Costco Making Bourbon? Well, Sort of…

Well, it looks the part.  Nice golden hues and has all the right statements on the label.  Aged 7 years, Small Batch, 103 proof, Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, so you would think this is pretty good stuff just from the look.  But as we all know it is getting increasingly difficult to judge a book by its cover…

I found this picture and a review of this new Kirkland Signature whiskey at Matthew Rowley’s excellent blog, Rowley’s Whiskey Forge.  There he details his taste experience with this, unfortunately, less than stellar bourbon.  His first question was who makes it.  After some investigation he concluded that this is a Jim Beam Distillery product.  It looks like a higher proof version of Beam’s Black label bourbon.  Beam Black is aged 8 years, but it is only 90 proof.

I’m not a huge fan of Beam Black, because I think it is too astringent and has far too much wood notes in the flavor profile.  Kind of like sucking on an unflavored tooth pick.  As it turns out these off flavors are intensified in the Kirkland bourbon offering.  It really got panned by three experienced whiskey drinkers in Rowley’s review.  Too bad.  It looks like its heart is in the right place with everything else, but perhaps these are somehow less desirable barrels in the rick house that they have chosen for this juice.  It is like the opposite of Knob Creek, or some of their other small batch offerings where they select the honey barrels to achieve their desired flavor profile.  Who knows, there might be something off in the mash too.

Unfortunately, living in Idaho, the only places that can sell hard alcohol are State run liquor stores, so I haven’t seen this spirit before, and I’m not likely to get some any time soon.  But the fact that Costco is getting into hard liquor sales is a sign of something unique as well.  I know that they have Firestone Walker making beer for them, and my understanding is that it is pretty tasty stuff, I’ve also seen their Kirkland wine as well, so why then would they allow a sub par bourbon with their name on it?

It just all seems a little strange to me.  Obviously they make money doing it, or else they would stop, but why go to the trouble of contracting for a whiskey when it tastes bad.  There are plenty of other good tasting $20 and under bourbons out there, looking at you Ancient Ancient Age Ten Star.  So it seems to make little sense to me.

Have you seen this bourbon?  Have you tried it?  what are your thoughts on this whole thing?  For me, I think that Kirkland should stick to making giant tubs of mixed nuts and leave the bourbon to the pros.

-Don

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113 Comments on “Costco Making Bourbon? Well, Sort of…”

  1. March 29, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

    I would totally pair this with a tasty “premium” Walgreen’s brew!: http://beerandwhiskeybros.com/2011/01/27/sign-of-the-craft-beer-apocolype-walgreens-is-brewing-a-premium-beer/

    • Don
      March 29, 2011 at 12:30 pm #

      You know if other places get into this trend we could have Box Store Pairings!

  2. Chris
    March 29, 2011 at 1:01 pm #

    I have had a couple opportunities to try the Kirkland beers, and I definitely would not agree that that are tasty. Compared to a light/lite beer, yes, Kirkland is a step up. Compared to something like a Sam Adams,Kirkland isn’t better, but it is cheaper so may be worth buying. But unless I’m some day faced with a choice between Bud, Sam Adams, or Kirkland…I wouldn’t recommend their beer. In fact, I’ve got some at my house you can have for free!

    (disclaimer: I’m pretty sure Costco uses different breweries depending on where you live. I’m out east, so the stuff I get most likely isn’t brewed by the same place that brews it out west)

    While I have not had the Kirkland bourbon, I have seen it. And based on my experience with their beers (and now this review you passed along), I have been afraid. In my opinion, Costco might be relying on the opinion lots of their customers have that “if it’s sold at Costco, it must be a really good deal!”

    • Don
      March 29, 2011 at 1:06 pm #

      I think you are right Chris. Also, I understand Kirkland has several different beer styles with their name on it. Perhaps the lager you described is not their best, and yes it would not surprise me at all if you are getting contract brewed beer from somewhere else being out east. The thing is this bourbon is not even a good deal. It retails for $20 which is on the lower end of the spectrum for sure, but if it isn’t any good, why not buy a bourbon that is good. There are a lot of great choices under $20-$25.

    • xy
      February 13, 2014 at 1:39 pm #

      made at the same brewery as basil haden,knob creek,bookers,bakers. not available at costco in NC, but I am told that it is GRRRREAT

  3. johnking82
    March 29, 2011 at 1:15 pm #

    $20 bucks?!?!?! I can get Woodford or anything else for only a couple bucks more. My favorite beer/liqour store is two blocks from my house so I can pick it up and try it, but thats pricey. Maybe I could use it for brewing purposes. I did see a sign outside another liqour store yesterday advertising a Knob Creek Single Batch reserve tasting.

    I’d ship you some via UPS…but UPS isnt a big fan of Mr. King…$50 of homebrew, KBS, and 3 Floyds is somewhere lost in UPS land.

    • johnking82
      March 29, 2011 at 1:17 pm #

      Sorry, Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve.

      • Don
        March 29, 2011 at 1:24 pm #

        I knew what you meant John. And yes, $20 is a pretty steep price tag for bad bourbon. The really bad thing here is that Costco, by and large, sells quality items. I was told once that they sell good quality at a lower proce, so while it might not be the cheapest, it will at least be a good price for what you get. This is decidedly not the case with this bourbon, and what if this is someone’s first experience with the spirit? They might never drink whiskey again if they think this is how it tastes! Bad deal.

        • John
          April 4, 2012 at 8:32 pm #

          Don I think you have tasted too many bourbons and your tase buds are stuck in
          what you think all bourbons should taste like .
          Jim beam owns Bookers,Bakers, Basil Haden & Knob Creek The kirkland Bourbon
          is aged 7years like Bakers But is acually made by Knob Creek but is aged two years less for a lighter barrel taste and 103 proof instead of 100, At 21 bucks
          a liter instead of 30 bucks a fifth ,It’s a good buy We sell allot of it to our members

          just remeber if their is one thing I’ve learned over 30 years in the buisness is everyone has different taste not everybody is right or wrong, This product is selling
          strong as a high end bourbon period

        • Noah
          April 8, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

          I agree. This Kirkland Select Small batch bourbon is not worth the $20 price. I agree with the above comment that there is too much ‘unflavored toothpick’ taste to the finish. The plusses: good nose and reasonable start to the taste. I’m going to try to return it to Costco because it is not what I expected to buy: A premium bourbon. If I want a bourbon to mix with my Coke, I’ll stick with the masters: Beam or JD. Thanks for the great forum!

