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Robmo

Bourbon selection in 1970s liquor stores

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StraightBoston

I'm surprised Chuck didn't mention the pictures in [thread=12050]this thread[/thread] which is one of my favorites (although to be fair it post-dates your request by 20 years!)

Medley/Glenmore products are over-represented (for reasons clear in the thread) but I'm guessing that it looks closer to a 1970s shelf than anything after the glut.

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cowdery

I remember the little neighborhood liquor store near me when I first moved to Louisville in 1978. The bourbon 'section' was about 1/3 of the store and I can't begin to name all of the different brands, but I'm sure it was more than 100. Eevery brand was available in at least two proofs, 100 proof bottled-in-bond and something lower. I'm sure I'm looking at it now through rose colored glasses, but boy if I could go back in time to that little store.

For Louisville locals, it was on the north side of Brownsboro Road near Crescent. The store is long gone and I think the building is too.

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panchro-press

Another very popular bourbon back then was Bourbon Supreme...almost forgot that one.

-30-

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T Comp
Another very popular bourbon back then was Bourbon Supreme...almost forgot that one.

-30-

What do you mean back then? You must not have heard of the Georgia Bourbon Society :lol: .

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ethangsmith

Has anyone mentioned Pennco/Michter's products yet?

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dave ziegler

I always think back to my trips to the Old High street Pottstown state Store as it was called then. They had a little Wine and Lots of Whiskey Back then. And They had a whole Section for Old Hickory 80 Proof, 86 proof and whatever other Old Hickory was around Like Our BIB. Also right near there was the Hallers County Fair BIB, The Charter Oak BIB and lots of our other Brands of Straights like Planters club 86 and BIB. And if you wanted Blended there was our most Famous one Philadelphia Blended and good old Governors Club. And Our Canadian Whiskey Embassy Club. We had a real big presence then and I loved looking at all the Whiskeys there back then. Today the stores are called Wine and spirites but they might as well call them Wine World!

Dave Z

Kinsey The Unhurried Whiskey For Unhurried Moments

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SMOWK

I've seen some old Philadelphia Blended bottles around but haven't payed much attention to them.

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shoshani
And Henry McKenna was definitely available, though I have no idea who made it, then.

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shoshani

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.

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ratcheer

In theory, the pedestrian bourbon of 40 years ago was better quality than the same bourbon today, in part because it wasn't plundered of its best make for the higher-end expressions.

That makes a lot of sense to me, shoshani. All the bourbons I remember from those days were rich and full-flavored, except for the very low-priced bottom shelf stuff.

Tim

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RickF

I grew up in Louisville and graduated from high school in 1970. To address some of the previous questions:

Rebel Yell, Cabin Still, and Old Fitzgerald were all still being made by Stitzel Weller. National Distillers flagship brand was Old-Grand Dad ("the head of the bourbon family"). Yellowstone ("that's right, no bite") was very popular, as were Heaven Hill BIB, Jim Beam (white label), and Ancient Age. Seagram's Benchmark was the one premium bourbon that I remember, but Maker's Mark was the up and coming premium ("tastes expensive, and it is" was the tag line on the billboards).

Jim Beam was known more for its collector bottles than it was for the quality of the bourbon. The last collector bottle I remember was the bicentennial series *1976) with the Norman Rockwell labels. There might have been some after that, but I cannot recall any.

Through the early 70's many Bourbons were still 100 proof and bottled in bond, but that was the time that the proofs started to drop.

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LongBeachScott
("tastes expensive, and it is" was the tag line on the billboards).

I always find it funny how plainly stating that a product was expensive was an effective advertising technique in the 70s. While snob appeal has always been, and is still, a big part of advertising, in the 70s a lot of products came right out and claimed expense as a selling point by itself.

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cowdery

Part of the context for that Maker's campaign is that the rest of the industry was in a race to the bottom at the time. No one in the industry believed you could sell bourbon with a quality claim. No one even took Maker's seriously. Ultimately, the brand was 'made' by an article in the Wall Street Journal. That WSJ article can also be said to mark the beginning of the present bourbon revival.

