The following week I did some snooping around online and noticed that the label really didn't look like the National Distillers Old Taylors. In fact it looked much like the current one. After further staring and staring and staring, I realized the number was a '96'.
So what the heck does all that mean?
Like the Old Grand-Dad brand from yesterday's report, Old Taylor bourbon used to be owned by National Distillers. Along with OGD and a number of other brands, Beam Inc (Fortune Brands) bought Old Taylor in 1987. At that point, the production moved to Beam's Clermont plant using the standard-rye Beam mash bill. In 2009, Buffalo Trace bought the brand from Beam.
The Old Taylor 6yo (OT6) distilled by National Distillers is well liked by many bourbon geeks who say that it was a big butterscotch bomb. And, according to one fellow from Straightbourbon who quoted Michael Jackson (the whisky one), during the bourbon glut in the '80s OT6 was actually 10-11 years old. Thus my glee when I thought I had a 1986 bottle. Thus my tempered glee when I realized I had a 6yo Beam.
I really do not like Beam White Label (four years old) and I sorta tolerate Beam Black Label (eight years old) when on a plane. But I do like this Old Taylor...
...which makes me wonder if Beam's current distillation and maturation processes have changed since 1989/1990. Or perhaps they were still adding extra older stuff into the mix in the mid-90s.
As you may know, my palate is much more familiar (and happier) with single malt whiskies so this is a continuation of my bourbon education. But let's give it a go anyway.
Owner: Beam, Inc. at time of bottling, but now owned by Sazerac
Brand: Old Taylor
Distillery: Jim Beam Distillery
Location: Clermont, Kentucky
Mash Bill: Standard 15% rye (probably)
Age: minimum 6 years old
ABV: 40% ABV
Bottle year: 1996
The color is a medium gold. It looks a little watery and light. The nose starts with a very rich vanilla bean blanket covering corn chips and black cherry syrup. It's a little yeasty and bready at times. Then there's more corn, as in corn meal and grilled cob. With some air, a load of caramel notes develop along with butterscotch bread pudding. It always smells like it's going to be sweet, but actually the palate remains very mild. It's completely inoffensive. Lots of whipped cream, vanilla, and caramel sauce. There's a brief floral puff and a light vegetal note. The finish is very short and mostly matches the palate. Maybe a hint of bitterness and sawdust added in.
There it is. A mild, light bourbon without any of the ugly off notes of Beam White and Black. There's not much to it, but what there is is good. I was (and am) a little shocked by how much I liked it, even going a second round without notes just to make sure.
It has none of the stamina or structure of OGD114. It can't take water or club soda. Its finish is non-existent. And if you're looking for complexity, you need to go elsewhere. But, I'd be happy to buy a bottle of this for the house bourbon. I should match this up with Evan Williams to see who wins at this price point.
DISCLAIMER TIME: I cannot say if the current version of OT6 is similar to this one. In fact, I sincerely doubt it. Even though Buffalo Trace / Sazerac owns the brand, the bourbon is still coming from Beam. And as I mentioned above, the current Beam White and Beam Black are undrinkable compared to this. Thus the current bottles of Old Taylor 6yo are likely to be very similar to White and Black. IF you're interested in trying OT6, keep an eye open for the 200mL bottles. They should be around $4 (and thus cheaper than a bar pour) at some corner liquor stores. Before buying the bottle, take a look at the bottom and see if you can spot a two digit number beginning with '8' or '9'. That will tell you the bottle's year. If you find one with an older label, then that's probably made with National Distillers juice and seems to be recommended often by bourbon dorks. Meanwhile, the current version is generally disliked.
Wow, that disclaimer was longer than my tasting notes. I'm just trying to cover my bourbon butt in case someone buys a new bottle and proclaims that it's sh*t and it's all my fault. Anyway, how the hell do I rate this?
Availability - More so in the Midwest, less so in the East and West
Pricing - $4-$5 for 200mL; for the current version $12-$15 (750mL), $18-20 (1L)
Rating - 80 (if it had any sort of finish it would be at least an 83)