In 1776, America was busy declaring its independence while Elijah Pepper was distilling what would soon become the oldest whiskey brand in the U.S. Passed down through generations, James. E Pepper survived the American Revolution, Prohibition and the bourbon industry crash of the 1950s. We scored two bottles of the legendary James E. Pepper, now distilled by our friends at Georgetown Trading Company.
The bottles definitely live up to their historical legend name. Clad with old style design and the famous “Join, or Die,” motto, the bottle had American Revolution written all over it. Also on the bottle: “100 proof.” We knew right then, this was going to be a very boozy tasting.
James E. Pepper Rye Whiskey: The first whiff had strong whiskey notes but also hints of vanilla, caramel, cinnamon and spice. With a proof of 100, we should have expected the sharp whiskey burn when we took a sip but somehow it still took us by surprise. The rye whiskey flavor is strong, almost too strong for us to taste any of the delicate scents we caught when we first opened the bottle. Only after our ice cubes melted could we taste the subtle hints of caramel and spice. We’re no whiskey wimps but this one needs a splash of water or some water before it’s truly enjoyable.
James E. Pepper Bourbon:The alcohol smell and flavor are seriously overbearing at first but just like the rye, all it needs is a little help from an ice cube. Though the water helped, we were still missing the classic oaky, smoky flavor we love in bourbon and the alcohol burn was almost too much to handle. Only a true bourbon connoisseur who enjoyed a strong whiskey burn would want to sip this straight.
Needless to say, we discovered that when sipping a 100 proof whiskey, expect it to taste like alcohol. Go figure. If you don’t like to sip your whiskey on the rocks, we’d suggest going with an Old Fashioned so that the flavors can make an appearance. We would recommend going for the James E. Pepper Rye first and leave the Bourbon for the brave of heart. Both bottles will set you back $33, which is a fair price for something that boozy.
Have you tried James E. Pepper? Would you go for a bourbon labeled 100 proof?