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I had been passively looking for Vintage 17 Bourbon, and its cousins from the same distillery, for quite some time. Then while recently traveling, I decided to stop in for a browse at a spirit store whose only means to lure in customers was an indelicate billboard next to the expressway. Surprisingly, this seasoned old store turned out to have a very well-stocked collection of liquor, which not unlike a candy store (a few years back), caused tingles of excitement, and a drop in my vigilance of controlled spending. It was also a treat to also have discovered some of the cousins, such as Rowan’s Creek and Noah’s Mill.
Vintage Bourbon 17 is produced by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, Ltd, Bardstown, KY, where they also distill Johnny Drum Old-fashioned Sour Mash Whiskey, the Old Bardstown series, and the Small batch collection: Noah’s Mill, Rowan’s Creek, Pure Kentucky XO, and Kentucky Vintage
Vintage Bourbon 17 is a Limited Edition vintage bourbon, aged 17 years. According to the distiller, it is selected from the very rarest lot of barrels, each hand-picked for taste, aroma and bouquet. The bottlings are very limited, and in my opinion, could very well differ between themselves. The color is deep amber, and there is also a 21 and 23 year expression. You would not think to find such a fine whiskey in such a plain bottle, with glued-on labels. If you can find it, the cost appears to vary widely, becoming higher the farther away you are from Kentucky.
Adding water seemed to mess with the soul, and flatten the depth, and so these notes are based on tasting without water. Prime the palate first with some other bourbon, then if you take small sips and let the nectar slowly percolate down, you should experience no burn in this one.
Bottle Nose: It is often rewarding to smell the open bottle before the pour, perhaps to capture a whiff of the dried residue (applies to the empty glass as well). Here we have a luscious assertive nose of dried fruit (prunes, dates, figs, apricot), toasted butterscotch, brown sugar and caramel. A very fine sniffing bourbon … which may very well be all you need for an occasional healthy and cost-free morsel of enjoyment.
Glass Nose: Rich piney, sugary caramel with bananas and perhaps a note of Oolong tea. The alcohol fumes are nicely controlled, thus yielding a pleasant nose without sharpness.
Palate: Deep and flavorful blast of sweet, toasted brown sugar, dried fruit, and some leathery notes, then drier toward the finish, with spiced almonds … reminds me a little of Bulliet bourbon, but with lots more going on. There is no bitterness or distracting harshness, and the structure is always smooth and syrupy.
Finish: Take your time and you will be rewarded by a long, creamy smooth and flavorful finish. You will develop a soft, warm and lasting glow … followed by ecstatic and satisfying feelings of amazement, well-being and suspended animation.
Conclusions: I have now tasted Vintage 17 many times, and each time I have concluded that this is a unique ultimate bourbon (higher than top-shelf), and probably the strongest contender for “if-you-can-only-choose-one-on-the-island”. This is a highly-engaging, satisfying and easy to drink bourbon which has a character of accomplished maturity and class. It is like meeting a dear old friend who you cherish, and who offers many old meaningful stories. Save this for special occasions … such as when you need cheering up after being stranded on a desert island.