View Full Version : 80 PROOF...why?

12-13-2008, 08:44
two basic questions (and both might be oxymoronic!):

1. What is the highest grade/most interesting (challenging?) 80 proof whiskey out there...bourbon or not?

2. Are 80 proofers really only good for cocktails?

smaller questions seem to ooze from these two...why 80 proof? is it for simply marketing reasons? is there any 'artful' reason for making it 80...?

90 proof is really as low as i like to go...below that and it seems to LACK alot of things. yes, smooth, but no bite, no substance.

someone the other day mentioned the newer expression of McAfee's Benchmark being a surprising 80.

being a WT fan, i've still never had the 80 version.

again, i can only wonder if it's marketing or true whiskey art for a distillery to consider making anything below 90 proof...JB Black...why 86?

etc etc....

12-13-2008, 09:04
$$$ Profit? Less whiskey and more water...

I personally enjoy my bourbons closer to 100 proof.

12-13-2008, 09:23
two basic questions (and both might be oxymoronic!):

1. What is the highest grade/most interesting (challenging?) 80 proof whiskey out there...bourbon or not?

I don't think they are challenging but WT 80 is the most flavorsome 80 proof bourbon I have had, I still find it lacking and at 80 proof Redbreast is very flavorsome, and my favorite Irish. I found Templeton Rye to have quite a bit of flavor for an 80 proofer. But I still found it a bit "watery" and too darn expensive for an 80 proof rye.

..... Are 80 proofers really only good for cocktails?

To be honest, I think using an 80 proofer for a cocktail is almost as much a handicap as using it as a neat sipper. At least for cocktails served on the rocks. Straight up isn't as much a problem. But my whiskey cocktails are limited to Manhattans and Old Fashioneds. WT 80 makes a good Manhattan, if you don't have the 101. The bottle of Templeton Rye I had was mostly consumed in Old Fashioneds. The handicap there was mitigated against by dissolving the sugar and bitters directly in the whiskey (foregoing the addition of the teaspoon of water normaly used to disolve the sugar) and sometimes chilling the drink and then removing the Ice (straight up).

I must admit on the other extreme I don't care to use over-proof whiskeys for cocktails especially if they are served straight up. The lone exception that proves the rule is Weller Antique in an Old Fashioned served on the rocks. For instance I could never appreciate a Stagg-hattan. Too high an alcohol content at too low a temp and all I can taste is ethanol.

12-13-2008, 09:27
Seems I never buy anything under 90 proof anymore. Why drag water home? I already have water here.

12-13-2008, 10:04
Regulations state that to be bourbon it must be at least 80 proof. It is my guess people hit the lowest end in order to maximize profits.

12-13-2008, 11:01
I never buy 80 proof hooch if I can help it. However, anything over 101 proof I tend to avoid as well. The sweet spot - with enough "substance" from the alcohol but not too much that it dominates the flavor profile - what's the word, drinkability? - seems to be about 86- 93 for me, although I'll always get the BIB proof if I can when it comes to bourbon. I do not think Scotch tastes best at higher proofs, but bourbon can and does. Wild Turkey RR101 IS bourbon, as far as I'm concerned. It's not necessarily the best bourbon, but it's the standard against which all others are judged.

As for the question of what's the best 80 proof hooch, I've never tried the 80 proof WT either. But I certainly enjoy I.W.Harper 15 yo, from the old Bourbon Heritage Collection. I'm not aware of any comparably aged bourbon that was bottled at such a low proof. I've always wondered why. But it's very good, flavorful stuff. I was fortunate to be able to bunker a few bottles of "Old" Harper a year or so ago - and I was as happy as Terry the tiger! - so it remains a regular pour at the Casa de Jazz. Cool bottle, too, with these weird gold swirls.

12-13-2008, 11:10
I try to never buy anything under 90-proof either. My major exception is Old Grand Dad 86 because it is very inexpensive and therefore good for mixed drinks and cooking. I always prefer 100-proof and higher. Two of my often repeated buys are OGD 114 and WT Rare Breed.

I think the reason so many bottlings are 80-proof is because, by law, that is the lowest something can be and still be labeled "whiskey" (in the US).


12-13-2008, 11:15
Rare Breed is the premium turkey that I find I drink the least, because the alcohol's just a bit too high for me. The balance between heft and flavor has shifted, and not to the good. Turkey is best, IMO, at 101. My one purchase of OGD 114 took a LOONG time to finish. I always take my whiskey straight, and 114 is way over the line between good heft and throaty burn.

12-13-2008, 12:07
yep, sounds like what i figured...there is no 'art' in 80 proof...

and bottlings like the recent BOTM, Old Taylor, was 'good' to me only because it wasn't...well...'bad'...i was expecting the nastiness of the white label Heaven Hill...

i assume most (all?) BOTTOM shelf bourbons to be 80 proof...

but yes, with regards to irish and scottish expressions, 80 is good. i would like to try a higher proof irish whiskey. that'll be a new experience.

i will have to try the redbreast.

