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Bourbon Hype

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There are a lot of unsupportable opinions in the earlier thread about Bourbon and Rye Whiskey. Several years back, the American Whiskey industry thought that they should have a piece of the Single Malt Scotch market and invented small batch, or single barrel Bourbons. Most of them taste excessively oaky and sweet...kind of like a caricature of a California Chardonnay. (Despite my opinion I'd have liked to have been involved in that focus group). There are exceptions, where a distiller took the opportunity to make something extraordinary (like the Maker's Mark Gold Label or Old Rip van Winkle) but basically this is marketing. Some of the most characterful (not the smoothest) Bourbons are also the cheapest. Someone mentioned Evan Williams...bravo! The Bourbon I drink is bottled in bond (ie. 100 proof), $7.50 a 750ml bottle and jam-packed with flavor...subtlety and complexity, yes...finesse, no. How do folks feel about this? Are you getting steered towards the thirty dollar stuff because you're scared of the ten dollar stuff?

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  1. I buy the $30 Basil-Hayden b/c I like its rye flavor and I definitely like it more than the decidedly charcoal filtered Evan Williams. Of course I can just grab a bottle passing through tax-free NH on the way to go snowboarding and it's in the mid 20's in price.

    1. I have to agree about the hype about signle barrel bourbons etc. Definitely marketing driven. Why charge $10 bucks for a bottle of booze if you sweeten it up a bit, give it a little barrel flavor, and you can charge $30. Most of these did not exist a few years ago.

      Even Maker's is now owned by one of the biggies. The whole "small batch" bunch I believe is owned by Jim Beam.

      I actually like the plan old regular Jim Beam just fine with a few cubes of ice.

      George Dickel is also an excellent Tennessee whiskey.

      1. Not speaking from the perspective of a bourbon afficianado, I personally find most bourbon too swwet for my taste. Having a preference for scotch, I find the only bourbon I can reaaly enjoy is Wild Turkey, because it's the only one that doesn't leave that lingering sweetness in my mouth. After dinner, with a good cup of coffee, a Rare Breed, with a little ice, or just straight, is real contentment. Cheers.

        1. On your advice I picked up a bottle of Even Williams 7 Year straight Bourbon whiskey 43% alc.

          I was out of bourbon.

          Very nice complex taste a bit sweet.

          a bargain at $9

          Thanks for the rec!

          1 Reply
          1. re: StriperGuy

            Two of my three sons-in-law drink a particular brand of bourbon which has gotten more and more expensive.

            One time I bought a bottle of Evan Williams and poured it into the empty bottle of their favorite brand. They noticed no difference and didn't know of the substitution until months later when one of my daughters finally told them.

            Sure saved me some bucks - although I do get teased about it quite a bit. D.

          2. Great to read about various bourbon preferences. I drank quite a bit in my younger days, especially Evan Williams and George Dickel. I prefer scotch nowdays, in moderation, but never really pondered why until reading this thread. I do recall a drink I invented in college, though. A "Dead Hillbilly," made with one part Rebel Yell bourbon and two-three parts Mountain Dew. I believe that drink is why I no longer care for the stuff.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Dave

              There's also the "Jumping jack flash." Jack Daniels and Mtn. dew.

            2. a
              Anonymous Curious

              You mention 'unsupported opinions', then state that "the American Whiskey industry thought that they should have a piece of the Single Malt Scotch market and invented small batch, or single barrel Bourbons." Could you please give a source for this?


              1 Reply
              1. re: Anonymous Curious

                My source is my own experience in the retail wine/spirits business. When high end Bourbons first started to appear, the salesmen would tout them as a home-grown alternative to single-malt Scotch. Liquor industry magazines like Market Watch have articles on them all the time. Or for a slightly more independent viewpoint check out the Malt Advocate. This is a trend closely followed by high end Vodka and Tequila and even to a lesser extent Irish Whiskey and Canadian Whiskey. It isn't a big secret.

              2. I mst concur with the recs of Jim Bean, Dickel and Evan Williams. I also like Wiliiam's premium version, I think aged a little longer for a mere $9 a 5th. I usually get the regular Williams at $17 a 1.75 L. Can't beat the price--- and it kicks!

                I, too, have slowly become a Scotch man after many years with bourbon as my fave. I drink T&L--- a great bargain at $15 a 1.75L.

                My cure for a flu--- bourbon, hot (strong) tea, peach shnapps (for sugar), lots of lemon, and sugar to taste. I drink a few tall glasses (sometimes iced), and it tends to help quite a bit.

                  1. I will both agree and disagree. I have several different bottles of bourbon at home and my favourite is Woodford Reserve. It would be considered a high end bourbon. I find it very smooth and drink it on the rock. Nothing else. My next favourite is Jim Beam white label. It's got the perfect balance of sweetness and taste. Perfect with coke.
                    For the most part, the single barrel/high end bourbons are good but certainly in my mind not worth double the price. Maybe I've fallen into their traps. I sure enjoy them though.

                    And speaking of Jack Daniels, to me, there is no better whiskey that Gentleman Jack. It's a fabulously smooth, aromatic, complex whiskey. A few ice cubes, a few ounces of GJ, let is sit for a minute or two and you can not beat it.


                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Davwud

                      Willie Nelson's "Old Whiskey River" is 6yo Heaven Hill bourbon, not made by Jim Beam -- although selected by Parker Beam, HH's master distiller, along with son/co-MD Craig.
                      It's a year younger than Evan Williams Black Label -- also produced by HH -- costs about three times as much, and is far inferior. However, you DO get a guitar pick on every bottle.

