The Dusty Hunt – Part 2
Continued from Part 1…
Ever take a close look at a bottle of bourbon? Probably only close enough to check out the price tag and maybe the proof, but there are a couple of clues that reside on that bottle that tell a story few consumers will ever know.
By loose definition, a dusty bottle is any bottle of bourbon that is out of production and the dusty hunt is the act of rummaging through a liquor store looking for older, out of production bourbons. The sheer volume of information on out of production bourbonís is too much to articulate in these short articles. What I will attempt is to give you some basic information and guidelines on what to look for and where to look for older bottles of bourbon. Believe it or not, there are many stores that still carry bourbon that are 20, 30 or more years sitting on the shelf just waiting for someone to come along and snatch them up; or, if not on the shelves, sitting in a cardboard box in the back store room.
Iíll digress for a moment and tell a story that happened the summer of 2007. My brother and I were hunting in a major metropolitan city and walked into a downtown liquor store. Instantly my eyes began to scan the shelves looking for bottles that would tell me this store had gems to offer. Within a few moments my eyes locked on a bottle of Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond. Instantly I knew that bottle was a prize so I asked the proprietor if I could see the bottle. Sure enough, this is a major find, a 1965 distilled Stitzel Weller Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond. The bourbon was 6 years old so the bottling was done in 1971. One of the holy grails of dusty bottles and I now held two of them in my hand. The damage? $11.95 each. So, do the math, 2007 minus 1971 would make that bottle 36 years sitting on the shelf. Oh, and by the way, itís one of the best bourbons Iíve ever had.
I promised in the previous article that we would discuss some of the factors to look for when seeking out that dusty bottle. First, weíll discuss the bottle itself. The glass bottle comes with various markings on the front, back and in particular, the bottom of the bottle. Most, but not all, bottle manufacturers place a 2 digit number on the bottom of their bottles denoting the year the bottle was produced. This is important because this is a key indicator of the year the bourbon was bottled. Distilleries do not store glass bottles and when delivered, those bottles go into the bottling line. So, if you see 78 or 82 or 99 on the bottom of a bottle, you can reasonably assume that the bottle was produced in 1978, 1982 or 1999 respectively. Another indicator of a bottles age is whether the volume is listed in metric or standard. A pint, quart or gallon bottle will indicate pre 1980 before metric took over. A bottle that has both metric and standard will indicate the transition years typically between 1978 and 1980. Metric only will then indicate early 80ís and on.
In part 3 weíll continue our discussion on visual indicators to look for when dusty hunting.