Saturday, May 26, 2012

Old Thompson Brand American Whiskey

When it comes to liquor stores, it doesn't pay to be stuffy. However many Coors Light posters are in the windows, there's still the chance that, somewhere inside, is a whiskey you haven't tried.

Me, I always check the miniatures -- especially when I'm on a business trip and can't be bothered to work out the least illegal way of getting a mostly full fifth onto the plane home.

On my last trip, I splurged: six bucks, three miniatures.

I'll get to the Bird Dog and Spicebox in the next post. The Old Thompson Brand American Whiskey, A Blend, is not an experience the telling of which should be rushed.

I start with the label, written in a font so fancy and small I'm still not sure I correctly transcribed the whole thing:
"The Whiskeys In This Fine Tasting American Blend Were Produced With Extreme Care By Expertly Skilled Craftsmen Before Blending With Finest Quality Neutral Spirits."
I mean to say. There are reasons "as careful with the facts as a whiskey bottler" is not a tired old cliche, but this thing reads like a Bulwer-Lytton winner in the "Lies! All Lies!" category.

It reminds me of this sign, which is right above my desk at work:

This is a replica of a bar sign mentioned in the 1924 Dashiell Hammett story, "The Golden Horseshoe." The Continental Op sees the sign "high on the wall behind the bar.... I was trying to count how many lies could be found in those nine words, and had reached four, with promise of more...."

I keep the sign at work to remind me to read with a critical eye. Well, that, and for the joke that a lot of what I'm given to read seems to have a lie-to-word ratio of about 50%.

But most of what I'm given to read is technical. I never expected to come across a piece of writing about whiskey that had as many lies per word as the Golden Horseshoe Cafe's sign about whiskey.

(And as a former copy editor, I have to ask, what does "expertly skilled" actually mean? It must mean "expert," right? They're "expert craftsmen" -- not really, of course, but that's what they claim. Talk of "expertly skilled craftsmen" is like talk of "speedily fast cars.")

But the truth of a whiskey is found inside the bottle, not outside. Here, then, are my tasting notes for Old Thompson Brand American Whiskey, A Blend:

Nose: None. That is to say, it smelled like a clean hotel room glass.

Palate: You know how, with some whiskies, you're disappointed that what you experience nosing doesn't carry through in your experience tasting? This is one of those whiskies. To be clearer, let me transcribe what I wrote during the tasting itself: "nasty mud" (That is, it was nasty, and there was a flavor of mud; the mud flavor itself wasn't the nasty part.)

Finish: Some things are more clearly grasped when shown than described. Here, for me, is the finish of Thompson American Whiskey:


  1. Wow. What a fine review; literary, erudite, and very to the point. I laughed. I cried. I poured it down the drain right with you. I hadn't heard of "Old Thompson", and with luck I never will again.

  2. If you want to spend high dollars on a whiskey to pour down the drain there is the Noah's Mill bourbon. Was 53 on sale for 28 in the clearance section of our Kroger's. Comes in a wine bottle. Smelled and tasted like it was a mix of shoe polish and floor stripper. Did help make the drain in the kitchen sink I poured it down be less prone to clogging. I would rather drink Drano than Noah's Mill though.

  3. I haven't tried Noah's Mill yet, although I've seen it around. I'll try to remember to order it in a bar before buying a bottle.

  4. Well, I''m sorry but I have to disagree. Granted, I am normally not a whiskey drinker (simply because I don't like the smell or the burning sensation of it on my tongue or going down), however I do occasionally take a drink now and then. I do not think Old Thompson tastes like "nasty mud". What does "nasty mud" taste like anyway and how do you know? Oh and there must also be something wrong with your nose (or the bottle of Old Thompson you had) because I just picked up our bottle (to check out your claim), and yes, it does have a smell to it. It smells like whiskey! DUH!

  5. Call me a lowbrow, but I like Old Thompson. Here in Manhattan, New York, it used to be the house whiskey everywhere. I don't see it anymore. Maybe that is because more people agree with you than they do with me.

  6. Miles Clifford here again! Old Thompson is the unsung hero of the budget drunk set, of which I am a part. I love this stuff. I Can't Get Enough.

  7. Old Thompson.....what can I add of actual use to the conversation? Plenty....Very few people actually enjoy the taste, an anology for it is black vs red...everyone else loves red...but me. So Miles, I agree with you when I feel nostalgic. And plus for the price point....its not a bad deal, considering the other options.

  8. Replies
    1. I take 2 to 4 shots of Old Thompson each night when I'm awake at 3:30 a.m. and find it more drinkable than Kesslers. Mixed with 7Up or ginger ale, it's great. I save my high end whiskey for sipping neat and want to enjoy it. Low priced whiskry helps

      me over-come insomnia in an enjoyable way. Let's not be bourban snobs. There's an appropriate time for bottom shelf vs top shelf.

  9. I just picked up a miniature bottle of old Thompson blended whiskey. It is antique with an aluminum cap secured by a paper label. My label reads, the Whiskey's in this finer tasting Kentucky blend were stored quietly away in charred Oak barrels for 4 years or more before blending with finest quality natural spirits.

    I know it is antique because there is no UPC code on it and there is no zip code listed after Owensboro Kentucky. It is marked one tenth pint.

    I am now cracking the cap. It has a light bouquet with just the right amount of alcohol scent. I have poured out a shot and there is still more than a shot remaining. It is fine, golden color with not a hint of sediment. It smells really good now.

    I will now drink about 1/2 of the first shot. It is smooth, and I can't quite place the brief aftertaste. It's Pleasant to the palate. Warms the mouth but doesn't hurt. The inside of my lips are slightly numb. The second half of the first shot was better than the first half. Really interesting unique taste.

    The second shot. This is way better than Kessler's. The paper seal over the cap says tax paid. When was the last time you were able to buy a bottle of liquor that had a paper seal over the cap? Of course the bottle is glass. I love going to estate sales!

    The third shot. Very tasty. When I hold it in my mouth it gives my tongue a nice numbness.

    I give it a 8 out of 10. I like a whiskey that is smooth with a unique flavor. And this whiskey is that. Maybe they made it better back in the day. I encourage everyone to go to estate sales and look for antique bottles of liquor.