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dSculptor

Early Times info

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dSculptor

Hey guys, I was just wondering how many of you guys out there know anything about ET, I found out a few things but not really what I wanted to know. Like they stopped selling bourbon in the U.S. around 1983, Why? If this is the stuff that made KY famous, did sales just plummit and they decided to stop?And why start making it whisky rather than bourbon .. cost factors? just to be different? I have a couple of old bottles '70 and 1 small one that I think is a bit earlier. The earlier one was 86 proof, the other 80 proof, when did this happen? Any info would be great. Thanks ... Don

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GaryT

Can't help you on the original stuff. I bought their re-entry into bourbon (Early Times 354) when it came out a year or two ago, and was disappointed (thought it had a great nose, but then the palate didn't deliver - at least for me).

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squire

Early Times was a Nationwide best seller in the early 1950s but fell out of favor along with other Bourbon brands by the 70s. Brown-Forman was even reduced to filtering the color and flavor out of existing stock to create white whisky to compete with vodka. B-F launched a brand named Frost White Whiskey which I won't attempt to describe, you get the idea, suffice it to say just the word Frost can get a chuckle out of old time Bourbon fans.

Early Times was relaunched in 1983 as "Kentucky Style" whisky using cost cutting production techniques to provide a cheaper alternative while keeping the standard 4 year ET straight as an export product. Same thing with the 354 label is the domestic straight version.

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dSculptor

Any idea when the proof change of 86 down to 80 came about, while still being the straight version.

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squire

Don't recall but we generally opted for Old Forester instead so I wouldn't have noticed.

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Dolph Lundgren
Any idea when the proof change of 86 down to 80 came about, while still being the straight version.

I'm not sure but I do have an 86 proofer that was roughly/approximately bottled in 1971 if that helps.

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T Comp

About a year ago I passed on a dusty Illinois Bicentennial decanter, assume 1976, on a store shelf that was 80 proof. Having tasted a 60's version I saw no need to even spend the $25 they wanted.

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squire

Was the introduced Kentucky Style ever offered in 86 proof?

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shoshani

I've seen magazine ads for Early Times from the 1940s and 1950s, advertised as being 90 proof.

Before Prohibition, it was a 100 proof Bottled in Bond product.

post-8-14489820471027_thumb.jpg

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squire

I don't recall it being less than 86 proof but I believe it's been a B-F second brand for as long as I've been buying whisky.

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shoshani
I don't recall it being less than 86 proof but I believe it's been a B-F second brand for as long as I've been buying whisky.

I'd have to trawl through Google Books again for this, and maybe I will over the weekend, but B-F definitely had full page magazine ads in the late 1940s and early 1950s showing their entire tiers: Old Forester, the Bottled In Bond flagship; Early Times, the 90 proof popular-priced table bourbon, and then one blended whisky called King and there might have actually been a second blend.

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squire

Oh yeah, before my time I'm afraid, I was dating my experience from the mid 1960s. Interesting though, how the pattern went from 100 to 90 to 86 then 80 proof over the years.

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bourbonv

The official story being told by Chris Morris is that in the 1980s B-F was looking for a lighter flavored whiskey to sell and decided to make ET that brand by using used cooperage to lighten the flavor. Both ET and Old Forester 86 were more heavy bodied products and really competing with each other for the same market. I think that this story is the truth, but I also suspect that with declining Bourbon sales of the time, the chance to save some money by re-using barrels played a role in the decision as well. Accountant always have their influence in these decisions.

Mike Veach

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Ravensfire
Accountant always have their influence in these decisions.

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bourbonv

Ravensfire, I agree. If the distillery does not make money, it closes and we lose another line of brands. I was just pointing out that there were probably other reasons involved besides the official storyline.

Mike Veach

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cowdery

I believe ET went to 80 proof in 1985 when the FET was increased. By cutting proof they could avoid raising prices, a benefit for a value brand. I was in the room when the change to 'Kentucky whiskey' was announced and the reason was ROI (Return On Investment). With various costs going up, substituting 20% of the new barrels with used saved enough to keep the ROI unchanged without a price increase. Chris Morris was in the same room so he knows that anything about a 'lighter-tasting product' was post-justification or, at best, a rationalization for why they could make the change without losing share.

