When I was a kid, I remember going with my dad to our local Liquor Barn superstore. He would be grabbing some basic stuff, but I would head immediately to the decanters. There was a whole aisle of porcelain containers in wonderful colors and shapes. I remember turkeys and other game birds, old men and even Elvis bottles. These decanters are now collectibles in their own rights, but they can also contain good whiskey. A frequent commenter on the blog was kind enough to send me some samples from two Old Rip Van Winkle decanters he found.
These decanters of Old Rip Van Winkle are wheated bourbon from the Stitzel-Weller distillery. They are both 86 proof and seven years old, with the likely year of bottling noted on the bottom of the decanter. The picture with the blue box is the 1977. They are both four-fifth quart bottles (i.e. a "fifth" in the pre-metric parlance because it was equal to one-fifth of a gallon).
Old Rip Van Winkle Decanter 1975, 86 proof (43% abv), 7 years old.
On sniffing it, you get that lovely, classic Stitzel-Weller nose with all of its candy shop notes. The palate, though, starts on a bitter note, excessively woody with pine and oak beating up the candy plus a sharp acid on the way down. The finish on this one is back to classic notes with lots of vanilla.
Old Rip Van Winkle Decanter 1977, 86 proof (43% abv), 7 years old.
The 1977 Old Rip has less on the nose than the '75. There are some medicinal notes but none of those classic notes. The palate on this one is an improvement with a decent balance of sweet and oak as well as some of those candy notes that are retained in the finish.
Neither of these decanters offer the best that Stitzel-Weller can offer, though both have glimpses of it. The 1975 was stronger on the nose while the 1977 was stronger on the palate.
WARNING: After drinking this, I did some research and it seems that whiskey from old ceramic decanters can have a significant lead content. Please keep this in mind and be cautious when sampling from dusty decanters. Gee, maybe I should have done that research before I sampled them. Oh well, it's the least I can do in support of the cause of whiskey blogging.