that’s added to the grain mix, though bourbons have to be made from at least 51% corn). Moreover, it’s an affordable bourbon — one that you won’t feel guilty having as an everyday sip.
How to enjoy it
Try it neat or with an ice cube. But it’s very suitable for using in whiskey-based cocktails, especially because of its reasonable pricing.