Legent straight bourbon is a bright, spicy straight bourbon with lots of oak plus hints of fruit from the sherry-cask finish. One thing’s for sure: This East-meets-West collaboration isn’t for the faint of heart.
Classification: straight bourbon
Company: Beam Suntory
Cask: new American oak, partially finished in ex-sherry and red wine casks
Still type: 65-foot column still
Mash bill: Jim Beam standard mash bill (estimated to be 75% corn, 13% rye, 12% malted barley)
Proof: 94 proof (47% ABV)
Aged: NAS. 4+ years in new American oak, then finished in ex-sherry and red wine casks
- An inventive bourbon that helped break the mold for what straight whiskey could be
- Bold and spicy, with just a hint of vanilla and stewed fruit flavors
- A straightforward higher-proof bourbon among a sea of 80-proof safe choices
- Less subtle and complex than one might expect
- The profile doesn’t settle down into one place long enough to pin down what you’re drinking.
Color: Deep gold to dark amber
Nose: Initially, the aromatics aren’t as broad as you might expect based on the proof; you’re hit with oak and alcohol and little else. As it opens up, however, you get more of a vanilla approach, with hints of caramel, a floral overtone and just the slightest hint of stewed plums.
Palate: On first sip, it’s a bold, open full-bodied spirit with strong oak and spice notes biting at your lip and gums. The tannins and alcohol dominate. As it hits the midpalate, it’s mid-to-heavyweight and full-bodied, and again the spice and oak are present in a chewy, structured liquid. Exiting, a sweetness emerges, likely from the ex-sherry wine casks, along with notes of dark chocolate, clove and vanilla. The overall impression is tight, though it does expand as it sits, bringing in more sweet stewed fruits, vanilla and baking spice.
Finish: A medium-to-long spicy finish on the tongue and back of the throat, with an emphasis on wood and bright spicy notes
What happens when two legends of whiskeymaking get together? Beam and Suntory have been one since 2014. But Fred Noe of the Beam whiskeys and Shinji Fukuyo of Suntory represent very different approaches to whiskey: Noe is bombastic, gregarious and from an old-school heritage of Kentucky whiskeymaking (he’s seventh-generation Jim Beam); Fukuyo is reserved, at least by American standards.
And that’s how this whiskey needs to be approached: two different ways of treating whiskey, coming together. Is it harmonious? Not so much. Is it intriguing and compelling? Definitely. The most challenging thing with this whiskey is that you can’t know what to expect. Some days, it’s crazy delicious and leaves you wanting more. Other days, all you might taste is tart wood and alcohol.On the first approach, both its bouquet and palate are, to put it bluntly, bold and slightly abrasive. It takes some time to discover the subtlety brought on by the blending of some of the traditionally aged bourbon with barrels of bourbon that were finished for a brief time in ex-sherry or red wine casks. That’s where Fukuyo’s influence comes in. Those hints of stewed fruit, the way it opens up over time and the baking spices at the end are classic Fukuyo, who likes to push the envelope while still honoring a spirit’s roots. Fans of sherry-heavy scotch (think The Macallan) will appreciate the barrel finish but may find it a bit of a struggle to find all the fruit notes. This bourbon represents a rare case in which it might be recommended to add a bit of water, an actual quarter teaspoon or so, to allow you to find the stewed fruit, vanilla and cloves. The initial bite of the wood and alcohol will soften just a bit, and you can explore more complex notes.
A number of straight bourbons are now emerging finished in a variety of casks, but Legent was one of the first to push the envelope and still be called a straight bourbon.
The bottom line: At $40, you can’t go wrong here. Legent mixes beautifully into a Manhattan, with its latent cherry and stewed fruit notes. And you’re drinking a piece of history.