Imbibe Hour


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cheap bourbon doesn't always mean bad, but tasting sometimes means dissapointment

After having tasted some nice bourbons, I decided it wasn't fair just yet to start jumping in to some of the more higher quality ones that I have to analyze just yet. Yes I have had nicer tasting bourbons, but the reality is if I want to appreciate bourbon I know I have to start at the beginning, and in many ways pay my dues. As Chuck Cowdery who writes about bourbon in his book Straight Bourbon and advocates often about learning to appreciate this whiskey simply states... there are no short cuts.

I appreciated this whiskey some years ago when I first was offered some Lot B Van Winkle from a friend of mine who is from Kentucky. When he knew I was in to cocktails and spirits, he brought out some Lot B for me to try. Long story short, the appreciation I had that night is why today I felt compelled to examine this great whiskey.

That said, I knew that it was important to go back to some old school roots first. When I was getting in to wine, there was no point jumping in to real expensive bottles right away ramming my nose in to Chateau Lafite Rothschild, 100 year German Reisilings, or 80 year aged Portuguese Tawny Ports most regular mortals like us can't afford on a daily basis. You had to start from the ground up... not just because of economics but because ... you wouldn't appreciate what was worked for you without tasting the basics of what came before then.

I set out to just grab three common bourbons to try that I hadn't had before.
  • Old Taylor (A Jim Beam product and now being distilled by Buffalo Trace)
  • Old Grand-Dad 100 (An old brand that once belonged long ago to National Distillers and was taken over by Jim Beam in 1987)
  • Old Fitzgerald 100 (A historic brand that used to be distilled at Stitzel Weller Distillery, but is now Heaven Hill, makers of Evan Williams)
It was hard to pick some of the inexpensive bourbons. Many inexpensive bourbons are made by the same people. Jim Beam makes, Old Crow, Old-Grand-Dad, Old Taylor. Many of the other the distillers make several inexpensive bourbons as well. But the bigger problem when trying to find a good inexpensive bourbon was what I call the liquor litmus test.

My very first inclination when I see a large bottle of alcohol spirit, sitting in a 1.75 liter jug, particularly plastic... for next to nothing... I usually want to run away screaming. Many of these bourbons I described fit into this category, and give me visions of cheap college nights and drunken young adults giving way to reckless abandon. Not that I (cough) speak from experience... (cough, cough).

The reality is though, some inexpensive bourbons are from what I hear a good value. I can attest that Evan Williams 7yr is fine for what it is and in a blind tasting picked it as a favorite among other low proof bourbons. A real simple go to bourbon. I have also been recommended others, but many are not available where I live.

Still instead of diving in to some bourbons that cost upwards of 50 dollars and then some just now... there will always be time to do it... but there is no rush. However, many times... you have to just pay your dues. So before I get in to some other more so called "higher shelf" products, I'll grab some cheap half pints if I can first.

I know that in the future... I will be rewarded...

Watch below to see my review of these three bourbon whiskeys.

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