Wednesday, May 12, 2021

On the Pleasures of "Old" Bourbons

I am the kind of guy who will drink any bourbon with "old" in its name. Old Crow, Old Grandad, Old Fitzgerald, Old Forester, you name it. (I only draw the line at Old Hickory, because fuck Andrew Jackson.) When I told a friend about my love of Old Grandad he was taken aback, telling me that was the preferred tipple of the old men back in his hometown. 

There's all kinds of primo bourbon out there, why do I love the "olds" so much? 

Some of this has to do the fact that I was born old. When I was ten years old my mother complained to me that I dressed like an old man. At that age I fantasized about being a grumpy old man, having the freedom to be salty and disagreeable and no one able to really judge me for it. My favorite Muppets were Statler and Waldorf. Now thirty years later it doesn't feel so remote. Hair grows out of my ears, I have random unexplained aches and pains, and I have lost more than a step. 

Beyond my age and my lifelong quest to be an old man, "old bourbon" has its own inherent value. There's a lot of bourbons out on the market, especially these days. It's hard to know what's good when I want to pick up something new, but an "old" in the name is a good sign. None of those bottles have ever steered me wrong. They might not be the absolute best, but they are dependable, an increasingly scarce quality in this world. 

Take Old Crow, for instance. Yes it may come in a plastic bottle located on the bottom shelf, but it will never do you wrong. It's not some fancy single barrel shit, but that fancy single barrel shit doesn't cost just ten bucks, either. And hey, if it was good enough for General Grant and Mark Twain it should be good enough for a schmuck like you. Just one shelf higher is Old Grandad, delicious both alone or drowned in Coke. There's not many bourbons you can say that about. The black label version of my old buddy Evan Williams is best not consumed straight, for example. 

When you see that "old" on the label it's basically telling you "Hey, I am not some hip young bourbon, but I'll still be plenty tasty." It's also especially fitting when it comes to bourbon's history. Bourbon is this country's singular, unique contribution to world booze culture. The "old" is thus a reassurance that you, the modern drinker, are really in good, experienced hands. The venerable ways of bourbon have not faded.

Sure there's better out there, but sometimes instead of the best you can only afford a bottle of rotgut to keep you happy. And there's nothing wrong with that, especially if it's "old."

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