Whiskey Review: Dread River Straight Bourbon

Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by the party behind it. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. 

Named after a mythical river said to have once run under Birmingham, Alabama, Dread River Distilling Company was started in the spring of 2017 by Dr. Jeff Dugas and John Cubelic. First conceived as a small craft whiskey distillery, the company quickly grew into a 4,000 square foot event space, restaurant, and has expanded their output to include other spirits including rum, gin, and vodka. My review today focuses on the Dread River Straight Bourbon Whiskey, a flavorful bourbon that, while not chartering any significantly new territory, does capture the palate and offer a whiskey that greatly complements my favorite old-fashioned recipe.

The mission statement featured on the distillery’s website reads as follows, “Dread River symbolizes the chasm between us and where we wanted to go, the relentless torrent of issues and roadblocks, and the frigid fear of failure. In making this distillery a reality, we realized that overcoming our fears isn’t just something we did; it’s who we are. For us, DREAD is not a paralytic. It’s an inspiration, a challenge just waiting to be accepted. Our goal is to inspire our friends to face their fears with us.”

I must say, I appreciate a brand that embraces the darkness and fear that inevitably comes from any new venture. And to enter a market that some may consider over-saturated without any guarantee of success is an admirably bold move, and I’m happy to report that Dread River Straight Bourbon is as fine a bourbon as any I’ve tasted in the recent months.

Created from a recipe of 60% corn, 30% wheat, and 10% malted barley, the flagship bourbon is the first bourbon distilled in Birmingham in over 100 years. As Dugas has stated, “Bourbon is what we got into this business to create. This has been the goal from day one, and almost since day one, we have been laying down barrels of bourbon, waiting for this day to come.”

And after a brief Covid-19 forced-break shortly after opening the distillery in 2019, Dread River Distilling Company came back swinging with their pride-worthy Straight Bourbon.

Dread River Straight Bourbon review

We review Dread River Straight Bourbon, distilled in Birmingham, Alabama from a mash bill of 60% corn, 30% wheat, and 10% malted barley. (image via Jerry Sampson/The Whiskey Wash)

Tasting Notes: Dread River Straight Bourbon

Vital Stats: Mash bill of 60% corn, 30% wheat, and 10% malted barley. 90 Proof (45% ABV). SRP $52.99/750 mL.

Appearance: The whiskey is a dark, rich, amber color packaged in a classic bottle with an attractive label.

Nose: I got so much on the nose from this whiskey, starting with a chemical, inky aroma. Essence of sun-soaked varnished wood, not a classic bourbon nose at all, followed by what can only be recalled as Honeycomb cereal milk.

Palate: Much more the typical bourbon on the palate, light caramel corn and brown butter emerge early, with the residual heat building and compounding into a bold but ephemeral finish. The oak of the cask rested neatly on the middle of the palate, sweet but not too sweet with miniscule spice.

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