When it comes to whiskey, we often think bourbon, scotch, and Irish whiskey. Throw in a little blended Canadian whisky like Crown, and you’ve covered all your bases. Well, not quite. Japanese Whisky has been one of the most popular types of whiskey in the recent years.
Today, we’re talking about a “bourbon” – Legent Bourbon – that has some roots in Japan. Well, a lot of the most popular American whiskeys have some connection to Japan. Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Baker’s, Basil Hayden’s Booker’s, Knob Creek, Old Grand-Dad….. yup, owned by Beam-SUNTORY. Suntory, a Japanese brewing and distilling company, purchased Beam back in 2014.
Legent Bourbon, produced by the James B. Beam Distilling Co., is a collaboration between Japanese blending techniques and Kentucky Straight Bourbon, between Suntory and Beam.
Legent Bourbon Overview
- Spirit: Kentucky Straight Bourbon blended with bourbon finished in wine and sherry casks
- Owned By: Beam-Suntory
- Distilled By: James B. Beam Distilling Co., (Master Distiller Fred Noe)
- Aged: NAS, 4+ years. Partially finished in sherry and red wine casks
- ABV: 47%, 94 proof
- Mashbill: Unknown
- Price: $35-42
Okay, we’re going to break down the specifics one step at a time. Let’s start with how this “bourbon” is made.
Legent Bourbon Collaboration
As mentioned, Legent is a collaboration between two styles of whiskey, but it’s really a collaboration between two big dogs at Beam-Suntory – Fred Noe and Shinji Fukuyo. Noe is the great grandson of Jim Beam and master distiller of the Beam brands. Fukuyo is the chief blender of The House of Suntory.
It begins with Kentucky straight bourbon produced by Fred Noe and James B. Beam Distilling Co. The whiskey is aged a minimum of 4 years in virgin charred American oak. A portion of this whiskey is broken off, though. Some of it will be barrel finished in ex-sherry casks, and a portion of it will be aged in ex-red wine casks. From there, Shinji Fukuyo takes over. He blends the original bourbon with each of the barrel finished whiskeys.
Legent “Bourbon” Whiskey is distilled by Noe and blended by Fukuyo.
Is Legent Whiskey a Bourbon?
You may have realized that I keep referring to Legent as a “bourbon” with quotation marks. Well, that’s because Legent isn’t technically classified as a bourbon, yet everything on the bottle and their website points to it being a bourbon.
The bottle states “Two true legends, one truly unique bourbon”. The Legent Website says “The creation of a new style of Bourbon” and “A bourbon unlike any other”.
It’s not a new style of bourbon or a unique bourbon because it’s not bourbon at all. While it’s common to refer to the final product as “bourbon finished in X barrel or cask” (which the bottle does to stay compliant), it’s technically a whisky specialty as bourbon can only be aged in virgin charred oak casks.
I understand Legent is still following all the rules and regulations of the TTB, but it makes things confusing and muddies the water. To most, it’s a corn based whiskey produced in America, so it’s bourbon, but it still bothers me… as you can probably tell.
Legent Whiskey ABV, Mashbill, and Price
Proof is something that’s very important to a lot of people. Some may like an 80 proof whiskey that’s smooth and easy to sip, some may like 120 proof to get full flavors – or to just get drunk quicker – some may like something in between.
Legent Whiskey comes in at 47% ABV, or 94 proof. Personally, I like my whiskey in the 94-110 proof range.
I can speculate all I want about the mashbill used to create Legent Bourbon, a typical 75% corn, 13% rye, 12% malted barley that Beam is known for, but at the end of the day, we don’t know for sure.
Legent Bourbon partially finished in wine and sherry casks costs about $35-40, give or take. My local Total Wine sells it for $33, but it was purchased from a local mom & pop shop for $41.
Legent Whiskey Tasting Notes
Now that we’ve covered all there is to know about how Legent Bourbon partially finished in wine and sherry casks was produced, we can discuss what it tastes like and whether or not it’s good. So, let me pour myself a glass and get to drinkin’!
Nose: Honey & caramel, cherries, red apple, and grapes, nougat, touch of brown cinnamon sugar and baking spices. Letting it sit brings out a more nutty character. A little leather, as well.
Palate: Dried fruits with more citrus than I got on the nose. More oak, char, and pepper on the palate as well. Medium viscosity but a real nice, silky mouthfeel.
Finish: The nutty notes come back at the finish / back end of the palate along with more baking spice and not as much pepper. The spice settles in with the nuts and some darker fruits for a fairly long finish.
I know I’ve been giving Beam-Suntory a hard time about their marketing of Legent “Bourbon”, but this is a pretty good whiskey right here.
Seeing as to how the bourbon is partially finished in sherry and red-wine casks, there’s no surprise we get some red fruits throughout our sip. The honey and red apple pairs together while the caramel and cherries seem to stick together. The grape is more so a grape juice, or even grape soda, and also a slight raisin note that comes in more with the leather and nuts for a musty character.
There’re less nuts on the palate with more dried fruit and more citrus. The citrus is primarily apple, but a little bit of orange sneaks in there, too. Oak, barrel char, and pepper were a surprise as I wasn’t expecting much char and pepper based on the nose.
I was a little worried with this whiskey being finished in sherry and red wine casks. sometimes this kind of barrel finishing can lead to a dried-fruit/red fruit dominant profile that covers everything up, but that’s not the case here. The ex-wine barrels are actually French oak, which is known to bring out more baking spices and nutty/chocolate flavors than its American counterpart.
The French oak seems to play a large role here with a stronger nutty profile than I anticipated – it almost reminds me of a Heaven Hill bottling, perhaps Elijah Craig.
Legent Whiskey Summary
You may have came to this page looking for a review on Legent Bourbon, but instead you got a review on Legent Whiskey. Okay fine, it’s a finished bourbon for all intents and purposes, but I’m going to make things clear since some of the regulations don’t require it. Legent starts with aged bourbon. A portion of said bourbon is aged again in ex-sherry casks. Another portion of it is aged in ex-red wine casks. Then the three whiskeys – the original bourbon, the bourbon finished in sherry casks (whiskey specialty), and the bourbon finished in wine casks (whiskey specialty) – are blended together.
The goal of Legent was to collaborate on multiple fronts. It was a whiskey product of both Beam and Suntory, it was the product of American distiller Fred Noe and Japanese master blender Shinji Fukuyo, and it was the product of American Bourbon and Japanese Whisky blending and aging techniques (similar to Scotch with the use of sherry casks).
Yes, it bothers me that Legent continually refers to their whiskey as Bourbon. The website doesn’t even clarify anything about it, they just roll with bourbon. However, the whiskey started out as bourbon, so I get it. The more important aspect for most people is the taste, and Legent is a pretty solid whiskey for ~$40. Whether you like bourbon, scotch, or Japanese whisky, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy this.