  4. David
    March 29, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

    I think we have to understand, the name Kirkland only means that another company is making their product for them, and they are repackaging it and selling it for a price that they deem low. Kirkland beers are made by Gordon Biersch and are quite good, Kirkland Vodka is made by a division of Grey Goose and is excellent, and I forget who makes their Tequila, but is pretty good. It’s doubtful that Kirkland Whiskey will be on anyone’s top 10 list, but I would be willing to bet that it will be acceptable, at least.

    • David
      March 29, 2011 at 1:50 pm #

      I should have read the whole article before replying. I stand corrected. Given the quality of the Beer, Vodka and Tequila (I hear the wine is passable too), im surprised.

      • Don
        March 29, 2011 at 2:35 pm #

        No worries David. I too am surprised that they would package a less than passable whiskey. I saw that they had a 19 year old single malt that they repackaged in their brand, I’m pretty sure that would be good, and as you say many of their other beers and spirits are good too, not stellar, and not low end either, but solidly in the middle, and at a good value. That is why it is so surprising that they would have a whiskey that was so questionable. Doesn’t really fit the moniker.

    • sureshot
      June 24, 2011 at 3:26 pm #

      Bear in mind it’s $20 for a liter and you can feel okay about grabbing a bottle of 103 proof.

    • Steve Baker
      January 26, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

      I am very bourbon knowledgeable, lived in Kentucky (where ALL the good bourbon is distilled) and have drank bourbon for 40 years. The Costco bourbon is a decent bourbon at a decent price for a 1 liter bottle. Good body, decent flavor at a decent price. If you know anything about bourbon, which most of these replies seem not too, all bourbons taste different, that is the beauty of bourbon, so many different styles. Costco products are not intended to be ‘top shelf’ but good values for a good product. The Kirkland bourbon, distilled by Jim Beam (the best selling bourbon in the country – check their market share to verify this) and this is simply a private label version they are offering that is different than anything in the standard Jim Beam stable of products. They have an excellent small batch collection – Booker’s, Knob Creek, Baker’s and Basil Hayden; Kirkland is not intended to complete at that level, just a nice product at a nice price – $20 for a liter of 103 proof bourbon is a nice deal- it makes a great Manhattan and at that price is OK for mixing, although again, it is decent on the rocks. And once again, I say that if you truly know bourbon then you know this is a decent bourbon at a decent price, just as their beer and wines are, but not intended to be or compete with top shelf.

  5. March 29, 2011 at 3:29 pm #

    I guess I have one reason to be thankful for living in a controlled state. Don, it’s absolutely true that there will be some barrels that are just plain funky but I doubt that JB would pick these out on purpose to sell under the Kirkland label. I’m not a Beam fan although the new KCSB is better than the normal KC offering. There are a number of distillies that do contract distilling so this one doesn’t surprise me.

    • Don
      March 29, 2011 at 3:32 pm #

      It doesn’t surprise me either Greg that JB did the contract distilling, but I was more than a little surprised to hear it was as bad as it was. Doesn’t anyone at Costco know how bourbon is supposed to taste?

      • March 29, 2011 at 6:42 pm #

        I volunteer the two of us to school ‘em.

        • Don
          March 30, 2011 at 9:34 am #

          I’m in!

  6. March 29, 2011 at 3:54 pm #

    I haven’t tried this yet and don’t think I will. I was told by someone who had that it tasted like floor cleaner (no mention of how he would know this, but whatever) I really hope that someone who is trying Bourbon for the first time doesn’t drink this and think that this is what it’s all about.

    • Don
      March 29, 2011 at 4:05 pm #

      Agreed Keila! Its like the buyer for Costco doesn’t have taste buds, or maybe he is Mormon or something.

  7. David Barker
    March 29, 2011 at 4:43 pm #

    The review is right on the money, but, not only is it a taste disappointment, it’s an expensive taste disappointment. This stuff ain’t for sippin’ it’s for Manhattans.

    • Don
      March 29, 2011 at 4:50 pm #

      I can think of better whiskey that is less expensive for Manhattans.

      • David Barker
        March 29, 2011 at 5:02 pm #

        So can I, but I can’t bring myself to throw it away. When the bottle is empty I’m going to fill it with Jack Daniel’s and sip it.

        • Don
          March 29, 2011 at 5:16 pm #

          I will tell you David, something that has taken me too long to learn, and perhaps you can learn from my mistakes. Life is too short to drink crappy whiskey. Throw it away. You will feel much better about it!

  8. David Barker
    March 29, 2011 at 5:33 pm #

    I don’t think it will make me go blind, it’s the taste I don’t like. The taste gets buried behind the Angostura and expensive vermouth. At a 103 proof it will get me to Nirvana sooner.

  9. johnking82
    March 30, 2011 at 12:28 pm #

    This bourbon is actually a mixture of leftover Beam Black and Knob Creek. Spoke to my buddy who is a bourbon distributor here and he confirmed this.

    • Don
      March 30, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

      It must have some other juice in there as well. The Age Statement on Beam Black is 8 years, and on KC is 9. If it were just those two then the Age Statement on the Costco brand would be 8 years, but it is 7. Thus there must be some younger bourbon in there as well. Whatever it is, it doesn’t work!

  10. Ben
    April 2, 2011 at 12:43 am #

    Hey all–just stumbled on the site–it looks pretty cool. Just wanted to post to say that I’d picked up a bottle of the Kirkland stuff out of curiosity today, and I’ll confirm that it’s not fantastic, but I don’t hate it. Basically, it hits with a big, big vanilla note up front and then there…isn’t much else–whatever subtleties might be lurking are pretty much drowned out by the first flavor and there isn’t much of a finish.

