15 STARS First West Fine Aged Rye Review & Tasting Notes


In 2022, a father-and-son team named Rick and Ricky Johnson started a new venture called 15 STARS. The name was inspired by Kentucky, the 15th state to join the United States. Back then, the US flag had 15 stars and 15 stripes, and that's where the company's name comes from.

Rick has extensive industry experience, while Ricky is his college graduate son learning from him. 15 STARS’s operations, including distillation and bottling, are located at Bardstown Bourbon Company.


“At 15 STARS, we take pride in producing outstanding aged whiskey. We meticulously craft all our products using only the finest quality materials. This includes selectively sourcing fine aged whiskeys, marrying different mash bills and aged stocks to add complexity, distilling rare and unique proprietary grains, barrel entry proofs as low as 103, and “flavor proofing” at bottling for a superior neat drinking experience. Sparing no expense or effort in our pursuit for great whiskey, we only bottle whiskeys that meet our highest standards.” – 15 STARS


I was first introduced to 15 STARS last year when I had the opportunity to review 15 STARS Triple Cask Bourbon. Today, we’ll explore 15 STARS First West Fine Aged Rye.


First West refers to Kentucky, which, in 1795, was the westernmost state in our young nation. It is a blend of straight Rye whiskeys aged 6-, 7-, and 8-years sourced from undisclosed distilleries in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana. Presumably, the Indiana component is MGP. With the others, your guess is as good as mine. First West is the initial Rye blend that 15 STARS has undertaken. Bottled at 57.5% ABV (105°), a 750ml package has a suggested price of $89.99. Distribution is limited to Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee and can be ordered from 15 STARS website.


Before I #DrinkCurious and explore this American Rye, I must thank 15 STARS for providing me with a sample in exchange for my no-strings-attached, honest review.


Appearance: I poured this whiskey into my Glencairn glass to sip neat. Its color was that of tarnished copper. It formed a medium with sticky droplets that clung to the wall.


Nose: When I brought the glass just under my nostrils, I smelled rye spice, floral rye, cocoa, pears, and blackberries. When I took the air into my mouth, I detected vanilla.


Palate: This full-bodied whiskey heralded tastes of honey, cinnamon spice, and dried cherries on the front of my palate. Notes of caramel, nutmeg, and candied ginger followed. The back suggested flavors of dry oak, cocoa powder, and tobacco.


Finish: The extra-long finish included a ton of caramel, cocoa powder, tobacco, and barrel char. As it began to fall off, ginger spice ramped up, almost stating, Hey, we’re not done here! I’d clock it about two minutes before everything was said and done.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Interestingly, First West tasted more like a high-rye Bourbon than an American Rye. If you’re into spice bombs, this won’t tickle your fancy. This is a delicious blend; while the mashbills aren’t disclosed, I’d guess some, if not all, are close to that barely legal (51%) rye content. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. First West Fine Old Aged Rye is one hell of a great whiskey, and I’m thrilled to have it in my whiskey library – a Bottle rating for sure. Rick and Ricky know what they’re doing. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you to do so responsibly.