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Old liquor won’t kill you, might not thrill you

Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Rich Hein/Sun-Times

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Updated: September 15, 2013 6:02AM



Say you’re rummaging in your parents’ basement and you come across a stash of booze. Old booze — forty or fifty years, at least. Some of the bottles are still in their original boxes and filled to the brim with seals intact.

Do you drink the contents (slowly) and sell the coolest-looking empties on eBay? Do you restock your Don Draper-esque office liquor cart for showing-off purposes? Both options are viable.

Depending on the rarity of your found spirits, you could also contact a Dutch dude named Bay van der Bunt. He owns the Netherlands-based Old Liquors (oldliquors.com), which purports to hold “the world record for the largest private assortment of old liquors.” More than 5,000 bottles, supposedly, some dating as far back as the French Revolution and one especially pricey bottle of 1795 Brugerolle that travelled with Napoleon Bonaparte.

“My grandfather had hundreds of bottles which my father inherited and passed on to me, so collecting is something I have grown up with,” van der Bunt says on his website. “My wife and I do not have any children or potential heirs who would be able to take care of the collection, so I have decided to sell it. A few bottles are the last remaining in the world, which makes them very unique objects to have.”

Whether you’ve got century-old treasures or maybe just a half-case of leftover Walker’s Bourbon from a relative’s 1973 wedding, you might benefit from some pointers on how to handle the stuff. Which is why we enlisted booze expert Vee Buranasiri from the nearly eight-decades-old Schaefer’s Wines, Foods and Spirits in Skokie.

Here’s what Buranasiri had to say.

◆ If it’s unopened and has been stored somewhat correctly, it’s fine.

◆ Wine is more fragile. Spirits are pretty much indestructible. They won’t get any better, but bourbons and whiskeys will last for quite a while. (Gin and vodka, too.) Once you crack that seal, there’s no longer a vacuum pack, so it starts to evaporate very slowly.

◆ With any kind of spirit, there’s only one test, and that’s the taste of it. It will never hurt you. But after time, if there’s discoloration or things floating in it, it’s probably time to pitch.

◆ It all depends on alcohol content. Anything that’s 80-proof and over will last forever.

◆ All the big brand names don’t really appreciate much in value. Pre-Prohibition whiskies are things that are no longer made, so that’s why they’re worth a lot of money.

◆ Like with baseball cards, it’s only worth as much as someone will give you.

◆ Liquor isn’t collectible like wine is. It’s just something that someone else wants as opposed to some of the collectible wines that actually get better as they age.

◆ Liqueurs don’t get any better, because there’s a lot of sugar in them. Keep them for a couple of years. They won’t make you sick; they’re just not at their optimum.

◆ Because of shows like “Pawn Stars,” everybody thinks they have something more valuable than they actually do. Just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s valuable. In the end, try it yourself, because most of the time you either received it as a gift or you bought it to drink.

Email: mthomas@suntimes.com

Twitter: MikeTScribe



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