My father-in-law, now in his early 70’s, is a whiskey drinker. So was my father, step father, grandfather, etc… That being said, none are or were considered overly sophisticated whiskey drinkers. When I first started drinking whiskey my Father-in-Law, Alex, joked that growing up in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California that the folks in Emigrant Gap only bought “the good stuff” (meaning the cheapest bottom shelf there was). This is where I first learned of Bourbon DeLuxe. Whenever I brought him a new bourbon to taste he would jokingly say, “Well, its good but it’s no Bourbon DeLuxe” with a wink. This whiskey of his youth took on a mythical place in my mind similar to Early Times, my grandfather’s preferred label. Whether at his house, garage, the mountains hunting and camping – that old yellow labeled bottle is burned in my mind, right next to a bottle of Squirt! I remember growing up my father seemed more of a Jack Daniels man and my stepfather in Maine, Charlie, was an immoveable Jim Beam man. I don’t think that taste came from Maine but from his many years in Las Vegas at the Stardust Hotel. Those are all other stories though . . . These whiskeys – Bourbon DeLuxe, Jack Daniels, Jim Beam and Early Times are my family labels I guess so I wanted to set out exploring them.
Imagine how happy I was to find a bottle of Bourbon DeLuxe a few years back while hunting random dive liquor stores for dusty gems. I checked the UPC (806…) the modern stuff made by Beam. Ever since finding that bottle I was on a hunt to find one from National Distillers which is what my father-in-law remembers so fondly. Eventually I stumbled into a strip-mall liquor store with low expectations when right there in front of me were 3 liters of old appearing BDL. They had faux tax strips and one with the “ND” on the cap and as my gaze dropped I was happy to see the 862… UPC I had been searching for. They still had the original price tags which I paid happily – $9.99 per liter. Seemed about right. The labels were vibrant, not sun bleached, and they seemed to have been stored well. Here is to hoping!
I decided to taste them side by side – especially after Ralfy got me so excited at the potential watching his review! modern Jim Beam Bourbon DeLuxe (JBBDL) and the National Distillers version (NDBDL) produced approximately 35 years prior.
JBBDL – rich sweet floral corn & some slightly musty sweet grains with a slight solvent notes
NDBDL – a very narrow but deep sweet boiled sugar cane, a touch of alcohol heat and some dried fruits
JBBDL – I thickish sweet arrival that is quite one-dimensional consisting mainly of butterscotch & vanilla. Some bitter oak tannin notes slowly evolve and that sweetness fades. Thin quick finish with a touch of warmth.
NDBDL – fairly thin arrival with a delicate butterscotch, touch of alcohol heat but overall impression of being “watered down”. Some bitter oak notes develop with some dried cloves & hints of vanilla. What little sugar was initially there thins a bit as the entire mouthfeel is a bit thin. There is a warming to it late in the game that is nice.
Water & 10 Minutes:
JBBDL – not much new here on the nose. The arrival now has more corn butterscotch than before and this rapidly develops into a vanilla sugar and oak tannins with some delicate dried spices. Apricot. Again overall thin and seems “watered down”. Finish is not memorable and short.
NDBDL – wow. A much deeper butterscotch, oak, sugar and alcohol nose. The arrival now has more old barrel to it which evolves some sweet corn caramel, cardamom & oak. The alcohol makes an appearance midway through and fades into a less bitter finish with a touch of dry spearmint leaves and slightly more sweetness. I swear 5 points more alcohol by volume would really carry some flavors. Too bad. The water does a lot for this old whiskey but still it remains a but thin and 2 dimensional.
I trust Ralfy and am really disappointed my older ND bottle did not live up to expectation. I wonder if there is a difference amongst the bottles I have? I may open them all!