Monday, March 1, 2010
New Old Crow Reserve.
I guess it's also unusual in that it's not flavored, finished, or otherwise enhanced. It is Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, period. Those are the four magic words you want to see when you prowl the bottom shelf. They won't guarantee you a good value, but they are a step in the right direction.
Old Crow Reserve differs from standard Old Crow by having a higher alcohol content (43% instead of 40%) and being a little older (4 years instead of 3). Depending on your market, it may also be slightly more expensive than the original but still in the $10 to $12 range for a 750 ml bottle. If it's worth drinking, that's a real good price.
So? Is it? Is it worth drinking? Yes, it is. And that's saying something, since the standard Old Crow is not. There is for me now a drinkable/undrinkable line that Old Crow conveniently straddles. Standard Old Crow is just barely on the wrong side and Old Crow Reserve is just barely on the right side.
As such, Old Crow Reserve is even more like its close cousin, Jim Beam white label. The Jim Beam profile is milder than Crow. The distinctive Beam yeast signature is there. So is a bit of the heat and bite that betray the whiskey's youth, but that is where it also shows major improvement. It is nicely rounded, without the harsh alcohol bitterness typical of one so young. Instead, just when you're expecting the burn, you get a nice caramel and molasses note, a hint of char, some dark berry fruit, and a bright, clean finish.
I'll resist the temptation to run through the whole Old Crow history. Suffice it to say it is a good one, going back about 150 years. Old Crow whiskey was one of the first nationally-known brand name products of any kind. It came into Beam's portfolio by way of the National Distillers acquisition in 1987. In the post World War II heyday of American whiskey, Old Crow was Jim Beam's toughest competition for best-selling bourbon. It had already lost most of its luster before Beam took over. They left it on the bottom shelf and didn't do anything to develop it until now.
I have criticized Beam for not bringing out anything new for the enthusiast community. We still want more, more, more; but this counts, you get points for this. Thanks for listening.