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Flyfish
03-30-2013, 12:51
The thread "Good bourbon that has changed the least over the years" got me to thinking about how good we really do have it these days. Consider that not long ago 4R was sending all of their good stuff to Japan. The BTAC is a lineup of outstanding whiskies by any measure you would care to use. At HH, there was no EC18 or PHC. The Beam Small Batch Collection and KCSB were not available. Distillers today are competing for our dollars by offering unfiltered, barrel strength bourbons.
It seems to me that we have a wider choice of truly outstanding bourbon and rye than ever. And there are plenty of really fine options for those of us who might not be able to justifiy spending more than $70 a bottle.
So, what's your nominee for the number one development in bourbon in the last 20 years or so?

squire
03-30-2013, 14:05
The internet, or, more precisely, the immediate availability of accurate information that makes us an informed consumer. A 22 year old grad student can go on Straightbourbon.com and over a weekend learn more about Bourbon than the liquor store owner who has been in business for 40 years.

25 years ago an informed consumer was one that had learned to sort out brands by trial and error. Today the informed consumer is aware of the differences in mash bills, yeasts, barrel char, how location in the warehouse affects aging, and who (for the most part) actually made the whisky in the bottle. We are not impressed by claims of special water, only the choicest grains, of being hand made using a secret family recipe that no one else can duplicate or that old canard about being pot stilled when we know it damn well ain't.

What we now have are marvelous whiskys because producers are willing to make them available with a label specifically identifying the whiskys used in the vatting, their mashbill, yeast,when, where and for how long they were aged in specific warehouses even down to rack and barrel numbers. These are the days of Bourbon made for connoisseurs who can appreciate them and are willing to pay for true premium goods.

OscarV
03-30-2013, 14:20
Flyfish, you bring up some good points as to why we are in "the good old days" now.
But I think we are past that peak and are backtracking.
The distilleries are running out of good aged bourbon, they are dropping age statements and the "special" releases are just ho-hum bourbons in great packaging and high prices.
They can't keep up with demand or refuse to (MM not building that 3rd still), and we get younger a product.
The good old days were probably the 1980's, '90's and up to the date when Buffalo Trace killed WL Weller Cetennial.
Before then there was a glut and for example you could get a WT101 8yo with 10 or 12 yo bourbon in the bottle.
Same went with a lot of brands.

squire
03-30-2013, 15:27
Oscar I don't see where the distillerys are running out of good aged Bourbon. If you have solid inside information to the contrary I would like to hear it.

OscarV
03-30-2013, 15:30
I'm just going by what's on the shelfs of retail outlets and the taste of current bourbons.
Age statements are disapearing and the bourbons are tasting younger.

Trey Manthey
03-30-2013, 16:56
I have to agree with Flyfish. At no other point in bourbon producing history have distillers had such a demand to release high quality whiskey. Sure, in the 80's and 90's all those dusty bottles that we covet NOW were everywhere, but where was the unchill-filtered barrel proof, extra old stuff? Where were the single barrel selections? Where was Four Roses? Where was RYE?

Sure, inflation, increased demand, and increased cost of production have pushed prices up, but the quality is excellent.

OscarV
03-30-2013, 17:01
True, but they are not properly aged, so it's all for nothing.

Trey Manthey
03-30-2013, 17:02
In answer to the original question, the regular release of barrel proof whiskey would be my number one improvement. Not that it didn't happen before then, but I don't believe it was something that ever showed up on store shelves.

WAINWRIGHT
03-30-2013, 17:04
I would have to agree with both sides of the story here.I think high end limited releases are more abundant and the variety is improving while the mid shelf and down are the ones taking the hit.I think that there are a lot of quality products out there,but you are going to pay for them as well.The fact that products are losing age statements does bother me as well but the days of the glut era have come and gone and cheap age stated beauties,only their dust remains.Hopefully with the resurgence of interest lately we will see more products like the RRSB and ECBP hitting the shelves and bring back some of that quality and value to the market.

