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cowdery
06-08-2006, 16:41
The discussion about the Hirsch 16 gold foil got me thinking about this, but it comes up all the time.

There are people -- you know who you are -- who are on a quest for the whiskey version of the holy grail, that one bottle that stands above all others. For many, the only way they can think of to identify it is age, maybe proof, maybe utter rarity become it is from a defunct distillery.

Sometimes this last one manifests itself simply as an obscure name.

Recently on eBay, someone (I suspect we would know him by his Teutonic lilt) was selling part of his collection. It consisted almost entirely of bourbons aged 20 years or more from non-distiller bottlers. Though he was selling it as a set, the average price was $150/bottle.

People, maybe the whiskey holy grail exists, maybe it doesn't, but it definitely will not be a 20+ year-old bourbon from a non-distiller bottler. Most of that stuff is too woody, some of it is undrinkable, and almost none of it is worth the price. Most of it is stuff Heaven Hill made and won't sell as anything you can trace back to them. Figure it out.

I know the problem is that ignorant people think American whiskey is just like scotch, though even there older is not necessarily better. The Hirsch/Michter products happen to be older bourbons that are very good, as are the Van Winkles, but they are exceptions to the rule.

A fool and his money are soon parted, and we're not supposed to feel badly about that, but I do feel a duty now and then to put the truth out there for any fool who might be inclined to be a little less foolish.

jsgorman
06-08-2006, 16:58
I 'collect' older bourbons as a part of Americana -- though I'd be hard-pressed to spend more than $150 for anything other than Very Very Old Fitz (and would love to find that at $150).

I've opened an occasional bottle and find that I'd agree with your assessment of most older, vintage bourbons. I need to post my tasting notes, but I purchased with my brother a number of AMS 17YO Bourbon from 1933 and we got together to taste the bourbon and while it wasn't bad (much, much better than the questionable Michters 86 I opened this week) -- it was very woody. That being said, there is something to be said for having the opportunity to taste bourbon as it was drank by our forefathers. Same with wine, I'd love to try a bottle of Bordeaux from Thomas Jefferson's wine cellar -- but I'm sure it won't be half as good as a decent bottle from 1986 or 2000...

Vange
06-08-2006, 17:22
All this Davinci Code stuff, the recent Hirsch gold foil top discussion, followed by Chuck's posting entitled Holy Grail have made me want to chime in here. There probably isn't a universal Holy Grail bourbon, I can definitely agree to that. I do however think there is certainly a category of bourbons that could be deemed "holy grail" bourbons. I think I even started a thread awhile ago trying to accumulate a list of these "holy grail" bourbons when I was a newbie to this world and this great forum.

If I had to think of a few that I assume (don't kill me here if some of you hate the 2 I list) would get overwhelming support by many members of this forum as being great bourbons and at the same time being so very difficult to find, I would select Hirsch 20 and VVOF.

When I found my Hirsch 20 on a shelf way up high (10 feet up) with dust all over it, my heart literally fluttered and skipped a beat. I couldn't believe what I was looking at! A piece of history and to me a holy grail bourbon.
Maybe I am nuts, maybe I get too caught up in the lore and mystique surrounding some of these fine bourbons. Whatever it is, it keeps me hunting and drinking bourbon. Cheers.

ratcheer
06-08-2006, 17:37
I have no doubt as to what my "holy grail" bourbon is.

Until last summer, it was Rock Hill Farms. I finally got a bottle on a trip to Kentucky. It is open and highly enjoyed, but only on special occasions. It was just too hard to get.

Since then, my clear target has been Wild Turkey 12-year old, whichever style or label. I saw a bottle in Atlanta about five years ago and I could still kick myself for not buying it. A couple of years ago, I even went out of my way to go back to the same store, but of course, it was gone.

Tim

bluesbassdad
06-08-2006, 18:18
Tim,

I'm going to try to help you out here.

Don't waste your time looking for Wild Turkey 12 y/o. It wasn't all that great to begin with. Anything I may have written to the contrary in the past was probably the result of my falling for all the hype.

