For many whiskey drinkers — present company included — Ezra Brooks holds a special place in their distilled spirits journey.
If Jack’s name-recognition serves as the introduction to the American whiskey category, then Ezra often acts as the logical next step. The liquor aisle can be intimidating for a new whiskey drinker — a place with many questions and few answers.
But if you’re familiar with the flavor of Jack Daniel’s, a bottle of Ezra Brooks is likely to catch your eye. Often sharing shelf space with its more famous cousin, its price point, bottle shape, label and messaging are meant to appeal to the Jack Daniel’s drinker looking to try something new.
If you find yourself in the liquor aisle or in a barstool at your favorite whiskey bar and are considering giving Ezra a try, we hope you find this article a helpful resource for making an educated decision. We’ll explore why this value brand offers an excellent opportunity to explore new flavors in bourbon — without emptying your wallet.
Ezra Brooks is a Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey and contains 78 percent corn, 12 percent malted barley and 10 percent rye grain in its mash bill.
The high proportion of corn adds sweetness to the finished product, while the rye gives the whiskey its spicy notes.
Ownership & Distillery
The Ezra Brooks brand was introduced to the market in 1957 by entrepreneur Frank Silverman. In 1993, it was purchased by the mid-sized spirits producer Luxco, based in St. Louis, Missouri. In February 2021, distilling giant Midwest Grain Products announced plans to purchase Luxco as part of a $475 million deal. That deal is pending regulatory approval.
Luxco recently opened its Lux Row Distillers distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky, in 2018. Before the distillery’s launch, Ezra Brooks was distilled offsite, and Luxco acted as an NDP — a non-distiller producer — of the spirit.
Today, the production team is able to mill, ferment, distill, barrel and mature Ezra Brooks on site. Among the gleaming new equipment at the state-of-the-art facility are two 3,000-gallon cookers, twelve 8,000-gallon stainless steel fermenters — including four open-top fermenters, a 43-foot-high column still with 19 plates and two maturation warehouses with plans to build four more in the works.
The Lux Row Distillers facility will be able to crank out about 3 million gallons of spirit each year at full capacity.
Like many distillers in Kentucky, Ezra Brooks can take advantage of the state’s abundant, natural limestone-filtered water. In many ways, clean, clear water is the bedrock from which all great whiskeys are made.
Naturally occurring limestone under the earth filters groundwater, removing impurities. It also adds minerality — including magnesium and calcium carbonate — which help control pH and alkalinity during fermentation.
The water also has a clean minerality to taste, which is essential when you consider dilution.
Matured whiskey enters the barrel at about 125-proof and will leave a few years later with an alcohol percentage a little higher or lower based on the effect of the angel’s share. To get Ezra Brooks, for example, down to its bottling strength of 90-proof, a considerable amount of dilution water must be added before bottling the finished product.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. As the No. 1 selling American whiskey, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey is worthy of imitation. Ezra Brooks offers a couple of production techniques that might look familiar to anyone who has spent time studying a Jack Daniel’s label — ‘sour mash’ and ‘charcoal mellowed.’
Let’s explore what each label term means from a production standpoint.
Ezra Brooks is a sour mash whiskey. This process carries over a portion of the terminal beer from a previous fermentation, to act as a starter while grain for the next mash is ground-in. In this way, whiskey makers can maintain pH and alkaline conditions from batch to batch, and ensure yeasts have a comfortable home in which to ferment.
The term ‘charcoal mellowed’ is an homage to the Lincoln County Process required for Tennessee whiskey in which the clear new-make or white dog distillate travels through a layer of sugar maple charcoal before being placed into charred oak barrels to mature. However, an important distinction between the two techniques is that Ezra Brooks uses a form of charcoal filtration that utilizes activated carbon to filter the spirit after it is emptied from the barrel.
Ezra Brooks is labeled as a Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. It is significant because this term requires government approval and therefore acts as a form of consumer protection, ensuring the liquid’s quality inside the bottle.
To be labeled a ‘Bourbon Whiskey,’ a product must be matured in a new American charred oak barrel.
To be labeled a ‘Straight’ whiskey, a product must be matured for at least two years.
There is no age statement on the Ezra Brooks label. So although we know the liquid inside is at least two years old — and likely older — we don’t know for sure the exact age of any particular batch.
Often considered among the ‘bottom shelf bourbons,’ Ezra Brooks’ price range of about $14 for a 750mL bottle puts it right on the barrier between value and standard bourbon segments. It is bottled at 90-proof, and its higher ABV and straight-forward classic bourbon flavor profile makes it a versatile tool for the Craft cocktail enthusiast looking to get big flavor out of a reasonably priced bottle of bourbon.
This cocktail is a twist — no pun intended — on the classic French 75 cocktail, which uses gin as the main spirit. In this version, the effervescence of the sparkling wine elevates the flavor of vanilla and barrel spices inherent in bourbon.
- 1.5 oz. Ezra Brooks Bourbon
- 2 oz. freshly squeezed Lemon Juice
- 1/2 tsp. Honey
- 3 oz. Champagne, Prosecco or other Sparkling Wine
- 1 Lemon Twist (garnish)
Add honey, whiskey and lemon juice into a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake until the outside of the canister frosts over. Strain the contents into a chilled champagne flute or wine glass and top with champagne. Add lemon twist for garnish. Fabulous!
This classic cocktail was popular before Prohibition that has enjoyed a revival on the Craft cocktail scene.
- 1.5 oz. Ezra Brooks Bourbon
- 1 oz. Campari
- 1 oz. Sweet Vermouth
- 1 Orange Twist (garnish)
Add bourbon, Campari and vermouth into an ice-filled mixing glass and stir with a swizzle stick. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice and garnish with an orange twist. Delightful!