Whisky Connosr

Ancient Age

Basic and Mass Market

1 770

@VictorReview by @Victor

30th Aug 2015


Ancient Age
  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

Ancient Age 40% ABV Straight Bourbon Whiskey is the standard expression of the Age International line, and is produced at the Buffalo Trace Distillery. Currently the only other Ancient Age true bourbon is the Ancient Ancient Age 10 Star, 45% ABV. There is no age statement on the reviewed bottle. For Straight Bourbon, NAS legally assumes a minimum of 4 years old. There are also online reports that Ancient Age is only 3 years old. Ancient Age is made with Buffalo Trace Mash Bill # 2, at approximately 15% rye content. This is the higher of the two Buffalo Trace rye content mash bills, but is still only average in the industry, comparable to the standard Jim Beam bourbon mash bill. The reviewed bottle is newly opened

Nose: sweet and suprisingly perfumed and floral. This is mostly very high-pitched, with some medium pitches also. There is plenty of vanilla here, and spice on the second or third wave. This is more interesting and more beautiful than I was expecting. Score: 21.5/25 points

Taste: much lower pitched in the mouth than in the nose; there are subtantial overtones of bass note oak here, but the quality of the wood influence is marginal. Where Have All The Flowers Gone? Rye, vanilla, everything is subsumed here under some not so good oak. Really, this is not good in the mouth, and very inferior to every other Ancient or Ancient Ancient Age branded product I have had. Yes, as expected, this is a bit watery and thin at 40% ABV, but that is the least of its problems. The mouthfeel is actually pretty creamy and pleasant, but the taste is not pleasant. Water added smoothed out the palate, and improved it. Score: 17/25 points

Finish: medium long, but dominated by sour and bitter, neither of which tastes good. Water added smoothes and improves the finish. Score: 15.5/25 points

Balance: good in the nose; fair to poor thereafter. Score: 16/25 points

Total Sequential Score: 70/100 points (add 2 or 3 points for a water added score.)

Strength: very adequate strength of flavours, including adequate viscosity of mouthfeel. Score: 22/25 points

Quality: not so good, especially all the components of the wood. Score: 16/25 points

Variety: good variety in the nose; only fair variety on the palate and finish. Score: 17/25 points

Harmony: no, inferior wood flavours overshadow the contributions from the grain and the yeast. Score: 15/25 points

Total Non-Sequential Score: 70/100 points (also add 2 or 3 points with water added.)

Comment: Standard Ancient Age Bourbon is not a sipping-quality whiskey. Don't buy and dislike this and then think that you "...don't like bourbon." This is the low end from the Buffalo Trace Distillery. I'll bet that some batches of even this standard Ancient Age are much better than is this one I have before me today. But you cannot count on that, especially at international prices. This is cocktail-making fare, as are almost all 40 and 40.5% ABV American Whiskeys. The other Ancient Age and Ancient Ancient Age bourbons are very good sipping bourbons

Related Ancient Age reviews


Victor commented

"Aged at least 36 months" quoth the age statement in very fine print on a small piece of paper ringing the neck of the bottle. The age statement was almost in hiding, as though ashamed to be seen.

Additional reflections on this reviewed bottle: 1) the nose is amazingly good--I really couldn't argue with 23/25 points good, but, 2) the whisky is still pretty bad in the mouth. Don't take a chance on buying this is you want a sipping-quality whiskey. Should be OK for a mixer. Its better sibling, Ancient Ancient Age 10 Star 45% ABV, is a very pleasant ultra-light bourbon, and a much much better sipper than is this standard Ancient Age 40% ABV.

Scotch malt makers take their inferior casks, dilute them down to 40% ABV and mix them into Scottish blended whiskies; Americans take their inferior barrels, dilute them down to 40% or 40.5% ABV, and sell them for making cocktails. The inferior barrels still have useful life as cocktail-makings.