12-13-2008, 12:16
The best 80 proof bourbon today in the market is Four Roses IMO.

I'd buy it at 100 proof if this particular iteration (i.e., that mingling of 10 bourbons done in-house) came in that form but it doesn't.

I like the flavor, so I'll take it at 80.

With, say, WT, the 101 all-round seems a better buy (price apart) than the 80 because it seems an older and deeper-tasting whiskey.

In terms of whiskeys that seem too strong in alcohol, I'd just add water. That is what the distilleries do to, say, bring the Four Roses I mentioned to 80. There is nothing special or unique about the 114 proof of OG, in my opinion, it is just 114 proof, there is no reason it cannot be enjoyed at a lower proof.


12-13-2008, 12:48
gary, that FRoses isn't the same as the infamous (discontinued?) blended? when you say in-house mingled, that, i think, confused me. i've never had any FR expression and haven't looked into them at all. yet. still...:rolleyes:

12-13-2008, 13:21
Oh no, for some years all Four Roses in the U.S. is all-bourbon, it used to be a blend but that was taken off the market some years ago when Four Roses was re-introduced in America as a bourbon.

The company makes 10 bourbons in-house, it uses 5 mashbills and 2 yeasts, hence the 10. It mingles them to get the profile it wants for Four Roses 80 proof.

The others are either single barrel (one whiskey), e.g., Four Roses Single Barrel and its various iterations (e.g., the Rutledge one), or varying combinations, e.g., Small Batch is 4 of them mingled.

This is all-straight bourbon, no blending in the sense of that old Four Roses American Whiskey (which had only some bourbon in it and the rest green whiskey (bourbon mash whiskey unaged in new charred barrels)).


Dr. François
12-13-2008, 20:14
I've always wondered why everyone settled on 80 proof as the target for most spirits. A little research (very little) yielded this explanation:

"The classic Russian (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russia), Lithuanian (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithuania) and Polish (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poland) vodka is 40% (80 proof (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcoholic_proof)). This can be attributed to the Russian standards for vodka production introduced in 1894 by Alexander III (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_III_of_Russia).[1] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vodka#cite_note-0) According to the Vodka Museum in Moscow (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moscow), Dmitri Mendeleev (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dmitri_Mendeleev), a Russian chemist (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemist), found the perfect percentage to be 38. However, since spirits in his time were taxed on their strength, the percentage was rounded up to 40 to simplify the tax computation." -Wikipedia

I suppose it is possible that we're still feeling the effects of 125 year old Russian laws.

I've also heard of 90 proof being "Kentucky Proof."

I think there are some good 80 proofers.
The Four Roses Yellow Label is very nice.
WT80 ain't bad.
Ten High is good Barton juice and fits the Barton profile, but I don't like it neat.
Basil Hayden's is overpriced, but a nice 80-proofer for uncomplicated sipping.

I'll still take any bourbon, even at 80 proof, over most other spirits for quality, flavor, craftsmanship, and value. When you buy 7 dollar vodka, you're buying corn ethanol delivered to a factory in a tanker truck; it is then diluted to the proper proof and bottled. The bottler has virtually no connection with the spirit.
With 7 dollar bourbon, you're getting the distillate that wasn't 100% pure transcendental bliss, but was still made by nice people who cared about what they were making.

I love bourbon!

12-13-2008, 20:29
i could probably google this, but i am wondering aloud if all irish or scotch whiskies are 80 proofers. i noticed all that were at my local store WERE.

and yes, i TOO love the LOVE put into making bourbon...80 proof and UP UP UP!

12-13-2008, 21:17
nope... there are plenty of "cask strength" scotches. http://www.dtcscotch.com/

However, I have been told that in Kentucky evaporation usually leads to higher alcohol content while in Scotland it leads to lower alcohol content. This could explain the high number of 80 proof scotches.

12-13-2008, 21:24
I don't think I've purchase a current 80p release on quite some time. The exception is dusty 80 proofers. There are some that are good. Old Crow, even at 80p has good flavor and is an easy drinker. Old Fitz Prime....not bad in a pinch and it's still SW juice.

I was at my parents this evening and they offered me WT80. I passed it up and pulled out my Bernheim Old Fitz BIB. I tell my parents to stop buying WT80 and at least go for the 101...then cut it down if they want. My dad likes to pour the WT in egg nog. They come to my house and go gaga over my various selections and then go and buy WT80.....go figure.

12-13-2008, 21:28
i could probably google this, but i am wondering aloud if all irish or scotch whiskies are 80 proofers. i noticed all that were at my local store WERE.