Trey Manthey
03-30-2013, 17:05
True, but they are not properly aged, so it's all for nothing.

For example? True, you can't buy WT12 year anymore, but I've got a 14 year old WT sitting on the shelf down the street.

T Comp
03-30-2013, 17:30
The internet, or, more precisely, the immediate availability of accurate information that makes us an informed consumer. A 22 year old grad student can go on Straightbourbon.com and over a weekend learn more about Bourbon than the liquor store owner who has been in business for 40 years.

25 years ago an informed consumer was one that had learned to sort out brands by trial and error. Today the informed consumer is aware of the differences in mash bills, yeasts, barrel char, how location in the warehouse affects aging, and who (for the most part) actually made the whisky in the bottle. We are not impressed by claims of special water, only the choicest grains, of being hand made using a secret family recipe that no one else can duplicate or that old canard about being pot stilled when we know it damn well ain't.

What we now have are marvelous whiskys because producers are willing to make them available with a label specifically identifying the whiskys used in the vatting, their mashbill, yeast,when, where and for how long they were aged in specific warehouses even down to rack and barrel numbers. These are the days of Bourbon made for connoisseurs who can appreciate them and are willing to pay for true premium goods.

Couldn't have said it better myself Squire ;). And prior to, or even during the glut, the limited premium bourbons availabe, when inflation adjusted weren't cheap either. Eagle Rare 10 year 101, introduced in 1975, was at that time the equivalent of $40 a bottle today.

ATXWhiskey
03-30-2013, 17:41
I think the golden age is coming in the next ten years or so. The craze is on and they're putting some revolutionary stuff in barrels. There have been some BTEC that, if they could duplicate it and make it regularly available, would be a totally different product from anything on shelves today. I'm excited for what today's demand will mean in ten or fifteen years.

OscarV
03-30-2013, 17:55
For example? True, you can't buy WT12 year anymore, but I've got a 14 year old WT sitting on the shelf down the street.

And the last bottle of WTRB I bought was so young I had to pour it out.
MM 6 summers in the wood, that's damn near white dog for a wheater.

squire
03-30-2013, 17:59
Well, my golden age is now, think I'll have another tot of Grand Dad.

OscarV
03-31-2013, 04:42
I think the golden age is coming in the next ten years or so. The craze is on and they're putting some revolutionary stuff in barrels. There have been some BTEC that, if they could duplicate it and make it regularly available, would be a totally different product from anything on shelves today. I'm excited for what today's demand will mean in ten or fifteen years.

True, also they are just putting a heck of a lot of barrels on the ricks.
There are more barrels of bourbon being aged right now than there are citizens of KY.
Everyone has been ramping up production for a few years now and hopefully they are aging to much, this would mean they'll leave it in the wood longer and we'll get some good mature bourbon.
I'd love to see another glut, maybe in ten years like you said.

Trey Manthey
03-31-2013, 06:14
And the last bottle of WTRB I bought was so young I had to pour it out.
MM 6 summers in the wood, that's damn near white dog for a wheater.

You can't complain about age statements dropping, and then bring up two NAS whiskeys as your proof.

However, Maker's Mark is an interesting lynchpin in this discussion. On one hand, they have changed almost nothing about their production since the brand launched. However, the current whiskey renaissance drove even them to experiment with, and release, Maker's 46.

According to sku, the Golden Age is OVER (http://recenteats.blogspot.com/2012/07/golden-age-of-whiskey-is-over.html)!

OscarV
03-31-2013, 06:22
You can't complain about age statements dropping, and then bring up two NAS whiskeys as your proof.



I'm not trying to sway a jury, fact is age staements are disapearing.
And to my tastes the bourbons are to young, not saying at all what they taste like to anyone else.

darylld911
03-31-2013, 06:42
I think what you see right now is a surge in demand for older whiskies that is outpacing supply (and since you can't very well make a 12 year bourbon in less than 12 years, the spike in demand creates quite a problem for the producers). They could very well just start to ratchet up the price to curb demand to meet their supplies, but that very well might turn off too many consumers. Or, they could cut proofs with water to keep the age statements . . . or, they could "dilute" with some younger whiskey. Both changes the character some, but I think using younger juice has less of an impact.

