...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Revisiting Old Taylor bourbon: three 1980s bottlings

That's kind of the big question, isn't it?

Greetings my fellow olds! And a hello to all the papas (fathers and taters) out there who may or may not have had a drink on Father's Day!

As I type, it is that very day when our children celebrate our dumb asses for about a half an hour, maybe. When you read this, that day will have passed, and we are back on whatever terms we are normally on with our families. May those terms be peaceful.

In honor of Father's Day, I sat down in a restaurant for the first time in about 16 months, and scarfed down a bowl of tonkotsu ramen. Once my body (probably) processed all that pork belly and sodium, I prepped this here tasting of National Distillers-distilled Old Taylor bourbons of the past.

These are the final bits of bottles I'd opened in 2014 and 2015. I previously reviewed the 1985 and 1987, but not the 1989 for some reason. They're all 6 year olds, but the '85 and '87 were bottled at 43%abv, while the '89 was 40%abv. The '85 and '87 were gorgeous. I was less thrilled by a '91 bottling that was, like today's '89, bottled at 40%. I'd like to know what my palate thinks of this stuff now, six or seven years after opening the bottles, with the awareness that some of these may have oxidized a bit in that time.

Old Taylor 6 year old bourbon, 43%abv, bottled in 1985

The nose begins with an aromatic mix of rye seeds, fennel seeds and orange peel. Lemon candy, molasses, hay and cream soda follow next. There's also a note, right in the middle, that's like a rum cake made with Worthy Park.

Oh dear. The palate is viscous and very fruity. Think cherries, plums and peaches in a crazy pie. Yes, the famous National Distillers butterscotch note shows up on time. After 30+ minutes, smaller notes of citrus, fresh ginger and pepper appear.

The finish is just sweet enough without going overboard. Ginger, plums and tart cherries find balance with a slight rye bite.

As lovely as I'd remembered, though with different notes than my review from seven years ago. Drinking this, I had the same reaction that I do with dusty single malt scotch; this is a very different fluid than what is put in bottles today. Different textures and characteristics result in a very different (and better, IMHO) experience.


Old Taylor 6 year old bourbon, 43%abv, bottled in 1987

Though the nose has a hint of dusty mustiness, it's mostly a riot of desserts. Pound cake, vanilla ice cream, old cognac, almond extract, fruity cinnamon, milk chocolate and white peaches. Very American and French.

The palate reads heavier than the 1985 bottling. More butterscotch, oak spice and caramel sauce. It develops a bold tart lemon note with time, as well as some smaller notes of flowers and stone fruit skins. Like the '85 bottling, it has a thick mouthfeel.

It finishes with oak spice, cassis, lemons and a hint of butterscotch.

Again, this is truly from another era. More of a dessert pour (probably outrageous with ice cream) than the '85 bottling, this '87 bottling shows its depth more on the nose than the palate. It's no longer a 93-point whiskey, but that may be due to all the years in the sample bottle.


Old Taylor 6 year old bourbon, 40%abv, bottled in 1989

The nose begins with cherry candy and sweat, then it expands after 20 minutes of air. What first appears as a pear/guava cocktail drifts towards a pear tart. A hint of butterscotch here, a whiff of cinnamon custard there. Maybe some flowers in between.

The palate holds all sorts of cherry notes: fresh dark cherries, cherry candy, cherry Sudafed. Lots of caramel. LOTS of butter. Small notes of char and clementines beneath.

It finishes with tart cherries, a gentle woodiness and sakura-flavored tea.

This one is the closest to contemporary bourbon as the oaky seams begin to show. Normally I'm not a fan of buttery notes, but this one has enough fruit to balance it out. It was likely a very good bourbon, but today's competition was unfair. I seemed to have no problem with polishing off the bottle's other 23 fluid ounces, six years ago.



Tastings like these used to ruin me for contemporary bourbon for months, but since dusty bourbon prices are out of my range, I'll just have to appreciate what I have. I encourage you to do as well. And if there is something you've hidden away, something remarkable, what are you waiting for?

1 comment:

  1. Always a real treat to try liquid history, like these. Cheers, Ed