Kessler American Blended Whiskey Review

Kessler American Blended Whiskey Review

Kessler American Blended Whiskey is a exactly what its name suggests… an American Blended Whiskey. Which means it has at least 20% of some kind of straight whiskey blended with neutral grain spirits. Being an ABW it can also include additional colors and flavors.

Kessler Whiskey got it’s start in Colorado back in 1888 by Julius Kessler. Kessler was an old west business man who originally sold his whiskey in the time honored tradition of the Fuller Brush Man. That is to say he did it by going from saloon door to saloon door to hock his alcoholic wares. He and his business were successful and continued to grow until he gave it all up in 1921. Some call it a retirement, but I think prohibition settling in might have had more than a little something to do with it.

In 1935 (2 years after prohibition ended) the Kessler Whiskey brand was bought by The Seagram Company and through it’s later dissolution the Kessler brand ended up being owned by what is now Beam Suntory and is currently the #2 American Blended Whiskey in the world behind Seagram’s 7. That’s quite the adventure for a brand that start out being sold door to door at Saloons in a small town in Colorado.

Kessler American Blended Whiskey Review

ABV: 40%
Age: NAS
Price: $12
Distiller: Jim Beam

Dark caramel

Light nose without much going on. There is a watery caramel, some grainy corn, a weak spice and an alcohol kick that reminds me of smell of Smirnoff vodka.

Alcohol driven with a light nutty character comes first followed by some light notes of watery caramel, corn, a weak spice and an even weaker vanilla.

Alcohol, watery caramel and a light nuttiness fade out on a medium pace.

Alcohol heavy and off balance with a thin weak body and watery texture.

Kessler American Blended Whiskey isn’t very good. It smells like a cheap bourbon that’s been watered down and mixed with vodka and it tastes much the same. It’s easy to see why this is so popular as a cocktail mixer. It’s light, doesn’t add any major amount of flavor or aroma to whatever you’re making; just fades into the background. As both a mixer and as a whiskey in general it’s much better than Seagram’s 7 so, while that’s not saying much, at least it’s got that going for it.

SCORE: 62/100

Josh Peters

Josh Peters

I read about, think about, write about, and drink whisk(e)y. In short, it's my passion.
Josh Peters

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37 Responses to Kessler American Blended Whiskey Review

    • I didn’t say it before, but thanks for the comment. I Don’t want to write it all out again, but if you look at the reply I made to Dan about this it’ll all make sense. Basically the two of you have pushed some of the things I”ve been thinking about to the front and I’m going to make a few changes on here. Update ideology and methodology a bit to some things I’ve been considering for a while, but just haven’t taken action on. So… thanks again 🙂



  1. Josh,

    I have to agree with David.

    What is the redeeming quality of this stuff, other than the fact that it has alcohol in it? Why not just call it out for what it is, and thereby raise the actual ratings by default of those spirits that are well-made?

    Seems to me that whiskey reviewers are reluctant to call out junk for what it really is.

    The spirit from Lynchburg is a perfect example. It’s irrelevant that it is so popular, the truth is that it’s not very good. The same with Budweiser beer. It’s awful and barely palatable only the fact that it’s so popular apparently makes it better than the junk that it is? Nope. It’s still junk regardless of its popularity.

    There ought to be a real baseline that these spirits should hit, and if they don’t they should be called out for it. This review to me sounds like this spirit is not good, so why not give it a comparable number to show that it’s not good? The description of your 75 rating says that is means that the whiskey is “still worth trying.” But the review itself doesn’t suggest a thing worthy about it. Sorry to sound so critical on this, but I see this on almost every whiskey review site I hit.

    I follow your site and appreciate your reviews regardless of my criticism on this.


    • Hey Dan,

      First, thank you. I appreciate the comment and the criticism and you know what… you make some good points. This is something I’ve, believe it or not, been giving a lot of thought to. I’ve had several great conversations with folks over the last 3 or 4 months both online and off about ratings and scores and my conclusion is that I need to adjust the scale to more accurately reflect different levels of whisky and not try to make things fit into guidelines I initially wrote over 2 years ago when I first thought about re-starting this site and wanted to whiskey cocktails to have a bigger place on the site than I’ve given them the last year.

      I still make them quite often at home, I just don’t post about them as much and so one of the requirements I had, and still carry but arguably shouldn’t, is it’s ability to enhance a cocktail and so while I still wouldn’t put it at 60 (that’s Seagram’s 7 territory) It might be more fitting around 70… maybe 69, but it got a bump due to fitting that cocktail segment I laid out. When mixing the alcohol notes get masked and it lends a nuttiness to some of the prohibition & pre-prohibition era cocktails I like experimenting with that specifically call for American Whiskey (not bourbon or rye, “non-specific” stuff like this).

      Palate, experiences, etc. all lend to changing ideas and I’ve recently been reading back through a lot of my older reviews and thinking about them and scoring and all of that stuff (I’m single again, so I have a lot of extra time on my hands these days). Doing that I’ve picked out about a dozen reviews out of the 200+ I’ve done in the last 1 1/2 years that I should go back and edit under some new revised scoring guidelines I’ve been mulling over and this is going to be added to the list.

      Thanks for your candor, your insight, your criticism and for being a reader. I appreciate it all.



  2. Josh,
    Thankyou for your reply. I appreciate your consideration. I follow your site and mainly agree with your tasting notes throughout. It’s a bit of a “thing” for me that bad bottles aren’t properly identified sometimes as such. I appreciate you listening to what i had to say.
    Keep up the good work!!

  3. I have to agree with the last couple of comments.

    Have been drinking Kesslers for YEARS and have ALWAYS loved it. Through and through. HOWEVER lol, it is NOT my go-to bourbon, but it definitely makes a suitable substation when low on funds ( see : kids and things they need lol ).

