GSN Review: Bare Knuckle Bourbon, Rye & Wheat Whiskies

KO Distilling recently unveiled its third brown spirit – Bare Knuckle Straight Bourbon Whiskey (aged 2 years). Hand crafted from local Virginia corn, wheat and malted barley, the bourbon is rested in charred new American Oak barrels sourced from a cooperage in Louisville, Kentucky.

Bare Knuckle Straight Bourbon Whiskey joins the rest of the KO portfolio of aged spirits, which includes Bare Knuckle American Wheat Whiskey (aged 12 months) and Bare Knuckle American Rye Whiskey (aged 18 months).

KO sources its wheat, corn, rye and malted barley to make small batch whiskeys from local farms. In so doing, it supports a “grain-to-glass” concept for its spirits, similar to the “farm-to-table” food model for restaurants. This helps small businesses in the area work together to support the local economy. “We’re all about helping local small businesses, and sourcing our grains from Virginia farms allows all of us to work together to support the local economy,” said Co-Founder and Head Distiller John O’Mara.

Inspired by courage, strength, fortitude, and using your hands to get things done, the Bare Knuckle branding is a play on KO – “Knock Out.”  The bottle labels feature historic fighting figures, such as African-American world heavyweight champion Jack G. Johnson and Irish-American fighter Jimmy Gardner.  Gracing the label of KO’s newest release is early 20th-century U.S. champion fighter Mary “Texas Mamie” Donovan.

“The imagery and the text on the bottle label celebrate life, not violence,” said Co-Founder Bill Karlson. “The Bare Knuckle brand is about winning, advancing and prevailing in life and in your craft. For ages, women, like men, have battled for family, to make a living, for rights and just causes. For all of those women who work hard every day, we salute you and are proud to feature an American female fighter on our bottle.”

Bare Knuckle American Wheat (90 proof)
Bright copper.
Nose: Slightly funky with a white dog character. Lighter notes of oak, char and leather float on top of the more rugged base.
Taste: Fairly smooth considering the relatively young 1 year aging. Nice and soft with wheat character and easy-going. Towards the end, more of the oak character reveals itself.
Finish: Medium long, with a dry and woody finality.
Overall: Our favorite of the trio.  Fine as a sipper, this also works really well in a Manhattan.
GSN Rating: A-

Bare Knuckle American Rye (90 proof)
Visual: Darkening copper.
Nose: Rye spice comes out at the gate, followed by a strong whiff of barrel char. Surprisingly, there is a dark port scent here as well.
Taste: Fairly mild rye character at first, but opens up into a toasty, dark and spicy treasure hunt. The 18 months of aging has done much to temper down the usual fiery quality of a rye forward whiskey.
Finish: Medium long, with a pleasant and tingling cinnamon sensation on the palate.
Overall: A mid-range rye that won’t disappoint.  We do think however, that another half-year of aging would tighten things up a bit.
GSN Rating: B+

Bare Knuckle Straight Bourbon (90 proof)
Visual: Medium copper.
Nose: More of the musky white dog aura with a touch of sweet corn. Overall though, quite a bit of cask.
Taste: A less sweet and more aggressive bourbon, tending towards a bit too long in the barrel.  At two years, it should be smoothing out, but the oak char has really set its teeth in this whiskey.  Some of you may love this, but for us it needs tweaking.
Finish: After a few minutes, the flavors settle down and some more typical caramel and butterscotch notes come out. The finish is fine and tasty.
Overall: A good effort that will serve well in a mixed drink, but a bit unbalanced on its own.
GSN Rating: B

For more information go to: KO Distilling

GSN Review: Battle Standard American Dry Navy Strength Gin

KO Distilling, co-founded by college classmates and long-time friends Bill Karlson and John O’Mara in 2013 is one of the newest craft distilleries in  Manassas, VA. They are proud to be the 19th operating distillery in Virginia and one of roughly 1,000 (and growing) craft distilleries in the United States. They are also privileged to partner with many other small businesses, suppliers and farmers in the local area. They have a large portfolio of unusual spirits, including a Navy Strength Gin.

Battle Standard 142 Navy Strength Gin gets its name from our founders’ alma mater, the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA). 142 Cadet/Midshipmen from the USMMA lost their lives during World War II serving their country. USMMA is the only federal academy authorized to fly a Battle Standard in memory of those brave men who made the ultimate sacrifice. The term Navy Strength comes from the British Navy’s practice of proofing the Gin provided as Navy rations to 114 proof, so in the event it was accidentally spilled on the ship’s gun powder, it could still be fired in battle.

Battle Standard American Dry Navy Strength Gin (114 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Luscious juniper berry and woodruff scent, with softer accents of lemon zest and rose petal.
Taste: Powerhouse of crisp, dry and juniper forward gin, with just a sly hint of sweetness to lessen the blow. A second tasting brings out more of the citrus oils and herbaceousness.
Finish: Long with some bitter notes on the top of the palate, counter balanced with lingering lemon on the tongue.
Overall: This has a lot going for it.  The botanicals are all well-balanced and most importantly, it tastes like gin.  When used in a cocktail, make sure to properly dilute in order to keep things from going overboard.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: KO Distilling