US law requires that the duration of maturation be put on the label for any straight bourbon aged for less than four years but it does not require that the bourbon’s name have any obvious relationship to this number. Thus a 3 yo straight bourbon from the Buffalo Trace stable is called Ancient Age—presumably it beat out “Wino’s Choice” in focus group testing (it’s close to $10 in most markets for a full bottle). This is not, however, that Ancient Age and if you think that I wrote the preceding sentences only so that I could make the “Wino’s Choice” joke, well, you are correct.
This is an Ancient Age at 43% bottled in the early 1980s without an age statement (under current bourbon law that would imply it is more than 4 years old), quite likely before ownership of the brand passed to Buffalo Trace. The current 3 yo Ancient Age is at 40% and the only other extant Ancient Age is the 10 Star, which is at 45%. The only 43% one I know of is the now discontinued Ancient Ancient Age which was 10 years old—and Michael Kravitz, who is the source of this sample, informs that this is none of those. What relationship this 1980s bottling has to any of the later ones I have no idea. Indeed, frankly, I have no idea what I am drinking.
I have so far in this post added not one whit to the store of useful human knowledge. And the odds that the review that follows will do so are not good. Thank you for reading.
(This is another simul-review with Michael. The link to his review will be posted in the morning once I have it—as always, we have not discussed our notes or scores before posting our reviews.)
Ancient Age 86 (43%; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Does not nose like a $10 bourbon. Sweet caramel with pine and clove and a bit of orange peel. No development from there at first. The nose gets richer as it sits with some vanilla and a touch of maple syrup emerging as well. With a drop of water the caramel moves closer to toffee.
Palate: As on the palate with more wood influence. The rye notes get stronger as I swallow with more pine and some dill showing up. More caramel emerges on subsequent sips along with cinnamon. Water ties everything together very nicely and actually improves the texture a bit.
Finish: Medium. The oak expands but blends nicely with the spicier rye notes—pine, dill, mint. The balance is thrown off a bit by water with the wood emphasized, and just a bit of astringency at the very end.
Comments: Not bad at all. There’s not very much complexity on the palate and the texture is a little too thin but there’s not a single off note. And it does seem to be from a high rye mashbill as the current Ancient Age also is. If any of the current versions are as good I’m getting a bottle.
Rating: 85 points.