Several years ago I met the team who were putting together a distillery in Colorado and had picked Old Elk as the brand they wanted to produce. The brand had been abandoned and they picked up the trademark. They asked me to do some research on the brand’s heritage – which I did. I am happy to say that the brand is now back in the market.
The brand was created in 1880 when Richard P. Stoll, Henry C. Clay and James S. Stoll, all of Lexington, Ky., built the Stoll, Clay & Co. Distillery just north of Lexington. Five years later, Henry C. Clay left the Company and the new firm was renamed Stoll, Vanatta & Co. In 1888, Stoll, Vanatta & Co. registered the Old Elk trademark for Bourbon and Rye. The distillery eventually became the Edge Cliff Distillery. During Prohibition the A. Ph. Stitzel Distillery acquired the brand and bottle Old Elk as a “medicinal spirit”. After Prohibition the brand was produced by the Stitzel-Weller Distillery up until the company was sold to Norton-Simon in 1972. Norton-Simon abandoned the brand and Old Elk laid dormant until the new owners revived it.
This whiskey is a “blend of straight Bourbons”. There is an explanation on the label as to what this means, but in my experience, it means they are blending straight Bourbons produced in two or more states. They also make the claim that they are using four times more malt than other distilleries, but they don’t give a percentage of rye in their mash bill. Since Heaven Hill and Brown-Forman use 10% or more malt in their mash bills, one would assume a 40% malt mash bill in Old Elk. That could be total malt and they are malting all of the grain other than corn. It would be helpful if the label explained this claim more thoroughly. Despite the murkiness of the label, I do like this whiskey.
Old Elk Blended Straight Bourbon
Age: 4 Years Old
Nose: Sweet caramel, ripe apple and pear with a hint of oak.
Taste: Vanilla, ripe pears and a little oak. Not complex but pleasant. When tasted with a dried cranberry the pear flavor becomes more of a ripe apple. Tasted with a pecan and some tart flavors come forward – green apple and citrus.
Finish: Medium long with some sweet oak wood. The cranberry shortened the finish almost to non-existence. The pecan brought out the wood tannins and pepper in the finish.
I am pairing this whiskey with a Don Pepin Garcia “Cuban Classic” cigar. I find the smoke to have some earthy tobacco notes sweetened with a hint of honey and vanilla and a hint of cedar spice. The Old Elk enhances the honey notes and makes the vanilla creamier. The smoke brings out the tart green apple notes while keeping the sweet vanilla up front. A very nice pairing.
Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller
September 4, 2020 at 12:48 pm
Hello Michael I am researching a pre prohibition viticulturalist in Santa Clara County, William Wehner (1847-1928), and have yet, after 20+ years , to locate a CONTEMPORARY BIOGRAPHY about him.
He owned the LOMAS AZULES estate in Evergreen, and THE WEHNER MANSION is featured prominently on the internet. I picked up his story in a German diary, that of F.W.Heine, who started the diary at age 15
in 1860, and concludes at Heine’s death in 1921. The diary needed to be transcribed in German, translated to English, scanned to computer. The Bradley Foundation of Milwaukee provided a $50,000 grant for the project. Years 1880-1893 have been completed, and these can be shared with interested parties. A separate project specific to William Wehner when he removed from Chicago to Santa Clara County in 1887 is based on the Heine diaries plus my research on the XOOXLE and CHRONICLING AMERICA sites, and particularly PACIFIC WINE & SPIRIT REVIEW–from 1887 to Wehner’s death in 1928. Wehner wanted to produce high quality California wines and create WINE RESTAURANTS around the USA before Prohibition. My hope is that BANFORT’S WINE & SPIRITS CIRCULAR, and MIDA’S CRITERIA will be available on-line , similar to PACIFIC WINE & SPIRIT REVIEW, through San Francisco Public Library Archive.I am seeking a KINDRED SOUL who would be interested in pre prohibition California wine history–info to share.Gene Meier 1160 Bailey Road, Sycamore, Illinois 60178 815 895 4099 email@example.com
November 30, 2021 at 12:27 pm
Hi, I just created an article about William Wehner for German speaking Wikipedia:
If something is there seems to be incorrect or wrong, please write to
Thomas Terhart, Düsseldorf, Germany