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Discovering Bourbon

ocpitmaster Sep 27, 2013 08:13 AM

Starting a journey into bourbon's; though process is neat or with a splash.
Looking for suggestions as which brands to begin with, which to progress thru, and which I want to end up with.
Thinking this will evolve into a lifelong passion.

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  1. EvergreenDan RE: ocpitmaster Sep 27, 2013 08:19 AM

    I would start with a mild, accessible bourbon to set a baseline for your tastes. A wheated bourbon like Maker's Mark is not too expensive, widely available, and a standard that by which you can compare others.

    If sku answers, listen to him. He is wise in whiskey matters.

    www.kindredcocktails.com | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

    3 Replies
    1. re: EvergreenDan
      JMF RE: EvergreenDan Sep 27, 2013 07:37 PM

      What Dan said about sku. I know quite a bit about spirits in general and a lot of specifics and I'm a certified master spirits professional. Heck I'm a distiller. But when it comes to American whiskey, sku is a master. I listen to him, Chuck Cowdery, Jim Murray, and John Hansell when it comes to whiskey.

      1. re: JMF
        sku RE: JMF Sep 27, 2013 08:21 PM

        Wow, thanks JMF. I am flattered to be in that company, including yours.

        1. re: sku
          JMF RE: sku Sep 27, 2013 10:32 PM

          You are the only one of those that I haven't sat down and tossed back a few whiskey's with. Looking forward to doing it with you one day. I've seen how you have fine tuned your palate over the past decade and been much impressed. Mucho Kuddos. I wish I could spend the time to focus like you, but I have had to be a general specialist.

    2. a
      ASingh RE: ocpitmaster Sep 27, 2013 09:28 AM

      I'm also relatively new to Bourbon and Rye. From the UK so limited availability of brands. My first foray was Makers Mark or Woodsford Reserve in Old Fashioneds.

      My sipping Bourbon has been Elijah Craig - always neat.

      On a recent trip I started to build up a collection. I now have the following

      Wild Turkey 101 - great for potent cocktails
      Templeton Rye

      Looking to build collection with whiskeys that will differ from above and introduce me to other styles

      2 Replies
      1. re: ASingh
        Bigjim68 RE: ASingh Sep 27, 2013 09:34 AM

        I'm primarily a scotch or martini drinker, and Elijah Craig is the only one I drink.

        1. re: Bigjim68
          ASingh RE: Bigjim68 Sep 27, 2013 10:12 AM

          Ironically being from the UK, I have never been much of a Scotch fan. It was yamazaki, and other Japanese whiskies that got me interested first, then I discovered I much prefer US whiskeys.

          Forgot to mention I also picked up a bottle of Leopold Bros Georgia Peach Whiskey. Great after dinner drink

      2. d
        DrinkinLife RE: ocpitmaster Sep 27, 2013 02:02 PM

        I'm sure this bourbon post will elicit 250 replies as all bourbon post do:). First off, what where you drinking before? Unless your 20ish, you must have been in the dark ages of the bourbon renaissance. Or your palate is evolving as you age and what you liked befor will help other hounds tailor a bourbon to your tastes. Makers is a good choice as a baseline in the whetted bourbon(read as non spicy). On the other side, Buffalo Trace is a good choice as it is a great value, easily available, and the Buffalo Trace Distillary make a great line of products, offering you a baseline for their tastes.

        1 Reply
        1. re: DrinkinLife
          ac106 RE: DrinkinLife Sep 27, 2013 02:12 PM

          I'm sure this bourbon post will elicit 250 replies as all bourbon post do:)

          more precisely will be about 50 relevant posts, then 50 posts arguing about bourbon versus Tennessee whiskey

          Then there will be 150 posts that resurrect the thread every few months by 1st time posters who register just to drop a bomb and who are never to be seen again

        2. sku RE: ocpitmaster Sep 27, 2013 02:20 PM

          Lots of great responses here. Here is a short list of bourbons to start you off:

          Elijah Craig 12
          W.L. Weller 12
          Eagle Rare 10
          George Dickel 12

          You also might want to a sample a rye. I'd suggest Rittenhouse or Bulleit.

