View Full Version : Beam Bicentennial Dilemma
The citizens of Bourbonia have been so wise and hospitable since we stumbled into this territory a few weeks back, we thought we would humbly ask for your help in a decision.
In 1995, just as we were really starting to appreciate American whiskey and stray beyond Jim Beam white label and JD #7 in terms of tasting experiences, we happened upon this Bicentennial botle of Jim Beam. We were at least educated enough at tht time to distinguish that this was different whiskey than our usual JB white - different proof and different age. Our decision? Different whiskey - let's try it. We did not have the foresight nor the funds to bunker another bottle. After about two thirds of the whiskey was consumed, we thought we would save the rest for a later date since this bottling appeared to be limited. Honestly, other than just generally enjoying it, we really don't remember much about the taste.
So here we are in 2004. Only recently have we learned about the evils of oxidation, so I hope the whiskey has not suffered horribly. We now, more or less, have a "drinking collection." Overall, we feel that whiskey is meant to be enjoyed with more senses than that of sight. This is really the only whiskey in our collection that has been off limits for consumption this long.
So we respectfully pose this informal poll: if this were YOUR whiskey sitting in your bunker, with your biases, your philosophies, what would you do with it?
Drink a little, save a little?
Save it all in hopes of living long enough to do a taste comparison with the Beam 250th Anniversary whiskey in 2045?
We would love to read your thoughts, and, as always, we appreciate your wisdom!
So far, at least, I am a collector and well as an imbiber of fine bourbons. Usually, I have a second bottle of something bunkered before I open the first, unless it's a run-of-the-mill, easily replaceable bottle. To me, once the bottle's opened, it's no longer a collectible, but bourbon (not a bad thing!).
On the other hand, decanter/bottle collectors couldn't care less about the contents. Their concern is the condition of the container, label, boxes and inserts, et al.
So, it appears you have something there that isn't satisfying anybody, including yourselves because you're not enjoying the bourbon.
I bought a bottle of that with the box about a year ago, at a store in Versailles. They had another besides the one that I bought. I doubt its all that collectable anyways. Drink it.
So, two votes for "drink it now." Of course, for us, it's a "no lose" prospect - drink now, or drink later. Just to clarify, though:
Our psychological hang up is the "one of a kind" thing. Good or bad, once it's gone, there is no more. It really has nothing to do with collectibility or the quality of the whiskey. It's that we can't replace it in all likelihood. Is there some time in the future that would be the perfect occasion to taste this whiskey (eg, 2045?). Who knows?
The comment about "enjoying" the whiskey strikes a chord. That's what whiskey is for.
Thanks for the input!
I don't think the bourbon is unique in any way. Someone else chime in if I'm off base. The container is collectible to some, full or empty. Once you broke the seal, you moved into collectible empty realm. Finish it and save the bottle or finish it and sell the bottle. Either way.
If that's true, that solves our dilemma. This bourbon is 95 proof, 75 months old, based on the labeling. Is there a current bottling of Beam that fits that description? If so, we'll buy it, drink up, and save the decanter.
No one else has addressed your oxidation concern, which is a valid one. When you leave that amount of whiskey (approximately 25 percent or less) in a bottle for several years, oxidation is a real threat. Your desire to save something special would be thwarted bitterly if the whiskey is undrinkable when you finally choose to drink it. If you really want to preserve the whiskey for some reason, you should transfer it into a bottle it will nearly fill. Then it will keep indefinitely.
Unless you want to do that, I say finish it off. When I have something I can't or probably won't replace, I am tempted to hang onto that last 2 inches, but I make myself play through that impulse and finish it off. If it has been in the condition you depict for now almost a decade, there is a good chance it has already changed for the worse. Let us know. Most of our discussions here about oxidation have had little empirical support.
How special is the whiskey? Only a little. Beam has no other whiskey that is explicitly at that age and proof, and of course every special bottling is specially selected.
We couldn't help it. After reading Chuck Cowdery's comments, we had to decide if it was worth keeping. We popped it open - no cork, but ceramic and rubber - and tasted.
Tina: Look how viscous this is.
Tina: Like something buttered, with a little caramel, a little citrus.
Dave: A little fruity, perhaps a little caramel, too. A slight hint of leather?
Tina: I feel like I'm drinking brandy. Sweet and full. VERY full.
