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Very Old Barton Bourbon (Bottled in Bond) Review

Very Old Barton has a myriad of bourbons that include 80, 86, 90, and this 100 proof product. Made by Barton Brands at the Tom Moore Distillery in Bardstown, KY. Today it’s owned by Sazerac (Buffalo Trace). This particular bourbon is offered at 6 years old and “Bottled in Bond”. What does that mean? BIB, as it’s abbreviated, refers to a bourbon from one distillery that has been distilled in one season (not bourbon pulled frome barrels of various ages), aged in a federally bonded warehouse at least 4 years, and is offered at 100 proof or 50% alcohol. This came about in the late 1800′s largely because people were selling inferior, diluted products as bourbon. It was also backed by a lot of the power players in the bourbon industry at the time to curb this practice.

From a mashbill standpoint, VOB BIB is 75% Corn, 15% Rye, and 10% Barley. It’s also well under $15 a bottle. Recently, Malt Advocate named it one of their best value picks of the year. And without ruining any review suspense I will say that designation is certainly not a stretch. Value is a very subjective topic because what one person considers a great value another person might have higher expectations. So how does VOB BIB rate out? Let’s give it a try.

Very Old Barton Bourbon (Bottled in Bond) , 50% abv (100Proof), $12

Color: Medium Amber

Nose: A fairly big, bold nose that has ample measures of fruit, spice, and grain. Corn and caramel/toffee at first with a sour apple fruitiness and baking spices galore (Cinnamon, Clove, Nutmeg). Oak lingers along with an earthy twang (barn?) to keep you sniffing happily.

Palate: The comforting synergy between the nose and palate is apparent with the first sip. Corn, chewy caramel, apple, cinnamon stick, and a good punch of rye make for a firm and assertive whiskey.

Finish: The finish is moderate in length with some drier, spicier oak quality emerging to blend and harmonize with after-sweetness of vanilla and caramel.

Overall: What is great about Very Old Barton BIB is the fact that it’s pure bourbon flavor to the core at a tremendous price. There is enough corny goodness to make you aware of what you are drinking, but so many other flavors to keep things very interesting and pleasant. No wonder many Kentuckians consider this their “table bourbon” of choice. Is this the best whiskey value on the market? I don’t think I can quite give it that designation, but it’s certainly right up there with some of the best values on the market.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: (8.6 Very Good/Excellent)

44 Comments

  1. Vince Carida says:

    Jason:

    Great review, right on point as far as I am concerned. You did peak my interest with your comment regarding the best value on the market. If VOB BIB doesn’t win that designation from you, care to share which bourbon or bourbons do?

  2. Sorry Vince. I didn’t mean to inadvertently tease anyone. What I should have said, but didn’t form that sentence very well, is I wouldn’t be able to select a whiskey as “The Best Value”. I think there are a number that could vie for that so it would be hard for me to award it only to one, in this case VOB BIB.

  3. Alan says:

    How bout your ‘Top Five’ best values Jason?

  4. Alan, not to beat around the bush, but it’s a hard question and it varies all the time. It’s like the “whats your top 3 whiskeys?” question. It varies, evolves, changes, comes back around, etc. But here’s a list that I consider exceptional values in no particular order:

    Rittenhouse Rye BIB ($19-24)
    George Dickel No. 12 (Sub $19)
    Elijah Craig 12 Year ($22-25)
    Wild Turkey 101 ($20-22)
    Evan Williams Single Barrel 2000 and 2001 (you can still find the 2000) ($25-29)
    W.L. Weller 12 Year ($23-26)
    Four Roses Single Barrel ($30)

    The above also underscores what I mention in the review/post. Value means something different to everyone. What’s a better value, a $12 whiskey that is very good to excellent, or a $25-$30 whiskey that is in the outstanding/superb category and approaching higher? Hard to say, at least for me. The above I feel are just a few off the top of my head that are tremendous whiskey values at each of their prices.

