So today I brought in one of my treasures to taste with my class at Oregon Culinary Institute. Its a small bottle of Bond & Lillard Kentucky Straight Bourbon whiskey. There is an Illinois tax stamp dated 1937 affixed, and on the back it notes that its 93 proof, 36 months old and distributed by National Distillers Products Corporation. While this isn’t my first experience with old whiskies, I thought it would be fun to review it on here and share my experience with it.
First off, lets talk condition. Most bottles I’ve found from that era have some serious issues with condition unless they were picked up by collectors originally. While this was acquired out of a private home, I highly doubt this person was a whiskey collector based on the other bottles I obtained. That said, someone had the foresight to dip the top 1/3 of the bottle in hot wax to seal and preserve the whiskey, and it actually worked quite well.
The nose is a bit hot, there is definitely an alcoholic punch up front, but past that, there are light cinnamon notes, and huge vanilla and caramel tones. The color of this bourbon is a golden orange, and it leaves beautiful legs dripping down the sides of the glass as you drink it. I honestly didn’t expect much from this bottle, but this is definitely a good sign.
On the palate, Bond & Lillard is medium bodied and enters with a light, honeyed sweetness before moving into a strong note of cinnamon, pie spices, oak and black tea before ending with a slight nuttiness on the tongue. More cinnamon returns for a final spicy burst just as it seems as if this whiskey is set to disappear from the palate. It is a complex, satisfying and delicious bourbon, one that would be capable of competing with the current bourbons on the market on equal terms.
While I doubt this review is going to spur the recreation of Bond & Lillard in modern times, having a chance to taste old brands helps expand my knowledge and understanding of the world of bourbon. This was really a fantastic bourbon and I hope I get to run across another bottle of Bond & Lillard again in my life. I know I’ll be keeping an eye out if nothing else. Even better, I’m glad I got to share it with my class. Because at the end of the day, that is really what whiskey is about, isn’t it? Sharing & conviviality. At least it is to me. I promise this wouldn’t have tasted nearly as good if I’d have kept this all to myself. Seeing my students experience this bourbon and sharing the experience with them is worth far more to me than any unopened bottle of whiskey in the world, no matter what.
Anyway, I count myself lucky to have tasted this old bourbon. And even luckier to have had some people in my life worth sharing it with.