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grantsi
01-11-2013, 09:40
I freely admit to being new to the world of Bourbon...so far, the last six months have found me adding bottles at a rapid rate to my "bunker". Favorites include Angels Envy, Pappy 15 and some Four Roses....these are all "easy" drinking with either a little water or an ice cube. Coming from a wine centric background, these drinks allow me to test my pallate, identify layers / flavors etc and really savor. However, I have purchased some bottles ( Bookers, Angels Envy Cask, Willett 4 year, and a few more ) that are 120+ proof. I'm having a hard time getting past the alcohol burn. How do you more experienced bourbon drinkers get past this....do you add water / ice / let it breath in the glass for a while. I'm sure there is a way to enjoy 120 proof as much as 85-90, i just haven't found it.

Trey Manthey
01-11-2013, 09:51
If you want to sip it at barrel proof, just hold it in your mouth longer. Small slow sips that are gently rolled around will allow your mouth to generate some extra saliva to keep it going down smooth.

If that doesn't work, start adding water. Use an online proof calculator or just add a teaspoon at a time.

Trey

BourbonGuy
01-11-2013, 09:54
I’ve given up fighting with my bourbon. Add water until it is enjoyable. I have noticed with time I have adapted to the higher proof. But some days, I just have to add a teaspoon of water to my George T Stagg.

IowaJeff
01-11-2013, 09:58
It's fun to try a little sip at barrel proof, in the manner stated by Trey. For regular drinking though, add water, or ice if that is your thing. 120+ proof, for me too, is just high a proof to enjoy without adding water.

SMOWK
01-11-2013, 10:33
The alcohol seems to bother some and not others. I drink everything at bottle proof and find that water only takes away from the flavor. It's just a personal preference.

There seems to be somewhat of a correlation between handling spicy food and high proof bourbon, but it's still just my theory.

Yeti
01-11-2013, 11:03
Most of my favorite whiskies are 118+ (Booker's, GTS, Glenfarclas 105, Aberlour A'bunadh, various full proof single casks) and I find that some days I'm more ready to go than others. Sometimes the juice just goes down smooth, and sometimes it doesn't. When it doesn't I'll add water or ice (depending) or I'll just drink something at a lower proof that day. Some whiskies I don't have any problem adding ice to, like Booker's, and some I try to only add drops of water to, like GTS. I can buy Booker's for $45 any day of the week so I don't think twice about "watering it down" if I decide I need/want to. But for certain drinks that are "irreplaceable" like the annual releases or single cask bottles of scotch I try to drink them close to neat or not drink them at all. Just my approach and opinion.

atfree
01-11-2013, 11:16
I have used the method described by Trey with great success with barrel proof bourbons and single malts. I just adjust the volume per sip after the first sip to get that correct saliva dilution. The sip quantity varies greatly for me from bottle to bottle based on style, mashbill, age, and proof.

The only bourbon this has failed to work with is the Abraham Bowman 17yr old (~147.9 proof). I just can't enjoy this bottle with any method I try.

SMOWK
01-11-2013, 13:17
The only bourbon this has failed to work with is the Abraham Bowman 17yr old (~147.9 proof). I just can't enjoy this bottle with any method I try.

These 140+ Bowman's all seem to be overoaked tannin bombs, which I am a huge fan of.

sailor22
01-11-2013, 14:10
I find it's also helpful to finish the evening with a big proof Bourbon rather than start with it. Start with lower proof and work your way up.

Kalessin
01-11-2013, 14:52
Some whiskies become even better with a little water!

And I'd suggest not adding it by the teaspoon. An eyedropper is your friend, add slowly, gently swirl, stir or slosh the mix in the glass, and then sip to check if it's better.

bad_scientist
01-11-2013, 15:02
These 140+ Bowman's all seem to be overoaked tannin bombs, which I am a huge fan of.

