Honey Pie: USA Old & Rare, Part 1/2

Whiskey, Bourbon, Rye,….. For a Scotch-centric Whisky Loving Pianist, the occasional visit across the pond is a welcome change for the senses. Today I delve into a haul of seventeen American whiskey miniatures I bought at auction way back in March 2016 [WA] – many of which derive from the 1970/80s [and earlier].

Honey Pie. ‘She was a working girl, North of England Way. Now she’s hit the ‘Big Time’, in the USA. And if she could only hear me, this is what I’d say:

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Jack Dempsey’s Blended Whiskey [1940s] Ob. 86.8 proof [1/10th pint]

  • C: According to a Whiskybase reference, it seems like this miniature could be from the 1940s. The level is pitiful, however, so I hold out little [NO] hope. Yep, it’s a goner with just vague old pipe tobacco fumes left flapping around the glass. [Not scored]

J.W. Dant 7yo [1970s] Ob. ‘Genuine Sour Mash’ 86 proof [+/- 4cl] [WB]82.67[3]

  • C: This one is labelled ‘genuine sour mash’,…. implying there are bogus sour mash claims out there? Drats! This particular miniature is a goner too, but you can sort of tell it was decent enough at one time. [Not scored]

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Kessler American Blended Whiskey Ob./Jim Beam ‘Smooth as Silk’ 86 proof [5cl] [WB]72[2]

Wiki: ‘,… an American brand of blended whiskey started by Julius Kessler in 1888. It is known for the slogan, “Smooth as Silk”. The brand is currently owned and produced by Beam Suntory. Beam claims it is the number-two selling American blended whiskey‘. 

  • N: Flat and uneventful if not unpleasant, this isn’t far away from rum or even tequila, such is the innocuousness of the spirit and its aim/market role. Any complexities at all? Chemically-broken-down-waxy herbal rolling tobacco-steeped [Don Q/Appleton],.. Let’s move on.
  • T: Congenial yet innocuous [fruity-ish rum/pisco-ish] spirit on arrival, keenly dropping away thereafter. Attempts to ascertain any intricacies seem futile.
  • F: Aside from grey paper-dry-sweet vanilla, we’ve a blended-at-volume diminuendo. Rinse & repeat.
  • C: There are thinkers, and then there are drinkers.

No score [+/-72]

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We haven’t started well, have we! Let’s see what we can do about that.

Kentucky Colonel 4yo [+/-1970s] Ob. 86 proof [4.75cl] [WB]77[1]

  • N: Another touch & go low-level miniature. With OBE-like* herbal bitter and squidgy/textural vanilla qualities, this is reminiscent [in the moment] of some faded 1950s/60s Dimple bottlings. Given time, however, the bready oils revive followed by plenty of general spirit-faint [sweet lime/vanilla] cocktail references.
  • T: A very soft [herbal,… sweet] virtually retired sample with just enough life to tell of an alternative/unorthodox story to the one it was initially prescribed. Skin of the teeth stuff, there’s little for me/it? to grip onto, however. Perhaps there wasn’t a great deal to begin with? 
  • F: Some entrenched/underlying vanilla is followed by more bitter herbal qualities and an aromatic cinnamon & liquorice wood spice.
  • C: Almost scoreable as is, given how it ralied, there were signs of promise however tenuous.

[Not scored]

* Regarding OBE, WF tells us: ‘I wouldn’t say you’ve got that old ‘OBE’ kind of thing with bourbon; they either kept very well or are flat dead, but I’m not sure they really ‘evolve’ in glass as much as Scotch whiskies do‘.

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I.W. Harper Gold Medal Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey [+/-1970-80s] Ob./Bottled Expressly For Penn Central 86 proof [WB]83.75[4]

WF: ‘An old brand that all old advertising aficionados – I’m part of them – know very well‘.

  • N: Finally, we have an intact/vibrant whiskey, one you can delve into quite readily. Fruity corny, straw-like/husky, deep bitter fusty/mushroomy/dunnage-y dry-woody vanilla herbal ,… It’s all here albeit a tad ‘safe’ or,… curated overall. Very promising in the context, the herbal -bitter sweetness is where this one is at on the nose.
  • T: On the palate, it’s a slightly faded picture overall, but one you can still tap into, nevertheless. The travel offers just the right amount of dry bitter heather-herbal > dried orange citrus-sour ~ corn syrupy/woody sappiness, leading to a slightly dry-oily citrus sour/herbal-bitter dry detergent powder note. I can imagine the [previous] Kentucky Colonel being similar in its day.
  • F: Raw herbal chocolate into heavily stewed black [leafy,… and herbal – raspberry leaf/horsetail etc,.] tea – bottom of pot stuff! A lingering raspberry leaf resinousness echoes and echoes with rolling tobacco hints at the death.
  • C: A decent bourbon if nigglingly uncommitted,… a gentler Elijah Craig if you will. [A bottle at 80 proof from the 1980s is currently for sale for £240 at O&RW].

Scores [a firm] 83 points

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Old isn’t always better, that’s for sure – regardless of the bottle size. Let’s finish part #1 with a more contemporary American whiskey.

Old Potrero 2yo Single Malt Whiskey Ob. ‘Essay 7-RW-ARM-6’ 62.1% [50ml] WB0 [WB]84[5] [WF]78 DWB81

From the Anchor Distilling Company in San Fransisco, I believe this single malt whiskey is made from 100% malted rye and matured in new & used un-charred oak barrels.

  • N: A surprisingly playful moderately spicy spirit, given the abv. Initially likened [again] to rum – something in-between Don Q and St. Nicholas Abbey, perhaps – soon the buttery rye base shows through. {Time passes}. Now a varied fermented fruity-floral number [mostly on pears], I find this rather ‘European’ eau de vie/genever-like. Becoming ever sweeter on dry pears,… and sweet cheese straws, there has been quite some evolution in the glass!
  • T: With more [pot still/soft acetone-y] rum-ish likenesses, it moves ever closer to [pear/apple] calvados and even [Janneau: WLP] armagnac. With a formidable and enveloping mouthfeel, thankfully, it swims just fine. Again, it’s incredibly agreeable given the abv. How?
  • F: Not overly complicated if slightly perfumed, buttery pastry-like, petroleum jelly waxy & grassy,… With a determined sour core, the fruity-laced [dry glycerine-d waxy pear action] references remain engaged to the last.
  • C: A decent and curious American rye you could sneak into a calvados, armagnac, or contemporary cognac flight [currently on a popular whisky-centric UK-based internet site for £73].

Scores 81 [long deliberated] points

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I’ll be back tomorrow with the rest.

Update: Part 2 is HERE

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END

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