    That said, it is worth noting that it is a 1 Liter bottle, not a 750 ml, so the fair comparison would really be to stuff that sells at 15 dollars a fifth, and in that ballpark…well, it still probably doesn’t stack up to something like the low-proof Weller or Buffalo Trace on sale, but it is better (imho) than standard-issue Beam. My current plan for it is basically to keep it around for May, when I throw a mint julep party with my friends–it will be a fine bourbon for my fourth or fifth julep.

  11. thesouthshallrise
    April 4, 2011 at 8:11 pm #

    Im generally a Woodford Reserve man but this stuff ain’t bad and, at 103 proof, it gives you a real kick in the pants. It tastes to me like a small step down from Knob Creek.I found that it has some similar notes to KC but it is definitely better to mix than to sip. If you are looking for a good bourbon to sip on a special occasion, this isn’t your bottle but if your looking for a higher end well drink that gives you quite a bit of bang for your buck, look no further. Its great for Manhattans, juleps or old fashions. It seems to me that alot of whiskey snobs just turn their nose up at the Costco logo but this isn’t always a smart move. For instance, Costco’s premium vodka is Grey Goose in a different bottle. Their brand definitely carries some good products. While this bourbon lacks the complexity of flavor that more expensive bottles, like my beloved Woodford has, at $19.99 for a 1L bottle, it definitely isnt a bad purchase.

    • Don
      April 5, 2011 at 10:02 am #

      I guess if I wanted a higher proof mixing bourbon I would go with Fighting cock at 103 proof, or Wild Turkey at 101 proof. Both are also good sipping whiskeys and at a comparable price point. Why buy something that isn’t good for sipping when you can truly have the best of both worlds at a reasonable price.

    • Steve Baker
      January 26, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

      To the southshallrise; that is a good piece you wrote and I agree wholeheartedly, as I indicated above (I am Steve Baker). Great buy for $20, good for mixing but not as a straight sipping bourbon on the rocks. I know you are a Woodford guy (a little woody/smoky for me) I am a Maker’s Mark guy as I like a bourbon that is on the sweet side.
      Anyway, I like and agree with your post.

  12. TJ
    April 7, 2011 at 9:49 pm #

    First time poster, first time visitor. I have to interject here to support something someone above has already pointed out: It’s a full liter. That may not mean much, but when folks want to include the price tag in their snobbing, it would be well to understand that it’s not 750mL for $20, it’s a liter/litre. That should adjust some of the tut-tutting about the price.
    As far as the flavor, I’d actually say it’s on the high end for $15 per 750mL. It’s not Maker’s Mark, but as far as a “session” bourbon goes it’s very high quality. The notes of vanilla are there, and while it does produce a dry sensation on the palette, it’s not at all a distasteful one. That’s the heart of aesthetic argument for the feel of this bourbon: it’s not at all distasteful, actually fairly smooth for sipping, and perfectly reliable as a lazy Sunday option. Is it what you put out for your daughter’s wedding? Maybe not, but it’s what you bring on the camping trip or pour when you’re settling in to watch a weekend double-header. What’s amazing is that most of the posters condemning it have yet to taste it at all, but rather see “Kirkland”, translate to Costco, and equate to Walgreen’s. That’s myopic and rather prejudiced. I have to admire Kirkland’s foray into the finer beverages, and I know I’m thankful for their consistent quality and kind pricing.

    • April 7, 2011 at 10:12 pm #

      You had me at “tut tutting” TJ. :)

      I don’t think don has tried this yet, and he has a number of lower shelf whiskeys he really enjoys, so I’m curious to see what his final verdict is on this one when he gets a taste.

      Anyway, thanks for posting and welcome.

    • Don
      April 8, 2011 at 10:40 am #

      Sorry, I’m a bit late to this party TJ, I was travelling yesterday. I did say in the post that I haven’t tried it yet. And, unfortunately it will probably be a long time before I do, because of Idaho’s crazy liquor laws. You make a good point about it being a full liter and I had adjusted for that in my arguments. I can get both 103 proof Fighting Cock and 90 proof Ancient Ancient Age Ten Star for under $15 a bottle, so I figured that was in the ball park price wise. And I was reacting to people saying that they have tried it, but wouldn’t sip it, only mix it. My argument was that if you won’t sip it, there are whiskeys that are better that a good sippers too. So far you are the first one that has said this makes a decent sipping whiskey. That said everyone’s palate is different, and I might like it too. We’ll see if I can ever get any.

    • Steve Baker
      January 26, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

      Nice post, JT, agree with you completely. They also have a really nice selection of private label wine; again, not necessarily top shelf but very good for your everyday drink. Their Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand is actually excellent.

  13. TJ
    April 8, 2011 at 1:03 am #

    aww, youse guys seem right up my alley. if beer is on the agenda, i recommend a trip to the Harpoon brewery, an easy romp up to Boston if you’re on the east coast and like beer.
    their leviathan, particularly the Imperial IPA, is quite good. Next to Bell’s Two-Hearted, maybe my favorite IPA.

    • GRad
      April 15, 2011 at 11:35 am #

      2 hearted is amazing! I’m a midwesterner, and a bit biased, but 2 hearted has the kick and the flavor and I don’t even favor IPA’s at all.

  14. John
    April 8, 2011 at 10:17 pm #

    I just happened to stumble on your website when I was looking for information on Costco’s bourbon. I’m a big fan of their vodka and knew they were selling their own branded tequila, but I didn’t know about the small batch bourbon until I found it at my local store this evening.

    Quite frankly, I’m impressed. I’m not sure that I’ve had a better sipping whiskey at that pricepoint, and I’ve paid a lot more for stuff that wasn’t nearly as good.

    I grew up in the Northwest, so I feel Don’s pain, in that he can’t buy liquor at his local Costco. It’s a shame.

    Anyway, now that I know about this site, I’ll try to stop by once in a while.

