Old Crow Reserve
|Country of origin||Kentucky, United States|
|Alcohol by volume||43.00%|
|Related products||Jim Beam|
Old Crow is a low-priced brand of Kentucky-made straight bourbon whiskey, along with the slightly higher quality, but still inexpensive Old Crow Reserve brand. It is distilled by Beam Suntory, which also produces Jim Beam and several other brands of bourbon whiskey. The current Old Crow product uses the same mash and yeast bill as Jim Beam, but is aged for a shorter period of time and mixed to a more lenient taste profile before bottling. The Old Crow brand has a venerable history as one of Kentucky's earliest bourbons. Old Crow is aged in barrels for a minimum of three years, and in the United States is 80 proof while Old Crow Reserve is aged for a minimum of four years and is 86 proof.
James C. Crow, a Scottish immigrant, started distilling what would come to be Old Crow in Frankfort, Kentucky, in the 1830s. Reportedly a very skilled distiller, he made whiskey for various employers, which was sold as "Crow" or, as it aged, "Old Crow" – and the brand acquired its reputation from the latter. He died in 1856, and while W.A. Gaines and Company kept the name and continued to distill the bourbon according to his recipe, the original distillation formula died with its creator. The last remaining stock of Old Crow (of which there seemed to have been quite a bit) acquired near-legendary status, and offering drinks of it reportedly secured a re-election for Joseph Clay Stiles Blackburn, senator for Kentucky. A dispute over ownership of the name "Old Crow" was decided in 1915 in favor of the Gaines company. Old Crow's logo, a crow perched atop grains of barley, is rumored to stem as a symbol bridging the North and South during the Civil War. A Pennsylvania brigade training at State College, Pennsylvania thought Old Crow was the only good thing to ever come out of the south. Fearing never being able to drink Old Crow again, the soldiers wrote Lincoln proclaiming "We must not let the fine gentleman Old Crow escape. Remember Mr. President, the crow with the sharpest talons holds on to barley forever." After the War the logo was changed from a picture of James Crow to the current crow holding onto barley.
Although the whiskey had been, at one time, the top selling bourbon in the United States, it underwent a swift decline in the second half of the twentieth century. A production error in the amount of "setback" (the portion of spent mash added to a new batch in the sour mash process) negatively affected the taste of the whiskey, and the distiller's inability or unwillingness to correct it led to many drinkers moving on to other brands. Parent company National Distillers would be sold to Jim Beam in 1987; the Old Crow recipe and distillery were not kept and the product after this would be a three-year-old bourbon based on the Jim Beam mashbill.
Famous drinkers of Old Crow
Besides Blackburn, many American politicians have declared their love for Old Crow. It has been said that it was the drink of choice for American general and later 18th President of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant. An apocryphal story about Grant's drinking has the general's critics going to President Abraham Lincoln, charging the military man with being a drunk. Lincoln is supposed to have replied, "By the way, gentlemen, can either of you tell me where General Grant procures his whiskey? Because, if I can find out, I will send every general in the field a barrel of it!"
Confederate General Jubal Early was also a fan of Old Crow.
Old Crow in popular culture
Old Crow is said to have been the favorite bourbon of American writer Mark Twain. Journalist Hunter S. Thompson liked it. Twain reportedly visited the distillery in the 1880s, and Old Crow advertised this heavily; John C. Gerber sees in this commercial exploitation a sign of Twain's continuing popularity. As for Thompson, the frequent occurrences of the drink in his writing, semi-autobiographical as well as fictional have led to similar associations. The manufacturer actively pursued such publicity: in 1955, they took out an ad in College English, the journal of the National Council of Teachers of English, offering $250 for every literary reference to their product.
Mentions in popular music have included the following:
- The Robert "Frizz" Fuller song "She Took Off My Romeos", from the 1981 David Lindley album El Rayo-X, mentions Old Crow.
- The song "Gin Soaked Boy" from Tom Waits' 1983 album Swordfishtrombones contains the lyrics, "Came home last night/ Full'a fifth of Old Crow."
- It is mentioned in the Beastie Boys song "Slow Ride" in the lyrics, "I'm fly like an eagle and I drink Old Crow" on the group's first album Licensed to Ill, released in 1986.
- It is mentioned in the Guy Clark song "Out In the Parking Lot" from the 2006 album Workbench Songs.
- The song "True Drunk Love" by Dash Rip Rock from their 1993 Album "Tiger Town" has the lyrics, "we're birds of a feather, Wild Turkey and Old Crow."
- The song "Doreen" by Old 97's from their 1994 album Hitchhike to Rhome has the lyrics, "The guy that play the banjo keeps on handing me the Old Crow, which multiplies my sorrow, I can't take it anymore."
- The song "Suits and Ladders" by NOFX from their 2009 Album Coaster has the lyrics, "I just finished a bottle of Old Crow, I just bought a case of Chateau Margaux, not the 95, the 96"
Film and television references have included the following:
- In the 1993 Beavis and Butt-head episode "No Laughing", Principal McVicker is seen guzzling from a bottle marked "Old Crow", after having the idea of the probation which gives the episode its name.
- In the 1994 Whit Stillman comedy film Barcelona, several characters enjoy a bottle of Old Crow waiting at the airport cargo terminal.
- Featured in the movie Race for the Yankee Zephyr
- Alvey, R. Gerald (1992). Kentucky Bluegrass country. Oxford: UP of Mississippi. pp. 230–32. ISBN 978-0-87805-544-9.
- The Trade-mark Reporter, Vol. 6. United States Trademark Association. 1917. pp. 10–27.
- Charles K. Cowdery (2004). Bourbon, Straight: The Uncut and Unfiltered Story of American Whiskey. Made and Bottled in Kentucky. p. 25. ISBN 978-0975870303. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
- Life and Works of Abraham Lincoln: Speeches and presidential addresses, 1859-1865. New York, New York: The Current Literature Publishing Company. 1907. p. 301.
- O'Leary, Michael (2000). VIII Fighter Command at war: 'the long reach'. Osprey Publishing. p. 142.
- For instance, in an ad in Look magazine, from 1953. See also this ad from Kiplinger's Personal Finance, 1981.
- John C. Gerber, "Collecting the Works of Mark Twain," in Davis, Sara deSaussure; Philip D. Beidler; John C. Gerber (1984). The Mythologizing of Mark Twain. Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P. pp. 3–14. ISBN 978-0-8173-0201-6.
- Thompson, Hunter S.; Douglas Brinkley; David Halberstam (2000). Fear and loathing in America: the brutal odyssey of an outlaw journalist, 1968-1976. Simon and Schuster. p. 93. ISBN 978-0-684-87315-2.
- Thompson, Hunter S. (2002). Songs of the doomed: more notes on the death of the American dream. Simon and Schuster. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-7432-4099-4.
- Thompson, Hunter S. (2003). The great shark hunt: strange tales from a strange time. Simon and Schuster. p. 62. ISBN 978-0-7432-5045-0.
- Thompson, Hunter S. (2000). Mescalito. Simon and Schuster. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-7432-1522-0.
- "News and Ideas". College English. National Council of Teachers of English. 17 (2): 119. 1955.
- Adams, Andy (1903). "VIII. On the Brazos and Wichita". The Log Of A Cowboy.