View Full Version : Your first taste of a really excellent bourbon.
Cliff's "Paradigm Shift" post got me thinking about a post I've wanted to make for a long time, but never seem to get around to.
I've consumed bourbon as the hard alcohol of choice my entire adult life. Until about ten years ago, I really didnt know that anything but Jim Beam white label existed, and I didnt differentiate between TN Whiskey and bourbon.
My introduction to the larger picture came in the form of Blanton's. The date was August 5th 1993, and me and my brother were attending ACM SIGGRAPH in Los Angeles. We were in the top floor bar of the New Otani Hotel (I think it was called the Gaijin lounge http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/wink.gif) when we asked the bartender if the planet didnt have something finer than JB white to offer us. It's almost embarrasing to admit, but it was also the first time I'd consumed bourbon neat without knocking it back. I can honestly say that to this day I've never slammed a shot of Blanton's. It's some sort of religious reverence thing for me.
That experience pretty much started the frenzy, and was responsible in very large part for the concept and implementation of Straightbourbon.com.
I first got a taste of great bourbon from a wedding present from my best man. Before that I had only owned three bottles of whiskey(besides what I drank illegally in high school), Bushmills 10 Year, Jack Daniels, & Makers Mark, and I had consumed the entirety of all three with coke or in "BoilerMakers". After he gave me the Blanton's, there was no turning back. One day not to long after I was searching the net for whiskey info and hit StraightBourbon.com ( http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif BLLLLEEEEEEE!!!!!! http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/laugh.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/laugh.gif ), the rest is history!
PS I will spare you retelling the tale of the wedding present and direct you HERE (http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/showthreaded.php?Cat=&Board=General&Number=6262&pa ge=&view=&sb=&o=&vc=1) if you would like to read it!
Mine began fairly recently. I was also convinced that Beam White was "The good stuff" when it came to bourbon, thus limited my sipping activities to Scotch or Irish whiskeys, relegating bourbon to be consumed in shots or mixed with coke. Last April, went back to Ohio to visit family, and decided to nip over to Kentucky, knowing that liquor prices are generally far better there. I'd noticed the growing number of bourbons, and decided to try one. On the advice of the guy in the liquor store, I snagged a bottle of Knob Creek, and there's been no looking back since. In fact, the bottle of 18 year old MacAllan that I had just purchased before the trip, and had been highly prizing, has gone untouched since then....
" The only thing worse than shitty whiskey is sc**ch." - W
I began drinking whiskey just a few years ago. At first it was JD and Coke. Then, at a bachelor party, I tried Gentleman Jack on the rocks (no Coke) and liked it. Several weeks later on a Friday afternoon, I decided to go 'In Search Of' the best tasting bourbons at a few Coconut Grove bars in Miami.
I spotted an old-fashioned bottle sitting in a crowd of scotch and vodka. I couldn't read the white lettering on the bottle, but the contents had a gorgeous amber color. I asked for it on the rocks and took a sip.
The distinctive bottle with the white lettering was Woodford Reserve. After a couple of sips I knew I was on to something special. The rest as they say, is history.
Before I moved to Kentucky, a friend told met buy the bourbon with the red wax. He didn't know what it was called. I was here about a month before my family came down and found the Liquor Barn and asked where the bourbon was. (Imagine trumpets in the background and white light) I was like a kid in a candy store. I grabbed 3 bottles, a Maker's, a Basil Hayden and a small Blanton's. My next move was to the internet to the product web sites. Until that fateful day, the only "bourbon" I knew was JD. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif
I was weened on Jim Beam white, like most I guess. One day I noticed that, sitting next to the old standard, was a bottle of Jim Beam with a different color label. Jim Beam Black was the first quality bourbon I had tasted. From there it was on to Bakers, Bookers, Blantons, etc., but I still think Black rules the roost...
Back in high school, a friend of mine, whose moustache and receding hair line made him appear 30 instead of 17, would act as a fake ID for all the guys and buy us whiskey. That was when I was introduced to JD and Jim Beam White. For several years we all thought we were drinking from the top shelf!
We finally began to try other spirits including several bourbons (Evan Williams, Old Forester 86) but since drinking was just a means to a bad end at that point in our lives, most of the bourbon was just knocked back and washed down with anything less potent. Despite all this, one bourbon stood out from the rest and it was Wild Turkey 101. After running thru what we thought was the gamut of available bourbons, we settled back in to drinking mostly JD and Jim Beam White again, but we added a third drink to our list: WT 101. We normally rotated between these 3 but WT slowly emerged as the overall favorite.
