An interesting haul

Check in here for reviews of whiskey related books and other materials

Moderators: Brewer, brendaj

Unread postby bourbonv » Tue Mar 14, 2006 12:52 pm

I am up to the year 1931 and there is alot of horses and racing information in the letters. There are also many mentions of parties at which alcohol was being served and other facts that show the well to do were never prohibited from drinking alcohol. One of my favorites is a lawyer friend who represents a company that was selling grape juice, that when allowed to set a few weeks became wine. The government was trying to put them out of business. I would like to see more information on the case. Technically they were not breaking the law since they never sold alcohol to a person. The government was trying to regulate nature!

Mike Veach
Mike Veach
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873
User avatar
bourbonv
Registered User
 
Posts: 4062
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 7:17 pm
Location: Louisville, Ky.

Unread postby bourbonv » Fri Mar 31, 2006 5:09 pm

I am working on the 1936 letters now and I have found a great quote from Edmund W. Taylor (E H Taylor, Jr.'s son). He is working as an "Ambassador at Large" for National Distillers. He writes "Meanwhile let me say that U.S. "Bottled in Bond" Whiskey is not only the Aristocracy of all whiskey, but the only whiskey upon which the purchaser can rely."

Mike Veach
Mike Veach
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873
User avatar
bourbonv
Registered User
 
Posts: 4062
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 7:17 pm
Location: Louisville, Ky.

Unread postby bourbonv » Thu Apr 06, 2006 10:08 am

The year is 1937 now and E H Taylor Hay is trying to work a deal with the K Taylor distillery (Kennor Taylor, E H Taylor, Jr.'s son was involved in founding this distillery after prohibition) to manage the place and for them to use his name (at least the E H Taylor part). There are great descriptions of the 37 flood in Franfort and Jeffersonville, Ind.

Mike Veach
Mike Veach
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873
User avatar
bourbonv
Registered User
 
Posts: 4062
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 7:17 pm
Location: Louisville, Ky.

Unread postby bourbonv » Fri Apr 14, 2006 10:30 am

I am in 1939 now and Taylor Hay receives a letter in June from Clem Theisen, a race track / businessman friend of Taylor's deceased father C W Hay. In the letter he recommends H McKenna because it is 3 years old. There is also an interesting questionaire about bourbon that was filled out by Taylor Hay in late 1938. Taylor Hay is making it his business to find out all he can about distilling with hopes to get into the business himself. He even has an Old Taylor label made up to put on his bottles. His mother hopes to win a law suit with National Distillers because E H Taylor, Jr. only sold his name and image for the time he was alive with the understanding that when he died his signature and image would leave the label.

Mike Veach
Mike Veach
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873
User avatar
bourbonv
Registered User
 
Posts: 4062
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 7:17 pm
Location: Louisville, Ky.

Unread postby gillmang » Fri Apr 14, 2006 2:43 pm

Mike, from all your reading and pondering of these archives, are you coming to any conclusions about an "ideal" age for bourbon and rye?

Here we have in 1939 someone praising a 3 year old whiskey. This is 6 years after prohibition ended and I would think he did not say that in an atmosphere of a surfeit of 1 and 2 year-aged whiskey (that would have been more the picture in 1935).

What would this gentleman have thought of bourbon 8, 10, 15, 18, 20 and 25 years old, I wonder? Would he have thought it was over-aged? In these archives and putting one thing and another together, are the experts of their day suggesting that anything over 3-4 years old was too old? I am not really talking about the change of the bonding period over the years. That was a tax and market driven matter, but more what experts thought purely from the point of view of the bourbon palate, or the ideal bourbon palate if you will. I am mindful that we just spoke about Old Crow rye being 10 and 21 years old before WW 1. Would Mr. Theisen have thought this stuff was all no good...?

Gary
User avatar
gillmang
Vatman
 
Posts: 2137
Joined: Mon Jan 24, 2005 4:44 pm

Unread postby bourbonv » Fri Apr 14, 2006 3:14 pm

Gary,
It may have been 5 years after prohibition (You really can not count 1933 since repeal was not until December), but it was only about 2 or 3 years after most distilleries were rebuilt in 1936 or 37. It takes time build a distillery and even more when banks are failing and capital is tight. This would have been either some H McKenna from the new distillery or more likely, some H Mckenna made for the McKenna's at Stitzel-Weller. Julian Van Winkle did serve as Vice President of sales for the McKenna distillery for a while after Prohibition.

