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Newest Bourbon Review: Vintage Bourbon

December 20, 2011

Vintage Bourbon Single Barrel Bourbon

This beautiful expression comes from the Willett Family of bourbons. This is their Oldest Single Barrel Bourbon expression that is normally on the market but, is becoming more-and-more limited and is sometimes very hard to find. This is handmade, very well aged bourbon that is prepared and bottled by the Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, Ltd. In my opinion, some of the best, most flavorful and most complex bourbons in the world come not only from the Bourbon Capital of the world (Bardstown, KY) but, from under the roof this distilleries barrel house.

To the bourbon:

94 Proof Single Barrel

Age: 17 years

Bottle Statements:

Handmade in Kentucky

“…Vintage Bourbon is selected from the very rarest lot of barrels…”

“…extra years of barrel aging limits the quantity from each barrel to be bottled…”

First notes:

The presentation of this bottle of bourbon is simple yet, very elegant. The cork topper is bounded by green wax atop the bottle and the age statement (17 years) is proudly labeled across the breast of the bottle.


The color is dreamy and intoxicating. You can almost imagine the flavors and nose right from the color. It has a deep to dark molasses hue with a very rich blood orange tint to it. This comes from the many years of traveling to and from the “Red Layer”. It appearances copiously opaque; showing no signs of over filtering.

First nose:

The first nose right out of the bottle is like walking into a barrel house on a hot summer day. Sweet bourbon, a nose just like the seeping dark sap-like residue coming from a well-aged summer barrel.

Nose in a glass:

Medium to strong oak char notes in the front with a hint of rye spice hitting the top of the nose. This is a very interesting and complex nose. Hints of corn, honey, sugarcane, light resin, dried oak, earthy tobacco and very light gum-epoxy esters emerge.


Palate intensity is mild to medium and slowly builds to its peak. Then slowly turns from the apex into rich oaky char. The flavors are very complex and finishes very differently from the start. A nice pop of rye spice hits the top or your throat near the end of your palate presence curve. Even after a number of minutes the flavors are still on your palate and still evolving. An extremely subdued sweet corn, wheat and apple hits come out well after your sip. On the front, there is a sweet hint of caramel and then moves to a mild to medium pop of rye and then a very slight hint of vanilla rounds things off.


This bourbon is beautiful, rich and complex which keeps bringing you back to the glass. This Vintage Bourbon is how older bourbon should be. Some older bourbons are still over filtered and lack complexity despite their age. While being relatively mellow, there are a number of palate flavor changes that emerge from no-ware. It is no wonder why “The New York Times” Taste Test gave it 3½ out of 4 starts. Ranking it in the top 2 out of 25 well-aged bourbons tested. Malt Advocate gave it a 92 rating. The Willett Family has many award winning bourbons and has become one of my favorite distilleries, period.

This Vintage Bourbon is wonderful sipped neat but, is very nice with a single ice cube or a drop of spring water is the glass. Even though this expression is only a 94 proof libation its spicy palate presence is much more like a higher proof bourbon. This being said, it reacts well to a spot of water, unlike most Wheated and lower proof bourbons do. The nose changes slightly but, the magic happens in the glass. The bit of water opens the rye into hint of apple blossoms and yeast.

For its age, it is a moderately higher priced expression that you should have on your shelf (and kept to yourself if possible). That is if you like a very well-aged, highly spiced rye palate intensity and nose, flavors of medium yet, not overly woody/oaky char while being very well round and complex. If this is true for you, then this bourbon is truly something wonderful that you must try.

Outsider review:

Vintage Bourbon 17 year has notes of molasses, red currant, citrus peel, sandalwood, polished leather, and vanilla cream. Subtle, teasing black licorice and brittle mint emerge from time to time. It is well-balanced, with all the flavors sharing the limelight. This is a beautiful example of mature bourbon.

There will be a new review about every week. Stay tuned in for future reviews. Please write if you have a specific bourbon you would like a review on next!

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