Thursday, April 5, 2012
Dusty Thursday: Will it Play in Peoria? - Hiram Walker's Ten High
Have you heard of Illinois bourbon? Well, many years ago, there was lots of whiskey being made in Illinois, particularly in Peoria. Canada's Hiram Walker company opened a distillery in Peoria in 1934 and made whiskey there until 1981, when they sold the distillery to Archer Daniels Midland which converted it into an ethanol distillery.
Walker made Ten High Bourbon at its Illinois plant. That brand is now made by the Sazerac owned Barton distillery. (Here's a review of Ten High from the pre-Sazerac Barton distillery). Ten High was, and continues to be a budget brand; they distillery also made Walker's Deluxe.
The liter bottle I'm sampling today was purchased for $15 at a lovely liquor store that looks like it popped right out of Mad Men, inventory and all (see picture above). The bottle has the number "82" on the bottom indicating the bottle was made in 1982, but curiously, the bottle has a tax stamp strip with no numbers which would indicate that it went to market after 1985, when tax stamps were phased out (probably from just after 1985 since they still used the strip). According to Chuck Cowdery, the company emptied the warehouses of stock after they stopped distilling, so I would guess that they either bottled a bunch of Ten High in 1982, right after the distillery closed, and released it gradually or bought bottles in 1982 and bottled it gradually until they ran out. Either way, this bourbon was likely distilled in the distillery's last years.
Hiram Walker's Ten High Bourbon, 4 years old, 40% abv.
The nose is pretty middle of the road bourbon, some caramel sweetness, some spicy rye notes, not bad at all. The flavor is, well, missing. It's like water, bourbon flavored water. There is a slight caramel sweetness...and then nothing. The finish is like the smell of an old bourbon glass after you've finished and it's been sitting around for a while.
This isn't bad; there's nothing objectionable about it, but, to quote Gertrude Stein, "there is no there there." Forget Peoria, I'll take what plays in Frankfort or Bardstown.