Very Old Barton

Last week, I reviewed the Luxco owned, Limestone Branch bottled, 2015 Limited Edition Yellowstone Bourbon Whiskey. In my original review, I erroneously stated that Yellowstone, a brand that has been around since the 1870's, performed poorly in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Stephen Beam (master distiller at Limestone Branch) kindly corrected me on our Facebook page and noted that his family's Yellowstone was actually the top selling bourbon in Kentucky in the 1960s before bourbon interest leveled off and sales rapidly declined.

To my surprise, another well-known whiskey man commented on that Facebook thread. Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Famer Chuck Cowdery wrote:

"The top selling bourbon in Kentucky tends to be one that is traditional, solidly well made, and cheap. Very Old Barton is another example."

I responded to Colonel Cowdery's message by pouring three fingers of Very Old Barton (VOB) and writing some notes. I later found this 2013 blog post, in which he recommends VOB as a "best kept secret."

VOB is made at the Barton 1792 Distillery (f.k.a. the Tom Moore Distillery) in Bardstown, KY which is owned by Sazerac. Barton produces several versions- there are 80, 86, 90, and 100 proof (Bottled in Bond) products on the shelves. While I'm not sure exactly which VOB Chuck Cowdery and other writers enjoy the most, I'd bet that most of them prefer the 100 proof. For one, you can cut your 100 proof bourbon to whatever proof you like (or not at all); second, the BiB version still carries a 6-year age statement (I think).

The 86 proof bourbon annoyingly displays a number 6 on the neck, but that doesn't mean it's 6-year-old whiskey. It is believed to be a blend of bourbons aged between 4 and 6 years old, some funny business rightfully criticized by Steve Ury and further discussed in the peer reviews below.

So I sip on the 86 proof Very Old Barton amid some hype and amid some controversy, but with little to only cost me $11. 

Very Old Barton

Barton 1792 Distillery
86 proof (NAS)
$11 at ABC in Columbia, SC

Color: Light amber. 

Nose:  Gentle nose, but very inviting. Sweet and classic with corn, vanilla frosting, caramel, vanilla, and baked bread. I get baked apples too, reminiscent of the Original Pancake House's Big Apple pancake, but not that delicious...

Tasting Notes: Watery apple juice, honey sweetness, bitter wood. The fastest finish of any bourbon I have ever sipped. The lingering flavors are cinnamon, pepper, and steely medicine. 

Overall: C+. The bright side is this: the only bottle I have that costs less is Military Special, which is also a 4-year-old Barton product. The bad news is that they're both a little rough around the edges. But for the price, it's no wonder why VOB is in demand.