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Old Crow Chessmen Decanter 1969 Review

Last updated Jan 16, 2021

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by Matty Sims

Glencairn Whiskey Glass
Old Crow Chessmen Ceramic Decanter 1969
Old Crow Chessmen 1969Details
In the Bottle86 Proof
ABV43%
MashbillUnknown
Distilled and AgedOld Crow Distillery – Frankfort, KY
Age10 Years
DistilleryOld Crow Distillery
3200-4090 McCracken Pike
Frankfort, KY 40601
StyleSour Mash Bourbon
The Set32 Chess Pieces
16 Bronze
16 Dark Green
One Chess Board Mat
Size750 mL
Original Price$22.95
ProsMy all time favorite bourbon. Who's got the funk? We got the funk.
ConsRare and Expensive
AvailabilityNationwide
RatingPlatinum 99 out of 100 Points
InventoryDrink Whenever You Have the Chance

The Old Crow Chessmen Decanter from 1969 is the dusty lover’s unicorn. I’ve imagined walking into an estate sale and seeing a complete Old Crow Chessmen set sealed just sitting there waiting to be scooped up into my loving arms. Alas, I’ve heard the stories but have never had such luck. Thankfully, I’ve had multiple opportunities to taste this nectar of the gods, and it has never disappointed me.

The Old Crow Distillery is DSP-KY-25 — meaning it was one of the OGs of Kentucky bourbon. Sadly the brand has declined to a bottom shelf bourbon that’s almost forgotten. It deserves something along the lines of a BATC limited edition release in my humble opinion. Old Crow was named for its founder Scottish immigrant James C. Crow who migrated to Kentucky in 1820.

Related: Check out the Bourbon Guy’s photo tour of the former Old Crow Distillery.

He had a knack for creating quality whiskey and standardized the sour mash process. When he passed away in 1856, Oscar Pepper (yes that Pepper) name a bourbon after him. The brand was moved to Gaines, Berry & Co. in 1874 and the Old Crow Distillery was born in 1892, and so the legend was born. In 1934 after prohibition, National Distillers purchased the Old Crow Distillery, and the brand boomed becoming one of the most respected bourbon brands in America.

However, even the best bourbon brands didn’t go untouched when bourbon sales plummeted mid-century. What hurt Old Crow was, rumor has it, the yeast strain and Old Crow’s original recipe was changed (messing with the sour mash backset) which hurt the flavor.

Back to the ceramic decanters. What did distilleries do when sales declined mid-century? They sold commemorative decanters. Old Crow was no different. And if one decanter was good for business imagine 32 decanters with a playable chess mat. Not sure it moved the needle because the brand continued to decline all the way to the bottom shelf.

However, these decanters say around until bourbon lovers started buying and drinking them during this latest bourbon boom, and lo and behold they were beyond delicious. Fred Minnick famously said Old Crow Chessmen Whiskey is “by far the best bourbon I ever put upon my lips.” No small praise, but I agree.

Start shopping for bourbon clothing and accessories for your journey. The Bard’s Shop has custom tees and hoodies, books, barrels, and more.

Old Crow Chessmen Decanter 1969 Review

All Old Crow Chessman 1969 Ceramic Decanter and Board

This bourbon is dark as a rusted out pickup truck. With a gentle swirl, thick ribbons start to cover my glass creating long, thick legs.

Nose – 99 out of 100 Points

Rich caramel. Musty leather-bound book. Just a hint of cherry and cinnamon. But it’s that leather note that does it for me. A lot of old bourbons have the dusty funk note but with a good Chessmen, it’s luxurious and complex. There’s also a charred oak undercurrent.

Taste – 99 out of 100 Points

Chessmen is crisp and creamy with leather, vanilla and caramel swirled pudding and cinnamon and oak at the back of the palate.

Finish – 98 out of 100 Points

The finish is medium with leather, oak, and baking spice. In my opinion, this finish shows how complex and intriguing a finish can be without being hot or overly long.

Verdict – Platinum 99 out of 100 Points

I’ve had three different Old Crow Limited Edition Chessmen Ceramics, and it’s the best bourbon I’ve had. It’s got the dusty funk I crave, plus complexity, balance, and full flavor. Check out another review from Dusty Dan below:

Have you tried Old Crow Whiskey bottle chess pieces? Leave your tasting notes in the comments.

The Story of the Old Crow Distillery and Dr. James Crow

Vintage Old Crow Chessmen Ad

Vintage Old Crow Chessmen Ad

If you see any Old Crow Chessmen unopened, don’t hesitate. Snatch it up. Start shopping for bourbon clothing and accessories for your journey. The Bard’s Shop has custom tees and hoodies, books, barrels, and more.

Why trust The Bourbon Bard?

Written by Matty Sims

Matty Sims is a storyteller who loves bourbon. He has been drinking and studying whiskey for over 10 years. He has also been featured on sites like Bourbon Sippers, Explore Whiskey, and Inside Hook, partnered with dozens of distilleries, and reviewed hundreds of whiskeys.
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Comments

2 Comments

  1. Eric

    Hey Matty,

    Really enjoyed reading your review here. I am curious if you have any perspective how to start the search for a chessmen. My father and I have a specific affinity for the Old Crow brand and have been stumped a bit in a search. Have been able to find some of the older 200ml juice in glass but not this one. Feel free to shoot me an email if you are interested in discussing more.

    Thanks,
    Eric

    Reply
    • Matty Sims

      You could find a Chessmen a couple different ways. First, hunt them at estate sales. Second, secondary market. Sure fire but you’re looking at serious cash. Third, local group. Maybe you find someone who will trade or give you a good deal. Good luck.

      Reply

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