So here’s the backstory…
When my Dad was at student at Bradford Area High School back in the early 70s, he built a bar. I’d say it was about 6′ long and could fit three stools at its front and one on each side if room space was adequate. Said bar found its home at my grandparent’s house for years. My entire childhood, I remember the bar having its own room – said room was referred to as the ‘Bar Room’ (creative branding for days).
Sitting comfortably on the shelves of the bar were dozens of bottles of liquids that piqued my curiosity. My 7-year old exploration-driven mind once led me to wonder why they kept a bottle of steak sauce under there. Turns out it was bitters…
But I never “sampled.” Naturally, that all changed when I got older. But at that point in my life, I was just happy the bar offered a smooth surface that allowed me to play with my Ninja Turtles.
Fast-forward several years and the bar made its way to my parent’s house. It was here that many memories took place in my teenage years. Playing poker with my friends. Cricket competitions. Calling out players on my dad’s fantasy football league draft board, then trying to hit them with a dart…and not realizing those darts were going through and leaving hundreds of tiny holes in the wood-paneled wall behind.
Hey, give me a break – there was a lot of bourbon that night.
A bottle of Goldschlager sat underneath the bar for years, untouched, until one day my freshmen year of college when I had no class the next day and decided it made sense to snag it and drink the whole thing at my buddy’s dorm. I couldn’t chew Big Red for a year.
All in all, that bar was part of my life for as long as I could remember. So much so, it was unspeakably hard to see it go as my parents moved forward with a major renovation project that’s going to bring an incredibly sick new living space, complete with an updated, professionally-built bar, upon its completion. I wanted to bring my dad’s creation to Pittsburgh and keep it operational, but it was a lug of a thing and space for its third home is currently limited at best.
So now that construction is underway, the contents of this former liquid domicile (now chopped up and erased from everything but our memories) are resting in various locations in my parent’s basement as workers press on to bring the new bar to life. Dust is Enemy #1 these days, so myself, my girlfriend Angelica, and my dad took to cleaning the night before Christmas Eve in preparation for family holiday parties.
And while I was wiping down each bottle with careful precision, I discovered that many of them were unopened. We had always joked about the 3.5 foot tall unopened bottle of Chiante with the 1978 label that served more as a speaking piece than anything any of us were willing to try. But I never put two and two together that a lot of the booze underneath the bar had been unopened as well (half a miracle considering I lived in this house for 20 years) and clearly dated back decades. I always reached for the newer stuff. We’ll call that a happy accident.
There was gin, rum, wine, whiskey, and…the one that jumped out at me most being a fan of bourbon: a bottle of unopened Wild Turkey with a black label (seen right) – something I’ve never seen anywhere else before. I couldn’t even begin to imagine when this liquid was bottled, but as you can see on the label and if truth exists in advertising, it already aged seven years before entering its glass vessel.
Thanks to the Internet and a small inscription on the bottom of the bottle, we concluded this Wild Turkey dated back to 1977. In my hands was a bottle of bourbon two years older than me. And I could only assume that, while I can hold my head high for certain accomplishments in my lifetime, this Wild Turkey aged better than I have.
I’d like to say I popped the cork and we dove right in, but it didn’t quite unfold like that. I tried…but the top of said cork came off in my hand in a splintered heap. I attempted to use a wine key to remove the rest of it…only to have those remains fall into the liquid. Small cork fragments or not, nothing was going to ruin this tasting experience.
So out came the snifters (two of them found in unopened Irish Mist samplers – seen in photo below) and into them went what ended up being one of the most enjoyable whiskey experiences I’ve ever had. That classic bourbon aroma was present, but not overpowering. Velvety smooth on the mouth with the sweetness of caramel and an easy finish. All who imbibed upon thee over the next several days agreed and was in love with this liquid gold discovery that should be featured in some sort of whiskey Smithsonian somewhere. My one regret is I had left my cigars in Pittsburgh and missed out on a perfect pairing complement.
But now, more mysteries abound. Angelica told her dad about the experience and he, based on his knowledge, feels the bottle is even older than 1977. And while that’s very possible, there is no evidence of the Internet ever supplying false information, so…wait a minute…
Now, we are at an impasse. Did this bottle of Wild Turkey come from that epic whiskey year of 1977? Or, is it even older? In regards to flavor, I highly recommend aging your next bottle of bourbon for 40 years. Four decades of rest will deliver a nice experience and isn’t at all something that should be hard to accomplish.
Good things come to those who wait and what have you…
But now, I ask the great folks at Wild Turkey, who, since 1855, have been delivering us exceptional bourbon experiences as now told through the voice of Matthew McConaughey, the following: Can you shed some light on the birthday of this delicious black labeled beauty from your collection? We aren’t asking that you get it a present as its contents are enough of a gift. But knowing what the true age of our 2017 holiday companion will be a nice way to kick off 2018.
UPDATE: Wild Turkey got back to me and let me know the bottle was from an early 70s low-proof ABV release, the first of its kind. Most likely, the bottle first hit the market around 1972 or 1973. Not too shabby!