As a spirits writer, I try to do my best to offer as wide a range of tastings and reviews as I possibly can, a task that eventually means limiting just how many products one can really assess from a single company. Bardstown Bourbon Co. is one such company that has had a high rate of output when it comes to their core Fusion and Discovery series in recent years, coupled with Collaborative Series releases that have seen new bottles coming out at a pretty quick pace. We’ve tasted a lot of those bottles, and I’ve written about quite a few of them. But in the interest of not covering any one company too often, I had initially elected to pass by the 7th iteration of their core Fusion and Discovery series … only to read more about Discovery #7 in recent weeks and decide that it really did warrant acknowledgement after all. In the end, this was just too unique a bottle for me to pass up.
Bardstown’s Discovery series is the flagship of their sourced blending program, incorporating none of the whiskey that BBC is distilling and aging themselves—that younger distillate is saved for the less expensive Fusion series. Rather, the Discovery series often functions as a tribute to the blender’s art, highlighting great whiskey out of Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee, those Meccas of sourced bourbon. Discovery Series #7, on the other hand, is the first entry in the series to venture outside of the United States, incorporating 12 year old, 100% corn whiskey from Ontario, Canada. This may sound strange in theory, but is common in practice—many Canadian distilleries do not use “bourbon mashes” of multiple grains such as corn, rye, wheat or barley, but instead produce 100% mashes/whiskeys from each grain, age them separately, and then blend them as needed to create finished products. This means it’s easy to source 100% corn or 100% rye Canadian whiskeys as needed.
The full blend of Discovery Series #7, then, is as follows:
— 31% Kentucky 12yr bourbon – corn 75%, rye 13%, malted barley 12%
— 25% Kentucky 12yr bourbon – corn 78%, rye 10%, malted barley 12%
— 21% Ontario 12yr whiskey – corn 100%
— 15% Indiana 7yr rye whiskey – corn 45%, rye 51%, malted barley 4%
— 8% Tennessee 17yr whiskey – corn 84%, rye 8%, malted barley 8%
The other oddity here is an Indiana rye whiskey, presumably from MGP, that is not the classic 95/5 rye recipe, but rather a Kentucky-style 51% rye. Given that this contains rye whiskey and the Canadian spirit, Discovery Series #7 isn’t quite “bourbon” in any traditional sense, and is indeed labeled as “blended whiskey.” What it does turn out to be, though, is delicious, so let’s get to tasting.
On the nose, caramel sweetness and vanillans are quite intense and expressive, with supporting florals and some citrus. This is a true caramel bomb, of the sort I haven’t had in a little while, and the nose suggests big sweetness and a certain decadence. It almost evokes something like caramel-dipped cornbread, with light cinnamon and stone fruit. Ethanol is extremely subdued for the 57.25% ABV (114.5 proof), allowing you to really plumb the depths of that caramel character.
On the palate, this profile is confectionery and sweet, with tons of caramel, vanilla pudding, cinnamon and apple pie filling. Absolutely “dessert whiskey,” and reminiscent on some level of wheated bourbons in my mind—without the doughiness they often have—it just tastes like a treat, all butterscotch and caramel up front before segueing into a bit more oak and mild spice on the back end. Texturally it’s quite velvet and smooth, which is a nice feature, and the ethanol is again extremely mild here on the palate as it is on the nose—this just drinks really, really easily for the proof, showing its strength with only a mild to moderate Kentucky hug in the chest.
All in all, it’s a delightfully sweet and inviting dram that is marvelously easy to enjoy, though it will undoubtedly be too sweet for some. You have to wonder if this will signal the Discovery Series becoming more international in the future, or the possibility that BBC is starting to run lower on their older sourced Kentucky whiskeys, but if these are the results of more Canadian influence I can only imagine that there will be a lot of whiskey fans who are happy to see more Canadian juice make its way into the series in the future.
Distillery: Bardstown Bourbon Co.
City: Bardstown, KY
Style: Blended whiskey
ABV: 57.25% (114.5 proof)
Availability: Limited, 750 ml bottles, $140 MSRP
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident beer and liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.