View Full Version : Made in 1917, bottled in 1934
I am writing to request your advice or your assistance in directing me to someone who can help me in a rather personal quest. My family was in the liquor business from the late 1800's until the 1997 and because of this history I am in possession of 2 rather old bottles of bourbon. I have two old pint bottles of bottled in bond bourbon. The first is a bottle of Old Sunny Brook from the American Medicinal Spirits Company. Distillery #5. Per the green stamp it was made in the Fall of 1917 and bottled in the Spring of 1934. The second is a pint bottle of Benz Old Blue Ribbon a St. Paul, Mn company but the back label states the bourbon was produced by the Anderson Dist. Co. Distiller. Distillery No. 97. 5th District of KY. Again with a green strip stamp stating it was made in 1917 and bottled in 1934.
Both bottles have a number of stamps (Minnesota tax 12.5 cents, Certification of legislative session laws 33-34 chapter 46, one has an NRA eagle, etc.). I am confident they are the real thing.
Now to where I would like your help. Thirty years ago my father opened a similar bottle for my 21st birthday and I would like to do the same for my twins, Mike and Kate, on their 21st birthday. The Sunny Brook has lost about 1/3 of its volume and the Blue Ribbon has lost about 1/5. On May 28, 2007 I would like to open one of these bottles and share it with Mike and Kate, but I would like the liquor to be as close to the original as possible. If I were to find some grain alcohol and add it to the bottle after I open it would it be close to the original? or have both alcohol and water evaporated and require that I add both? or should I just serve it to them as it is?
Any advice or direction you could provide would be appreciated. I, and my best friend, will never forget the bottle we shared with my dad. I would really like to give Mike and Kate the same memory. I remember some loss of volume back in 1976, but I am worried that the evaporation over the last 30 years may be too extreme.
I wouldn't add grain alcohol. I would drink as is.
Agreed. Don't add anything. Drink it as it. It might not be great as-is, but adding something won't make it better.
Nice plan. Enjoy it.
Ditto the advice you have all ready been given.
Lucky young adults!
Oh, and welcome to SB.com!
Now to where I would like your help. Thirty years ago my father opened a similar bottle for my 21st birthday and I would like to do the same for my twins, Mike and Kate, on their 21st birthday. The Sunny Brook has lost about 1/3 of its volume and the Blue Ribbon has lost about 1/5. On May 28, 2007 I would like to open one of these bottles and share it with Mike and Kate, but I would like the liquor to be as close to the original as possible.
What a great tradition. It might be a good idea to wrap the remaining bottle snugly in Saran wrap to slow evaporation, or to seal it with melted wax, but I suspect the most useful thing would be to avoid seasonal heat and low humidity. Cellar it: protected from light, preferably in a basement, away from the utility room.
The reality is that probably nobody alive today could say for certain what that whiskey tasted like in 1934. It's believed that hard liquor doesn't change much in the bottle over long years (it certainly doesn't show improvement, at least) but who can say for certain that all of the complex organics are preserved exactly as they were?
What is important is that you're there to share it together, so perhaps the symbolism should be that every drop in those glasses is an undiluted tie to a distant era of your family history. I'm sure that most of us on this board would be fascinated by any opportunity to taste a whiskey that's seen both World Wars, but the fact is that it would be a special occasion even if you only toasted your twins' coming-of-age with Budweiser. I wouldn't add a thing.
I'd agree with all said so far, no grain alcohol. BUT, I'd also set back something else that you are fairly certain will be special in its own right just in case. Otherwise when you're old and grey and you're reminiscing with the kids it won't be "remember the time we opened that whiskey that tasted like gym socks and we all pretended it was good?" And THAT backup just might be a bit more available when THEY carry on the tradition with their kids.
A big Thank You to everyone who took the time to reply. Based on the advice given it looks like I will serve it up straight out of the bottle like my dad served me.
TnSquire, cowdery & Edward_call_me_Ed:
Thanks for the advice and kind words.
The saran wrap is a great idea. I have been storing the bottles in ziplock bags, in a dark place since they were given to me. The saran wrap is an even better idea. We found these bottles buried in an old store room in my grandfather's basement back in 1971. Per my father, the bottle we opened in 1976 tasted just like he remembered it back in 1941 when he drank it with his father for the first time. (not at age 21 but at 18 before he went off to WWII). I didn't believe he could remember, but it did taste good. It was down about 15% at that time, but still had a nice taste and you knew it was still strong enough.
Don't worry , there will be plenty of other options. I love bourbon - some is just better than others. As my dad says "when in doubt, just look for Bardstown, Nelson county, KY". I don't need to spend $30 for a bottle, but I do like to keep trying different ones. By the way, he says he will be there for a taste too.
You don't know just how welcome it is when someone comes onto the forum for the first time, leading with "I have this really old bottle," ...and they actually want to do something really special with it.
Many first time posters with a "special bottle" are just stroking forum members to set an ebay value for them or to offer it for sale in a "nudge, nudge, wink, wink" way - and then are never heard from again.
You're a classy guy - well met, and welcome. I love your family tradition with the bourbon.
Something else to add, is if it's possible - have someone who is very well versed on a large variety of bourbons try from this bottling(You may be this person?). As others have said there probably is virtually no one who can remember what bourbons from pre-prohibition were like, let alone even 40 or 50 year ago bourbons. It would be great to get a comparison and contrast to the style and taste of todays offerings.
As another suggestion, after you try it straight you may want to add a few drops of good water to see if there's any hidden flavors in there that come out. After the evaporation that you have described, a small amount of varying degrees of water may make it better in ways.
...there probably is virtually no one who can remember what bourbons from pre-prohibition were like, let alone even 40 or 50 year ago bourbons. It would be great to get a comparison and contrast to the style and taste of todays offerings...
Randy (doubleblank) has generously shared with all comers tastes from his 1899-distilled, 1918-bottled Old Belmont bottles, of which he acquired a couple of cases some years ago. My impression was mostly that, taste-wise, it would pass for a well-aged bourbon of today, but that production methods of the pre-filtering era left it with an oilier mouthfeel and more pungent nose. Perhaps Randy, who I'm sure has tasted it more often than any of us, will provide his impressions.
As for 40-50-year-old bourbon, while certainly not available generally or widely anymore, it's not as rare as you might think -- it appears on virtually every table at the Gazebo during Festivals and Samplers in Bardstown, and I have no fewer than seven such-age bottlings open on the sideboard right now, with at least that many sealed ones awaiting a good excuse.
Nonetheless, a taste note on any historical whiskey is welcomed and appreciated.
I'm not sure I'm a good candidate for writing adequate tasting notes. While I'm confident I can do better than "I like it, I love it, I want some more of it”, I’m not sure I can adequately describe all the nuances bourbon can require.
However, I am willing to consider providing a couple of ounces (no charge) to someone like Chuck (cowdery (http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/member.php?u=5)) so they could do the write up if there is a way to make it happen.
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