Spin the Bottle
When I was in high school I heard rumors of parties attended by my classmates where they would play a game called “Spin the Bottle”. I say “rumors” because I never actually witnessed (let alone participated in) this activity. You see, in high school I was what you might call a “nerd” – a band nerd, no less. It’s OK being a nerd, though. My mom always told me it was what was on the inside that really matters. Of course I’m not a nerd anymore. I’m writing for a bourbon blog. What could possibly be cooler than that?
From time to time bourbon has its own version of spin the bottle. This is where a distillery will revise a label or change the bottle design altogether in order to freshen up the look of a brand or just try to save a nickel. Two of my favorite single barrels have recently played a round of “spin the bottle”: Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit and Knob Creek.
Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit
You can list on one hand the bottles that are more iconic than the now-extinct Kentucky Spirit bottle. The “turkey tail feather” bottle design was perfect for the brand. You could also identify it in your favorite liquor store all the way from the vodka aisle (but what are you doing in the vodka aisle?). So, why mess with perfection?
Based on the decision to use the Wild Turkey Rare Breed bottle as the new Kentucky Spirit bottle, one would have to assume the “turkey tail feather” got plucked for cost and logistics reasons. The label information is the same on the two versions. Bottled date, barrel number, warehouse, rick number are on both bottles (on the neck label for the old bottle and on a crisp white label near the bottom front edge of the new bottle). No one would have complained about the new Kentucky Sprit bottle if we had never fallen in love with the classic tail feather one. In the world of bourbon spin the bottle this change is a real sister-kisser.
Knob Creek Small Batch, Single Barrel and Rye all got label makeovers. The overall bottle design and signature wax tab on the neck remain unchanged, which I view as good things. When it comes to freshening the look of a brand, Jim Beam did a great job with this Knob Creek label change. The new labeling actually uses two smaller labels instead of the one giant label of the old style. The new labels provide more information than the old label. The new tells us warehouse, floor, rick, barrel date and bottle date. This information was on a somewhat clumsy hang tag that accompanied the old label bottles.
An added benefit is the two new labels combined take up far less space on the bottle than the old label. This allows us to see more of that beautiful amber-colored bourbon and less paper. The only thing on the old label that isn’t on the new is barrel number. That is a small sacrifice given the overall improvements to the look and information on the new Knob Creek bottles. Knob Creek’s party is one where you want to play bourbon spin the bottle. This one is a good kisser…may even be worthy of a little “bourbon tongue”.
What Really Matters
I fear that as cool as writing for a bourbon blog may be, having opinions on bottles and labels may find me in the bourbon geek category. From Band Nerd to Bourbon Geek in a few short decades, sorry ladies…I’m taken.
My mom’s words of wisdom that its what’s on the inside that really matters holds true for us as people (nerd or not) and for bourbon, too. Whether or not you like the new spins on these bottles, the Knob Creek and Kentucky Spirit bourbon inside them is still as delicious as ever. Nostalgia has gotten the better of me, however, as I’m transferring my new Kentucky Spirit into the old “turkey tail feather” bottles. You can’t teach an old nerd new tricks.