Bardstown Bourbon Company's Origin Series

Bardstown Bourbon Company’s Origin Series is worth the six-year wait

Bardstown Bourbon Company's Origin Series
Meet Bardstown Bourbon Company’s Origin Series. | Courtesy

In September of 2016, I stepped foot inside the massive Bardstown Bourbon Company for the very first time. The occasion was a media hardhat tour, and I recall being thrilled that we actually got to wear a hardhat since construction was still going on all around us. I knew big things were in store for this new kid on the block, and looking back now, isn’t that the understatement of the year?

They’ve since expanded several times, going from 600,000 proof gallons per year to 7 million proof gallons — making them the seventh largest distillery in the United States. A majority of what BBCo makes is for other clients/brands/companies, but of course they dedicate some time on the still to themselves.

Six years ago they put some barrels down under the astute leadership of Master Distiller Steve Nally, and I’m happy to announce the three expressions are ready for their spotlight as part of the Origin Series.

“The Origin Series is the first opportunity to taste an expression that is 100 percent our whiskey,” said Dan Callaway, VP of Product Development for BBCo, in a news release. “We’ve put years of patience into this bottle, waiting six years until we felt it was truly ready to share with the world. The full technical capabilities of our distillery are on display with these three bespoke products.”

The Origin Series consists of a high-rye Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, a wheated Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon, and a Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey. It will replace the distillery’s Fusion Series, which included some of their younger distillate blended with aged whiskey that was sourced. The popular Discovery Series (blends of sourced aged whiskey) and Collaboration Series (finished whiskeys) will continue to be released.

The new 6-year-old whiskeys will debut in early 2023 and should not be hard to find — at the distillery and in your local liquor stores and bars. They’ll be released across the country in 24 states and will range in price from $44.99-$69.99. Also worth noting, BBCo will be starting a single barrel program for on- and off-premise retailers, so be on the lookout for single-barrel store picks.

I was fortunate to get samples of the three flagship products that make up the Origin Series, so let’s dive into them one by one. No hardhat needed.

Origin Series Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Origin Series Bourbon
Origin Series Bourbon | Courtesy

96 Proof | $44.99

With a mash bill of 60% corn, 36% rye and 4% malted barley, this high-rye bourbon is phenomenal from the get-go. On the nose I get candied peach drizzled in caramel — and some hints of baked apple and citrus.

And on the palate those fruit notes come to life, sprinkled with cinnamon, nutmeg, more caramel and a reward of vanilla on the finish. I get the spice up front from the rye, but by the time it reaches my throat, it’s as smooth as molasses.

Knowing I can get a quality bourbon like this under $50 makes me happy.

Origin Series Bottled-in-Bond

Origin Series Bottled-In-Bond
Origin Series Bottled-in-Bond | Courtesy

100 Proof | $49.99

This Bottled in Bond release uses a wheated mash bill of 68% corn, 20% wheat and 12% malted barley. There is no sting or tingling with this one because there is no rye to be found, but what you get is a well-balanced, soft bourbon with layers of creme brûlée, toffee and even a little mint on the palate.

Of course there’s the familiar caramel and milk chocolate notes swirled up in there as well, and on the finish, I get the flavor combination of sucking on a Werther’s Original while taking a spoonful of vanilla bean ice cream. Delicate is the word that keeps coming to mind for this bourbon — delicate and delicious.

I’d love to revisit this mash bill after two more years of aging and about seven proof points higher. It just might give Weller Antique a run for its money.

Origin Series Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey

Origin Series Rye
Origin Series Rye | Courtesy

96 Proof | $69.99

With the standard rye whiskey mash bill of 95% rye and 5% malted barley, this release hits you with spice up front, but then it rewards with incredible notes of baked cherries, toasted marshmallow and dark chocolate-covered toffee (yes, there is such a treat at Muth’s Candies in Louisville, Ky.).

The finish is long and sweet, with a little mix of sugar and spice and all things nice. This is a sipping whiskey for sure — something I could pass the time with while sitting in front of a fire. There are so many complex layers of flavor going on here that these tasting notes might just be the tip of the iceberg.

I’d absolutely love to try this at barrel strength. Who’s signing up for a single barrel? Take me with you!

A rendering of the Bardstown Bourbon Company tasting room

Awesome! Bardstown Bourbon Co. to open tasting room, bottle shop in Louisville

A rendering of the Bardstown Bourbon Company tasting room
A rendering of the Bardstown Bourbon Company tasting room | Courtesy

Louisville is home to about a dozen distilleries and bourbon experiences, and now there’s another one coming to town to add to our bourbon resumé. Bardstown Bourbon Company announced this morning they’ll be opening a tasting room, bottle shop, and full-service bar at 730 W. Main St., just caddy-corner to Michter’s Fort Nelson Distillery. It’s slated to open in the summer of 2023.

According to a news release, the space will offer bourbon educational experiences including blending, aging, making cocktails and more. And throughout the year, it will host a variety of events from special bottle releases, private tastings and one-of-a-kind elevated experiences.