  4. I enjoy drinking Kessler. I think it mixes well in a Manhattan with Punt e Mes, aromatic bitters and a liberal dose of Cherry Heering. It is a richer American blended whiskey than Fleishmann’s, Seagrams 7, Wilson, Philadelphia Club, or Old Thompson, and has more character than Canadian Club. It is hard to find in my area and I have to drive out of the way to get it, but it is worth it to me.

  5. I been drinking Kessler for years and really enjoy it over ice during Happy Hour. Drinking it on a regular basis allows me to enjoy many of the higher priced bourbons and single malts on a less regular basis without feeling gilty.

  6. Bought my first fifth of Kesslers today. Just wanted to try something different from my usual picks. Was pleasantly surprised how smooth and tasteful it is. Screw all the “ratings”. I just enjoyed it and will purchase it again.

  7. Just tried this for the first time at a local bar.
    Not bad at all for a lower end, bottom shelf American Blended Whiskey.
    I haven’t had Seagram’s 7 in years to compare it to, but I feel this is better.

  8. I buy this cheap stuff to mix with RC Cola to get drunk faster and cheaper than beer. That is it. Jack Daniels is ok in my coffee. Early Times is for unexpected visitors and relatives. My preferred booze is R&R or windsor Canadian, to other cheap bottles of booze. I drink maybe half a gallon a year total of hard booze. Coffee and water are my first choices for beverages, and 2nd tier beer is third. I am a retired working poor, just muddling along quietly. Is Kessler good? Not really, but I don’t care.

  9. Oh , I remember this one from the early 80’s . From what I recall , it was actually pretty damn smooth . If I remember right , it was kinda nutty too … I liked it back then , but I was a teenager … I liked all sorts of things I wasnt supposed to be drinking [ Mainly Jim Beam White :)] . Heck , I liked Canadian Mist back then too . If it were available in a flask sized bottle , I’d probably buy one to retry after all these years

  10. Just a thought,

    While I by no means am a professional, I have drank and am drinking Kessler. Yes it is cheap. Yes it is weak. I personally call it Pvt. Kessler simply because I grew up drinking it where there was no shine available. That being said. I will continue to drink the cheap stuff.
    There are lots of what you might call tastefull whiskey’s out there. Generally with a top shelf price above the top. Truth is I could not care more about them. (My opinion) I drink what to me is easy to drink. Kessler is not available everywhere but for some reason it is very popular much the way I believe it is and this is why it it so popular. Just because it is expensive doesnt make it any better. Again (my opinion)! I rate it a (85)

    • Hey Gene,

      Thanks for sharing and I 100% agree with the sentiment that just because it’s expensive doesn’t make it amazing. I’ve had plenty of expensive whisky that was not much better than a “meh” and plenty of cheaper whiskey that I love (Wild Turkey 101!). Drinking what you like is the important thing. Cheers!

  11. Kessler is the best cheap whiskey its not that far below evan williams or jim beam but yes it does have a wateriness which makes it seem like not a genuine whiskey.

  12. There seems to be a lot of bitterness over Kesslers not receiving an “F” here. However, I think most of those that seem bitter are lacking perspective. For what Kesslers is, it’s “ok”. Kesslers has no aspirations to be the best whiskey out there, not even a Jim beam white. Having drank a lot of this in college, I’ll tell you where it really shines, as a “well” mixed with coke. Jim white label also mixes great with coke but as a broke college student that was considered a luxury. Is Kesslers a bottom tier whiskey? Absolutely! However, that’s why it is so popular as it fits the needs of a “well whiskey” perfectly. It puts on no airs and fits the bill it is intended to. I think there are too many whiskey snobs out there that forget the bottom shelf products have their place as well. I have a few expensive bottles on my shelf to drink neat but still keep a bottle of Kesslers or Jim white around for the occasional whiskey and coke (they are quite delicious). Not to mention the fact everyone’s palate is different, so any review is subjective. Sorry, I’ll step off my soap box now…

  13. When I drink a shot of any whiskey, within seven minutes or so, I will start to feel relaxed.
    This is why I drink whiskey.

    The discussion of whiskey reminds me of the discussion about pipes and pipe tobacco. When I went into a pipe shop, the people behind the counter used to talk about the pipe as it was a piece of furniture. They even had pamphlets on how to load a pipe and light it. I guess it was more complicated then put the tobacco in a pipe, lite tobacco and suck.

    The people behind the counter would then discuss pipe tobacco like it was Jesus’ second coming. There was a snob appeal to fancy pipes and tobacco.

    Rating Whiskey reminds me of this.

    If you like it, drink it. No one knows what you like better than yourself.

    • Yes… I say that all the time, just drink what you like. As for just shooting whiskey is what blended stuff like this and most vodka is created for. 20+ Year Old first-fill sherry cask scotch is not created for shooting. You can shoot it, it’s your money, but that’s not what it was created for. Same with high-end tobacco, tequila, mezcal, etc. If all you like to do is shoot booze and get drunk do it. If you like to sit, sip, think about and enjoy what you’re drinking then come join us here; that’s what this is for.


  14. I have a question for you Josh. I received 2 1.5 liter bottles of Kessler from a family member that they picked up from an old farm sale. It looks like the bottle say (4 84) on the bottom. They have the old paper seal across the top cap. Not wanting to be rude I opened one and shared it with the visitors at the time of getting it. It doesn’t taste bad at all with a splash of coke in a 10 oz glass. Do you think the remaining unopened full bottle is worth much? Thanks!

    • Hey Jeff. The older stuff (80s like yours) is probably much better than the current stuff. You’re definitely better off drinking it than trying to sell it. Blended American whiskey like this rarely goes for more than $30-$40 on the secondary. It’s not a sought-after thing. Cheers!

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