Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The growth of a bourbon collection

Ok, collection may be the wrong word to use because I have no intention of displaying my bottles to be admired but rather each one will get opened and enjoyed in solitude or among friends who appreciate fine bourbon. So, maybe hoard is a more appropriate word as it describes what I'm doing; stockpiling bourbon for future enjoyment. I'll admit that I've amassed somewhere north of 300 bottles of bourbon, a number of those being duplicates. Let me explain why I've done this. First and foremost, the majority of my "bourbon bunker" consists of out of production bourbon and rye whiskey, or more affectionately known as "dusty bottles". This is a literal term as most times when finding an older bottles there's dust all over it. I've determined that I like the older offerings over the current stuff. Not that the current shelf brands are bad, they are just different in a number of ways. The distillation practices employed today are different that those used 20, 30 or 40 years ago. For example, the barrel entry proof years ago was about 100-110 while today it's about 120-125 (the legal limit). The higher entry proof cooks off more flavor components. Additionally, some feel the practice of chill filtering also removes flavor as some ester's and fatty acids are removed during this process. I believe other factors like changes in corn harvest and the age of the oak used in barrels impact a bourbon profile and as such I find these older bourbons and whiskey's to be more flavorful and contain more depth, some even at 80 proof. This is not meant to be a blanket statement but merely an observation and personal preference.

The second reason I hoard out of production bourbon comes down to economics. My State is an ABC for profit controlled State and as such, they can charge whatever they want....and they do. Going out of state I can find a large supply of dusty bottles and the proprietors of the stores that contain these bottles are only too pleased to sell them at a discount to move all that old, nasty product. As such, I can find great bourbon at a real value. For instance, I recently picked up a couple bottles of Old Charter Classic 90 which is not produced anymore. This is a 12 year old bourbon and I paid a whopping $10.50 each. A real bargain in my book and great bourbon to boot.

So, if you live in a non-controlled state then you may be fortunate enough to find older bottles that will provide some great pours. If you have any questions about older bottles or wish to share a successful find, please let me know.


  1. I never realized how much I enjoyed the older out of production bourbon's until going to the Sampler this year. BourbonJoe had a handle of Old Taylor from the 70's that was phenomenal. I could drink that forever. There were others as well that I couldn't believe the flavors were coming from lower proof bourbon's. Now I just have to find some!

  2. I hear ya and agree. There are a number of out of production bourbons I have that really stand out as excellent bourbons. The flavors you experienced from the lower proof bourbons can be a result of a couple different things. First, they didn't chill filter back in the 70's so that helps as chill filtering removes some flavor. Second, the entry proof going into the barrel was potentially lower meaning more flavor was left in the distillate and not cooked off. Third, I believe the grains used were somewhat different than today. For instance, corn may have been more protein based rather than starch based thus giving the bourbon a thicker mouthfeel. I feel today's bourbons lack some of the viscosity found in older bourbons. That viscosity left oil residues on the palate providing for a longer finish and more intense flavor. I'm not a professional, but my experience tells me I'm right on most counts.