People like to say “first impressions last a lifetime” when they recall something unfavorable that ended up worse for the wear. Such a saying certainly has credence in some scenarios, but like most things, it’s not one size fits all. Even when we remind ourselves that a first impression isn’t automatically all-telling, it’s easy to be influenced by our initial thoughts and feelings. I guarantee many of us who practically wax poetic about Wild Turkey weren’t exactly enamored by 101 on our first go.
My first impressions of Lux Row, for example, were anything but awe-inspiring. Old Ezra 7 Barrel Strength was what exposed me to them proper, which ended up being one of those “maybe I’ll like it more this time” bottles. That never happened. And until recently, the only other expressions I knew about from Lux Row were the younger, lower proof Ezra and Rebel bottlings. Second impressions weren’t much better when we consider my review for the 80 proof Rebel. However, I do like to preach that higher proof and/or age statements aren’t inherently better, and I shamelessly seize multiple opportunities to express that opinion. Enter Ezra Brooks 90 proof, a budget-oriented expression that, for all intents and purposes, should be a few steps down from its aforementioned Barrel Strength brother. Will I derive any enjoyment from it? Let’s see:
Nose: Light. Vanilla, fruit, and lightly candied nuts. Has a funky note that may be thanks to the charcoal mellowing. Light brown sugar and sour fruit—sour apple perhaps? Hints of toffee and cocoa.
Palate: Light-medium mouthfeel. Cocoa, light caramel, and green apple notes. Chocolate seems to develop as the whiskey sits. Corn manifests in a slightly roasted manner with traces of toffee.
Finish: Cocoa takes a surprisingly creamy turn with delicate tannins. Hints of roasted and candied nuts return.
To say that I’m surprised by this bottom-shelfer would be an outright understatement. I’d go so far as to say that I’m impressed, given my previous exposure to Lux Row, as well as Ezra Brooks’ price bracket. Granted, this does next to nothing outside of what you’d expect from a budget bourbon, but I’d also argue that it overdelivers when compared to other bottles in the sub-$20 range. And with how bourbon prices across the board are either creeping up or outright skyrocketing, that’s something to take solace in.