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  1. #1
    Enthusiast
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    Why Old Bourbons?

    I understand that its good to age Bourbon. And I read the article regarding the term 'Old Bourbon' Nevertheless the term "Old" or "Very Old" or "Ancient" is on over half the bourbons out there it seems. Is this a marketing gimmick? I mean, AAA has a bottom shelf version that is like 3 years old right? So what is so 'Ancient' about that?

    Old Weller, Old Grandad, Old Charter, Old Forester, Old Fitzgerald, VERY old Barton (6years is very old?) Old Yeller, Old Pogue, Old Overholt, Old Taylor, and the New Old Whiskey River?.... did I miss any?

    Its funny because I have heard Old Crow characterized as "Young".

  2. #2
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    I would guess that the intent for most of these is that 'Old' means that the brand is well established or has been around for a long time.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by fogfrog
    Is this a marketing gimmick?
    In most cases I am almost sure it is.

    Leif
    Swedish lover of American whiskey

  4. #4
    Bourbonian of the Year 2010 and Guru
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    Chapter 1 Section 5.4 e 2 of Title 27-Alcohol, Tobacco Products and Firearms

    " That the use of the word "old'' or other word denoting age, as part of the brand name, shall not be deemed to be an age representation: And provided further, That the labels of whiskies and brandies (except immature brandies) not required to bear a statement of age, and rum and Tequila aged for not less than 4 years, may contain general inconspicuous age, maturity or similar representations without the label bearing an age
    statement."
    2010 Bourbonian of the Year

    As long as you have good whiskey you're not "unemployed", you're "Funemployed!!!"

    I'm no Pappyophile

  5. #5
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Use of the word "Old" in whiskey names has an interesting history. It came into use at a time when most whiskey sold was "common" whiskey, which meant that is wasn't aged at all. "Old," i.e., "aged" whiskey was something new. It also came to be an association with the long and established nature of the company that made the whiskey. As the industry evolved and, for that matter, the nation evolved and techology began advancing rapidly, many people longed for the "old fashioned" ways of doing things, and "Old" as a modifier supported that.

    Are we so different today? In many ways, while we appreciate the advances of technology, you don't have to look far to find people nostalgic for some aspect of the past, often imagined and mythologized as much as remembered.

    When American whiskey sales started to tank in the 70s and 80s, the companies did a lot of soul-searching. It was observed that the most successful whiskeys of that period--specifically Jim Beam and Jack Daniel's--did not have "Old" in their name and instead were men's names. They were also in square bottles. It was further noted that the brands that lost the most sales during that period were the "Olds," i.e., the brands with "Old" in their name. Even Ancient Age, which has the idea of oldness in its name without the actual word "Old" was relatively successful during that period. Likewise "Early Times" (which switched to a square bottle).

    Most marketers concluded that contrary to earlier practice, having "Old" in your brand's name was the kiss of death and, in fact, the brands that did best--either new brands or surviving older brands--did not have "Old" in their name.

    Some examples: Early Times, Maker's Mark, Eagle Rare, Ezra Brooks, Evan Williams, Elijah Craig, Booker's, Knob Creek, Woodford Reserve, Four Roses and Bulleit. "Old" Weller pretty much disappeared and became "W. L. Weller."

    So what does it mean that some relatively new brands such as Old Pogue and Old Whiskey River have "Old" in their names? It may mean that the consumer has turned the corner and "Old" is no longer a negative, or it could mean that those names were chosen by people who didn't work in the whiskey business in the 70s and 80s when "Old" was universally judged to be a negative.

    It is worth noting, however, that no major U.S. whiskey marketer has created a new "Old" in the last 20-30 years.
    Last edited by cowdery; 05-09-2006 at 16:07.

  6. #6
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    After Bourbon county was carved into many smaller counties, the original Bourbon county was referred to as "Old Bourbon", and the whiskey made there was called "Old Bourbon Whiskey". Maybe the word "Old" was a carry over when brand names started being used.....just a thought.

  7. #7
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    The use of the term "Old Bourbon" to mean the area that was formerly Bourbon County did pre-date routine aging and was certainly the first association between "Old" and "Bourbon," and, yes, that probably started the favorable connotation of "Old" in relationship to bourbon whiskey. This meaning was only common for a relatively brief period of time (10-20 years), and had fallen out of use by the time aging whiskey became normal, if not quite routine. As time went on, the primary meaning was "aged." This is a little hard for us to grasp because, as Fogfrog pointed out, we tend to think of standard bourbons as "young," but when "Old" came into common use, aging of any duration was a mark of quality and "Old" was used really as a synonym for "aged."

  8. #8
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    Chuck,

    That information seems familiar. I can almost hear it being said by a deep, male voice with a gentle southern accent. Is my near-memory from your video, "Made and Bottled in Kentucky"?

    Yours truly,
    Dave Morefield
    Yours truly,
    Dave Morefield

    Dog Lover, Euphonium Player, Campfire Guitarist, Marksman,

  9. #9
    Connoisseur
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    Smile

    Quote Originally Posted by Grant
    I would guess that the intent for most of these is that 'Old' means that the brand is well established or has been around for a long time.
    I would tend to agree with this statement. After researching several to these labels, I have found the name has been passed down through the generations and 'Old' was part of it from the beginning. Of course, it definitely is a plus on the marketing side.....but, IMHO the names have been in place for a long time.
    "All I can say is that I have taken more out of alcohol than it has taken out of me".....Winston Churchill

  10. #10
    Bourbonian of the Year 2004 and Guru
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    Quote Originally Posted by ProofPositive
    I would tend to agree with this statement. After researching several to these labels, I have found the name has been passed down through the generations and 'Old' was part of it from the beginning. Of course, it definitely is a plus on the marketing side.....but, IMHO the names have been in place for a long time.
    The original name for Heaven Hill Distilleres?

    Old Heaven Hill Springs

 

 

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