VERY OLD BARTON 100
standard release (2020)
MASH BILL – Unknown (likely 74% corn, 18% rye, 8% barley)
PROOF – 100
AGE – NAS
DISTILLERY – Barton Distillery
PRICE – $16
BUY AGAIN? – Sure, why not?
Very Old Barton used to carry a 6-year age statement and was bottled in bond. Now there is no age statement of any kind, so we know it’s at least 4 years old. The bulbous bottle makes the bourbon look darker than it is in a glass, suggesting legitimacy to the “Very Old” in Very Old Barton. But it’s pretty clear—visually and in tasting—that this blend is no longer at least 6 years of age, which itself was already not “very” old.
These are business decisions that distilleries make. And who can blame them? Supply quantities change with demand. And some bourbons are not meant to be special. Good basic bourbons are needed, for bars and when someone wants a simple tasty sip without breaking the bank.
Yet there is something classy about the brands that retain their stats. They offer a sense of integrity. Pikesville Rye, for example, is still age-stated at 6 years and sports a healthy 110 proof. More and more, Pikesville stands out as an outlier among the labels that have dropped their vital stats in order to maximize resources or profits.
Calling this bottle “Very Old Barton” without qualifying what “very old” means makes it, for me, less appealing. It smacks of marketing, and I don’t like the taste of marketing. But this longtime brand only became available in California recently and I wanted to give it a try. And, despite the lack of specs on the label, I actually do appreciate the overall simplicity of the packaging. It communicates simply and clearly what this price-friendly bourbon is meant for—everyday, no-nonsense sipping and mixing.
So here we are, about two weeks after cracking the screw cap, maybe three pours into the bottle, and tasted in a simple brandy glass.
COLOR – pale sienna yellows with orange and gold highlights
NOSE – brightly floral, tall dry grasses, similarly bright caramel, fresh soft wheat bread, dried apricot, a touch of creme, light dusty oak
TASTE – bright like the nose, with spicy rye florals up front, light but creamy caramel, baked cinnamons, dried apricot, all darkening a notch on swallowing and with a warm peppery bloom
FINISH – medium-short, bready, the baked cinnamons, faint dried apricot, a faint peppery tingle lingering briefly
OVERALL – A solid, basic “bottom-shelfer,” neither too interesting nor demanding, just pleasant and easy to slip unobtrusively into a cocktail
It’s immediately recognizable as a Barton product on the nose—those classic Barton rye florals that show up in variations of intensity in the 1792 line, or any number of Barton-sourced secondary bottlings, like the recent Lucky Seven offerings. Occasionally that Barton bouquet has gone a bit soapy for me. But mostly it has a refreshing, brightening effect that seems to add light to a room.
I tried a second pour in a simple tumbler, which somehow seemed an even more fitting vessel than the simple brandy glass. Either my palate was more warmed up or the tumbler brought out a notch darker layer to the various aromas and flavors. Everything tasted a touch more integrated, the baked cinnamons more noticeable and the caramel aspect creating a bit more of a foundation.
In any glass, I’m glad to now have Very Old Barton 100 around as an option in California. It’s parallels from other distilleries include Heaven Hill’s Evan Williams 1783 and Evan Williams Bottled in Bond, or the Jim Beam bottom-shelf limited releases like Repeal Batch or Distiller’s Cut. Tasty, simple, easygoing whiskeys that are affordable, accessible, and worth having on hand for cocktails, simple sipping, or as a prelude to more involved tastings. Were I doing a flight of Barton 1792 whiskeys, for example, this Very Old Barton 100 would make a great palate warmer.
If you’re looking for something user friendly, tasty enough, and under $20, I recommend Very Old Barton 100. If you’re into variety, it’s useful to have a decidedly floral bottom-shelfer like this on hand next to your spicier Wild Turkey 101, your nuttier Jim Beams, and your fruitier Evan Williams.