Whisky Advocate

Review: Early Times (150th Anniversary Edition) Kentucky Whisky

May 27th, 2010

Early Times (150th Anniversary Edition) Kentucky Whisky, 50%, $12/375ml
A special, limited edition release of Early Times whisky. Described as “Old Style Sour Mash” on the label. Simple, straight-forward notes of soft vanilla, sweet corn, light caramel, golden raisin, and (with some coaxing) subtle anise.Youthful on the palate, with a rather harsh, oak finish. I’m happy for the celebration, but a bit disappointed with the whisky. Two bottles of this (the volume equivalent of one standard 750 ml bottle) will set you back about $24, and there are many superior whiskies at this price point.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 76

No Responses to “Review: Early Times (150th Anniversary Edition) Kentucky Whisky”

  1. Rick Duff says:

    150 years ago there weren’t any girly men needing any smooth whisky. 🙂
    Sounds like some younger whisky with some untamed oak. I bet 150 years ago the whisky sure wasn’t aged very long. Not that it makes me want to drink it now.. or plunk down so much for it. Cool packaging though.

    • Red_Arremer says:

      I know you’re being sarcastic, Rick. However, I like the idea that this poorly rated whisky might shed some light on the differences between past and present whisky appreciators. How does one of us stand in relation to one of them? Are we like the modern classical music audiences of the 50’s– leaving behind the sensuous pleasures of music to explore the aesthetic consequences of the historical develoment of form itself? Or are we like contemporary folk music buffs– driven by a fascination with bygone performance gestures, which seem to offer pleasure, freedom, and authenticity all at once? Or, then again, are we just “girly men”? 😉

      • Joe M says:


        When did the notion of the “connoisseur” of whisky take shape? Is it a relatively recent development? I would think much more recent than the appreciation of good wine, which has, for hundreds of years, been associated with cultivation and class.

        I ask this because I think we’re in the early stages of what I imagine will be a long history of appreciating aged spirits. It’s neither self-conscious (like late classical), nor romantic about the past (like folk music).

        • Red_Arremer says:

          I’ve been thinking about you’re comment for some time, Joe. I was just kind of joking around with mine, but I think it’s cool that you called me out. So here’s what I really think:

          We’re in at least in the middle of whisky connoisseurship– at the very beginning of some more generalized trend of aged spirit appreciation. The premiumization and debauching (NAS) of Scotch, the main connoisseur-worthy spirit, alongside the significant growth in craft distillation, indicates this.

    • Ralph Biscuits says:

      150 years ago they didn’t use anesthetic when performing surgery either. Any girly men want to try that if they need surgery? 🙂

  2. sam k says:

    I’m not surprised at this rating, as Early Times is pretty far down on my list of whiskeys worth drinking. This may actually be better than the standard bottling, as I don’t think I’d rate the regular product this high. I don’t think it’s “untamed oak,” but rather the fact that ET is aged in reused cooperage, and for those of us who enjoy the taste of new charred oak that we’re used to in straight bourbon find this one, well, limp.

    If it was given additional years of aging to make up for this, it might have some character, as with scotch. Note that it’s described only as “Kentucky Whisky” on the label.

  3. Mitch says:

    What are some of the superior whiskies at this price point?

    • John Hansell says:

      Gosh, I like the standard Evan Williams better and you can get a full 750 ml bottle for the price of this 375ml Early Times.

    • Mark Davis says:

      IMHO Evan Williams, Elijah Craig, Elmer T Lee, old overhalt, old grandad.
      In general I like ‘E’ named and ‘old’ bourbons and rye.

      For 12 bucks you can get a half bottle of a novelty product. I’m in to try it out.

    • Ralph Biscuits says:

      For the price of 2 bottles of the Early Times, you can get a 750ml bottle of Four Roses yellow label which I think is really nice.

    • Vince says:

      Old Weller Antique, 1792, Old Grandad BIB or 114, Evan Williams single barrel, Old Forester Signature, to name a few

    • Sokojoe says:

      Rittenhouse BiB

    • sam k says:

      Also Wild Turkey Rye (my best-in-price-class favorite), Evan Williams 1783, and any George Dickel product.

  4. Joe M says:


    Thanks for taking the time to review a low end offerring. Much appreciated. Yes, for $24 a bottle you can do a lot better.

