View Full Version : Ancient Ancient Age--what the heck?
Lew Bryson knows I've been struggling with Ancient Age's packaging lately. I thought this time I'd gotten what I set out for, but now I think they've snookered me again.
I was looking for the 10 y.o. Ancient Ancient Age, which I've heard good reports on. What I *got* was 10 Star Ancient Ancient Age, no age mentioned. Seems like nice bourbon, esp. at the cost (story follows). But wottheheck is goin' on?
Story: went into one of our local liquor stores that has just moved, and added a bunch of bourbons and single malts. Found what I thought I was looking for and took it up to counter, where it ran up at $8+, half of the shelf price. Finally convinced the clerk he wasn't charging me enough, and shortly was wondering why I bothered.
It's possible they have different products in different markets--distributor's choice--as is the case with several of the distillers. Here in Chicago, I recently acquired some "Ancient Age Barrel 107 Special Edition 10 Years Old," which I reviewed in the August issue of The Reader. Maybe this is the successor to Ancient Ancient Age, which has always been a nice bottle of whiskey for a nice price. About this "Special Edition," I wrote (among other things), "A splash of water knocks back the alcohol heat and rye bite to unleash warm notes of caramel, toffee and licorice that are buried otherwise." I paid $18.99, which I considered a good value.
This is speculation on my part, but I think they may let the Ancient Age brand vegetate in favor of their new Buffalo Trace brand, which they seem to have crowned as their new "flagship." I have yet to see it in any store.
Chuck, I've found the Barrel 107 here as well. In fact, that was the source of my original confusion when looking for Ancient Ancient Age, since the label was very like what I was seeking, and the 10 years was correct. I was using the Regans' book as a reference, and the AAA they list is 10 y.o. and 90 proof (I think).
This whiskey is the right name and the right proof, but there's no indication about age -- which of course suggests that it's *NOT* 10 y.o. or they'd label it as such.
I've read in the Malt Advocate about the changes in branding at the distillery, but I find it hard to believe they'd stop marketing Ancient Age. I gather there's a solid market, at least in Kentucky, for this whiskey, and it would be foolish to try and re-train old customers.
Dammit, Frane, I TOLD you about the 10-star, and I TOLD you to get the 10 YO!
It's okay, I still like you and all. <g> I hope Chuck's wrong, but I've got a sneaking feeling in my gut he may be inside their heads on this one.
Hirsch Reserve 16 YO: Real Pennsylvania Bourbon
I went back to check, and sure enough, Lew warned me on this one. Dang. Have to keep better notes.
But I'm really stymied now; don't know where I'll ever find the 10 y.o.
I feel your pain buddy. The only person I know that ever had a bottle of the AAA 10YO got it in Kentucky. Know anybody in Louisville?
The reference bottle of AAA that I have is 80 proof, but that doesn't mean that haven't had a 90 proof expression at some point.
My interpretation of the moves in Frankfort, all conjecture, no inside information, is that the Ancient Age name, while venerable, has always been "lower shelf," and while basic AA may always have a market among highly price conscious consumers, the better expressions of AA (at higher prices) have never really gotten much traction because of the overall downmarket image of the brand. My guess is that they feel they will be better off starting over with a new name, Buffalo Trace, and using that for their middle market products. Blanton's, in the upmarket, has been successful and that was a new name when it was created, so the "new name" thing isn't perceived as a handicap. Of course, the Ancient Age name itself isn't all that ancient, about 50 years.
Actually, you prompted my own memory. I believe I have always tended to pick up AAA in Louisville when I'm there, because I never see it anywhere else.
I sorry I got into this so late, but I'm only a recent contributor here and some of these threads go back a few months. No one seems to have had anything to add to this one for awhile, so I thought I'd throw in a couple of things...
I live in Ohio, where our choice of liquor is state-controlled (but not as severely as in Pennsylvania where I lived before). Ancient Ancient Age here is the 10-STAR variety. But I almost never buy bourbon in Ohio; I'm only twenty minutes from a large discount liquor store across the river in Newport, Kentucky. There (and in most other Kentucky liquor stores), the only AAA is the 10-Year-Old stuff (there is also regular old "Ancient Age" of course). I don't recall seeing it in Indiana, either. Maybe it really IS only available in Kentucky. Well, anyway, this is one of my favorite mid-range bourbons ($10 - $20), on a par with Maker's Mark, Elijah Craig 12, and Wild Turkey. And, like each of those, it has a flavor quite distinctly its own. The 10-Star isn't even close.
Another example of two "similar" Ancient Age products that I find to be quite different from one another is that of Barrel 107 and Elmer T. Lee 107-proof. The former can sometimes be found, the latter is extremely rare. The Elmer T. Lee product is not the single barrel, for which he is better-known. The 107-proof came in an opaque black bottle, with a black label. In a conversation with Elmer, he told my wife and I that he hated the opaque bottle from the moment the marketing department put his whiskey into it, and he fought hard to get rid of it. When the single barrel came out, they conceded and gave him a clear bottle, but kept the black label. He told us he was still working to get the label changed as well.
Later last year, Chris McCrory of Buffalo Trace/Sazerac told me that the Ancient Age Barrel 107 has been discontinued. There is, according to him, plenty of all the other Ancient Age brands currently in stock. The implication was that there is enough to last several years. Elmer T. Lee single barrel will apparently continue to be sold. I know this because Chris tipped me to look for a new label in the next few months (I thought of what Elmer had told us earlier and grinned).
In addition to Blanton's, Ancient Age also made two other "designer" bourbons, "Rock Hill Farms" and "Hancock's (President's) Reserve". Each came in a very distinctive decanter, and each has an interesting flavor. I don't know what will become of those.
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