In 2018, Barton Distillery, makers of Very Old Barton Bottled In Bond, shook up the bottom shelf of liquor stores everywhere by altering the label of their entry level bottle. No longer would VOB wear the Bottled In Bond designation. It did retain the same proof it had always been bottled at along with 80, 86 and 90 proof options. VOB would no longer be associated with any sort of age statement either (it had went from 6 to 4 years old before losing it entirely).
The price remained the same and that is what most drinkers care about. I never got a chance to taste the old 6 year BiB version of VOB, but would this Non-age stated 100 proof offering impress me enough to want to seek out a taste of the older ones? Let’s take a look. I sampled this neat in a glencairn to find out.
Nose: A pleasantly bright nose brings forth scents of berry cobbler, peppermint candy cane and vanilla. There are some heavier notes as well with oak, caramel and a scent that is hard to describe but comes off as “buttery leather.”
Palate: A bit hot, otherwise there are some nice berry notes that carry over from the nose. Other flavors include vanilla, snickerdoodle cookies and a touch of leather and tobacco. The Saigon cinnamon spice and some ground ginger are a bit of a wild card that sometimes makes the sip too hot and sometimes can be tucked into the background allowing the other flavors to shine through.
Finish: A little bit drying on the finish, but the high-rye mashbill makes itself known with cinnamon spice, cloves and a hint of mint. The oak becomes stronger and a bit more bitter. Overall, it seems like it’s been nicely aged but still has some rough spots.
Many parts of this dram had me wondering out loud if this still contained a decent amount of 6 year old barrels in the batch. Some of the flavors and scents contained enough aged oak and leather to make me think this was more aged than it’s perceived to be.
But before you think I’m giving it too much credit, I do find that this waffles back and forth between tasting well-aged and somewhat young. The heat may come off as a bit uncontrolled, but the bright berry notes were a nice treat that you’re not going to find in bottles under $20.
If a score of 6 out of 10 seems like it’s not worth your time, then let me say that for the record, this is worth every dollar and then some. There are many bottles that populate the bottom shelf that go all the way up to $40 and almost all of them don’t give the complexity that this bottle does.
Many of the Heaven Hill and Jim Beam bottles that share real estate with VOB are more like one-trick ponies; offering basically caramel, vanilla and some nuttiness. But for VOB to contain fruits, tannins, baking spices and some rye notes all in a bottle this inexpensive, it’s a no-brainer that this is secretly the darling of the bottom shelf hiding in plain sight.
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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