Taste Test: This Cult Bourbon Brand’s Newest Small Batch Will Make Whiskey Obsessives Swoon

Since its launch in 2020 during the height of the pandemic, Blue Run Spirits has made a big impact on the whiskey world by doing things a little bit differently. Instead of creating a core expression that is based on consistency, Blue Run has worked with whiskey industry veterans to contract distill and source bourbon and rye in limited runs that often vary depending on the batch. The company also releases what it calls “micro batches,” and the new Flight Series of six whiskeys is proof of how this concept can work.

Blue Run was founded by a group that includes guys who used to work for Nike and Facebook, and just about a year ago the company was acquired by Molson Coors under its Coors Spirits Co. division, which launched with the decent Five Trail Blended American Whiskey in 2021. The Blue Run lineup is kind of all over the map, having released cask-strength, small batch, and single barrel expressions of bourbon and rye over the past few years, but that’s kind of the point. These are limited and often expensive (some would argue excessively so) whiskeys that are carefully sourced, blended, and curated. Former Four Roses master distiller Jim Rutledge came onboard as the “liquid advisor” a few years back, and now Shaylyn Gammon, who previously worked for Campari on many Wild Turkey releases, has joined as head of whiskey development. It was announced last year that Blue Run was opening its own distillery in Kentucky, but it will be years before any whiskey is ready from there.

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For the second Flight Series, one of Blue Run’s micro-batch collections, Gammon blended three to four barrels of the signature High Rye Bourbon into six unique batches. That means that each bottle in the series will taste different, and the one I got to sample for this review is called Joshua Tree Sunrise. It’s a blend of three barrels that were distilled at either Castle & Key, Bardstown Bourbon Company, or another undisclosed distillery, and aged in a non-climate controlled warehouse in Bardstown, Kentucky. According to the press release, Gammon conducted her “sensory tests” during blending outdoors. The point was apparently to conduct these tests in an environment that is closer to how the consumer will enjoy the whiskey as opposed to the sterile environment of a lab, and to allow the whiskey to react and open up to variations in temperature and humidity.

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This kind of sounds like another whiskey marketing story in an industry that doesn’t really need any more. Regardless, Joshua Tree Sunrise is a very good bourbon—and I credit this more to Gammon’s blending abilities and the quality of the whiskey she worked with than the effects of sunshine and cool breezes. Again, the other five whiskeys in this series will taste different and I was not able to sample those to compare, but let’s take a look at this one. Joshua Tree Sunrise is bottled at cask strength of 117 proof, which is strong but not overly hot. It reads as a younger bourbon on the palate, maybe around the four year mark, but that’s not a bad thing. The nose is rich with fruit and grain notes, and very little alcohol burn despite the high ABV. The palate opens up with cinnamon, honey, and brown sugar before developing into flavors like blackberry, green apple, vanilla, caramel, and espresso. There seems to be a rye element as well, although I can’t confirm what the mashbill of the whiskey is, and a combination of black pepper and butterscotch hard candy lingers on the finish as your sip fades away.

No, this bourbon doesn’t remind me of Joshua Tree, a place I’ve visited many times, but that’s fine (other names in the series include Yosemite Pine, Tahoe Powder, and Miami Sunset, which I’m sure don’t really capture the way the whiskey tastes either). The price tag for each of the the bottles in Flight Series II is $120, and you can actually find them for less than $200 from online secondary retailers. If the simple pleasures of Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey, or Elijah Craig are more your speed, that’s a very understandable stance to take and this might not be quite to your liking. But if you’re a bourbon fanatic looking for something new and unique to try that’s a true small batch blend, this is a bottle to seek out—and if you can find all six to compare and contrast, even better.

Score: 90

  • 100 Worth trading your first born for

  • 95 – 99 In the Pantheon: A trophy for the cabinet

  • 90 – 94 Great: An excited nod from friends when you pour them a dram

  • 85 – 89 Very Good: Delicious enough to buy, but not quite special enough to chase on the secondary market

  • 80 – 84 Good: More of your everyday drinker, solid and reliable

  • Below 80 It’s alright: Honestly, we probably won’t waste your time and ours with this

Every week Jonah Flicker tastes the most buzzworthy and interesting whiskeys in the world. Check back each Friday for his latest review.

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