Review: McFarlane’s Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

DSR – KY – 015: McFarlane’s Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Company/Distillery: I.J.W. Whiskey Company, LLC

Location: Danville, Kentucky

Mash Bill: Undisclosed

Age Statement: Aged a minimum of 3 Years

Proof/ABV: 90 Proof/45% ABV

Color & Viscosity: From the bottle, McFarlane’s Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey presents russet in color. From the tasting vessel, this whiskey is light gold in color. Tilting the glass to the side, the bourbon leaves a medium viscous line. Small beads appear, then fuse to form a thicker lip. The lip grudgingly slides down the sides of the glass to form melting candle wax-like droplets.

Purchase Price: $17.99 at Total Wine & More in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Bottle Label Information:

Front Label


“McFarlane’s Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey”

“Hand Crafted Bourbon Made In Kentucky”

Back Label

“In 1791, President George Washington signed the ‘Whiskey Tax’ into law and appointed General John Neville as the collector of the revenues.”

“In the summer of 1794, Major James McFarlane and his band of whiskey rebels descended on Bower Hill, General Neville’s majestic West Pennsylvanian Estate, in protest of the tax. On the second day of the standoff, a white flag was waved from Neville’s mansion, and McFarlane, assuming the Government had surrendered, stepped out in the open and was shot dead. McFarlane’s death further radicalized the resistance, inciting additional violent clashes with the Government, which ultimately quelled the Whiskey Rebellion in the fall of 1794. McFarlane’s brave stand, however, is a lasting tribute to American passion and our intimate and storied history with our native spirit.”

“Aged A Minimum of 3 Years”

“Distilled in Kentucky”

“Bottled by IJW Whiskey Company, Danville, KY 40422”

Distillery Background

I.J.W. Whiskey Company, LLC

I.J.W. Whiskey Company, LLC was founded April 28, 2017 by its agent 3300, LLC of Louisville, Kentucky, and IJW Class A, LLC. It is widely believed that I.J.W. Whiskey Company, LLC is owned by Canada-based private equity firm, Waterton Global Resource Management, in collaboration with a possible $130M investor from the University of Michigan (Source: Mystery Surrounds University of Michigan Possible Whiskey Investment by Matthew Dolan & David Jesse of the Detroit Free Press).

In reality, very little is known about the secretive whiskey producer located in Danville, Kentucky, just off the grounds of the well-known Wilderness Trail Distillery. A few of the individuals involved with the organization include President David “Dukie” Morduchowitz, Master Blender Steve Hughes, and Master Distiller Kevin Curtis. Details on the operation are scant and far from transparent. but what can be deduced from their website ( is that I.J.W. Whiskey Company procures its bourbon and rye stocks from an assortment of distilleries (are the words italicized on the website leading to possible clues? Words like Bespoke, Heritage, and Peerless–who knows?). Not much else is disclosed or available to the public. In addition, it has recently been made known that Puncher’s Chance special offering The D12tance 12-year old Tennessee Whiskey was sourced by Wolf Spirit from I.J.W. Whiskey Company. Despite the smoke and mirrors, I.J.W. Whiskey Company promises this, “Our combination of industry expertise, unmatched inventory and infrastructure, create a peerless blend for the future of whiskey.”

Master Blender Steve Hughes

Steve Hughes joins I.J.W Whiskey company after spending 38+ years as a Master Blender at Brown-Forman. During his time at Brown-Forman, Hughes worked with brands Canadian Mist and Slane Irish Whiskey. Mr. Hughes held the title of Global Director, Whiskey Development and Innovation at Brown-Forman.

Master Distiller Kevin Curtis

Kevin Curtis brings with him an extensive background in the Kentucky bourbon scene. Most recently, Curtis served as Distillery Operations Manager at Angel’s Envy. In addition to Angel’s Envy, Mr. Curtis has held similar positions in production or operations management at Woodford Reserve and Michter’s Distillery. His career began at Brown-Forman and led him down a path of distillery restoration and development.

McFarlane’s Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

McFarlane’s Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is “Distilled by Rebels. Tamed by Wheat” ( This bourbon whiskey is made from a mash bill of at least 51% corn and aged for a minimum of 3 years in new American oak barrels. McFarlane’s Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey can be found at Total Wine & More, where it is identified as one of Fred Minnick’s Whiskey Picks.

Tasting Notes

Tasting Date/Vessel: April 5, 2022 – Neat in a Glencairn glass; Then with a few drops of distilled water.

Special thanks to Mike’s brother, Third Wheel Phil, for bringing this bottle back from South Carolina for us to review! We are glad you could tag along as our Third Wheel for this tasting.