The true early history of Maker's is at least as interesting as the legend. Maker's was the last of the independents. People often mistakenly believe small family-owned companies sell out because they've hit a bad financial patch. Usually it's the opposite, they sell out because they can't afford to finance the growth their success has made possible.

The other thing you should know is that they under-promised and over-delivered, but in an almost back-handed way. They said Maker's was expensive, but it wasn't. It was a little higher than most other bourbons but less than most scotch or other things they might be drinking, so most people were prepared for it to be more expensive than it was.

It was a beautiful convergence of skill and luck.

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cowdery
I grew up in Louisville and graduated from high school in 1970. To address some of the previous questions:

Rebel Yell, Cabin Still, and Old Fitzgerald were all still being made by Stitzel Weller. National Distillers flagship brand was Old-Grand Dad ("the head of the bourbon family"). Yellowstone ("that's right, no bite") was very popular, as were Heaven Hill BIB, Jim Beam (white label), and Ancient Age. Seagram's Benchmark was the one premium bourbon that I remember, but Maker's Mark was the up and coming premium ("tastes expensive, and it is" was the tag line on the billboards).

Jim Beam was known more for its collector bottles than it was for the quality of the bourbon. The last collector bottle I remember was the bicentennial series *1976) with the Norman Rockwell labels. There might have been some after that, but I cannot recall any.

Through the early 70's many Bourbons were still 100 proof and bottled in bond, but that was the time that the proofs started to drop.

I moved to Louisville in February of 1978 and this is exactly how I remember it.

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Buffalo Bill

(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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cowdery

It wasn't the Jim-'n-Jack world it is now. There were some national brands but a lot of regional favorites too. Bourbon then had more than twice the share of market it has now, so there would have simply been a lot more American whiskeys on the back bar.

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deathevocation

Great thread guys.

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fishnbowljoe

When I was in high school, (71-74) there was a small group of us that hung out together. One guy was older, so when we wanted to buy alcohol, he was always the guy that would get stuff for us. I remember that he almost always bought Yellowstone. On the odd occasion Yellowstone wasn't available, he'd buy us Rebel Yell. If I knew then, what I know now....... :crazy:

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mosugoji64
When I was in high school, (71-74) there was a small group of us that hung out together. One guy was older, so when we wanted to buy alcohol, he was always the guy that would get stuff for us. I remember that he almost always bought Yellowstone. On the odd occasion Yellowstone wasn't available, he'd buy us Rebel Yell. If I knew then, what I know now....... :crazy:

Truer words have never been spoken ...

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deathevocation

Is Yellowstone still available?

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Young Blacksmith

Yes it is, usually in handles.

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cowdery

Both Yellowstone and Rebel Yell, ironically, are now products of the same company, Luxco. Luxco is a non-distiller producer out of St. Louis. At one time, the Rebel Yell web site said they got their whiskey, at least for Yell, from Heaven Hill. Both were pretty bad the last time I had them. No, check that, Yell was pretty bad, Yellowstone was disgusting.

The old Yell was pretty good, standard Stitzel-Weller wheated bourbon.

Yellowstone used to be pretty good too, made in Shively or Owensboro by Glenmore.

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deathevocation

Ah ok. Used to get RY here. Pretty sure I've seen two old bottles of Yellowstone floating around though I don't think it looked too good, especially at the $70 or so price tag (about twice as much as a bottle of Makers or JD here!).

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JB64

The whiskeys I remember being available in the Kansas City area were Evan Williams, Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, WT101, Old Forrester, and OGD. Another popular whiskey was McCormick Gold Label. Back then when McCormick was making their own whiskey it was pretty good from what I remember. Unfortunately McCormick hasn't distilled anything for a long time and now sources all of their spirits from other places and most of it is not good. Their products dominate the well spirits around here.

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jinenjo
Ultimately, the brand was 'made' by an article in the Wall Street Journal. That WSJ article can also be said to mark the beginning of the present bourbon revival.

Chuck, is this the article published in 1980? (Does anyone know if it's available online? Some preliminary searches yielded nada.) It's a worthy debate, but wouldn't one think that it's a decade or two before the present revival?

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