Toledo Talk

In Search Of...Older Bourbon

I was encouraged to see how many TTers were ringing in the new year with whiskey (bourbon, in particular).

Bourbon has been a hobby of mine for a few years now and while I've spent quite a bit of time tasting what is currently available, I've recently started trying to hunt down older expressions of current and extinct labels. With all of the consolidation that has taken place in the industry over the past 10-15 years, many labels are no longer being produced by their original and/or long time distillers...even the famous, highly sought after Pappy Van Winkle (distilled and bottled by Buffalo Trace).

That being said, I'm hoping that there may be some TTers with access to older bottles of bourbon sitting around collecting dust. As for what constitutes "older", I would say anything up to the mid to late 80s. There are a few indicators that I always look for when trying to date a bottle.

- Tax Stamps: The strips of paper that used go over the caps of bottles. Their use was discontinued in 1985.

- UPC Codes: Came into existence in the late 1970s, early 1980s.

- Government (Surgeon General) Warning: Use was mandated beginning in 1989.

I know we live in the great control state of Ohio, with our lesser control state cousin of Michigan to the north, but here's to hoping.

created by RBancroft on Jan 15, 2014 at 12:46:03 am
updated by RBancroft on Jan 15, 2014 at 10:09:34 am
    Comments: 16

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Comments ... #

So, you don't want bourbon that is older then mid 80's? What are you looking for? Brands?

posted by golddustwoman on Jan 15, 2014 at 09:00:44 am     #  

So, you don't want bourbon that is older then mid 80's? What are you looking for? Brands? Is there something wrong with older bourbons? I have no clue which is why I ask.

posted by golddustwoman on Jan 15, 2014 at 09:01:51 am     #  

I think he's trying to cadge a drink.

I've got a few bottles of pre-prohibition bourbon in the back of the liquor cabinet. One's never been opened and has a lead seal. I think another is labeled For medicinal purposes only.

posted by madjack on Jan 15, 2014 at 09:58:51 am     #   1 person liked this

golddustwoman posted at 08:01:51 AM on Jan 15, 2014:

So, you don't want bourbon that is older then mid 80's? What are you looking for? Brands? Is there something wrong with older bourbons? I have no clue which is why I ask.

Precisely the opposite. Looking for mid to late 80s and earlier. Though I now realize that part of my post wasn't that clear (now updated).

In some cases there are bourbons on the market today that are being distilled and bottled by one company, when 20-30+ years ago they were being distilled and bottled by another. With that comes different recipes, techniques, etc. and a different tasting bourbon.

Old Grand Dad, which is one of the brands I keep my eye out for when looking for older bottles, is currently produced by Jim Beam. Prior to Beam assuming ownership of the brand in 1987, Old Grand Dad was produced by the National Distillers Group.

Outside of Old Grand Dad, a few others I try to find are Old Taylor and Old Fitzgerald. Both of which are currently in production today, but by a different distiller.

posted by RBancroft on Jan 15, 2014 at 10:26:37 am     #  

madjack posted at 08:58:51 AM on Jan 15, 2014:

I think he's trying to cadge a drink.

I've got a few bottles of pre-prohibition bourbon in the back of the liquor cabinet. One's never been opened and has a lead seal. I think another is labeled For medicinal purposes only.

That is some seriously old juice you have there madjack.

If you don't mind me asking, how are the fill levels on those bottles? I've seen some where they look almost as full as the day they were bottled and others where almost half had evaporated.

posted by RBancroft on Jan 15, 2014 at 10:51:45 am     #  

Hmm.. I have Crown Royal and JB that is from the 70's, unopened. I have something else but have to wait to get home to see what it is.

posted by golddustwoman on Jan 15, 2014 at 11:26:57 am     #  

We've got an unopened 1.75 liter (may be a half gallon dating back that far) bottle of Seagram's Whiskey - tax stamp dated 1968 still in place - carefully tucked in the back of the liquor cabinet. Appears to be as full as the day it was filled. Came from my SO's father's liquor cabinet.

