Johnny Drum Private Stock (50.5% ABV / 101 Proof, $33.99) – Johnny Drum is the kind of whiskey we reluctantly put on a gift guide, not because it isn’t good (it’s quite good), but it’s one of the best kept secrets in the bourbon space, and we hate to be the ones spilling the beans on it. The label for Johnny Drum states that it’s from the “Johnny Drum Distilling Company in Bardstown, Nelson County, Kentucky”. Johnny Drum Distilling is a nom de plume of sorts for the Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, who are also responsible for such great whiskeys as Rowan’s Creek, Noah’s Mill, and Old Bardstown. The KBD (which they are affectionally referred to) go by another quite famous name: Willett, makers of some of the best whiskey on the planet. The upside to this little shell game is a whiskey priced under $35 that stands shoulder to shoulder with whiskeys double or triple the price.
Johnny Drum Private Stock has a fantastic nose with caramel, cinnamon, marzipan, and light oak spice. The entry is exquisite with a mouth feel that’s full and round. From the get-go Johnny Drum has a tremendous amount of flavor with strong caramel, peanut, and cinnamon. The flavor integration in Johnny Drum is really quite extraordinary, with the cinnamon notes literally wrapped in the caramel notes. It’s a level of complexity and flavor that few whiskeys in this class can match. In the midpalate Johnny Drum does an inversion where the spicy notes become more predominant and the sweet caramel becomes more of an undertone. In addition to cinnamon we get allspice, clove, and oak. The finish is long, spicy, and slightly dry with a lot of flavor and wonderful balance. Although Johnny Drum is 50.5% alcohol/ 101 proof, you’d never guess it, as it’s eminently drinkable neat without ever being too fiery or strong.
Johnny Drum Private Stock may not be a whiskey you’ve heard of, but it’s one of the best hidden gem whiskies on the market. We recommend you pick a couple bottles – once the word is really out on it, we expect it’ll become much harder to find, especially at this price.