Now the occasional bottle you may find will probably be priced about double what Rock Hill Farms goes for. Can anything possibly be twice as good as Rock Hill Farms?

So forget about Wild Turkey 12 y/o, and sleep well, my friend. You're not missing anything.

Of course, if you happen to find a bottle at a price you're willing to pay, you'll see for yourself, one way or the other. Just don't say I didn't warn you.

I hope this helps. :grin:

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

ThomasH
06-08-2006, 19:06
I agree with the assessment of Wild Turkey 12. If you want a Holy Grail bourbon with Wild Turkey on the label, try getting a bottle of Russells Reserve 101, not that is holy grail bourbon!

Thomas

SBOmarc
06-08-2006, 19:09
Right now being very new at this, I feel fortunate to have in my stash some fine bottles. I know myself well enough to know that I will continue the search for that "one" bottle. For me the Holy Grail of bourbon will be defined not just by the bottle, or the label. My Holy Grail will be that bottle, at that time, with the people, in that place which will never be duplicated.

T47
06-08-2006, 19:17
I'm along the lines of SBOmarc. I am pretty easy in that I have found something to enjoy in almost all the Bourbons I have tried. At this point for me the Holy Grail will be anything I get to sample some day at the Gazebo with all you fine folks who contribute so much here. To actually enjoy a fine drink in more than your cyber company will be something else indeed.
:toast:

Hedmans Brorsa
06-08-2006, 23:16
Yipee! Trendy at last!

Your post is, more or less, a concentrate on my thoughts, Chuck. One would almost be fooled to think that you have begun to read my posts. ;)

My Holy Grail bourbon, BTW, is Very Old Barton. Howzabout that for non-glamorous aspirations? :)

DrinkyBanjo
06-09-2006, 05:19
I agree with the assessment of Wild Turkey 12. If you want a Holy Grail bourbon with Wild Turkey on the label, try getting a bottle of Russells Reserve 101, not that is holy grail bourbon!

Thomas
Instead of suggesting 'Holy Grail' bourbon's that are not readily available, RR101 is scare in my parts but luckily I have two in storage, why not suggest one that is on the shelves now?

For me that would be the current Rare Breed. I doubt that anyone would deny that this is one helluva bottle so get it before it becomes rare.

Gillman
06-09-2006, 06:28
I think Holy Grail means something different to different people. Some collect bottles because they are collectors and may not open them unless they have an extra. Some open everything. Some want to taste history, e.g., I was curious about Old Taylor and Grandad in the 70's when National Distillers made them partly because I remember them being very good then. So I got some and tried them. I do think they were better than the equivalents today but primarily I was interested to try them to see if they matched what I remembered from that time. Some people seek prized bottles said to be very good and rare - Hirsch 16 and 20 are both. I agree with Chuck that rarely though will there be a "eureka" taste and that most older bourbons are not better just because they are older. The reason in my view bourbon flavors don't dramatically change or vary is because bourbon is legally defined (as to how it is made): even changes over time in production methods, yeasts, etc. can't really alter its fundamental approach. As good as the new BT Experimental bottlings may be, it's still bourbon. The same for S-W bourbon from the era when its distilling-out proofs were lower. I've had some fine tastes (e.g. an Old Weller from the 60's) but it is still bourbon whiskey. I feel I've vatted up samples as good as the best oldies I've tasted. So, I believe everyone has their own definition of Holy Grail. But just to "answer the question", I'd say that the Stagg Fall '05 bottle (which I've now tasted from a few times, it is a friend's bottle) is or is very close to the best bourbon I ever had and if I saw a bottle on the shelf I'd buy it.

jspero
06-09-2006, 06:32
There are people -- you know who you are -- who are on a quest for the whiskey version of the holy grail, that one bottle that stands above all others.

My "holy grail" is not a bourbon at all, but a rye. Sherwood Maryland Rye was produced in Westminster, MD at some point. A (the?) rick house and some other buildings still stand and are used for other purposes today (one of them is an EXCELLENT Italian restaurant). I'd love to find a bottle in good shape just to try the home town product.

