Spirits mogul Raj Bhakta’s second act has pushed historic age statements into new territory, with most bottles of his Bhakta 50 Armagnac featuring at least some vintage spirit dating to 1868. The rest comes from various barrels dating between the late 19th and mid-20th centuries, with the youngest vintage produced in 1970. As such, no spirit in the brand’s various releases dates any younger than 50 years old.
If eye-popping age statements weren’t enough, Bhakta took the bold move of finishing each batch in Islay whisky casks for 2 weeks, believing a touch of peat would help convert the world’s high-end whisky drinkers to brandy.
We previously reviewed Barrel 3, finding it a complex sip that holds weight even apart from the blend’s historical significance. Now, nearly two-dozen batches in, Bhakta has released a more “accessible” 3-pack of 50ml bottles from its recent blends. Today, we’re tasting Barrels 21, 22, and 23, each of which carries a blend of vintage Armagnacs spanning that 1868-1970 time frame.
Let’s dive in.
Bhakta 50 Armagnac Barrel 21 “Earhart” — The nose opens with very light peat and smoke. After settling for a few minutes, I get more of a hickory note, along with sassafras and other vegetal notes that pair well with the smokiness. On the tongue, things are more muted; the peat fades quickly, there’s a begrudgingly short hit of pine sweetness, and I get a traditional prune note, but not for long. The finish is shorter than some other Bhakta barrels, with some lingering campfire and mixed wood smoke, and a bit of raisin that I found myself wishing would stick around longer. 95.8 proof. B+
Bhakta 50 Armagnac Barrel 22 “Patton” — Again, peat comes through on the nose, especially if you’re expecting it. The wood smoke lingers heavier here, a touch deeper and noticeably richer than Barrel 21. The taste gives an immediate hit of tobacco, oily walnut, and fruitcake. There’s something savory here as well; one sip gives a full trifecta of meat, potatoes, and dessert. The mouthfeel is noticeably thick without veering into sticky territory. Then there’s a long finish that sits well on the entire tongue, and maybe a touch of malt as it exits. Overall, Barrel 22 brings a remarkably balanced experience from start to finish, the sweet, savory, and smoky all playing well together, each noticeable without coming close to overpowering the other components. This one is easy to reach for and tough to put down. 96.8 proof. A
Bhakta 50 Armagnac Barrel 23 “Morgan” — Of the three barrels in this collection, 23 has the lightest nose. There’s barely any smoke, but instead more baking spice; nosing blind, one might be convinced this is an extraordinarily aged rye whiskey. On the palate comes rich, fruity chocolate, like cacao selected for its berry notes. Black currant is also present. It’s bright despite a thicker mouth feel, and the taste certainly exceeds the nose. There’s just a tiny bit of smoke on the finish, a burnt caramel sweetness, and lingering raisin. 96.4 proof. A-
$99 for the set / bhaktaspirits.com