old bardstown estate bottled review

Old Bardstown Estate Bottled 101 Bourbon

old bardstown 101 review

Distillery: Willett

Type & Region: Bourbon, Kentucky, USA

Alcohol: 50.5%

Composition: TBD

Aged: At least 4 years in virgin American white oak

Color: 1.3/2.0 on the color scale (russet muscat)

Price: $30-40 

From the Willet website:

“Nose is sweet, herbal, citrus. The palate is herbaceous, sweet fruit, vanilla, on a layer of oak and earthiness that goes on like a champion marathon runner.”

Company Website

old bardstown estate bottled overview

There’s not a lot of information out there on Old Bardstown Estate 101 Proof, not even on their own website. I guess all there really is to know is that it’s a straight bourbon made at the Willett Distillery in Kentucky, so assuming there’s no age statement hiding on the back label, it’s at least 4 years old. If anything, Willett is best known for the crazy desirable whiskey they sourced, much of it years ago, that now sport absurd prices north of $800 and often into the four to five figures on the secondary markets. Anyways, I digress.



I visited the Willett distillery back in 2014 when things were still a little calm and enjoyed the tour. I recall it being a relatively small operation, but I can imagine that it has grown quite a lot since then as demand has exploded. As Willett continues to grow, let’s find out how good their homemade bourbon is in this Old Bardstown Estate Bottled 101 proof bourbon review.

old bardstown estate bottled smell

Old Bardstown 101 takes an immediate hard left turn (I’ll explain in a moment) with sweet honey, licorice, musty citrus, and oak followed by hints of vanilla and dustings of nutmeg, cinnamon, dark chocolate, and pine. The alcohol level remains calm as well. Wait…is this rye whiskey? Given how licorice-forward the nose is, I’m strongly reminded more of MGP rye and less of bourbon. It’s so strange, but I don’t dislike it.


Not much changes the second time around. I still smell sweet and slightly vegetal honey, licorice, oak, and citrus proceeded by more herbal pine, fern, and general winter forestry. Even as I keep digging, I keep smelling this underlying yet not quite clearly identifiable fruity sweetness. The alcohol does get a little riled up, but sits back down after 10 seconds. For bourbon, this nose is so very strange and unexpected, but not unpleasant. 

old bardstown estate bottled 101 taste & aftertaste

Old Bardstown 101’s flavors start with sweet and herbal honey, vanilla, and citrus followed by slightly musty oak, cinnamon, chocolate, and licorice, but not much heat. It’s not so rye-y at first taste, but it’s enough for me to take notice that its unusual for bourbon. After “chewing”, I taste sweet honey, mint, licorice, and vanilla followed by more herbal notes, sweet tea, grain, oak, cinnamon, and clove. Old Bardstown becomes quite a bit more herbal, with more rye-bread-like scents, but not too much kick.


At first, the finish is sweet with honey and licorice mixed-in with a little oak. After “chewing”, there’s a little more alcohol tingle with honey, citrus, oak tannins, licorice, and mint – quite herbal. The finish is just very rye-like, and it’s both strange and nice. As much as I don’t want to repeat myself, this seems to taste so much like rye whiskey and not so much like bourbon.

Place on the Whiskey Shelf

Mid Shelf

Old Bardstown 101 made me do a double take because it smells and drinks more like a rye whiskey than a bourbon. This actually explains my initial shock when I tried it two weeks prior to this review and wasn’t quite able to pinpoint the oddness. It was bright and sweet in a way that I didn’t expect from bourbon, and now sitting down to do a more formal review has helped me verbalize why I found it weird. The tasting notes from Bill Thomas of Jack Rose Saloon mentioning its “herbaceous” qualities are dead on…and for a moment I thought I was going crazy.


I’m honestly not sure what to make of Old Bardstown Estate Bottled 101. Regardless of whether it’s bourbon or rye, it’s an enjoyable whiskey that has a lot going for it, but it’s not quite memorable enough to give it anything more than a “Mid Shelf” rating. With this rating, Old Bardstown Estate Bottled is something I’d happily drink if offered, but it’s not something I’d actively seek out again. If you happen to be drinking this for the first time, prepare to be surprised when you drink this.

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