View Full Version : Twelve "Special" Bourbons
I got a kick out of this. An email arrived today touting a web site called happyhours.com (http://www.happyhours.com). One story it featured caught my eye: The 12 Most Unforgettable Bourbons by Robert Plotkin (http://www.happyhours.com/vip/featureArticle.htm?&itemid=11)
Robert Plotkin is president of the National Bar & Restaurant Management Association and the author of numerous books including Successful Beverage Management-Proven Strategies for the On-Premise Operator.
His picks? It's not a bad list. Hirsch, Elijah Craig 18-year-old, Distiller's Masterpiece, but also Gentleman Jack, Maker's Mark and the one that makes you wonder if he actually tasted any of the products on the list, McKendric.
Anyway, take a look at the full story. It's worth a comment or two, I think.
I suppose it'd be easy for me to 'give in to temptation' and rip into this article, but it actually isn't entirely off-base. I did have two immediate reactions: 1. Where the @%^#$%#@ are the Van Winkle bourbons? and 2. Why does Blanton's only get an honorable mention below BT?
Let's review: Gentleman Jack is a more unforgettable *bourbon* than Pappy 20 and OFBB. Okay Chief.
Was I gentle enough? http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif
I have to fully agree with not having any Van Winkle listed, maybe he visited a B rated Bourbon Bar. As for the Gentleman Jack, I can only guess that he was trying to pull in the general community out there. Not the people like us who know what bourbon really is. It has been said before with various distilleries and marketing strategy...why not in authoring an article on something that not everyone know but give them something they can identify.
When you write for a living I guess a deadline can catch you with your pants down.
He missed several good ones. He was dead on about the comeback of the spirit.
When was the last time you met a bartender (good writer, or otherwise) who really knew a good bourbon from a well? Not to be harsh, I found the article a wee bit better than middle of the road (at least MM wasn't first) but as Van Winkler, he certainly missed out on better bottlings.
I scanned the list of 12. Only 9 are bourbons. I quit reading right then. (Hey, I am an engineer. If you can't get your facts straight, I won't waste me time.)
Between the time I read Plotkin's article and when I wrote my post, my attitude toward the article had moderated considerably. Certainly some of his selections are on target, especially for a bar operator audience (e.g., it's hard to recommend products that aren't readily available nationally). A couple, though, are so dubious it's hard to believe he even sampled what he wrote about.
You have to admit that McKendric is unforgettable! It took a long time to get the foul taste out of my mouth last time I tasted it.
The article contains various errors. These include the listing of Tennessee whiskey (and a rye whiskey) in an article on Bourbon, compounding the enduring confusion between the categories; the unclear reference to the "second" pot still distillation of Hirsch/Michter's 16 year old (or is that a doubler he means?); the contextual implication (probably unintended) that only Knob Creek uses charred barrels; and the suggestion that Gentleman Jack's formulation dates from the turn of the 20th century when its signature, post-aging leaching through maple charcoal, is a recent innovation (of Lincoln Henderson, I believe).
However, these really are minor points in the context of an enthusiastic article about Bourbon addressed to the bar and restaurant trade. Promoting bourbon in this way is only a good thing. And this kind of promotion is needed because there is a lot of ignorance behind the bars about what bourbon is and is not and the range of quality products out there from which to choose inventory.
Recently in a bar in a Buffalo, NY hotel I was assured the bar had no straight rye. I settled for a Canadian whisky and then noticed on the shelf a bottle of Sazerac 18 year old straight rye whiskey. (The bar I should say substituted the Sazerac, at no extra cost, and that was appreciated). The Plotkin article praises Sazerac 18 year old and identifies it as a "rye whiskey" so this will only help to make the bar trade understand better what it is. By the way that shot of Sazerac struck me as very fine, one of the best pours of any American whiskey, or any whisk(e)y period, I have had in many years. It is a tremendously complex yet bold drink, surely the kind of American rye that in its heyday was the prime of Pennsylvania and Maryland. Now Kentucky can take the laurels until, that is, those other States reclaim, if ever they will, their heritage as producers of fine rye whiskey.
I read the referenced article and agree that he has written an enthusiastic piece about our favorite spirit but missed out on a few gems we all love....the ORVW's, etc. But it was more accurate than any recent article I've read in papers and mags for the general public regarding bourbon.... ie he did note that JD's products are not bourbons. I then went on to read another article of his on whisky "The Best New Whiskies of the Millenium". I liked ALL of his choices there....he is especialy fond of the Sazerac rye. He displays an excellent knowledge of the bar business and spirits in general in his numerous articles at that website. He's the kind of guy/gal I'd like to see join our board and bring his perspective from the other side of the bar to our discussions.
Yes and sorry if I missed that he mentioned Tennessee whiskey was a different category than Bourbon. The perspective of a restaurant or bar owner would be valuable here. There are in fact many such people (I know a number) who take a serious interest in the whiskey they serve. Unfortunately they often have to settle for hiring staff who won't take well to training or who move on once properly trained. Probably Prohibition wreaked a permanent change in how bartending has been viewed in America. But in the end there is no substitute for the consumer being well-informed; that is the best guarantee one will get a quality product at the right price. But the bar staff thing is a real dilemma, just today I was told at a restaurant the draft Tuborg was from Belgium and the Harp was from England. Close, but no cigar. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif
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