Old Crow, 1980s Release

After a long run of peated malts let’s do a week of things that are not unpeated and which are also not in fact malt whisky. First up, a bourbon. This is a 1980s release of Old Crow. The current Old Crow release is a bottom-shelf mainstay and has not had a good reputation since Jim Beam purchased the brand from National Distillers in the 1980s. This sample, however, which came to me from the Artist Formerly Known as Sku, is from the pre-Beam National Distillers period. This is from one of several 375 ml releases from the era. Despite the foregoing, I know nothing about how old Old Crow was made then—I’m just hoping this will be a drinkable bourbon. Let’s see.

(For Sku’s own review of one of these National Distillers Old Crows—though not of the bottle this sample is from—see here.)

Old Crow, 1980s Release (40%; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Caramel corn with light maple syrup and a bit of orange peel. Some oak behind and just a hint of black tea and herbs (oregano). Gets sweeter as it sits and the herbal notes recede. A couple of drops of water pull out softer notes of toffee and butterscotch and pull the herbs out again.

Palate: A thinner version of the nose (and the texture is a bit too thin as well). On the second sip it’s sweeter and more of the oak peeps out (not tannic in any way). The spice from the finish pops out earlier with time but there’s not other major change. Okay, let’s add a drop or two of water. Water doesn’t harm the texture and melds everything together nicely.

Finish: Long. Longer than expected, frankly. The oak is the top note here and it gets spicier as it goes. Less oak spice and more sweet black tea with water.

Comments: I didn’t really know what to expect but I certainly wasn’t expecting to like this as much as I did. There are no fireworks here; just flawless, balanced bourbon of a quality that’s hard to get at a reasonable price these days. Too bad the current Old Crow is not in this class or I’d go out and get a case.

Rating: 85 points.

Thanks to Sku for the sample.


2 thoughts on “Old Crow, 1980s Release

  1. Greetings from Philadelphia. I would love to sample an original OC as well as Old Overholt. If wineries in Spain can save vintage bottles of cava for comparison tasting why can’t distillers do the same?


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