View Full Version : Old Charter Classic 90 -- Mark Brown Replies

09-23-2002, 12:22
In the current issue of The Bourbon Country Reader (http://cowdery.home.netcom.com/page9.html), I review Old Charter Classic 90. In response to that review, I received the following email from Mark Brown, President of the Buffalo Trace Distillery. I probably will publish it in the next issue, but it is relevant to many of our discussions here so I thought I would share it with everyone. I applaud Buffalo Trace for being forthcoming with information like this and hope other companies will follow their example.

Hello Chuck,

Thank you for the very nice commentary on Charter 12 Year Old in the latest issue of The Reader.

Noted the question at the end of the article and wanted to write with an answer to the mystery.

When we acquired Weller and Charter, we purchased enough stock to cover our selling needs until our own distillations come of age. So, the Charter whiskey being used all came from the Bernheim inventory.

However, there is an interesting twist to the story.......

We actually distilled some Weller and Charter for UD in the late 80's / early 90's and have been aging them at the Trace since then. In the case of Charter 12, it is actually the whiskey we distilled and aged. In addition, given that Schenley owned both BTD and Bernheim at the same time, there was / is a lot shared knowledge and expertise between the two distilleries hence our ability to distill Charter competently. In the case of Weller, we had quite a bit of practice when distilling for UD.

As an aside, we are also big believers in consistency and have actually invested about $1.0 million in equipment to ensure that the Charter and Weller we are making and selling remains true to the original taste profiles.

When it comes to any of the whiskies from Buffalo Trace, if there are any ever questions you would like answered, we do believe in openness and will be happy to provide as much information as possible.

Thank you for your interest and coverage of Bourbons, it really does help the industry enormously.

Look forward to meeting you one day soon.



Mark Brown
President / CEO
The Buffalo Trace Distillery

09-23-2002, 15:17
And there you have it. Mark Brown does care about what we think. He called me 'out of the blue' last year just to find out what I thought of various bourbons and why, but he never called again! Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm?!!! http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/confused.gif

09-23-2002, 16:00
I'm sure you gave such a complete answer that no further communication was necessary.

09-24-2002, 06:16
Thanks Chuck for sharing that information. Old Charter, "The Classic 90" made me a believer from the first sip. It's hard to come by in this area but I finally sniffed out a place this weekend that carries it.

The acquisition of Old Charter by BT had me concerned. I wasn't sure whether to expect a "New" Charter in the near future or what. But it's good to know that BT is serious about maintaining an excellent bourbon. It's also a pleasant surprise to see that they've already had considerable experience distilling it and Weller.


09-24-2002, 10:34
Iíll be looking for the Old Charter Classic 90 in our local liquor stores. One of my most favorite bourbons is Old Charter Proprietorís Reserve 13 year; however I have not had the opportunity to try the other Old Charter products. Mark Brownís letter adds the question from what stock did the current Proprietorís Reserve came from. When I purchase my next bottle will it taste the same? Iím reminded of a discussion where several people on this forum were debating what batch a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle 20 yr bourbon was bottled from. I can see it must be an art to keep consistent taste and quality from different batches of a specific bourbon.

09-24-2002, 11:11
Todd let me assure you the 'Classic 90' is damn good and in a blind taste test you would be hard pressed to tell the difference. Chuck laid one on us at the gazebo on Thursday night. I poured some almost immediately, and even after drinking such high end bourbons as A.H. Hirsch 16 & 20 year olds I came back to the Old Charter 'Classic 90'. Bottles that weren't killed outright were put into safe kepping in Tom & Jessica's room and taken to Bobby's for the cook out the next night. The last thing I did before leaving Bobby's was to slug down the last two or three ounces of the 'Classic 90' straight from the bottle. I luv the stuff. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/wink.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif

09-24-2002, 12:18
I checked with Mike Veach, who checked with Ed Foote (former Master Distiller at Stitzel-Weller, who ran new Bernheim until he retired in 1997). Here's a little more of the history.

In 1986, Schenley merged with Distillers Limited Co. (DLC), which owned Stitzel-Weller. They closed the Bernheim distillery at that time and never operated it again until the new one opened in 1992. In 1991, they merged with Glenmore and acquired its distilleries. Guinness was the parent, but its spirits subsidiary was United Distillers.

Initially, they were able to supply their rye-recipe brands with existing stocks. After 1991, they were able to use the Glenmore distillery (actually an old Medley plant) in Owensboro. In between, they made some rye recipe whiskey at Stitzel and also had whiskey made for them by Ancient Age/Buffalo Trace and Brown-Forman (at Early Times). The reason they needed more whiskey than they expected was due to the growth of I.W. Harper in Japan, and Rebel Yell in other international markets. This is what ultimately prompted them to build the new Bernheim plant (now owned by Heaven Hill), which led to the closure of the Owensboro distillery and Stitzel-Weller.

Ancient Age/Buffalo Trace was sold by Schenley in 1983 to a group of private investors who operated it under the name Age International. Takara Shuzo had always owned a piece of Age International and bought the whole thing in 1992. Apparently the relationship between Takara and Sazerac is complicated (maybe we'll ask Mark Brown to explain it), but it is Sazerac that runs what is now Buffalo Trace.

In 1997, Guinness (parent of United Distillers) merged with Grand Metropolitan to form Diageo. Soon thereafter, they sold off most of their US whiskey assets. As Mark Brown points out, they sold whiskey stock along with the brands. Ironically in the case of Buffalo Trace, some of that whiskey was actually made by and aging at the Frankfort facility.

All that considered, it is highly unlikely that any old Bernheim whiskey is still around. If it were, and were still in barrels, it would be 16+ years old. Based on all of the above, it is likely that any Harper, Charter or any other rye-recipe bourbon formerly or currently owned by Schenely/United that is more than 10 years old is from Buffalo Trace, although it could also be from Stitzel-Weller, Brown-Forman or Medley.

You see the problem.

That's why it's great when somebody like Mark Brown just tells us and we don't have to figure it out.

09-24-2002, 14:39
In the past Pappy's has specifically changed taste (always excellent, just different) as Julian chose different barrels. So consistency is really more of an issue with non-premium and high-volume (e.g. Woodford) products.

09-24-2002, 15:56
Hey Linn didja get more of the Classic 90 befroe skipping town?? When we went to Toddy's @ 1pm on Saturday the said they still hadnt gotten it in. . . . .
that was some good stuff, what a shame http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/frown.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/frown.gif .