I guess that was Part I of my first encounter with excellent bourbon (yeah, I know, WT 101 is not small batch or single barrel....but anything WT is excellent in my book!). My friends eventually lost interest in drinking spirits and began to settle more for beer or gatorade. I stagnated for a while but, on an overnight trip to Carthage, TN (infamous home of Al Gore, who I did not vote for), I picked up a brochure in a hotel lobby that spoke of Bardstown, KY and the Bourbon Festival. That little brochure is what revived my interest in bourbon. I went back home, began surfing the web for more info, dusted off and finally read my copy of the Regan's Book of Bourbon and began to buy some of the products listed therein.
I bought a bottle of Maker's Mark and thought it was interesting for a change. But the real epiphany (Part II) came with Knob Creek. That was when I knew I had hit the big time! Though my opinion of KC has waned over the last couple of years, I think that was when I first sat up and took notice of bourbon's finer points. It really motivated me to buy more premium bottles and learn more about what I was drinking.
Same here, Jim. I was at a friend's house in 1988, shortly before I got married (that's how I remember the year and it was probably October or November). He offered me a shot of Blanton's, which I had never heard of. It was a real awakening for me.
Still, I never bought a bottle of Blanton's until just before Christmas, 2001. I don't know why. Probably the price.
To start with I have never been a very much in to drink , I have been know to go for several months to a couple of years and not have anything in that time but a couple of beers on a real hot hot day ....
My first intro to Bourbon was what my dad drank , Bellows Club Bourbon , he enjoyed it with ginger ale , or cranberry juice for the holidays . I guess it was the headachs in the mornn' that put me off to drinking But found I loved the taste of that bourbon mixed ....
Later I had a friend who had done much more drinking than I ever will show me there was other bottles of Bourbon to be had , Old Grand Dad 114, Weller 107 , Weller Special Reserve, Ezra Brooks 101 , Evan Williams ,Wild Turkey 101 , 8 year........It was only the fact that some of these are now no longer to be found , have changed in taste or are not carried by the local bottle shoppes. I have started a Quest to find a bottling that will be my every day pour but also try the new breed of Bourbons that are now coming , single barrels , small batch , ,,,,,I wonder if what was the old days of bottom shelf , middle row and top shelf is going to bottom shelf , top shelf and premium with the prices to prove it ,,,,,I feel it would be a sad day that the good middle shelf stock passes in to yesterday to be replaced by top shelf and the price and premium with price plus ..........a loss and sad day indeeed .
In my early adult life, I started with Jim Beam Green, what my Dad had kept around the house. I soon migrated to Maker's Mark and stayed with that for several years.
I started really enjoying beer when the microbrews became popular. But, then, about 7 years ago, my doctor said cut back on the carbs and put me on Atkins. That's when I began to really explore bourbon. I took the micro-brew angle and looked at small batch bourbon from Beam. My first experience with an excellent bourbon was Booker's.
About that time, I picked up the Regans' The Bourbon Companion and discovered a whole new world. I tried many different bourbons that I saw in their book. About four years ago, I went shopping at Liquor Barn on Hurstbourne in Louisville with their book in hand. (I was town for my sister's wedding. I think it was called Liquor Outlet then.) I picked up several different bourbons, including Pappy 20 yo and the ORVW 15 yo. I was quite happy at that stage, but, I was still a novice. I only looked at the highly rated bourbons and only had about 4 - 6 bottles in the liquor cabinet.
Then I discovered you crazy people last July. The real bourbon people. You all have expanded my horizons and depleted my wallet immensely. I now have over 20 bottles, plus a burgeoning bunker. The two biggest benefits I have received here (besides talking to other bourbon maniacs) is to learn about mid-shelf bourbon (OF 100!) and to learn about new and limited releases (GTS!).
Life is good.
Though I'd had bourbon before, I had a glass of Knob Creek 2 days after my 21st birthday, and have been loving whisk(e)y ever since.
that reminds me, i hit 26 in 16 days, i'll have to make a point of having a hefty glass at midnight.
