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Alden
04-28-2013, 13:03
I'm kind of new to bourbon, so what I have been doing the last few weeks is to buy and sample as many middle shelf "good" ones as I can, to try and get a sort of baseline idea of what a good bottle should taste like.

My plan is to eventually finish most of these off in the next few weeks or months (I'm not a big drinker, so this will take a while) and then set my sights higher, for some of the top shelf stuff. I figure that way, I can truly appreciate an exceptionally fine bourbon.

I understand, however, that a high price does not always equal better quality. So, I'm in a grey area of how to proceed from here. I don't have a ton of money to blow, so if I'm going to spend $50-$100 for one bottle I want to be sure I'm getting something that is worth the money.

Does that make sense? Here is what I have so far. Is this a good start to establish a baseline? I posted this same picture in another thread here earlier today, if it looks familiar to you, that's why.

15241

JPBoston
04-28-2013, 13:16
Yep, that's what I did as well.

I'd add Buffalo Trace to the list of great mid-shelf pours to try. Knob Creek is about $25 here and is what I consider to be 'what great bourbon should taste like' (just a personal opinion, obviously).

Other than that, I'd say you're ready to attack the higher priced bottles... that is, once you're comfortable with discerning the difference between the brands you've already tried. I think that's the only real 'test': Once you figure out how and why different bourbons are different (in the taste itself, not just the theory), then you'll appreciate higher quality.

Alden
04-28-2013, 13:22
Yep, that's what I did as well.

I'd add Buffalo Trace to the list of great mid-shelf pours to try. Knob Creek is about $25 here and is what I consider to be 'what great bourbon should taste like' (just a personal opinion, obviously).

Other than that, I'd say you're ready to attack the higher priced bottles... that is, once you're comfortable with discerning the difference between the brands you've already tried. I think that's the only real 'test': Once you figure out how and why different bourbons are different (in the taste itself, not just the theory), then you'll appreciate higher quality.

Thanks JP. That's exactly what I am trying to do. I'm getting better at it. I need to devise some kind of blind taste test for myself though.

Oh, and I forgot to add that I have had Buffalo Trace, and Woodford Reserve recently as well, so I know what they are like. I really like both, esp. the WR. I need to get a bottle of Knob Creek though, it's been a couple of years since I have tasted that one.

As a long time scotch drinker I have occasionally tried bourbons over the years, but it's only now that my interest in them has grown.

Grain Belt
04-28-2013, 13:57
Alden, That is a nice pic of good pours. As my dad would say, "If you can't get it done with those, maybe you shouldn't be doing it."

cowdery
04-28-2013, 14:27
There's a lot of good bourbon to explore and enjoy without ever spending more than $50 for a bottle. You won't taste everything but you also won't miss much. (Tip: find a rich bourbon-drinking buddy to share the expensive stuff with you.)

keith18
04-28-2013, 15:21
I think you are on the right track. It is my understanding that the best way to learn about bourbon is to drink a shitload of bourbon. It's what I do.

Alden
04-28-2013, 17:07
There's a lot of good bourbon to explore and enjoy without ever spending more than $50 for a bottle. You won't taste everything but you also won't miss much. (Tip: find a rich bourbon-drinking buddy to share the expensive stuff with you.)

Thanks for the advice. Coming from you, it holds some weight.


Alden, That is a nice pic of good pours. As my dad would say, "If you can't get it done with those, maybe you shouldn't be doing it."

A wise man.


I think you are on the right track. It is my understanding that the best way to learn about bourbon is to drink a shitload of bourbon. It's what I do.

That's what I plan to do to! :lol:

michang5
04-28-2013, 18:09
I've only been drinking bourbon since February, but I've tried to have one or two pours just about every night since. I choose to see this as a quest for knowledge, not a sign of alcoholism.

In that time, I've done several blind taste tests in my dining room. I have two identical glasses -- started out with highball ones, but eventually bought two glencairn glasses. I have some of those sticky colored dots they put on garage sale items. I write A and B on two same colored dots and stick to bottom of glasses. Pour up identical amounts of bourbon, noting which is which on the back of a piece of paper. Then I close my eyes and move the glasses around (I actually turn them on a placemat in random).

