Maker: Buffalo Trace, Frankfort, Kentucky, USA (Sazerac)
Age: 12 y/o
Proof: 90 (45% ABV)
Note: No longer in production.
Thanks to @Primo55 for the suggestion of the final three words below
Appearance: Auburn with
Nose: Oak, black walnut, alcohol, caramel.
Palate: More walnuts, old oak, and a hint of butterscotch and brown sugar.
Finish: A little hot, but then a long, sumptuous oakiness that never falls into bitterness.
Parting words: Old Charter is an old brand dying a quiet death. It was founded in the nineteenth century by the Chapeze brothers (there is still a Chapeze house in Bardstown available for events), and was acquired by Sazerac in the 1990s when the newly spawned Diageo was selling off Kentucky bourbon brands. In recent memory, there have been 7 y/o, 8 y/o, 10 y/o, The Classic 90 (12 y/o) and Proprietor’s Reserve (13 y/o) Old Charters and Charter 101 (NAS). The only two left are the 8 y/o* and Charter 101. In the good old days of the glut, the 10 y/o and The Classic were two of the best bargains in bourbondom and the Proprietor’s Reserve (OCPR to bourbon nerds) was one of the finest bourbons of its era.
The Classic is a classic after dinner sipping bourbon. Even though they were a mere year apart in age, it and OCPR taste very different from each other. OCPR was subtly sweet butterscotch while The Classic is defined by oak. There’s a resemblance to Barterhouse bourbon from Diageo’s Orphan Barrel series, but the oak in The Classic is balanced by sweet caramel and nuts so it doesn’t taste tired like Barterhouse. A better point of comparison might be Elijah Craig 12 y/o. The role of oak is similar but in both cases there’s enough sweetness to keep it from going into “beaver bourbon” territory.
For many years Old Charter The Classic 90 was fairly easy to find but with the growing popularity of “dusty” out of production bourbons, it’s not so easy to find these days. It’s highly recommended if the price is right. I won’t be looking for any in the near future since I have two bottles in the bunker. Neener, neener, neener.
*Thanks to John B for reminding me via Facebook that even the 8 y/o is NAS now. They’re now calling it “#8” in true Sazerac style.