The whiskey that made Kentucky whiskies famous. Wait, that sounds familiar.
Life; February 7, 1938.
Early Times has a history dating back to 1860, when the first whiskey under this name was produced. Brown-Forman acquired it in 1923 and still owns the today. During Prohibition, BF marketed Early Times as a medicinal whiskey.
Today, the product is known as a “Kentucky whisky” (why they drop the e that’s traditional when describing American whiskeys is a question I can’t answer). It’s made the way bourbon is made, except that Early Times, today, is aged in used oak barrels. Straight bourbon, by law, must be aged in new oak barrels. New barrels impart more woody flavors into a distillate than do used barrels, and thus Early Times doesn’t taste as bourbony as bourbon should.
Early Times continued as a straight bourbon until the 1980s, and as of two years ago, a bourbon version is again marketed by Brown-Forman. The two products are now sold side-by-side; the bourbon is called Early Times 354.
Century-Old Whiskey Bottles Found in Missouri Man’s Attic
To save money on the installation of central air-conditioning in his St. Joseph, Mo., home, Bryan Fite began replacing the wires in his attic, prying up the floor boards on the rafters. Along with possible savings, he found a treasure beneath the floorboards: 13 bottles of century-old whiskey.
I recently received a sample bottle of a new French whisky, Bastille 1789, from the Cognac region of France.
First thing I want to note is the producer’s preferred spelling: whisky. If you note there’s no e, that might give you a clue as to the style of whisky on offer. Bastille offers a blended whisky in a Scotch style. The whisky’s made of malted barley and wheat, and distilled in alembic pot stills; what sets it apart from blended Scotch is that Bastille is aged in Limousin oak, cherry, and acacia casks.
The color is light, in keeping with most blends. The flavor is malty, fruity, spicy, and lightly sweet; what I really enjoyed about it were the unique flavors from the cask. Body is medium.
Overall, I found Bastille pleasant to sip on its own at the end of a long day, caring for my son. My favorite cocktail use of whiskey these days is in Old Fashioneds, and there I don’t think I’d care for the Bastille. It’s a little too light to hold up to the hefty amount of bitters I like in an Old Fashioned, and it’s sweet enough on its own that it doesn’t need sugaring. Likewise, although the promotional literature recommended mixing it into a Manhattan, I can’t see it playing well with sweet vermouth. But I speak as a guy who prefers rye whiskey and rye-forward bourbons, to softer, wheatier whiskeys, so my prejudices may be showing.
If you, your friends, or your customers prefer softer tipples, you may be pleased with how it works in cocktails. For myself, I quite enjoyed just sipping it on ice, and also neat. As a sipping whisky, it may well find a steady home on my bar, for days I want something lighter than rye.
Bastille 1789 is currently available in Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C. It launches nationally in May. Suggested retail price is $29.99. 40% alcohol by volume.