So I picked up a bottle of the new labeled version of Old Bardstown because it was on my “to-do” list. It wasn’t until I got it home that I realized that not only is this a Willett product, but it’s actually distilled at the new Willett distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky. Sweet breath of fresh air, a new whiskey on the market that isn’t sourced! Hallelujah!
Bottles in recent memory of Old Bardstown were sourced whiskey (like another Willett product, Johnny Drum), but now that Willett has liquid of legal age it has switched the label and the contents to reflect that. Old Bardstown is a classically styled bourbon, with a mash bill of 72% corn, 13% rye, and 15% malted barley. The whiskey is aged in new charred oak barrels for 4 years and bottled at 45% ABV. I got my bottle for $20, which is about where you’d expect to find a young bourbon with some pedigree and craft sensibilities. (It’s not single-handedly financing a new upstart distillery, so it’s not $50 a bottle.)
The distillery’s new output also goes into a Bottled-in-Bond version, which does not yet enjoy wide distribution. Note that Old Bardstown’s “Estate Bottled” expression has a similar label but a different bottle shape, and is from sourced bourbon.
Nose: Up front there is a lot of wood, with hints of fresh pine lumber. Dry, and a little grassy. A hint of menthol. This actually smells like a young craft rye whiskey. A rest in the glass adds some vanilla sweetness, so it no longer smells dry. The rest gives better balance as well.
Palate: Medium bodied. A fair tongue burn, followed by candied ginger and gingerbread dotted with beads of sappy resin that border on engine grease. A little sweeter than promised by the nose, with cherry cordial developing late.
Finish: Medium-long. A nice balance of cherry and wood. No longer grassy, but somewhat bitter. Fades with a little charcoal.
With Water: A few drops of water mute the nose tickle, and amplify the wood. I don’t think this needs any water, just a rest in the glass.
Overall: Simple, but well-executed. My current house bourbon is Eagle Rare 10, but this could easily replace it if I felt that I was going through it too fast to keep paying 40 bucks a bottle. At $20, this would make a very budget-friendly house bourbon.
I scored this a “Must Try” because I’m so damn happy that there is affordable own-distillery juice coming out of Willett. You may not be as impressed as I was, but if you don’t have a solid house bourbon yet you should definitely take a look at this one. It doesn’t hurt that this bourbon is easily better than a number of $50 craft offerings I’ve sampled in the past.