Ezra Brooks is a brand with an interesting story and a rich (if not suspect) history. We love the story of where it has been, but more importantly, we really like where it is now, and certainly where it is going. Ezra as a brand was started in the 1950’s to compete with Jack Daniels. It was sourced from the Hoffman Distillery, which at the time was owned by the Ripy Family, the family behind the creation of the Wild Turkey brand. The Hoffman Distillery would later be where Julian Van Winkle would first create the Pappy Van winkle brand, before ultimately ending up at Buffalo Trace.
The packaging and marketing of the original Ezra Brooks was so similar to Jack Daniels, Jack actually sued them. Despite many glaring (and almost identical) labeling items, Jack Daniels lost the lawsuit, mostly based on the fact that Ezra used a completely different name, and Ezra was made in Kentucky as opposed to Jack in Tennessee.
Over the next few years, the Ezra Brooks brand would go through the hands of the Medley family, United Distillers, Jim Beam, and Glenmore, before ending up with Heaven Hill. In 1993, Heaven Hill sold the brand to Luxco out of St Louis, where it appears to have found a permanent home. As part of the deal, Heaven Hill agreed to keep producing whisky for the brand. In recent years, Luxco has created Luxrow Distillers and built a distillery of their own in Kentucky where they are taking over their own production of Ezra Brooks. Also in recent years they have added a Rye Whiskey to their lineup. Luxrow also produces Rebel Yell, Yellowstone, David Nicholson, Minor Case Rye, Davies County, and Blood Oath, all of which are outstanding whiskies. The quality of the limited offerings from Luxrow such as Old Ezra (a whiskey of the year winner), Yellowstone Special Select, and Blood Oath show thier dedication to quality.
So, what do we know about Ezra Brooks now? The Rye, while not yet coming out of their own distillery, is current being made in Indiania with a mashbill of 51% Rye, 45% Corn, and 4% Barley, but it drinks as if it has far more Rye than that. It is aged 2 years, and it is delicious. It is great in cocktails (try it in a Bloody Mary), but certainly has enough flavor to stand on its own. The Bourbon is currently still being made at Heaven Hill, with a mashbill of 78% Corn, 10% Rye, and 12% Barley, and aged a minimum of 4 years. It makes a great mixer for sure, but will also drink nicely on the rocks. As far as the Jack Daniels comparisons go these days, Jack dropped their proof down to 80 years ago, while Ezra remains bottled at an “Honest” 90 proof. (rumor has it that a 99 Proof bottling is also coming soon) Best of all for these 2 great whiskies, they are both under $20 on the shelf (for 750ml), making it an easy choice to be your house whiskey.