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Bardstown Bourbon Company Brandy Barrel Honey Ale Cask

Bardstown Bourbon Company Brandy Barrel Honey Ale Cask

Finished in Goodwood Brewing Brandy Barrel Honey Ale Casks

Bardstown Bourbon Company’s early attempts in their Collaboration Series saw a rather unique and complex product that came about when they took 11 year old MGP bourbon (the low rye mashbill) and “polished” it (their word for finishing) in Goodwood Brewing Company’s “Brandy Barrel Honey Ale Casks.”

That’s a mouthful to say, let alone type.  I imagine what that means is that the barrels originally started their life aging Brandy.  Then, Goodwood Brewery sourced them and dumped their Honey Ale beer in to impart the flavors they wanted.  Now, a third liquid sees the insides of these barrels: bourbon.  

Bardstown is unique in their finishing, err, polishing process in the fact that they don’t seem to continuously taste the bourbon to see when it’s peaked.  Rather, they just let it all set for 18 months regardless of what happens.   From what I know about the barrel finishes, this is not the best method for doing it, but Bardstown Bourbon Co. has done this for 9 releases now, so apparently something is going right. 

I had to search for a while this bottle because it’s an Indiana and Kentucky-only release, but I figured it was worth it since I’m such a big fan of finished MGP bourbons.  So how does it taste?  I sat down with my trusty glencairn to find out.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Scents of orange muffins, figs/prunes and cognac/brandy immediately hit my nose. The rye in the bourbon mashbill shines through a bit with pine scented candles, soft cinnamon, and some brown sugar.  There’s also a faint aroma of vanilla that hides in the background.

Palate: “Mimosas” is the first thing that pops to my mind when I taste this.  There’s an unmistakable citrus profile that is mingled with the bubbly sweetness of champagne.  This may make sense since a carbonated beer probably soaked into the barrel that once held spirits distilled from grapes.  There are some great spices here like peppercorns, cardamom, clove and chili powder, but it’s the latter that really adds a punch of heat.  One of the most unique flavors that this dram has going on tastes a lot like a Thanksgiving cranberry and orange salad.  Mint and cherry flavored tobacco leaf hint at the bourbon distillate hiding beneath.

Finish: The finish contains a large amount of mint, which I’m surprised by.  But notes of crystalized honey, citrus rinds and fruit leathers keeps the sweetness.  I am able to detect some drying oak and wood char as well, but it all feels disjointed and slightly lacking in sweetness. 

Score: 7.3/10

My score on this one doesn’t fully put into perspective all of the thoughts I had about this bourbon.  First of all, it did not entirely taste like a bourbon.  Was it strong like a spirit?  Yes.  Did it have bold, nuanced flavors?  Yes.  Does its bourbon base shine through, letting the finishing barrel add subtle complexity? No.

My issue lies with the fact that the Brandy/Honey Ale flavors have completely covered up the base MGP bourbon.  And at 110.1 proof, I would’ve expected that the bourbon would’ve still been strong enough to resist the finishing barrel effects, especially at $130-140.  But they are not.

Final Thoughts

If I had to compare this bourbon to another recent release, I’d immediately say “Parker’s Heritage Orange Curacao Finished Bourbon.”  This is because many others found that bourbon to become completely cloaked behind the strong Orange Curacao barrels that they were finished in.  To some master blenders/tasters, this may be their goal. 

But Nancy Fraley, the nose and tongue behind Joseph Magnus Cigar Blends, is adamant that finished whiskies can change in a matter of days from being great to being undrinkable.  And although this BBC release isn’t undrinkable, it’s certainly not what I, or many of us, probably expected when buying such an expensive bottle.  I was a fan of Bardstown Bourbon Co’s Armagnac finished bourbon, but what this example has shown me is that not all of these releases will be of equal greatness.

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Rating Breakdown

1 | Disgusting | Drain pour (Example: Jeffers Creek)

2 | Poor | Forced myself to drink it

3 | Bad | Flawed (AD Laws 4 Grain BiB, Clyde Mays anything)

4 | Sub-par | Many things I’d rather have (Tincup 10 year)

5 | Good | Good, solid, ordinary (Larceny, Sazerac Rye)

6 | Very Good | Better than average (Buffalo Trace, OGD BiB)

7 | Great | Well above average (Old Ezra Barrel Proof, Old Weller Antique)

8 | Excellent | Exceptional (Michter’s Barrel Proof Rye, Four Roses Barrel Strength)

9 | Incredible | Extraordinary (GTS, 13 Year MGP or Canadian Rye)

10 | Insurpassable | Nothing Else Comes Close (William Larue Weller)

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