  5. zach says:

    Hey Jason-

    I totally see your point of ‘relative value’ consideration…however, comparing it to my view EW ‘Black Label’ (a similar price point), I believe the VOB comes out a bit ahead. I see you reviewed the Black Label recently and rated it a touch lower as well. Also great call on the Rittenhouse Rye, saw your review a bit ago and it is a solid one-

  6. Vince Carida says:

    Love Rittenhouse Rye. I’ll throw in a couple of more great values, Old Charter 12 year old, Buffalo Trace, Old Weller Antique and Four Roses Small Batch and Yellow Label.

  7. Texas says:

    Your list is spot on with my list as well, Jason, although I would include Benchmark. My only problem calling VOB BIB a top value is that so few people can actually buy it…I think even less than Rittenhouse BIB.

  8. Zach, I agree with you on VOB BIB. It’s clearly a tremendous whiskey. It’s great stuff regardless of price. Factor that in and you clearly have a great value and I think it’s a bit better than EW Black label.

    Vince, I will have to try the OC12. Sadly I can’t say I’ve had it at all so I’ll be on the hunt.

    Texas: Yep, it’s somewhat tough to find. So when I see it I buy it.

  9. JDW says:

    Jason,

    Great to read your review of VOB BIB. Out of coincidence, I just polished off a healthy serving myself. It really is a gripping bourbon with a lot to offer. Another good value bourbon is Heaven Hill BIB which is sheer beauty and deliciousness married to economy. Great list of value whiskeys. I have to comment, however, that the Four Roses Single Barrel is $45 here in WA! Still a value even at our local price.

  10. Jeffrey, that’s a steep price for the Four Roses SB. Wow. But I agree – I love it. Greg over at Bourbondork is very high on the HH BIB as well. I need to try this one!

  11. Alan says:

    Wow! What great interaction on this one. Great stuff. So many great bourbons out there…so little time to taste them all!
    That Rittenhouse Rye is excellent Jason (21/btl). The EC12 (20/btl) is also great. EWSB 2000/2001 (20-24/btl) is right there with them.
    I do see what you mean by an ever evolving group of ‘favorites’.
    Keep up the great articles Jason. Good stuff. I look forward to reading them all.

  12. Texas says:

    AFAIK I know VOB BIB is only distributed in a few states in the midwest and into KY/TN, you can order it from Binny’s unless you live in a state that doesn’t allow that (like Texas).

  13. AaronWF says:

    I find VOB BiB to stay relatively hidden on first sip, only to explode on the back end. I’m surprised to learn that it’s a big 75% corn with only 15% coming from rye, but I appreciate the knowledge!

    This stuff makes a really, really beautiful Kentucky coffee, hot or iced; I highly recommend it! Once I start spending over $24-$25 on a bottle, I don’t want to mix it, but I feel very comfortable relegating this pour as a mixer.

    You do make a great point about whiskey value. I actually feel that Pappy 20 is value-priced at $99. Obviously the price point puts it out of reach the vast majority of the time, but it’s worth every penny of $100 to me. And of course the Pappy 15 @ $50 puts just about every wheated bourbon to absolute shame (I’m staring coldly at YOU, $80 PHC10!).

    I also really thought that the OF Bday ’10 was a tremendous value at $40. I can’t find any more of that stuff.

  14. sam k says:

    Four Roses single Barrel is $40 here in PA, a far cry from the $30 you quote, Jason, and closer to the WA price point than yours. Still a good deal. The Heaven Hill BIB is not available here, either, but I’ve enjoyed it on a number of occasions, and it’s a winner!

    As a courtesy request, can we stop using so many abbreviations in the comments unless that particular whiskey has already been referred to in the post or the comments by its full name? Many of us are familiar with most of them, but the novice can feel left out when we refer to something like ER 10, EC 12, or OC 101. It took me a while to recognize PHC10 as a Parker’s Heritage Collection (and I work for Malt Advocate), but I’d have no problem recognizing it by its full name.

    Bourbon is every man’s drink, so let’s treat every man like they’re welcome here!

  15. Sam, understandably folks will pay different prices for whiskey everywhere. It has to do a lot with distribution and wholesaling in the specific state where you live. I believe you are aware of that. But in fact the prices I put in parenthesis are right around what the retail price is for those whiskeys (as noted by the distilleries). So, yes some will pay more than that, but some will pay less.