Based on my admittedly limited experience, I tend to agree about older bourbons. They are a little too woody for my taste. I tend to prefer something in the range of 10-15 years. Older does not always equal better to me.

Jay

bluesbassdad
06-09-2006, 11:07
Upon later reading I see that my post needed a "wink" emoticon after the first sentence. I was in an impish mood when I wrote it, but it surely doesn't read that way. I was trying to suggest that sometimes a sour grapes attitude is a useful way to deal with the scarcity of a product.

The only note of seriousness that crept in is the reference to the relative prices of Wild Turkey 12 y/o and Rock Hill Farms. IMO, one's first bottle of WT12 might be worth, say, $100, just for the new experience. It might even turn out to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. However, I would be surprised if anyone decided that it's worth two or more times the cost of Rock Hill Farms for subsequent purchases.

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

OscarV
06-09-2006, 11:48
though even there older is not necessarily better. The Hirsch/Michter products happen to be older bourbons that are very good, as are the Van Winkles, but they are exceptions to the rule.
Why do some bourbons like the Van Winkles take to the barrel good over a long period and others don't?

Everybody's mash bill is close to being the same.
What are the other factors in such a similar process, I mean real factors that you acually put your finger on.
Now here is what comes across as a silly question.
What if Van Winkle sent a vat of cooked mash to Heaven Hill, and they (HH that is) distilled it, barreled and aged it for 20 years. Would it be that different? If so, are the stills that radically different? Is the sun and wind that different from Frankfort and Bardstown?

I am not asking this with tounge in cheek, I am serious, even though the above questions might sound stupid.

Oscar

Nebraska
06-09-2006, 14:08
I think you might not be too far off with that sun and wind statement. I do know from reading posts here and there that temperature and more specifically air flow around the barrels have a very big impact on the end product.

Gillman
06-09-2006, 14:11
I always wonder about air flow. If Knob Creek is a metal-clad warehouse bourbon today, is that why it is the best Beam Brands makes? The windows allow air to flow over and around the casks. The huge buildings that have no windows: how can they achieve that effect even with good or adapted HVAC?

Gary

Nebraska
06-09-2006, 14:16
Industrial Fans?

Gillman
06-09-2006, 15:53
But I wonder if it is really then outdoor air such as flows freshly through a traditional warehouse with windows that can be opened and closed at will. It can't I think be the same, but maybe I am wrong..

Gary

OscarV
06-10-2006, 08:24
OK,OK,OK,....... let me re-word the question,....

Why does the Pappy's at 20 years is not woody, and lesser aged bourbons do taste woody?

BourbonJoe
06-10-2006, 10:58
Why does the Pappy's at 20 years is not woody, and lesser aged bourbons do taste woody?

I suspect they were aged on a much lower floor in the rickhouse, possibly the ground floor. Just my guess.
Joe :usflag:

etohchem
06-10-2006, 11:43
Since the thread is hijaked and I just to throw another wtench into the works and see what some of your ideas are...
Why is it that black mold (angels breath) grows on the rickhouses and on nearly everything standing still at a distillery but not on the barrels themselves nor on the ricks. Sunlight is not a factor as whiskey filled barrels outside will not get mold on them and barrels by windows don't get mold? I have my theories but want to here some from ya'll.

