Anderson Club 15 Year Bourbon Review [In Depth]

Anderson Club 15 Year Bourbon 1996

Alex author
Founder, writer
anderson club 15 year header

Anderson Club 15 Year Bourbon 1996 Details

Distillery: Probably Heaven Hill

Type & Region: Bourbon, Kentucky

Alcohol: 43%

Composition: Probably 78% corn, 10% rye, 12% barley

Aged: 15 years

Color: 1.4/2.0 on the color scale (tawny)

Price: I paid $100

From the bottle:

“Old fashioned Kentucky Sour Mash Bourbon. Distilled and bottled in Kentucky by Anderson Club Distilling Company – Bardstown, Kentucky”

Anderson Club 15 Year overview

If you’re wondering what the heck is Anderson Club 15 Year and why you should care, then let me lay down some knowledge. Anderson Club is a whole line of dusty pre-fire Heaven Hill-sourced bourbon that was sold in Japan for years.
But like many bourbons from the 80s, 90s, and before, it has been discontinued for decades. I’ve also seen a 10 year with a green label, but I’m sure there are others as well.
From what I can tell, Anderson Club 15 Year was sold at retail for years. The bottle I have has 96 is stamped onto the bottom of the bottle. If we assume that the bourbon was dumped in 1996 as well, that takes us back to it being distilled no later than 1981. Even if I’m off by a few years, it’s still a decade before the major fire.
As always, Whisky Auctioneer has some useful tidbits about the brand’s history (and ties to Heaven Hill) and bottle to give you a slightly better picture of what it is.
My job is to tell you how it smells and drinks, and whether you might want to consider getting one via auction or any other method. Find out in my Anderson Club 15 Year bourbon review
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Anderson Club 15 Year smell

The first few sniffs present caramel, dried cherry, vanilla, mint, dark oak (but not so roasty), cinnamon, dried licorice, dark chocolate, and faint hints of dry grass. Dried cherry leads the fruit, but there’s also dried peach and what I think is grapefruit peel.
At 15 years old, there is that darker and oakier side, but it doesn’t dominate the scents and is actually more fruit-forward. The sightly oaky astringency, that was there when I first opened it (and worried about), seems to have gone away with air, which is a HUGE bonus. I hate that astringent scent, and was a major downer for Wild Turkey 17 Year Bottled in Bond.
After swirling and a few minutes of rest, the dried cherry and apricot open-up more, followed by caramel, vanilla, roasted oak, cinnamon, coffee grounds, licorice, rose, and dried orange. There’s good viscosity all around. I didn’t see that coming – a fruit-forward 15 year old bourbon. That doesn’t exist today…except maybe with George T Stagg.
anderson club 15 year side 2
It’s oaky and dark, pushing its 15 years of oak age, but it’s really not all that roasty or spicy. It just feels dark, like all the scents are contained in an oaky box that provides oaky essence, and not drenched in flamethrower-burnt oak bits. As a result, Anderson Club 15 Year has this vibrant life and fruity brightness / twinkle as well, like everything is sprinkled in white sugar.
It’s actually quite delicate, which is out of the ordinary for bourbon this old. I’m so confused, but even more impressed because it doesn’t match the general profile I have in my mind for 12+ year old bourbons these days, which tends to be caramel, oak, and spicy forward. Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is a prime example of what I think of bourbon that old.
All that said, the 43% ABV still holds back the scents from being truly enormous. I suspect that it would have been stupendous at 101 proof. As-is though, it smells incredibly rich, nuanced, and delicate.
anderson club 15 year side 1