If push came to shove, would you rather have ORVW 10 yr/107 drop the age statement and stay at 107 proof (maybe having to put some small percentage of 6 or 8 yr juice to keep the flavor profile) - or keep the age statement but drop the proof to 90?

As to the original question, I think squire nailed it :)

MyOldKyDram
03-31-2013, 06:47
(and since you can't very well make a 12 year bourbon in less than 12 years, the spike in demand creates quite a problem for the producers)

Cleveland Whiskey can. :P

hectic1
03-31-2013, 07:31
Oscar I don't see where the distillerys are running out of good aged Bourbon. If you have solid inside information to the contrary I would like to hear it.


I'm just going by what's on the shelfs of retail outlets and the taste of current bourbons.
Age statements are disapearing and the bourbons are tasting younger.
Oscar you're spot on...you have your head in the sand if you don't see this...OWA, WSR, EC18, WTRR, WTR101, BH, ETL, RHF, BMH, NM, V21, V23, etc all getting younger or disappearing all together is a direct result of not enough aged bourbon/whiskey to continue the label. I've seen enough through my interactions to drive me to bunker for a reason! ;)

Borchard
03-31-2013, 07:38
I agree with squire. I think it's the availability of solid information. I truly believe that posters on SB know more about bourbon that almost ANY liquor store owner I've came across

Trey Manthey
03-31-2013, 08:14
Hectic:

What percentage of the juice in your impressive bunker was released to the market more than 10 years ago?

hectic1
03-31-2013, 08:21
Hectic:

What percentage of the juice in your impressive bunker was released to the market more than 10 years ago? I'm not sure what your driving at but I can tell you that I don't buy any current releases of the bottles that I listed in my previous post...a comparison between old (a couple years ago) and current on a number of these has shown me enough.

Trey Manthey
03-31-2013, 08:42
My mistake, I am trying to highlight the evolution of retail releases from glut era compared to what has been available in the last 5 years or so. That is, I believe the quality and variety of releases has improved in that time.

Maybe we can distill the topic it to a simpler question tuned to each person's taste:

Knowing what you know now, if you could only get the whiskey released in a certain decade (or any continuous 10 year period), which would that be? Taking into consideration factors like pricing, availability, and knowledge. Oscar might say 1985-1995. Sku says 1999-2009 (this is closer to my opinion).

hectic1
03-31-2013, 08:50
My mistake, I am trying to highlight the evolution of retail releases from glut era compared to what has been available in the last 5 years or so. That is, I believe the quality and variety of releases has improved in that time.

Maybe we can distill the topic it to a simpler question tuned to each person's taste:

Knowing what you know now, if you could only get the whiskey released in a certain decade (or any continuous 10 year period), which would that be? Taking into consideration factors like pricing, availability, and knowledge. Oscar might say 1985-1995. Sku says 1999-2009 (this is closer to my opinion). I think they're both right...there is a different profile to the bourbons of the 80-90's then there is of the 2000-to today. I happen to favor the stuff in the late 90's to the mid to late 2000's but I know plenty of others who prefer the earlier stuff. At the end of the day, all of the stuff going on today isn't good for bourbon lovers in the short term...the boom in bourbon has created a shortage of aged bourbon and the only way to cure it is time. Some distilleries can wait, others will just bottle younger juice to keep the stills going.

Gillman
03-31-2013, 09:27
The availability of product information to interested consumers is an important part of the current bourbon scene but my answer to the question is: the development of very-aged whiskeys as a talisman of bourbon quality.

