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Feb 6, 2007 07:16 PM

Whiskey/Bourbon for a beginner?

Hey everyone,
I'm a major foodie. I like nearly every cusine I've ever tried and I like some strong drinks like grappa. Here's the thing, I don't like whiskey right now but I can tell I will in a few years and I guess it goes very well with some foods. I cook all the time and would like to make a meal that pairs with whiskey perfectly and I would also like some recs for a good, afforadable whiskey for a beginner. I hope this is clear. I'm excited to learn and try some new things!


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  1. The 15 yr old Rip Van Winkle is a great bourbon. It's listed at around $50, but I've seen it as low as $35 in one store.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jkt

      If you find the ORVW 15yo/107 proof at either $35 or $50, buy it because it is no longer made. It was replaced by the oakier, more austere Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 15yo more than two years ago. The original ORVW 15/107 is highly regarded by bourbon aficianados.

    2. start milder, with rye - - jim beam (yellow label) or old overholt.

      for bourbon, knob creek - bout $20. pour a little in a glass, swirl it, transfer it to another - and inhale the first (empty) glass - oak, vanilla, caramel - heaven.

      4 Replies
      1. re: sk3

        Whoa! Those are some monster bourbons for a beginner. Rye boubon is sharp and therefore not for the weak of heart. And Knob Creek is 100 proof. My suggestion would be an Irish Whisky. They don't often have the alcoholic bite of bourbon and are a bit sweeter (not sweet) than scotch. Try any of the Bushmills.

        1. re: Chinon00

          Sorry, what's "rye bourbon"?

          Definitely agree with other posters that blends are a better starter option, especially the fairly sweet, light, and mild Canadian or Scotch whiskys.

          Maker's Mark is a fine starting point for someone who wants to get directly into bourbon.

          Straight rye whiskeys can be a bit challenging for neophytes. I might suggest the Sazerac 6 year old or the inexpensive Rittenhouse (not the Single Barrel).

        2. re: sk3

          Almost ALL bourbons are 'rye bourbons' (Maker's Mark, W.L. Weller, Rebel Yell and Old Fitzgerald substitute wheat for rye), but Old Overholt and Jim Beam Yellow are 'straight' ryes, not bourbons at all. Straight rye has at least 51% rye grains as opposed to bourbon's 51%+ corn. The rye makes them spicier and 'hotter' to the taste related to the sweetness of corn, but are no more difficult to drink -- it's just a different flavor profile, often quite enjoyable.

        3. I'd go with Woodford Reserve - not too harsh, and I have yet to meet someone who doesn't like it.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Beerhound

            Woodford Reserve reminds me of PAINT THINNER! For a beginner, I'd go with Maker's Mark. It's not the best available, but it's very good for the dollar.

          2. Start with Irish or Canadian . . . *before* you go to Bourbon. And remember -- you don't have to like everything.

            1. Maker's Mark is a good beginner's premium bourbon. I would pair it with pan seared pecan crusted salmon in a brown sugar / bourbon glaze (with Maker's Mark of course). It also goes great with frozen water.

              6 Replies
              1. re: Sacto_Damkier

                Hey Sacto Damkier, I read this response the other day and haven't been able to stop thinking about the salmon you describe, would you happen to have a recipe that you wouldn't mind sharing?

                Oh and on topic, I agree Makers Mark is good beginner's bourbon, Knob Creek = foul.

                1. re: Lyndalh

                  1/2 stick butter
                  1/2 cup dark brown sugar
                  4 salmon steaks (wild Alaskan if possible)
                  1/3 cup Maker's Mark
                  Finely chopped pecans

                  Dredge the salmon fillets in the chopped pecans and set aside. Melt butter in a large pan over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar. Place salmon fillets on top of brown sugar mixture. Cook for 5 minutes on medium heat. Turn salmon, and pour bourbon around the fillets. Continue cooking for 5 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Spoon glaze over the salmon, and serve.

                  The salmon goes great with wild rice or sweet potatoes.

                  1. re: Sacto_Damkier

                    Thanks for that delicious sounding recipe. I know what I'll be eating when I start tasting bourbon!

                    1. re: JeremyEG

                      It is a winner. This may also work for a dessert:

                      IRISH WHISKEY CAKE

                      2 1/2 cups flour
                      1 tablespoon baking powder
                      1 tablespoon baking cocoa
                      1 teaspoon salt
                      1/2 teaspoon baking soda
                      3/4 cup butter, softened
                      1 cup sugar
                      1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
                      3 eggs
                      1/2 cup strong black coffee
                      1/2 cup Irish whiskey
                      Whipped Cream with Cinnamon (1 cup cream, 1 tsp cinnamon, sugar to taste)

                      Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together flour, baking powder, cocoa, salt and baking soda. Cream butter and sugars; beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat at high speed 3 minutes. Combine coffee and whiskey. Blend the flour mixture alternately with the coffee and whiskey mixture into the creamed mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Beat well after each addition. Pour into a well-greased Bundt pan. Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until cake springs back. Cool.

                      Poke holes in the cooled cake and drizzle about 1/4 cup irish whiskey over the entire cake. Wrap the cake with foil. Allow cake to set overnight. The next day repeat the whiskey drizzle. Allow cake to set wrapped in the foil for another 24 hours before serving. For the final drizzle, combine about 1/4 cup melted butter with the whiskey.

                      Serve warm or cold with the Cinnamon Whipped Cream.

                      1. re: Sacto_Damkier

                        Those both sound great, thanks so much! I can't wait to try them!

                        1. re: Sacto_Damkier

                          I know this post is quite old, but that cake sounds awesome. Must try it.