It's not the tannins as much as it is the "artificial sweetener" taste I got from it. It was sickly sweet and tasted synthetic.

tanstaafl2
01-11-2013, 15:03
Some whiskies become even better with a little water!

And I'd suggest not adding it by the teaspoon. An eyedropper is your friend, add slowly, gently swirl, stir or slosh the mix in the glass, and then sip to check if it's better.

Unless you start with a specific proof that you want to get to and use the proof formula to determine how much water you need then the eyedropper technique was the way I learned to do it as well. I always keep one around the bar!

And if an eyedropper isn't handy you can always dip a (hopefully clean) finger in water and add a drop at a time that way!

petrel800
01-11-2013, 15:07
I think half the fun of higher proof stuff is tasting them at different proofs. Get an eye dropper or a kids medicine syringe at the drug store. There's a proof calculator on this website and there are plenty of applications out there to help. Typically I will try at full strength, then I like to compare it at 107, 100, and sometimes 90. You'll eventually find a sweet spot or just decide that full throttle is the way to go. GTS is awesome stuff, but at roughly 72 percent it is a beast, even down at 100 proof it has great mouth feel and layers of complexity. Besides, by adding water you essentially get more out of your bottle. There is no right or wrong way, only your personal way.

i will say a syringe or eye dropper with measurements will help you track your expiramentation.

HP12
01-11-2013, 18:35
The alcohol seems to bother some and not others. I drink everything at bottle proof and find that water only takes away from the flavor. It's just a personal preference.

There seems to be somewhat of a correlation between handling spicy food and high proof bourbon, but it's still just my theory.


I find it's also helpful to finish the evening with a big proof Bourbon rather than start with it. Start with lower proof and work your way up.

Along with these fine posts, I would also add that higher proof tolerance / enjoyment comes with a more experienced palate. Since you are new to whiskey, give your palate time to mature and work your way into the higher proofs. Before long you'll be enjoying those 120+ proofers without much problem.

For me, water / ice is virtually never added. Maybe a few drops of H2O but not often. Like Sky, I too drink at bottle proof as that is where the flavor is generally at its best.

ILLfarmboy
01-11-2013, 19:12
I never add Ice. Ice, to me just makes anything of substantial proof taste like cold ethanol. I never got the ice thing.

I rarely add water. I do the small sip/saliva thing with GTS etc.

And I must be the odd man out because I do not like really spicy food. Smokey foods? Yes! I grill steaks over an oak fire and dice them up to use in my chili. But keep your habinerios (sp) out of my chili and the ice out of everything but the occasional Jameson's

WAINWRIGHT
01-11-2013, 19:34
Fact of the matter is there is no right or wrong answer to the original query,drink the whisk(e)y at what ever proof suits your own personal tastes.I personally drink everything at proof or with very little water added.I recommend getting a graduated cylinder and use the proof calculator and slowly accustom yourself to higher proofs gradually over time if you are inclined to do so.

Bourbon Boiler
01-11-2013, 19:42
8 drops of water per ounce of whiskey used to be my magic ration for just about everything, but when I started drinking more I got lazy and decided I didn't need it. BTW, if I were designing a perfect bourbon for myself, the proof would be in the 90 - 105 range. It's not that there aren't 130*s I don't like, but it's outside my sweet spot.

portwood
01-12-2013, 05:49
Fact of the matter is there is no right or wrong answer to the original query,drink the whisk(e)y at what ever proof suits your own personal tastes.I personally drink everything at proof or with very little water added.I recommend getting a graduated cylinder and use the proof calculator and slowly accustom yourself to higher proofs gradually over time if you are inclined to do so.

The only thing I would add to this great answer is: if you decide to drink it neat, the higher the proof the smaller the sip (at 120+ the amount of liquid going into my mouth is a drop that would come out of an eye dropper)

ErikH
01-12-2013, 05:54
I tend not to use water or ice, either. I just take smaller sips and roll it around longer as was previously posted. I will on occasion add a few drops of room temperature water but this is more a function of seeing if it will "open up" any flavors from a whiskey that I haven't tried before.