Bourbon has been my drink of choice since I was introduced to spirits in my college days in the early 70s in the midwest. From the very beginning, I was having nothing of those blended whiskies, whether American, Canadian, Scots, or Japanese. To me, there was something grittier, tougher, more substantial about the pure taste of bourbon. The bourbon I recall most from those days was Old Charter--it must have been the 8 or 10 year old, because the yellow label sticks in my brain. Short on coin in those days, I also recall drinking Old Grand Dad and Ten High, which was still being made by Hiram Walker. I also realized early on the I liked bourbon a lot more than Tennessee whiskey. To this day, although there are dozens of bourbons in the bunker, you will not find a single bottle of Tennessee whiskey in there. I still get pissed when I'm offered a JD in response to a request for a bourbon.
The craft bourbon phenomenon happened when I wasn't looking, however. When Blanton's, the Beam Small Batch bottlings, and United's Heritage collection first debuted, I was back in school, poor as a church mouse, and--when drinking at all--was enjoying the Washington, Oregon, and California micro-brewed ales that had emerged in the late 80s and 90s. Then, quite by accident in late '95 or early '96, I discovered the Regans' Book of Bourbon (among the 6 miles of books) at the Strand in Manhattan. I was still a good year away from having any money to enjoy these whiskies that I was reading about, but study and learn I did.
Upon reentry into the workforce, I began to sample the fine bourbons that I had learned about from the Regans. So, to finally answer Jim's question, I believe that my first taste of "really excellent bourbon" was from a bottle of Rock Hill Farms, but, alas, I cannot be sure. As I recall, other early tastings included Blanton's, several of the Van Winkles, Kentucky Spirit, the small batch Beams, and the two ECs.
Not long thereafter I discovered Jim's SB.com forum and began to learn even more. The collection of bourbons in the bunker today are all there to be enjoyed. The seals are not broken on all of them--yet, but they will be.
I'd like to extend my thanks to forum founder Jim and to the many members (there are too many to name) from whom I have learned so much. I toast you all--from that same bottle of Rock Hill Farms first sampled not so many years ago.
Whisk(e)y had been my alcoholic beverage of choice since just before I was legal (18 in '79). But for about a decade and a half my drink was Canadian whisky and ginger ale with the occasional Crown Royal or Chivas on the rocks--certainly no bourbon. Then, in the early 90's I began to drink spirits neat. I picked up a lot more blended whisky--still no bourbon. Mid 90's also started to like single malts, unblended Canadian and Irish... no bourbon!
Finally in '96 I bought a bottle of Weller Centenniel... Where did that complex captivating nose come from? How could it be 100 proof? What a rich palate and exquisite finish---YES bourbon! http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/laugh.gif Although I've never lost my taste for other whisky, that Weller turned me on to wheaters, which then opened the door to the rye based bourbons, then the straigth ryes, Tennessee's... But I've never tried Beam white that I know of.
I totally agree with you regarding Jack Daniel's in terms of Tennessee Whiskey. If you haven't tried George Dickel's yet, especially the Number 12 Superior Brand, I would urge you to give it a try. That is a good Tenn. Whisky! It is also very reasonably priced.
In my younger, more foolish days, I thought that I enjoyed Jim Beam White and Jack Daniel's, and as others have said, drank with a different intent than now. In the mid-90's, friends and I started to enjoy Single Malts. At that time, I also knew some people that were enjoying the lesser known Bourbons, and spoke very highly of them. During a visit to KY, my wife and I visited Labrot and Graham Distillery, and I brought home a bottle. I enjoyed it immensely, and that's what got me started exploring all of the fantastic Bourbons that are out there!
PS: I no longer enjoy JB White, or Jack's.
There are many times when i am out, that JB white or JB7 white is all there is.
They aren't bad, jb white 7 year especially. i can still get my dose of wood, vanilla, and spice.
>> "But I've never tried Beam white that I know of."
You are a wise man.
JB white, while not bookers or bakers, is far and away better than the ten highs and (gasp) country gentlemen of the world.
It tastes like bourbon, which is hard to say for most bottom shelf wanna-bes.
Sorry, I just avoid bottom shelf bourbons. The only one I've been able to enjoy in recent years has been Evan Williams Black Label, and that's not truly bottom shelf.
Great question. I thought my first bottle of Jim Beam Black Label was really excellent bourbon. Later I found out it wasnít. I remember my first bottle of Bookers, Woodford, Basil Hadenís, Makers Mark, Russellís Reserve and a few others. All made an impression. Some were better because of the flavor and some were better because of the company I was in at the time. All were excellent; still are.
