Vintage Rye 23yr Old Rye Whiskey Open Bottle



VOLUME: 750 ml

ABV/PROOF: 47/94

AGE:  23 years

The Vintage whiskey brand was the brainchild of Marci Palatella, a California-based wine and spirits broker who in the 1980s played a key role in getting independently bottled American whiskey – especially from Julian Van Winkle III – into Japan, where demand for premium bourbon and rye was almost insatiable. She also had several labels of her own, most notably Old St. Nick and Vintage. Van Winkle bottled these, too, until he moved to Buffalo Trace, after which Palatella moved to Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, a k a Willett.

In contrast to names like Hirsch, Old St. Nick and Black Maple Hill –- all of which either Van Winkle, or KBD, or both, bottled – Vintage remains obscure. It might be the name: search for “vintage rye” or “vintage bourbon” will return thousands of hits, only a few of which have to do with the brand. But it ranks up there with the best of the 1990s-2000s private bottlings.

The rye (there is also a Vintage Bourbon)  is often compared with Rittenhouse, from Heaven Hill, which also appeared in 20-year-plus releases in the 2000s. Many people assume that Vintage is, in fact, Heaven Hill whiskey, perhaps because Willett had so much from Heaven Hill in its warehouses. 

Instead, the whiskey is most likely from Old Bernheim, a Louisville facility once owned by Schenley (and later United Distillers, which became Diageo, and then, after a thorough renovation rendered in “new” Bernheim, Heaven Hill). At some point in the 1980s Schenley had planned to create a rye version of its Cream of Kentucky brand, and even produced scores of barrels, before shelving the idea. Those barrels eventually went into legendary bottlings like the early Van Winkle ryes, the early Sazerac 18 annual releases, and, of course, Vintage Rye.

Producer: Kentucky Bourbon Distillers

Misc.: In 2018 Palatella founded Preservation, a distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky, though she continues to bottle sourced whiskey for her older brands.

Collectors’ tips: There are multiple ages of Vintage Rye, including a 21 and 23 year old. Both are equally collectible.

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