It is a commonly held belief that “whisky snobs” dislike all forms of American “whiskey” or bourbon; similar, in fact, to the belief that American beer is made from one part water and one part make-believe. Both of these statements are, in fact, incorrect – America has some of the best (in my opinion) breweries in the world (Anchor, Flying Dog, Left hand, Sierra Nevada, the list goes on) and there is no drink more apt after a big old summer barbecue than an American bourbon. So while Scotch whiskys are what I will be reviewing most of the time, I will also take a look at several bourbons, starting with Ancient Age.
Ancient Age is distilled by the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Kentucky, and is by definition a Kentucky Straight Bourbon. It is worth noting that the Buffalo Trace Distillery is the oldest in the US, and has been around since around 1770, but under different names. Other whiskies distilled on the site include Buffalo Trace, Blanton’s and Eagle Rare. Ancient Age is one of the oldest whiskies in the distilleries portfolio, and has been around since 1946. Until the launch of Buffalo Trace, Ancient Age was the distillers’ best selling expression.
So, is it any good? The answer to that question is Yes and, directly and without hesitation, No. It is far from a top-tier bourbon, but then you wouldn’t expect it to be top tier considering its low price. From a value for money point of view, it is definitely not a bad purchase. The nose reveals distinct hints of toffee, vanilla (in true bourbon fashion), caramel and just a hint of ginger. The palate is fairly dry, while still presenting the sweetness often associated with bourbon, and somewhat spicy. While the flavors and aroma are both pleasant, my one issue with this bourbon is that it is, unfortunately, somewhat watery and lacking of that syrupy thickness that one would expect from a good Kentucky Straight.
Eye: Somewhat lighter than your average bourbon, golden brown.
Nose: Fresh corn, caramel, toffee, vanilla, ginger, perhaps a touch of rye.
Palate: Presents much the same characteristics as the nose, but with a slightly dry and watery feel. Added hint of spice.
Overall, I would definitely say that this is worthwhile purchasing if you’re looking for bourbon below $30. In the same price range I would pick it over Jim Beam 3 times out of 5, but would probably (partially for nostalgic reasons, granted) choose Jack Daniels 4 times out of 5.