8 years ago 0

Victor commented

Revisiting standard Ancient Age 40% ABV bourbon 15 months after opening, to see if it has benefited from air exposure. Nope, this is pretty much the way it was to begin with. There is still too much bitter tannic oak influence to enjoy this as a sipper. This batch shows well just how intense the flavours contributed by new oak can be, even at just 3 years in the barrel. This bottle continues to have a surprisingly good nose.

7 years ago 0

Victor commented

Checking in on this most basic of all bourbons sold which is distilled at Buffalo Trace Distillery. The bottle is open 3.6 years.

Some progess!! Decent high-pitched sweet-sugar nose, with some vanilla and varnish. Not outstanding, but certainly OK. Tannin still strong in the mouth, but no longer overpowering. At this point this would be excellent cocktail whiskey, and fair, but no more than fair, as a sipper. I'd rate this up a few points now from the 70 I originally gave it to 74 points. Even Buffalo Trace makes some lesser quality products, though not under their own brand name. On the other hand, if all you need is some cocktail bourbon, it is hard to beat this at $ 11.44 per 750 ml. That's the current price here. When I bought it it cost me about $ 9.50 for 750 ml all told.

The other important points to make about the Ancient Age and Ancient Ancient Age brands are these: 1) the brand is not owned or controlled by Sazerac Company or the Buffalo Trace Distillery. It is a contract brand, and 2) all of the Ancient Age and Ancient Ancient Age bourbons other than this, the 40% Ancient Age, are much higher in quality than is this one. You might get lucky and get a good batch of this AA 40% ABV, but you cannot count on that happening. This is where the lowest tier barrels of aged stock go, the ones that are getting too tannic at just 3 years in the barrel.

5 years ago 0

Victor commented

After 5.6 years of the bottle open, the change of taste from this bottle has been most favourable and most surprising. The oak influence is relaxed and enjoyable in the mouth now. There is a very pleasant very noticeable floral influence which comes to the fore at this point. I would score this bottle at 86 points now, which is a very far cry from the dismal opinion which I had of it for the first 3+ years which the bottle was open. The moral of the story? The "same" bottle of whiski morphs into several different bottles of whiski given long air exposure. Sometimes the changes are very appealing, and sometimes they are not.

3 years ago 3Who liked this?

Victor commented

5.7 years after opening this bottle of standard Ancient Age bourbon, and 19 days after the last post on this comment trail, I served some bourbon from this bottle to a group of 7 people at a tasting yesterday. The idea was to show Buffalo Trace Distillery from the least expensive (currently $ 10.99 plus 9% sales tax here) mass market product which they make to Pappy Van Winkle wheated bourbon, which is the most sought after bottle of whiski in America, and costs about $ 100 at suggested dealer price and as of today on wine-searcher.com averages $ 2,582 world asking price on the secondary market. Your odds of getting Pappy Van Winkle bourbon for $ 100 are about 1 in 10,000.

The Ancient Age bourbon was VERY well received yesterday. This was open bottle flavour evolution, I assure you. It took over 5 years of the bottle open to get this to a very good point. Yesterday I would have rated this bottle at 88 points, compared to the 70 I gave it in the original review. I would never have rated this much above 70 for the first 3, or 4, or maybe 5 years it was open. But I would NOW. Same bottle, different taste, and different quality, as it has evolved.

This is much of the reason why I don't post many reviews anymore. They are brief moment-in-time snapshots of an ever changing underlying reality. Which was "right"? My 70 score 5.7 years ago, or my 88 score yesterday? They both were. And neither had any validity whatsoever outside the narrow context that it was one man's taste in a field of many variables of time and circumstance. What was useful information today about this bottle may become completely irrelevant by next month. That said, I am always interested in sharing face to face whiski tasting experiences with my friends in the NOW.

3 years ago 2Who liked this?

Nozinan commented

@Victor I also prefer face to face tastings and I'm looking forward to our next such session, whenever that may be.

3 years ago 2Who liked this?

paddockjudge commented

@Victor, that most excellent $11 Ancient Age escaped me, but the 1.5 liter bottle I purchased, although it did not contain top shelf juice when opened, it did not go to waste. I made a Copper Cliff Mule with it, copper chalice not required wink

3 years ago 2Who liked this?