Bardstown Bourbon Company Discovery #6

released 2021

MASH BILLS – 68% 75/13/12 Kentucky; 16% 84/8/8 Tennessee; 16% 75/21/4 Indiana (corn/rye/barley)

PROOF – 111.1

AGE – 68% 11 year Kentucky; 16% 17 year Tennessee; 16% 7 year Indiana

DISTILLERY – Bardstown Bourbon Company

PRICE – $148


Based on the early widespread enthusiasm for Bardstown Bourbon Company’s Discovery series, as well as their refreshing level of transparency right up front on the label, I was immediately curious. At an in-store tasting of #2 in early 2020, I picked up a bottle of that release and its predecessor. Over the course of 2020 I also gathered releases #3 and #4.

With #1-4 lined up on my shelf, I opted to work backwards in time. At uncorking, Discovery #4 struck me with its fine blend of cherry, chocolate, caramel, prominent floral rye spices, refined oak and baking spices… It was good.

But I opened that bottle during a period when I was feeling saturated by the ubiquitously sourced Barton bourbon flavor profile, which figured prominently into Discovery #4. I’d been feeling similarly about the MGP bourbon flavor profile, which also appears regularly in the Discovery line. Non Distiller Producers (NDPs) across the country rely heavily on Barton and MGP. So a series of comparisons ensued, pairing sourced bourbons with those produced by the source. These comparisons sought to weigh the price of a bottle against the experience it offered, and to ask whether the innumerable NDP brands are worth it when their sources are increasingly putting out their own well-aged products at much lower prices.

For no particular reason, I’ve not yet cracked my bunkered bottles of Discoveries #1-3. I’d skipped #5 because of a notable number of unfavorable reviews, plus the fact that although #4 had been very good it was also too familiar to warrant my continuing to invest in the series by course of habit, as I’d done in 2020.

It was not reviews that prompted me to pick up #6, but the chance that the 11-year-old 75/13/12 Kentucky mash bill making up 68% of the blend might be Wild Turkey, more likely Jim Beam. Since buying the bottle I’ve noticed a number of “meh” reviews of it. And sure enough, my own experience at uncorking wasn’t great. Not bad, for sure. But not great and certainly not $$$. And I doubt that 68% is Wild Turkey. The chocolate, peanut, and baking spice notes together pointed my sense memory more toward Beam’s Knob Creek.

Discovery #6 might make a good poster child for a key conundrum of the Bourbon Boom era’s current moment. It’s a sourced product in a time bursting with NDPs drawing on the same few sources—George Dickel, MGP, Jim Beam. Though the bourbons blended are of high quality, they are utterly ubiquitous. The nose on Discovery #6 is, for me, of unicorn proportions, while the taste is excellent, familiar, and forgettable. This blend of the exceptional and the mundane makes the nearly $150 price tag feel like a rip off. At that price I expect something entirely, not partially, exceptional. As a consumer I now have too many options available to me to accept anything less.

So, despite the welcomed transparency and very evident quality of both sourcing and blending, and with its price inching up about $5 with each new release, is the Discovery series ultimately another over-hyped, over-priced NDP offering? Or is it not as simple as a yes/no question? Bardstown Bourbon Company got off to a good and popular start. But interest in the Discovery series shows signs of waning, as evidenced by the three latest batches (#5-7) not moving off shelves as quickly as the first four. Release #5, with its middling reception, may prove to have been a corner turned. Is the experience-to-price ratio still in balance?

In any event, here we are, three months after uncorking and halfway in. These brief notes were taken using a traditional Glencairn.

COLOR – rusty oranges that go red in the light

NOSE – cinnamon, cherries, dusty unfinished oak, at once simple and rich

TASTE – very like the nose, with a bit of peanut and almond butter, oak tannins, a warm prickly heat, and a texture combining the granular and the syrupy

FINISH – oak, dry caramel, walnut wheat bread crust, a lingering peppery prickle from the heat

OVERALL – it seems it shouldn’t be the case, but it’s just not that interesting


Discovery #7 is out on shelves as I write this, and many reviewers have been noting their surprised delight at the flavor impact of a Canadian 100% corn whisky included in the blend. Nevertheless, #7 is sitting on shelves where I live, right alongside #5…

Given the ho-hum impact of this Discovery #6—tasting like a carefully measured Knob Creek experiment that turned out fine but not $$$—I just don’t see myself continuing with the Discovery Series. I don’t wish to write Bardstown Bourbon Company off all together. They put out so many variations—their Fusion series, and innumerable finished bourbon outings like the now legendary Château de Laubade. And to be fair, I’ve tried none of those. Only a selection of the Discovery series. I liked #4 well enough. But #6 pales in comparison to even that. Despite evident refinery in a simple but invitingly rich nose, a nice texture, and the well-aged bourbons involved, in the end it’s boring. I’d prefer a rough and tumble Knob Creek 15 Year Single Barrel to this.

At this point, I’ve heard the most good things about Discovery #3. Perhaps I’ll now go in chronological order, and wend my way from #1 to #2, leaving #3 to end this journey—hopefully on an up note!


putting theory to the test

I mentioned to my partner my mixed feelings about this sadly expensive disappointment. When I told her a ~$60 Knob Creek SiB would be just as good or better, she said to me, “Try it and found out. What the hell, right?”


So I opened up a Knob Creek SiB, selected in 2020 by the Minnesota Whiskey Fanatics. Just the other night I’d uncorked a bottle of Booker’s 2019-03 “Booker’s Country Ham,” so I pulled that out as well. I poured a flight of all three.

The Knob Creek SiB is 120 proof and aged 14 years 8 months, and is freshly uncorked at this tasting. The Booker’s 2019-03 is 124.7 proof and age stated at 6 years 4 months 2 days, meaning that’s the youngest whiskey in the blend, and has been open for 48 hours.

Nosing them side by side, the similarities are notable—aged oak and rich dry peanut-shell show in all three. The Bardstown has a dried fruity cherry-chocolate note to it, whereas the Knob Creek is way dusty peanut shell with a bit of dried bing cherry, and the Booker’s is a dusty cinnamon hard candy bomb.

On the taste, the Bardstown is everything I described above, now with its syrupy qualities leaning forward just a bit more than earlier. The Knob Creek—its nose now also revealing a nice herbaceous medley as I go in for a sip—is all chocolate and oak and organic peanut butter. Delicious! Then the Booker’s comes over as the best old-fashioned candy store you ever wandered into—oak flooring that’s been trod for a century, cinnamon hard candies abound and made from only actual ingredients with no scientific interference.

The individual finishes, I can’t really say. With all the high-proof bourbons sipped one after another, my mouth and throat and nose are a warm mélange of oak and peanut shell and sweet baking spice.

Conclusions? Bardstown Discovery #6 isn’t worth it. The Knob Creek Minnesota Whiskey Fanatics pick is excellent—totally worth it at $62 tax and all. Booker’s 2019-03 is good, but more cinnamon-heavy than I prefer in a Booker’s. And, like the Discovery Series, the recent Booker’s price hikes have left it choking in the oaky dust of excellent ~$60 bourbons like this Knob Creek SiB.

The Bourbon Boom continues. With some research, one can find the deals amidst the marketing.


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