Old Hickory was once a very well known Pennsylvania bourbon made by Publicker in Philadelphia. The distillery went out of business in the early '80s and was later abandoned. The brand currently survives only as a blend made by an unrelated company.
Today, I taste a 20 year old which appears to have been bottled in 1969. You don't see many 20 year old bourbons from that era, so I was very interested in this one.
Old Hickory 20 year old, 40% abv
Some bourbons tell a story; this one told a story right from the nose, a story of how old bourbon used to taste, a story of how it's changed. One whiff of this stuff brought me back to every great dusty bourbon I've tasted. The first sniff hit me with sweet butterscotch - liquid candy, followed up with some spice. It was a little musty, but it was one of those that makes you wonder why they don't make them like this anymore. I could happily nose it for hours.
Unfortunately, the palate didn't measure up to the incredible nose. It was light and sweet with honey and a bit chewy, but it felt diluted and lost some of the magic. The finish was spicy and slightly bitter. Shockingly, for a 20 year old, there was very little in the way of oak or wood, and no signs at all of it being over oaked.
The nose on this was incredible, but it just didn't hold up. Still, I think I'd be happier just nosing this than drinking most current bourbons.
Thanks to Tim Puett for the sample and photos.