View Full Version : Very Old Barton
Even as Barton is being spanked for Ridgewood Reserve, allow me to sing the praises of Very Old Barton. Whenever I am in Kentucky, this is my 'must buy' bourbon. It's only available in a few states besides Kentucky (Illinois is not one of them), it's a terrific standard bourbon, aged six years, and a great value. No wonder it is the number one bourbon in Kentucky, with self space comparable to Jim Beam and Jack Daniel's.
Although it's available in 80, 86, 90 and 100 proof, I always select the 100 proof bottled in bond. A 750 ml is just $9.49. A 1.75 L is just 18.49. (At Liquor Barn on Fern Valley Road.)
I also picked up 750s of Four Roses ($15.59), Ridgewood Reserve ($22.99), Bulleit ($15.49) and Van Winkle Family Reserve 13-year-old rye ($25.99).
I realize everyone's taste is different, but, there are only two bourbons that I really hated... Very Old Barton and Bulleit. I have tried over and over to give these "another try", but I just can't grow into them. It may be the barrel bottling that I got, by chance, and other bottles might be better. I just don't feel like spending more money on another bottle of each. My Very Old Barton is my well bourbon and the Bulleit didn't even make it that far.
On the up side, Ridgewood Reserve and Van Winkle Family Reserve 13-year-old rye are pretty good. I prefer ORVW bourbons to their rye, if given a choice. The Ridgewood Reserve is coming around for me, since I first tried it. It is starting to taste better and better each time I sip it. I am now sorry I didn't get in on the Barton overstock stampede! http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/banghead.gif
Palates are like snowflakes, it seems. Still, it is interesting to me that you really dislike VOB but are "coming around" to RR. We're the opposite - loved VOB from the first sip, but can't convince ourselves that RR is that good. I'm guessing that there must be something that explains this based on some fundamental difference between the bottlings.
A VOB fan myself and I can understand why you picked it - isn't it a doozie, and by the way my good friend Bill Friel (You know-the retired master distiller at VOB) likes to drink his VOB with Canadian Club Soda, which I like very well, but usually drink it neat. Now all we have to do is to convince the rest of the world what a great bourbon it is!! http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/lol.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/lol.gif. For those who do not like VOB I only wish they could spend a week-end with me and I am sure I could convince them otherwise.
I'm with Marvin and Chuck: VOB is a stylish, tasty whiskey. It has a "cured" tobacco-like flavour, I could see this coming through a pure club soda (one not too salty, I'd suggest) but it is incomparable taken straight. Its bigger brother, RidgewoodRidgemont, is very good but maybe too much of a good thing; the VOB nails it, basically.
I'll throw my support in for VOB as well. At around $10 a bottle it makes a great bourbon to serve double duty as a mixer and as a nice drink straight up. I'll also agree that I prefer the 100 proof expression best. This may have been discussed before, but is the only diference between the VOBs the proofs? IOW, is it the exact same whiskey just diluted down differently, or do they use a different formula to achieve the different proofs like WT does with their 80 and 101 proofs?
I have a theory that the 180 degree difference in bourbon tastes (between two bourbon drinkers) is based on wheather one likes the taste of a lot of oak or very little oak. IMHO, after that, the differences are minor and do not make up the vast array of bourbon favorites. By the way, I equate oak to smoothness. I like a smooth bourbon and a friend of mine likes the bite of oak. Hence, we have opposite bourbon tastes.
And even talking smoothness, you get differences of opinions. Having never actually seen a published definition of smooth, I have to figure on my own what smooth is. To me, smooth means easy drinking without a wince. To some of my bourbon drinking friends it seems to mean something more like the same taste with little variance. I like a bourbon that gives me different taste sensations as I finish a pour. It makes the experience just a little more special.
I have a theory that the 180 degree difference in bourbon tastes (between two bourbon drinkers) is based on wheather one likes the taste of a lot of oak or very little oak.
Your theory makes a lot of sense. For example, a friend of mine and I were discussing the merits of the JB small batch bourbons; I like Baker's and Booker's, but my friend was staunchly supporting Basil Hayden as the best of the four. I think of BH as the least oaky (experts please correct me if you disagree).
