Ezra Brooks Kachina Decanter Kentucky Straight Bourbon 12yr 90 Proof 433083209

EZRA BROOKS KACHINA DECANTER KENTUCKY STRAIGHT BOURBON 12YR 90 PROOF 433083209

SPIRIT: Bourbon

VOLUME: 750 ml

ABV/PROOF: 45/90

AGE: 12 years

Elijah Craig. Evan Williams. Ezra Brooks. All iconic whiskey names with long histories – but only that last is a complete fabrication. There never was an Ezra Brooks. A sudden dearth of Jack Daniel’s, driven by its popularity among celebrities like Frank Sinatra, inspired a businessman named Frank Silverman to create a whiskey brand to fill the hole. Not only did Ezra Brooks sound like an old-school distiller, but the bottle looked remarkably like Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7, down to its filigreed label and claim to be charcoal filtered (though though, like Jack Daniel’s, charcoal mellowed). 

The brand first appeared in 1957, owned by a company named “21” Brands and produced at the Hoffman Distillery, located in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, not far from Wild Turkey. (Decades later, Julian van Winkle III would use the derelict Hoffman facility as a bottling plant.) Brown-Forman, the owner of Jack Daniel’s, sued for trademark infringement, but lost. The whiskey steamed along, becoming a national brand by the end of the 1960s; so important was it to “21” Brands that it changed Hoffman’s name to Ezra Brooks.

In 1979 the whiskey moved to the Medley Distillery, in Owensboro, Kentucky, after the medley Distilling Co. acquired “21” Brands. Medley made it the distillery’s flagship product, with a large sign at its entrance touting Ezra Brooks as a “sippin’ whiskey.”

Like the rest of the industry, Hoffman – and Medley – struggled to retain drinkers as the country’s tastes moved away from brown spirits. Among the many gimmicks and enticements were ceramic decanters, shaped to look like all manner of tchotchke figurines: fire trucks, bucking broncos, Elvis Presley. Some, like the Old Crow Chess Set, have transcended curio status to become true collectors’ items. So have a line of Kachina dolls filled with Ezra Brooks. Real kachina dolls are treasured by the Hopi people, carved out of wood to educate children about the spirits of the natural world. The connection with Kentucky bourbon is tenuous at best, but then again Ezra Brooks was always more about marketing than reality.

Release: Ezra Brooks Kachina Decanter Kentucky Straight Bourbon 

Spirit: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Producer: “21” Brands

Misc.: The Ezra Brooks brand later went through several additional owners before landing with Luxco in 1992. For decades Luxco bottled sourced whiskey, but in 2016 it built its own distillery, where it distills Ezra Brooks and other brands. (Luxco is now owned by MGP.)

Collectors’ tips: It is unclear how many different kachina doll designs “21” Brands created, though sets of as many as eight have come up at auction.

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