“Bardstown Bourbon Co.’s new experience will feature education and deep dives that articulate our modern approach to blending, innovation and collaboration, capped by our genuine approach to hospitality,” said Dan Callaway, VP Innovation and Hospitality, in the release.

BBCo. is working with Joseph & Joseph Architects, Buzick Construction and Willie Martin’s for the project, which sits just a few doors down from the Slugger Museum.

“The bourbon experience we offer is second to none,” said Mark Erwin, CEO of BBCo., in the release. “We’re excited to bring this modern transparent approach to bourbon making to our Louisville home and look forward to introducing more consumers to the Bardstown Bourbon Company brand.”

A rendering of the Bardstown Bourbon Company experience | Courtesy

If you recall, the James B. Beam Distilling Co. opened a similar concept at Fourth Street Live, but it ended up closing during the pandemic. They promised at the time that they would be back in Louisville in some form or fashion, so fingers crossed we continue to get even more of these unique bourbon experiences in town.

I am personally thrilled Bardstown Bourbon Co. will have a presence here. Many people traveling to Louisville for conventions, business meetings or just passing through don’t have time to drive out to the distilleries, so this gives them an up close and personal look at different brands and the people behind them, and expanding bourbon knowledge is always a good thing!

Bardstown Bourbon Co. Founders Collaboration

Alcohol Professor: 7 of the Best Whiskey Releases of Spring 2022

Here’s my most recent piece for Alcohol Professor on some of the newest bourbon and whiskey releases this spring.

Spring has certainly sprung in the whiskey world, with new releases pushing up through the soil quicker than I can remove winter’s gook. There once was one big release period in the fall, but it seems nobody’s holding back their bourbon-soaked bounty for that anymore. So let’s take a look at some of the latest crop looking for a little sunshine and sippin’.

Angel’s Envy Rye Whiskey Finished In Ice Cider Casks

Angel's Envy Cider bottle

107 Proof | $249.99

In 2013, Angel’s Envy came out with rye whiskey finished in Caribbean rum casks that was — and still is — phenomenal. There truly is nothing at all like it in the marketplace today, so it’s no surprise they didn’t mess with it for nine years. Until now. As part of the Cellar Collection, this release finishes the Angel’s Envy rye (sans the Caribbean rum) in ice cider casks from Vermont-based Eden Specialty Ciders for 364 days.

The rye whiskey is 7 years old, so it’s solid even without the cider finish. You definitely get that hint of apple on the nose, and then once you sink your teeth in — er, I mean sip — it’s like Grandma’s apple pie. Straight up baked apple with drizzles of caramel, sprinkles of cinnamon and even some roasted cashews thrown into the mix. The price tag is a bit steep on this one, but if you’re a rye and cider fan, this is your golden goose.   

Uncle Nearest

Uncle Nearest bottle

118.4 proof | $149

Uncle Nearest Tennessee Whiskey first came onto the scene in 2017, and as founders Fawn Weaver and company conceptualized the welcoming distillery in Shelbyville, Tenn., they were smart to lay down some of their own distillate before ground was ever broken.

Now, that whiskey is about 5 years old, and the company will be switching over to that juice, which is 100-percent distilled, aged and bottled by Uncle Nearest. They’ll also be adding to their lineup of offerings, including some rye whiskeys, but first they celebrated the milestone with the release of the Uncle Nearest Master Blend Edition, which is only available at the distillery.

There’s a reason Uncle Nearest is the most awarded American whiskey company for the last few years, and once you pop the top on this bottle, you’ll know why. The whiskey titillates with butter pecan, dark fruit and toffee notes — and that’s just in the aroma. The flavors are very impressive for a 5-year-old whiskey, and the notes I just mentioned are all heightened in that first sip, along with hints of butterscotch and caramel corn. The whiskey is thick and leaves you thirsty for more.

Bardstown Bourbon Co. Collaborative Series: KBS Stout

Bardstown Bourbon Co. Founders Collaboration

110 proof | $159.99

The latest in Bardstown Bourbon Company’s Collaborative Series has them teaming up with the beloved Michigan beer company Founders Brewing. The finished whiskey began as a 10-year-old Tennessee bourbon and then was put into Founders Brewing KBS Stout Barrels for 15 months. As with most of these collaborations, the results are phenomenal. 

This is one that reveals new flavors with each sip. On the nose you get wonderful notes of coffee, cocoa and orange peel, most likely from the stout finish. And then that first sip explodes with black cherry, dark chocolate and even more coffee. It may sound complex, but the bourbon and the stout have intermingled well, making it a fun experiment and treat for both beer and bourbon lovers. I’m thinking about adding this to my coffee to see if those mocha notes come out even more.

15 Stars Timeless Reserve

15 Stars bottle

103 proof | $279

This is the newest bourbon to hit store shelves (in Kentucky only, sorry folks), and yet it’s the oldest one at 14 years old. 15 Stars is a new brand named in honor of America’s 15th state — you guessed it, Kentucky!