Mike Veach
Mike Veach
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873
User avatar
bourbonv
Registered User
 
Posts: 4062
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 7:17 pm
Location: Louisville, Ky.

Unread postby gillmang » Fri Apr 14, 2006 5:41 pm

So you are suggesting his estimate of the worth of 3 year old Bourbon is colored by the time, by the lack of regular-aged product such as was taken for granted before 1919?

Gary
User avatar
gillmang
Vatman
 
Posts: 2137
Joined: Mon Jan 24, 2005 4:44 pm

Unread postby bourbonv » Fri Apr 14, 2006 7:28 pm

Gary,
I am a little confused as to what you are asking but I will try to answer what I think it is and hope we are on the same track.

I think that this three year old product was good because there was very little properly aged product on the market in 1939. Most distilleries were still trying to get production going and on a regular basis. Remember, even if they got their distillery running and producing by 1935, many distilleries then had to face the same financial uncertainties that all Americans (and Canadians, Europeans and elsewhere) that often involved a run on the local bank that would cause closing of the bank and possible failure of payrolls, etc... This meant that much of the whiskey was young as distilleries were forced to sell their stock of new made whiskey to raise money to meet expenses. I am sure most people would have prefered an older product but were happy to get a three year old product.

At that time, with a maximum barrel proof of 110 even the three year old product would have been much better than the same product of today with the higher barrel proof. It would have plenty of color and barrel flavors but still had that sweet corn and grain flavor of young whiskey.

If you are asking at what age did pre-prohibition people prefer their whiskey then I would say 6 to 8 years old. Older whiskey was on the market, but that is not what most people wanted to drink. After 8 years of age they probably thought it got too woody. There is an E H Taylor, Jr and Sons circular from about 1910 where he is advertising some of his whiskey that was 10 years old. I don't recall the exact details but I think he had sold it to a customer, who failed to pay and had to give it back after a couple of years. In the circular he states first of all it could not be sold as bottled in bond because it was over 8 years of age thus not in the government warehouse all of the time before it was bottled. He also points out that it is still good whiskey, implying it is not overaged. I think if they thought whiskey aged well after 10 years, they would have pushed for a longer bonding period before the 1950's. These distillers wanted to give the consumer what the consumer wanted and that was whiskey between 4 and 8 years old.

I personally do not think that extra aged products are good because of the age, but are good because the distiller bottling it has picked the barrels that do age well and treated them right. Not every bottle of 15 year old whiskey is a Pappy 15. Taste the I W Harper 15 yo and you will understand what I mean. It is thin and watery with very little flavor other than wood and at higher proof it is not very good at all. If it was bottled at 107 proof like the Pappy 15 it would pucker your mouth with wood tannins and taste similar to a burnt match stick. The same was true before prohibition - the extra aged products were special barrels treated with extra care by those that wished to bottle an extremely old product.

Before prohibition they also had another freedom that the modern distiller does not have - they could have used used cooperage for their products. That too might be the way some of the older than 8 year old whiskey was produced. If you have a brand that is 20 years old, put it in used cooperage to let it age. I am not aware of any distiller that was producing a bourbon over 8 years old as a brand, but I am aware of a few rectifiers that were doing so. Of course there were many rectifiers that were advertising 9, 10, 12 year old whiskey that could be made for you while you waited.

I hope this answered your questions.

Mike Veach
Mike Veach
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873
User avatar
bourbonv
Registered User
 
Posts: 4062
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 7:17 pm
Location: Louisville, Ky.

Unread postby gillmang » Fri Apr 14, 2006 7:45 pm

Mike, you have answered my question completely and I thank you (and for the time taken). Your comment about some whiskey being aged in reused barrels before Prohibition is very interesting and may explain why extra-aged whiskey had the market it did then - because (in a sense) it wasn't extra-aged...

