It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, it’s not quite time for jingle bells and mistletoe. It’s National Bourbon Heritage Month. A whole month to honor America’s Spirit, Bourbon. So, in celebration of this glorious month, I will be posting about all things bourbon. From reviews to musings every word you read this month will be centered around this tasty treat.
To kick things off I thought we would start with a review of one of my favorite ‘bottom-self’ bourbons: Very Old Barton BIB. This tipple comes from the folks over at Barton 1792 Distillery who also produce such drams as 1792 Small Batch Bourbon (used to be Ridgemont Reserve…more info on the court ordered change to the name can be found in this post by Brian Haara over at Sipp’n Corn) and the truly bottom shelf Ten High and Kentucky Tavern Bourbons.
This is one of my favorite, cheap bourbons. It is bottled-in-bond which is a style of distillation straight out of the early days of bourbon. Back in the day there were places who rectified spirits by adding flavorings, artificial colorings, and chemicals to make very young and often un-aged spirits look and taste similar to their aged counterparts. In order to combat these fakes the US Government instituted the very first consumer protection law with the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897. Under direct supervision of the US Government, spirits which were bottled-in-bond had to meet strict criteria for purity and authenticity. While the act doesn’t really apply today because we have other strict rules governing the production of spirits, some distilleries still produced bottled-in-bond products. This is one such spirit.
In order to be bottled-in-bond, the product must come from one distillery, on distillation season, must be aged in a federally bonded warehouse for at least 4 years, and must be bottled at 100 proof (50% ABV). This helps the customer know what they are purchasing. With this product we know it meets these qualifications. However, this also use to be a 6-year-old bourbon. But, as some distilleries have because of supply and demand, Barton has taken off the age statement and left just a ‘6’ on the neck of the bottle (see below) for whatever that is worth. At least we know most of the facts. We have to crack open the bottle to find out what it tastes like. So, let’s get this one open.
VERY OLD BARTON BIB
Distiller: 1792 Barton Distillery
Owner: Sazerac (Owner of Buffalo Trace)
Age: NAS (Used to be 6 Years Old; Now Rumored to be 4-6 Years Old)
Mashbill: 75/15/10 (Corn/Rye/Barley)
Dark honey with an amber/reddish tint.
This one is astringent. I let it sit for 30 minutes and then drank it neat from a Glencairn glass and it still hit my nose pretty strong. Once I was able to work my way through the high-proof curtain I picked up a lot of corn sweetness. Some classic vanilla and caramel were also present. A slight bit of ripe banana lingered in the background. It was not as prominent as I have read in other reviews. This might be because it is most likely younger than it use to be a few years ago. I also get some red fruits and apples. It is a decent nose.
Right away I get sweet corn and caramel. The sweetness tingles the side of the tongue and is quite unique and pleasant. Some rye spice comes in towards the end. Unfortunately, the rye is a little harsh. Think a raw grain taste.
The finish is my favorite part of this tipple. It is medium in length, bordering on long. Rye spice, black pepper, oak, and char dominate. A slight bit of caramel mixes in at the very end. It leaves you with a fairly well-balanced mix of sweet and dry flavors. There is also something floral I cannot quite pin down. It might be a little soapiness but it is not really unpleasant.
The value is good, almost great. It is my favorite bourbon in the price range of $10-15 bourbons. Unfortunately, it is held in the high-end of good because it is not quite as complex and pleasant as the closely priced Wild Turkey 101 (which I reviewed here). It is a good value sipper and a nice mixer for cocktails.
I like this bourbon. It is my second favorite in its price range. It is versatile and pleasant. It is not quite as complex as I would like it to be. It is also only found in Kentucky (maybe some other parts of the South). So, it is held back a bit.
85/100 (A Solid Tipple)