                      1. re: Davwud

                        I will agree and disagree. I have bought "Old Whiskey River", and not really liked it some years ago. It was ok, but not worth it. I thought think Woodfrod Resevre is worth it. I like Evan Williams.

                        And last night, last night, I tasted A.H. Hirsch. I admit to having bought a bottle on hype, but then I saw it on a menu and had to have it. Fine, fine whiskey. I may need to buy another bottle, even though the first is still not open.

                      2. willie nelson has a brand "whiskey river" that is excellent...made by the brewmasters at Jim beam. 19.00 a bottle. give it a try!

                        1. The only premium Bourbon I truly think is worth the extra money is Booker's. I sip it neat with a splash of filtered water.

                          Next comes Evan Williams Single Barrel. I buy it when I can find it.

                          For everyday drinking, Wild Turky 8 y.o. or Jim Beam Black.

                            1. A hearty pat on the back for to the Evan Williams rec. That's some good, flavorful, and *GASP* not expensive stuff. Have been drinking it for the last four years on the rec of a good buddy originally from Tenessee. For some reason, it got to be known as "Mike Wallace" bourbon in our house. Not sure why.

                              1. about the evan williams...is it oaky? I just do not like too much oak, but am tired of spending the money on maker's mark and looking for some recs?

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: bethd127

                                  Evan Williams is so inexpensive. It wouldn't hurt to just try it. A lot of bars use it as their "Well" Bourbon. "Well" quality bourbon in my neck of the woods rotates bewtween Evan Wiliams and Kentucky Gentleman. For $3 at the bar, it may be worth a shot. No pun intended.

                                  1. re: bethd127

                                    I mean no offense by this, but if you don't like the taste of charred oak, then you really might want to consider not drinking bourbon. By law, "bourbon" has to be aged in new, charred oak barrels. Almost no other whiskey has to be so aged. Often, other whiskeys are aged in old bourbon barrels. After a bunch of the oak flavor has been drawn out into a barrel's worth of bourbon, the next whiskey aged in it has less of that taste. Maybe try an Irish, like Red Breast.

                                    1. re: bethd127

                                      I find Maker's Mark good, but a little heavy for me, and I love the Evan Williams. I think it's a little lighter and brighter and really enjoy it.

                                    2. I have been drinking Makers for years, and do not find it too oaky. I just don't like it when the oak takes over.

                                      1. I've personally found in many blind tastings that the "new" small batch bourbons match up extremely well against the more mainstream whiskies, not that there aren't good whiskies in the popular price range.

                                        For a great, simple, reasonable-price bourbon try W.L. Weller 7 year old special reserve... for a few dollars more try Eagle Rare 10 year old or Virginia Gentleman small batch (the fox hunt bottle), bottled in virginia of kentucky whisky.

                                        1. I was informed by the Makers Mark people at a Whisky event that the Makers Mark Gold is just regular Makers Mark in a more attractive, maybe collectible bottle. Unless it is a gift or you really, really like the bottle just buy the regular Mark. i am partial to Old Forester 100proof. And Hirsch 13yr Rye.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: haydn1796

                                            You gotta love Old Forester! I am not a BIG Bourbon drinker, but I do like the subtleties of all the woody, dark notes, but without all the flavor hitting you over the head.

                                          2. OK, there's a tremendous amount of misinformation in this thread, so let's get back to the heart of this. Are there unscrupulous companies just trying to make a buck of a bourbon trend? Sure there are. The tone of the OP makes it seem like there's no such thing as good single barrel bourbon, especially of the small batch kind, and that a lot of it is backwater slosh. I'm going to disagree. There are plenty of bourbons around at a great price point for the 750ml bottle which are truly excellent on their own and demonstrate a true caring for the distillers work. The hardest thing is to get away from some of the corporate schlock, but it's out there (go order from lenell's in nyc if you want to get out of the down the street store bind).

                                            Also, if you are going to blanket characterize every CA Chard as being overly sweet and oaky you need to try more CA Chards. Again, there's good stuff out there that's not overbearing in either realm.

                                            1. I agree w/jp. There's a bunch of good and great bourbon out there. There's also some lousy stuff as well. One of the misconceptions about wine and spirtis is that the older or rarer it is, the better it is. Not so. Some stuff just doesn't age well, and some stuff drinks better younger. :)

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: MOREKASHA

                                                Exactly- it's more true of wine than it is of bourbon, mainly because we don't really age most bourbon as much as we do wine, but that said bourbon stops aging once it's in a bottle.

                                              2. Pretty much. But I haven't found a whiskey under 20 that is everything I want. I could be wrong. I have yet to try Old Forrester - Signature and Evan Williams bottled in bond. I'm not sure I can stomach Old Crow but who knows? That was years ago when I didn't like whiskey let alone Bourbon.

                                                Bourbon is and SHOULD be a whiskey of the people. And until distilleries move up north to cooler Highlandish climes, and more burly but AGED Rye whiskies come out, there's no reason to pay 30 year old prices for something much younger.

                                                Evan Williams - Single Barrel brought me back to Bourbon. It's perfect - Under $30 and Faultless - Something tells me I won't be finding anything worth my time for the price. And that comes from a guy that apprently ordered three Pappy Van Winkles last year and has little to no recollection of that epic spirits taste. Fuck it. Save your bigger bucks for Lagavulin I say...