...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)