In the world of non alcoholic whiskeys and bourbons, Spiritless Kentucky 74 is unique.
Instead of going the route of trying to replicate the flavor of whiskey or bourbon, their unique process actually takes a very high proof bourbon and then separates the liquid and alcohol through distillation. They then add in what they call, “the essence of bourbon” to give Kentucky 74 a bourbon’esk flavor and feel.
Kentucky 74 was released early in 2020.
Based on online reviews, it seems to have a very mixed reception with this distilled non alcoholic spirit. People seem to love it or hate it.
Today, I’m going to take a taste, and let you know my thoughts on Spiritless Kentucky 74.
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I just poured myself a couple ounces of Kentucky 74 and spent the last 5 minutes smelling this liquid trying to figure out if I could accurately describe what it.
Honestly, that’s a little difficult to do as the main thing that I can think of when smelling this is that it smells just like a medicine that I had to take as a child.
To describe that scent a bit, it reminds me of really sour smelling apple juice.
To me, I don’t pick up on any type of notes that would be typical for a bourbon.
This just smells like bad 80s medicine.
Can my review just be an emoji?
What is this?
Not only does it smell like medicine, it has a tremendous medicinal flavor to it.
It starts off incredibly sour and then moves to bitter.
Once you swallow, it makes your mouth dry and leaves a terrible taste in the finish.
I know that the bottle states that it should be used in NA cocktails, but I don’t understand how in the world this is supposed to stand in for bourbon.
This is awful.
I don’t say that lightly.
If you’ve read my other reviews, I think I’m pretty fair. I have given each one of the non alcoholic spirits I’ve tried a fair shot.
I’ve given praise and criticism where deserved, but I can’t see any positives with Kentucky 74.
At least not drinking it neat.
Maybe the addition of mixers is going to release the hidden oaky, smokey, vanilla, caramel flavors that are waiting anxiously under the surface to come out and play…
I am being facetious here, but at this point, I can’t understand how this could be used in any cocktail.
It’s just not good.
On the Rocks
I won’t do it.
Spiritless Bourbon Cocktails
So now we’ve come to the part of the review that Spiritless states Kentucky 74 was designed for.
On the bottle it states “distilled non-alcoholic spirit for bourbon cocktails.”
I’m being hopeful with this, but after reviewing multiple alcohol free whiskeys I have yet to find one that tasted different when mixed in a cocktail.
Spiritless lists 3 nonalcoholic cocktail recipes on their website.
Typically, I’d go with the Old Fashioned recipe, but since I really don’t like the flavor of this by itself, I’m going to go with one of the recipes that has more ingredients, so there’s less direct focus on the Kentucky 74.
Spiritless Whiskey Sour
- 2 ounces Spiritless Kentucky 74
- 1 ounce egg whites
- 1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
- .75 ounces simple syrup
- Lemon wedge
- Combine Kentucky 74, lemon juice, and simple syrup in mixing glass
- Add ice and stir until well chilled
- Strain into second mixing glass and add in egg whites
- Froth with milk frother until frothy
- Pour into old fashioned glass with large whisky ice
- Place lemon wedge as garnish
I was very hopeful that the Kentucky 74 in a cocktail was going to drastically change the flavor…
Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
The first sip of the Spiritless Whiskey Sour and the first thing I can still taste is the medicinal flavor of the Kentucky 74.
This time though, with the addition of the lemon, it makes it taste like lemon medicine.
The terrible part though, is that during the finish, the flavor in the back of my throat reminds me of the flavor of vomit. I think the aftertaste of the Kentucky 74, with the addition of the acidity from the lemon is what creates this impression.
I was really hoping that the inclusion of all of the extra ingredients would cover up or do something with this nonalcoholic spirit, but that’s not the case.
It still tastes very medicinal, just now with a lemony flavor. Then moves into a reminder of the flavor of vomit. Finishing off with a bitter feeling in the mouth.
I really wish I could write something positive about this, but I just don’t like it at all.
Spiritless Mint Julep
- 2 ounces Spiritless Kentucky 74
- .5 ounce simple syrup
- Fresh mint leaves
- Add 3 or 4 mint leaves and simple syrup into small mason glass
- Muddle mint leaves in with the simple syrup
- Add in the Kentucky 74
- Fill with crushed ice and stir until cold
- Place a mint sprig on the side of the glass for garnish
Spiritless New Fashioned
- 2 ounces Kentucky 74
- .5 ounce simple syrup
- Angostura bitters
- Orange peel
- Combine simple syrup and Kentucky 74 into mixing glass
- Add 3 dashes of bitters and fill beyond the liquid with ice
- Stir well to combine ingredients and chill
- Strain into an old fashioned glass with a whisky ice cube
- Zest orange peel over the glass and then place on top as garnish
In the Spirit of Fairness
It’s apparent through this review that I don’t like this zero proof spirit at all.
However, I have seen a lot of positive reviews for it both written and on YouTube. It would be easy to just say that they must be fake reviews, but there are some YouTubers who had really positive things to say about it and as far as I can tell, they don’t have anything to gain by lying.
I have also seen a number of reviews mentioning how bad it is. Including multiple references to people thinking it tasted like medicine and then a video where a guy thought it had a terrible bitter taste after swishing it around in his mouth.
Because of this, I asked my wife to taste it and give me her impression.
Now, my wife doesn’t like hard liquor unless it’s really sugared up. She tasted an old fashioned I made the other day and her body convulsed. So, I figured it’d give a good perspective to this.
Her impressions of Kentucky 74 were moderately positive.
She thought it smelled like alcohol and had a bourbon type flavor, though watered down.
She said that it had an okay flavor overall.
After she finished telling me her thoughts, I asked her to take another sip and then asked her if she had tasted any of the medicinal flavor. She said she did taste a little bit, but that it wasn’t a bad flavor to her. Just a little bitter.
She didn’t have any type of impression that I did regarding it and again had a moderately positive feeling toward it.
I was a bit shocked by this, and was surprised we had tasted the same thing.
In my mind, I can’t understand how anyone could have a positive experience toward Kentucky 74, but this does help demonstrate what I had seen online with the drastic split in opinion from the reviews.
I’m not sure if it’s the distillation process that they use or what, but something about Kentucky 74 makes it taste drastically different from person to person.
To me, this is by far the worst non alcoholic whiskey or bourbon that I’ve tried, but due to the other reviews I’ve seen and my wife’s impression I can’t say that it’s bad.
So, if you’d like to try the most controversial non alcoholic bourbon on the market today, I’d say you should pick up a bottle of Kentucky 74.
If you do, I hope your taste buds like it!