Welcome to a new tasting series on lower shelf bourbons. Bourbon & Banter contributor, Thomas Fondano, will be trying out and commenting on bourbons priced under $20. Knowing that not all sub-$20 bourbons will be great, Thomas will be adding a new category to our standard tasting notes – Straight, Old Fashioned or Manhattan – to see whether a classic cocktail improves on a straight tasting. We hope you enjoy this new series of reviews and hope you’ll help us shape future reviews by letting us know in the comments what sub-$20 bourbon you’d like us to review next.
Last year I hosted a bourbon tasting for some friends. We tasted the entire high-rye Mash Bill #2 from Buffalo Trace which consists of Ancient Age, Elmer T. Lee, Blanton’s, Rock Hill Farms and Hancock’s President’s Reserve. The $10 Ancient Age was a surprise hit among this group of single barrel bourbons.
When I saw Ancient Ancient Age in a liquor store a month ago I was excited to give it a try. How would it compare to its younger, lower proof sibling? Let’s find out.
Ancient Ancient Age 10 Star Bourbon Review
Age: 6 years
How I Drank It: Neat, in Glencairn whiskey glass.
My Nose Noticed:* Honey | Cherry | Oak | Cedar
First Sip: Corn | Rye | Toffee | Char | Ash
The Burn:** More like The Burnt. Letting it roll around my mouth made me suddenly feel like I burned my entire tongue and deadened my taste buds.
Neat, Splash or Rocks: A few drops of water sweetened the nose but seemed to dilute the better flavors and leave only the charred, ashy flavor. At this point I felt my palate wasn’t even up for trying this on the rocks. So the question became…
Straight, Old Fashioned or Manhattan: Old Fashioned. The sugar and bitters along with the slow dilution from some large ice tames the rough edges. (The Manhattan was a bust. My wife summed it up nicely,”This tastes like a Manhattan you get at a wedding.”)
Share With: People at the end of a party after all of the good stuff is gone.
Worth The Price: I paid about $16 for this and was a little surprised at my disappointment. I definitely prefer the regular Ancient Age.
Bottle, Bar or Bust: For me it was mostly a bust, though I know this bourbon has its fans. I’d be surprised to find this in a bar, so bottle would be your best bet if you want to try it.
*I like to let my bourbon sit in the glass for at least 5 minutes before I start to smell it or have a drink. I personally find that it’s better to let some of the alcohol waft off before diving in. If I’m drinking bourbon on the rocks I skip the waiting and dive in both feet first.
**Some of you refer to this as the “finish” but let’s be honest. Don’t we all just want to know if it burns good?
Overall, I was pretty disappointed with this bottling. Maybe I got a bad bottle? If you’ve had Ancient Ancient Age 10 Star, let us know how your experience compared. Also, let us know in the comments what under $20 bourbon you’d like us to try next.