The brand was created in 1984 to capitalize on the extra-aged bourbon trend in Japan. At that time, Julian Van Winkle provided the bourbon and bottled Olde St. Nick at his facilities in Lawrenceburg, KY. Any Very Olde St. Nick (VOSN) bourbon bottled by Julian will state that the bourbon was bottled in Lawrenceburg, KY on the front or back label (later bottlings will list Bardstown). In addition, the age statement of the 15 and the 25 year will be in a san-serif font and the wax will have dripped edge. See the end of this post for a picture of the bottlings by Julian.
Eventually, Julian ran out of old bourbon and the brand began to be bottled by Even Kulsveen (spelled "Evan" in the above link) of Kentucky Bourbon Distillers (KBD) using Heaven Hill stock. At that time Old St. Nick Distillery became an assumed name of KBD. KBD bottles a variety of highly sought after brands such as the Willet Family Estate Bourbon. Many of these bottles only state that the bourbon was made in Kentucky, without listing the city.
Further corroborating the claim that VOSN is Heaven Hill bourbon, is the fact that VOSN is routinely described as coming from Heaven Hill by Japanese bartenders, retailers and distributors. For example, the website of a now defunct liquor store called Yoshida lists Heaven Hill as the distiller of all of the Olde St. Nick expressions.
There are various expressions within the Very Olde St. Nick line including ranging from an 8-year-old expression to a 25-year-old cask strength expression. A full listing (excluding the ryes) appears below. As you can see, the price increases with age, while the proof decreases. This is consistent with barrels aged near the bottom of the rick house, where the proof actually decreases with aging and the aging process itself is slower. Sku has some tasting notes over at his blog. I've reviewed the Summer Rye here.
Currently, VOSN is very hard to find in Japan and most of the bottles that I've seen are dusties. It appears that VOSN, like many other export-only sourced-whiskey brands, has stopped production as the market for sourced-bourbon has become tight.
Recently, Frank-Lin Distillers have taken over the sourcing and bottling of Olde St. Nick and plan to bring it to the U.S. market.
Because VOSN was bottled over the course of decades from sourced bourbon, there are a multitude of different expressions. Below, I've listed the expressions that were available in the early 2000s, which are the bottles that you are likely to see on the shelves or in bars.
|Very Old St. Nick 8 Year Estate Reserve||90||2,400|
|Very Old St. Nick 12 Year||90||3,300|
|Very Old St. Nick Cask Lot No. 15||107||3,900|
|Very Old St. Nick 17 Year||94||4,300|
|Very Old St. Nick 17 Year Barrel Strength||116.2||4,400|
|Very Old St. Nick 18 Year||94||5,700|
|Very Old St. Nick 18 Year Barrel Stength||115.4||5,800|
|Very Old St. Nick 19 Year||94||6,000|
|Very Old St. Nick 20 year||94||8,200|
|Very Old St. Nick 20 Year Barrel Strength||116.4||8,500|
|Very Old St. Nick 22 Year Barrel Strength||81.2||12,000|
|Very Old St. Nick 23 Year Barrel Strength||81.2||17,000|
|Very Old St. Nick 24 Year Barrel Strength||81.2||20,000|
|Very Old St. Nick 25 Year Barrel Strength||81.2||22,000|
|VOSN Bottled by Julian VanWinkle|