Bourbon - Rye Shoot out in 1870

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Bourbon - Rye Shoot out in 1870

Unread postby bourbonv » Tue Apr 19, 2005 6:55 pm

While going through the Taylor-Hay Family papers today I found an unassuming envelope that had five pages in it. THe first two are a letter to E H Tayor Jr., dated 11 January 1870 from J R Thomson of the firm Paris & Allen, Importers of Brandies, Gins, Wines &c. 31 Broad Street, New York. He discusses the possible increase in the bonding period and how he (along with Taylor) is against it, believing it will cause over production and speculation in new whiskey. He goes on to explain that he is sending a partial letter from a friend that is self explanitory. The partial letter is a request for some old bourbon of 15 or more years of age because a challenge has been made by a Pennsylvania judge that he has some rye whiskey that is better than anything made in Kentucky. The last letter, one page front and back, is a description, probably a press release of sorts, written describing the contest. I thought I would transcribe the letter here for your enjoyment and discussion. I just wish I could have been there for that tasting!

Important decision at Washington!!
Kentucky vs. Pennsylvania.
Old Bourbon vs. Old Rye.

A decision has just been rendered at Washington which cannot fail to be of particular interest to our readers. We give a sketch of the case as related to us.

"An evening not long since at Genl. Butler's residence in Washington, Judge Woodward of Pennsylvania remarked that he knew of some Rye Whiskey over 20 years old that was made in his state which would excel any Bourbon ever distilled. The gauntlet thus thrown down was instantly accepted by the Hon. Wm. Brown of Kentucky. He wrote at once to Mssrs. W.A. Gaines & Co., Frankfort, Ky. - (owners of the celebrated Hermitage Distillery) for a bottle of the finest "Bourbon" Kentucky could produce, while Judge Woodward procured a bottle of the "Rye".

Mssrs. Gaines & Co. after a careful comparison selected a bottle of the renowned "Old Crow" (of which they are also proprietors) made by the old Scotchman himself 21 years ago. As both samples were over 21 years of age, they were fully mature, and though not able to vote were fitting representattions States.

The Court being duly convened with that eminent connoiseur, Genl. Butler as presiding judge, the case was called. Both sides being ready, counsel at once proceded upon the merits and while ably argued, the samples themselves were more spiritually eloquent. After the evidence was all in and well digested, the judgement was rendered in favor of Kentucky's "Old Crow" as being the most mellow, rich, full yet delicately flavored and surpassing in boquet."

We congratulate Mssrs. W.A. Gaines & Co. on their success, which they richly deserve, as they have devoted years of study to the perfection of distillation and spared no expense in pusuit of purity and quality. The "Hermitage" Distillery, of which Frankfort is justly proud, is a result of their labors, and its product though not two years old has an unequalled reputation both at home and abroad.


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Unread postby jbohan » Tue Apr 19, 2005 10:55 pm

Mike,

We are all jealous of your job.

John B.
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Unread postby bourbonv » Wed Apr 20, 2005 12:11 pm

It is a tough job, but someone has to do it!

So I take it that there is nobody besides me who would have liked to have been in the parlor of General Butler's house to try some 21 yo Old Crow made by the Scotsman himself?

The accompanying letter was interesting as well. The content was mostly about the extending the bonding period past one year. Thomson argues that this will lead to speculation in new whiskey and over production (which it did, by the way). He seems to feel that those who aged whiskey would be better off paying the tax as soon as possible and passing the extra cost on to the consumer. That way only those with capital that can be tied up in the aging process could afford to do it and prevent overproduction. The saving grace to this bill, in his opinion was the increase in the tax that would come with the extension, hoping that would prevent speculation.

He also discusses the possible decrease in the excise tax on imported spirits, brandy in particular. Such a decrease would hurt the sales of Bourbon.

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Unread postby bunghole » Wed Apr 20, 2005 12:31 pm

I'll take a glass. Wouldn't care to have been in Ben Butler's presence. The things I do for bourbon! :shock: :lol: :roll:
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Unread postby Strayed » Wed Apr 20, 2005 11:10 pm

Not to say that the whole story is about as credible as the Pappy Van Winkle columns, but did anyone notice that the name of the Pennsylvania rye brand was apparently too insignificant to mention? 8)
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Unread postby bourbonv » Thu Apr 21, 2005 9:17 am

John,
If it was just the press release, I would doubt its credibility as well, but the letter from the distributer with a page from Brown's letter also are with the press release, so the shootout no doubt happened. As to the name of the rye, that would be in poor taste to include its name in a press release. It could probably be figured out by finding out where in Pennsylvania Judge Woodward was from and looking for the nearest distillery.

