...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Jim Beam "100 Month" Bourbon, AC Delco Sparkplug Decanter (1977)

Because I've tended to tramp in Scotch whisky circles more than American whiskey circles, I only found out about Jim Beam's ceramic decanters a couple years ago.  I'd been in dozens of antique stores, walking by them and not realizing what they were.  You may have done the same.

For those who are also new to this...... For four or five decades, Jim Beam bottled some of their bourbon in collectible decanters.  During glut periods it was a way to move more bourbon.  It was also a way for their product to be more convincing as a gift (if a regular old bottle of booze wasn't a good gift enough).  Plus it brought them to the collector market, thus folks who wouldn't often buy bourbon now did so for investing/trading/amassing/hoarding reasons.  The variety of decanters (which stopped production in 1992) is astounding.  Check out this list just from one collector club.  There are currently many such clubs around the world, all of whom are very serious about their decanters' values and conditions.  Collectors tend to encourage folks to not keep the whiskey inside the decanter in order to prevent damage to the container itself.

But what does all of this mean for whiskey fans?  First off, while antiquing I have yet to find a decanter with the bourbon inside.  But Bourbonguy did, and I encourage you to read his post about his Tiffiny poodle decanter.  But is it safe to actually drink the bourbon inside these glazed vessels?  I don't know.  I'm not a scientician so I will not dispense with advice (though the Straight Bourbon forum had a good discussion about these decanters).  But I am willing to consume a little poison from time to time, with this being this blog's 406th(?) whisky review and all.

Tomorrow I'll be reviewing the bourbon from a Cannon decanter (bottled in 1970).  Today, I'll be reviewing one from an AC Delco Sparkplug decanter.  They're both "100 month" bourbons (actually the other one is labelled as 8 years old, yet was really over nine years old, and now I'm just making things confusing), with one slugging an 80 proof, the other 100 proof.

Mr. Smokeypeat's neighbor found the Sparkplug decanter while going through his late father's storage unit.  They opened that decanter up to give the bourbon a try.  And they were super cool to send me a surprise sample of that very bourbon.  Here's Smokeypeat's awesome photo of the decanter:
Whiskey in the laundry room. That's what I'm talkin' about.
(If you insist on a boring photo of the decanter, there are plenty to be found via a Google Image search.)

Smokeypeat posted his review of the bourbon a couple weeks ago.  I held off reading it until I did my own tasting.  I'll reference his review at the end of this post.

Owner: Beam, Inc. at time of bottling, but now owned by Suntory
Brand: Old Taylor
Distillery: Jim Beam Distillery
Distiller: Booker Noe (I think)
Location: Clermont, Kentucky
Mash Bill: ???
ABV: 40% ABV
Age and Bottle year: All of these sparkplugs online show a bottle date of 1977, which can be found on the bottom of the decanter.  One Etsy seller listed the info from the bottle bottom here (scroll down that page for the info).  100 months (or 8 years 4 months) would be age of the youngest bourbon in the bottle, thus it has a distillation year of 1969 or earlier.

At first sips...
...the color is a dark cherrywood.  The nose begins with a big floral note, followed by hazelnuts and marzipan.  Behind that is a chunk of fresh cut timber.  A load of vanilla beans.  Milk Duds and toffee pudding.  The palate is bit thin.  And surprisingly Beam-ish.  Surprisingly as in: I expected time, mashbill changes, and decanter glaze to perk it up.  Some nuts and black cherry syrup.  Hints of black pepper and corn syrup.  Not a whole lot going on in the finish.  It's slightly earthy and bitter.  Some eucalyptus.

Then after 10 minutes of air...
...the nose suddenly gets very very woody.  Green wood and dried bark.  Pencil graphite.  The vanilla remains, some gumballs have joined.  The palate gets bitterer, in an odd wood-ish way.  Very tannic and drying.  Lipton tea.  The finish has that bland tea note too.  Slightly sweet.

After 10 additional minutes...
...the nose has become somewhat paint-like.  The somehow-thinner palate has gone papery.  The finish barely shows.

I saved a final half ounce for the following day.  Had I done that sip blindly I would have thought it was a watered down Jim Beam White Label.

So, at first the nose was very nice, the palate was decent, the finish was fair.  But then air crumbled it, getting worse with time.  Basically the Beam went from a perfectly serviceable whiskey to oaked paint in 20-30 minutes.  I do not think this has anything to do with leeching the material inside the decanter.  Instead, this Beam did what every low abv (40-43) dusty bourbon I've owned has done, and that this is fall apart after extensive oxidation (whether in the bottle or glass).  In this case it happened much faster than it normally does.

