I'm sipping a Louisville Old Charter 7yo/86 proof bottled in 1981. The aroma is bigger than any current OC and has some soft floral notes. The flavor: nice bit of maple-brown sugar sweetness and spice up front, and then holy fruit salad, Batman! Cherries and very ripe peaches (with a bit of the nuttiness of their pits). Also some plummy notes (continuing the stone fruit theme). The bottle has been open for a while, and the fruitiness has always been there, but breathing a bit has accentuated it, I think.
Last night, I had an OT 86 that's been open for a month or so. Spice cake with walnuts and a heaping of plum jam on top. I mean, loads of fruit.
I've noticed that a fair number of ND and UDV products from the late 70s and 80s seem to have more fruit character than their current counterparts (or any but the best products of today - and very few of those really compare in terms of fruitiness). For example, OGD across the board, Old Taylor, the aforementioned Charter, and Old Crow all carry big and distinct fruit notes.
The fruit rounds out the palate of these whiskeys, playing beautifully against spice and wood notes. It strikes me that there is very little in the market today that compares. The premium products tend to be extra-aged, or at least older than the stated 6 yrs of OT, 7 yrs of OC7, etc. Some are younger: ETL comes to mind as an example that has some comparable levels of fruitiness. But the whiskeys with more age pick up so much leather, tobacco, and vanilla (which I love) that the fruit can vanish. Still, though, it isn't the same.
There are some really great whiskeys available now, and I appreciate it. But what I want to know is, how could current distillers approximate this level of fruitiness? Is it purely a function of distillation proof and/or barreling proof (I'm thinking in terms of congeners; e.g. WT products have some fruit - though it's different, more citrusy), or is it perhaps affected by the age of the wood used in barrels?
Don't get me wrong; I wouldn't complain about the huge variety and stellar quality of current production whiskeys available today. But I wish there were something that tasted like this OC or that Old Taylor I had last night. So, how could it be done?
I believe that fruitiness comes from the grains, which are largely offset today by higher distillation and barrel-entry proofs. More and more, our bourbon flavor comes from the barrels themselves, with the whiskey less congeneric.
:skep: Well, it's a working theory, anyway.
I was a little surprised...7 year 86 proof Old Charter? All of mine are the 80 proof version bottled '90 and '93. At any rate, I would definately agree with your statements regarding the fruit. While visiting Four Roses I was able to try bourbon mash and distillet using thier fruity yeast. Damn, it was tasty! My guess is that the yeast used by UDV and ND could be one of this type.
Plus, the fruit present in the ND and UDV products is a factor of aging. Maybe they rotated their barrels or just aged averything much longer because of the glut in the market place. Since there is no glut today all products just recieve the minimum. Too bad for us.
Thanks for such detailed descriptions of your bourbon trials. You really bring the experience to life.:bowdown: :bowdown:
This seems to be supported by the fact that I don't get nearly as much fruitiness in S-W products and/or wheaters as I do rye-recipe stuff. The grain character still comes through in terms of spice, mouthfeel, and sweetness level, but your working theory seems to work, IMO.
Originally Posted by TNbourbon
Jeff, I've seen only two bottles of the 7yr/86 proof. Grain Brain found a pint (i.e., mid- to late-70s) of the stuff in West TX or Arizona somewhere. I found this bottle in the box in which it was once sold in a rural store about four months ago. The box and lettering on the box were silver; the bottle was pristine. It's about half gone now, and I've fallen in love with it. I love my Louisville 12yo, but this stuff is full of character. Recommended (and if you're in Dallas in the next couple of months, I'll pour you some).