Christian: In the bottle, the first thing I notice from the McFarlane’s Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is a buttery aroma. At first I thought butterscotch, but with a second pass, I am picking up hints of floral and caramel. In my Glencairn glass, after allowing the whiskey to rest, I quickly pick up notes of honey, breakfast pastry, and corn. A gentle swirl and return of the glass to my nose brings forward caramel, buttered popcorn, and brown sugar. A punch of ethanol comes late and can be overwhelming, if not careful. Adding a splash of distilled water really allows the sweetness of butterscotch to slide forward, leaving behind just a touch of ethanol.

Mike: From the bottle, the nose is reminiscent of buttery caramels and candy corn. Lightly buttered popcorn emits from the crown of the Glencairn glass with undertones of ethanol.  Butterscotch flavors become prominent, followed by waves of black pepper spiciness and another punch of ethanol. A swirl releases softer notes of butterscotch candies and warmed vanilla syrup. 

Third Wheel Phil: In the bottle, McFarlane’s Reserve is very buttery on the nose – this reminds me of butter melting in a hot pan. In my Glencairn glass, again I detect notes of butter as slight hints of flowers join together delicately.


Christian: This McFarlane’s Reserve Whiskey has a nice creamy mouthfeel. Surprisingly, this bourbon is rather spicy on the front end of the palate. Fresh cracked black pepper and cloves baking spice is bold and in your face. A second swallow allows delicate vanilla pudding and sweet honey butter drizzle to sneak onto the tongue. There is sweetness there, but it is tough to get past the almost abrasive spiciness present. Distilled water allows the vanilla and honey to ramp up. The spiciness is present, but it is much more tame.

Mike: McFarlane’s Reserve offers a semi-dry mouthfeel and pronounced leather tones on the front end. A quick rush of bitterness fades nicely into soft vanilla custard flavors. Hints of sweet tobacco are present yet faint as shades of dry leather swell on the palate. Gentle suggestions of butterscotch candies endure to the finish.

Third Wheel Phil: McFarlane’s Reserve was slightly monotone on my palate. I mainly notice flavors of black pepper with a punch of ethanol. This is not an overly sweet experience.


Christian: The finish on this bourbon leans medium-long to long. A relatively spicy heat wells up in the throat and flows all the way down to the gut. The finish reverberates for a while. This whiskey drinks a lot hotter than its 90 proof. Vanilla, honey, and peach all try and sneak through the finish, but it is so hard to ignore the spice on top of spice on top of spice. After the addition of water, a punch of bitterness really steps up. This is the first time I have notice any oak present in the pour.

Mike: This bourbon finishes soft to medium. There is a trace of bitterness to its close and a later surge of heat in the lower throat. Roasted and lightly salted peanut flavors linger on the palate. 

Third Wheel Phil: McFarlane’s Reserve has a medium finish. A small amount of burn is present but diminishes quickly. Like the mouth, black pepper spice is the predominant flavor I notice while sipping on this pour.

Our Rating

Final Thoughts

Christian: I don’t really know what to make of this offering from I.J.W. Whiskey Company. All of the powerful words on the website appear to be nothing more than hyperbole. But what does one really expect out of a whiskey priced at $17? Should I be disappointed at its aggressive spiciness and underdeveloped flavor profile? I am still looking for the softness typically delivered by a wheated bourbon. Everything about this bourbon just seems wrong – the marketing, the lack of transparency, and most importantly the abrasive nature of the overall drinking experience. This just isn’t for me – even at the discounted rate of $17.

Rating: 2.18 Rickhouses

Mike: Aged at least 3 years per the bottle label, this McFarlane’s Reserve shows its youthfulness early and often. There are some redeeming qualities from nose to mouth but overall the flavors are undeveloped. For a 90 proof offering, I wasn’t expecting the abundance of ethanol presented. For a younger bourbon, it was not as corn forward like most of its contemporaries, and I assume this has something to do with it being a wheated bourbon.

Rating: 2.25 Rickhouses

Third Wheel Phil: I picked this McFarlane’s Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey up at Total Wine & More in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on sale for $17.99. It was an offering that I had never had and at that low price point, there was very little risk to try. This is a whiskey I would not mind sipping on in the summer after a long day on the pontoon boat on the lake. If nothing else, I would have no problem using this bourbon as an option when cooking recipes that include whiskey as an ingredient. This is definitely not a favorite of mine, but it’s not the worst thing I’ve ever sipped on either.

Rating: 2.50 Rickhouses


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