I believe I'll leave instructions for whomever will be in charge of my affairs to have a couple of shots injected into the IV drip when I'm on my death bed. I'd hate to leave a bottle that old behind for some ungrateful little shit of a shirt-tail relative.

posted by Foodie on Jan 15, 2014 at 12:02:17 pm     #   1 person liked this

If a person drinks bourbon aged less than 18 years, would that person have to go on a registered offender's list?

posted by historymike on Jan 15, 2014 at 12:59:35 pm     #   1 person liked this

Not in Kentucky. :)

posted by justread on Jan 15, 2014 at 01:44:07 pm     #   5 people liked this

RBancroft posted at 09:51:45 AM on Jan 15, 2014:
madjack posted at 08:58:51 AM on Jan 15, 2014:

I think he's trying to cadge a drink.

I've got a few bottles of pre-prohibition bourbon in the back of the liquor cabinet. One's never been opened and has a lead seal. I think another is labeled For medicinal purposes only.

That is some seriously old juice you have there madjack.

If you don't mind me asking, how are the fill levels on those bottles? I've seen some where they look almost as full as the day they were bottled and others where almost half had evaporated.

No, I don't mind. All the bottles are still at the 100% mark.

posted by madjack on Jan 15, 2014 at 04:37:02 pm     #   1 person liked this

justread posted at 12:44:07 PM on Jan 15, 2014:

Not in Kentucky. :)

Quite right. Although there has been some talk among the Kentucky Democrats that the age ought to be reset at 12 years. Keep everything consistent, you see.

posted by madjack on Jan 15, 2014 at 04:39:01 pm     #   3 people liked this

I have a buddy of mine that has an older bottle of Pappy he's looking to sell. Let me know if interested.

posted by breeman on Jan 15, 2014 at 06:22:40 pm     #  

Help me out. Why keep an old bottle of whiskey around? Technically it really shouldn't be aging once it's bottled. Whiskey draws it richness and flavor from the charred oak barrels that it's aged in.

Crown Royal,a blended whiskey that is aged 4-7 years, should technically taste the same if was bottled in the 70s or in 2014. That said, one could argue the techniques and ingredients were better back than, but I wouldn't think the quality would have to do with age.

Thoughts?

posted by SensorG on Jan 16, 2014 at 09:02:07 am     #  

Breeman - Which Pappy is it? I'm very interested in the 20 and 23 year old.

posted by jimavolt on Jan 16, 2014 at 09:32:35 am     #  

You are correct SensorG, the flavor technically does not improve once bottled. Many people (myself included) buy rare or special bottles to be opened for a special occasion or just get them when they are available as this is sometimes quite difficult. One should not then open the bottle until one is prepared to drink it (not in one sitting) but leaving an unopened bottle for a long time will spoil it a bit as essential flavors and scent components will evaporate.

posted by breeman on Jan 16, 2014 at 12:53:09 pm     #  

SensorG posted at 08:02:07 AM on Jan 16, 2014:

Help me out. Why keep an old bottle of whiskey around? Technically it really shouldn't be aging once it's bottled. Whiskey draws it richness and flavor from the charred oak barrels that it's aged in.

Crown Royal,a blended whiskey that is aged 4-7 years, should technically taste the same if was bottled in the 70s or in 2014. That said, one could argue the techniques and ingredients were better back than, but I wouldn't think the quality would have to do with age.

Thoughts?

I can think of a handful of reasons why someone would keep an older, unopened bottle around; for display, it was inherited, saved for special occasion, bunkered, etc.

As for aging, you're correct, that stops once the whiskey is bottled.

To your Crown example, if there wasn't any change in the age of the whiskey being used in the 70s versus 2014, whether or not both iterations were produced at the same distillery will usually determine how much or little difference there will be in taste. Which is generally what I'm looking for in my search for older bourbons.

I have a bottle of Old Grand Dad from 1988 (produced by National Distillers Group) and a bottle from 2013 (produced by Jim Beam). There has been little to no change in the age of the whiskey used in both bottles, but they taste vastly different.

posted by RBancroft on Jan 16, 2014 at 01:41:22 pm     #