There are a few more I would like to try. I hope I get the chance. Bourbon is my spirit of choice. Thanks to all here, those that have helped to give me a little more insight into the world of Bourbon.
Welcome aboard, Black85L98. I'll be the first to introduce you to some good natured ribbin'. That dog of yours must be a very fine dog, because, judging by the way he/she looks, it would have to be a heck of a dog to be kept around. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/tongue.gif
Glad to have you and your dog with us.
It takes a special man to keep an animal with little or no snout.
He is a little over a year old. Half English and half Pit. I had a few pure English that did not make it long for health reasons. This is my attempt to get some of the look and half the vet bills. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/wink.gif
Thanks for the welcome. Great folks here.
I forgot to mention, that dog of your is a beauty too. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/tongue.gif
He looks like my dogs rougher buffer older brother.
WELCOME TO BOURBONIA!!!
We have a bunch of great dog lovers here too, you should take a gander at some of the mug shots in the "Our Dogs" (http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/showthreaded.php?Cat=&Board=off&Number=8762&page=5 &view=collapsed&sb=5&o=&vc=1) & "Bourbon Drinkers & Dog Lovers" (http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/showthreaded.php?Cat=&Board=off&Number=7976&page=6 &view=collapsed&sb=5&o=) threads. Anyway, welcome aboard, this is the place to be!
Thanks Tom. I will check out the links.
I would have to say that the light came on the moment my lips touched their first sips of Kentucky Spirit. I had tasted many bourbons, including several "premium" bottlings, prior to this and I thought I knew what good bourbon tasted like. The rich full-bodied flavor of this single barrel has set the bar that all other bourbons are now measured against. I know that when I try a bourbon that reminds me at all of KS, in taste or quality, I have found a winner! Unfortunatly Kentucky Spirit keeps some pretty exclusive, and expensive, company. Bourbons like Stagg, Pappy, Eagle Rare 17yo and the Birthday Bourbon all give KS a run for its money, but none could ever be considered a runnaway winner. You just haven't lived until you've got a bottle of KS in your cabinet to drink at your pleasure.
Until about a year ago, I had only had bourbon in mixed drinks: manhattens, jack and coke, and a few mint juleps on Derby Day (I'm originally from Cincinnati, which is not all that far from Louisville). Then I saw the movie "Changing Lanes"...a very forgettable B movie with Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Affleck. There's a scene in the movie, though, where Samuel L. Jackson goes into a bar and orders a shot of bourbon. A few days later I was in a bar and I couldn't decide what I wanted...when for unknown reasons that scene popped in my head. So I ordered a shot of bourbon, and the bartender poured me a shot of Knob Creek. I drank it and thought "Damn, I LIKE this!". I asked the bartender if this was the best bourbon she had, and that's when the Blanton's came out. I've never looked back.
I agree. Since I first bought a bottle of KS, I always keep one on hand. The same goes for Blanton's and Rare Breed. Right now, there is nothing else in that category, for me.
I hope you have stuck with that bartender. Sounds like he dispenses great advice!
A friend of mine helped me with a lot of remodeling work at my home a little over a year or so. We've been close friends since going through boot camp together and serving on the USS Dubuque together in the early 1970s (finding ourselves in Viet Nam). He got the heck out, and I eventually went on to make a career of the military, but we've always stayed in touch and are great friends. Anyway, after his work I sent him a "bonus" of some of the best boozes of the world. I had a "counseler" from samswines.com help pick out a top tequila, scotch, rum, gin, vodka, and bourbon. I spared no expense. The bourbon (of which I knew nothing about at this time) was a A.J. Hirsch, and I believe it had a vintage date on it from 1974 (my friends wedding anniversary date, by design). I "happened" to stop over for a sampling (I was just in the neighborhood-- even though he lives 90 miles away, heh-heh) and we tried a shot of the Bourbon straight. Normally neither he nor I would ever think of drinking bourbon straight (hicks that we are) because like most lay people we're only familier with the cheap stuff.
Well, it was a stunning-- SOOOO good! Up until then I had no idea that whiskey-- unless mixed with Coke or some crap like that, could actually taste great! I don't know if this particular vintage is still around and I don't remember exactly what I paid for it (a lot), but I'd love to try some again now that I'm slowly becoming more wise in the ways of Bourbon.
It was something of a revelatory experience.
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