There’s so much for an Ancient Age Bourbon review to cover, as the spirit has been around since 1946 as a bargain bourbon. With the rise of bourbon culture and more people keeping a careful eye out for the exceptional, even on the bottom shelf, the buzz surrounding the Ancient Age is well deserved. This Ancient Age review will cover the history of the brand and the variety of expressions bourbon drinkers should be looking out for. Just as you’d take care when shopping for a top-shelf bourbon, your daily sipper deserves careful consideration.
Not all bottom-shelf bourbons are equal. Everyone should have a good quality bourbon on their home bar that costs less than $15. Affordable doesn’t always mean unpalatable with bourbon, either. As this Ancient Age review will reveal, many factors go into creating an exceptional bourbon. Sometimes, affordable bourbons have nearly all the qualities of a pricier bottle.
No one should argue that a $15 bottle can compare to a $50 bottle. But, a $15 bottle can be as good as or better than bourbons available for twice the cost. This Ancient Age review will get into some major factors that impact the quality of a bourbon.
A Little Back Story…
Since some Ancient Age products are no longer made, they give dedicated bourbon hunters a chance to own and taste some unique bourbon history. Plus, those bottles will give your home bar some serious cred.
Lucky shoppers may find discontinued versions of the Ancient Age in their liquor store. Many of them still sport bottom-shelf prices, so you can score a 10-year bourbon for less than $20. While age-statement Ancient Age ended long ago, the renamed Ancient Ancient Age 10 Star ages for double the time as the standard Ancient Age and remains a favorite pour among bourbon connoisseurs.
Think of the Ancient Age as the pre-teen version of some of your favorite adult brands. All products out of Buffalo Trace use one of four mash bills. The exact recipes are secret, but these are the basic builds:
- Mash bill #1: Low-rye bourbon mash with corn, rye, and barley
- Mash bill #2: Higher-rye bourbon mash with corn, rye, and barley
- Wheated mash bill: Corn, barley, and wheat instead of rye
- Rye mash bill: More than 50 percent rye with corn and wheat
Who Makes Ancient Age Bourbon?
What is now Buffalo Trace Distillery used to be the George T. Stagg Distillery, and before that, the Ancient Age Distillery. You may recognize those other names as other bourbons owned by the Sazerac Company. Ancient Age is one of the youngest Sazerac products, along with White Dog moonshine and Kentucky Gentleman.
Buffalo Trace Distillery claims to run the oldest continual distilling operation in the country. They may be right, as they’ve distilled since the late 1700s. Its contemporary history began in 1869 when E.H Taylor bought the property. The distillery ran as a medicinal operation through Prohibition and returned to whiskey through the rest of the 20th century. The Sazerac Company purchased both the brand and distillery in the late eighties.
Ancient Age’s label still sports the same aesthetic since the product first launched in 1946. However, the bourbon has made changes over the years, both in proof and time spent in the barrel. Some older bottles come with age statements for up to ten years. Ancient Age has been bottled at proofs ranging from 80 to 107. The 10-year turned into 10-star at some point, with the age statement removed. Ancient Age is now without an age statement, at 86 proof.
How Old Is The Ancient Age?
Their unaged whiskey, White Dog, is the same distillate that becomes Buffalo Trace, E.H. Taylor, and Eagle Rare. Time in the barrel, dilution, and blending all manipulate the high-proof grain alcohol into the bourbons you love to sip.
Ancient Age uses mash bill #2, with more rye in the recipe. With a little more time in the barrel, this distillate turns into Rock Hill Farm Single Barrel Bourbon and Blanton’s. Ancient Age doesn’t carry an age statement, but likely spends 3 years in a barrel. By comparison, Blanton’s ages 6-8 years, and Rock Hill Farms ages 8-10 years.
When tasting, approach Ancient Age as a youthful bourbon, with a good mash bill and expert distillation. Keep in mind the unbeatable price point and you’ll likely be thrilled with the product. It is not the same as a single barrel high-proof bourbon aged for a decade. But, if its greatest fault is its youth (and it is), you could do a lot worse for the price–especially if you take a few days to decant the bottle.
Our Ancient Age Bourbon Review
As you’d expect from a young bourbon, it’s thin on the palate without exceptional character and has a brief finish. In the glass, it’s light, with corn, honey, and vanilla on the nose. Tasting notes are similar, but there are citrus hints at the finish. If you’re very interested in what charred oak does for a spirit, taste a vertical of Ancient Age, Blanton’s, and Rock Hill Farm. There are other differences in the brands that impact overall performance in the glass, but you should find basically the same structure in all three spirits.
Ancient Age Bourbon Review From Instagram
Instagram influencers fill their tumblers with the Ancient Age for basic around-the-house drinking. It holds up well in cocktails, with mixers, and after a few days in a decanter is a passable sipper.
Here are five bourbon accounts surprised by this bargain bourbon.
@bottledinbondla Decants Ancient Age
“What’s in the decanter? What’s in the decanter?!?!?! It’s Wednesday which means it’s time for more whiskey. Follow the link in the bio and read about the unironic [sic]love of Ancient Age that I have… ”
@royalspiritswine Knows Value
“Ancient Ancient Age 10 Star is back in stock! This affordable Kentucky straight Bourbon is amazing for it’s [sic]price point. Come in and get yourself some of this easy sipper for the weekend ahead!”
Follow @badboneshaker for Reasonable Reviews
“Poor man’s Blanton’s.” First impressions of [the]Ancient Age. Pleasant taste on the initial sip…The longer it was exposed to air in the glass, it smoothed out a touch. Budget bourbon, and that’s OK…Definitely a much younger bourbon that isn’t nearly as refined.”
First Impressions from @pouringwhiskey
“I’ve debated grabbing this bottle for a while, but the low price point and the effort to bend all the way down to grab it from the bottom shelf deterred me. I wasn’t expecting much…I’ll have to say I was more than impressed with this one, it has a lot of the same characteristics and flavors as Blanton’s, at about 25% of the cost and 1000000000% better availability. I have to say if I see a bottle of Blanton’s I’ll grab it, but for the lesser effort and power price, I’ll take Ancient Ancient Age 10 any day. 🥃”
@basicbourbon Loves the Classics
“Ancient Age is a classic bourbon in every sense of the word…Nevertheless, for under $15…you simply cannot beat the alcohol delivery system that is Ancient Age. And while you’re enjoying a pour, revel in the fact that it really does not get any more ancient than this one…”
The Final Notes
Even if you’re at a place in your life where you cap off every day with a few ounces of $50 bourbon in your glass, the Ancient Age still adds something unique to your home bar. First, its long-running and consistent history–how many bourbons out there have sported the same kitschy label for over 70 years? Plus, having mash bill benchmarks are a great way to familiarize yourself with different distilleries and hone your palate.
What are your go-to bottom shelf bourbons? What do you look for in your daily sipping bourbons? Let us know in the comments.