Horse Soldier Bourbon

Horse Soldier Bourbon

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.

Horse Soldier Bourbon gets a lot of attention, and it’s not necessarily because it’s a good bourbon. Now, it may be good and it may not, that’s what we’re here to find out. The buzz that surrounds Horse Soldier Bourbon is much more likely due to the people behind the bourbon – The Horse Soldiers.

In this Horse Soldier Bourbon review, we’ll cover the back story behind the whiskey and the people who produce it. We’ll also cover the price and tasting notes to see if Horse Soldier is a good whiskey along with their tremendous story.

Horse Soldier Bourbon Review

Horse Soldier Bourbon Background

Horse Soldier Bourbon was founded in 2016 by Green Berets that served in the 5th Special Forces Group – John Koko and Scott Neil

Following the attacks of 9/11, America was forced to war. Their response? 12 men of the 5th Special Forces Group would be deployed to Afghanistan tasked with defeating the Taliban. These men are known as the Horse Soldiers.

The movie 12 Strong depicts the struggles, and eventually the victory, these men faced. It is available to watch on Netflix.

Horse Soldier has roots in three places across the US – Columbus, OH, St. Petersburg, FL, and Somerset, KY. The bourbon is sourced from Columbus, but we’ll get to that shortly.

American Freedom Distillery is the business behind the brand. They operate a distillery in St. Pete’s, FL where they distill rum, vodka, and gin. However, according to reports, they have plans of building a $200 million distillery in Somerset, KY.

The Horse Soldiers were running a training exercise along the Cumberland River, right outside Somerset, KY, when they learned of the attacks of 9/11. That place, along with middle America, holds a special place in the hearts of the twelve men who risked their lives in Afghanistan.

Horse Soldier Bourbon Overview

  • Spirit: Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  • Owned By: American Freedom Distillery
  • Distilled By: Middle West Spirits
  • Aged: 2-4 Years
  • ABV: 43.5% ABV, 87 proof
  • Mashbill: 65% corn, 30% rye, 5% malted barley
  • Price: $50

While Horse Soldier is building their mega-distillery, they are sourcing whiskey from Middle West Spirits, located in Columbus, OH.

As a straight bourbon, Horse Soldier must be aged a minimum of 2 years, and the bottle does don the two year age statement. According to their website, the whiskey inside the bottle is aged anywhere from 2-4 years.

Horse Soldier Bourbon is 87 proof, 43.5% ABV, so it’s certainly on the weaker side. It’s also a high-rye bourbon with 30% rye in the mashbill.

Bottle Design

I’m a fan of the bottle design. As you can see in photos, there’s a nice bronze label with a soldier on a horse etched on it.

The truly cool and unique thing about the bottle is actually how it’s made. The New York Port Authority donated steel recovered from the World Trade Center to American Freedom Distillery. They used this steel to create a mold.

The mold is used to craft every bottle of Horse Soldier Bourbon.

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America’s Response Monument

Overlooking ground zero of the 9/11 attacks, a 16 ft statue of a soldier on a horse stands honoring the service members of our special forces. A portion of every bottle of Horse Soldier Bourbon sold goes to maintaining this statue.

Horse Soldier Bourbon Tasting Notes

Now that we’ve done our general overview, it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty. Is Horse Soldier Bourbon good? Or is it simply a

Nose: Soft on the nose. If you get your nose in too much, you’ll get a bit of ethanol that smells a touch thin. Lemon and vanilla with a good bit of dark, red fruits. A little bit of cinnamon and spice is in there, but not as much as I’d expect from 30% rye. From a distance, it’s pleasant, but swirling will bring some of that ethanol out as well.

Palate: I didn’t get much pepper on the nose, but there’s certainly some on the palate. Still very mellow with vanilla, sweet corn, some oak on the back end, some cinnamon and rye spice is in there. A touch of those red fruits, but more on the nose. Not thin, not thick. Average to above average mouthfeel.

Finish: Pepper transitions into baking spices over a hefty amount oak. Short-medium in length.

Is Horse Soldier Bourbon Good?

Taste Summary and Value

Horse Soldier Bourbon is an easy and approachable sipper. While that’s generally a good thing, it doesn’t quite match the price point. The nose, while pleasant and soft, showed touches of its youth – just hidden behind its tame nature.

I actually liked the dram more than I thought I would, and, again, it’s the mellow character that makes this an enjoyable whiskey. The palate features more of the spice from this high-rye bourbon but loses the dark fruits on the nose.

The big downside to Horse Soldier Bourbon is definitely the price. It’s drinks like a $30-something bourbon that disguises itself as a $50 bourbon. Now, it does a good job at it. There’s nothing bad about it, but it lacks the extra umph to it. And at 87 proof I can’t help but feel that it fits better in the $30-40 range.

I’m sure people aren’t as critical of Horse Soldier Bourbon as other bourbons. I mean, who wants to criticize the men who left their families to go fight in Afghanistan and their whiskey…? Not me.

Is it bad whiskey? No, not at all. Is the whiskey worth the price? No, probably not. But you’re not paying for just whiskey here. You’re getting a story, you’re getting a bottle you can enjoy with friends and family, and you’re getting the emotions that our service members and our countries response to the attacks of 9/11 can invoke.

If that’s something you value, then buy a bottle, thank a veteran or active service member, and show gratitude towards the men and women who risk their life for their country and the people in it. If you’re just here for good whiskey, check out Chattanooga Whiskey 111.

Best Bourbon under $25

The Top 5 Bourbons for $25

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Recently, I’ve reviewed a lot of good whiskey. However, a lot of that has been small batch, single barrel, and cask strength options. While that’s going to be your best whiskey, it’s also your more expensive whiskey. So, today we’re going to discuss the top 5 bourbons you can buy for $25,…


Horse Soldier Bourbon may be a little overpriced, but it’s a solid whiskey that’s produced by Green Berets who were first on the ground to fight the Taliban following 9/11. $50 is aggressive for a 2 year, 87 proof bourbon, but some of the value comes from the company and the men behind the bourbon.

The whiskey itself is approachable with a mellow softness to it and just enough flavor to be interesting. Now, it may be awhile, but I certainly look forward to trying their in-house distilled whiskey in the years to come.

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  1. My son and I picked this up on vacation last year. We wanted to try something new at a higher price point. I did not love it. I did not hate it (I’ve only ever hated 1 bourbon I tried). But I did not know the story behind it and now I will buy it again knowing the background. Thanks for the detailed history!

  2. The whiskey should stand on its own, the history of the people behind it should be second. I had this earlier this month and it is mediocre at best. Hopefully in a couple of years their own stuff will be worth the money.

    1. I agree. The history and people behind any whiskey will always be something of interest to me, but, at the end of the day, it’s the whiskey inside the bottle that carries the most weight.

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