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Aug 26, 2013 07:58 PM

(Really) Old bottles of liquor and your experiences with them?? ATTN: Jonathan Forrester (and everyone else)

I have many old bottles of liquor, liqueur, and vermouth. (listed below) I'm talking about bottles about 60-70 years old. I would like to see what peoples' experiences were with opening them and trying them. I'm mostly curious if the vermouth is ever salvageable. I feel like, once I open them to see, my window of opportunity to drink and enjoy it would be small. Upon my own tasting of the below items, I'd gladly share what I find. Until then, what have you learned by opening an old bottle? Do you drink it alone? Do you make cocktails with it? If it tastes crazy (bad), do you have a process to try to bring it back to life via filtering or something like that? (long winded question, but I'm really curious) Cheers everyone!

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  1. (list of bottles)
    yellow chartreuse (Tarragona, Spain era circa 1930s/1940s)
    Gilka Kümmel - 1936
    Marie Brizard Kümmel - circa? (really old)
    Martini Rossi - liter bottle 1940s/50s?
    Hiram Walker curaçao
    Taffel Akvavit - Aalborg
    OPENED (but still smell decent)
    Falernum (Sazerac Co. Inc.)
    yellow Chartreuse - labeled "petite charteuse" -looks brown now
    Creme de Cacao in a dog-shaped bottle
    Pernod - (tasted already and is much more mellow than a new bottle)

    3 Replies
    1. re: nanmeikle

      That's a pretty valuable collection. I've found that several things affect the flavor of old bottles. The most important is the cork. If the bottles were stored upright so the spirit wasn't in contact with the cork, there may be a bit of oxidation if the cork shrunk and a little air got in. Easy to tell by the level in the bottle, and how tight the cork is. But it is better than if they were stored on their sides. I have had quite a few bottles that I've tasted where the cork flavor was picked up quite strongly by the spirit. I'll take a hint of oxidation over the mustiness and tannin from the cork.

      I posted this once before, but here is the website for a gent in England who is one of the top buyers and resellers of vintage spirits and vermouth. He can tell you what they are worth, and may want to make you an offer.

      Taste them by themselves to see what they are like. Then make cocktails. I met the owner of The Old Spirits Co. when he was offering tastes of cocktails where all the ingredients were vintage. I had experienced this before, but it was a bit haphazard. With Edger it was a unique experience.

      If it tastes bad, filtering won't help.

      Most of what you have is herb/botanical based. these tend to change more over time than straight spirits. this can be in a good way. there is a bar in NYC where they have Chartreuse bottles from many decades that you can try. I bet that those kummel, vermouth, curacao, akavit, etc. are pretty tasty. they may have changed in flavor profile, but most likely in an interesting way. OR, they will be very oxidized and not good at all.

      (PS, only one r in the middle of my last name.)

      1. re: JMF

        JMF, what's the name of the NYC bar? Thanks

        1. re: mats77

          Pouring Ribbons in the East Village. 225 Ave B on the 2nd floor; great space, and fantastic cocktails. Created by the brilliant Joaquin Simo formerly of Death & Co. and his equally brilliant partners, Tobey Maloney, Troy Sidle, and Jason Cott.