    As for abbreviations, you have a great point. I can tend to abbreviate from time to time and that certainly isn’t helpful to a new visitor or newcomer to whiskey. Thanks Sam.

  16. AaronWF says:

    Well advised Sam, thanks for clarifying my abbreviation. OF Bday, by the way, is Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2010 (that one’s a little more obvious). But I’d like to amend my statement about it being a tremendous value: I think it’s very appropriately priced.

  17. MAL says:

    Another value bourbon I like is Ancient Ancient Age 10 yr old. Problem is its only available in Kentucky.

  18. Chimay says:

    Wow, I just got back from Kentucky after doing the Bourbon Trail what a blast lots of great bourbon lots of fun. I stayed a couple of nights at the old jailers Inn. More bourbon choices than ever.

  19. JWC says:

    how can someone work for malt advocate and NOT know that PHC stands for parker’s heritage collection? where can i get an employment application for malt advocate? ;)

  20. Dave in Oklahoma says:

    DARN IT!!!! Not available in Oklahoma….. :-(

    Dave
    Go Sooners!!

  21. Alan says:

    Chimay, would you post more info on the Bourbon Trail you were on. Who to talk to, connect with for setting up the trip, etc.?
    Would love to take that trip in the fall. I’ve heard alot about it.
    As far as the abbreviations…I’m somewhat of a ‘newbie’ too and caught on pretty quickly just by reading some older post and reviews. Using abbreviations is certainly not done to impress anyone on here I don’t think, it’s just quicker to get your thoughts across. No snobbery here…

  22. Chimay says:

    Alan, check out this link for http://www.kybourbontrail.com/
    also if you go in September check this out http://www.kybourbonfestival.com/ this should get you started.

  23. Texas says:

    Jason, On the subject of value bourbons, have you ever had Old Ezra 7 year 101 proof? Very good stuff with a nice kick and around $18 a bottle. I’d like to see a review of that one.

  24. LeMoyne Mercer says:

    Alan,
    The Bourbon Trail does not require “setting up.” There are a half dozen distilleries that promote themselves by offering tours and tastings. Get your “passport” stamped after each tour and when you have completed all six they send you a T-shirt. It’s easy, fun, educational, and FREE! Do a web search for Kentucky Bourbon Trail for more details. You’re going to love it.

  25. theBitterFig says:

    http://www.kentuckytourism.com/things_to_do/bourbon.aspx

    Kentucky Dept. of Tourism is probably as good a place to start as any…

  26. Chimay and Alan, the bourbon trail is great fun indeed. I plan on being at the KY Bourbon Festival also this year and hopefully will run into any of you guys that plan on going. Cheers!

  27. Jim Sanders says:

    I, too, had a hard time with the PHC10 abbrev. I wouldn’t mind seeing the shortened version after the full name is mentioned just so everyone is on the same page.

  28. Excellent review. I’m about to post my own and found your blog looking for other reviews. I also detected caramel & vanilla (and of course corn) within this expression, and found it to be a great value.

  29. i have a beef with old barton. i have drank old barton for 30 years
    with no problem, until they stopped putting a handle on the 1.75
    liter bottles. i have a joint problem and makes the bottles
    without the handle hard to use. all the liquor stores here in
    jackson tn. have same complaints. as of today i have changed
    to jim beam which still has the handle. i tried to email old barton,
    but all the personal emails read that the client’s email have not
    been set up. thanks for listening!

  30. Charles, great point on the handle situation. Sometimes good ole practicality and function over form is the best way to go. Let’s hope THEY listen! Cheers!

  31. Oz says:

    I find VOB great for experimenting with in cooking … and drinking what’s left over.

  32. Nashvegas says:

    I am a huge fan of VOB. All of their options are solid choices, and great for the price. I consider myself very lucky to live in Nashville, where you can find this stuff anywhere you look, and for unbeatable prices. Its not as good as some of the premium stuff out there, but it is perfect for the everyday pour. I always keep some on hand. the BIB is great for sipping, and the 86 and 90 are great for mixing. You really can’t go wrong with VOB.

