Bardstown Bourbon Company released another in a series of collaborations that have involved well aged sourced bourbon and finding unique partners to provide different types of barrels and then go through a relatively long secondary finishing process (typically 18 months) to create unique results. The most recent addition to the field is a release entitled The Prisoner. With this release, BBC has partnered with The Prisoner Wine Company out of California to age a 9 year Tennessee bourbon in their used red wine barrels for that 18 month period and then bottle at 100 proof. After a few collaborations with Copper & Kings Brandy, Bardstown Bourbon Company has also ventured out and completed similar finishings with Goodwood Brewing and Phifer Pavitt wines. Also similar to previous releases this is indeed priced in the premium tier with an MSRP of around $125. Thus far each release that I’ve had the pleasure to taste has had a level of complexity and maturity and many other finished products lack. Let’s see how this newest one stacks up…
Beginning with the bottle itself, BBC continues it’s use of a simple, clean look of untouched glass save for the relatively thin label around the bottom. It’s got a modern feel to it that is then accompanied, and offset by, the etching that they do for each release. In the case of The Prisoner, the back features a sketch like drawing of a man in shackles with his chains leading up both sides of the bottle. It really is a nice, intricate piece which compliments the simplicity and modernity of the bottle itself.
As you bring the glass to your nose, you immediately notice that there is nothing sharp here. There are sweet, well rounded notes of plum, grape, honey, and an air of baking spice that resonates but doesn’t overpower with spice. At 100 proof you can nose this all day long with no ethanol burn to be had and I wouldn’t blame you if you did either. As you return to it on multiple nosings, the fruit notes congeal a bit and you notice the influence of the wine itself as well as the hints of vanilla and strong, sweet caramel that come from a quality bourbon. Balance is the key here though as it feels like both beverages are living in harmony in this glass.
Sipping the whiskey is when the red wine really starts to shine. While it’s all bourbon in that middle palate, the front of your tongue picks up dry cherry and grape and has the taste of an actual sip of red wine itself splashing across your tongue. Letting it roll around in your mouth though, you get these vanilla notes that almost remind me of vanilla yogurt clusters you find in certain cereals. A strange idea to be sure, but there’s this nice balancing act between the bold bourbon flavors and the delicate fruit of the wine.
It’s interesting to note that this is indeed a Tennessee Bourbon, which while we cannot be told for sure, comes down to pretty much one major supplier - that being George Dickel. Dickel whiskey and bourbon, despite winning some recent accolades, have a bit of a hit or miss track record with the initiated bourbon drinker. Certain single barrels have been known to have a great promise but overall the reputation is so-so. However, Steve Nally and the team at BBC seem to have found a way to bring this TN bourbon to it’s finest potential because it is also of note that the Phifer Pavitt Reserve collaboration was also done with TN bourbon whereas the Cooper & Kings and Goodwood releases were made using IN bourbon which, once again, comes down to one primary supplier which is MGP of Lawrenceburg, IN. While MGP is known for their high rye mashes (BBC used a 75% corn/21% rye/4% barley) the TN bourbon used both here and in the Pavitt was the standard Dickel mash of 84% corn/8% rye/8% barley which leads me to believe that Nally and company clearly feel this sweeter, higher corn mash works much better for the wine finished products as opposed to brandy/beer etc. This was more or less a long winded way of saying that it really seems that the team is looking at these finishes and collaborations extremely carefully and closely…a nice change to the onslaught of bourbons that are just thrown into virtually any kind of wine cask for 4 months and then tossed onto the market.
All in all, Bardstown Bourbon Company has once again released a collaboration with balance and maturity and of course uniqueness in an inflated market that often lacks all of those things.