Special Reserve
01-12-2013, 06:27
I almost always enjoy my bourbon neat even the 140+ GTS. That said, the first PHC over cracked ice is wonderful.

Barclay Beach
01-12-2013, 08:34
I'm with the camp that says it just takes some time to build a tolerance. I can't offer a physiological explanation but something eventually changes in your mouth/tongue/esophagus, and you no longer feel a burning sensation. I personally love the concentrated flavors of barrel proofers -- I just have to watch how much I consume... :falling:

squire
01-12-2013, 09:29
Just add water until you find the taste you like. Remember professional tasters dilute the whisky down to 40 proof so you have quite a lot of leeway.

Special Reserve
01-12-2013, 09:54
Addition to above, I've been drinking bourbon for 40+ years and over time I've used less water and have enjoyed higher proofed bourbons.

Lazer
01-12-2013, 20:01
I'm going to make 2 points:

1. you can do whatever you want. you can add water to see it that works for you
2. water never worked for me, it just drowned the flavor. I think what I did was worked my way up. First with a bottle of knob creek 100 proof. Anything at 100 or 101 proof will work. once you get used to that find something at 107 or 108. I did it with wild turkey rare breed. after I was used to that I think I had a bottle of Noah's Mill at 114 proof. You can also use OGD 114, a great bottle. There are also some good four roses private select bottles between 110 and 120. By the time you've gotten used to these whiskeys you should be ready to tackle the big stuff. I guess you can look at it like weight lifting.

third point: If you have a cold bourbons will taste "hotter".

compliance
01-12-2013, 20:34
I powered my way through the first half of my first pour of GTS. It hurt. Then something flipped and the second half was pure butterscotch heaven. I was fine drinking high proofers ever since.

T Comp
01-12-2013, 20:39
The alcohol seems to bother some and not others. I drink everything at bottle proof and find that water only takes away from the flavor. It's just a personal preference.

There seems to be somewhat of a correlation between handling spicy food and high proof bourbon, but it's still just my theory.

I think you're onto something with your theory. My spicy food/hot sauce tolerance is down from my younger days and 107 proof is now pretty much my max... I even add a few water drops to that 114 proof elixer of the gods you know a bit about :grin:.

darylld911
01-13-2013, 06:10
I LOVE high proof bourbon I think in part because it is like a Transformer. If I want it hot and bold, I can sip it neat - but if I add just a bit of water and let it work its magic, it changes. And a bit more - it changes again! With a lower proof bourbon, I find that a bit of water may still open it up, but there are way fewer levels before it loses my interest.

Having said all that, I prefer the small sip/neat method with higher proofs, with maybe just a few drops of water. The first time I took a sip of GTS neat and held it for 20 seconds, I was just floored!

Absolutely nothing wrong with adding water to high proof bourbon. I look at it like "Hey, this is MY bourbon, so if I enjoy it with water - I'm doing it! Hell, if I want to mix it with ginger ale, I'm doing it!" There aren't any rules . . . and as Joe often says, if you ain't having fun - you're doing it wrong.

ILLfarmboy
01-13-2013, 13:56
Addition to above, I've been drinking bourbon for 40+ years and over time I've used less water and have enjoyed higher proofed bourbons.

Wow, I'm just a pup............40+ years ago I wasn't even cutting my own food. :cool:

Sorry, Will, I couldn't resist.

smknjoe
01-13-2013, 15:37
If the burn of drinking it neat seems to be a bit much, I will take small sips and let the drink go all of the way down before inhaling. The method works for overly bitter IPAs as well.

unclebunk
01-13-2013, 16:06
I LOVE high proof bourbon I think in part because it is like a Transformer. If I want it hot and bold, I can sip it neat - but if I add just a bit of water and let it work its magic, it changes. And a bit more - it changes again! With a lower proof bourbon, I find that a bit of water may still open it up, but there are way fewer levels before it loses my interest.