Smokeypeat finds a lot of the same issues that I did with this bourbon, minus the nice first few minutes the nose had provided me.  He suggests in his conclusion that someone should compare this to Beam's contemporary eight year old, which is a good point.  From my perspective, Beam Black beats the tar out of this one.  Heck, Beam White may beat this one in a footrace as well.  Tomorrow, I'll report on the Beam that I did compare this 100 Month to.

Availability - Collectors or antique sellers whom haven't dumped the booze
Pricing - ???
Rating - 74 (sort of an average; it started around 80, ended around 68)


  1. I wouldn't worry too much about lead poisoning. The amount you drank will be expelled through normal bodily functions....

    My big issue with these ceramic decanters is that they are bad at staying sealed. I'm sure the bourbon was probably good in 1977.

    1. Re: lead poisoning, yeah that's what I was hoping. :) I think the greater concern is for the folks who are drinking through multiple decanters. As you'll see in my next review, some of these were (or are) indeed pretty good. This one, though, was a 40%abv Beam thus the drinker's mileage may vary.

  2. I probably gave it too much air. I did not know how quickly something like this can break down. I will have to procure another sample from my friend and see if I can find any of those nice notes you noticed in the first few minutes. If a good dusty comes my way one day it would be nice, but I just don't have the time or extreme knowledge of old bourbon to make it happen. Guess I will just have to be happy drinking all of the wonderful bourbon that is readily available today.

    1. I retired from my dusty hunting career altogether this year. When I open one of my ND-era Old Taylors, I'll save you a sample from the top of the bottle. Though those old OTs are my favorites, they don't do well in the bottle even after a few weeks. So I wonder if your friend's Beam has actually fallen apart further. Or maybe the helpful leaded glaze lining will preserve things. :)

  3. My father inlaw has two of these spark plug decanters unopened seal still intact will sell for the right price. Bencajun@yahoo.com

  4. Adam.mergist, I'm interested in this decanter if you still have and are looking to sell. Email me info@daveducille.com

  5. I have one of these decanters..I am looking to sell for the right price also..

  6. I have owned and bartended at my tavern for 30 years in La Crosse wi.When i purchased my tavern i inherited a collection of old decanters that contain some very tasty bourbons.However the decanter with cork tops can spoil.On occasion i will have a borbon snob taste test these mainly beam bourbons and they almost always choose the old stuff over the new overpriced bourbons.the old stuff was distilled properly (before demand outstripped Supply like in todays bourbon crazy USA)and so long as it is stored sealed up the stuff is terrific.When you open an oldie look for cloudy contents which means it is spoiled.Water not too much ice with a cool but not ice cold taste can make for a super tasty drink of historical proportions.I have no interest in selling and do not display it on the shelf. Me and the wife use it for special occasions to show old friends and customers that we respect their support of our family through their long term loyal friendship and patronage.

    1. Hi rudy, thank you for this great comment! Like you, I almost always prefer bourbons bottled in the 1980s or earlier over the bourbons on retailer shelves today. As you mentioned, old bourbon that's cloudy at room temperature is usually a bad sign. I had to toss two bottles of 1980s IW Harper that had gone cloudy and screwy. Enjoy the tavern!

  7. I have one of the AC decanters, mint condition, still sealed. Will sell for the right price!
    Email: lynhulkue@gmail.com

  8. I have one of these decanters as well - mint condition, still sealed and containing the original bourbon. Looking for a buyer/collector who'd like to add this to their collection. Email to : jpharv813@gmail.com

  9. Thomas Tomczik I have one of these decanters as well - mint condition, still sealed and containing the original bourbon. Looking for a buyer/collector who'd like to add this to their collection. Email to :carpenterdude101@yahoo.com

  10. Thomas Tomczik I have one of these decanters as well - mint condition, still sealed and containing the original bourbon. Looking for a buyer/collector who'd like to add this to their collection. Email to :carpenterdude101@yahoo.com

  11. I also have one of these decanters, still sealed and containing the original bourbon. Looking for a buyer. oldworldmurals@gmail.com Label is slightly worn around the edges

    1. I have about 300 decanters so far and 25 are unopened and I'm looking for more for my collection all the time at the right price.