Etohchem

etohchem
06-10-2006, 11:50
And to correct OscarV, mash bills are not all the same. Pappy's is a wheated bourbon. Wheat takes extra aging much better than rye bourbons.
Metal clad vs limestone vs brick vs tile. Heat conduction and insulation is a factor. Air flow definatly affects the micro climates, but for floor to floor consistency it is about temperature conduction. High houses fluctuate and get more sun therefor hotter and faster aging. lower floors-consistent temperature-stagg, PVW, ER17YO.
All of this is generalities of course, Mother Nature loves to throw a quick aging floor into the middle of a warehouse just for fun. Every distillery knows how their houses and floors age, but nobody has any conclusive proof on why

Gillman
06-10-2006, 12:42
On black mold: I would hypothesize that tannins in the wood (barrels, ricks) inhibit growth of the mold. At first I thought the answer was that a higher ethanol concentration in and around the barrels would "kill" the mold, yet I've seen such molds on the inside portion of old corks (and not necessarily that old, I can see it developing on corks in bottles I've kept for just a couple of years or so). So it must be the acidic nature of wood. Now, very old barrels slowly become denuded of their tannic acid, which is why, i) they start to fall apart, ii) impart off tastes (sometimes) to very old whiskey, i.e., the lack of tannic preservative starts to rot the wood, hence the "rancio" (mushroom-like) taste of some old spirits. So if I am right, I would expect that some mold may develop on the oldest barrels, say barrels held 20 years and over.

Comments?

Gary

bobbyc
06-10-2006, 13:19
Why is it that black mold (angels breath) grows on the rickhouses and on nearly everything standing still at a distillery but not on the barrels themselves nor on the ricks.

It must be a function of transpiring Water or Alcohol. I have old barrels around the grill ( Look at my Avatar) and they have a good growth of mold on them.

cowdery
06-10-2006, 13:56
Since the mold grows on trees, it certainly doesn't eschew wood. My theory would be that the ratio of alcohol to air is too high on the barrel surface but just right on the walls outside.

Differences in aging are the same as differences in real estate values. It's all about location, location, location.

The original point of this thread has gotten lost. My point was that over-aged and over-priced private label bottlings do not represent what is most desirable in American whiskey and people who make such products their Holy Grail are deluded.

Gillman
06-10-2006, 14:02
I find the question of mold growth interesting. My understanding is that the black mold that grows on the stone and metal exterior of distillery buildings is a special mold that feeds on or has some relationship to alcohol. It is not the same as molds in nature you see on trees, and I wonder if this special distillery mold can't exist in a tannic acid environment. As for Bobby's decorative barrels, maybe weathered wood loses its tannin through ... weathering. If a low degree of alcohol concentration was the answer, why does the mold appear seemingly on the underside of old and not so old corks? It was all over the cork underside on the 1919 Belmont Randy gave me, on the side exposed that is to the spirit which was 100 proof.

Alternate or possibly cumulative explanation: molds need (I think) water to live and grow. The alcohol concentration may be too high in the barrel to make the water work for this purpose. On the outside of the barrel and in the warehouse, it may be too dry, or too dry for too much of the year. Why though does the underside of the corks get blackened? Maybe enough moisture gets in from the outside. Or maybe that blackness is not alcohol mold but something else (oxidation of some kind?).

Gary

OscarV
06-10-2006, 14:14
[that over-aged and over-priced private label bottlings do not represent what is most desirable in American whiskey and people who make such products their Holy Grail are deluded.[/quote]


The older the better assumption is probably due to fact that scotch whisky over 20 years is not only common but what is desired.

hookfinger
06-12-2006, 07:02
The older the better assumption is probably due to fact that scotch whisky over 20 years is not only common but what is desired.


Don't forget the much cooler climate of scotland requires/allows much longer maturation times

chasking
06-12-2006, 07:39
that over-aged and over-priced private label bottlings do not represent what is most desirable in American whiskey and people who make such products their Holy Grail are deluded.

The older the better assumption is probably due to fact that scotch whisky over 20 years is not only common but what is desired.

I think Chuck C.'s statement applies to Scotch too. It ages more slowly than bourbon, true, but after 20 years or so you are still rolling the dice with any given cask whether it will be past its prime. I would be very leery of buying a single-cask bottling of Scotch at that point---I suppose some independent bottlers are trustworthy, but I have gotten burned. Distillery-label bottlings, where they can vat multiple casks and have access to the entire warehouse to pull from, are probably a safer bet. But IMHO most single malts get pretty darn good in the 15-18 year old range, and some might get better beyond that age, but maybe not. (Of course, some older malts are really fantastic. But separating the wheat from the chaff at those ages can be a pretty expensive proposition.)