    I’ve read that regular Early Times does make a nice whiskey sour. Powered sugar, lemon, and ice – works mighty fast when you drink it by the pitcher and not by the glass, uh-huh!

    • sam k says:

      Joe, that claim was made by Dave Wondrich in his Malt Advocate column a while back, but if I recall correctly, he also said that the Whiskey Sour could be made with any cheap whiskey just as effectively. I can get Ten High straight bourbon in PA for $7.99, and it makes a great Sour…why pay more?

  5. Seth Nadel says:

    That’s a shame. I was really looking forward to this release.

  6. BourbonMan says:

    I am not sure I understand how you can rate a product that contains coloring, flavoring and neutral spirits higher than a product that does Not contain any of those items??? When rating whisky…I believe that the amount of real whisky in the bottle should be an important factor to the final rating.

    Many of your reviews of Canadian Blended whisky are much higher than your rating of Straight whisky. Do you believe that flavorings, colorings and neutral spirits….add to the goodness of a whisky? Do you prefer whisky that obtains its flavors from ingredients that are not whisky?


    • John Hansell says:

      1) Where did anyone say this was a Straight whisky?
      2) Did you actually taste it yet? (I doubt it.)
      3) And, of course, “BourbonMan”, you are not biased against Canadian whisky, are you?

      The bottom line here: it comes down to taste. It’s not just the ingredients, but what’s done with those ingredients. A painter can have the best paint and paint brushes money can buy, but that doesn’t guarantee a great painting, does it?

    • DavindeK says:

      It is a false, but commonly-believed urban myth that Canadian whisky contains neutral spirits. If you can taste it, it’s simply the power of suggestion.

      • John Hansell says:

        That’s right Davin. I should have made that point #4 on my list.

      • BourbonMan says:

        No, it’s a fact that Canadian whiskey contains a large percentage of neutral spirits. That’s why they list them as blended. Colorings, flavorings and neutral spirits are all included in blended whiskies.

        I agree with Ethan…Rittenhouse rye Bib is an excellent and affordible whiskey that should be tried if available in your area.

        Thanks again for the forum with which to discuss whiskies…..much appreciated.

        • John Hansell says:

          I think we’re just debating semantics here. Canadian traditionally consists of a base whisky and a flavoring whisky. I agree that the large base whisky is very much a kin to “aged vodka”, while the minor “flavoring” whisky is often something along the lines of a rye our “bourbon-like” whisky.

          And yes, it can be (but isn’t necessarily) flavored.

          • DavindeK says:

            I’ve tasted many of these base whiskies and never found one that tasted like it was aged vodka. Same with new spirit for base whisky. It could never pass for vodka. The term ‘blended’ is there to meet American regulations (which allow neutral spirit), not Canadian, which do not.

          • John Hansell says:

            Davin, I’m intentionally overgeneralizing for those reading this who don’t know what base Canadian whisky tastes like (i.e., just about everyone else reading this).

          • Red_Arremer says:

            Ok, so now I’m interested– where can I taste some Canadian base whisky?

          • sam k says:

            Hey Red, to hell with the base, I want to taste the flavoring whisky…at cask strength! (A fella can dream, can’t he?)

  7. BourbonMan says:

    I am just asking some questions that pertain to your rating system. Please don’t be upset with my interest.

    I don’t believe that this product is labeled as Blended. So, I assume it contains none of the usual blending additives.

    I am not biased against Canada. Just some of the Blended products that they charge so much for. Lower priced Blended products do not offend me, at all.

    In my opinion, what it comes down to…is how much real whiskey is in my whiskey. To put anything other than whiskey in my whiskey…and then to add flavorings to bring it back…is a big waist of time and effort. And, products that do this should always be considered lower in quality than a product without them. Would you not agree?

    If you go to the grocery to buy a steak. And they offer you something that taste like steak…but, really isn’t steak. Is that a good thing? …Do you prefer imitation crab…to real crab? If you want whiskey…buy whiskey…not something that taste like whiskey.

    Thanks for the discussion.

    • John Hansell says:

      I’m not upset, just commenting on your statements. To me, what it really comes down to is how the whisky tastes. Isn’t that what really matters?

  8. Ethan Smith says:

    I think I’ll just buy a bottle as a collector’s item after reading this review. I’m happy with my Old Grand Dad BIB and Rittenhouse BIB cheapies. Anyone know if this is going to be sold in PA?

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