    • Don
      April 11, 2011 at 9:09 am #

      Thanks for dropping by John. You know the more replies we get to this post, the more I want to get some of this bourbon to try for myself. People are all over the board with it, some saying it is undrinkable, while others saying it is very good, considering the price point. I am not a bourbon snob and I think that this could be good, I don’t just simply look at the Kirkland label and say it must be crap. That said, there are some good sippers at this price point. Evan Williams, Ancient Ancient Age ten Star, and Fighting Cock to name a few. I’d love to get some, but probably won’t for a time, as you know the Northwest and our crazy liquor laws.

      Thanks for stopping by, and check back in often, I’d love to hear from you more.

  15. Keith
    April 9, 2011 at 2:53 pm #

    Just got back from Costco and opened my bottle of Premium Small Batch Bourbon. $19.99 for 1L and little expectations led to me being satisfied with my experience. This is not the best bourbon, but far from poor quality. It’s actually quite good. Like others have noted, its got an overwhelming vanilla nose that overpowers anything else, but I did taste plenty of wood towards the middle. It does have some bite at the finish…not a real smooth sipper. However, its very drinkable and certainly not a bad purchase for one who looks to have a higher proof bourbon that makes for a great mixer and a decent, budget sipper. Overall, I’m totally happy with this Costco brand bourbon, as I am with all Costco brand liquors I’ve had so far. The Costco Vodka(Grey Goose) is outstanding! I really like what Costco is doing and look forward to them bring more affordable gems to the market.

    • Don
      April 11, 2011 at 9:13 am #

      Sounds like it would be a good outing bourbon. If you go hunting, fishing, hiking, etc. Strong enough to keep the chill off, and good enough to flask or mix with a little coke or coffee to wind down or get started.

      • GRad
        April 15, 2011 at 11:46 am #

        Being from Chicago where our liquor taxes are backbreaking, a 20 buck 100-proofer in a liter is a great steal.

        I bought some yesterday and i’d have to say its a flask keeper, keeps you warm, smells vanilla-y enough to take down quickly and doesn’t have a harsh burn at all.

        Its definitely along Jim’s sweeter palette and goes great for mixing with dr. pepper, but in terms of a slow smell and sipper along with a meal or sitting by a fire, i prefer much smokier tastes.

        In the end, it fits right in the middle where it belongs, its affordable, got some kick, and mixes well.

        • Jeremy
          June 17, 2011 at 11:44 am #

          I highly recommend mixing it with dr. pepper. the strong vanilla flavor mixes perfectly. it’s definitely not a sipping bourbon but good lord is it good mixed!

        • Don
          June 17, 2011 at 4:11 pm #

          Ewww. I HATE mixed drinks with Dr. Pepper. It is undrinkable to me. I’ll drink the Bourbon, I’ll drink the Dr Pepper, I wou’t touch either if they have been mixed! Just my opinion, but if you like it, great ;)

  16. Robert California
    April 13, 2011 at 10:23 pm #

    Having read many negative comments from people who have never even tasted this bourbon really blew my mind. I have just returned from Coscto with my second bottle of this product. That’s right, I am a repeat customer. I’m not saying this bourbon is the be all end all. I’m just saying that it’s a reasonably priced, good tasting, good value dram. Good points made in comments here are the 1 liter size, the value as a mixer, the sipping viability and the Jim Beam Black/Knob Creek theory. My first impression of this bourbon was to relate it to a hot Knob Creek. All in all, I would say that those of us who have more than a couple bottles of whiskey brands around at any given time can not go too wrong by adding this bourbon to their collections.

    I love booze so much I caller her by her first name. I say “Hi Boo”.
    Robert California

    • Don
      April 14, 2011 at 8:58 am #

      Hey Boo. Good points Robert. But you should realize that I was not passing judgement on the product, how could I, I’ve never tasted it, simply reflecting the comments of some who have tried it and didn’t like it. I’m really glad that you and others have chimed in saying it isn’t a bad product at all. I would like to try it. Further my point was that if you don’t like it for sipping straight why buy it at all, since there are good sippers out there that are comparably priced that also make fine mixed drinks. So if this works for you that is great. Like I’ve said, I would love to get some to give it a try. Maybe this summer I can find some in Vegas. We’ll see.

      • Steve Baler
        February 27, 2013 at 8:27 am #

        Everyone is making their own point here, as will I: everyone has different tastes (that’s why Baskin Robbins makes 31 flavors and Heinz makes 57! :-) ), the point is, you will never get a group of people to agree totally; personally I don’t care for the Fighting Cock you keep mentioning. This is just one more bourbon to try (and incidentally for all you of you out there that keep bringing up Jack Daniel’s – JD is not, I repeat -NOT- bourbon, it is whisky.) Anyway, you are corrrect, there are many better options for sipping and again it depends on personal taste, just like beers and wines. I am a fan of the Jim Beam products and always have been. As you say, I can buy a bottle of Jim Beam for $15.00 here in Kentucky but it is 80 proof remember, not 103. Bottom line: it is personal taste. Plus, this is only suppose to be an everyday type drink, not your top shelf, serve to impress bourbon.

  17. Karl
    April 15, 2011 at 7:32 pm #

    Drinking it right now and comparing a glass to Beam Black. Its a little less refined though certainly still good.

    I share the suprise that this Bourbon is no as much of a quality product when compared to all of the other liquors/wines they have put up on a private label.

  18. Brian
    April 16, 2011 at 3:57 pm #

    I am by no means a snob and can frankly say I enjoy everything from muskadine brandy to the wonderful moonshine from my neighbors still. Me? I am partial to George Dickel Barrel Select. Suffice it to say I am very, very impressed with this whiskey. I just picked up my first bottle today and have enjoyed my first glass with just a little ice. I am impressed at amount, price, proof and most importantly: the taste. I am not crazy about the Kirkland beers at all but their foray into the vodka and tequila markets have been spot-on.