I like Scotch but it cannot be denied that there is a snooty, snobby element to the Scotch enthusiast community. I suspect that a lot of really old, expensive bottles of malt whiskey are sold to people who never intend to open them, or if they do, the whiskey inside benefits from the 'emperor's new clothes' effect: "I paid $300 (or more) for this bottle of Scotch, ergo, it must be nectar of the gods. My gut feeling that it is thin and woody just shows my own lack of discernment." My point being, the fact that really old Scotch is desired doesn't necessarily correspond to really old Scotch being what's desirable, if you get my meaning.

FWIW, my "holy grail" whiskey is a pretty simple one: Fleischmann's Rye. Later this year I am going up to Wisconsin (the only place it's sold, according to the Barton's rep I spoke to at WhiskeyFest), and while I'm there I'm going to make finding a bottle something of a mission.

Gillman
06-12-2006, 09:03
I agree with you. But as you said too there are exceptions. Highland Park's 25 year old is very good. So are the Ardbeg distillery bottlings over 20 years (some just don't taste that old for whatever reason). And there are other examples.

In general, IMO, where aged malt whiskies (18 years plus) find their place is in blending and vatting. The logic of an undertone of oak flavour which isn't dominant and tannic and blends well with younger, fruitier and/or smokier whiskeys is hard to gainsay. This is why the great aged blends are deservedly famous (e.g. Johnnie Walker Gold Label, Chivas' Royal Salute, etc.). The same logic applies to other countries' whiskies. Crown Royal is put together on the same idea, it is a combination of some very old whiskeys and some mid-aged ones (and some of these, straight) on a frame of aged but not overaged high proof whisky.

The logic can also apply to straight U.S. whiskey. A blend of straight whiskeys was once the industry category for this. Some fine whiskeys were, I believe, produced. E.g., Tim kindly served a 40's Four Roses of this nature at recent Gazebo which was superb (like an American equivalent to a sherryish rich Scots vatted malt). In effect, this is still being done at the simpler level of mingling within one distillery, but scope exists to create it amongst a range of straight whiskeys from different distilleries.

This is an idea for the independent whiskey merchants. The logic is there IMO especially when aged whiskey stocks are said to be at a premium.

Gary

wku88
06-12-2006, 20:36
Getting back to Chuck's first post: I agree! As with most "enthusiast" endeavors (Cuban cigars come to mind), it isn't so much the quality of the product as it is the percieved value based on rarity and infamy. There are very few straight bourbons that I will not buy again with my money, and several that I will not buy because they are simply too expensive. I can't imagine Stagg being worth the exhorbitant price(for this cheap skate). Fine whisky? I'll accept the reviews of all here who have tried it and say yes--maybe even spring for a shot to try it in a bar-- but I can't see me buying a bottle to enjoy on the back porch on a spring evening.
Having said that, my personal Holy Grail would be a bottle of Very Old Barton 86 proof, 8 year old. For purely personal reasons. It was my dad's drink of choice, and I would like to sit down with him and have a drink to celebrate him beating cancer sometime before he leaves this world.

Ambernecter
06-13-2006, 02:15
I have been to the mountaintop and I have seen throught the eyes of a Master distiller...

The name of my Holy Grail Bourbon is Rock Hill Farms!

I agree with Chuck that there are some people who take things a tad too far but over in England the drinks that may be cheap and cheerful in the USA (and good value to boot) are very pricey and ones income can be eaten up at an alarming rate, if not monitored closely!

As a friend of mine (a Scotch collector) says, "I don't care how old or expensive it is - how does it taste!" He tends to open every bottle and sample it's contents.

