If you’re into bourbon, you undoubtedly know about the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (BTAC). All someone has to say is “George T. Stagg” and an extended discussion will almost certainly follow. Any expression in the lineup is considered peak bucket list bourbon material, so much so that I’d personally take a George T. Stagg and William Larue Weller over the entire Pappy suite. Yet that’s the thing: BTAC is a pipedream for many, self included. As a result, those in situations similar to mine will inevitably ask, “what’s the next best thing, if not a different Buffalo Trace expression?”
Enter Bardstown Bourbon Company Discovery series which, starting with #2, combines three well-aged bourbons “to create a smooth and unique expression.” If, like me, you’re guilty of consuming whiskey review content on YouTube, then you may already know that the Discovery series has been called “BTAC-level bourbon you can actually find.” That last part probably deserves an asterisk for location variability. Even so, reception for the Discovery series has been nothing if not impressive, particularly for #3 and #4. The sample I’ll be tasting today is from #4, comprised of bourbons aged 10, 13, and 15 years. Prices for these bottles tends to hover in the $130-$200 range, which is about what I’d be willing to pay for a BTAC bottle. Time to see if it lives up to the building hype.
Nose: Lots of cherry and vanilla. Nice balance of oak with a level of char that feels just right. Orange zest with a touch of slightly sweet pepper. After swirling I get banana custard and some toasted or slightly burnt sugar. Smells like the perfect cherry pie. Get more orange after sipping.
Palate: First sip brings a huge, rich explosion of flavor. Cherry, caramel, and oak dominate the front and mid-palates. Brown sugar enters the fray and everything combines so beautifully. Toasty, dessert-y vanilla with a touch of banana buried somewhat. Barrel char, oak spice, and mild-moderate baking spices. Orange notes eventually follow the cherry blast with more brown sugar, as well as nutmeg, sweet cinnamon, and a welcome level of smoke.
Finish: Lengthy and downright pleasurable. Oak, caramel, and toasty orange cake immediately spring to mind. Get a sweet combo of tobacco and peppers with some more bouts of vanilla. Get some toasted marshmallow as well.
Yeah…this puts me in my happy place. The first sip had me holding my hand to my face, audibly saying expletives over and over while forgetting to take notes. It was definitely a flavor explosion. Once I regained my composure, breaking this bourbon down became slightly easier, but focusing on tasting still proved difficult. If you can’t already tell, I’m quickly understanding why this brand and product line has been gaining so much momentum.
Now for the important questions, starting with whether I think Discovery #4 is up to BTAC levels. Considering I’ve only tried the 2017 and 2018 George T. Staggs, I’d say the bare minimum Discovery #4 does is hold its own. Then there’s price. For around $130 or so, I think Discovery #4 handily justifies its price between the respectable proof, age statements, and masterful blending that results in a bourbon I’d have to nitpick to find fault with. If I ever see a bottle of Discovery Batch #4 at MSRP, I’m buying it without hesitation.