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Robmo
03-30-2011, 00:31
While one of the more obvious ways to categorize whiskey is by price range, it's not an extremely popular subject of discussion on this board. Just personally...I often go into a liquor store with the question of "What can I get with what's in my pocket?" Or another example: recently I saw a bottle of Michter's 10 year for about US 80.00, and one of my first considerations was, "What else can I get for that much?"(Perhaps it's because I'm a relative bourbon newbie but I don't always really think, "I feel like trying another Buffalo Trace product today" or "I feel like trying another wheater today...")

I broke things down into 6 different price categories and listed the main brands/offerings that fall into each price range. One reason for doing this is that there are threads about "the best mid-shelf" etc. but participants rarely agree about the definitions of terms like mid-shelf, bottom-shelf, and so on. (Some links to past threads below). It might help discussions proceed a little more smoothly if we agreed on some terminology and used it consistently. Maybe this is useful, maybe it's useless. Your feedback is appreciated either way.
(prices are generally for a 700 or 750ml bottle.)
Bottom shelf, or Class D: Under $15.00
Old Crow, Old Grand Dad 86, EW Green label, Ancient Age, Heaven Hill, Benchmark, Old Charter, Jim Beam White, Bourbon de Luxe, TW Samuels

Upper Bottom shelf, or Class C: $16.00-$20.00
EW Black, Charter 101, Jim Beam Black, Four Roses yellow, Henry McKenna, OGD BIB

Lower mid-shelf, or Class B: $21-$35.00
Bakers, OGD 114, JTS Brown 10 year, Elijah Craig 12 yr, Old Fitzgerald 12 year, Buffalo Trace, Evan William Single Barrel, Wild Turkey 8 year 101 proof, Four Roses Black Label, Maker's Mark

Upper mid-shelf, or Class A: $36.00-55.00
Woodford Reserve, IW Harper 12 year, WT Kentucky Spirit, Rock Hill Farms, Four Roses Single Barrel, Ridgemont Reserve, Noah's Mill, Booker's, Basel Hayden, WT Rare Breed, most expressions of Blanton's

Upper shelf, Class AA, $56.00-90.00
Elijah Craig 18 yr, Michters Small Batch, Michter's 10 year,Old Forrester Birthday,Four Roses Platinum,Hirsh 20 year, Makers Mark 46, Willet 12 year 100 proof, Willet 8 year, Van Winkle 12 year (lot B)

Upper-upper shelf Class AAA, $91.00++
Four Roses Marriage Collection/Small Batch, Pappy Van Winkle 20/23 yr, Willet Family Reserve 17/24 yr, Parker's Heritage (all), Maker's Mark VIP, Evan Williams 23 yr, Stagg, Woodford Reserve Master's Collection, Eagle Rare 17 year, WT American Spirit

Anyway that's the list for now. You may agree or disagree with my entries just as you may like or dislike the very idea of such an attempt at categorization. For me, this is mainly an attempt at making comparisons easier.


Considerations
1) I originally started with 5 categories, the "lowest category" including everything under $20.00...but this seemed odd because, at least in my market (Japan) both Jim Beam Black and Jim Beam White end up in the same grouping. Ditto Evan Williams "black" and "green"...and so on. Therefore I divided the lower shelf category into "class E" and "class F"

2) I made an attempt at listing bourbons that are generally available across different regions and markets although I may have erred on the side of including one too many Japan-only products on the list

3) I'm sure the actual prices of the above bourbons vary by market and currency... I've tried to translate my experience in the Japanese market to the U.S. market but I'm sure I've missed the mark in some spots. Please point out where you think there are any mistakes or oversights.