DrinkyBanjo
06-13-2006, 06:24
I believe I will be acquiring a bottle of RHF's this weekend for my first Father's Day. I will hopefully sample on Sunday night.

tsangster
06-13-2006, 16:19
Since then, my clear target has been Wild Turkey 12-year old, whichever style or label. I saw a bottle in Atlanta about five years ago and I could still kick myself for not buying it. A couple of years ago, I even went out of my way to go back to the same store, but of course, it was gone.

Tim

I saw a bottle of WT 12yo here in Athens, GA about a month ago. If you find yourself in the Atlanta or Athens area frequently I'd be glad to secure it for you if its still there.

BourbonJoe
06-14-2006, 03:27
My Holy Grail of bourbon is WT-12 Gold Foil. I've been trying to find one for years, with no luck. If anyone knows of any or has any to spare, you could sure make this old man happy.
Joe :usflag:

Chaz7
06-17-2006, 09:17
The original point of this thread has gotten lost. My point was that over-aged and over-priced private label bottlings do not represent what is most desirable in American whiskey and people who make such products their Holy Grail are deluded.
I agree Chuck. Yes PVW 20 yo is my favorite, but price and age for me aren't as key. Here for me in Colorado it would be Four Roses, Ancient Ancient Age 10YEAR old, and even Very Old Barton's; all inexpensive, all in many of your bunker's. But nowhere to be found in Colorado. Yesterday, I drove 70 miles to pick up two bottles of PVW 20 yo, on sale for $62.95. So, that was my quest. But when I arrived, I found 1 bottle of Rock Hill, Blanton's on sale for $34.95, William Larue on sale for $43.00. All of these represent highly desirable "grails", but only because of their sale prices; PVW 15 yo was only $33.95. All of these, EXCEPT PVW 20 yo and Rock Hill are found here, 70 miles south. Because of budget constraints (my wife would Kill me if I spent more)
I passed on the Rock Hill; so now I have a new "holy grail" to seek out. Will it still be there when I return? Who knows, that's the thrill of the chase.

CrispyCritter
06-17-2006, 18:39
I like Scotch but it cannot be denied that there is a snooty, snobby element to the Scotch enthusiast community. I suspect that a lot of really old, expensive bottles of malt whiskey are sold to people who never intend to open them, or if they do, the whiskey inside benefits from the 'emperor's new clothes' effect: "I paid $300 (or more) for this bottle of Scotch, ergo, it must be nectar of the gods. My gut feeling that it is thin and woody just shows my own lack of discernment."
Indeed, I've noticed that snootiness sometimes - one Scotch enthusiast site (http://maltmadness.com/) gives very short shrift to bourbon, for instance. I had bought into that mentality myself - until I tried a bottle of Spring Stagg. Needless to say, that opened the bourbon floodgates! Sadly, my brother-in-law, who likes a good Scotch (especially an Ardbeg!) as much as I do, didn't really care for '04/129 Stagg. :( I probably should have started him out with Weller 12/90 or VG90. Keep in mind, he's a UK native, though...

I've never put down more than $100 (pre-tax) for a bottle of any kind of beverage yet - but I've still had several "holy grails" both in bourbon and Scotch form. Bourbons like the Staggs I've had, Hirsch 16 (I haven't opened my gold wax bottle yet), ER101, RR101... also ryes like Saz 18 and VWFRR. For Scotch "grails," Glenrothes 1974 and Ardbeg 1977, the Campbeltown Loch 25yo blend (which contains some much older whiskies in the blend), Glendronach 15, and the Alloa 40yo single-grain have all been out of this world. I regret not getting a spare 'Rothes 74 when I had the chance! I have one A77 and one CL25 in the bunker, though.

Note that Scotch grain whisky needs lots of aging, due to the high distilling proof, cool climate, and used cooperage... but the results can be amazing.

Sijan
06-20-2006, 18:22
I have an extra bottle of WT12 gold foil that I'd be willing to part with if you have something really good to trade (WT12 is one of my favorite bourbons). In fact, one of my two WT12 gold foil bottles is still in the canister and original tissue wrap.

I also have 3 bottles of the regular 'split label" WT12, one of which I'd be willing to part with for a really good trade.