They lost share anyway. At the time, ET was selling only slightly less than Jim Beam. Since then the gap has only grown.

Not coincidentally, it was at about this time that Brown-Forman stopped its arms-length relationship with Jack Daniel's and accepted that the tail was now wagging the dog. Up until about 1985 they pretended that Tennessee whiskey and Kentucky bourbon were in different categories, a level of denial similar to the West not recognizing so-called 'Red China.' JD was run out of Nashville as a separate division that only connected to the BF at the highest management levels. In about 1985 a BF person was put in charge of JD for the first time.

BF has a long-term policy of only keeping category leaders. Although they kept ET and OF for what might be called sentimental reasons, they stopped supporting them in any significant way and put everything behind JD.

Edited by cowdery

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dSculptor
I believe ET went to 80 proof in 1985 when the FET was increased.

Hey Chuck, It must have been a lot earlier than '85, here is a pic of a vintage bottle from '69 -'70 which has the 80 proof on it, and another mini which has the 86, I was just curious about the whole thing, and since I was able to procure 6 of these full.

post-10789-14489820477422_thumb.jpg

post-10789-1448982047704_thumb.jpg

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tmckenzie

Chuck, what year was that? I have a couple et straight bottles, I may be wrong, but I have a straight from the US I think dated 84 or 85. The other is 70's. Both are nothing to write home about.

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cowdery

Both the FET Increase and the switch to Kentucky Whisky took place in 1985. I see that there was 80 proof ET further back, which doesn't surprise me because the popular price brands all went to 80 proof in the 50s and 60s. I know there were some brands that cut proof in 1985 to avoid increasing prices because of the FET increase.

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dSculptor
Chuck, what year was that? I have a couple et straight bottles, I may be wrong, but I have a straight from the US I think dated 84 or 85. The other is 70's. Both are nothing to write home about.

My bottles date to '69 or '70 and it's nothing to write home about ,but I have had worse, I like it,it's a very easy pour,plus I just think it's neat drinking whisky that dates back then,wish I could find some of those dusty's that I see people finding out there on this site.Thanks Chuck for the insight!

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cowdery

For many years, Jim Beam and Old Crow went back and forth as best-selling bourbon. When Old Crow fell from grace it was Jim Beam and Early Times. Today it's Jack Daniel's and Jim Beam.

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weller_tex
I believe ET went to 80 proof in 1985 when the FET was increased. By cutting proof they could avoid raising prices, a benefit for a value brand. I was in the room when the change to 'Kentucky whiskey' was announced and the reason was ROI (Return On Investment). With various costs going up, substituting 20% of the new barrels with used saved enough to keep the ROI unchanged without a price increase. Chris Morris was in the same room so he knows that anything about a 'lighter-tasting product' was post-justification or, at best, a rationalization for why they could make the change without losing share.

They lost share anyway. At the time, ET was selling only slightly less than Jim Beam. Since then the gap has only grown.

Not coincidentally, it was at about this time that Brown-Forman stopped its arms-length relationship with Jack Daniel's and accepted that the tail was now wagging the dog. Up until about 1985 they pretended that Tennessee whiskey and Kentucky bourbon were in different categories, a level of denial similar to the West not recognizing so-called 'Red China.' JD was run out of Nashville as a separate division that only connected to the BF at the highest management levels. In about 1985 a BF person was put in charge of JD for the first time.

BF has a long-term policy of only keeping category leaders. Although they kept ET and OF for what might be called sentimental reasons, they stopped supporting them in any significant way and put everything behind JD.

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dSculptor

I dont know it just never made sense to me.

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squire
so they started making cheaper, crappier whiskey and lost market share. Seems there could be a lesson for current times...

There's a lesson but no assurance the current decision makers are willing to listen.

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dSculptor

You know.. it's like I always tell my children.. hey I been thru it I know from experience, trust me, listen the first time and you will waste less time than having to go thru it yourself, that's where wisdom comes in, and in the end you come out ahead,you just skipped a step.

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