The Food Issue

Straight talk about barrel-aged bourbon and rye from Lenexa’s Union Horse Distilling

Union Horse Distilling Co. is getting ready to release straight bourbon whiskey and straight rye whiskey that has been maturing since 2011.
Union Horse Distilling Co. is getting ready to release straight bourbon whiskey and straight rye whiskey that has been maturing since 2011. The Star

Whiskey takes patience, and the folks at Union Horse Distilling Co. (formerly Dark Horse Distillery) this month are releasing the results of theirs with a Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey and Reunion Straight Rye Whiskey.

If those sound familiar, that’s because Union Horse has long sold younger versions of bourbon and rye under similar names. But these longer-aged spirits show what time can do, distiller Patrick Garcia says.

“The more we got into the process, the more we confirmed that these are actually not only as good as but better than the previous products,” he says.

Union Horse has always made its bourbon with 80 percent corn and 20 percent rye grain; the rye whiskey is still all rye. But where the distillery’s initial whiskey offerings were aged in small barrels to speed the maturation process, its newest products are coming out of the traditional 53-gallon barrels Garcia began filling in 2011. That means they more than qualify for the “straight” label, which by law requires at least two years’ aging in charred new oak barrels.

It was worth the wait, Garcia says. The Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey (92 proof) delivers a sweet-tart apple aroma on the nose, followed by what he describes as a succession of cherry wood, caramel apple and almost sweet barbecue flavors.

“It’s got a very good balance,” Garcia says. “There’s a little spice on the back end — that’s the rye.”

The Reunion Straight Rye Whiskey (93 proof) delivers all the spice and floral notes you’d expect, but with what director of sales and marketing Damian Garcia describes as almonds, nougat and a rounded finish.

“It’s got a bit of sweetness, but not as much as bourbon,” he adds. “It’s very surprising that with the makeup of 100 percent rye it comes through.”

▪ Union Horse Distilling Co., 11740 W. 86th Terrace, Lenexa, 913-492-3275,

Damian Garcia, Union Horse Distilling Co.’s director of sales and marketing, considers this his go-to cocktail. He and his siblings (Patrick Garcia, Eric Garcia and Mary Garcia Gallagher) and entrepreneur Kris Hennessy founded the distillery in 2010. They now make Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Reunion Straight Rye Whiskey, Rider Vodka and Long Shot White Whiskey and distribute their spirits in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.


Makes 1 drink

2 ounces Reunion Straight Rye Whiskey

1 ounce Carpano Antica Formula vermouth

3 dashes Angostura bitters

Maraschino cherry, for garnish (Garcia prefers the Luxardo brand)

Combine rye whiskey, vermouth and bitters in a mixing glass. Fill with ice and stir until cold. Strain into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass and garnish.

Per drink: 174 calories (none from fat), no fat, no cholesterol, 2 grams carbohydrates, no protein, 8 milligrams sodium, no dietary fiber.