A very mature bottle of Old Grand-Dad bourbon... at forty-nine years, it’s old enough to be a grand-dad.
Everybody who keeps Spirituous Liquors at home has a few really old bottles knocking around in the deep recesses of their booze pantry.
I can reach into the back of my own liquor cabinet and pull out a handful of bottles that are over three decades old. There’s a bottle of crème de vanille that I bought sometime in 1974 - for some reason I must’ve thought I might have some use for it, but I never found one. There’s a barely used bottle of Mandarine Napoléon that someone purchased for me at an airport duty-free shop around 1980, thinking it was the equivalent of Grand Marnier. (It is not.) My Irish Mist and Drambuie (very nice whisky-based after-dinner liqueurs) are about that same age. And, up until recently, I had a bottle of Old Nassau coconut rum (named after the island in the Bahamas, not Princeton University, although it was the latter association that may have convinced me to buy it) that I had obtained in 1983... fully thirty years ago.
Spirits in glass bottles generally have impressive shelf lives: They don’t change a whole lot. The contents of my most ancient bottles are still fine with the exception of the coconut rum, which began to develop weird off-flavors during its long rest.
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All this was on my mind when a few nights ago, as we prepared to have dinner with our Friday evening gang, I was offered a preprandial Adult Beverage.
“Wine? Or something stronger?” our host Debbie offered.
“Something stronger,” I responded, and so we went off to check out the contents of Debbie and Sid’s little lacquer liquor locker.
Among the contents of said locker I espied a bottle of bourbon, a venerable old brand called Old Grand-Dad. Just how venerable, I had no idea... until I examined the bottle more closely.
Back before mid-1985, bottles of spirits here in the United States used to come with a tax stamp - a little strip of paper indicating that the appropriate Governmental Authorities had been paid off - affixed to the top of the bottle. Most bottles had a pink stamp; bottles of 100-proof (“bonded”) spirits carried a green stamp. The tax stamp on this bottle bore two dates, indicating that the contents were made in 1959 and bottled in 1964. We were pouring drinks from a forty-nine-year-old bottle of Old Grand-Dad... old enough to be a grand-dad itself!
The bourbon was none the worse for wear after its long rest under glass. Rich and smooth.
Sid joined us for an after-dinner conversation via Skype from his place in Malaysia, where he is on assignment. Turns out that the bottle was left over from his Bar Mitzvah... a drinky keepsake. And at the rate Sid and Debbie consume spirits, it may very well last another forty-nine years.