          23 Replies
          1. re: sku
            curseofleisure RE: sku Sep 27, 2013 08:26 PM

            Sku, can you compare WL Weller with Weller Antique 107 and regular Weller? I've had those two, but never the 12.

            1. re: curseofleisure
              sku RE: curseofleisure Sep 28, 2013 06:49 AM

              Sure, the whole Weller line is good. The 12 is, of course, the oldest of those three. It's not as punchy as the Antique since it's lower proof but it has more wood influence and a bit more complexity.

              The regular Weller (Weller Special Reserve) is okay, but the other two are much better and not much more expensive.

              1. re: sku
                curseofleisure RE: sku Sep 28, 2013 07:51 AM

                Yeah, I tried the WSR once since I had liked the 107 so much. It was fine, but I decided the 107 was well worth the few extra bucks. Thanks for the comparison, sku. Will have to try the 12 soon.

                1. re: sku
                  TombstoneShadow RE: sku Oct 3, 2013 04:03 PM

                  And there are those of us who like basic Weller white among the Weller lineup the best... it's a palate issue.

              2. re: sku
                ocpitmaster RE: sku Sep 30, 2013 07:57 AM

                Thanks to all for the responses.
                Definetely not in my 20's, planning on 100% retirement within 5 years.
                Primarily a wine/rum fan
                Semi-pro competitiveBBQ'r
                Time to mature into a dark sippin drink
                Many thanks again

                1. re: ocpitmaster
                  quazi RE: ocpitmaster Sep 30, 2013 11:38 AM

                  Not to complicate things further but I would recommend broadening your search for a dark sipping spirit to include cognac and quality aged rums.

                  I can't give much guidance on cognac as I am just starting that journey, but rums such as those by el dorado or plantation are universally acclaimed and much kinder on the wallet than bourbon of the same age and quality. I would start by looking at spirits aged at least 8 years

                  1. re: quazi
                    scubadoo97 RE: quazi Sep 30, 2013 06:12 PM

                    Even my favorite El Dorado is a blend of rums and who knows what else. Flavorings, caramel coloring and glycerin are all common additives to rum. A straight bourbon is uncut except with water to adjust the proof.

                    1. re: scubadoo97
                      JMF RE: scubadoo97 Sep 30, 2013 09:22 PM

                      El Dorado doesn't go heavy with the flavorings and color. The style of rum is so flavorful that they don't need to. Actually I don't think they play with it at all.

                    2. re: quazi
                      ocpitmaster RE: quazi Oct 3, 2013 12:26 PM

                      Thanks for the recommendation.
                      Have been into aged sipping rums for awhile; really enjoy 10 Cane.
                      Dad was a Cognac & rye connoisseur; want to go in a different/similar direction

                      1. re: ocpitmaster
                        BobB RE: ocpitmaster Oct 4, 2013 04:53 AM

                        Ever tried the older Rhum JM varieties? Extraordinary!

                  2. re: sku
                    cowboyardee RE: sku Sep 30, 2013 06:27 PM

                    "You also might want to a sample a rye. I'd suggest Rittenhouse or Bulleit."
                    +1. I actually prefer Bulleit rye to their bourbon. Good whiskey. Haven't had the pleasure of trying Rittenhouse though.

                    1. re: cowboyardee
                      JMF RE: cowboyardee Sep 30, 2013 09:24 PM

                      Rittenhouse is a power player, and very good, and very distinctive. Especially for the price, although hard to find. I like it more than Bulleit, Beam, Old Overholt, and many others.

                      1. re: JMF
                        ncyankee101 RE: JMF Sep 30, 2013 11:33 PM

                        JMF - when you say "especially for the price", what price are you referring to? A friend can get it from the Atlanta area for $18, and when I heard it was hard to find in many areas and priced around $30, I stocked up with several more bottles. (I wish I had done so with Wild Turkey 101 rye at $18 a couple years back.)