Nevertheless, tying into another thread, I like IWH a lot, and I don't think of it as oaky at all. I think low rye/wheat makes a difference, too. Mr. Cowdery informed us that IWH has very low rye content. After reading your and his post, I have come to the realization that I am an oak/wheat (or at least low rye) fan. Stepping beyond the bounds of my expertise, I might amend your proposition as follows:
Oak + high rye fans will always diverge 180 degrees with less oak + low rye/wheat fans
but [Oak + wheat/low rye] vs. [less oak + wheat/low rye] fans may find common ground. Or vice versa. Okay, without going through the other permutations, I subjectively perceive oak + high rye as one extreme and less oak + wheat as the other.
Having said that, I think you are making a critical point. Oak is probably the primary flavor to which one is drawn (or not). As a rule, oak trumps wheat for me.
Does that sound coherent at all??
I actually was going to mention rye as part of the puzzle. I didn't, for simplicity sake. I am glad you did!
Your statement about the combinations of oak/rye vs. wheat makes some sense. However, I have had some smooth high-rye bourbon and harsh wheat bourbon. Go figure! http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/lol.gif
My definition of "smooth" is closer to yours. I am not looking for the same taste each time I drink bourbon. If I have to force down the bourbon then it isn't smooth.
Smooth, to me, is a bourbon that can be downed a sip at a time, each sip being better than the last, until the dram is gone and you want some more! It starts out with the first nosing, a bouquet of vanilla and fruit... almost syrupy... with just a hint of oak. By then, you are expecting the same flavor with the first taste! If the first taste meets with your expectations... WOW!!!!
That is my definition of smooth...
You are correct on that one. I guess when all is said and done, that extra ingredient of the artistry of the distiller may be more important than anything. The whole transforms into more than the sum of the parts. Oak + wheat/rye + distiller's magic?
I will say that I concur with the above assessment of smoothness, too. I don't know if this means anything in the context of our discussion but I will say that, if pressed, I would call Very Special Old Fitzgerald the "smoothest" bourbon I have ever had, or, at least the bourbon with the best combination of smoothness AND complexity/flavor.
And despite all my rambling and theorizing, I'm still not sure what makes VOB and RR so different on the palate.
To me, smooth is simply the opposite of harsh. Basically, the absence of a hot sensation in the mouth or throat.
The smoothest bourbon I can think of, off the top of my head, is Blanton's.
Curiously, to me, one of the harsher bourbons (at least, among good bourbons) is Maker's Mark. Curious, because so many others are always citing MM for its smoothness.
On the other hand, one of my favorites is Elijah Craig 12-yr, which is not exactly harsh, but it certainly isn't smooth. It has a peculiar type of fireiness that I particularly enjoy.
Perhaps we should have an SB.com benchmark for smooth, just as Jeff is trying to determine on another thread a 50-point default bourbon by which to judge others.
This comes to mind because, while I generally agree with Tim's description of smoothness as the opposite of harsh, I write this as I sip on Knob Creek, which I consider smooth though pretty 'hot', even at 'only' 100 proof.
It seems each of us has his/her own definition of "smooth". Not surprising, perhaps, interesting certainly, but helpful? http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/skep.gif
The smoothest bourbon I can think of, off the top of my head, is Blanton's.
I won't take back my VSOF comment at this point, but I agree that Blanton's is pretty dang smooth, too. One exception - a little while back, Tina and I were at the Homestead, a hotel/resort in western VA. I went to the bar to get a drink, and Blanton's stood out, even though the choices were really fairly solid. I got a Blanton's on the rocks for us to share (thank goodness) and just about fainted when the bartender said, "That'll be $15.86." Took a little of the smoothness away. Still, we made sure we drained the glass, and I ate some of the ice, too.
Maybe this weekend we can compare Blanton's and VSOF to see if I have to retract. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/toast.gif
I am part of the mass that feels MM is smooth.
We only have the 86 proof here in NY so I'd like to try the others. I'd probably go for the higher proof one.
Curiouser and curiouser! Not only have I not ever seen a VO Barton 100 (or BIB) in any store around here, I've never seen an 86-proof, which y'all keep mentioning. I checked again at the store where I work -- we sell 80 proof and 90 proof (both 6 years old), but no 86.
Not so curious, really. The curious part is that in Louisville they sell all four. More typical would be one, or maybe a low proof plus the BIB. I know of no other brand that even offers four different proofs in what is otherwise the same product.
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