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. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link in this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
It seems like everyone thinks that being a successful whiskey company requires a strong tie to history. This leads companies to tie their brand’s identity to old distillers or distilleries that have nothing to do with the operation of the brand they are selling. This can lead to some confusion for consumers that don’t read into a brand. In the case of RD1 (Registered Distillery One), they are inspired by the first licensed distillery in Lexington, Kentucky. I won’t bury the lead – RD1 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished with Brazilian Amburana Wood is delicious. But their branding leaves me a bit baffled.
The history that RD1 was inspired by is certainly an interesting one. The phrase inspired by is key here, and you have to look on their website to get clarity that they do not actually have a connection to the history they tell. They share the story of Ashland Distillery, the first distillery to be licensed in Lexington, Kentucky. That distillery was founded in 1865 and became quite the large operation before shuttering during prohibition.
According to their website, RD1 was founded in 2020 by “Lexington entrepreneurs” – you can view who all is working with the company on another page, but the brief and impersonal story of how this brand came about speaks volumes. Whatever the history, they clearly put together a solid team and have introduced some good products. They started off with the label Old Wm. Tarr then established the RD1 brand with two bourbons, one finished in French Oak. They have now expanded the RD1 line with a Amburana Wood finish and a Maple Wood finish. While I do not have bottles of their other offerings to look at, for both of the new additions the label only mentions that they are bottling the product, where this is distilled or aged is unknown beyond the fact that it had to be made in Kentucky.
The bottle I am looking at in this review is the RD1 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished with Brazilian Amburana Wood. I have only had a spirit finished with this wood one other time – that was Novo Fogo’s Colibri. There are several other brands I have not had the pleasure of trying that have utilized this wood in whiskey.
Amburana brings an intense cinnamon quality to the spirit that evidently pairs just as well with cachaça as it does bourbon. RD1 is using wood that has been drilled in a honeycomb pattern to increase surface area and quicken the finishing process. It is hard to say if there is too much of the Amburana since I am a huge fan of the flavor it brings.
Vital Stats: Bottled at 55% ABV. Finished with Brazilian Amburana Wood. MSRP of $79.99 per 750ml bottle.
Appearance: This is a honey color with a little bit of an orange tint to it.
Nose: This smells like a cinnamon roll with cream cheese frosting and caramel. That is to say I get notes of sweet cinnamon, vanilla, caramel, brown sugar, and pastry.
Palate: Up front is a dry warming cinnamon. This is followed by flavors of nutmeg, clove, and brown sugar. It transitions into a lingering fresh cinnamon with a hint of oak and caramel. I found that adding water skewed the balance of this in a way I didn’t like, the cinnamon was still there but there was something unpleasant when diluted.