So I rated Old Bardstown’s 90-proof expression as a “Must Try” for two reasons: It was inexpensive tasty bourbon AND it was own-distilled whiskey from a recent legend in the bourbon game, Drew Kulsveen and the Willett company. Willett had made a name for themselves by bottling impeccable bourbon from other sources, and I was excited to see bottled bourbon from their own new distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky.
Fast forward a scant few years, and while Willett aka the “Old Bardstown Distilling Company” is still producing their own whiskey, some of the bottles in their lineup remain sourced. This “Estate Bottled” (to distinguish from “Estate Distilled” I guess) bourbon is a “High Corn” (aka low rye) mash bill straight bourbon sourced from some Kentucky distillery – the rumor is that it’s Heaven Hill – and bottled at 101 proof. Older, similar bottles were labelled with a “10 year” age statement, but that statement has been missing from Old Bardstown labels for some time. We can infer this is younger than 10 years old.
Nose: Leather. Quite dry, with notes of sage, musty hay, shoe polish, fresh turned earth, and raw walnuts. Seems fairly shy. After a rest in the glass, there is a more gently sweet undercurrent of creamed corn and toffee. Definitely let this rest.
Palate: Medium bodied. Powerful tongue burn, as expected for 101 proof. Tannic, with an immediate mouth-drying effect. Oaky, with more leather and boot polish up front. Remains very dry.
Finish: On the short side. Corn sweetness creeps in, but is overbalanced by heavy oak, unsweetened almond butter, and tree sap. Fades quickly, leaving a ghost of menthol.
With Water: Several drops of water do little to the aroma… instead making it retreat back into the glass. There is an additional dry, dusty note, like sawdust. Skip the water unless you need to proof it down.
Overall: Meh. It’s not that I dislike dry bourbons – in fact I think it’s refreshing to taste a bourbon that doesn’t drown you in corn syrup – but this replaces traditional sweet corn notes with boot leather and splintery oak juice. I feel that this is overpriced at $33, and I might even be annoyed to have paid $25. I think the own-distilled Willett product is flat better.