Rather than simply drive around looking for run down liquor stores we put a little strategy and planning into the day. We were able to pull a listing of all retail Class A stores that registered for a liquor license in Baltimore. I used this file to upload the location data into Microsoft Streets and Trips. I then exported the map to a GPS Exchange Format (GPX) file. I created a new map in Google maps and uploaded the GPX file in order to plot all the liquor stores in Baltimore. Doing this enabled us to map a specific area of Baltimore and systematically work our way through a quadrant of the city. I know....dorky.
Dorky or not, we hit 25 of 247 stores and found some very nice things. My goal today was to find some age stated Wild Turkey and even though I only found one bottle....I'm ok with that. The total haul was split among 4 of us and included:
1970/1975 Old Forester Bottled in Bond
1972/1977 Old Forester Bottled in Bond
1987 Old Forester Bottled in Bond
1992 Old Taylor 6 year (32 200ml bottles) 80 pf
1990 Old Taylor 6 yr 80 pf
1986 Old Taylor 6 yr 86 pf
1988 Pikesville Supreme 80 pf
1990 General Lee Bottled in Bond
1969 JTS Brown 86 pf
1968 Old Overholt 86 pf (PA rye)
1990 Wild Turkey 8 yr 101 pf
What's interesting is the difference in finds between D.C. and Baltimore. I've not found any Old Fitz in Baltimore (or Maryland for that matter) while D.C. historically was a hotbed of Old Fitz. It was
also interesting today that we found some bottles that were quite old. Most stuff I've found in D.C. has been 80's and 90's vintage but looking at the list above, we found some items distilled in the 60's and the fill levels were all very impressive.
The day started off slow but we had a strong finish.
Very nice haul Greg! I have done a small bit of dusty hunting in Baltimore City and my experience mirrors yours in regards to what can be found on the shelf. The only Old Fitz I have found in Baltimore was some Prime from the early 90s. I believe that the city is being hit pretty hard by dusty hunters. I have been in stores recently where owners have asked if I was just in there the other week buying lots of old bottles.ReplyDelete
I am pretty sure I know where you pulled your finds from. The store owner wouldn't sell me the JTS Brown because of a low fill level. I did pick up two of those Overholts from the 60s though. I had a nice conversation in that store with the owner who told me that lots of people come in buying the old bottles to use for decoration. He couldn't believe me when I said I wanted to drink them :).
Kenneth - your last comment is exactly the conversations I was having with some of the store owners. They were surprised to hear we were going to drink them thinking the whiskey was bad. In one store, there were some locals hanging out and we were chatting it up with them and one guy says "you can't drink that old stuff...it's no good no more". I let him know that indeed the whiskey is still drinkable and also quite good. We also encountered a member of the "sales prevention force" as one store owner refused to let us in the store saying we were only there to buy souvenir's. So, he pulled a Clint Eastwood on us and basically said "get off my lawn!"Delete
I don't get that AT ALL. Why on Earth would a store owner care WHY you're buying booze from him, souvenir or not?Delete
He angrily said from the behind the glass door that he had been robbed three times this year and basically just locked the door and screened anybody looking to come in. I guess we looked pretty shady.....Delete
I've seen a lot of posts on bourbon blogs about hunting for old bottles. Is there some sort of guide available for what is and is not desirable? Is everything old desirable? What's the method to determine exactly how old a bottle is?ReplyDelete
Matt - I did a 5 part series on dusty hunting. Simply search this blog for "dusty hunt". I provide some visual indicators to look for. There's no definitive list (in one place that I now of) that provides an easy list for reference. The issue is there are many things that in the end determine what someone considers a desirable bottle. For instance, I like Old Forester but only from the earlier DSP KY 414 vs. the current DSP KY 354. Another is Old Fitz where the older distillate was from DSP KY 16 vs the current DSP KY 1. Many bourbon labels have changed ownership over the years so one really has to research and understand the distillate history to zero in on specific dusty bottles.Delete
Greg - Just found your wonderful blog. I had not heard of Dusty Hunting until I read about it here. Thank you kind sir! I took the liberty of writing about it and linking back to you - http://drinkswithnick.blogspot.com/2013/05/dusty-hunting.html - I hope that's ok by you.ReplyDelete
Thanks again - off to the hunt!
