Society of Bourbon Connoisseurs Cask Proof Bourbon Whiskey 20 yrs Batch #74-327 Barrel 1974 Bottled 1994


SPIRIT: Bourbon

VOLUME: 750 ml

ABV/PROOF: 54/108

AGE:  20 years

In 1983, just a few years after the Hoffman distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, closed its doors, it was purchased by a striving, slightly desperate whiskey bottler named Julian Van Winkle III. His grandfather, Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle, had taken the Stitzel-Weller distillery and its signature brands – Old Fitzgerald, Cabin Still – to the top of the bourbon market. But Pappy’s son, Julian II, had been forced to sell, and while he had a lifeline in the form of sourced whiskey from Stitzel-Weller, by the time Julian III took over, the family business was in dire straits. Not only did it lack a home, but by the late 1970s no one was buying it was selling, namely premium bourbon.

Julian III got to work by bottling like a demon, often for export to Japan and Europe, where well-aged bourbon was still popular. Sometimes, people came to him; other times, he created his own brands with little rhyme or reason aside from a catchy name. The Society of Bourbon Connoisseurs is a good example: There is no such society, though it’s easy enough to imagine one, hanging out in a dimly lit, Americana-themed bar in Osaka. 

Van Winkle produced several releases of the Society of Bourbon Connoisseurs, all about 20 years old – the first in 1994, then subsequently in 2001 and 2009. Because they were cask strength, the proof varied by bottle.

Release: Society of Bourbon Connoisseurs Cask Proof Bourbon Whiskey

Producer: Old Commonwealth

Misc.: The label includes space for hand-written tasting notes, an uncommon detail – especially in an era when bourbon was not considered a drink to be savored.

Collectors’ tips: There are some bottles that are best kept unopened, because their collectible value far outweighs the enjoyment that the liquid offers. Not so with Society of Bourbon Connoisseurs: Any chance to taste cask-strength Stitzel-Weller is one very few people will ever get, and should not be passed up.

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