Bourbon Review: Duke Kentucky Straight Bourbon

John Wayne’s Whiskey Reviewed

Back Story* of Duke Bourbon:

Using his well-known moniker “The Duke”, Monument Valley Distillers of California has released DUKE Kentucky Straight Bourbon.  Hand-crafted to match a bottle of Wayne’s favorite bourbon from the early 60’s in his private collection, various small batches were meticulously blended to create the flavors and aromas preferred by the Duke, then aged in heavily charred American oak barrels.

If you’re in the Bourbon community and familiar with the current Non Distiller Producer (NDP) controversy you’ll notice a lot of buzz words in this bourbons description. Things like”hand-crafted”, “meticulously blended” and “various small batches” automatically jump out. I could easily use this entire post to talk about the smoke and mirrors of Duke Bourbon (Monument Valley Distillers isn’t a distillery) but Bourbon Truth has already done a good job investigating. After reading the review I’d suggest checking out his post here: Wayne’s World. The dispute boils down to whether or not John Wayne’s name is being slapped on a bottle of cheap booze to sell it for more than it’s worth.

I used the “*” with back story because it’s up to you to decide to what extent you believe the back story of Duke Bourbon. Bourbon writer’s have told their own back story for this bourbon which is ” Son of John Wayne profits from his father’s name by capitalizing on the bourbon boom”. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. His son, Ethan Wayne, said“Our goal with the DUKE was to make a Bourbon that embodies the spirit, strength and richness my father personified while realizing his unfulfilled dream of distilling fine spirits.” I want to believe that Ethan Wayne was trying to honor his father’s legacy and love of whiskey with this bourbon. Perhaps, this was the best bourbon he was able to source due to current bourbon shortages. He could have easily priced it much higher than $35. I’ve seen plenty NDP’s release bourbons of similar quality at a much higher price or with much worse back story’s to go with the bottle. 

Some of my favorite bourbons come from NDP’s so any controversy about the back story is nothing more than a distraction from the bourbon. Let us not judge a bourbon by the actions of it’s owners but by the contents of its bottle. One more item of note is that aside from the NDP tiff Duke bourbon is being sued by Duke University for patent infringement.

Duke Bourbon Review:

Duke Bourbon Review #2















Nose: Light sweetness. Peppery and slightly fruity

Taste: Charred cornbread, fresh cracked pepper, has a young wood taste to it. Not the oaky flavor you get from older whiskies but more of a pine taste. Tastes a little bit like banana taffy.

Overall: In my opinion this is a$30-$35 bottle with $20 bourbon in it. If you’re a big John Wayne fan that may not bother you. I once spent $15 on a six pack of Coke’s because there was a Jacksonville Jaguars logo on them. The coke tasted the same but I liked the bottle. All in the name of “collector’s item” or “memorabilia”, I guess. If you’re looking for something you’ll want to drink I’d just grab 1.75 liters of Wild Turkey 101 (the rumored source) for the same price. It’s definitely no True Grit or The Searchers.

This one will probably sit on the shelf a while or be used as a mixer. This is who finished the tasting for me:




    Do the owners of wild turkey have a history of selling to ndp’s ? This is the first time I have ever heard of it

    I ve seen this in Kentucky and was wondering about it. I just ordered a bottle off of Caskers and will give it a whirl. My main reason for ordering it is because my Father-in-law said that Duke University was trying to put a stop to it because of the name. Maybe Ill mix it with some Ale-8-one. I could only hope that it would taste as good as the 101. Nice article, great info. Keep up the good work!

    Great post. This definitely is something I would NOT buy, even without reading your post, because it has NDP written all over it, but it’s always great to get the back story. Keep the info coming!

    I opened one last night . It was a gift from a co worker . Nice balanced Bourbon . Neat I was very pleased !

    concur with the author. Not a great bourbon to be sipped neat, more of a mixer and a novelty. I like the bottle, though, but wouldn’t invest in another. Cheers!

    I was given a bottle the other day opened it. I had it neat,the way bourbon should be consumed. It’s no Blantons but it’s much better than most small batches I’ve had. I think it has a bit more of a bite than eagle rare and I wouldn’t say its better but I personally like it.