Nick - thanks very much for stopping by and I appreciate the write up and kind words. I read your blog entry and enjoyed reading about your first hunt. Since my hunting experience has primarily focused on American whiskey, I've not picked up any old Scotch. For me, bourbon was always my go to drink but now I've expanded my horizons (and my bunker) to include Scotch and other world whiskies. In the future, I'll be on the lookout for old Scotch as well. Cheers.Delete
Nice finds Greg! I was out browsing other day and came across some Old Forester bottles that threw me for a loop. I found three 200 ml bottles that were bottled in bond with a 4 year age statement and Louisville address. For the life of me though, I could not find the DSP marking on the bottle. Have you ever run across that with a BIB? Those bottles were basically identical to the ones you have pictured with plastic wrap over the cap.ReplyDelete
I also spotted a 750 ml BIB Old Forester with a tax stamp (blank), Louisville address, 4 year stated, DSP 414. Are there any additional markings on the bottle to let me know when it was bottled or do the red diagonal letter/numbers on the label indicate anything?
Dave - Old Forester is one brand that does not always put the DSP number on the bottle. Since the Old Forester label says "Brown Forman" on the label, it's a little redundant to have the DSP number as well. If the bottle instead said something like "Bourbon Delight Bottled in Bond" then it would have to have the DSP number on the label somewhere. I have Old Forester bottles with and without the DSP number. To my knowledge the red markings are meaningless. If you didn't pick up that DSP414 bottle, you should as that's fantastic bourbon. One thing you can check is the bottom of the bottles to see if you can denote the two digit year which indicates the year of bottling.Delete
Are there particular Old Taylors that are more desirable than the current version? I see those small dusty 200 ml glass bottles quite frequently, but never thought much about them...ReplyDelete
The Old Taylors made under National Distillers are good. The small 200ml bottles that I picked up were bottled 1992 and the profile is good with a big of spice kick. Older Old Taylors have more of a butterscotch profile and tend to be sweeter. If you see those little 200ml bottles around, get one and flip it over and look for the two digit date on the bottom and try and find one's that are early 90's and before.ReplyDelete
I recently started dusty hunting and have acquired several of the bottles you have posted about in your blog. Most have been dated from 1986 - 2003 and all at full fill level. I don't know if it's just in my head, but they just taste a little different. The only way I can describe it is that they taste older and dusty, ironic wording I know. Almost like there is a little extra twang to them. I know brands are sold over time and the bourbon flavor profile can be changed, but I am curious if you experience this as well. For example, the Old Forester BIB, I have a 1986 BIB DSP414. What are some of your tasting thoughts, so that I can have a guide as to what should be picked up. I think what throws me off the most is the nose on the dusty finds...
Thanks in advance
Your mind is not playing tricks on you. Last year myself and a couple other guys sat down with Jim Rutledge with Four Roses and asked him some general questions about Four Roses history, his own long tenure with the brand and also asked him why bourbon tastes different from decades ago vs. now. While he didn't lay out a laundry list of reasons, he said a couple of factors is the grain changes over the years. Four Roses does not use GMO corn and still sources their grain from the same farm for decades. Corn also is more starch based rather than protein based as it was a long while back. Entry proof makes a difference. Back during the Reagan administration, the rules changed on the entry proof making the top proof 125. There's arguments for and against chill filtering; many believe that this process removes flavor via fatty deposits that are filtered out when chilled.
I have found, just as you have discovered, bourbon from a bygone era (e.g. DSPKY414) just tastes different. This past Sunday I was visiting a good friend and I brought along a 1978 Old Forester BIB and two Old Taylors; 1981 and 1992. The OT's flavor profile when compared side by side was striking with the 1981 having that distinctive butterscotch essence. The 1992, while good, had a bit more spice kick and lacked that butterscotch profile. The Old Forester BIB was a big fat caramel bomb with hints of pepper spice, crazy viscosity and a finish that lingered for minutes after entry. A superb bourbon.
There's one other factor that comes into play when drinking bourbon from the late 70's and into the 80's. Brown liquor sales were very soft and there was a lot of aged stock sitting in rick houses. As such, much of the bourbon sold during that timeframe was aged well beyond the label indicator (if there was one). I have a 1979 Early Times KSBW that is 80 proof but does not drink or look like an 8 proof 4 year old bourbon. It's got a big sweet profile and the color is a moderately dark amber indicating age. For me, just tasting it tells me it's not a 4 year old whiskey. Another indicator may come from BIB tax strips. I have some Old Fitz BIB where the label states 4 years old but the tax strips indicates 8 years old. So, finding bourbon from this timeframe will yield a high potential that what's in the bottle is older.