4) for the simplicity's sake I limited my list to bourbons only

5) Past threads involving considerations of bourbons within a particular price range or category include these:

Category of bourbons by subjective preferences ("everyday pour"/"special occasion" etc.
http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/showthread.php?t=9789

Discussion of 'best-value' bourbons http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/showthread.php?t=15174&highlight=price+range

Attempt to define premium category: http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/showthread.php?t=10998&highlight=price+category

Discussion of bottom-shelfers
http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/showthread.php?t=15578&highlight=lower+shelf

squire
03-30-2011, 01:49
Rob I can't agree with any system that categorizes whisky by price because price alone does not denote quality. Some of the most expensive Bourbon/Ryes out there are labels owned by NDPs who source their whisky from a genuine producer and pass it off as their own. A fancy package and carefully crafted hype does not a first rate whisky make.

callmeox
03-30-2011, 04:58
The major flaw in classifying by price is what you mention in consideration 3, the variance from market to market. This makes price ranges meaningless. I have not paid over 90.00 for any single bottle of whiskey in my bunker, yet I have the majority of bottles that you list in the 91.00 category for much less.

It is a neat exercise, but you may get more use from it by localizing to Just Japan as the prices don't match my buying experiences.

OscarV
03-30-2011, 13:10
The last thing to be considered if it is a great, good, average or bad bourbon is the price.
Price has nothing to do with what's in the bottle.
Price is just the marketing department's final spin.

The corn in Pappy and Kentucky Tavern costs the same.

kickert
03-30-2011, 13:21
In a previous thread (http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/showthread.php?p=232007), I put forth the following as my classification for bourbons by price:


Obviously my opinion doesn't matter, but I would put value as under $15, Premium as $15-25, High end premium as $25-40 and Super premium as over $40.

Brisko
03-30-2011, 13:22
The last thing to be considered if it is a great, good, average or bad bourbon is the price.
Price has nothing to do with what's in the bottle.
Price is just the marketing department's final spin.

The corn in Pappy and Kentucky Tavern costs the same.


Absolutely, but if you only have $20 to spend on booze, you don't want to blow it all on [insert overpriced brand here].

I do categorize my buys both by absolute quality and with price taken into account. There are a few brands that I would buy even at 4 times their current price-- others that I tolerate because they're at that intersection of quality and price.

squire
03-30-2011, 16:36
Couldn't agree more Brisko, there's a quality Bourbon for any taste at less than $20.00.

squire
03-30-2011, 16:40
And if you are in the process of developing your taste in Bourbon four good ones can be had for the cost of one of the posers.

Robmo
03-31-2011, 19:37
Considerations
1) I originally started with 5 categories, the "lowest category" including everything under $20.00...but this seemed odd because, at least in my market (Japan) both Jim Beam Black and Jim Beam White end up in the same grouping. Ditto Evan Williams "black" and "green"...and so on. Therefore I divided the lower shelf category into "class E" and "class F"


To clarify the last sentence should read "class C" and "class D".

Robmo
03-31-2011, 19:40
In a previous thread (http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/showthread.php?p=232007), I put forth the following as my classification for bourbons by price:

Thanks, that thread didn't turn up on any of my searches here, so I appreciate the reference.

Robmo
03-31-2011, 20:26
The major flaw in classifying by price is what you mention in consideration 3, the variance from market to market...
It is a neat exercise, but you may get more use from it by localizing to Just Japan as the prices don't match my buying experiences.

Interesting to hear what you're paying on the other side of the pond. I think your criticism is quite valid.


...I can't agree with any system that categorizes whisky by price because price alone does not denote quality. ... A fancy package and carefully crafted hype does not a first rate whisky make.


I fully agree with your point about *carefully crafted hype* which is what led me to come up with this system. I should have made it clearer that I do not consider there to be a direct correlation between price and quality, and the list is in no way intended to denote or imply 'quality' of particular brands.

It is because of the fact that quality varies greatly across a single 'price category' that I found it a useful exercise to list as many brands as I could think of side by side according to (local) price.

If you're going to spend $21-35, would you rather get OGD114, EC 12yr or Maker's Mark?