Anderson Club 15 Year taste and aftertaste

Caramel, dried cherry and apricot, vanilla, roasted oak, cinnamon, clove, licorice, and dark chocolate hit my taste buds first. I immediately notice that the oak / age brings a slightly oaky astringency (emphasis on slightly), but it’s surprisingly not super roasty or spicy.
It’s still caramel and dried fruit-forward with supporting oakiness and spiciness that complement it well, but it’s not as heavily and densely fruity as 1986 Maker’s Mark Gold , 1993 Blanton’s, or 1990 Evan Williams 7 Year. The fruit is more even with the oak, but it all combines together very nicely.
Even in the first sip, it’s so interesting that Anderson Club 15 Year is both very dark and very fruity. I’ve had borderline over-oaked 15 year bourbon like Old Ezra 15 Year and Hunt and Gather 15 Year, but the caramel, dried fruit, oak, and spice seem to rule over the bourbon equally and in harmony. The astringency stays in check, which could have gone very poorly if it weren’t.
“Chewing” gives caramel, dried cherry, just every so lightly astringent but still dark oak, cinnamon, vanilla frosting (more than before), licorice, rose, clove, and tobacco. Fifteen year old bourbon should be super oak and spice-heavy…right?
In reality, Anderson Club 15 Year is actually fruit-forward, often in a delicate and interesting way, and the oak and spice play a key role in adding darkness and depth. I’m just stupefied at how the delicate fruit somehow isn’t totally crushed by the oak.
Caramel, dried cherry and apricot, roasted oak, cinnamon, smoke, coffee grounds, and tobacco leaves a slightly tingly and vibrant sensation in the finish, almost like after eating dried fruit from trail mix that also happens to be a little oaky and roast. It’s a very interesting contrast of seemingly different personalities.
And after “chewing” I’m left with sweet oak, cinnamon, dried cherry and apricot, caramel, vanilla, coffee grounds, and a little dried grass. It’s vibrant, roasty, and fruity all at once, and stays together for a minute for an amazing finish.
I really wish the ABV was higher. It’s rich and interesting as is, but I want more body, viscosity, and heft that would come with more of that, and I’m guessing minimal gain in heat. I’m being greedy, Anderson Club 15 Year is already outstanding.
anderson club 15 year neck

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Anderson Club 15 Year Reserve Rating

Top Shelf
I’m a little confused. Actually, I’m very confused. Fifteen year old bourbon does not have the right to be this fruity. Somehow, dried cherry and apricot are two of the main traits in the scents and flavors. It’s not oak, spice, oak, oak, and more spice bashing away at me like Mike Tyson in the ring.
Don’t get me wrong, Anderson Club 15 Year is quite oaky and a little spicy, but it’s not domineering like an overbearing parent. The fruit runs free and the oak parent generally stays in the back and watches, but occasionally comes to the front.
It’s funny because I’ve found post-fire 12-15 year old Heaven Hill to be caramel, oak, and spice-forward, at the expense of the fruit. Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, Old Ezra 15 Year, and Old Fitzgerald 15 Year Bottled in Bond are all oak and spice-forward, with varying levels of success (big fan of Elijah Craig and Old Fitzgerald by the way). This 15 year old pre-fire Heaven Hill bourbon is totally different, even unrecognizable.
Post-fire Heaven Hill-made bourbon these days is rarely this fruity, although Old Ezra 12 Year from 2010/2011 happens to be one of the rare examples. I suspect that the occasional Elijah Craig Single Barrel Pick (47% ABV version) might be more fruity than normal if you find the right barrel.
There is one exception, which is Bourbon Hill 15 Year 101 Proof. It was quite oaky and astringent, although it’s very possible that the bottle was “off” and not what it was meant to be. Unfortunately it happens, and it’s tough to tell that beforehand. Old bottles are always a gamble.
This is still a slight generalization, but these older bourbons tend to be far more fruity, complex, and delicate compared to their thinner, oakier and spicier, counterparts today.
I have two main nitpicks, which are why it isn’t quite “Top Shelf+”. First, it isn’t quite as viscous, dense, and rich as “Top Shelf+” Maker’s Mark Gold or Blanton’s 1991. Those are 45% and 46.5% ABV respectively (so they’re close), but the expressiveness is noticeably different.
The second thing, which might be related to the first, is that the scents and flavors didn’t quite “pop” as much as I would have liked. It’s not thin, just not rich enough.
I’m going to have to store this particular fruit-forward and moderate oak profile in my brain for future Heaven Hill-barrel picks. I want to see if I can find that one “off-profile” barrel that’s more like this.
Anderson Club 15 Year would have been gangbusters at 101 proof. The trade-off is that it would probably be way more desirable so I wouldn’t be able to find it for $100. I don’t think $100 is a normal price these days, but I’d totally pay that again for a bourbon of this quality.
Alex author
Meet the Author: Alex

I have far too much fun writing about whiskey and singlehandedly running The Whiskey Shelf to bring you independent, honest, and useful reviews, comparisons, and more. I’m proudly Asian American and can speak Cantonese, Mandarin, and some Japanese.

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