    I was given a bottle the other day opened it. I had it neat,the way bourbon should be consumed. It’s no Blantons but it’s much better than most small batches I’ve had. I think it has a bit more of a bite than eagle rare and I wouldn’t say its better but being the bourbon snob I am ,I personally like it.

    I cant afford the 1oo+ Pappy van winkles, but for smaqll batch bourbons, of the lower prive range goes, The Duke is pretty fricking awesome. The flavor range is acceptable going from corn to sweet, and the cough fatctor were you go from freaking out to oh cap that’s hot is pretty hot, is pretty wide. All in all, keeping in mind I can’t afford a Pappy Van winkle, this is a pretty damn fine Bourbon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I’m not going to consider myself a burbon aficionados. I recently was offered some Duke from my best friend. I actually enjoyed it and found the taste very similar to other burbons in the same price range. I really like the bottle and given the history its a great conversation piece that always leads into some good social drinking.

    just bought a bottle and tried it over one cube. Nothing memorable. It’s OK but I agree with others who have said Turkey 101 beats it and, at least in FL, Turkey is $30 for a 1.75!!

    I just tried it and actually quite like the taste. I like woodford reserve and bulleit type tastes and this fits in quite nice.
    I also just bought a bottle of Eagle Rare which I am about to taste. Pretty new to the bourbon world but love it!

    I was given a sip of this “Duke” tonight by an old friend who received it as a gift. No nose, odd combination of harshness and over-sweetness at first, with no aftertaste. I have had a lot of WT101 and you can believe me when I say this is no WT101.

    I find it ridiculous the Duke University feels the need to sue! Everyone knows and realizes John Wayne as the “Duke’!!!!

    I find it ridiculous that Duke University feels the need to sue; everyone knows and realizes John Wayne as the “Duke”! One has absolutely nothing to do with the other. Amazing

    I am a big John Wayne fan and was going to buy the bourbon as I’m a bourbon girl here in KY as well. (a.) I love the review here – GREAT job. (b.) DUKE University should have better things to do with their $ but it is probably a Liberal thing. I named my dog “The Duke” Miller, hope they don’t find out!

    I’ drink mainly Buffalo Trace neat. I received a bottle of Duke as a gift for dog sitting and I really liked it. Never tried WT 101 but I will now.

    Have this in my stock and everyone always asks to try it. Pretty decent for price as always on sale for around $26. I enjoy it and keep it on hand always.

    stopped by the nc abc store this evening for some duke’s bourbon only to be told that all bottles in nc have been pulled off the shelves. there is a small cloudy looking residue that showed up in the bottom of the bottles and were pulled. i have no other info. anybody heard anything?

    I just found a bottle for $15 clearance at my local Kroger. I have researched and understand the drinking habits of “the Duke”. They weren’t particular.

    First of all I have to qualify this by saying I’m a huge Duke fan. And I paid in the low 20’s for a bottle at Meyers. I knew it was most likely bottled by another known distillery. Plus I’m from KY and love bourbon. I was pleasantly surprised by the smooth test. It reminds me too of wild turkey 101. I drink it neat. It’s worth $25. I won’t drink all the time but maybe time to time.

    I picked up a bottle last week at Meijer for $23, mainly from curiosity and pretty sure from the outset that it was yet another “sourced” bourbon. Maybe it has improved since the initial review but I thought it was actually pretty good. Very smooth and lots of floral notes, it actually didn’t remind me so much of WT101 as of some of the better ryes! Will be keeping some of this around, unless it goes down the tubes the way some NDP bourbons have.

    Unless I have a non-typical bottle, I don’t think Duke Wayne would mind having his name slapped on this.

    Time to re-taste this one, I was skeptical as well at first to try their “new” and “improved” whiskey, but after several attempts by their sales rep I was forced to try it. Boy am I glad I did, not only the new bottle looks much better (unlike the gimmicky cowboy one), but the juice inside was much better. I also got to taste their “reserve” stuff which is an older whiskey finished in Wine barrels (Napa I believe), this one is the one that blew my mind. I can’t wait to see what you think.

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