    Here’s how I would rank it:
    1) Kirkland Vodka
    2) Kirkland Whiskey
    2) Kirkland Tequila
    4) Kirkland Beer

  19. Rick
    May 15, 2011 at 5:27 pm #

    I picked this up a week ago at the Merrillville IN Costco. Current prices for a few of the various whiskeys Costco carries, adjusted to per 0.75 liter:
    Knob Creek: $26
    Woodford Rsv: $27
    Kirkland: $15
    I’d rate the Kirkland slightly below the other two. Strong vanilla kick initally, followed by a mild wood tone. Not the best whiskey I’ve ever tried, but the very best at this price. Picked up six more bottles, just in case it disappears! It will make a nice drop in gift for 4th of July picnics, etc.

    I often drink JB Black, locally priced at $17 to $18/0.75 liter. The Kirkland easily beats that product, I find the Black lacks complexity.

    • Don
      May 16, 2011 at 9:16 am #

      Hey Rick, thanks for the update. Man I wish Costco carried booze in these parts. $26 for a fifth of Knob Creek?! That beats the State price by a minimum of $8 and up to $10! That would be well worth the price of membership. I too have a Beam Black at home and I use it exclusively for mixing. I find it far too woody to enjoy neat. Someday I might be able to find the Kirkland Bourbon, but the entire Pacific Northwest is locked down with control states, so it probably won’t be anytime soon.

  20. Sean
    May 19, 2011 at 7:17 pm #

    Initially I had reservations regarding this bourbon but like many, being a fan of the vodka and tequila offerings at Costco curiousity won out. I have to say, I do not regret this purchase. Despite the high proof, it is remarkably smooth. The quality for the price is unmatched in my opinion. Although not the very best, this is a VERY worthy product.

    • Don
      June 2, 2011 at 8:54 am #

      Glad you liked it Sean. I just re-read the comment string for this post, and I must say that this is a hotly debated product. Some coming to its defense and others throwing it under the bus. One thing is certain, Costco has generated a lot of buzz about this product. Thanks for chiming in, and come back often :)

  21. MikeChandler
    June 3, 2011 at 8:12 pm #

    Well, I disagree. I just brought my first bottle home.

    It’s no Elijah Craig, but it’s 6 dollars less locally, and is fine with a splash of water. I wouldn’t pick it for the first bourbon of the night again, but it’s not all as bad as I’m hearing. First little taste I could tell it needed water – but that’s the case with some really fine whiskeys too. Some of Four Roses offerings are a bit astringent too. Compared to Maker’s Mark (another easy to get brand locally) it’s better, especially on the finish (an easy finish to beat, I know, but for reference the MM is everywhere), which has some lasting nougat and honey tones.

    It’s not going to my top shelf, and I wouldn’t go out of my way to get it, but by no means am I pouring this down the toilet either. Since it likes water or ice it’s going to get serious mixer testing.

    Just for reference my favorite small batches are Elijah Craig and Four Roses. I drink bourbon whiskeys purely for the tasting pleasure, and I am always glad to try something new. Hat’s off to Costco for taking a nod toward us bourbon drinkers – with some feedback they might land us a very good product.

    Mike

    PS – congratz on a very nice site – glad I found it!

    • Bill S.
      July 6, 2012 at 8:33 pm #

      Agree with you 100% Mike. I tried the Costco small batch Bourbon tonight for first time, and that is the reason I found this website. I was curious as to who was the likely distiller for this. I also have Elijah Craig 12 year as my baseline, and this Costco offering was OK and a reasonable/good value but not stellar. Others commented on the astringentcy, and I would agree there is some of that, but I still like my Elijah Craig for everyday. I go for the Evan Williams single barrel for treats or gift giving.

      • Steve Baker
        February 27, 2013 at 8:39 am #

        I find the comparison to Maker’s Mark, Elijah Craig and Four Roses to be sort of comical -those approach being top shelf bourbon, not everyday mixing bourbon, although the Kirkland works on the rocks, depending on your taste. I am a Maker’s kind of guy but I really enjoy the Four Roses single barrel – older bourbon bottled at 100 proof, excellent neat or on the rocks, semi-sweet, very easy to drink. If you want a really interesting upper shelf bourbon try Old Pogue (small, family owned distillery in northern Kentucky, one for the first distilleries ever establish) and for a treat try the Old Rip Van Winkle 10 year old, 107 proof, distilled at the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, KY – really nice – but these bourbons are not in the same category as this Kirkland product – never were intended to be.
        Don, great site, enjoy reading all the comments and differing opinions.

  22. BruceD
    June 13, 2011 at 10:44 am #

    I too am on the positive side here, and even purchased a second bottle. The guy who described it as a “hot Knob Creek” was spot on. I have tasted them side-by-side and they are very similar, but the Kirkland is a little less refined. It is a very satisfying bourbon at this price. To my taste, there is much more character and depth than the lower cost “sipping” bourbons Bob mentions. As Mike suggests, add a few drops of water to soften it up. You will then have even more than 1 liter to enjoy.

    P.S. I have always wondered why Jack Daniels gets lumped in the same league with premium whiskeys. Am I the only one who finds it rough, lacking, a greatly overrated? When I was in college and there was nothing else available, it was great for shots (man it burned!). 25+ years later, we have much better alternatives.

    Bruce

    • Don
      June 13, 2011 at 2:29 pm #

      Funny thin is Bruce, JD was actually a much better whiskey 25 years ago! I too was a novice drinker that many moons ago, and it did burn like the dickens! I wish I had some of that juice today, I have a feeling I would have a vastly different opinion of the 90 proof JD than today’s 80 proof watered down mess in the black bottle.

      • Steve Baker
        February 27, 2013 at 8:49 am #

        Part of the reason you feel that way about JD is 25 years ago it was bottled at 90 proof, today it is 80 proof. It probably has it’s place but it really doesn’t do much for me, although the JD Single Barrel isn’t too bad – it is 90 proof, and they are coming out with a Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Select this spring that will be is aged in a special slotted barrel that will have much charring for additional body and flavor and bottled at 94 proof. But keep in mind, JD does not qualify as a bourbon and thus is never judged in the same competitive manner. I also like Ancient, Ancient Age – 10 year old, 90 proof.