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Unread postby sevenmag » Fri Jul 15, 2005 10:37 pm

So I take it that there is nobody besides me who would have liked to have been in the parlor of General Butler's house to try some 21 yo Old Crow made by the Scotsman himself?


Are you kiddin me? There's a good possibility that I'd give up a testicle for that. :wink:
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Unread postby TNbourbon » Fri Jul 15, 2005 11:30 pm

Well, happening across this thread again got me to thinking (a dangerous enterprise, but a minefield I decided to traverse nonetheless!): I don't have any 21yo Old Crow made by Dr. Crow himself, but I do have some 1959 Old Crow from one of those old Chessmen decanters issued in 1969 -- so, 10 years would have to do; and I just happened to have sipped some 10yo Rittenhouse BIB rye, an outstanding and rare representative of the Kentucky type, just a coupla evenings ago. (By the way, someone should name a whiskey 'Serendipity'!)
What the heck, I thought -- break out the Old Crow!
Now, I haven't gone hog-wild, because I'm down to about 300ml of the stuff, but I poured enough to certainly enjoy. And then I did.
I wonder if old Old Crow was corn-heavy, because the corn is prominent in the nose like no other bourbon I've known besides old Louisville-distilled Old Charter. Even 10 years of oak can't tamp it down.
The corn comes through, too, on the palate. It is lighter-bodied than I'd expect, except compared to today's Jim Beam-distilled version, which is pretty thin gruel. The finish is short-to-medium, with a bit of molasses bitterness, not too strong to be other than a nice offset to the sweet corn.
To be frank, in this battle of 10yos -- though I'll enjoy this 86-proof Crow again, too -- I'm gonna go with the rye, with its complex palate of dark rum, blackstrap molasses and pepper grass. But, of course, it is Kentucky rye.
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Unread postby bourbonv » Sat Jul 16, 2005 10:19 am

Tim,
An interesting tasting experiment. How about trying it again but with another 10 year old bourbon such as the Eagle Rare 101? To recreate the 1870 competition you would have to use Sazerac rye and place it against another 17 year old product. That could be fun as well.

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Unread postby TNbourbon » Sat Jul 16, 2005 12:07 pm

Yeah, Mike, it crossed my mind that the 86-proof Old Crow might be at a little disadvantage to the BIB Rittenhouse. And, are you thinking maybe Sazerac vs. ER17, both 90 proof? It can be done.
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Unread postby bourbonv » Sat Jul 16, 2005 3:20 pm

Tim,
That sounds good! I was thinking the normal Eagle Rare 101 for the Rittenhouse rye, but both combos sound good. I had the 101 10yo at Bourbon's Bistro last week and it was quite good.

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Unread postby Strayed » Mon Jul 18, 2005 1:12 am

bourbonv wrote:... To recreate the 1870 competition you would have to use Sazerac rye and place it against another 17 year old product. That could be fun as well.

Mike and Tim, I have another contender to add. We have a bottle of 17 year old Prerogative Rye (AMS, 1927-1944), unopened (so far) that would fit nicely with that taste-off. When next we meet I'll be sure to bring it with us. And just to keep things even, we can also include in the tasting some Old Crow... RYE!!! This is pre-Pro, Wm.Gaines stuff. I'm not sure of the age; it's not BIB (it's 90 proof) so there's no stamp. I do know that it's Kentucky rye, distilled in Woodford County, not Pennsylvania or Maryland, and although it was represented as 1919 when I got it, there's nothing to confirm that. The information on the packaging (it came with a printed wrapper) appears to be addressed to consumers not yet acquainted with the 1897 BIB act, which I find to be particularly intriquing.
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Unread postby gillmang » Mon Jul 18, 2005 9:31 am

Whenever this is held, wherever this is held, PLEASE invite me.

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Unread postby bourbonv » Mon Jul 18, 2005 2:07 pm

John,
When are we going to do this? I will bring along a few treasures as well - Maybe we can find an appropriate bourbon for the tasting.

The Crow does sound interesting. Do you have photos of the bottle and package?

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Unread postby gillmang » Mon Jul 18, 2005 2:59 pm

My bottle of Rittenhouse BIB 10 year old is nearly full and I'd be happy to bring it.

If 21 year old whisky is being essayed too, I can bring Century Reserve 21, a Canadian rye whisky made originally by Potters in British Columbia.

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