The father and son team of Rick and Ricky Johnson sourced barrels for this blend, called Timeless Reserve, and they recently revealed the website, which also highlights many historical artifacts from 1795. Although Kentucky was founded in 1792, it took three more years for a 15-star flag to debut.

The Johnsons will continue to put out sourced blends as well as some of their own bourbons and whiskeys they’ve distilled with the help of Bardstown Bourbon Co. using various types of heirloom corn.

At a perfect and deliberate 103 proof, this Kentucky bourbon truly is timeless, reminding you just how delicate and nuanced whiskey can be as it ages on past a decade. You get a little of that oak on the nose, along with a nice maple and butterscotch. And after that first sip, it’s a spring bouquet of fresh flavors bursting in your mouth. It’s got that viscous mouthfeel from its time in the oak, plus a few dark chocolate and roasted almond notes, along with hints of sweet vanilla and warm caramel. It’s a high price point, but it’s 14 years old!


World's Top Whiskey Taster winner

Buy me bourbon: Preparing for the World’s Top Whiskey Taster competition

Back all the way in September, I was in a regional competition for the Bardstown Bourbon Company‘s “World’s Top Whiskey Taster” title.

Somehow I beat out a handful of talented and fierce competitors that evening, and now I plan to bring the title home to Kentucky as I compete against nine others from around the country on Saturday, Nov. 14.

To say I’m nervous and apprehensive is an understatement, but again, just like in the last challenge, I’m trying to harness the powers of confidence and raw bourbon tasting to give it my best.

And that’s where you come in.

If you see me out, please buy me a bourbon or whiskey of your choice (no need to break the bank or anything), but don’t tell me what it is. Make me guess the proof, or the age, or even what type of whiskey it might be. If you buy me Fireball, though, I might give you the evil eye from 6 feet away.

World's Top Whiskey Taster winner

Of course I’m not relying on the kindness of strangers (and friends) to prepare for this competition. I’ve been holed up in my bourbon bunker day and night practicing.

My brother who lives in Texas even sent me four blind samples — all from the Buffalo Trace family — and it was tough sorting them out.

If you have any ideas on other methods to practice, please feel free to reach out! Hell, I’ve been preparing for this competition since I turned 21 — OK, 19 — so I feel like I have a shot.

I just can’t let my nerves and second guesses get the best of me.

The competition won’t be broadcast live this time — to see my first competition, click here or watch below — but a video will be available later with the competitions and results.

Wish me luck!

Now back to tasting …

Sara Havens at a competition

Wish me luck and tune in tonight for Bardstown Bourbon Company’s Top Whiskey Taster competition

Whiskey Taster contest photo

Let’s go!

The time is here and the training is over. The World’s Top Whiskey Taster regionals for the Kentucky market will take place tonight at 6 p.m., and yours truly will be shitting her pants as she competes against five other badass bourbonites.

You can tune in for free at the Bardstown Bourbon Company‘s Facebook page or YouTube channel.

I’ve gotta answer four questions about mystery samples I’ve been sent, and then present a flight of three whiskeys to the judges with a three-minute time limit.

Just hoping nerves won’t get the best of me.

I’ve gotta go big, or else I’ll go home … well, I’ll stay at home actually. I’ll already be at home. OK, never mind.

Wish me luck!

Sara Havens at a competition

Drink up, y’all … I made it to Round 2 of the World’s Top Whiskey Taster!

Whiskey Taster contest photo

There’s my name!

Remember back in June when I posted a video about wanting to be the World’s Top Whiskey Taster? Well, turns out I made it to Round 2 of the contest, which is being run by Bardstown Bourbon Company.

Now, I have to prove my whiskey-sipping skills to a team of judges in a tough competition against five other Kentucky contenders. It all goes down Wednesday, Sept. 9, from 6-8 p.m., and you all are invited to watch, because it’ll be broadcast live via the Bardstown Bourbon Co. Facebook page and/or YouTube channel.

I could use some positive vibes and words of encouragement, because I know my competitors are fierce and fabulous.

I’ve been practicing just about every night for the past two weeks, and I’m concocting one of the best flights ever assembled in the whiskey world. (I’m also trying to work on my confidence, so that was a pretty good attempt at it.)

The competition will include four questions about various mystery samples we’ve been sent, and then we present our flights to the judges in three minutes or less.

This is the Kentucky finals round, and there will be similar competitions in nine other regions. So if I win this one, I still have to battle against the best nine. Yikes!

So what exactly are we battling for? Well, the winner will get $20,000 with a contract to represent Bardstown Bourbon Co. as a Distillery Ambassador at some of the country’s top whiskey festivals in 2021, including WhiskyFest and Whiskies of the World. The winner also will receive a scholarship to Moonshine University’s Executive Bourbon Steward program and will get to blend a custom product with Bourbon Hall of Famer and Master Distiller Steve Nally.

The latter is what I’d be most excited about, well, besides the cash money.

Anyway, wish me luck, and tune in Wednesday night if you can!