                        I like Ritt 100 but in the $30 range I prefer Sazerac 6 yr.

                        1. re: ncyankee101
                          JMF RE: ncyankee101 Oct 1, 2013 08:27 AM

                          Around here in NYC and 'burbs it's $17-21.

                          1. re: JMF
                            jaba RE: JMF Jan 21, 2014 07:37 PM

                            JMF -
                            I'm in the NYC burbs. Where are you seeing Rittenhouse for $17-21? $24.99 is the best price I can find around here.

                            1. re: jaba
                              JMF RE: jaba Jan 21, 2014 09:12 PM

                              Last times were in lower Westchester at Stew Leonards Yonkers, Fairway Pelham, and Westchester Wine Warehouse White Plains.

                          2. re: ncyankee101
                            ocpitmaster RE: ncyankee101 Oct 3, 2013 12:31 PM

                            All good advice
                            Don't want to sound ostentatious; and there are limits, but cost isn't as important as quality.
                            If I'm going to drink, I'm drinking well. Acknowledging that a higher retail doesn't always equal higher quality & I'd rather not pay for a pretty label. That's why I'm replying on the experts at chow.com
                            Thanks guys

                        2. re: cowboyardee
                          hawkeyeui93 RE: cowboyardee Oct 1, 2013 05:20 AM

                          Bulleit Bourbon is solid though ...

                          1. re: cowboyardee
                            zin1953 RE: cowboyardee Oct 1, 2013 07:16 AM

                            Agreed -- I, to, prefer Bulleit's Rye to their Bourbon . . .

                          2. re: sku
                            medrite RE: sku Oct 1, 2013 08:34 AM

                            I'm certainly not as knowledgeable as some of the other folks here, but IMHO Dickel makes a pretty good rye too, in fact I prefer it to Bulleit (I'm talking only about the ryes, not the bourbons). Of course, I drink my brown liquor mainly in Manhattans, so perhaps that makes a difference.

                            1. re: medrite
                              sku RE: medrite Oct 1, 2013 08:42 AM

                              Interestingly, Bulleit Rye and Dickel rye are both made by the same distillery, Midwest Grain Products in Indiana, from the same ingredient mix (a mashbill of 95% rye and 5% balrey) for the same company (Diageo - which owns both Bulleit and Dickel).

                              That being said, the two do seem to have some flavor differences; I think the Bulleit rye is aged longer than the Dickel, and the Dickel is sugar maple filtered (the Lincoln County Process). Personally, I prefer the Bulleit, but they are pretty similar.

                            2. re: sku
                              BobB RE: sku Oct 2, 2013 12:31 PM

                              Why not Bulleit 10 year old?

                              1. re: BobB
                                OldFashionedWhiskey RE: BobB Oct 2, 2013 07:06 PM


                            3. t
                              TombstoneShadow RE: ocpitmaster Oct 3, 2013 03:59 PM

                              #1 piece of advice: Sample the whiskies blind, side-by-side. There's no faster or more reliable way to determine your real palate preferences.

                              A tremendous forum for tasting notes, picks and pans, etc. is boubon enthusiast:


                              As to which brands to begin with... for my tastes: Weller white, Makers, Buffalo Trace, and Eagle Rare is a real nice progression keeping under $30 per bottle. But that's my palate, I've gone through dozens of blind-tasted whiskies to get there...

                              But the key is tasting them blind... you may really think you like something until you taste it against another, not knowing which is which... then all predjudices are gone and the only variable is your true palate.

                              Report back often!

