REVIEW: Spiritless Kentucky 74 Non-Alcoholic Bourbon
Non-alcoholic spirits have exploded over the past two years.
Research company IWSR pegged 2020 sales growth for NA spirits at 32.7%. And all signs point to this being just the beginning. Consumers are searching for alcohol alternatives, and with what feels like weekly new entries in the alcohol-free spirits market, there is no shortage of choices to replace your gin, whiskey, tequila, rum, vodka, or other preferred spirit with a non-alcoholic version.
But this hasn’t always been the case.
If you look back even 12-18 months to the start of 2020, the options for non-alcoholic spirits were quite limited. If you liked gin, you were ok. But anything else and it was a challenge to find even one or two good options to replace your traditional cocktail of choice. This was exactly the problem facing Lauren Chitwood, Abby Ferguson and Lexie Larsen, three Kentucky-based event producers struggling to find a non-alcoholic beverage “that wasn’t bland” to serve at a client’s event.
The Spirit of Kentucky
The trio eventually realized that they couldn’t find a non-alcoholic spirit that felt right because there was a giant state-shaped hole in the market: Kentucky Bourbon. Louisville-based, these entrepreneurs, like all Kentuckians, love the rich, smoky experience that comes from a glass of Kentucky bourbon. But no options existed for those looking to replicate this experience without the alcohol.
Pretty quickly, they understood why. Most non-alcoholic spirits on the market stack flavors atop a water base in an effort to replicate the original experience. But with Kentucky bourbon’s complexity, the group didn’t believe they could ever produce a satisfying experience using this method. So, they decided to go in another direction, and get into an industry as old as the state itself…
Spiritless Kentucky 74 is Born
The 74th licensed distillery in the state of Kentucky, Spiritless launched its first non-alcoholic beverage in early 2020: Spiritless Kentucky 74 Non-Alcoholic Bourbon.
To craft this non-alcoholic spirit, the company first combines a grain-neutral spirit and hand-selected chars of oak to make a high-proof alcoholic spirit. Then they use the process of reverse distillation to remove the alcohol-from this spirit, leaving behind a rich, flavor-packed non-alcoholic drink that features all the same notes you’d expect from a sip of Kentucky bourbon, just without the alcohol.
This unique reverse-distillation process has quickly set Spiritless apart from the pack, making it one of the most talked about and enjoyed non-alcoholic spirits in our community. In fact, shortly after it debuted we included Spiritless Kentucky 74 Non-Alcoholic Bourbon on our list of the 11 Best Non-Alcoholic Spirits to Try in 2021. Our first taste was just that good…
Speaking of taste, let’s dive into our full review of Spiritless Kentucky 74 Non-Alcoholic Bourbon.
Review: Spiritless Kentucky 74 Non-Alcoholic Bourbon
Co-Founder Chitwood has described Spiritless Kentucky 74 Bourbon’s flavor as “…your second drink with an ice cube in it.” Which is an accurate description. Kentucky bourbon is 40% alcohol by volume, and when you remove this much of the drink’s essence, there is definitely going to be a noticeable change in texture and flavor. But this is why Spiritless’ unique strategy really works – they don’t just reverse distill a typical bourbon. They reverse distill their unique high-proof spirit, which gives them more control over what the final product looks, feels, and tastes like.
And that taste is unmistakable. Oak. Vanilla. Smokey caramel. All the traditional flavors of Kentucky bourbon make an appearance in Kentucky 74, along with an interesting heat that is reminiscent of a peppery ginger. The experience is quite flavorful and unlike anything we’ve seen so far in the non-alcoholic spirits category. That said, you still need to expect the beverage to feel a little thin compared to the traditional, as you do with all NA spirits, but this really won’t be of any issue if you primarily use your Spiritless Kentucky 74 in mixed drinks.
Speaking of which, while Spiritless recommends using Kentucky 74 exclusively in cocktails, we do actually believe this is about as close as any non-alcoholic spirit has come to being one you can enjoy neat. The flavors really are that interesting and bold. Though with so many great non-alcoholic cocktail recipes out there, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a handful that work for you and your tastes.
On the nutrition front, Spiritless Kentucky 74 clocks in at 15 calories per 2oz serving, with 4g carbohydrates and 1g sugar. Its ingredients include Oak Extract, Water, Natural Flavors, Glycerine, Sugar, Citric Acid, Xantham Gum, Sodium Benzoate (preservative), Potassium Sorbate (preservative).
Final Thoughts: Spiritless Kentucky 74 Non-Alcoholic Bourbon
If you ever have a chance to visit Kentucky, you’ll quickly realize just how special bourbon is to their culture. It’s a way of life they’ve embraced for centuries, and one of which they are incredibly protective. Which is why it’s so great to see that the first strong entry into the non-alcoholic bourbon space is from a trio of three talented Kentucky women.
Spiritless Kentucky 74 Non-Alcoholic Bourbon gets a lot of things right. The bottle is beautiful. The process they use to craft the spirit is unique. The flavors and aromas ring true to what makes Kentucky bourbon such a beloved drink. Everything they do is done with care, which is exactly how Kentucky bourbon should be made.
Overall, we think anyone who loves the rich experience of bourbon and bourbon cocktails will really enjoy Spiritless Kentucky 74 Non-Alcoholic Bourbon. It’s certainly earned a permanent spot on our NA bar cart…