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Robmo

Bourbon selection in 1970s liquor stores

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Robmo

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. :cry:

• 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?)

post-6884-1448981715841_thumb.jpg

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Gillman

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

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Robmo

Thanks for the reply and the great information!

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dave ziegler

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

It seems All The Nicest People Drink Old Hickory

America's Most Magnificent Bourbon

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Robmo
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.

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cowdery

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.

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Gillman

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

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craigthom

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.

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squire

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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Robmo
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.

Great infomation everyone, thanks for the memories.

Sorry but I'm not familiar with the term "doubling"?

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MarkEdwards
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.

To put these prices into perspective, a loaf of bread was a quarter, with a gallon of gasoline not much higher. A pound of coffee was right in between the cost of bread and gasoline.

Then, in 1972 or thereabouts, prices went crazy. I was a stock boy in a grocery store at the time, and I personally marked up the price of coffee on a daily basis, going from 29 cents to the unheard of price of $1.89 in mere weeks!

I've concluded that bread, coffee and gasoline stay pretty close to the same price...

I was too young to legally buy liquor at the time, so I bought Annie Green Springs and Boone's Farm when I could cadge it. I seem to remember these 'wines' going for about 69 cents a bottle.

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tmckenzie

The second distillation. I may be wrong here, and Chuck please correct be if I am, but the thought behind it was to bring it off the beer still at a higher proof and try to avoid having to double. It only went on for a while then they quit. I would imagine it did not age off as quick. The stills that I have seen have a continous doubler. That must not have been the case with the ones who quit doubling.

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cowdery

Tom has it right. Distillers tell me that the rise in proof on the second distillation is incidental and it's real purpose is to 'polish' the spirit by removing some of the more stubborn undesirable congeners. Even with continuous doubling not doubling saves money in energy and maintenance costs, although I guess the 'thumper' type of doubler doesn't require additional energy. Most people don't 'thump.' Since conventional doublers require that the distillate be condensed back to a liquid first, you need two condensers in addition to extra energy.

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T Comp

And for those that are interested here is a newspaper sales ad for Wilson's Cut Rate Liquors in St. Petersburg, Florida from April 12, 1973 that has 31 bourbons listed under BOURBON and others under FULL QUARTS and 100 PROOF, if you scroll around. Examples of the inflation of prices from 1973 to 2010 are $4.99=$23.25, $5.99=$30.44 and $6.99=$35.52.

http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=wFdQAAAAIBAJ&sjid=vFcDAAAAIBAJ&pg=4643,3967330&dq=ezra+brooks+from+glenmore&hl=en

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flintlock

That's fascinating - thanks for posting it. Maker's is the most expensive bourbon there. Things have definitely improved for the Scotch drinker - but maybe some of those blends were actually really good? Chivas is the most expensive bottle there by far. Interesting.

But maybe the "good old days" weren't so great - it's all just good, straightforward stuff. No premium bottlings, no single barrels. Just workingman's bourbon. Delicious, but not the dizzying array of high end stuff we have now.

I'll take 2 cases of Cabin Still, please. No - make that 3. :bowdown:

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Gillman

Great list there from the early 70's, Thad. I was surprised though to see the name "Jim Beam", I thought that term, as a brand name, only came later.

It's true that there were no premium bottlings or single barrels (Maker's Mark being a partial exception due to its particular marketing and image), but in retrospect there was some very high quality on that list: Maker's of course, Ezra Brooks, Benchmark, OGD 86, amongst others. All fine whiskeys.

Gary

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cowdery

The Jim Beam brand was launched shortly after Prohibition ended, i.e., 1933 or 34, after the family learned it had lost the rights to Old Tub, their pre-Prohibition brand, darn the luck.

Interesting ad, but now I have this irresistible urge to borrow money from a guy named Mac.

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OscarV

I liked the beer ads.

Back then Schlitz was my brand and now I have prrof that it was a real premium beer.

Busch 99 cents a six pack and Schlitz $1.25!!

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Gillman

Chuck, I thought I had read that Jim Beam (the two words together) weren't used on the labeling until the 1980's, as opposed say to Beam's Choice or another name with the word Beam only. Am I thinking of something else?

Gary

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bourbonv

Gary,

Chuck is correct on Jim Beam white label. I think you are confusing it with Jim Beam Black label that was a later product.

Mike Veach

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cowdery

Until the early 90s only two products bore the "Jim Beam" name, Jim Beam white label and Jim Beam rye. They then converted "Beam's Black Label" to Jim Beam Black and "Beam's Choice" to Jim Beam Choice. As Mike said, I think that's what you're remembering, Gary. The white label and rye have had the Jim Beam name on them since the 30s.

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Gillman

Okay got it, thanks.

Gary

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panchro-press

Back in the '70's, JTS Brown was easily obtained as was Echo Springs. I always thought JTS Brown the better of the two. Echo was frequently the 'well' bourbon in a lot of bars. If you just asked for a bourbon, chances are it would be Echo Springs.

-30-

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ratcheer

A couple of things I remember from the 70's haven't been mentioned (or I missed them). Wild Turkey was another premium bottling from Austin-Nichols. And Henry McKenna was definitely available, though I have no idea who made it, then. Has Old Hickory been mentioned? Rebel Yell? A bottom shelf BiB was Virgin Bourbon. Cabin Still?

I am sure there were many others. I loved bourbon in the 70's and there was always more to choose from than I knew what to pick.

Tim

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