Old Overholt is a Pennsylvania rye whiskey that dates back into the early 19th century. Mida’s Registry of Trademarks shows the trademark in use since 1810. It has been a popular rye whiskey since its inception. During Prohibition, the brand became part of the National Distillers Corporation portfolio. This bottle was made by National Distillers in Pennsylvania and bottled in Cincinnati, Ohio. It is a 500 ml bottle. I date the bottle to 1979 for three reasons. The first is that 1979 was the first year that metric bottles became the standard for bottling distilled spirits and starting in 1979 till about 1983 the glass had both the metric size and the number of fluid ounces of whiskey embossed on the bottle. The second reason is that there is a “79” embossed on the bottle, which generally tells you the year the glass was made. Finally, National Distillers placed a sticker on the label stating “500 ml. New Larger Size. 5.6% Larger Than Pint.” Such stickers were used the first year or so as consumers learned more about metric sizes.

National Distillers Corporation was sold to Jim Beam in the mid-1980s. Beam continues to bottle the brand, but the whiskey is made at their distillery in Kentucky today. Even so, Beam has treated the brand with the respect it deserves. The flavor profile has drifted since this whiskey was bottled, but not as drastically as one might expect. Old Overholt is still a good rye whiskey and Beam has recently released a Bonded version of the brand that is an excellent rye whiskey.

Old Overholt Rye

Date: circa 1979

Proof: 86

Age: 4 Years Old

Nose: Rye grass, peppermint, vanilla and floral notes of lilac and roses, with some sweet oak wood.

Taste: Rye grass, very floral with lilac and vanilla notes and white pepper and oak. Tasted with a dried cranberry and the vanilla becomes creamy with notes of caramel and oak. Tasted with a pecan and leather, tobacco and other earthy notes come forward with lots of oak, moving the vanilla and floral notes to the background.

Finish: Very long and dry with lots of oak and white pepper and a hint of peppermint. The cranberry made the finish shorter and sweeter with vanilla and oak being the dominant flavors. The pecan enhanced the pepper in the finish and made it last forever – after five minutes I was still getting oak and pepper.

I am pairing the Old Overholt with a Nat Sherman Timeless Limited Edition TAA 2019 cigar. I find the smoke to have notes of coffee and vanilla with some cedar spice and rich tobacco flavors. The Old Overholt rye adds some sweet notes of dried fruit to the smoke. The smoke brings out some cherry and citrus notes in the rye. It is an excellent cigar to pair with this excellent, vintage rye whiskey.

Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller