Old Crow, 43% +/- 1970

I reviewed an Old Crow bourbon last year, which was pretty awesome but had a crappy cap. This one is a lot better, from a regular bottle. The Italian tax label suggests that this was bottled between 1969 and 1971, but Italians being Italians, there may be a small diversion.

Why is this? The label first:

  • It has a completely red Italian tax label
  • There are three stars on the label
  • The contents are described as ‘3/4 litri’ and not 0.75 or so

These indicators make you pretty able to pinpoint the point of import into Italy. I investigated this a while ago for an article in our club magazine and between some of the Malt Maniacs and Max Righi of Whisky Antique this was what I was able to find out.

Then, why this might still be wrong because Italy:

I’ve heard from the same sources and other writings on the interwebz that Italy wasn’t overly strict on the use of the tax labels in those days. So, if there were any labels left over they might have used them to after 1971, or if the bottles sat in bonded warehouses before being cleared through customs for some years they might have been importer earlier. So, 1970 is a guess at best.

What’s certain is that it’s old. Very old. The bottle that is. The whisky is most likely just about six years old as that seems to have been the age of the Old Crow bourbons. These Old Crows were the cream of the crop back in the day according to many knowledgeable people. When the distillery closed and Beam took over the brand quickly lost their quality earmark and moved to the bottom shelf. I’ve tried a more recent version at De Whiskykoning a couple years ago and it was undrinkable.

Note: I don’t have anything against Beam. They make some kick-ass bourbon. Many of you will know my love of some of their small batch series (Booker’s, and especially Knob Creek. I’m not a fan of Basil Haydens’)

This one then.

Glue comes off the glass if you let it breathe, but upon closed inspection I still get that, but with burnt oak, maize and sugary syrup. There’s cinnamon and ginger behind all that for some bite. It’s pretty sharp for a 43% bourbon.

The palate is gentle at first but quickly comes up with a lot of chili pepper. There’s quite some sweetness behind it but accompanies by spices. The hot cinnamon and ginger are present, as is some oak and oak bark. The glue is not as prominent as on the nose but it’s still here.

The finish is more typical of bourbon with some spices and quite a lot of sweetness. Corn syrup mostly but also some sappy oak. A hint of charcoal maybe?

Even though still has spent some forty (!) years in glass there’s barely any Old Bottle Effect, and it’s actually a delicious bourbon. It’s a shame the bottle is almost gone by now, and I wish I was more alert for this kind of stuff a couple of years back.

I bought this for some € 30, but bourbon has also gotten really popular in auction sites on this side of the Atlantic, so prices are not what they used to be. I wouldn’t expect to get something like this for under a hundred now. Still, that’s not too bad a deal for a bit of true liquid history.

In short. They made some fine bourbon at Old Crow Distillery back then. This one in particular has held together well in the bottle and has some really intense flavors for something this low in alcohol and not that old either. Great stuff!

Old Crow, 43% +/- 1970 from a 0.75706 liter bottle (some exact labeling there!)

About Sjoerd de Haan-Kramer

I'm very interested in booze, with a focus on whisky. I like to listen to loads of music and play lots of Magic: the Gathering, and board games too. I'm married to Anneke, have two daughters Ot and Cato, a son Moos and a cat called Kikker (which means Frog, in Dutch). I live in Krommenie, The Netherlands.
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