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Bottom-Shelf Bourbon Brackets 2016, Round 1: Very Old Barton 86 vs. Jim Beam White

Posted on by Eric Burke

Round 1d of the 2016 Bottom Shelf Bourbon Brackets features Number 2 seed Very Old Barton 86 proof versus Number 3 seed Jim Beam White. 

Very Old Barton is a product of the Sazerac company produced out of the Barton 1792 Distillery in Bardstown, KY. Depending on where you live, Very Old Barton is sold in one of four proof levels: 80, 86, 90 and 100. I've had all four and have enjoyed them all. I ran across the 86 proof at a really good price this year as the "Total Wine effect" brought it into the realm of this competition.

Jim Beam white label is one of the most popular bourbons in existence. It's in almost every bar on the planet. Of course this does not mean it is actually good. I've run into very few people that count Jim Beam white as their favorite bourbon. Jim Beam produces some very good bourbon, but this expression normally gets buried in coke or slammed as a cheap shot.

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

Jim Beam White Label 

Purchase Info: $12.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Total Wine, Burnsville, MN

Details: 40% ABV, No age statement

Produced by: Jim Beam

Nose: Light on the nose, delicate. Dusty wood, mint leaves and corn bread.

Mouth: Thin and a bit watery. Vanilla, bitter oak and cooked cereal.

Finish: This has a burn that comes back up for a visit but otherwise doesn't have much of a finish to speak of. There are fleeting bitter oak tannins but they fade quickly.

Thoughts: “Thin, watery and a tad bitter. Not really a fan.”

Very Old Barton 86 proof

Purchase Info: $14.99 for a 1L bottle at Ace Spirits, Hopkins, MN.

Details: 43% ABV, No Age Statement

Produced by: Sazerac/Barton 1792 Distillery

Nose: Sweet with a hint of fruit. Mint caramel and bubble gum.

Mouth: Sweet and warm. Vanilla, caramel, some oak and grain flavors.

Finish: Warm and of medium length. Lingering spices and cinnamon red hots.

Thoughts: “Sweet and tasty. though nothing to write home about. This would be nice while playing cards.”

Who wins?

After the reveal it was no surprise that Very Old Barton won this one handily. It not only had more flavor, but they are flavors that I actually like. I'm on record as not being a fan of the flavors that show up in low-proof Beam products. And it held true in this case. Very Old Barton won almost by default. I'm curious to see how it does against real competition.


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