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Well-Aged Bourbon: A Story of War Threats & Taxes

The Daily Shot!

Russell’s Reserve 10 Year, Weller 12 Year, Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year. Just a small sample of well-aged bourbon that is sought (and enjoyed!) by many enthusiasts.

Aging bourbon into double digit years was not always a common practice. Like any other commodity, production is a function of supply and demand. Consider this: if over the last 100 years distilleries sold every drop of a 1-year bourbon there would be no mention of the well-aged labels above. NONE!

Thank goodness we live in a world beyond simple economics!

A threat of war and taxes changed all of that. In the late 1950’s, it appeared North and South Korea were on the verge of sparking another world war. Fearing another stoppage of whiskey production to support the war effort, distilleries began pumping out mass quantities of product. Fortunately, this war never happened. Unfortunately (at the time) for the distilleries, they were in quite the pickle. There were now mass quantities of whiskey aging in warehouses, no increased demand, and Uncle Sam’s tax was due.

The owner of Schenley Bourbon, Lewis Rosenstiel, was not particularly thrilled in the least at his prospective tax bill. So, what do savvy, rich business people do when they want to change Uncle Sam’s mind? Pay a lobbyist sums of money to change his mind!

The result of his efforts was the Forand Bill: bonded tax due on aged bourbon was extended to 20 years.

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Distilleries across this great land now had the financial freedom to age the surplus inventory passed their middle school years.


Schenley would do on to release a 10 & 12 year Bourbon. Other familiar labels emerging at the time include Old Fitzgerald (10, 12, & 15 year), I.W. Harper (10 & 12 year), and Ancient Age (10 Year). The well-aged whiskey had depth in character and flavors. Enthusiasts rejoiced! Wow, these distillers are geniuses to sit on product for over 10 years! We want more!


The success paved the way for recognizable bourbons such as Weller (12 year) & Pappy Van Winkle enjoyed today.


Boom! Another shot of knowledge!