Thursday, January 5, 2012

Dusty Thursday: Old Forester 86 Proof (circa 1978)

Bourbon dusty hunters search high and low for Old Fitzgeralds and other dusty Stitzel-Weller bourbons, but to my mind, the less coveted, more accessible dusty Old Foresters are a great find as well. Today's dusty is an 86 proof Old Forester in a quart bottle. The bottle bottom indicates "78" and 1978 sounds about right given that there is no metric volume measure and abv is stated in proof only; there is neither a government warning nor a UPC code. I live in a pretty dusty neighborhood and like most of my dusties, this one was found within a quarter mile of my home.

Old Forester 86 proof (43% abv), 4 years old.

Wow, this stuff is great. The nose is a perfect balance of wood and caramel. The palate is decidedly rich and full of caramel and some vanilla with lots of wood, again in perfect balance. The finish is all sweet corn and lingers pleasantly for quite a while. This is the whole package with amazing richness for the low proof. Textbook great bourbon.

This is likely what is known as glut bourbon. Starting in the late 1960s, demand for bourbon (and spirits generally) plummeted. Distilleries stuck with a glut of whiskey in the warehouse dumped older whiskey into their standard brands such that a whiskey like this might say four years old on the label but actually contain whiskey that is much older (remember that the age statement indicates the youngest whiskey in the bottle). These days, that older whiskey would go into some premium or specialty bottling, but back then, they were just trying to get rid of it.

So keep in mind, you may not be able to find an Old Fitzgerald 100 proof in the dust bin (I never have), but don't ignore those old Old Foresters.


Jason Beatty said...

These Dusty Thursday entries might alienate your audience because we cannot get these bourbons you are reviewing. I can go to a distillery and try bourbon directly from the barrel but I cannot get ahold of this one.

sku said...

Thanks Jason, I appreciate the feed back. Let me try to explain why I think this will be a fun series, even if not everyone can get to taste this stuff.

First, please keep in mind that these dusty reviews are in addition to, not instead of, my regular whiskey reviews. In fact, I'm doing more reviews than ever. I used to keep it to one a week, and this is my third this week, though I don't know that I'll be able to keep up that pace.

Second, this bottle (and most that I'll review as part of the dusty series) is one I found on a shelf at a liquor store, a plain old corner store. It cost me about $15. There is a surprising amount of old stock on dusty shelves that is out there, and much of it is dirt cheap. If you look around long enough (provided you don't live in a control state), you'll probably find something old.

Lastly, I think the history of the whiskey is interesting and these old bottles are a window into that history. Even if not everyone can taste them, I feel like it's worthwhile to delve into the heritage of the industry in which so many brands have changed hands so often (and I'm learning along with everyone else). So think of this as bourbon history more than practical reviews.

Jason Beatty said...

I doubt any of the big time stores here in Indy have them around. I will check the smaller ones in KY. Excellent find!

AaronWF said...

Sku, I agree with you on the history angle, not just histories of brands and distilleries, but the history and evolution of the tastes and flavors that have been achieved over the years.

You mentioned a bit about how you dated your bottle, and I think any details you can provide on how to date a dusty are very valuable.

Jean said...

Hi Sku Love these posts.
I too live in LA and have ran across some stores where I find vintage whisk(e)y. Old granddad with tax stamps, wild turkey etc etc. I've bought a couple where the cork was rotten and the alcohol evaporated over the years but I've also got a few nice ones too.
I don't quite understand why LA is the last of the dusty in the world. I'm not complaining either. One place I frequent, a guy who owned a shop in the 80s in one part of town closed and the inventory went into storage & eventually relocated to the current liquor shop in a completely different neighborhood.
I'm not sure why this dusty phenomenon is present in LA and would love to hear your take on why we can find a few dusties here.

sku said...

Thanks for your comments Jean. I'm not so sure that LA is the biggest thing out there. I certainly hear lots of tales about great finds in other cities. We certainly don't seem to have as much old Stitzel-Weller bottles as some east coast cities.

To the extent we have a lot of dusties, it's probably partly due to our size. There's just a lot of everything here.

Interesting story about the guy who closed and reopened. Inventories get sold as well, which is why it's important to occasionally check back with stores you've already been to.

sam k said...

Sku, I'm definitely on board with using the knowledge gained from these old bottlings as a way to help understand where we've been and where we're going, and to identify the changes that have been made since then.

There are occasional dusties everywhere there isn't a state-controlled monopoly. Greg at (in the D.C. area) has done a number of reviews and even has a series about the best strategies for dusty hunting.

It's all good!

Jean said...

Sku funny how things happen. So, yesterday I walk into this shop I was talking about in my earlier post and to my surprise there sat a 1977 bottle of W.L. Weller special reserve. From the looks of the bottle it went through hell and back but the juice is clear and it's sealed. So, maybe you are good luck and need to mention in your reply to this, "there isn't as much dusty very very old Fitzgerald to be found in LA" and I'll find one. Thanks!

sku said...

Jean, good for you! And I'll happily oblige you since it's true, I've never seen a dusty Old Fitzgerald of any sort (Very, Very Very, BIB or Prime) anywhere in LA.

Now, let's see if the dusty whiskey angels help you out.