  23. June 20, 2011 at 12:18 am #

    Kirkland Bourbon – I think your review was a bit harsh. It lacks bite and is low on character. But, for $20 you can’t expect too much and this bourbon is fairly passable. I would never turn it down. Try this: Put just a dash of liquid smoke (any grocer) in it and try it neat. Character improved and, IMHO, turned a $20 bottle of bourbon into a $30 bottle. Write me and tell me what you think at philosophmore@yahoo.com

  24. June 20, 2011 at 12:21 am #

    Bruce – count me in on your opinion. JD is rough but sometimes I just like that. Too refined is, well, for a bourbon, the wrong direction. I’m not a Turkey drinker, mind you, and I am a fan of Knob Creek. Have you ever tried Weller’s Private Reserve? If you like Bourbon, I think you’ll like that one. Its hard to find.

  25. Mike
    June 29, 2011 at 1:56 pm #

    Gentlemen,

    Im in my 60,s and have been drinking bourbon for a while now. Knob Creek its not, but the Kirkland brand isnt a bad tasting bourbon. Unfortunately Costco quit stocking Knob Creek when they came out with their “own” brand. (California) So Unless I want to spend substantially more For Knob Creek at a different store, $20 isnt a bad offering for a “decent” bourbon for a nominal cost. I do, however, keep a bottle of Knob Creek for those special “events”.

    • June 29, 2011 at 1:59 pm #

      At least you can buy bulk hooch at Costco – no such pleasure in New Jersey. Still, it stinks that they ditched the Knob and replaced it with the lower-shelf house stuff.

  26. July 14, 2011 at 12:38 pm #

    They still sell the KH 1.75L in the Kansas City, Mo CostCo. I don’t hate the Kirkland bourbon, it’s not a straight up drinker at all – but honestly, I don’t view anything oer 90 proof as a straight up drinker in my world.

    The bourbon was very drinkable on the rocks or with a splash of water or seltzer. It’d probably make a stellar bourbon and coke.

    And yes, it’s 1L not 750Ml, so you’re getting your money’s worth. I’ll grab some Basil Haydn or (Ri)1 if I want something I enjoy straight up.

    Your mileage and bourbon snobbery may vary.

    -zen

  27. Viktor
    August 5, 2011 at 3:05 pm #

    Plenty of Knob Creek here in SoCal Costco’s. I was just there…. buying two more bottles of Kirkland Bourbon. And remember folks, if you don’t like the high proof, you can ADD WATER. Just like the big boys do.

    Ready for some math?
    At 1L and 103pf, it’s roughly 44 oz of 80 pr. That’s a full 72% more than a standard .75L at 80pr, making the cost-equivalent roughly $11.60 per .75L of 80pf.

    • Don
      August 5, 2011 at 4:16 pm #

      Yeah, but who the hell drinks 80 proof crap, unless you are talking about scotch, then 80 proof can be quite nice. But Bourbon? Give me 90+ on the proof.

      • Steve Baker
        February 27, 2013 at 8:56 am #

        Disagree, Don, Basil Hayden is an EXCELLENT sipping bourbon. Here in Kentucky, the bourbon capital (95% of all bourbon is distilled/bottled in Kentucky) we enjoy a number of 80 proof bourbons. However, bottom line, I am more with you in having a stronger bourbon that offers more body and maybe even a little bite. 80 proofs are for drinking neat and they are good ‘ladies bourbons’ for the ladies in the crowd that enjoy a good drink!

  28. August 8, 2011 at 1:05 pm #

    Good bourbon can be sold everywhere including Costco.

  29. Bryan
    September 7, 2011 at 7:02 am #

    Just wanted to leave a quick note, lumping myself in with the Costco supporters! While I might not be the high end whiskey fanatic, I have tried many hard liquors over the years, and have more recently gotten into whiskey. When I was younger (18-23) I didn’t appreciate the wood flavor of whiskey, but as I have gotten older its become a tasty treat. I enjoy JD, JB, and even my dad’s favorite Wild Turkey. When I was younger I totally relied on Southern Comfort since its nice and sweet… But I have to admit, I enjoy this Kirkland Whiskey. Its a damn good price, especially if you find it when they have it on coupon. And I appreciate the flavor compared to other cheap whiskeys. Good upfront flavor, and not too strong of an aftertaste. It might not be the best whiskey man has ever created, but its damn good for the average guy looking for a decent bottle, especially when you’re already at Costco buying other stuff in bulk. :P

    • Don
      September 7, 2011 at 8:53 am #

      I hear that Bryan, and I would love to actually taste it to get my own impression, but in Idaho the State controls all spirit sales, so it probably won’t happen anytime soon.

      • Steve Baker
        February 27, 2013 at 8:58 am #

        Send me your shipping address and I will get a bottle to you so you can really voice in on this.

  30. Rick
    September 24, 2011 at 11:24 pm #

    Latest Costco run reveals the following new brands:
    Elijah Craig: $19.99 (12y)
    Elijah Craig: $39.99 (18y)

    The old standards dropped $1-$2
    Knob Creek: $24.99
    Woodford Rsv: $24.99

    Best buy Kirkland 1L: $15 was no where in sight!

  31. Gino
    November 26, 2011 at 12:11 am #

    i got right here. it’s a good bourbon, bro.
    gotta remember, costco doesnt deliver the beston its labels, but does deliver quality for the price. its a good $20 bottle here, or what one would normally get for $20 in California.
    BUT… it’s a full litre bottle, not 750ml. that is where the value lies, you get more volume for the money.
    i would compare it a slightly better, smoother version of Jim Beam. I dont llike Beam, i’m a Wild Turkey or Bulleit drinker, but this is not bad at all.
    i wont buy another cause its not my taste, but i dont unrecommend it either.

  32. David
    December 13, 2011 at 12:33 pm #

    I normally drink Woodford Reserve. Sometimes I’ll pick up Gentleman Jack at my local Costco. Last night I saw this Kirkland brand bourbon and bought a bottle. It’s fine. Not the best but certainly not as bad as you and Rowley make it out to be.

    I don’t agree with the review you cite. In it Rowley writes, “Three grown men, whiskey drinkers all, could stomach no more than a total of about 6 ounces of the stuff. “. Please. Are these the wimpiest whiskey drinkers ever?

