Old Charter Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Age: 10 yrs.
Proof: 86 (43% ABV)
Maker: Buffalo Trace, Frankfort, KY (Sazerac, Inc.)
Glass: Small Buffalo Trace glass.
Old Charter is a pretty old brand. A Mr. Chapeze founded the brand in the 19th century. His house in Bardstown, KY is available for your next party or corporate event. Anyway, the whiskey’s previous home was in Louisville at the old Belmont and current Bernheim distilleries (Bernheim replaced Belmont). It was a sister of sorts to I.W. Harper, which is now only sold overseas, I believe. They were both dumped when UDV (now known as Diageo) shut down both of their bourbon distilleries in Louisville back in the 1990s. The brand was sold to whoever owned Buffalo Trace at the time. While they didn’t keep the same mashbill (recipe), they did use a similar high-corn formula for it.
Old Charter 10 was one of the first bourbons I sought out when I first stated to explore the world of bourbon. It was an early favorite of mine, but frankly it hasn’t faired as well as some of my other early favorites like Very Old Baron or Old Forester which I still love. It’s affordable, which is a plus, and is 86 proof, which gives it some ooumph that other bourbons in its price range lacks. But it just seems a bit dull to me now.
The nose has a bit of heat, that nose-clearing sensation one gets from liquor. There’s a bit of sweetness, too, but like a stray cat it scampers off into the shrubbery almost as soon as you approach. A corny sweetness like a praise chorus, but more pleasant, greats the tongue as it enters the mouth, less elusive than the nose, but it eventually does scamper sooner than it should. A bit of butterscotch is detectable as it fades into a middling, slightly woody finish. A tiny tingle on the tongue is all that remains after a minute or so. Could it be better? Certainly. Is it a bad pour for a lazy summer afternoon? No. It’s unassuming, even unengaging, but a pleasant, relaxing sip.
Three expressions are currently produced, an 8 y/o, this 10 y/o and something called Charter 101. The 10 y/o is by far the best of the three. At one time there was also a 12 y/o, 90 proof black label version called “The Classic”, and an upper shelf 13 y/o called Old Charter Proprietor’s Reserve (OCPR). They can both still be found loitering on store shelves many places. The Louisville version of the OCPR with the sharply sloped shoulders is highly sought after, but the Frankfort version is very good too. As is “The Classic”. A 7 y/o old was also made in the Louisville era. Those years of Old Charter had a strong butterscotch smell that has its cult following but frankly makes me nauseous.