Never in the past was old whiskey lionized to a similar degree. At times in the market fairly old whiskey was available, say, 10-17 years old, there are old mail order ads in Oscar Getz's book which show this for example. But the acme of quality was bonded whiskey that could be as young as 4 years old (itself well-aged by 1800's standards). Only when the bonding period was increased after WW II did 8 year old bonded become available. In any case, 8 year old bourbon is within the 4-8 year range I would say has always characterized the bourbon market as its mainstay of quality. 8 year bourbon is nothing compared to 12-23 year old (and yet older) bourbon seen on the market in the last 20 years and fetching ever-higher prices. Julian Van Winkle IMO is responsible to a large degree for this development, and deserves a permanent place in American whiskey history for that reason alone. He continued what his father (JVW II) started but expanded and rationalized so to speak the category of super-aged bourbon. He really has played a huge role in the bourbon business in the last 20 years and deserves much credit for this IMO.

Others were there too, notably Heaven Hill with its Elijah Craig 12 and especially 18 year old expressions, Sazerac 18 year old rye and William Larue Weller from Buffalo Trace and the plethora of 20 years+ NDM ryes and bourbons, and so forth.

To be sure, many and even most distillers did not seek to enter this market but it doesn't matter: the die was cast and bourbon forever is changed as a result.

Thus, in the 1960's, Charlie Thomasson, long-time distiller at Willett who started in the pre-Pro whiskey business, could write that the best bourbon for the best price with the best bouquet was 4-7 year old bourbon. He opined that much older bourbon tended to have a "punky" taste from deteriorating barrel wood and wanted no part of it. 30 years later, very old bourbon was regularly available for purchase and praised in the whiskey media, most of it much older than even the famed Very Old Fitzgerald or Very Very Old Fitzgerald of the 70's and earlier which was (generally at most) 12 years old. Very old straight whiskey caught the imagination of the whisky-buying public, people liked the taste and became ever on the search for that elusive 18, 20 or 23 year old whiskey.

Now, will this change? Yes, due to the glut disappearing. Hence we don't see EC 18 issued at this time (or I haven't seen it lately). Van Winkle's products will continue though due to careful planning and savvy marketing.

Where do I stand on the quality side of it? Generally I favour bourbon in the 4-7 year range, like Thomasson said. But I do admire some older expressions. Van Winkle Lot B 12 years old is one of the best profiles ever devised for bourbon, it is brilliant. And there are other whiskeys in the 8-12 year range I enjoy from time to time. I believe that for a number of reasons such as the change over 30 years ago in the entry proof maximum and generally higher distilling-out proofs than were typical 50 years ago, you can age bourbon longer than many thought advisable 50 years ago. A lot of it does taste good, up to 15 years for my personal taste.

Gary

T Comp
03-31-2013, 10:12
I'll take the variety of what is now available from most of the majors, even if in limited releases, as the main reason for these being the good old days. And well aged will always be available just at a much higher price. I expect more mingling of aged with young as in the recent 4R LE. Very well aged bourbon has a once or twice a week place for me just the same as scotch or Irish and other whiskies do and I'm willing to pay for that variety too.

squire
03-31-2013, 10:26
Some good points being brought out in this thread, think I'll just sit here in the corner with my luncheon cocktail made with 6 year old Barton and listen to the conversation.

BradleyC
03-31-2013, 10:50
Some good points being brought out in this thread, think I'll just sit here in the corner with my luncheon cocktail made with 6 year old Barton and listen to the conversation.

Did the Barton bunny stop by last nght?

squire
03-31-2013, 13:16
Let's just say the evening involved a bunny and Barton.

cowdery
03-31-2013, 19:32
You can't stop nostalgia. There will always be people who pine for the past, often for a past they never knew. I can tell you this. Back when I was just beginning my own journey of whiskey discovery, about 20 years ago, I asked some old-timers at Heaven Hill if there used to be more variety in the industry. They answered without hesitation. "No," they said, "there were more distilleries but they were all basically making the same thing."

savagehenry
03-31-2013, 19:40
Reminds me of Midnight in Paris. Owen Wilson goes back in time to the 1920s because he views that as the Golden Age, but the girl he meets in the '20s thinks the 1890's are the Golden Age etc....
The OP is right, now is the Golden Age of bourbon, because in 10-20 years we will be talking about how great it's used to be and in the 2050s people will talk of the 2030s as the good old days.