Scotch Whisky is generally sold at 80 or 86 proof in the USA, unless it's Cask Strength.

12-13-2008, 21:29
I've also heard of 90 proof being "Kentucky Proof."

I believe there is a distiller who does (or did) use that term, but it was more or less an advertising / marketing term.

After WW II most of the distillers did put out "second tier" whiskey that was 90 proof - some were straight whiskey, some were blends of straight whiskey - but their flagship brands were usually (but not always) 100 proof Bottled in Bond. By bottling at 90 proof out of bond, the distillers could still offer whiskey that had some flavor while being able to better manage their stocks.

Glenmore was fairly honest about what was in some of these straight whiskey blends - their ads would mention that a given whiskey was, say, 5% 5 year old and 95% 18 month old. Other distillers were mum on the subject.

86 and 80 proof bourbon started getting advertised in the 1950s, at a time when it seems every comestible in America, from food and drink to cigarettes and liquor, had to be lighter, milder, finer-tasting, and otherwise bland and characterless.

I honestly do not know who was the first distiller to break out an 80/86 proof bottling of their normal Bottled in Bond brands, but I'm pretty sure it would have been one of the National Distillers labels. Most of the major brands wound up with lighter-proof expressions.

Even Old Fitzgerald had to get into the act, despite Pappy's advertisements in which he disparaged lighter proof whiskey (singling out 90 proof for special attention) as not only being watered down but being a product whose flavor esters had been leached away by the extra water after bottling.

12-14-2008, 06:12
Scotch Whisky is generally sold at 80 or 86 proof in the USA, unless it's Cask Strength.

And, historically, 86.8 proof was popular.


12-14-2008, 10:55
The only 80 proof American whiskey I like is Dickel number 8.


12-14-2008, 12:13
yep, sounds like what i figured...there is no 'art' in 80 proof...

I think there's an art to the whole thing. As mentioned, Basil Hayden's IS overpriced AND made by a mega-conglomerate AND available everywhere, but there's definitely a design at work there....it has a unique flavor and attempts to appeal to some audience. It's certainly not one of my favorites and that DOES have a lot to do with the proof, but think that many of these 80 proofers went that way not only to maximize their profits, but also to widen their appeal and to make them easier to consume by people who can't handle stronger hooch.
WT80 is a fine whiskey to shoot or have with a beer, Beam on the rocks beside a beer is beautiful thing to experience -- it's just not the bourbon experience that a lot of us enjoy....sip and savor.

Everything in It's Right Place.

Cheers! :toast:

12-14-2008, 14:00
andy, yer right...and i was in snob mode....:rolleyes: :grin: ...i actually enjoyed the Old Taylor 6 year i had in november...it was simply enjoyable...but having experienced the depth of higher proof offerings....then, of course, bottlings like Stagg and Van Winkle....whew, it's hard to return to simplicity. but just this weekend, i've nursed (and pretty much knocked out) a whole, quite drinkable JD Gold Medal (90 proof.....) that was a nice 'change'....

i think i asked this question and started the thread because i still want to find something good in the 80 proof. i plan on getting that Benchmark...and, since it's on sale here in PA, the WT80...i hope to be pleasantly surprised.:)

i never really combined beer with bourbon at once...but this weekend, a Saranac vanilla stout went well with that JD Gold.

01-03-2009, 15:59
ok, i got that Benchmark and it has to be the best value i've had yet (my tasting notes on anOther site....:rolleyes: ), but wow...

of course, it's 80 proof, thin...

but combined with food (trader joe's joe-joe peppermint cookies for example!) or vatted, it is really stellar!

this is a BT product? well, it's sweetness is unique (like blowpops) but i only wish it was 90 proof. it vatted well with WT101....both benefitted with the blending...

Dr. François
01-03-2009, 18:54
it vatted well with WT101....both benefitted with the blending...

What was your blending ratio? 1:1? I'm buying a bottle of each soon, so I'd like to replicate your experiment.

01-04-2009, 06:58
What was your blending ratio? 1:1? I'm buying a bottle of each soon, so I'd like to replicate your experiment.

hey jeremy...well, i did three...loosely...

yes, one was a 1:1.

the others were flipsides with one being 2/3 and the 1/3...eyeballed, of course.

but i agree with, i think it was gary, who said vatting 3 different bottlings is more ideal. which i largely agree. you get more depth (naturally) when three are at work.

today, though, is really my last last day of winter break. and with the oatmeal and a banana (and some V8), i am going to enjoy this last little pour of Benchmark. and it really has evey bit of depth that 80 proof can muster!

it will be a staple around here, but will often vat it to simply nitro-boost it (so to speak!), but i want to find something, too (unlike WT) that will blend well with it without overpowering it's unique sweetness.

i can't imagine how good the original version(s) was/were.