  33. Serge says:

    Just came across a bottle of “Old Weller Original” bottled in bond with a tax stamp on it in Dallas. I offered the lady $1000 for it. I was turned down.

  34. Jim Listerman says:

    ALL varieties Very Old Barton available in Cincinnati Area via The Party Source (Newport Kentucky). Great VOB inventory in 750ML, One Liter, and 1.75L.

  35. Jerry says:

    My daughters gave me a bottle of “Very Old Barton” (VOB) as a Christmas present. I had never heard of it, and I have been a Weller devotee for decades. I tasted the VOB and was happily amazed to find that it had the same ‘feel’ and ‘flavour’ of my beloved Weller, but with a slightly ‘green’ edge to it.

    If Weller dissapeared tomorrow, ‘Very Old Barton’ (VOB) would become my logical choice as a replacement, they are that similar in flavour, to me. A very surprising cost to value ratio, as well.

    (If this review appreciates the cost of VOB, then I just sabotajed myself. LOL)

  36. I found (more than one) bottle of the VOB BIB last night and picked it up and liked what I tasted. I was going on the rocks last night and need to go neat just to get the full flavor picture.

    I’ve vowed to go with lower priced bourbons until I’m re-employed (reduction in force took my job last month) so I’m very interested in your take on the more value priced bourbons. I don’t want to give up bourbon during this period, but I want to be reasonable.

    I see above (7/7/2011 post) that you list some of your top choices in the value priced category. You also state in that post that your tastes change from time to time, so I’m wondering what that list would contain now some years later.

  37. Jim Listerman says:

    Jason–

    Toured Barton 1792 Distillery (Bardstown) Friday, March 8, 2013. Tour Guide was great taking my son & I as her “group”. Great way to tour distillery with your Personal Guide ! Barton 1792 Distillery will be wrapping up 2012/2013 season distilling @ March 21, 2013. Tours continue all year but grain receiving, milling, and distillation have completed their “Yearly Assignment”. Tour of bottling and bottling plant warehouse impressive due to large selection “Sazerac Products” bottled at Barton facility. Sazerac brandy, vodka, gin, etc. running on lines in addition to Barton Distillery Bourbons. W.L. Weller Special Reserve distilled @ Buffalo Trace Distillery (Frankfort) is aged & bottled @ Barton (Bardstown). Barton’s bottling plant also does substantial “Contract Work” for “Other Distillers”. Nice to see they keep 250+ employees busy all year.

    Very Old Barton Trivia……
    VOB 80 Proof = Aged 4 Years
    VOB 86, 90, & 100 = Aged 6 Years

    End Of Tour “Tasting”……
    VOB 86 Proof and 1792 Ridgemont Reserve

    Jim Listerman
    Cincinnati, Ohio

  38. James says:

    Wow, this is a very good bourbon. it tastes very rustic to me with a lot of sweet corn on the nose and on the palate. Apple on the finish , just an extremely well executed classic bourbon. This along with Ancient Ancient Age have earned cabinet staple status for me, right up there with Elmer T. Lee and Rock Hill Farms.

  39. Iskch1 says:

    I got one bottle from a friend that went to Kentucky. Even the sales guy recomend him the “bottle in bond”. Is different stuff that other bourbons I.M.O.

  40. Tom Thole Sr says:

    Enjoyed the comments section of this web site. Keep it going. Old Barton has been a fav. of mine for years. In my prime, I officed with a sales rep that sold about 100% of bottle corks sole in Ken tucky. (Dodge Cork) He was an expert on bourbon’s. Rember Old Darling

  41. Lisa Pier says:

    I would like to know where I can buy 100 proof Very Old Barton?

  42. Philip R. Sims says:

    I wish you would go back to the bottle
    with the handle on the 1.75 V.O,B. 86
    proof. I like the bourbon.

  43. bennie goldman says:

    very old barton bourbon is the best bourbon i have drink

  44. Josh says:

    Are they dropping the 6 Year Old 90 proof version for a non age declared version?

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