Gary
User avatar
gillmang
Vatman
 
Posts: 2137
Joined: Mon Jan 24, 2005 4:44 pm

Unread postby gillmang » Sat Apr 15, 2006 12:49 am

Just to add some further thoughts which I think extrapolate from your analysis, if whiskey was entered at a lower maximum proof than today, bearing in mind also the generally lower (than today) distilling out proofs, it would retain more flavor at younger ages than today. This seems to have catered for the public taste of the time. For those who wanted a lighter taste (but wanted to avoid drinking blends or gin), the product had to be aged longer, to convert those extra congeners. Thus, whiskey 10 years and over probably catered to this market but most of the straight whiskey market (pre-1920) was satisfied with 6-8 years as you said, it got the right "balance". As you noted, part of the older whiskey bracket may have been whiskey not aged for its full term in new charred wood. Maybe some of it was transferred to reused wood after, say, 6 or 10 years (something that can't be done today). This may have ensured that very old whiskey did not have an excessively tannic taste.

Today, since whiskey is entered and distilled out at higher proofs than in the 30's or before 1920, it must be aged longer to acquire a character considered acceptable by the market - longer than 3 years that is. (Jim Beam White is a big seller at 4 years but even that may be adjusted with some older whiskey and Beam White would in any case be considered I think a whiskey to mix with soda and other diluents by most). This may explain why, in general, we see higher age brackets in the market than before Prohibition and in the 30's, the 30's being however a special case for the reasons you indicated. (Also, there has been I think some influence on whiskey ages from the single malt market but how much is hard to say). I was thinking too of National Distillers and Schenley which would have been actively distilling since the early 30's (recall Mike they were distilling some whiskey before 1933 under permits) but I grant you the smaller concern was probably a different story. For someone in the position of the person being advised by Mr. Theisen he probably was looking to sources for product other than the big established concerns.

The above thoughts are restatements or interpretations of things you have stated here and you were the first that I know to note the effects of entering and distillation proof levels on the age of whiskey sold in former times (as well as the effects on the market of the differing bonding periods over the years).

To try to sum up, it makes sense to me that, as you said, before 1920 a heavy characterful whiskey wouldn't need more than 6-8 years to satisfy most of the market, and much of it did so at 4 years or even less, evidently, in some cases. Today, the lighter spirits being distilled and higher entry levels are resulting in bourbon needing more age to satisfy more people. Hence perhaps why so many premium whiskeys are receiving 8 years or more age, into the mid-teens and higher as we know. (Some of this may start to be affected by an apparent shortage of aged whiskey stocks, but this is arguably the case to date). Thanks again Mike.

Gary

P.S. I recall buying in the 1980's Henry McKenna bourbon which was available in our market then. I assume it was a Seagram product at the time. It was a good whiskey and may not have been that different from what was described by Theisen (even allowing for later changes in technology and entry level rules). It had I recall a nice dry taste but was not strongly marked by barrel tones. This kind of whiskey seems less popular today but maybe it will come back with the shortage of aged whiskey stocks. A bourbon can be flavorful and satisfying with just a few years in the barrel and that brand was a good example. I don't know if it tastes as good today, I haven't had it in many years.
User avatar
gillmang
Vatman
 
Posts: 2137
Joined: Mon Jan 24, 2005 4:44 pm

Unread postby bourbonv » Sat Apr 15, 2006 9:14 am

Gary,
Just a few notes or additions to what you have said that may be of interest. In my opinion, Prohibition does not end until 1951. That is the first year that the distilleries could sell and produce all of the product that the market would demand. Before this the distilleries had to deal with financial troubles and the world war. During the war they were making high proof alcohol for the war - mostly synthetic rubber production. So if you want to compare pre and post prohibition products, you really need to look at whiskey from the teens and the whiskey from the fifties.

Prohibition did cause some changes in the consumer taste, or at least some distillers felt so. There is a memo in the U D archive from Schenley's New York office to the Bernheim distillery dated in 1937. Schenley had just taked over the distillery and the management at the distillery that they were going to have to change their distilling practices. They were still making I W Harper the way it was before the war (World War I) and people prefered a lighter product now. They were told to distill at a higher proof to remove grain flavors and to increase barrel proof to about 103 and use less rye and more corn. The thing is I have drank some I W Harper bottled in bond distilled in 1936 and bottled in 1941. It was excellent and much better than later expressions of I W Harper for my taste. I think that the big companies followed this same idea making a lighter whiskey (that was also cheaper to make. The smaller companies did not always change their practices, but many of them failed and soon became part of the larger, big four distilleries.

