Just to prove that I’m not just a mean-spirited, masochistic hack who’s out to insult bad whisky makers and destroy my liver at the same time, for this installment of Bargain Bin Fridays, I thought I’d give an old school, mildly respected bourbon a try. After all, it is called “Bargain Bin Fridays” not “Wince inducing, Horribly Bad Whisky Fridays”. I figure the only qualification for a Bargain Bin Friday whisky is that it costs about $10 or less for 750ml, which Ancient Age does.
The only drawback to tasting something this respectable is that, in a perverse way, it’s just not as much fun. I mean, before it named itself the Buffalo Trace Distillery, Buffalo Trace was called the Ancient Age Distillery…so there’s some pedigree there. Although, now that I think of it, the name is kind of funny. “Ancient Age”…hmmm, what’s ancient? 83 years? Old man Watson around the corner has been around for I don’t know how many decades, so he’s pretty ancient, but usually ancient to me connotes really fricking old…like bronze age. I’m pretty sure they weren’t distilling in Kentucky during the bronze age. Hell, I’m not sure they were distilling anywhere in the bronze age…maybe Cincinnati…whatever, there’s really no way of ever knowing.
According to its aged looking label, Ancient Age is “Carefully Distilled along the banks of the Kentucky River according to the finest old traditions.” The “carefully distilled” part being especially comforting because we all know that “sloppy distilling” at best leads to bad whisky, and at worst, a huge, widow-making conflagration. The stuff is aged for 3 years…not exactly what I’d call ancient, but there you go.
The Nose: It’s bourbon and a cheap one at that, so while there’s the requisite, albeit faint, vanilla and orange citrus notes, there’s also an almost pleasant mild sourness, so those citrus notes actually veer towards lime a bit. Buried a little deeper are some nice enough grain notes and a bit of baked cocoa…almost chocolate brownie-esque. Sadly, there’s some nail polish remover as well.
The Palate: Not a bad mouthfeel, sugary at first then it settles in to some very green, rough corn, rye and barley. Towards the end there’s even more rye-like sharpness…or is that barrel-char sharpness? Either way, it builds and it’s kinda bitter and made me wince just once or twice.
The Finish: Green, a little bitter with some decent char. Not wholly pleasant, yet not wholly unpleasant.
Thoughts: Ok, I saw this at BevMo (large big box liquor chain) for 7.99/750ml which, if you hearken back to the first Bargain Bin Friday, is a mere $2.00 more than the remarkable 75 South. That would be $2.00 well spent, my friends. Ancient Age is by no means a great whiskey, it’s rough and young and a little harsh, but it is actually bourbon not just a cheap facsimile. In a pinch, over some ice, out on the porch with friends…you could live with this…you might not be over the moon about it, but at least the company’s good, right?