Duke Bourbon Review

Duke Bourbon Review

Meet Luke

Luke is a Level I Certified Whiskey Specialist with a passion for exploring and unearthing the best whiskeys around. Luke has a preference for Rye whiskeys but has tasted over 250 different whiskeys to date varying from bourbons to scotches. He continues to expand upon his whiskey knowledge by tasting dozens of bottles monthly and reviewing them here on Barrel and Brew as he pursues his Masters of Whiskey certification.

After reviewing Kentucky Deluxe, we had to go back to reviewing the good stuff. That’s when we came across a bottle of Legendary Duke Bourbon that was seemingly crafted in the honor of John Wayne, an iconic movie star during the golden age of Hollywood. We figured we had to have a bottle to see if Duke Whiskey would live up to the standards of John Wayne himself.

We’ll discuss the tasting notes and price of Duke Bourbon, but before we get there, we have some history to cover. John Wayne has been deceased for over 40 years now, so what role does he play in this whiskey that dons his signature? Let’s find out.

Duke Bourbon Review

Duke Spirits History

I suppose the best place to start is with the legend himself, John Wayne. Born in 1907 by the name of Marion Robert Morrison, he rose to great fame on the picture screen during the prime of Hollywood with his performances in western and war movies. While he went by John Wayne, he was nicknamed ‘The Duke’ by friends and family. He passed away at the age of 72 in 1979.

Many years later, John Wayne’s son, Ethan, was going through his father’s belongings and came across an old stash of whiskey along with notes about what his favorites were. Ethan Wayne and Chris Radomski, founders of Duke Spirits, began consulting master distillers on how to create a spirit that would live up to, and surpass, the spirits that The Duke loved so much.

Duke Spirits doesn’t distill their own whiskey, so they source it from Green river Distilling Co., previously named The O.Z. Tyler Distillery in Owensboro, KY.

In addition to the Duke Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey we are getting ready to review, Duke Spirits produces tequila, rye, and an extra aged bourbon finished in wine casks.

Duke Bourbon Overview

  • Whiskey: Kentucky Straight Bourbon
  • Distilled By: Green river Distilling Co.
  • Bottled By: Duke Spirits
  • Aged: 5 years
  • ABV: 44%, 88 Proof
  • Mashbill: 75% Corn, 13% Rye, 12 % Barley

The first thing to note is that Duke Bourbon isn’t produced in house. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, some of my favorite whiskeys are out-sourced. It’s also quite common for younger companies to buy whiskey from other distilleries, so they don’t have to wait years before heading to market. It doesn’t appear that Duke Spirits has any plans of building their own distillery, though.

The whiskey itself has a fairly standard bourbon mashbill and is a tad bit stronger than your typical whiskey at 88 proof. As a straight bourbon, it’s only required to be aged 2 years. However, they go beyond that to the 5 year mark.

The big question is whether or not Duke Bourbon is good whiskey. Is it a gimmicky whiskey that slapped John Wayne’s picture and signature on it, or is it quality whiskey. Perhaps it’s both.

Duke Bourbon Tasting Notes

Alrighty, it’s time to discuss the real reason you’re all here. What does Duke Bourbon taste like? Is it good? Let’s pour ourselves a glass and find out!

Nose: Leather and alcohol are most prominent right away, but it has a very sweet undertone.

Taste: There’s an initial heat and burn that comes with most bourbon, but it’s certainly not too powerful. Sweet vanilla, with clove and nutmeg.

Get Monthly Whiskey Recommendations
We review 10-15 whiskeys a month. Find new favorites to add to your liquor cabinet!
Featured Image

Finish: Fairly smooth, especially with the addition of ice. The spices are most prominent on the finish, but like the aroma, there’s a sweet undertone to it.

Taste Summary

When drinking Duke Bourbon neat, the burn and heat, while mild, can overpower some of the flavors. It mellows pretty quickly and the finish is easy with just a touch of heat. Ice or a splash of water has been known to bring out flavors or totally crush them. Here, it brings them out.

With the addition of ice, the heat mellows out and the sweet vanilla turns develops into a more buttery flavor and mouthfeel. The clove and nutmeg spice is slightly delayed but still very prominent on the finish.

John Wayne Whiskey

Duke Bourbon Price

Alright, so we’ve decided that the whiskey sitting inside the bottle that dons the name and image of John ‘The Duke’ Wayne is good, quality whiskey. How much will it cost you, though? Below is the average price you’ll be able to find yourself a bottle. As a note, I look at the prices of various Total Wine stores across the country to determine an average price.

  • Duke Bourbon 750ml Price: $34-42

Duke Bourbon Value

In this section we determine the bottles value by comparing the price and taste. Now, I purchased my bottle of Duke Whiskey for $45 from a local liquor store that is known to have high prices, but it’s convenient. 30 minutes away, at Total Wine, it’s for sale for $34.

I say this because I would always keep this bottle in stock for $34, but for $45 it’s more of a here and there whiskey. If you usually spend $30-40 on a bottle of whiskey, I highly recommend picking up a bottle of Duke Bourbon. It works neat, on the rocks, or in mixed drinks.

Summary of Duke Bourbon Review

We don’t know the true intentions behind the start of Duke Spirits. Was it to craft something of high quality in the name of John Wayne? Was it simply a way to make money by slapping his name and image on? Regardless, what we do know is that the Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey inside the bottle is good.

The best way to drink Duke Bourbon is on the rocks. While the heat isn’t too much neat, it is less intense with the addition of ice. This allows the flavor to shine more. If you’re a fan of bourbon, Duke is a good bottle to pick up just below the $40 mark.


Below are frequently asked questions regarding the Legendary Duke Bourbon. Many of these are answered in the article above.

Who Makes Duke Bourbon?

Duke Bourbon is bottled by Duke Spirits, but the whiskey itself is sourced from Green River Distilling Co.

Is It Really John Wayne’s Whiskey?

Duke Bourbon is named after John Wayne who was nicknamed The Duke by close friends and family. It was his son, Ethan Wayne, who founded Duke Spirits after finding left over bottles and notes about John’s favorite whiskeys and tequilas.

Get Monthly Whiskey Recommendations
We review 10-15 whiskeys a month. Find new favorites to add to your liquor cabinet!
Featured Image

Similar Posts


  1. I drink a fair bit of bourbon and I must say this is some of the worst I have ever had and would not recommend. I had to sign up to post this.

  2. I have yet to try Duke bourbon, but its on my list to purchase. I’m Canadian but close to Michigan so I should be able to find it okay. What I have read before, is that John Wayne experimented with different blends of whiskeys until he found the right taste for him. Looking forward to trying it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *