At first glance, spotting a bottle of Old Tub on the shelf doesn’t inspire much fervor. If we were to play a game of whiskey name bingo, surely the word “Old” would be the free space (to be fair, “Tub” wouldn’t even be on the sheet). The bottle doesn’t say much either, outside of your standard declarations of provenance and lore. The whiskey is 4 to 5 years old, cut to 100 proof and set to retail for a $23. Why care?
For bourbon enthusiasts — particularly Jim Beam loyalists — Old Tub is a marker of knowledge level. It is, after all, the foundation of what Jim Beam is today. Once distillery’s transitioned from a gas pump approach to selling actual bottles of whiskey, it was called Old Tub. It kept the name from 1880 from 1943, when it was officially renamed Jim Beam. Since then, the name was relegated to a Kentucky-only release nobody but diehards knew about.
The Old Tub you’ll see on shelves in late June is the first large-scale re-release of the brand since it was replaced almost 80 years ago. It remains a Bottled-in-Bond offering. In its day, it was a workhorse whiskey, enjoyed on the rocks or in a cocktail. At $23, that hasn’t changed. In an interview with Jim Beam Master Distiller Fred Noe, the great-grandson of Jim Beam himself, Noe mentions the bottle was a reliable go-to for past generations of bourbon drinkers.
“I always say just look at them old guys and you’ll see pretty quick. They drank one brand and one bottle — that’s it. If my grandfather on my mom’s side was drinking, you better believe it was an old whiskey called Old Tub, and that’s what he drank. He didn’t drink beer, wine or vodka. If we didn’t have no Old Tub, then he drank water,” he said.
The new Old Tub is rolling out to liquor stores nationwide “late June,” according to the brand. It is a limited edition offering.