Having said all that, I prefer the small sip/neat method with higher proofs, with maybe just a few drops of water. The first time I took a sip of GTS neat and held it for 20 seconds, I was just floored!

Absolutely nothing wrong with adding water to high proof bourbon. I look at it like "Hey, this is MY bourbon, so if I enjoy it with water - I'm doing it! Hell, if I want to mix it with ginger ale, I'm doing it!" There aren't any rules . . . and as Joe often says, if you ain't having fun - you're doing it wrong.

Too right, Gary. Drink it whichever way suits you, especially when tackling the super high proof whiskeys. Things like GTS and WLW can reveal all sorts of new flavors/aromas with the addition of small amounts of water after a few initial sips neat.

SMOWK
01-14-2013, 07:42
The only wrong way to drink whiskey is letting someone else tell you how to drink it.

unclebunk
01-14-2013, 07:45
The only wrong way to drink whiskey is letting someone else tell you how to drink it.

How very true. Except for when my neanderthal friend attempted to mix PVW15 with Coke and was body checked into the wall by my cousin before committing the evil deed.:grin:

Halifax
01-14-2013, 08:21
It also helps for the whiskey to be exceptional when drinking at BP.

oke&coke
01-14-2013, 08:45
How very true. Except for when my neanderthal friend attempted to mix PVW15 with Coke and was body checked into the wall by my cousin before committing the evil deed.:grin:
Now that is just wrong.

smknjoe
01-14-2013, 08:55
You're lucky to have such a thoughtful cousin :)

unclebunk
01-14-2013, 09:03
You're lucky to have such a thoughtful cousin :)

Don't I know it. This particular friend is a high consumption-type character who was happy as a clam when we gave him VOB BIB with tons of ice and a can of Coke. But you've got to draw the line somewhere and mine was at PVW15. Strange, this whiskey drinkin' world of ours.

smknjoe
01-14-2013, 09:11
Don't I know it. This particular friend is a high consumption-type character who was happy as a clam when we gave him VOB BIB with tons of ice and a can of Coke. But you've got to draw the line somewhere and mine was at PVW15. Strange, this whiskey drinkin' world of ours.

When I was into high consumption I would have never mixed it. I would have stuck the bottle in my mouth and turned it upside down and may have left you with a little backwash by accident.

HP12
01-14-2013, 09:35
The only wrong way to drink whiskey is letting someone else tell you how to drink it.

A very profound statement and very true!


...Except for when my neanderthal friend attempted to mix PVW15 with Coke and was body checked into the wall by my cousin before committing the evil deed.:grin:

At least there was an observant individual who took a responsible stance and provided intervention to prevent the blasphemous libel act!

Flyfish
01-14-2013, 10:47
I tend not to use water or ice, either. I just take smaller sips and roll it around longer as was previously posted. I will on occasion add a few drops of room temperature water but this is more a function of seeing if it will "open up" any flavors from a whiskey that I haven't tried before.

Bourbons at less than barrel proof I first sip neat, then with a drop of water, and perhaps then on the rocks. With 120+ I just take small sips neat because I want to get everything they have to offer. Then I might add a single drop of water just to open up, not to reduce the proof. Ice has never touched any of my higher proof bourbons. For me, those big boys are for "tasting," not for "drinking."

squire
01-14-2013, 11:51
As a host I have an obligation to my guests and if they don't care for the taste of straight whisky (most don't) I see they are provided with what they like.

If I didn't want them to drink Pappy with a mixer I wouldn't hand it to them in the first place. If I did I wouldn't presume to instruct them how to drink it.

Special Reserve
01-14-2013, 15:33
Wow, I'm just a pup............40+ years ago I wasn't even cutting my own food. :cool:

Sorry, Will, I couldn't resist.

I should have said I've been drinking bourbon legally for 40+ years. I probably sampled from my dad's stash 50 years ago.