Barterhouse Kentucky Bourbon

Maker: Diageo, London, UKBarterhouse

Distilled: Bernheim Distillery, Louisville, Kentucky, USA (Now owned by Heaven Hill, then owned by United Distillers, a precursor to Diageo)

Bottled: George Dickel, Tullahoma, Tennessee, USA

Style: High corn bourbon

Age: 20 y/o

Proof: 90.2 (45.1% ABV)

Michigan State Minimum: $70

Appearance: Dark auburn with long slow legs.

Nose: Oak, walnut, caramel.

Palate: Full bodied and mild. A tiny bit of alcohol burn, hint of caramel, a little licorice. Very subtle.

Finish: Short and mild. Dry oak, black walnut, burn.

Parting words: Barterhouse is one of the first two releases in Diageo’s new Orphan Barrel series of overaged stuff they had sitting around their Louisville warehouses. The other is the 26 year old Old Blowhard (actual name) that was likely distilled at a distillery called at the site of what’s now Bernheim Distillery in Louisville. Bernheim and its predecessor were home to the I.W. Harper and Old Charter brands. Barterhouse and its older sibling were probably intended for one of those two brands when they were distilled.

I usually don’t go in for bourbons this old. I find them one-dimensional and flat. They’re all wood and very little else. I bought this one because of its pedigree. One of my favorite out-of-production bourbons was the Bernheim-distilled version of Old Charter Proprietor’s Reserve (distinguished from the other version by its slope-shouldered bottle). I was willing to pay the rather high price for Barterhous because I hoped it would bear a resemblance to that sweet, butterscotchy old favorite of mine. Unfortunately, it doesn’t bear much resemblance at all.

Barterhouse bears a resemblance to just about every other bourbon over 16 years old I have tasted. It’s woody.  A little sweetness and spice manage to keep it drinkable but barely. It’s not bad by any means, but I expect more complexity out of something this expensive. Most bourbons at half the price have twice the flavor. Barterhouse is interesting as a piece of history, but I can’t help but get a little melancholy when I think about how great this might have tasted at 12-16 y/o. Barterhouse is mildly recommended.

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  1. #1 by Wade on May 3, 2014 - 9:16 am

    Good call. I called it Old Charter 20 year old the other day and folks freaked out. Of the 2, I think Barterhouse is much better than the Blowhard.

  2. #2 by Matt on May 5, 2014 - 3:35 pm

    Your review mirrors what most others are saying about this bourbon – “the emperor has no clothes”

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