Nose: A good amount of alcohol at first, but as your nose adjusts to it, caramel takes over completely. It’s actually quite pleasant. Subtle hints of corn and rye also develop as more air mixes with the bourbon. A decent about of oak also shines through.
Palate: A medium-bodied bourbon with a warm buttery smooth texture. The first sip has a good degree of alcohol flavor in it. It can be surprising but also a little off putting. What the palate lacks, the finish helps make up for.
Finish: Smokey and oaky. This has far more weight than many in its price range. It also packs a manageable amount of heat for a 90 proof bourbon. Unfortunately, it’s not a terribly complex bourbon. Flavors don’t mingle and intertwine as well as some bourbons. In some sips, the oak and the grain/corn flavors completely overpower everything else.
Uniqueness: There’s nothing ground-breaking here, although it does stand out as a more smoky bourbon than many of its peers. Most of the time, it’s the more aged, more expensive bourbons that have this characteristic. This affordable smoky bourbon can therefore make for a decent mixer that can stand up to other ingredients that may be mixed with it.
Value: Willett’s other entry-level bourbons: Pure Kentucky, Johnny Drum, Old Bardstown Estate all share similar traits to Kentucky Vintage. They’re all quality bourbons that are priced right. They have varying degrees of complexity yet are still far from refined. Willett’s other (more expensive) small batch bourbons, Rowan’s Creek and Noah’s Mill are where they offer this.
Overall: This not a bourbon that gets much fanfare. It’s rare to hear anyone talk about it. Is it due to its limited availability in parts of the country? Is it because of the complete lack of marketing and boring bottle design? It can’t because of how the bourbon tastes, because it’s right on the money in quality and price. This maybe true with a lot of bourbons, but the more time you spend with Kentucky Vintage the more you’ll love it. It might not be the most exciting bourbon you can buy, but it's one that deserves to be in your decanter as one of your “everyday go-to-bourbons."
To sum it up: Great nose, Smoky, Priced right
-Eric - Reviewed: 3/2014
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