Bardstown Bourbon Company Discovery Series #11 Review
While its own distillate came of age, Bardstown Bourbon Company built an early reputation on sourced blends including its Fusion, Discovery, and cask finished series. The Discovery series especially has taken varied approaches to blending, with bourbon, rye, and corn whiskey sourced from several different states and Canada.
The latest release — Discovery’s 11th iteration — is a blend of Kentucky straight bourbons. And the series finally contains some in-house distillate from Bardstown, in addition to sourced whiskey from other distilleries.
Bardstown Bourbon Company Discovery Series #11 features the following components; as with previous releases, the company lists blend percentages, ages, and mash bills on the side of the label:
- 73 percent is 13 year Kentucky bourbon with a 75 percent corn, 13 percent rye, and 12 percent malted barley mash bill
- 21 percent is 10 year Kentucky bourbon with a 78 percent corn, 13 percent rye, and 9 percent malted barley mash bill
- 6 percent is Bardstown Bourbon Company’s 6 year Kentucky bourbon with a 68 percent corn, 20 percent wheat, and 12 percent malted barley mash bill
This blend of Kentucky straight bourbons features an additional caveat not apparent from the label. Namely, the in-house wheated bourbon was aged in French oak barrels instead of the more traditional American oak. (Which still falls within the “new, charred oak container” stipulation for bourbon whiskey.)
Let’s see how this latest Discovery release — and first with Bardstown Bourbon Company whiskey — tastes.
Bardstown Bourbon Company Discovery Series #11: Stats and Availability
There are about 36,000 bottles of Discovery Series #11 in circulation, and it retails in 24 states as well as select online stories. In my experience, these releases tend to vary significantly in flavor and overall quality. As such, in most markets these bottles tend to stay close to (or just a bit above) suggested retail, which is currently $140. However, stores in certain major markets will sometimes charge a markup, and I’ve seen previous batches on shelves for as high as $250. Given the relatively large release size and constantly changing blends, I’d hesitate to pay a price nearly twice the MSRP.
Bardstown Bourbon Company Discovery Series #11 Review
As with all of VinePair’s whiskey reviews, this was tasted in a Glencairn glass and rested for at least five minutes.
Heavy, darkly roasted nuts lead on the nose, including peanuts, almonds, and cashews. (I live in New York City, and this is a bit like walking by one of those “Nuts 4 Nuts” snack carts.)
The nuttiness is a wonderful vector for the oak influence, and it’s strong without covering up other scents. Of course, in a blend that’s almost three-fourths 13 year-old bourbon, one certainly expects more barrel than grain influence on the nose, and this fits the bill. There’s also a heavy ethanol component, the bourbon nosing every bit of its 118.1 proof.
A bit more time in the glass brings some temperance, and that ethanol heat evolves into spiced molasses and fatty brown butter. Sticking my nose almost entirely in the glass peels back another curtain of aromas, in this case fruit. Cooked peaches are most prominent, in addition to blackberry cobbler.
An acclimatizing sip brings intrigue. The bourbon is sweet, fruity, and — surprisingly — a tiny bit tart at first sip. It’s a quick burst of Juicy Fruit flavor, with fresh red and green fruits floating on top of a current of table sugar (and just a tiny bit of citric acid sour).
Sip again, and more traditional Kentucky bourbon notes come out to play. (And the fruit gum fades away.) Stovetop caramel, moist tobacco, and sweetened, condensed milk sit thick across the tongue before slowly moving back toward the midpalate. Here, there’s a gradual reintroduction of fruit, including Honeycrisp apples, peaches, and plump dark cherries.
As with the nose, nuts are present and accounted for, here more comparable to lightly roasted macadamias than peanuts. It’s a notably light, fatty characteristic that pairs well with some mild cocoa that tends to stick more after a third sip.
Yes, there’s oak aplenty, and wood tannins dance around almost every corner of the palate. But despite the thick mouthfeel and strong wood influence, the palate maintains its bright character. That’s partially due to the reentry of tart characteristics, which counteract otherwise drying tendencies.
The finish is long, fruity, and spicy, like the aftermath of cinnamon sugar-coated baked apples. A lengthy “Kentucky hug” warms all the way down the throat; it’s delicious, coating, and anything but “smooth” on the way down.
As with many higher proof bourbons, I also tasted Bardstown Discovery Series #11 with a couple drops of water. A bit of dilution often unlocks new flavors and improves overall experience. But here I felt it actually dulled most existing components without introducing many new ones. I’d wholeheartedly recommend sipping this one neat.
Bardstown Bourbon Company Discovery Series #11 Rating
Discovery Series #11 isn’t quite the best expression in the line. It is a delicious, full-flavored bourbon, and an overall great start to Bardstown incorporating some of its own whiskey into the blends.
It’s likely the percentage of Bardstown’s whiskey in these bottlings will continue to rise. That’s certainly an exciting development. However, I do hope the brand continues experimenting with various blends and distillate sources, which thus far has allowed for new flavor combinations to flourish. That ethos, after all, certainly helps “Discovery” live up to its name.