Hi Greg, I work in Baltimore but don't get to hunt because I'm a commuter from DC and don't have a car, so I'm limited to the few stores near work. I haven't found any of the older goodies you found, but I did come across a 1991 Pikesville Rye. Have you had a chance to compare it to the ND Old Overholts or modern day Ritt or Pikesville? I only got one bottle and haven't opened it yet - if it's just decent, I'll probably open it soon.ReplyDelete
I found the same year Pikesville in Baltimore a couple years back and I think it's a pretty good rye for the price. I have not had the current release of the Pikesville and would say that the 1991 Pkke is a little softer in profile than the Ritt (BIB). Nice find.Delete
Thanks, Greg. I was hoping to pair it with an ND Old Overholt and some modern stuff, to see what people used to look for in rye, compared to the modern era, aka "age of the hipster cocktail", where ryes are used in different ways. I suspect the profile might have changed a bit!ReplyDelete
I have no idea how I missed this post. I've been dusty hunting Baltimore for a while and only ever found one bottle. Nice haul you've got there! Is any of it for sale perchance?????ReplyDelete
Sorry Ethan.....nothing for sale. These gems are getting harder and harder to find and I don't do nearly the dusty hunting I used to. If you've only found one bottle while hunting Baltimore, then you're looking in the wrong neighborhoods. We hit the nastiest parts of Baltimore and from the list above...scored big time.Delete
No problem- just thought I would ask! I've heard the bad neighborhoods are where the gold is, but I don't have a concealed carry weapons permit for Maryland, so I'm a bit worried about going into those neighborhoods unarmed. I've heard they can be very dangerous!ReplyDelete
Yes, they can be dangerous. I traveled with three other guys and we kept a close eye on things as we moved through the neighborhoods. One of us was authorized to carry so we had some form of protection.Delete
I located some Old Forester BIB that was showing distilled dsp354 and bottled dsp414. I believe the bottle was dated 1992. From my research, I have concluded that using these two dsp could be a slide of the hand type of scenario. Is this juice basically the same or different from the OF BIB that is DSP 414 only.
The distillation DSP is the key. If your bottle notes 354 then that will be different than distillate from 414. I have both and there is a noticeable difference.Delete
Interesting enough, i found an Old Forester 86 proof, bottom of bottle is labeled 88, & the bottle has cool looking dimples on the side. Wanted to know if you guys would have a flavor profile to decide if i should open it. Thanks!ReplyDelete
That's good drinking. I have that same bottle open right now. Buttery goodness....enjoyDelete
Greg, you're right on the money!!!.....BUTTERY GOODNESS !!! Cant find anymore of this stuff by me. I have seen some 1.57 liter sizes. Front label was similar, there was a plastic wrap, no tax strip Ironically, i remember the the back labels on the bottle had come off, leaving just the glue. Any tips on trying to date them to confirm if its good stuff? i.e. bottom glass stamp? Thanks again.Delete
The tax strip went away about 1980 and the strip stamp was replaced by the shrink wrap about 1987 or maybe a little later. Enthusiasts of this label prefer bourbon produced at BF's Louisville plant (DSPKY414) over the Shively distillery (DSPKY354). To me, there's a distinct difference between the two. I would start with the two digit imprint on the bottom of the bottle. If that's not legible (which happens), then you have to go with indicators on the bottle. Since the back labels are missing, that really prevents you from doing any further analysis since you can't see if the label had a government warning or not. At best, you can date that bottle at about 1987 or newer. If it's a BIB, you may have a DSP number on the front label.Delete
If you ever need a wingman in DC for a dusty hunt, please let me know - NickReplyDelete
Thanks for the offer Nick. I'm not sure when I'll go dusty hunting again. It was about 18-24 months in between hunts. Working a full time job with three restaurants on the side keeps me heads downs much of the time. If you haven't read my posts on dusty hunting, check them out.Delete
So it would be somewhat safe to say if the front label is indicating Louisville Ky, good chance its DSP 414 & not DSP Ky 354? If so, I'm in heaven! Found a store that has at least three 1.75L ! Thanks again Greg.ReplyDelete
Old Forester was distilled at 414 and 354 but also bottled at 414 after moving distillation to Shively. I would go by the date on the bottom of the bottle. I've had bourbon from both distilleries and both are good but my preference is the older stock from 414. Without inspecting the bottle and comparing it with data and pictures that I have, I can't say with any certainty where it was distilled. Bottom line, if you like it, what difference does it make? The goal of course is to drink good bourbon.Delete
True that Greg. Think ill give it a try. thanks again for the great info!!ReplyDelete
Interesting. I did a blind OF tasting recently, and all four of the participants preferred the split label 354/414 to the true 414. i.e. distilled 354 was the favorite, ca. 1990. This was blind, so we didn't know what we were drinking, which I think is important to giving a fair critique. The Old Foresters were all great, and as a group rated higher than the Weller and Old Grand-Dad (individually there was more variation)ReplyDelete
It's great that you conducted a blind tasting. To me, that's ground truth on what you think of the whiskey. Looks like you had a good lineup of bourbons.Delete