Founded in 2014, the Bardstown Bourbon Company, located in Bardstown, KY, is one of the most modern and technically advanced whiskey distilleries in the US. By blending traditional distillation techniques with modern innovation the BBCo. have created a state-of-the-art facility that uses sophisticated technology and decades of experience to handle upwards of 7 million proof gallons annually and produce over 40 distinct mashbills for more than 24 big name bourbon clients including Jefferson’s, High West, Belle Meade, Hirsch and many others through their one-of-a-kind Collaborative Distilling Program. Overseen by an expert team, the BBCo. boasts talent such as Master Distiller, Steve Nally, a 40-year veteran of the spirits industry, Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame member, and former Master Distiller at Maker’s Mark; John Hargrove, Vice President of Manufacturing Operations and former Master Distiller at Sazerac and Barton 1792; Dan Callaway, Director of bourbon education, visitors experience, product development, and a Certified Sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers; and Bottle & Bond Kitchen & Bar executive chef Felix Mosso, formerly chef de cuisine at the renowned Greenbrier Resort.
Since their distillation operation began in 2016 the BBCo. has also seen enormous success with its contract distillation projects, with its original 25,000 barrel capacity for contract distillation being recently expanded to accommodate the filling of closer to 130,000 barrels of contract-distilled spirits for the next 5 years. Founded with a strong ethos for transparency at every step of production, BBCo. sports glass walls so visitors can see every step of production and have even installed a system whereby customers can monitor the production of their contract distilled spirits straight from their phones with unparalleled access to the most acute of details (even distillation chemistries as they occur live in the stills). The distillery building itself is the first to offer patrons a ‘Napa Valley style’ destination on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® combining distilling with an award winning culinary and beverage experience in their Bottled & Bond Kitchen and Bar. The bar element boasts a unique collection of whiskey, bourbon, and rye brands from across the globe, including a collection of more than 400 vintage American whiskeys that is curated by renowned whiskey author Fred Minnick.
Following their first product launch in 2017, the BBCo. have continued to release innovative and interesting whiskies under their Collaborative Series, and have also launched their first Kentucky Straight whiskies under their Fusion Series and Discovery Series this year. Whereas the Collaborative Series sees the BBCo. collaborating with other big names in the business to create unique offerings using sourced IN bourbon, their Fusion and Discovery Series bottlings are where they showcase their blending expertise by blending their own bourbon whiskies with sourced bourbon whiskies also from KY.
As the first Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey from the Bardstown Bourbon Company (BBCo.), the release of the Fusion Series #1 marked the next big step in the continuous growth process of the company. Having waited 2 years so it could be labelled a straight whiskey, Fusion Series #1 is a delicate blend of BBCo.’s own-made, 2 y.o. wheated and high-rye bourbons, with a 11 y.o. bourbon sourced in Kentucky (Highly likely to be Barton 1792). It’s also the result of a tireless collaboration between the company’s expert distilling, beverage, and culinary teams who sought to develop a unique product that both showcases the strengths of all three key aspects of the BBCo. and is a synthesis between young and aged bourbon. As per the BBCo.’s ethos of transparency the bottle’s label has a table that very clearly shows the final blend of bourbon that went into this release with the team having blind tasted more than 50 blends to find the perfect combination. As company President and CEO, David Mandell states, “Bardstown Bourbon Fusion Series #1 is a celebration of our distillery, beverage and culinary teams working together to create spectacular bourbon.”
Today I’ll be taking a look at the Fusion Series #1 to see for myself if the team at the BBCo. achieved their objective of producing something unique and balanced. The reason behind blending their own young distillate with an older bourbon is to give drinkers a graduated introduction to their own distillate as it continues to mature, with a 100% BBCo. bourbon released scheduled for sometime around 2022 – when it turns 6 years old. This is not a new strategy in today’s whiskey industry (i.e. WhistlePig’s Farmstock releases) but it is still a relatively unused tactic as it requires a lot of technical expertise and expert execution of blending between the sourced an non-sourced products to produce a whiskey that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Looking at the below table the final product is a four grain bourbon with corn, wheat, rye, and malted barley used to make the constituent parts. I’ve previously only tasted one or two four grain bourbons so I’m also looking forward to how this bourbon delivers and balances the unique flavours coming from each of these grains.