Gillman
03-31-2013, 19:55
I can show you guys something written in 1760 - 1760, a bare 40 years after the beer called porter or stout was invented! - saying nothing occasioned more dispute than the right way to make it (in other words there was no clear consensus on the right taste, on what was best). Every generation seems to write this for beer, wine, spirits, and of course often you read out and out that the current generation's product is not as good as the former's. With porter and stout again, you start reading this as early as 1820 or so.

However, we are very fortunate in the spirits world to be able to test this out due to whiskey not or hardly changing in the bottle. We read frequently of old bourbons being uncovered, from the 60's or 50's often. Some of the brands still exist or have close counterparts. Give comparative taste notes (I humbly invite). It is the only way to pin down whether things have really changed. Was there a plethora of palates in the old days, or not? Amongst those we can chronicle today, were some so outstanding that it can be said the "true" taste has been lost?

In my own experience of tasting ND OGD and the ditto OT, both of which you could buy off the retail shelf relatively easily (in non-control States) until the last few years, I'd say generally it was better than the equivalents today, yes. But there is a big but: a lot of bourbon was lower shelf back then. I believe the average standard today is as good or better. Plus, that is just two brands, from one company to boot.

A careful shopper indeed can show that these are the good old days, probably. I just bought a OF Signature that is excellent in every way and indeed better than numerous dimpled bonds from 20 years ago I've had. (But as to 40 and 50 years ago, I can't say).

But we need the constant input of taste comparisons, without that it is difficult to really know and memory can be misleading as e.g. recalling things tasted on the fly at a Gazebo not to mention tasting things - as some of us did - 20 and 30 years ago.

Gary

squire
03-31-2013, 20:30
Chuck I believe distillery workers, like employees of other industrial concerns, are basically beer drinkers who don't make tasting notes.

OscarV
04-01-2013, 14:59
Oscar you're spot on...


Thanx Bob, here's more proof that the good old days are in the rear view mirror.
Click below.
http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/showthread.php?19710-Another-proof-change-coming

MauiSon
04-01-2013, 19:03
I'm firmly in the title camp. I'm not interested in barrel-finishes or white dog, but I do appreciate the range of flavor-profiles and price-points. Not to forget the Rye resurgence, either.

Dolph Lundgren
04-02-2013, 06:17
I may be a little too young to reminisce about the "good ole times," but I feel as if times are pretty good right now. I love the experimentation (mashbills, blends, char, etc.) and barrel finishes with single malts. I have constant access to amazing whiskey (beyond PVW) at fair prices (VOB, FRSB, EWSB, HW, etc.).

I'm stocking up now for 20 years down the road...when I start complaining about how things were better "back in the day."

cowdery
04-02-2013, 19:08
Chuck I believe distillery workers, like employees of other industrial concerns, are basically beer drinkers who don't make tasting notes.

I imagine you're just trying to be funny but you've only managed to be wrong. You obviously don't know many distillery workers.

squire
04-03-2013, 17:04
Actually it was a distillery worker who told me that.

LiveFromLou
04-03-2013, 17:55
Distilleries employ many different kinds of workers. I wouldn't expect the guy who drives the truck to have any particular taste proficiency. But most people working the still, barreling, warehousing, and bottling know their bourbon in my experience.

BAO
04-03-2013, 20:00
Actually it was a distillery worker who told me that.

FIGHT!!!!!!!!!! Extra letters to meet minimum.

Flyfish
04-11-2013, 15:56
Starkist doesn't want tuna with good taste. Starkist wants tuna that tastes good.
A factor that no one has commented on is that, as we become older, our ability to smell and taste diminishes. In addition, medications such as beta blockers and our use of tobacco can further impair our taste receptors. That bourbon tasted better back in the day is not just a matter of nostalgia, it is a matter of physiology. Perhaps bourbon tasted better back then because we had better tasting apparatus back then. Of course, it is still possible that bourbon really did taste better back then.

squire
04-11-2013, 15:59
I'll take my nostalgia over ice, if you please.