Green River Distilling Co. originally took shape in 1885, producing fine (i.e. expensive) bourbon from its headquarters in Owensboro, an Ohio River town well west of Kentucky’s north-central distilling core. Highly sought after in Kentucky, the product went on to achieve world recognition via a gold medal at the 1900 Paris Exposition and a grand prize award at the 1905 Liege Exposition.
Sadly—like so many of its compatriots—a fire, Prohibition, and bankruptcy all took a toll in the decades that followed. In 2014, new owners began an ambitious renovation, relaunching in 2016 as O.Z. Tyler before returning to the original Green River moniker in 2020.
All of this rich history made Owensboro Distilling Company (now a subsidiary of Green River) a natural partner for Latitude Beverage Co. when it came time to produce its new Wheel Horse Whiskey bourbon, joining a rye counterpart introduced earlier in 2020.
“It’s an honor to carry on the 135-year tradition of this historic distillery, recently renamed so we could better honor its storied past,” says Jacob Call, Green River’s third-generation Master Distiller and Bardstown native. “We reopened for production in 2016 after being closed for about 25 years, and Wheel Horse was one of the first national brands to show off our whiskey.”
This non-chill filtered Wheel Horse bourbon ($28, 70% corn, 21% rye, 9% malted barley) hits the bottle at 101 proof after aging in charred American oak between two and four years. The result is bold enough to make both casual and experienced customers sit up and take notice.
The nose is heavy with clover honey and spice; it arrives on the palate with a punch of fruit-tempered, peppery rye that eases into brown sugary caramel sweetness on the way down, with a long warm finish. An ice cube or a few drops of water mellow the bourbon just enough for stand-alone drinking, and the high proof makes it a natural pairing for highly flavored foods, cutting nicely through smoky barbecue, curries, Nashville hot chicken, and rich wintery stews.