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"Old" Bourbon


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Does the word "Old" in a bourbon's name have any specific significance? I am guessing that it refers to the aging of the bourbon to differentiate from younger whiskeys. (In my younger days, I always thought it meant that some old fart made the bourbon. tongue.gif )

Does anyone have any insight into when this term began to be used and the reason for it?

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For the most part, "Old" is used in the name of bourbon products to suggest that the whiskey is old, i.e., well aged.

However, it started from a different meaning, a reference to an area known as "Old Bourbon," that is, the original boundaries of Bourbon County. However, the two meanings eventually merged and in the heyday of new bourbon brands, "old" simply meant "old (aged) whiskey."

In the 70s and 80s, when bourbon marketers were trying to figure out how to revitalize their industry, they noticed that the brands which had declined the worst were the "olds," while names without "old" in them did better. For example, Old Crow, Old Taylor, Old Grand-Dad, Old Fitzgerald, etc. declined more than did Jim Beam, Jack Daniels, Early Times, Wild Turkey, etc. They concluded that "old" had come to mean "old fashioned" to the consumer (a bad thing) instead of "old whiskey" (a good thing). This bias is still with us today, as you will seldom if ever see a new bourbon brand with "old" in its name.

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