Johnny Drum Kentucky Bourbon 50.5% ABV, (August 2022 Whisky Pioneer release).

johnnie drum private stock
whisky pioneer

Produced in small batches at the Willet Distillery in Kentucky, this is a great example of a sour mash, Kentucky Straight Bourbon without the big name. Johnny Drum Bourbon was launched by Willett in 1960 exclusively for a wholesaler in California, but fortunately has become widely distributed since. Johnny Drum served as a drummer boy in the year 1861 during the American Civil War, having been too young to fight. At the end of the war Johnny returned home to his native Kentucky. He grew corn and wanted to turn his excess crop into same thing profitable….bourbon whiskey soon followed.

Whisky Pioneer


Deep orange/gold in colour, it has a lovely thick swirl line on my stemmed tulip glass, with syrupy thick legs also.


That’s a great ABV for the nose, lots going on initially. Along with expected Bourbon aromas there are cherries with a chilli spiciness, along with a strong foresty feel. Sweet vanilla and aromatic wood work very nicely together, and sweet cream soda comes through too. 

More time and a botanical feel creeps into the glass, along with faint eucalyptus. Just as I’m getting starting to find raisins and figs, sweetness comes back too, they constantly play off each other.


Initially the mouthfeel is ok, not oily, and you soon get slapped with those Bourbon spices. Cinnamon and ginger with apricots are all over this, the botanicals from the nose are also here. Some kind of wood treatment, perhaps varnish, starts to push forward, with cardamon, black pepper, and the pickle juice that I seem to be getting quite a bit with bourbons. 

White grapes arrive with more time, lychee’s and rose water too, whilst in the background the spices continue on through. 


The finish is long side of medium in length, though the spices do hang around for longer, and they are quite strong still, leaving the roof of my mouth feeling almost numb. There are faint nuts and tobacco here too, but they dance around the edges, never really becoming a full on flavour. 

My thoughts

This is Whisky Pioneer’s August 2022 sample release, and it’s another Whiskey (Bourbon) iv’e not tried before, happy days indeed. Iv’e been lucky enough to try a few Bourbon’s now, ranging from entry level up to very good quality. This one sits nicely on the higher end of the scale, and to try a small batch was very welcome.

This bottle packs plenty on the nose and palate, it’s lovely and spicy, and it looses nothing until the whole thing fades, which does take a while to happen. I think it’s another great choice by Whisky Pioneer to bring something of quality, that subscribers may not have tasted before. It’s one i’d happily enjoy a bottle of in my whisk(e)y cupboard.

Whisky Pioneer monthly sample subscription service can be found here, and the bottle image credit goes to Hic-winemerchants.

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