REVIEW: Old Crow Reserve 4 Year Old 86 Proof Bourbon

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Fri Sep 10, 2010 1:35 am


Jim Beam Distilleries, Clermont, Frankfort KY, USA
In my indiscrete youth I was more or less a bottom shelf or nothing drinker. At one unfortunate moment I purchased a large bottle of Old Crow to get me through an undergraduate Spring Break night in Key West. I am not sure which was worse; the Old Crow going down or coming back up. Suffice it to say I wrote Old Crow off as gut rot as a result of my heaving up much of that bottle outside the Green Parrot Bar in Key West like a cat coughing up a fur ball. This is sad as Old Crow was one of the very few bourbons to make the transition from those that existed before national prohibition to those that emerged when liquor was re-legalized for sale in the mid 1930s. Prior to prohibition and even for many years afterward Old Crow was clearly a bourbon of prestige and one that was admired and enjoyed. By the 1980s it was an empty shell clearly resting on laurels of a glorious past but less than fantastic present. Many consumers of my generation tried it once and walked away or worse, like myself, had an unfortunate incident puking up Old Crow into a gutter like a wretch. Two and half decades after my wretched gutter incident, with only slightly more discretion I noticed a new black labeled bottle of OLD CROW RESERVE 86 PROOF for sale. With 4 years of aging, as opposed to the 3 for the traditional Old Crow and a higher 86 proof as opposed to the 80 proof of the traditional Crow I decided to take the plunge. Oh and the $3 off coupon taped to the bottle took the price of the 1.75l bottle down to $15.99 so for that price I just knew I could not go wrong. I picked up two of the bottles. Jim Beam is clearly spending some advertising money on this brand in attempt to breathe new life into what had become an almost moribund brand among a generation of bourbon drinkers becoming increasingly more selective about what they are choosing to drink. Redesigned bottle graphics that frankly hark back to pre-prohibition type labels and a website ( ) that makes it certain that this bourbon is in the tradition of the hand of Dr. Crow himself make it clear that Jim Beam is trying to a new generation of quality minded and budget consciences consumers.
Two shots were poured and allowed to breath for several minutes. The first shot was poured into a freshly cleaned and towel dried Spiegelau Cremona 120ml Grappa type sampling glass. This first shot was swirled and used to sample the nose, taste and to create the other notes. The second shot was used to create secondary notes or to allow a secondary sampling to confirm/debate the initial thoughts. Two samplers were present. These notes were compiled over two sampling sessions: 30 August 2010 and 7 September 2010.

The Old Crow Reserve has a medium brown color similar to fresh tea. The extra year in the oak barrel shows itself in the darker color compared to its 3 year old brother. When exposed to natural light Old Crow takes on a reddish color that is quite pretty.
Nothing particularly glorious not offensive are to be found here. Hints of day old Apple Cobbler with nutmeg and cinnamon spices in the background. Molasses or caramel apples make an appearance. The yeasty essence of sour corn (maize) mash is present in the nose.
This bourbon is lighter in taste than it appears to be. Pecans, treacle or karo syrup make an appearance in the taste. The overwhelming sweetness makes subtle flavors difficult to discern. Vanilla extract flavors are in the aftertaste.

Clearly the OLD CROW RESERVE is a high corn whiskey. It is not dissimilar to Jim Beam White label; the namesake distillery that manufactures both bourbons. This is by no means fine sipping bourbon. On the other hand it is a head and shoulders improvement over the 3 year old Old Crow. As decent mixing bourbon OLD CROW RESERVE produces wonderful cocktails and it is priced with this in mind. To that end it is recommended as a welcome addition to the likes of Jim Beam white.
Old Crow Reserve is recommended as an example of a good everyday bourbon. I am not sure you would want to drag this out in attempt to impress friends or relatives but it will serve well as a “table whiskey” or something left on the table for casual samples. This is not great whiskey but it is good whiskey.

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Sun May 22, 2011 12:46 pm

Anyone else have a chance to try this?

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Count Silvio
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Sun May 22, 2011 1:15 pm

Unfortunately no as it is not available where I am at the moment. I have to say I've never been a big fan of Jim Beam products and have experienced similar "incidents" as you described.
Slouching on the reliable old leather recliner.

Posts: 39
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Sun May 22, 2011 11:49 pm

Well, sort of off the subject but the online photo storage service I use to host my photos indicates that a whole bunch of folks have been looking at this photo. That's why I asked about no comments. At less than $20 for a handle of bourbon you can't go wrong with this bourbon. It is cheaper than Jim Beam white and I think may be a bit more interesting. Personally, I like Jim Beam products but I reckon that might be more nostalgia than anything else. The smell of Jim Beam white brings back all sorts of memories into my conscience so it has a special place in my drinking line up.

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