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Bottom-Shelf Bourbon Brackets 2016, Round 1: JW Dant Bottled in Bond vs. Blue State

Posted on by Eric Burke

Round 1b of the 2016 Bottom Shelf Bourbon Brackets features Number 1 seed, and winner from two year ago, JW Dant Bottled in Bond versus Number 4 seed Blue State. 

JW Dant Bottled in Bond is a product of Heaven Hill Brands. It was initially chosen as a part of our initial competition where it eked out a split decision victory over Sazerac’s Old Charter (8 year old). Last year it was back to defend it’s crown and lost in the second round to corporate cousin Evan Williams Bottled in Bond. Unless it wins, this year is the last time it will compete since I’m cutting off previous year winners at two years so we aren’t overrun by them in the future.

Blue State was released by Heaven Hill in 2012 (along with identical product Red State) as a gimmick to play off that year’s Presidential elections. Even though it is once again a Presidential year, I’m guessing it is no longer an active brand since they’ve pulled down the website listed on the back of the bottle and didn’t even bother to redirect it anywhere. I found it along with it’s alternate hidden on the bottom shelf of a local retailer and decided to pick it up since I’d never bothered to originally.

These were tasted blind in the following order. My thoughts on each are from before the reveal.

Blue State

Purchase Info: $14.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Ace Spirits, Hopkins, MN

Details: 40% ABV, No age statement

Produced by: Heaven Hill Brands

Nose: Strong oak presence, cola, black tea and fleeting hints of brown sugar.

Mouth: Cinnamon candies, mint sugar sweetness and some oak.

Finish: Cola, black tea and baking spices anchor a warm finish of decent length.

Thoughts: “I like this a lot. I’m excited to find out which it is.”

JW Dant

Purchase Info: $14.99 for a 1 L bottle at Total Wine, Burnsville, MN*

Details: 50% ABV, No Age Statement

Produced by: Heaven Hill Brands

Nose: Butterscotch, cinnamon candies and oak. 

Mouth: Spicy. Butterscotch, vanilla and baking spices.

Finish: Oaky tannins transition to sweet, baking spices that hang around a while.

Thoughts: “This is a sweet one, but has enough oak to balance the sweetness and keep it from overpowering.”

Who wins?

This is a close one. Closer than any 1-4 matchup we’ve had to this point. I like the complex nose of Blue State better. I like the sweet and spicy nature of the mouth of the Dant. So it comes down to the finish and whether I like the yummy flavors of Blue State or the spicy heat of Dant better. Man this is a tough one. After stepping away for a little while and coming back to them we had to give the nod to the JW Dant. The heat was too good to pass by. That said, even though it was a "gimmick" bourbon, I ran back to Ace the next day and picked up two more bottles as this will make a great inexpensive “every-day” bourbon while supplies last.


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