Baker's Pure Rye 1847
The World's Oldest Whiskey:
Frequently Asked Questions
Could you drink this whiskey?
Yes. Whiskey doesn't age in the bottle like wine does. It does undergo small changes over very long periods of time, but essentially retains the same profile as the day it was bottled. (This presumes no infection, mold, or other unwanted intruders). The whiskey in this bottle is clear and and uncontaminated.
What would this whiskey taste like?
Based on everything we can gather from history, expert opinions, modern chemical analysis, and nosing during sample extraction, the whiskey has similarities to high quality bourbons and ryes of today, but with unusually rich and deep aspects. The nose is unmistakeable as a bourbon or rye, and surprisingly vibrant. We found it heavily fruity, with things like figs and orange marmalade. We may also have treated ourselves the tiniest taste of tastes, and while that wouldn't be fair to base tasting notes on, we may have found it to be shockingly good, unexpectedly mouth-puckering, and having weathered the centuries very well. We discussed sandalwood flavors, black cherries, and a bright sweetness, with a great, dry finish. I remarked that it had none of the "sh***y basement quality" that can sometimes turn up in poorly-kept dusties. And we all agreed it definitely tasted like a rye, and one that we'd want to buy a bottle of were it on shelves.
Is this related to the current Baker's bourbon?
No. Baker's bourbon was introduced in 1992 and is named after the grand-nephew of Jim Beam, Baker Beam.
What are you going to do with it?
There's been discussion of partnering with whiskey historians and distillation experts to analyze the spirit in depth and place it in a historical perspective, via organic chemistry, with the eventual goal of replicating it.
What is it worth?
Given today's whiskey climate, it is certainly very valuable, but any price would be speculative unless it were actually sold at auction to the highest bidder. (For those who are saying, "But you guys appraise whiskey! Tell us a number!" Yes, we do, but pegging a number on this publicly would serve no purpose).
What was the market for this whiskey, in its time? What would it have cost?
The fact that this was sold by the bottle in its time means it was a very high-end whiskey. What does high end mean for then? Well, one reference I found stated that the price for whiskey in the 1840s was approximately 38 cents per gallon. For a bottle like this -- which appears similar to the 4/5 quart bottles that later became standard -- that would work out to about 7 1/2 cents. Assuming this was an upscale whiskey though, maybe it would have gone for a dime? Although on secondary, I’m sure it was at least a quarter. (Answer by Steve Ury).
Shouldn't this be in a museum?
Is there an older bottle of whiskey somewhere?
Some point to a bottle in the Netherlands owned by a firm that sells "whiskey investments." The firm "presumes" theirs is older due to an old handwritten note affixed to the bottle saying it contains whiskey from 1843. But there are many reasons the contents may not be what the note claims. There also has been no public disclosure of any analysis that may have been done on the bottle or contents, and there is no known way to verify when the liquid inside specifically dates from. The firm likes to refer to it as "presumably the oldest unopened bottle of whiskey," and of course, anyone is free to presume whatever they wish.
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