2022 was a big year for Stephen and Paul Beam’s Limestone Branch Distillery of Lebanon, Kentucky. After years of selling a variety of sourced whiskey, 2022 was the year they debuted their first in-house distilled product in the form of Yellowstone Family Recipe Bourbon, effectively starting a new era for the company. But at the same time, they also continue to tinker with the sourced blends that got them where they are today, including the annual Limited Edition Bourbon series, which typically sets itself apart through secondary maturation in unique styles of reused casks.
This year’s 2022 Limited Edition Bourbon turns to the classic Italian fortified wine known as marsala, and specifically the aged variant labeled “marsala superiore.” Typically fruit-forward and nutty in flavor, with a slightly oxidized profile reminiscent of some styles of sherry, marsala isn’t something you see as a bourbon finishing cask very often.
The whiskey headed into those casks, meanwhile, comes from a blend of 7, 15 and 16-year-old Kentucky straight bourbon barrels. Like previous Yellowstone Limited Edition releases, the barrels are then married and proof to 50.5% ABV (101 proof). It retails for a fairly reasonable $100—not cheap, but this is actually significantly more affordable than most comparable “LE” releases from Kentucky distilleries, particularly ones with notable secondary finishes and extra-matured whiskey involved.
So with all that said, let’s get to tasting and see how the marsala casks may come through in this bourbon.
On the nose, I’m getting moderate impressions of citrus and stone fruit, along with a lot of dark caramel, perhaps just on the edge of “burnt.” There’s significant toasted grain as well, with a certain maltiness that almost suggests malted milk balls, along with delicate impressions of dried fruit. Ethanol here strikes me as perhaps a touch hot for the proof. It’s pleasant, though it doesn’t necessarily remind me of marsala specifically.
On the palate, the Yellowstone Limited Edition 2022 is quite rich and upfront in its sweetness, pushing some big notes of caramelized sugar and fruit to the forefront. The caramel here is again very dark in nature, bordering on molasses-like, combining with chocolate hazelnut and stone fruit, along with citrus acidity. Again, though, I find it surprisingly grain forward, especially given some of the advanced age statements involved, though I must note that the silky texture is overall very nice. Oak is moderate in intensity, but it feels sort of “neutral” and disconnected from the proceedings.
All in all, there are appreciable elements here, but it simultaneously feels like perhaps a little something is missing. The marsala is likely involved in contributing some of the fruit notes, and maybe some nuttiness, but its contribution may be too nebulous for some drinkers to really suss out or dissect. The bourbon puts its rich, sweet elements up front, which will no doubt win it some fans, but characteristics that feel younger in profile detract a little from the effect. Another revisit on this one may be warranted.
Distillery: Limestone Branch Distillery
City: Lebanon, KY
Style: Blend of Kentucky bourbons
ABV: 50.5% (101 proof)
Availability: 750 ml bottles, $100 MSRP
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident beer and liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.