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  1. #1
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    Bourbon selection in 1970s liquor stores

    I want to form a picture of what a liquor store's bourbon shelf looked like in the seventies--one of bourbon's dark ages! I was born in 1970 so I'll need help from more knowledgeable hands to pull this off. This is what I've got so far, based on some cursory research on the Internet. Feel free to correct my errors or add details. Let's hear your memories!

    No Blanton's, Booker's, Knob Creek, or Woodford Reserve.
    Maker's Mark was still obscure--you couldn't get in your average liquor store (assuming you knew what it was).
    Old Crow outsold Jim Beam
    IW Harper was still around
    There were a lot of the "old standbys": Old Fitzgerald, Old Charter, Old Forester, OGD.

    (Also, what was it like to walk into a bar in the 70s and order a bourbon on the rocks? What was stocked behind the bar?)
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    Last edited by Robmo; 03-07-2011 at 07:23. Reason: change title

  2. #2
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    Re: 1970s liquor stores bourbon

    There were different iterations of Beam, including Beam's Choice and various decanter offerings.

    Maker's Mark was available albeit not everywhere.

    Evan Williams was the big Heaven Hill brand, and still is, that had national distribution. Ezra Brooks from Medley was widely available and was great (all the bourbons mentioned here were).

    You had Ancient Age from what is now Buffalo Trace Distillery owned by Sazerac Brands.

    You had Kentucky Tavern, Old Fitzgerald in different ages, to represent further wheaters. KT has been a wheater and non-at various times but it was a wheater in the 1970's I think.

    There was Old Forester and Early Times from Brown Forman.

    There was Old-Gran-dad from National Distillers and Old Taylor, some of that is still on shelves in America but less and less as time goes by.

    There was the fruity, strawberry-like Old Yellowstone from Louisville. There was Benchmark from Seagram, rich and rum-like.

    There were countless price brands too.

    This is just a sampling but gives an idea of what you would expect to find.

    Nationally, in the bars of the country, Old Gran-dad was a standby, also Forester.

    Gary

  3. #3
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    Re: Bourbon selection in 1970s liquor stores

    Thanks for the reply and the great information!

  4. #4
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    Post Re: Bourbon selection in 1970s liquor stores

    In those days just about every Store had Old Hickory Bourbon in the 80 proof and the 10 yr 86 proof plus other brands of Continentals such as Charter Oak BIB, Hallers County Fair BIB, and many others. Also there were great Rye Whiskeys such as our Rittenhouse Rye and National Distillers Mount Vernon Striaght Rye. Continental also made a Philadelphia Straight Rye whiskey. But when I walked into the old Pottstown State store the first thing you saw was Old Hickory Bourbon, we also has a 20 yr version.
    Dave Z
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  5. #5
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    Re: Bourbon selection in 1970s liquor stores

    Quote Originally Posted by dave ziegler View Post
    there were great Rye Whiskeys such as our Rittenhouse Rye and National Distillers Mount Vernon Striaght Rye. Continental also made a Philadelphia Straight Rye whiskey.
    You're making my mouth water. When did those ryes start disappearing from the shelves?
    I wish I could try Old Hickory.

  6. #6
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    Re: Bourbon selection in 1970s liquor stores

    I have a 1960 catalogue from a Los Angeles liquor store that I described in this thread:

    http://www.straightbourbon.com/forum...=old+catalogue

  7. #7
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    Re: Bourbon selection in 1970s liquor stores

    Although I was around in the 70s I wasn't paying much attention to bourbon. I have asked old-timers this question and the answer they give is that while there were many more distilleries and many more brands there was actually less variety than there is now, as everyone was pretty much making the same thing. In the 70s especially, as sales began to tumble, there was a 'race to the bottom' among producers, lowering their prices to keep or gain share, and cheapening their products in the process. Many distilleries stopped doubling, for example. A very dark age indeed.

  8. #8
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    Re: Bourbon selection in 1970s liquor stores

    That 1960 catalogue was useful and reminded me of many brands I saw on the shelves that I omitted in my first post such as JW Dant, IW Harper, Wild Turkey of course, Bellows (a price brand and not great as I remember it), Walker's.

    Dave mentioned the main ryes of the time to which we could add Old Overholt.

    There were also various whiskeys from the late lamented Michter's.

    And there was always corn whiskey on offer including some sold in, well, corny containers.

    Gary

  9. #9
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    Re: Bourbon selection in 1970s liquor stores

    I can't comment on the '70s, but I can on the mid-'80s, since I worked in a liquor store then.

    There were three grades of Jack Daniel's, if you count Lem Motlow.

    Blanton's was around, but it was the only premium bourbon, and was crazy-priced at around $20. For bourbon!

    Old Ezra was 15 years old and cost about $15 in its nice wooden box. It was my favorite.

    Early Times changed from bourbon to "Kentucky Whiskey" without warning. I just happened to notice the change on the label.

    On a non-bourbon note, Laphroaig 10yr was just under $20.

  10. #10
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    Re: Bourbon selection in 1970s liquor stores

    Rob the posters have covered the brands, I can only add there was more brand loyalty then than now in that folks would stick with one favorite to the exclusion of others and I believe most were taken with a mixer.

    In 1972 for instance our local would have Wild Turkey, Makers Mark and Jack Daniels as top shelf. Dickel was considered up there if you could find it and it wasn't available locally.

    Premiums were Forester, Grand Dad, Yellowstone, aged Charter, Harper, Taylor, Fitzgerald, Benchmark, Eagle Rare (a little later but still in the era), and Beam's Choice.

    A slight step below were Crow, younger expressions of Charter, Harper, Ezra Brooks, Beam, Early Times, Cabin Still, Kentucky Tavern, Evan Williams, Dant and Ancient Age.

    The lower shelf was a battle ground for the customers who refused to pay more than $5.00 for a bottle of whisky, Kentucky Beau, Sam Sykes, Daviss county, Charter Oak, Old Hickory and a few others.

    Old Overholt from Pennsylvania was the only rye and it tended to stay on the shelves.

    There were blends of course, Paul Jones, Segrams 7, but we didn't pay much attention to them, being Bourbon snobs. Yes, even the guy who cared for my Grandfather's packs of hounds and bird dogs was particular about what he drank. Certainly it was an identity thing and the men who molded me at the hunting camp would bring out a pint of Charter 7yr as their choice. It was from these guys I learned the only true valuable lesson about moonshine which is don't drink it unless you know the man who made it.

    The brands and their prices were well known and the choice of brand served was a measure of your hospitality toward guests. A quaint comment to say now is I was reared by men who lived in houses whose doors were never locked.

 

 

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