Collecting Old Bourbons

I collect different things – horse racing memorabilia, old sports stuff from colleges my family went to, Boy Scout badges… But the one thing I don’t collect is old bourbons.Well, until last January.

I was attending the All-American Collector’s Show in Glendale, Ca this weekend and it reminded me if a purchase a year ago at this same show.  I walked up to a booth & saw an Old Bardstown 103rd Kentucky Derby Decanter.  The 103rd Kentucky Derby was in 1977 when Seattle Slew won, and went on to win the Triple Crown.  I already have one but as a price check I asked the guy in the booth how much he wanted for it.  He said, “12 bucks and it still has the bourbon in it.”  I wasn’t interested until he said, “It has the bourbon in it.”  That was bottled 38 years ago.  I couldn’t get the money out of my pocket fast enough.

There are bourbon aficionados out there who do collect old bourbons.  It’s important to understand that bourbon does not age in the bottle like wine (If it was a 12 year old bourbon when it went in, its still a 12 year old barrel aged bourbon).  But that said, old bourbons have a different taste that is unique to their heritage and maker.  One of the most famous of those collectors is Chet Zoeller who was profiled in the June/July 2014 Garden & Gun Magazine.  He collects pre-Prohibition bourbons.

“These Prohibition-era bottles emerge periodically from their hiding spots in attics and storm cellars, places where they have spent nearly a century as fugitives from what was once the law of the land. When they do, Chet Zoeller is waiting to pounce. A septuagenarian Kentucky native, Zoeller knows as much about the history of bourbon whiskey as any man alive, and he has made it his mission to lay his hands on one bottle from each notable pre-Prohibition distiller. He’s up to 125, about halfway there. Among his prizes: a rare bottle of the once popular Green River whiskey from Daviess County, and an Old Oscar Pepper with its distinctive “OOP” on the label. While the latter brand is lost to history, the distillery itself remains in operation as Woodford Reserve.”

Like anything worth looking for, these bourbons can be found and they are still out there.  Take a look at the Garden & Gun article and look out for that old bottle of bourbon in your Grandfathers kitchen cabinet.  So, I ask you this — Should I open the bottle of Old Bardstown?

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