Joseph Finch Rare Bourbon 15yr Bottle #1720


SPIRIT: Bourbon

VOLUME: 750 ml

ABV/PROOF: 43/100

AGE: 15 years

Joseph Finch was supposed to be the start of something big. By the mid-1990s United Distillers, a forerunner of Diageo, had amassed an impressive stock of well-aged bourbon through a series of acquisitions, and had grand plans for creating a new tier of luxury American whiskey, similar to what it and others had done with single malt Scotch. To start, it launched what it called the Rare Bourbon collection, starting with the 15-year-old Joseph Finch and a 16-year-old companion, Henry Clay, both in 1997.

United had a tenuous claim to the Joseph Finch name. The Joseph Finch distillery was a real place, built in Pennsylvania in 1856, bought by Schenley during Prohibition and shuttered, in a wave of consolidation, in 1968. Schenley was later rolled into the United machine. But the whiskey itself is a different question, its source unknown – though the label noticeably leaves off any mention of Kentucky. Only 2,400 bottles were produced, and the line quickly fell by the wayside after United became Diageo in 1997 and the new company pivoted away from American whiskey. They went for an almost unheard of $85, and many spent years gathering dust before the early waves of collectors snatched them up.

In a way the mystery of the backstory is the point. By all accounts the whiskey is some of the best ever put into a bottle, and only a handful of those bottles remain. Joseph Finch is both a relic of a time when distillers were trying all sorts of tricks to sell older stocks, and a forerunner of brands like Diageo’s own Orphan Barrel program, which likewise bottles rare and ultra-aged stocks. 

Release: Joseph Finch 15 Year Old Rare Bourbon Whiskey

Misc.: The Rare Bourbon collection was United’s second attempt to serialize its American whiskey offerings. Before it came the Bourbon Heritage collection, a set of five whiskeys including George Dickel Special Barrel Reserve, Old Fitzgerald 12 years old, Weller Centennial, Old Charter Proprietor’s Reserve, and I.W. Harper Gold Medal. While all those brands still exist, none of those expressions do.

Collectors’ tips: Both Joseph Finch and Henry Clay came in boxes, which add to the value of the bourbon even if you can’t drink them.

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