Thursday, October 11, 2007

Last Night's Tipple

The stated age of 1792 Ridgemont Reserve is 8 years, although it is possible that some of the constituent barrels are older than that (something that is true for every age-denoted bottle of spirits except for single-barrel bottlings and those that specify the date of distillation). It's not because Barton, which distills Ridgemont, is cheap or a low-quality operation. It's because the master distiller doesn't believe that additional age will benefit his Bourbon. He's not alone: there are a number of Bourbon distillers who don't like super-aged whiskeys and who wouldn't sell them if there weren't commercial pressures to do so. Jimmy Russel at Wild Turkey is one of these. While it is true that WT offers twelve and fifteen year old bottlings (for overseas consumption), Russel makes no secret of the fact that he doesn't think that Bourbon can benefit from that much age. I can see both sides of the argument. It's difficult for me to imagine Ridgemont getting better with more age because it's pretty outstanding right now as it is, and yet Van Winkle 15 year old is about as close to perfect as I can imagine a spirit being. Perhaps it has something to do with the mashbill (Ridgemont is a ryed Bourbon with an unusually high malt component, while Van Winkle is famously a wheated Bourbon), maybe the distillation process, maybe the types of rickhouses that each is aged in. I don't know. But I do know that it doesn't pay to be an age worshipper. Older is not necessarily better.

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