If you're going to spend $36-55, are you better off with Woodford Reserve or one of the WT products listed?

You may even prefer a 'D classer' like OGD BiB to 'A classers' Woodford or Basel Hayden.

The above three examples illustrate how such a list could potentially be a useful tool in considering the true value of what's in the bottle. To clarify though, I don't know for a fact that OGD BIB is 'better' or a 'better value' than BH, or whether WTRB is 'better' or 'worse' than Woodford. Ultimately judgements on quality are subjective

A further clarification: this list is probably most useful to 'advanced beginners' like myself who are starting to get some familiarity with brands and distilleries but maybe need more tools (or 'aps' if you will!) with which to consider their further purchases. Veterans and gurus obviously already know their way around and wouldn't really need a tool like this.

Robmo
03-31-2011, 20:33
The last thing to be considered if it is a great, good, average or bad bourbon is the price.
Price has nothing to do with what's in the bottle.
Price is just the marketing department's final spin.

The corn in Pappy and Kentucky Tavern costs the same.

Not to say you're wrong but you seem to be implying that Pappy and Kentucky Tavern are of 'equal' quality and their only difference is marketing and fancy packaging. Is this what you mean to say?

squire
03-31-2011, 20:38
Rob you've put an admirable amount of thought into this system but I suggest it is flawed due to its premise of placing brands into lettered classes separated by price.

For instance I consider Grand Dad (D class) to be at least the equal if not superior of Wofford and Basil Hayden (A class).

Perhaps a grouping by type (high rye, low rye, wheat recipe, age, proof) would be a better approach.

squire
03-31-2011, 20:43
Rob, I think what Oscar meant was the costs of production is about the same.

Robmo
03-31-2011, 20:44
Rob you've put an admirable amount of thought into this system but I suggest it is flawed due to its premise of placing brands into lettered classes separated by price.

For instance I consider Grand Dad (D class) to be at least the equal if not superior of Wofford and Basil Hayden (A class).

Perhaps a grouping by type (high rye, low rye, wheat recipe, age, proof) would be a better approach.

I fully admit the system is flawed as it stands now, but I intended it as a starting point rather than an ending point. There are many ways to 'look' at the wide range of bourbon offerings out there, and this is perhaps one, definitely not the only!

Perhaps it's those letters A,B,C, D which are most off-putting to you? If so then I can fully understand your feelings. Again, I didn't intend the letter grades to denote quality in any way, so perhaps to improve the system in the future I would scrap those letters altogether just to avoid confusion.

squire
03-31-2011, 20:47
Not off putting to me because I understand what you are working to accomplish. To someone new to Bourbon though I think there would be a natural association with Class A being better than Class D.

Robmo
04-02-2011, 19:19
Not off putting to me because I understand what you are working to accomplish. To someone new to Bourbon though I think there would be a natural association with Class A being better than Class D.

That's probably true...this morning I thought of the terms Budget, Economy, Standard, Premium, Super Premium, Ultra Premium. But then that probably has the same pitfalls. If anyone has any suggestions let me know.

Maybe this is a first step in creating a bourbon database type "ap" for comparing bourbons, considering next purchases and so on. A user could enter a price range and see a list of what's available, perhaps ranked according to user ratings. The same "ap" could also sort products by proof or whether they were high-rye, low-rye, etc., as you suggested.

To my knowledge such tools do exist on the Web, but in crude form. I've heard there's a bourbon ap of some kind for iPhone/Android. I haven't tried it.

If you've ever used a Zagat guide, you'll get a feel for what I'm working toward. Zagat guides categorize restaurants by several different criteria including price, user feedback and so on.

kickert
04-02-2011, 19:36
Here you can see an example of someone taking this discussion too far:
:rolleyes:

http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/showthread.php?t=11465

Robmo
04-02-2011, 22:36
Fun.

Thanks for reminding me of that discussion, I think I had come across it a while ago and surely it unconsciously inspired me a bit here.