Monday, October 19, 2020

Yellowstone 2020 Limited Edition Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

Fall is what's generally thought to be the time when special release Bourbons come out. That's the perception, but in reality, these limited editions are released all year long - it just depends on what you're after.

Since 2017, I've been reviewing the annual release of Yellowstone Limited Edition. Sourced by Limestone Branch, brothers Steve and Paul Beam do unique things with what they have.  For 2020, they've done something that, if not unique, is at least very unusual. They took a seven-year Kentucky Straight Bourbon and finished it in Armagnac casks. 

Armagnac is my favorite brandy, although it is considered by some to be Cognac's ugly stepsister. Both have to be completely made in their respective regions of France. The varietals differ. Cognac must contain at least 90% Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche, and Colombard grapes. Armagnac is made from Baco 22, Colombard, Old Blanche, and Ugni Blanc varieties. Cognac is made on a pot still, Armagnac on a column. Cognac has a lighter nose and is thought to be less flavorful than Armagnac.

According to Steve Beam:

Armagnac is a rustic, full-bodied spirit that contributes dark fruit notes, complimenting the vanilla notes in the Bourbon. Just like a chef adds spices to enhance flavors, I believe cask-finishing should be similar, where it simply enhances the natural flavor in the Bourbon.

There is no transparency as it pertains to whose distillate this is, but Luxco (Limestone Branch's parent company) has a long-standing relationship with Heaven Hill. As such, you can draw your own conclusions. Like the previous Limited Edition releases, this one weighs in at 101° and costs $99.99.  It is important to note that, unlike other annual releases from distilleries, Limestone Branch has held this price for several years.  There are a total of 5000 cases, and for a change of pace, this Yellowstone comes in a different, more eye-catching bottle.

Before I get to the review, I'd like to thank Luxco for providing me a sample of its 2020 release in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Time to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this Yellowstone presented as true, unadulterated amber. It created a thin rim but fat, heavy legs that raced back to the pool.

Nose:  Aromas of sweeter fruits started things off. Atypical of the kind I normally find, these come from the melon genre: honeydew and canteloupe. Vanilla bean and chocolate were next, followed by a touch of sweet berry. When I breathed the vapor through my lips, the honeydew stood out.

Palate:  Offering a substantial body, things commenced with a blast. Vanilla from the Bourbon was first and took up the entire front of my palate. Mid-palate, dried cherry, raisin, and prunes made me forget entirely about the vanilla. Then, on the back, the fruit changed to citrus peel mixed with very dry, French oak. 

Finish:  The mid-palate fruits returned for a second appearance and spotlighted the Armagnac influence. Cocoa powder, coconut, and French oak stuck around for an enduring finish that ran several minutes. There was also a tingling sensation left behind on the hard palate.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I enjoy Cognac-finished Bourbons and was damned curious what Armagnac would do for one. Now I have that answer. If the Yellowstone 2020 Limited Edition is any indicator, this is something other brands should pay attention to. The Brothers Beam did something lovely here, and this earns my Bottle rating. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


  1. Would you recommend this bottle over Remus Repeal Reserve, Woodford Batch Proof, or Joseph Magnus Triple Cask? Thanks for the review.

    1. This is more affordable than the Woodford, and the Triple Cask depends on if it is Dickel or MGP, that leaves the Remus Repeal Reserve. I've only had Release 3, which I loved. I would take the Yellowstone over it, though. Hope that helps, cheers!