The Mystery Behind What Brand Supplies Costco's Kirkland Bourbon

Costco's Kirkland Signature bourbon has been something of a mystery. While we've known for some time that Costco does not make it, the question of who supplies the popular bourbon (and your other favorite Costco alcohols) has been a topic of much debate among enthusiasts.

According to an Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau filing approved in 2011, Jim Beam once produced it. However, at some point, Costco moved on to the distillery George Dickel. It's tough to know for sure when the switch happened or what caused it. When Punch reached out to Annette Alvarez-Peters, Costco's assistant general merchandise manager, in 2017, she responded, "We don't disclose how we develop Kirkland Signature." However, the mystery surrounding the supplier of Costco's Kirkland Signature bourbon was solved in 2021 when Costco released three new varieties of Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey from Barton 1792 Distillery: Bottled in Bond, Small Batch, and Single Barrel. 

How do we know these come from Barton? It's printed right on the label. So what's the difference between the newer varieties and the older George Dickel 7-Year-Old Tennessee Bourbon, and how do they stack up against one other? Join us as we uncork the secrets behind this tasty tipple and explore all the complexities of the change-up.

George Dickel vs. Barton 1792 Distillery

When it comes to bourbon, there are two key players in the game: Tennessee and Kentucky. Both states boast a rich history of distillation but have different takes on bourbon. While Kentucky bourbon is made with at least 51% corn and must be aged in new, charred oak barrels, Tennessee whiskey bourbon is filtered through charcoal prior to aging, giving it a distinct smoothness.

Within Kentucky, Barton 1792 Distillery stands out as one of the oldest distilleries. Owned by the Sazerac Company, the distillery has operated in Bardstown since 1879. Over the years, it has perfected its bourbon-making process, resulting in a range of excellent products that showcase the unique flavors of the region, including a Sweet Wheat Bourbon, an Aged Twelve Years Bourbon, and the 1792 Small Batch variety that's used to produce Costco's Kirkland Signature bourbon.

George Dickel, on the other hand, hails from Tullahoma, Tennessee. Its bourbon is also filtered through charcoal but chilled to 40 degrees Fahrenheit beforehand, giving it a smooth, mellow taste. Unlike Barton 1792, George Dickel produces fewer varieties of bourbon and is mainly focused on whiskey (yes, it's slightly different than bourbon), which is what made the Costco Kirkland 7-Year-Old Tennessee Bourbon so unique.

Costco's Kirkland Signature Barton 1792 tasting notes

It's important to note that while the Barton 1792 Distillery might now produce Costco's Kirkland Signature bourbon, the flavor profiles found in Barton's 1792 small batch bourbon (and other varieties) are likely slightly different than the tasting notes you'll uncover when sipping the Costco version.

For example, the Kirkland Signature Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey label describes the bourbon as "Enjoyably smooth with its notes of oak and rye spice accented by vanilla and caramel. These notes grow and melt together, ending in a sweet, lingering finish." 

Those sweeter notes seemed to be mirrored in a taste test from Liquor Laboratory that painted the Kirkland Signature small batch variety as "Memorable because you'll taste a hint of banana-flavored candy, rye spice, cinnamon, honey sweetness, and a hint of walnut."

Those reviews differ slightly from the flavors found in a 2022 review of the Barton 1792 small batch bourbon, which boasts "bold notes of caramel and toasted oak run throughout, making this a great budget option for sipping or mixing in whiskey cocktails."

Regardless of the slight differences, it's nice to see Costco being more transparent about how it produces its Kirkland Signature alcohols. With the Barton 1792 Distillery name on the bourbon label, it's easier to discern exactly where the spirit comes from and how to mix it into your cocktails.