Private label bourbons have been around for decades. Many have lingered on bottom shelves, relegated to those seeking mass quantity whiskey. However, with recent releases receiving high praise, like Costco's Kirkland, we take a look today at Liquor Barn's private label - Flatboat. Similar to Kirkland, this, too, is sourced from the Barton 1792 Distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky.
Growing up dinning in Midwestern supper clubs, I remember my parents always asking for a glass of wine with dinner and seeing if they had a house brand. At one point, it was a sign of premiere quality; at another, a sign of low cost; but occasionally, an example of quality and value.
Flatboat gets its name from the flatboats of the 1800's that guided through the shallow riverways, linking farmers and distillers with their end consumers. From the website, while the mash bill remains secretive, we are told it is a high-rye bourbon (perhaps similar to Barton's other high-rye bourbon, 1792).
Visitors to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail will recognize the Liquor Barn name. It is the largest independent chain of alcohol retailers in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and is often able to receive some of the largest and most elite bourbon allocations in the world. The chain began operations in 1984 and was family owned for the next 25 years. Ownership changed to Liquor Stores N.A., a Canadian spirits company. In 2019, Blue Equity, a Louisville-based private equity firm, acquired the 15-store chain for just under $30 million.
As Sazerac, parent of Buffalo Trace and Barton 1792, keeps its mash bill secret, the exact mix of corn, rye and malted barley remains unknown. The finished product is bottled at 90 proof, which according to Liquor Barn, makes it an easy sipper yet also holds up in a cocktail.
Eye: Honey copper with thin legs displayed in the glass.
Nose: Bright with vanilla, honey and caramelized sugar.
Palate: Vanilla, brown sugar, bananas foster, light oak and spice.
Finish: Medium, with toasted oak and peppercorn-like spice.
Overall: Not every store brand is one to keep around. With this one, though, I initially thought (before trying) "this can't be very good'. To be honest, though, this was pretty good. There was enough proof and layered complexity to make it interesting. Not having to part with much more than an Andrew Jackson made this especially pleasant.
Next time you're in Kentucky, don't forget to make a visit to Liquor Barn, the bourbon-Mecca of the Bluegrass. This house brand was super pleasant and didn't disappoint.