Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dusty Thursday: Old Rip Van Winkle Decanters (1970s)

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.

9 comments:

Florin said...

Steve, what were your octane ratings on these two leaded whiskies?

Jason Beatty said...

Van Winkle said his porcelain decanters were safe to drink and the ones to watch out for were the old crystal decanters.

Anonymous said...

I would think one of those inexpensive lead test kits should be sufficient in letting you know if these containers were safe to drink or not without ruining the contents.

Jason Beatty said...

Good call! I will look at these. Hopefully everyone thinks there's lead in there to keep 'em cheap. These came from an estate sale in up state NY.

Anonymous said...

Lead was often used in paints and glazes on pottery. Am thinking that the lead would be mostly on the outside and not the inside of many of these pieces unless they were dipped in the stuff during the process.

Anonymous said...

Hillbilly bling!

Anonymous said...

Besides, that is good USA lead and not any of that Chinese lead garbage.

Jason Beatty said...

I got me plenty of dem decanters if y'all want ta have sum nice lawn ornaments!

Anonymous said...

You probably ate more lead paint, or drank out of more lead-glazed cups that you'd ever ingest from a (or even several) decanters. So I wouldn't worry too much about it. Besides (and yes, I admit there is absolutely no corrobating evidence, but it ought to be good enough to make your wife feel better), there are (or at least should be) studies that show that alcohol content cancels out lead content.