Unfortunately for you, dear reader, this is one of those weeks where I just don’t have a lot of time to dig into a quality dram that absolutely must have a place in your cabinet, or spend hours researching the backstory of some obscure bourbon. I would totally forgive you for reading this sentence (this stuff isn’t worth your time, don’t buy it) and then moving on with your life having preserved 4-5 minutes of your existence for other endeavors.
Since you’re still here, we’ll dispense with the verbosity and point out the one glaring characteristic of this bottom-shelfer bourbon: IT HAS NO VINTAGE ON IT. How do you name a brand “Kentucky Vintage” and then completely omit any kind of vintage? Even a bottling year? I guess for $22 bourbon you aren’t supposed to ask any questions.
Ok, this is “small batch” Kentucky straight bourbon made in Bardstown, Kentucky by Willett (DSP-KY-78). It’s bottled at 45% ABV. The label manages to use a lot of words to say basically nothing about the whiskey or how it was made, so that’s par for the course. It’s not clear whether this is sourced bourbon or if Willett is distilling it, but my guess is the former. I found it to be quite different (and quite a bit worse) than Old Bardstown, which is actually distilled by Willett. I guess there’s some rumor that Kentucky Vintage is 10 years old, but I can’t find anything that substantiates that. If true, it would mean it was sourced. My bottle is from “Batch QBC No 18-16”.
Nose: Initial notes are of sawdust and hay. Very dry, with a lot of splintery oak and dry corn husks (the kind you’d use to make tamales). After a rest in the glass and a lot of effort trying to tease out some notes, I find an unpleasant corn syrup note followed by an even more unpleasant nail polish remover note.
Palate: Full bodied. Woody up front, and a note of birch beer. The tongue burn is mild. Roasted chestnuts, cola, and maybe a hint of cinnamon.
Finish: Medium-short. A little sweetness finally appears, mostly in the form of cola and black licorice. The finish is drying and there is very little bitterness. Fades somewhat quickly without evolving.
With Water: Several drops of water initially sweeten up the aroma with a Jordan Almond or marzipan note. The palate also seems sweeter, but only a little. The finish also picks up that sweetened almond note. Add the water only after you try it without, to see if the change is a positive one for you.
Overall: I really like that birch beer note, and I’m not opposed to a bourbon being on the dry side. That said, there isn’t much else going on here, and if you spend too much time trying to analyze it you end up with some off-flavors like acetone. I’ve had better bourbons under $20, and I’ve definitely had better from Willet. Nothing to see here, move along.