...where distraction is the main attraction.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Something Weird: Bourbon DeLuxe 4 year old, bottled in 1989

A couple weekends ago, I thought I'd tweet out something satirical.  In honor of all those folks who post a carefully lit close up of a 30+ year old Caol Ila / Laphroaig / Brora / Longmorn and ask, "Does anyone know if this is any good?", I posted this:

Yes my much treasured bottle of capital 'B' Bottom Shelf Stuff.  I was warned not to purchase it by two different people who were much more knowledgable than I.  Here's how one conversation went:

MK: "So I found this place that has National Distillers-era Bourbon DeLuxe."
CU: "Don't buy it."
MK: "They have it in their behind-the-glass section, claiming it's a collector's item. It's $50."
CU: "Don't buy it."
MK: "But they have two."
CU: "Don't buy it."
MK: "It's a liter."
CU: "Don't buy it."

So I didn't buy it.  But then I found another place that had it for $21.99.  And I bought it.  And then I quit dusty hunting altogether the next day.  Because this is stupid.  More on that sentence fragment another day...

Back to my tweet.  I realized on one warm evening there was nothing preventing me from opening the Bourbon DeLuxe.  So I hauled it out of storage.  And then I tweeted.  And, I guess, built into my tweet joke was an honest message-in-a-bottle that asked, "Has anyone actually tried this?  And what does it taste like?"

Well, that tweet had 120 interactions.  Most of my tweets have between 0 and 4.  Yet no one responded.

Bourbon DeLuxe was indeed one of National Distillers' brands, purchased by ND after Prohibition (possibly from L Eppstein and Sons of Fort Worth).  Like its better loved Old siblings (Taylor, Crow, and Grand Dad) it went to Beam when National Distillers was purchased.  I've found the ND versions of the "Olds" to be far superior to their current iterations, so I had some hope that my purchase wouldn't be a total loss.  Like my Old Taylors, this bottle has the National Distillers UPC code and has the Frankfort/Claremont designations.  So I figured that JB bottled it with ND bourbon.

Owner: Beam Inc at time of bottling
Distilled by: National Distillers (maybe?)
Brand: Bourbon DeLuxe
Distillery: possibly at Old Crow Distillery, some older spirit may be from Old Taylor Distillery but that's very doubtful in this instance
Location: Frankfort, Kentucky / Clermont, Kentucky
Mash Bill: ???
Age: minimum 4 years old
ABV: 40% ABV
Bottle year: 1989

Upon first sip, it was reminiscent of my 40%abv Old Taylor 6yo from 1991.  This suddenly now makes sense to me since the 1991 OT was 6 years old and the 1989 DeLuxe is 4 year old, which means they would both be theoretically distilled in 1985.  But there was also a sort of bland nuttiness that reminded me of modern Jim Beam White Label.  A week later, a more official tasting:

Color - Very dark reddish brown
Nose - VOC-heavy paint, pecans, hazelnuts, peanut dust, and wood polish.  Sometimes there's a curious nutty sherry note as well.  Caramel and baked bananas in the mid-ground.  With time, a sap note develops and the caramel gets louder.
Palate - Simple and sweet.  Vanilla and caramel.  A vague paint note.  Some spirity heat.  Then it gets sweeter and spicier with time in the glass.  Cinnamon raisin bread, honey butter, and something similar to immature single malt.
Finish - Sour and sweet.  Paint.  Smoky oak.  Raisins in caramel sauce.  Picks up some wood spices after a while.  Quite some length, eventually fading into barrel char.

Sweet, wood, paint.  Not recommended.

First, the paint.  It doesn't bother me too much on the nose, while on the palate it weirdly almost works.  Sort of like taking a drink during a break from house painting.  But when it shows up on the finish and just hangs out in the mouth, it's not great.  In a highball it's worse.

Meanwhile, almost all of the National Distillers bourbon notes are gone, replaced by some funny cheap sherry-like stuff.  The result is a mildly quirky cheap bourbon.  When I first opened the bottle, I'd wished they hadn't watered this down so much.  Now, I wonder if maybe they did us all a favor by reducing it so.

The lesson here is that there was always cheapo bottom shelf whiskey, and even dusty bottles of cheapo bottom shelf whiskey will still be cheapo bottom shelf whiskey when they're opened 26 years later.  This Bourbon DeLuxe fits that bill pretty well.  It's drinkable and mostly acceptable.  And then the finish poops out.  Now I'm left with at least 800mL of DeLuxe.  Woo hoo.

Availability - Happy hunting?
Pricing - ???
Rating - 70 (though this score has been declining with each pour)


  1. I just opened one of my supposedly 1987 Bottlings based on bottle stamp. Label, no warnings and imperial measurement makes me think it is more early 80’s. Perhaps I am misreading something but it has an ND fake tax strip though. My tasting notes very similar. The VOC diminishes with time open (now two months) but I really wish I had an 86 proof. There is a little flavor in there but not much!

    1. Hey Noel. Thanks for the comment!

      The government warnings weren't required until 1989, and the switch over from quarts to liters didn't begin until 1980. So it's likely from between those years.

      I'm glad your bottle got better with time. From what I remember mine went the opposite direction. Yours likely had more National Distillers juice in it than mine did, FWIW.

  2. I just picked up a bottle, which I presume is a 1980 bottle by the 80 on the bottom of the bottle.

    1. That'd be my best guess too. If the measurement is in ML, then it's 80 or later. If it's in quarts or pints it's before the '80s.

  3. But was it a STRAIGHT bourbon? :)

    1. I just went back through my 2015 photos, and YES it was a straight bourbon. Straight up weird.