                              1. t
                                The Big Crunch RE: ocpitmaster Jan 23, 2014 10:55 AM

                                Full disclosure, the author is a good friend, but... NYT editor and writer Clay Risen just put out an excellent book on American Whiskey, Bourbon, and Rye. You can find it easily through Amazon. Over 200 reviews with full color photos, and a very good intro to the history of bourbon. To top it all off, it's a damn good looking book as well. If you're getting into bourbon and feel it's something you may be developing a passion for, you can't ask for a better introductory book on the subject.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: The Big Crunch
                                  sku RE: The Big Crunch Jan 24, 2014 09:20 AM

                                  Second Clay Risen's excellent book. It's the best book on American Whiskey that's come out in a decade.

                                  1. re: sku
                                    JMF RE: sku Jan 24, 2014 04:19 PM

                                    I was thinking about getting it but now I am sold. Thanks.

                                    1. re: JMF
                                      JMF RE: JMF Feb 25, 2014 01:13 PM

                                      I have to say, I honestly wasn't really impressed with the book or the reviews. I found it light and not approaching the depth and breadth I expected.

                                    2. re: sku
                                      ncyankee101 RE: sku Feb 25, 2014 12:38 PM

                                      I got this book for Valentine's day. The historical part of the book is quite interesting and informative, but it took a little while to get used to his rating scale, where 2/4 stars is actually a good rating while 3 or more is reserved for only a few.

                                      Most of his ratings / reviews are pretty well in line with my experience, with a few glaring exceptions. He gives a "not recommended" rating to Old Grand dad 114, which I - and most people on here - like quite a bit. Also, he gives Weller Special Reserve a 3 star rating and a rave review, higher than the 12 yr and Antique 107. I find this odd as in my opinion the special reserve is rather ordinary, and the author is the first person I have seen say otherwise, while most people give excellent marks to the 12 and Antique. Also he gives a 3 star to Maker's mark, while many other Bourbons I find far superior are given two, such as the entire High West lineup and Elmer T Lee.

                                      1. re: ncyankee101
                                        The Big Crunch RE: ncyankee101 Feb 25, 2014 01:09 PM

                                        I should ask him about that last one. It's odd because I've always known Clay to be quite fond of High West stuff, but then again, sometimes when you sit down and really critically think about a whiskey, you can find it isn't as great as you've generally thought, or, conversely, it was far better than you recalled it being. Makers Mark is actually a good example for me - it wasn't until about a month ago that I sat down and really focused on a pour of Makers mark, and I was surprised how much I liked it. It's not that I didn't like it before, but more that it has been sort of a fall back whiskey for me for years and years and years, usually something I casually order at a bar, or sip over ice at parties, and don't really think much about. Obviously I like the stuff, but I'd never really thought about it critically, more as something that was good and almost always available at a party or bar.

                                        1. re: ncyankee101
                                          JMF RE: ncyankee101 Feb 25, 2014 01:14 PM

                                          ncyankee101- I totally agree with every point you just covered.

                                    3. j
                                      johncb RE: ocpitmaster Jan 23, 2014 05:15 PM

                                      I disagree with the advice to start with a wheated bourbon. I would recommend starting with a reasonably good-quality standard recipe bourbon. If you want to go vertical, you can do Evan Williams and Evan Williams Single Barrel without breaking the bank; or EJ Craig, which comes in 2 standard proof ages and a barrel strength offering as well. One could develop an understanding of bourbon from these standard versions without up-leveling to expensive labels (let's not forget Old Grand-dad in standard, bonded, and 114 versions, either). And it avoids the wheated bourbons (which I consider to be a snare and a delusion anyway, no matter what Julian Van Winkle may think).

                                      If you need something softer or sweeter than a standard recipe or high-rye bourbon, I recommend that you have it in an Old-fashioned.

                                      I resort to MGP rye products sometimes but I can't understand why someone who wants to learn about whiskey would start with a non-distiller label.

                                      1. h
                                        hawkeyeui93 RE: ocpitmaster Jan 24, 2014 12:30 PM

                                        Ridgemont Reserve's 1792 is a mellow bourbon to try ...

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: hawkeyeui93
                                          Tom34 RE: hawkeyeui93 Jan 24, 2014 04:41 PM

                                          Just had that last night. Very nice.

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