I don't understand your logic on the re-barreling. What would be the difference between leaving the whiskey in its present barrel after 8 years and putting it in a used barrel. After all, after 8 years, that barrel is used as well. When I discussed used cooperage, I was talking about used cooperage from the start. We had some prohibition era Mammoth Cave that was about 16 yo at United Distillers. I believe Chuck discusses tasting this in his book, "Bourbon, Straight". What Chuck did not see was the lab report from Quality Control from this whiskey. Mike Wright, on of the best tasters and Quality control people I ever met, told us that some of the chemical signatures found in that product were signatures that told him it was mostly, if not completely, aged in used cooperage. The Mammoth Cave is also the best prohibition whiskey I ever drank. The rest of it tends to be too woody.
Mike Veach
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873
User avatar
bourbonv
Registered User
 
Posts: 4062
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 7:17 pm
Location: Louisville, Ky.

Unread postby gillmang » Sat Apr 15, 2006 9:39 am

Thanks Mike. Actually you are right that I misspoke when I was talking about mid-term transfer to used cooperage. I was thinking of the Buffalo Trace experiment of transferring bourbon mid-term (or approximately) to a new charred barrel. Note that the label filled out by the distillery says in part "oak oak oak". So I was thinking, if one transferred the product to a used bourbon barrel, it would presumably acquire less "bourbon oak" character for the last part of its aging. (Would it still be "bourbon"? I am not sure, we have discussed here the practice of dumping into a cistern a group of barrels and re-pouring them thus "standardised" into the original barrels - I think that is still bourbon under the rules). But this is not what you were talking about and I went awry clearly.

Although, now that I think of it, say a bourbon was transferred after 8 years to a merely toasted barrel. That might "hold" it better than continuing to age it in the original (or another used) barrel. Because it wouldn't continue to absorb the qualities of the charred container. And that clearly wouldn't be bourbon!. We discussed before whether a charred container continues after 4-6 years to impart bourbon barrel quality to a whiskey. The jury is still out on this I think. But this again is a separate and later thought and not what I intended originally to say: you are right that transfer mid-term to a used bourbon barrel shouldn't make any difference vs. leaving the spirit in the original cask (or not a material difference, I suppose we could get into refinements of switching rye-recipe bourbon into a used wheat-recipe bourbon barrel but again that was not what I originally meant to suggest).

That is very interesting about Mammoth Cave. Maybe it was aged for part of its time in charred barrels and then switched to used (of some kind) - or vice versa. I know in cognac manufacture they have a complex practice of using toasted, charred (or at least deeply toasted) and I think even new casks at different times in the spirit's maturation. Maybe something like that was once done in the U.S. for bourbon. But anyway again thanks for setting me straight on the original point I was making in this regard.

Thanks too for reminder about the 1937 Schenley letter, that is fascinating. When you say 103 proof you mean entry level?

Gary
Last edited by gillmang on Sat Apr 15, 2006 11:11 am, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
gillmang
Vatman
 
Posts: 2137
Joined: Mon Jan 24, 2005 4:44 pm

Unread postby bourbonv » Sat Apr 15, 2006 10:53 am

Gary,
The 103 was entry level.

I think the barrel does still age after 6 to 8 years. I think the experiment I want to have with Chris Morris is to look at Early Times in Used Cooperage versus Early Times in New Cooperage of the same age. I am interested in seeing what the differences are.

Mike Veach
Mike Veach
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873
User avatar
bourbonv
Registered User
 
Posts: 4062
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 7:17 pm
Location: Louisville, Ky.

Unread postby gillmang » Sat Apr 15, 2006 11:14 am

That is very interesting, that they were instructed at distillery to raise the entry to 103 proof. I wonder what it must have been before. Presumably below 100. Today I believe even Wild Turkey is distilled over 103 proof, isn't it around 110?

That shows right there quite a difference from modern practice: even the 1937 head office instruction was traditional by today's standard!

Gary
User avatar
gillmang
Vatman
 
Posts: 2137
Joined: Mon Jan 24, 2005 4:44 pm

Unread postby bourbonv » Sat Apr 15, 2006 6:47 pm

Gary,
I am sure that it was put into the barrel at 100 proof before 1937. If you want to believe Jimmy Russell's hints, I would say that Wild turkey is put into the barrel at 103 proof today. Even so, it taste nothing like that I W Harper that I had from 1936 to 41. The Harper was much more fruitier in the citrus fruits with sweet spices and caramel.

Mike Veach
Mike Veach
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873
User avatar
bourbonv
Registered User
 
Posts: 4062
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 7:17 pm
Location: Louisville, Ky.

PreviousNext

Return to The Library

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest