You can’t know a good top-shelf whiskey until you’ve had a few of the bottles on the bottom. Shelf-height and price do not always properly denote quality so tasting a range will not only show you what a bad whiskey can be, but also help you discover a few gems.
It was in this spirit that I picked up a bottle of Old Crow. Sure, I have my preconceptions about this brand – what with its many cultural references from bands I like to prominent American historical figures – which just means that I would have to approach this tasting with that much care.
But how can you talk about Old Crow without a bit of history creeping in? After all, it gets its name from the man who invented the sour mash process (basically this is putting some of the old batch into the new) that all bourbons use to keep bottlings consistent over time. Yet the bourbon before me today is probably quite different from the one Dr. Crow produced.
– Old Crow Distillery Co. (Fortune)
– 80 proof
I like a bottle that isn’t overbearing – either in its modernity or its nostalgia – and Old Crow seems to cut a path down the middle. On the one hand, there are a number of cues to tip the potential customer off to its history: the drawing of men transporting a barrel faded in the background, the “Since 1835” heading, and the very name itself. On the other hand though, the designers made a clear effort to avoid the clutter that so plagues many bourbon bottles.
To top it off the historicizing text on the back is short and to the point: Dr. Crow invented the sour mash process, this bourbon is his legacy. OC get points for its brevity, but not for the three-year age statement.
Sadly, Old Crow is anything but well-balanced when it comes to the nose. It’s hard to move past the strong rubbing alcohol scent, and if you do there’s little to greet you but maybe a hint of corn-juice and char. This is the first sign that we’re dealing with a bourbon that has been aged so relatively few years.
On the palate OC’s youth is expressed even further. It is quick to come and quick to go and you’ll be lucky to catch something in between. While not as harsh as I’d been expecting, it took a bit to tease out what little notable elements I could: a soft-caramel body and perhaps some woodiness, surrounded by the fresh-green corn. This isn’t too far from Georgia Moon when compared with many other selections on this site.
The finish is quite clean and it is pretty smooth, all things considered.
This is more or less what you’d expect from a young whiskey. Some people like it this way, but there just isn’t enough heft or intricacy to hold my interest.
Ultimately Old Crow is disappointingly bland, a bit of a let-down, but not assertively unpleasant.