Name: Fusion Series™ #1
Age: 2 years old
Proof: 98.9 Proof (49.45% ABV)
Type: Kentucky straight bourbon
Mashbill: See above image for mashbill details
Producer: Bardstown Bourbon Company
Nose: The nose opens complex with buttery corn, sweet red fruit, and peppery rye combining with deep caramel, dried Christmas cake fruit, faint cherries, baking spices, and smoky barrel char.
Palate: The palate opens with a kick of peppery spice and buttery caramel, which quickly turns to peanut brittle and a healthy dose of spice. These are followed by further notes of ripe stone fruit, honey, citrus peel, baking spices and slightly bitter charred oak.
Finish: The finish opens with the residual heat from the palate, fading to burnt caramel, dark chocolate, dried cherries, and an aftertaste of charred herbaceous oak, roasted nuts, and young grain.
To me this bourbon is a great success. Through a combination of decades of technical expertise, hard work, and dedication, the BBCo. team have created a delicious and delicate blend between two young, vibrant bourbons, and a more mature traditional bourbon. On one side the grains in the young whiskies shine through with buttery corn, red fruit wheat, and peppery young rye, whereas on the other side deep caramel, dried fruit, cherry, and earthy nutty baking spices come from the older bourbon. From nose to finish it’s a bourbon that brings the drinker on a journey, stopping at each individual grain in the blend, and showcasing the best flavours they have to offer individually and as a whole. Pair these flavours with some delicious barrel-driven extras and you’ve reached the final destination – bourbon satisfaction. It’s also important to note that this bourbon doesn’t taste like either the young or the old notes are dominating the experience, instead all three are happy to stand in their designated spot next to each other and perform together nicely, giving the drinker a unique sipping experience.
Based on the age and mashbill of the older (sourced) bourbon in this blend, Barton 1792 comes up as the most likely candidate for the source. Given that Barton recently got awarded World’s Best Whisky for a bourbon which is as close to an unfiltered barrel proof release as you’re going to get directly from Barton 1792, it’s no surprise then that the flavour nuances their bourbon has contributed to this blend has resulted in this delicious product. In saying that, however, this doesn’t discount the influence that the two younger bourbons have had on the final product. Although both are still quite young, these two bourbons have demonstrated that they can be blended very nicely in the right hands. Add to this the vigor of young bourbon and it’s clear what these bring to the overall flavour and experience.
The team at the BBCo. consists of industry veterans and fresh blood all working together to produce some amazing whiskey. With this first blend under the Fusion Series it is clear that they have set and achieved a high standard with all their hard work rewarding them with a bourbon that they can all be proud of. Yes, the young elements taste young, and the mature element tastes mature, but this bourbon is greater than the sum of its parts and gives new drinkers and existing fans of the BBCo. an experience to taste a blend that combines all its elements perfectly with delicious results.
The BBCo. are sending some serious innovative shockwaves into an industry that is struggling to meet growing demand for a product produced via traditional means by marrying expertise handed down and refined over generations with the most cutting edge modern advancements in whiskey production. Combined with an ethos of full transparency at every step of that process and a focus on customer experience across several areas they’ve created something unique that challenges the existing status quo in whiskey production and drinker experience. With this unique approach and their capacity to produce for many big name players in the game they’ve forged a bright future for the company. With the release of their 100% own-produced bourbon fast approaching, a move to create something like the Fusion series in the interim gives drinkers a graduated taste of these whiskies as they continue to mature and keeps the conversation turned in their favour. As a newly-minted BBCo. fan, what the future holds both in this series and with future BBCo.’s own-made whiskies fills me with excitement.
Try or Buy?
This bourbon has an RRP of $59.99 which in my mind is a very reasonable price and positions their bourbon alongside some stiff competition. I feel this product can hold it’s own with future odds ever increasing as their own produced whiskies reach maturity. These guys are here for the long game and this bourbon is one of the pivotal moments in that game. Try it if you can find it at a bar and it sounds up your street. I’d happily splash the $60 knowing that money could just as easily be spent on an inferior product with a much higher price tag.