I purchased a few ceramic decanters from a liquor store that was closing down a year ago and they have just been collecting dust… I tried to sell some, but no one wanted them. Some people said that they have lead contaminants and others said that the whiskey is just bad. I thought I’d open one of them to test both theories.
The bottle I chose was the 1974 Ezra Brooks 90 proof aged 101 months in the weight lifter decanter. The tax stamp was intact, but when I opened it the cork broke off immediately. I do not think that it was broken in the bottle, but given how dried out it was, there is a significant chance that there was a good amount of oxidation going on. It might be worth doing this test again in a decanter that has a fully intact cork.
I had to determine whether it was safe from lead before I could try it. I removed the cork, poured a healthy amount into a glass and let it sit for several days to evaporate, thus leaving most of the sediment behind. I then used a 3M LeadCheck swap that I purchased off Amazon.com to see if there was lead. The results came back clean. I mixed it up and performed the same test again after evaporating even more, just to be extra sure, and again, the test came back with no lead.
With health concerns out of the way, I was ready to try the whiskey to determine if it was worthless or not. The test sample comes from a glass decanter that I switched to after removing everything from the ceramic one.
It’s very very dark, much darker than almost any whiskey I’ve tried before, closer to a very old Sherry than bourbon.
It smells old too, but not in a “oh wow there is so much going on here” way, more of a “this just smells old and not awesome” way. There are some notes of sherry, rock dust, charcoal, dried leaves and leather.
The taste is better than expected. Although the nose was muted, there is some decent flavors of old a mixture of old Bordeaux, Sherry and Tawny Port. It’s not good, but it’s not awful. The heat is very subdued over the years, but there is an astringent aspect to the mouthfeel that is less desirable on the finish which makes you want to grab some water to drink.
It’s not shocking that these old decanters are not worth a lot of money, although, at least this one, does not have any lead contaminants that some people were concerned about. It’s a unique whiskey that is good to try, but certainly not worth buying a whole bottle of unless it was really cheap. 69/100.