Last night we had our tasting event at the Filson and raised about $1,500.00 for the Filson. I want to thank John Verekee and Buffalo Trace for doing such a great job. Angela and Merideth were fantastic at designing the tasting placemats and arranging the small details. John arranged for what amounts to three bottles of single barreled unfiltered 100 proof Old Charter. There were about 40 people there including Julian Van Winkle, Harry Shapira, Larry Kass, and Col. McMasters who owns the Chapeze house in Bardstown and i do believe, is related to the Capezes.
The event started with me giving a bit of a history lesson. I told them that before prohibition that the barrel was the primary package for the sale of bourbon in the United States. Bottled-in-Bond whiskey was making beginning to shift the trend away from the barrel, but the bulk of whiskey sales was still by the barrel. This meant most of the whiskey sold was a single barrel product that was distilled at a low proof and put into the barrel at about 100 proof.
Prohibtion actually hit the United states in 1919 with war time prohibition. War time prohibition was placed into affect even though the war was over and distillers could not distill for beverage purposes. Of course prohibition became law in 1920 and there was not distilling until 1928.
When prohibition came into law, the distilled spirits were spread across the country in warehouses. The government soon found out that theyt could not prevent this alcohol from getting into the hands of the people with it so spread out so they created a system of consolidation warehouses. The first copy from the U.D. archive I showed them was a letter from Wright and Taylor describing their arrangement with A Ph Stitzel Distillery to place the Old Charter in Stitzel's warehouses, transfering the barrels from Chapeze. This was done in 1923.
The next three handouts from the Julian Van Winkle files at U.D. started with a letter from 1934 stating that most bourbons were made with 14% malt, 16% rye and 70% corn, but Old Charter was made with 14% malt, 65% Corn and 21% rye. Next was a 1934 letter staing that Old Charter was has all been sold and is off the market. Finally was a letter stating that all of the Old Charter was bottled at 12 years old and 13 summers old. I talked a little about doing business during prohibition and finally how prohibition came to an end, but there was still a hard time getting spirits to drink. My final handout was a price list from 1936. The list shows prices for the old whiskey and the newer whiskey made since prohibition came to an end. The fun part of the list was the newer whiskey was listed "Old Mock, 2 years and 2 months old and getting older", "National Club, 2 years 3 months old and getting older" and "Waterfill and Frazier, 2 years 7 months old and getting older".
At this point we started tasting. We started with a 6 month old Old Charter. It was filled with corn and vanilla on the nose and tasted very strong of corn - you could almost taste the corn silks in this whiskey. It was young and hot but not a terrible drink of whiskey. Next we went to a 3 year old Old Charter that was much better. There was still some corn but there was also some barrel flavors - particularly vanilla and a hint of oak tannins. Next was the 10 year old Old Charter that was very good with rich candy corn flavor with just a hint of sweet spices. Finally we came to the prohibition era, 13 summers old, bottled at Stitzel's bottling hall in 1929, Old Charter. The whiskey had some oxidation and it needed to breath. At first there was some ripe fruits - as one person desribed as fruit cake aromas, but there was also a bit of mothball aroma as well. After it breathed a bit there was still the fruit and rich caramel and old leather on the nose and in the taste.
The tasting led into a question session and there were many very good questions. One person asked if the distilleries were compensated in any way when they were forced to close. Another good one whether the distilleries exported any of there bourbon before prohibition took effect in order to preserve their property. Others asked about bourbon's origin and charred barrels. Many great questions but the best was the last. Julian asked Harry Shapira if he was going to open the bottle of Heaven Hill distilled in 1936 and bottled in 1941. The answer was yes, so I ended the discussion - those wanting food could haed on downstairs for the food while others tasted the Heaven Hill. Most staid for the Heaven Hill. This was a great whiskey with a taste of candied dried fruit and caramel. A five year old bonded whiskey with more flavor than many 10 or 12 year old products now.
The food was great with the Bourbon's Bistro catering the event. We had chicken wings, spare ribs, pasta salad, roasted garlic and goat cheese spread and a fruit tray. There was plenty of it and even after the event was over, there was plenty for the Filson Staff to take home. Great food and a lot of it.
The event was over by 8:45 and we were cleaned up and out of the Filson by 9:00. A good time was had by all. I want to thank those members here that came and tell the others, we wish you could have been with us.
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873