March 27, 2015

Bourbon Past vs Present

Our friend Jim Parisi has recently opened Xavier Wine Company in the meat-packing district.  It's a small store with a friendly vibe that has a great hand-picked selection of wine and spirits.  We've been working with Jim on building a whiskey selection and audience.  (Right now there is some construction out front, but don't let it deter you from finding the front door, they're open!!!).

Jim reached out to us about doing a whiskey tasting and we wanted to break the ice with something really special.  We called our homie Josh Feldman from CooperedTot to brainstorm ideas.  We wanted to feature some gems from our personal collections as well as some favorite new whiskies that would soon be available at Xavier.  The concept of a "Past vs. Present" tasting was born.

We ended up with two expressions of Old Forester: A beauty of a 1973/1979 Bottled-in-Bond handle versus a 2014 Old Forester Birthday Bourbon (OFBB being one of our favorite limited releases, of which admittedly 2014 was not the best year); and an Old Taylor 1978 vs the new EH Taylor Barrel Proof (another favorite).

We debated long and hard about the order to present them in.  We knew that the EH Taylor, coming in at a whopping 129 proof, should be last.  We wanted the old and new bourbons to be next to each other.  But we figured that the '73 Forester BIB would be the star of the show.

The narrative of the tasting led us to the above lineup.  Josh came in with some amazing history lessons.  Bourbon used to be sold directly to saloons in barrels.  The problem with that was that the proprietors could dilute and tamper with the contents.  The "Bottled-in-Bond" concept was to seal each bottle with a stamp guaranteeing its authenticity.  This raised the overall quality of the bourbon industry and also allowed Brown-Forman to produce a "medical grade" bourbon product so that they could stay in business during Prohibition.

The story led to Colonel EH Taylor, a historical figure (nephew of President Zachary Taylor) who established "The Castle" distillery near Frankfort, KY. Taylor was a pioneer of the modern whiskey industry and his story takes us all the way to Buffalo Trace, the current producer of EH Taylor which today is one of the most prolific distillers of bourbon (see Pappy Van Winkle, George T Stagg, Weller, Taylor, etc.).  Showcasing the EH Taylor Barrel proof was a nod to the recent trend of over-proofed bourbons that are wow'ing our taste buds in the 21st Century.

1973 Old Forester BIB vs OFBB

Well it wasn't a big surprise that this wasn't much of a contest.  The '73 had a rich, dark, sightly musty, flavor backed up with massive vanilla, oak, and molasses that totally blew away the OFBB.  By contract the Birthday Bourbon seemed thin and hot, with more spice but nowhere near the body.  A solid victory for the old bourbon...

Old Taylor vs EH Taylor Barrel Proof

It was a reversal of fortune on the Taylors, with the new EHTBP winning most of the votes.  In hindsight it wasn't really fair to pit the old 80 proofer against the monster 129 proof modern day version, but on the other hand, they didn't bottle barrel proof bourbon back then, so it's a good statement on how tastes have changed.

Fierce Debate

The best part about this was the awesome crowd, who really seemed to appreciate how unique it was to taste 40 years of bourbon side by side.  There were a lot of great questions, some animated discussion, differences of opinion, and a few new friends made along the way.

Thanks so so much to everyone who joined us and made our first tasting a big success!



  1. It was a fabulous time. Thanks so much for setting this event up!

  2. Looking forward to sharing a dram with you guys at "XAVIER"!!

  3. What do you think is being done so differently these days from grain use, to production, to wood and aging? Maybe it's the use of GMO corn? Maybe the temperature outside? Why does the older goods taste better (typically) and of higher quality when production seemed more basic (possibly)? I've been wondering this and curious if anyone else is as well...or has answers?

  4. I do enjoy bourbon, but I don't know much about the older ones. First off, congrats on a successful first public tasting, those are very fun :) Secondly, a friend of mine gave me a bottle of "Old Grand-Dad", a spirit I've purchased before, but this bottle was one of four contained in his grandfather's basement with a date stamp of...maybe 1971? At least forty years ago, perhaps even from the 1960s. I'm of course NOT opening it any time soon but just curious IF this bottle is worth anything, if he found something special, or if my friend's poor Grand-Dad never got to drink his full stash of Grand-Dad :)

    1. Hi Frank. Thanks! This was a while back and we've done several tasting since then. All a big success!

      To answer your question, yes that bottle is probably worth something. if it's got a date stamp on the tax strip, I'm guessing it's the hundred proof "bottled in bond"? in whiskey speak this would be an "OGD BIB". assuming it's a standard size bottle (fifth) i'd guess it's worth $300-$400 if it's from the 70's and $500-$600 if it's from the 60's or something around there.

      congrats on obtaining a nice dusty my friend!