Then I nose and taste a bit of A and take notes. Stop for a glass of water and maybe a plain water cracker. And then a bit of B with notes. This first pass is to evaluate each bourbon on its own merits. Then I go back and forth to note distinct differences between the two. Then I transcribe my notes to iPad/iPhone.

I've specifically put wheaters against rye. Cheap against pricey. Same distillery. Different distilleries. Until my recent splurge on a $100 bottle of Jefferson's 18 Year, I've not spent more than $40 on a single bottle. It did help that I got my favorite Rock Hill Farms on sale for $38 though. ;)

All of the above said, I've recently found much more enjoyment just pourin' and sippin' -- no notes.

Alden
04-28-2013, 18:46
Michang that is a great idea for a blind test. I may try it (I will try it, if I know me, and I do) but at this point I am already beginning to be able to tell the differences between some of the bottles, such as Evan Williams black VS Weller 12. That is easy. I can also tell the difference between a wheat bourbon and a 51% or higher rye. Again, not that difficult.

The difficulty comes in trying to tell the difference between two that are really similar. I don't know if I will ever get that far.

black mamba
04-28-2013, 18:53
I would not wait to get the higher priced stuff until you've finished the lower. The main thing that higher priced bourbon gives you is age in the barrel. So find out if you like extra aged bourbon. Get some RHF, ER10 and/or EC12 and see what the wood does for you, compared to their lower priced and younger aged siblings. Side-by-side, blind tastings are what will teach you more than any other method. The best (my opinion) extra aged bourbons have a hint of shellac in the nose. Whenever I smell that, I love the taste as well.

Trey Manthey
04-28-2013, 18:56
I'm with Cowdery: Stay where you are.

Relatively, it's a really bad time to start getting into high end stuff. You'll spend a ton of money and time, and as Chuck said, you're not missing much. If it were three or four years ago I'd advise differently, but not now. Not like this.

Alden
04-28-2013, 19:17
I'm with Cowdery: Stay where you are.

Relatively, it's a really bad time to start getting into high end stuff. You'll spend a ton of money and time, and as Chuck said, you're not missing much. If it were three or four years ago I'd advise differently, but not now. Not like this.

Thanks for your opinion. So, I assume the high end stuff has recently rocketed up in price,but the quality is about the same as it was, or maybe even not as good as years ago?

HighInTheMtns
04-28-2013, 19:37
I think you're doing just fine, and really there's no "wrong" anyway. Buy an expensive bottle when you feel compelled to, but just be aware that it can be a slippery slope.

CoMobourbon
04-28-2013, 19:59
That's pretty much been my approach as well - except that I am not sure about moving to the upper shelf. I have been carefully selecting and working through high value low to mid shelf bourbons (a lot of the same ones you have, just not all at once!) for the last 1.5 years and have found little wanting. When I have had higher shelf offerings, on the other hand, I am often struck by the "good, but not 2x or 3x better" conclusion.

cowdery
04-28-2013, 20:12
I'm not saying don't go there (to the top shelf). I'm just saying you don't need to go there.

Alden
04-29-2013, 15:37
I'm not saying don't go there (to the top shelf). I'm just saying you don't need to go there.

I did this with wine about 6 years ago. I found the same thing.

There is a level, usually somewhere around the middle shelf area, sometimes a little lower, sometimes a little higher, that you really don't need to go above unless you just have bags of money you need to get rid of.

dohidied
04-29-2013, 15:58
You have a lot of good pours already (W12, OGD114, EC12 IMO). Going to the top shelf is less reliable than in years past because of the Bourbon boom and the fact that plenty of independent bottlers have expensive, unremarkable whiskies out there. Before plunking down serious money, do your research here. The search tool is extremely valuable in finding where to spend your hard-earned dollars.

WhiskyToWhiskey
04-29-2013, 16:02
Great collection of pours there. I started years ago with single malt scotch. I tried bourbon and realised the quality to price I was getting suited me more. I still do enjoy single malts, but I'm happy if I just have Glenlivet Nadurra 16yo in the cabinet. I enjoy mostly mid-shelfers like you have. I also like Jack Daniel's Single Barrel, Irish Whisky (Jamesons SR, Green Spot, Redbreast), Select Canadian Whisky, and sipping rums.