There are plenty of new bourbons on the market these days, but not all of them come from actual distilleries. Some of them source their spirits elsewhere, do something interesting with it, and bottle the result. Some notable examples include Jefferson’s, which focuses more on the maturation process than distillation. Today we’re taking a look at another sourced bourbon, this time from a company that knows a thing or two about sourcing: Bib & Tucker’s 6 Year Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey.
This is a sourced whiskey (made by another company, but bottled and branded in-house) produced by the Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits company, the same company that brings us [yellow tail] wine as well as the Redemption and Masterson’s lines of whiskey.
Founded in 1981 by Bill Deutsch, the company was originally formed to import a handful of French wines for sale in the United States. Since then, the company has grown to represent numerous wine brands and has recently expanded into spirits, creating in-house developed brands using sourced spirits from other distilleries.
(And a fun fact about this company name: “bib & tucker” is 19th century term for one’s best clothes, with a tucked in pressed shirt and a tuxedo bib.)
- Learn More: What Is Bourbon Whiskey?
This whiskey comes from an undisclosed Tennessee based manufacturer, believed by some to be George Dickel. Technically, it meets all of the qualifications to be called a Tennessee Whiskey but that categorization seems to be something that the company is actually avoiding.
The spirit starts as a mixture of corn, rye, and barley, with at least 51% being corn. The specific proportions are not disclosed, but we do know that the company claims that their corn comes from within 90 miles of the distillery. Those grains are milled, cooked, and fermented to create a mildly alcoholic liquid that is then distilled into newly made whiskey.
As a Tennessee whiskey, this does go through the Lincoln County Process (where the newly made whiskey is filtered through barrels of sugar maple charcoal to remove impurities and improve the taste). After filtration, the whiskey is placed into charred new oak barrels to mature, which for this specific bottling takes a period of six years in the Tennessee climate.
Once properly matured, the whiskey is blended, bottled, and shipped for sale.
Obviously this bottle isn’t actually an antique, but in some respects I appreciate the artistry and attempt to make it seem much older than it really is.
The bottle is roughly flask shaped, with an oval cross section, flat base, and round shoulder. Up top, there’s a very short neck that is capped off with a rough cork, like you’d see in an old western movie. Molded into the bottle itself is the brand information in raised lettering, which gives it an interesting texture you want to touch (according to some reports, touching a bottle makes you more likely to buy it).
One thing I don’t like about the bottle is the color of the glass. I understand that, historically speaking, brown glass has been the norm for these kinds of bottles since light can degrade the contents and make it less delicious over time. But I still like to see what I’m buying, and seeing the color of the liquid is part of that.
Their actual label is a small strip on the side with the necessary details — brand, age statement, proof, and batch number. It seems well done with some faux handwritten numbers on it, and generally does a good job keeping in with the style of the rest of the bottle.
Despite being hidden behind the colored glass, this bourbon does have a fairly good color to it. I’d describe it as a toasted caramel, like the toasted top of a creme brulee. The aroma coming off the glass is delicious with some unexpected complexity — brown sugar is the first note, followed by some banana, crisp apple, cedar chips, vanilla, baking spices, and brown butter.
I didn’t expect this whiskey to be nearly as delicious as it was when I first took a sip. It is a remarkable version of a Tennessee whiskey that brings all the components together in a well-matured package.
As soon as you take a sip, there’s an immediate burst of flavor with brown sugar, baking spices, vanilla, and caramel all combining for a flavor that is complex, well-balanced, and well-saturated. It has an oily and mouthfilling texture to it that makes the experience very enjoyable, like you’d get from a piece of bread with some good olive oil drizzled on top.
As the flavor develops, the vanilla starts to take center stage, supported by some of that crisp apple and a slight bit of banana flavor that I usually associate with spirits that go through the Lincoln County Process. It isn’t nearly as pronounced as with something like a Jack Daniel’s; instead, it’s just enough to add some good character. Balancing that fruit is a darker and richer flavor, similar to the toasted brown sugar topping on a creme brulee. This flavor adds some crucial depth to the spirit, as well as some oatmeal-like goodness (probably from the barley) which helps support the other flavors and fill in the gaps.
The finish is where I’m a bit disappointed, though, as it turns out to be a pretty simple mixture of slightly burned caramel, vanilla, and black pepper spice (likely from the rye content). There’s also just a hint of bitterness on the finish associated with that burned caramel flavor that lingers on, but not enough to ruin the experience.
The addition of some ice has some positive benefits, but also makes this spirit a little more milquetoast.
For good news, that little bit of bitterness at the end is gone. Which is a great thing — it was a disappointing end to an otherwise really great flavor. In other good news, most of the flavors have made it through to the other side and remain vibrant, specifically the brown sugar, baking spices, vanilla, and banana.
Which brings us to the bad news: this now tastes much closer to a standard well-aged Tennessee whiskey. The banana flavor is more prominent and the crisp apple is gone, leaving this tasting much more like a good glass of George Dickel 8 Year. That’s not entirely a bad thing — I liked that whiskey quite a lot. It’s just slightly disappointing that there’s nothing I can point to which differentiates this spirit much from that other offering.
Cocktail (Old Fashioned)
This spirit has a good bit of depth and richness to it, even with the added ice cubes. That’s something I look for when I’m trying to find something for an old fashioned, as the end result tends to be a bit more delicious and well-rounded in my opinion. In this case, Bib & Tucker delivers in spades.
I really appreciate that the darker and richer flavors in here — that charred caramel, the baking spices, and even the banana to some extent — balance out the herbaceousness and brightness of the bitters. There’s an interesting interplay here between the flavors that creates a journey for your taste buds: starting with the brown sugar, layering in some flower blossoms and herbs, and then kicking in some spicy components for an interesting finish. It’s a solid drink.
What I’m looking for in a good mule is a balance between the ginger beer, lime, and spirit, as well as an interesting texture on the finish. I think this nails the first requirement but doesn’t exactly stick the landing on the second.
Up front, there are two things that this spirit has going for it to provide some balance, and that’s the brown sugar sweetness in the flavor and the malty oatmeal component from the barley content. Both of these flavors provide a soft cushion for the sharper and brighter edges of the ginger beer and the lime juice, and create a deliciously sippable cocktail and does have some good balance to it.
On the finish, I think that malty oatmeal quality unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your preferences) cancels out whatever black pepper spice might have remained from the rye content. I just get a smooth and elegant finish without anything close to a kick. That might be a good thing if that’s more your style, but for me I was looking for something a little extra.
I’ll be honest, this was not what I was expecting when I picked this bottle off the shelf. I was anticipating something a little more bland and uninteresting, but what I got was a delicious whiskey that was absolutely worth every penny I paid for it.
The problem that this spirit runs into is that it is trying to compete in an extremely crowded market. There are a lot of other options at this price point, and the minor fumbles in the flavor profile keep it from edging out the competition. I wouldn’t turn my nose up at this on a menu at a bar, but it wouldn’t necessarily be my first choice, either.
|Bib & Tucker 6 Year Old Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey|
Tennessee, United States
Classification: Bourbon Whiskey
Aging: 6 Years
Proof: 46% ABV
Price: $46.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 3/5
Delicious brown sugar, baking spices, banana, and caramel, in a bit of a darker and richer combination. Solidly worth the price.