  33. Karl
    December 24, 2011 at 9:03 pm #

    I just tried this bourbon and all things considered it is excellent. It has some sweet caramel notes with cherry and vanilla. The smoky wood flavors are signature of any bourbon I’ve had.
    I didn’t do a side by side but as far as I am concerned it stands up to Black label, Makers, and even Woodford Reserve.
    Well worth the price and better than regular Beam.

    • Don
      December 27, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

      That sounds like a typical Beam flavor profile. One of these days I’ll be able to give it a try.

  34. Donovan L Kramer
    March 27, 2012 at 8:23 am #

    I like it, not saying i am an expert, but how can Don review something he has not even tasted? Just saying.

    -donovan

  35. Big Mike
    March 31, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

    I’m a big fan of straight bourbon, a little water or a cube. I’m pleased with the Kirkland offering. For me it fits in – taste and quality-wise – somewhere north of Makers Mark and somewhere south of Knob Creek or Woodford. Well below offerings like Booker’s, Blanton’s, and the higher end Four Roses offerings, but I’m not expecting that either. Wild Turkey, Buffalo Trace, the lower end Four Roses, and several others are basically comparable. To compare it to Beam or Jack Daniels is simply unfair – this is a decent bourbon, and those are undrinkable unless you mix them. When you add in the fact that its a litre rather than a fifth, it makes it a very good bargain.

    • Noah
      April 8, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

      Makers, in my opinion, is such a superior bourbon that it is not in the same league as the kirkland offering. The finish of this is too much ‘unflavored toothpick’ and there is too much bite…even if you water it down. In the name of you who are in Costco right now, researching on your iPhone, don’t buy it unless you want a good mixing bourbon. It will stand up with Coke.

      • Rick
        April 10, 2012 at 4:52 pm #

        Just moved to Oregon, somehow 4-liters of Costco Bourbon made it out here too. (Well, it’s down to 3 liters now.)

        Very happy because Costco’s out here shall sell no hard liquor. I’m very sad at the same time because I wish I had packed another case or two. Costco has one of the best $15 whiskys in the country, the best I’ve had, that’s for certain.

        Costco (Kirkland) has more bite and roughness than Knob Creek or Woodford, but two those cost at least 1.8 times as much, per ounce. Have not had Makers in a few years, it is too mild for my tastes.

        If you’re in Costco right now, buy it, by the case!

        • Don
          April 10, 2012 at 8:58 pm #

          Nice for you. I think I prefer Ancient Ancient Age 10 Star. Great hooch at $12 for a fifth! Yum.

        • Noah
          April 10, 2012 at 9:35 pm #

          I can support all that. Beauty is in the eye of the Bourbon-holder after all.

        • Don
          April 10, 2012 at 9:43 pm #

          Now since the Costco stuff isn’t an option you might give it a try.

      • Tim
        October 4, 2012 at 8:54 pm #

        I agree with the finsih analysis. It lacks. This is a decent bourbon but it lacks character. A good Bourbon should have character. Try adding a dash of liquid smoke that you can purchase at any grocer. It is not a complete fix but a great improvement.

  36. May 10, 2012 at 3:49 pm #

    Very woody, medicinal flavor leaving a bitter taste. Still prefer Triple A (Ancient Ancient Age).

    • Steve Baker
      February 27, 2013 at 9:08 am #

      Hey Ken, totally on board with the Triple A comment, I have been drinking triple A for 25 years, didn’t hurt that I lived in Frankfort, KY, where it is distilled/bottled. Really good bourbon and comes at a decent price.

  37. boiler maker
    May 11, 2012 at 10:09 pm #

    well I hear allot of trash talk without actually tasting it, and maybe it depends on what batch you get but the bottle I just bought was very good ,also everyone likes different things but allot of people seem to like Knob and and Woodford and I have to agree but I don’t feel that $20 dollars is a waste of money on the bottle I bottle and batch that I bought

  38. Jeff
    May 18, 2012 at 10:48 pm #

    I’ve tried it and with a little Rye whiskey added to it. It’s rather tasty.

    • Don
      May 19, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

      I like the idea of mixing booze with booze. That’s my kind of cocktail! ;)

      • Noah
        May 21, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

        Yeah…seriously. I like it! Surprisingly, that converted me on this bottle. A nice rye gives it a finish worth consuming. Equal parts.

  39. W. R. Knight, McLean, VA
    May 19, 2012 at 11:50 pm #

    All the house brands, Kirkland included, are made by big name distillers but in general the house brands are the dredges that the big distillers won’t sell under their own label. Selling the stuff to Kirkland and other big chain stores avoids having to dump it and taking a bigger loss.

  40. Rick
    June 8, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

    Just stopped in to the Kennewick, WA Costco, 1l of this Costco booze was 26 bucks! Last paid only $20 in the Mid-West.

    They have dampened my enthusiasm for this brand, and so far I have not found Ancient Ancient Age 10 anywhere in OR/WA.

    (Costco won the right to sell spirits in Washington as of June 1. Apparently the result was higher taxes across the board.)

    • Rick
      July 6, 2012 at 9:49 am #

      Modifying my June 8 comment, Costco has now posted signage at the liquor aisle explaining their egregious prices. Thanks to new WA State spirits taxes, I have revised my ranking on Costco bourbon to “undrinkable”. $35.09. ( Price breakdown: Costco bottle price = $25.99, sales tax @ 20.5% = $5.33, WA state liter tax = $3.77)

      According to our local Oregon state liquor store manager, Washington residents are flocking to Oregon in droves to beat the tax. I grabbed the last bottle of Booker’s before a Washingtonian could hoard it!

    • Mike
      September 4, 2012 at 4:22 pm #

      I think you can only find Ancient Ancient Age in Kentucky and maybe Illinois.

      Mike

      • Don
        September 4, 2012 at 6:17 pm #

        It’s all over Idaho, so obviously it is in otter places, but I don’t know which states carry and which do not.

