Bourbon Quest Ep 3 – Glasgow Old & Rare 2017

It’s been a bumper few weeks for me as far as whisky tasting goes. I’m still scrabbling around for all my tasting notes, however here’s a few stellar few selections which will remain in my mind for a while.

Shame I probably won’t ever encounter these chappies ever again.

Bourbons at the Glasgow Old & Rare Whisky Show 2017

I won’t go into much detail regarding the event (watch out for my next bumper post on the entire show, with more than 30 whiskies sampled), but to I wanted to share enough to put these bottles into context.

Unfortunately, if you’re a bourbon fan it’s pretty slim pickings.

The show definitely had a Scottish slant to the selection. It’s to be expected that Scottish whiskies would feature quite heavily given the fact that the country had a much longer history of making and drinking the stuff than elsewhere. But the virtual absence of bourbon was very surprising – surely there are more old and rare bourbons out there?

But perhaps this is a function of two things:

  1. The location – this being Glasgow, there’s the Atlantic ocean for the bourbons and exhibitors to float across. I counted two non-European exhibitors in the entire show.
  2. The popularity – or lack thereof amongst European drinkers.

That’s my simplistic view, anyway.

On to the whiskies.

Overholt Rye 1909

The very first bourbon and my sixth dram of the show overall, and we are off to a stellar start.

This is my very first encounter with the brand Overholt. These days, Jim Beam produce a bourbon called Old Overholt. However, this one is the actual old stuff!

The provenance of this particular bottle is quite interesting. If you look closely at the photos above, you will notice a little sticker that says Christies.

Imagine this.

This whiskey was distilled in 1909. It was then packed up in wooden crates together with a number of its siblings. It was lucky enough to survive the big bonfire of the Prohibition. It lay quietly in the private collection of some rich dude called Richard Mellon Scaife (a direct relation to Andrew Mellon, a shareholder at the Old Overholt distillery in Pennsylvania). It wasn’t until October 2015 when several crates of this stuff appeared at auction. New York-based auction house Skinner then bought a 12-litre case for an eye-whopping USD$10,000 at said auction.

And here it was at a show in Glasgow for £15 per cl.

It’s stuff like this that sends chills down a whisky lovers spine.

Crunchy sweetness, extremely smooth. Perfect balance of spice and bourbon char, with an incredible sherry-bomb-like smell mixed with cornflakes. #omg

8 Year Old Very Old Fitzgerald

Standing right next to the Overholt, almost overshadowed, was another rare bourbon.

The 8 year-old Very Old Fitzgerald (VOF) is in many aspects a direct ancestor to the modern day Pappy Van Winkle.

VOF started in 1870 and was eventually was acquired by Pappy Van Winkle during the Prohibition years. Production moved over to the PVW-owned Stitzel-Weller distiller. Apparently it was then that they added wheat to the recipe. This 1958 bottling therefore is a wheated bourbon, as is apparent in the flavour.

The 43% ABV and the German back label is also noteworthy. The VOFs sold in America were all bottled in 100 proof i.e. 50% ABV. So this bottle was very firmly an export product.

A more subtle wheat flavour compared to the PVW stable of whiskies, the gentler treatment makes it much more palatable and sippable. Low #good

Hannisville Pure Rye 1863

ep3_hannisville_rye_close
They had amazing labels in 1863… not.

Yes, you read that right. If the experts are to be believed, this was distilled in 1863.

I wonder how many things that exceed 150 years old can you safely put in your body?

So here’s the story.

The US Ambassador to the UK in the 1870s John Welsh bought a few barrels of whiskey, which were then bottled into glass carboys, which are basically the antique version of the water barrels you find upside-down at your office water cooler. These carboys remained in family possession, and came to be known as the Hannisville Cache. They were auctioned off to the chap at Singapore-based Auld Alliance Monsieur Emmanuel Dron, who promptly rebottled them into the standard 70cl sized bottles you see today.

You can read the entire history and check out the fascinating pictures here.

Weaker-than-expected body, but with a sweetness that is in total harmony with the warm spices. Very beautiful deep amber colour paired with an absolutely incredible nose that I can smell all day long. Very high #good.

Conclusion

It’s funny. It was a whisky show with an overwhelming number of scotch and single malts. But the oldest thing I tasted was… a bourbon!

Three totally amazing old and rare bourbons with over three centuries of recorded history.

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