Dave: Very sweet. I taste orange, a very little bit of caramel, maybe oak. Just slightly oak.
Tina: A little harsh (bitter) on the back of the tongue.
Dave: I disagree. Still sweet, almost like a maple syrup.
Overall (both): Very sweet, perhaps one of the sweetest whiskeys we've ever tasted. Like a dessert whiskey.
Okay, so we are not like the connoisseurs who taste nuts, berries, coffee, nutmeg, cilantro, etc. etc. in a single pour. We usually taste very basic flavors: vanilla, caramel, woody, fruit...
In the end, we usually have two basic tastes: good, and not so good. This was good.
Ruined by oxidation? Hard to tell. Is that the sweetness? We were both blown away by how sweet it was. Does sweet = oxidation? If so, it's okay. This bourbon is still enjoyed by us.
The above is pretty much the real time summary of our impressions. After reading the tasting notes on this website, we feel deficient in our appreciation of bourbon flavors. Nevertheless, I have always appreciated Tina's straightforward philosophy. When asked, what does this taste like, her response is, "tastes like whiskey." Enough said. Either you like it, or you don't.
So, for what it's worth, if oxidation makes this taste sweet (it's overwhelming quality to us), it didn't ruin it. I suppose the question is whether oxidation will sweeten a whiskey you know and love to its detriment.
Actually, we have a bottle of Henry McKenna SB that has been exposed to large amounts of air for 4-5 years. Perhaps we should check its sweetness, too.
In the picture below, Tina begins the sampling.
Have you ever heard of anyone using nitrogen to top off special, opened bottles to help prven oxidation? This would be the type of stuff commercially available to top off opened bottles of wine to allow them to keep for a couple more days opened.
No, I haven't. Off the top of my head it seems like it would be overkill, since oxidation damage in whiskey is a slow process and transfer to a suitable size container is a simpler solution.
Okay, I am a little confused. I thought this particular bottle had never been opened until this tasting. If so, then oxidation should not have been a factor (unless the seal had been poor).
EDIT - My mistake. I can see in the original post that the bottle was not full. Sorry. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif
No, oxidation does not equal sweetness. Oxidation is an off taste. It seems sometimes to amp up the vanilla, but not in a pleasant way. Oxidation damage is not disgusting, but it's unpleasant. It sounds like this whiskey was not damaged.
You might want to try Jim Beam black label. It might very well approximate this special bottling.
And your tasting notes are fine. There is a lot of creative writing in professional tasting notes and some are just plain BS. It's a great thing to share and discuss, like any other appreciation. The point is to be honest and open, use your senses and past experience, and enjoy yourself. If you did those things, you did it right.
I agree with Chuck -- if you liked this 'sweet' bourbon, try JB Black. It sounds a lot like it. If you can find an older bottle of the 7yo, 90-proof version (the current one is 8yo, 86 proof), it's even closer in kind. The best news is, JB Black is very affordable -- under $20 per 750 ml.
I have been using "Private Reserve" wine preserver to save my spirits for years. Because I have a large number of open bottles, half of which would be difficult to replace, it seemed like the best bet for my situation. It seems to work pretty well, but of course the situations when oxidation would have been most likely to occur, are the situations in which it would be hardest to tell (i.e long times between tastes, while retaining a clear recollection of how it was innitially).
Well, we'd like to thank all of you, especially Chuck and Tim, for your input! Please correct us if you see any inaccuracies below, but these were some of the pearls we have obtained from you:
1) This is a technically unique bourbon, but (probably) a lot like Jim Beam Black. It is probably more appropriate to dwell on truly unique bourbon for saving. I can't believe we didn't make the connection, as JBB cycles onto our bar fairly frequently, and we like it a lot. We are currently out, but will have to do a direct taste comparison when we get some. Your expertise predicted our palatal biases quite impressively. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/bowdown.gif
2) Worry about oxidation if you have a very special whiskey you want to save.
3) Tasting is about savoring bourbon, not generating a list of 50 individual aromas and flavors. This was always our general bourbon tasting philosophy, but to be validated by someone like Chuck Cowdery really makes you feel good!
Thanks to your help, dilemma solved. We're drinking it. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/toast.gif
I know Chris uses that for his opened bottles of $$ Port, but not sure if he has ever tried it for bourbon...
The store I mentioned in Versailles that had a bottle of it last year, still has that bottle. It's $30.
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