        Sent from my iPad

        • Rick
          September 4, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

          I see “Ancient Age” all over Washington and Oregon, “Ancient Ancient Age” is nowhere to be found so far. I was in Coeur d’Alene two weeks ago and didn’t think to check!

  41. ted
    July 6, 2012 at 12:16 am #

    Don,
    All due respect, please try it before you say anything else about it.
    John, TJ, and Robert California are right.
    I’m on my second bottle, and I like it.
    Drinking it now.
    I don’t think that it’s crappy or undrinkable.
    Maybe if you tasted it, you would change your mind.
    Ted

  42. clayton
    July 25, 2012 at 12:26 am #

    Bought a bottle for 36 bux in Washington july 24th. First experiment with Costco bourbon. Pretty flavorless a little to bland for my liking. i usually drink Woodford with has a smoky spicyness that Kirkland lacks. that being said 36 for a litter compared to 45 for 750ml is enough for me to get over a bland bourbon. I still prefer Kirkland over anything in its price range in Washington. As far as their vodka and tequila they are both far better than anything else close to their price.

  43. Mike
    September 4, 2012 at 4:15 pm #

    All-in-all their branded products are high quality and a good value. As a bourbon enthusiast, it’s too bad for me this just doesn’t happen to be one of them. Kirkland vodka and tequila are quite good, so I’m not a Kirkland basher. I’ve purchased two bottles of the Kirkland bourbon and have tried a third at a friend’s. While I don’t hate it, for the money there are other better bourbons. And I tend to like beam products so I should be right on board with Kirkland bourbon. I really like Knob Creek (which, if you shop around for 1.75l bottles, you can come out at just over $20/0.75l). Jim Beam Black is good; I have a whole stash of their 7-year distiller’s series which is also excellent. And my favorite price/taste/availability is Old Grand Dad Bonded (Beam owns the OGD distillery, and OGD has a definite Beam flavor), which I can get for about $18/liter. And it’s head and shoulders above the Kirkland. I can also get a liter of Evan Williams for around $12 and I’d say it’s also much better than the Kirkland. Of course tastes and palates vary.

  44. MikeBo
    November 5, 2012 at 11:10 pm #

    It’s not Rock Hill Farms or Hancock’s President’s Reserve, but it’s $20 a liter! I actually like it better than KC which is much more expensive, and much better than Maker’s which (to me) is like gasoline, and costs about the same as what CostCo charges for Jack Daniel’s. It’s a decent bourbon for everyday sippin’… I’ll buy it again.

  45. February 26, 2013 at 2:47 am #

    I think everyone agrees, this is not the best bourbon. Regarding value, I’m curious what people think is a better value: Jack Daniels 1.75l@$40 or Kirkland 1l@$33 (both prices are after tax).

    • Tim
      February 26, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

      Kirkland is the better value. JD is certainly a good standard Bourbon. It seems to have just enough bite and character and not too refined. The Kirkland is a bit more refined (not good in my opinion) and lacks character but when you add a drop of liquid smoke to the Kirkland, it is much improved on the character front.

      • February 27, 2013 at 4:05 am #

        Thanks. What do you all think about Wild Turkey 101 1.75l@$43 vs. Kirkland 1l@$33?

        • Tim
          March 2, 2013 at 11:52 pm #

          Wild Turkey is too different to compare. I am not a Turkey fan. I think it has a metalic after taste, but that’s just me. Obviously its been around long enough to conclude that they do something right. I like the smoother bourbons like Weller’s Private Reserve, Knob Creek, and Makers Mark. Over a camp fire, though, I do like Jack Daniels. I suppose it really comes down to the setting. Enjoying it outdoors, JD is great (the more bite the better). Indoors, before dinner or during cards, smoother the better. If you’re smoking a cigar, its just possible I might learn to like Turkey. :)

    • Steve Baker
      February 27, 2013 at 9:13 am #

      Rich, the Krkland is 1L for $19.99 which would make it $35 for 1.75, plus it is 103 proof and JD is only 80 proof – this does not constitute a fair/equal comparison. Plus, as I keep saying, JD is not bourbon.

      • Ken Deats
        February 27, 2013 at 12:37 pm #

        That’s exactly right. It is Tennessee whiskey with maple flavoring from the barrels. Some folks prefer it. That’s OK; but it’s not strictly bourbon.

      • Rich
        February 27, 2013 at 1:01 pm #

        Thanks for the reply Steve. In Washington there are two taxes. One is a litre tax (~$3.77 per litre) and the other is a sales tax (20.5%). The after tax price for the Kirkland at my store is $33. This litre tax makes higher proof liquors a better deal compared to lower proof liquors when factoring in alcohol strength to value ($ per “alcohol unit”).

        The reason I asked about the comparison between JD and Kirkland (and now WT and Kirkland) is that Costco has JD and of course Kirkland, but not WT (they used to have WT and I hope it comes back. That was a no brainer winner for me at $40 per 1.75l.) I’m looking for something that’s not expensive so I can mix it, but not cheap so I can sip it too.

      • Rick
        February 27, 2013 at 1:12 pm #

        Per crushil, Kirkland bourbon is $33 per l. at Costco, while Wild Turkey is $24.5 per l. He may be from Washington State, Costco has raised their per bottle price there for inexplicable reasons. Then on top of that, Washingtonians voted in a massive liquor tax hike on themselves last June.

        The Costco near me was charging $37 per l including taxes last time I checked.

  46. john
    April 20, 2014 at 1:36 pm #

    Most of you need to go to an AA meeting I truly believe your judgment is impaired!!!!!!!

  47. Paul
    November 20, 2014 at 5:59 pm #

    Perhaps, “Don”, if that’s your real name, you should try a bourbon before you trash it? Just saying…. Knob Creek, Maker’s Mark, Jim Beam Black, Wild turkey, Kirkland’s Signature? They are all a little different. I drink them all from time to time. It’s fun to explore new options, and at $20/ liter, that’s not a bad option.

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  1. Our 7 Most Significant Beer and Whiskey Stories of 2011 | Beer & Whiskey Brothers Blog - December 23, 2011

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