View Full Version : Bourbon in Bars and Clubs Tastes Inferior

08-24-2004, 08:19
Buffalo Trace is one of my favourite whiskies. Last week I had some in a bar from a bottle that was 80% full and it tasted pretty average.

I figured the bottle was too new to have spoiled. The whisky was very warm when it was poured, as a consequence of having been stored under bright lights and I wondered if this cooking had spoiled it in some way.

My friend had a rum and that tasted fine.

Has anyone else noticed this ?



08-24-2004, 09:40
This is a good question. I think some bourbons can be adversely affected by long exposure to strong light but this is just an impression. A couple of times I have had drinks from bottles displayed that way in bars that seemed clearly off, but on the other hand, other bottles in the same bar, displayed the same way, were unaffected. One of our local liquor stores put a display of different whiskies in the display window which is an area exposed to strong outdoor light and the bottles have been there for many months. Interestingly, the bourbons and Jack Daniel's haven't lost an iota of colour, which proves what their producers say, that no colouring is added. However some of the Canadian whiskies and some of the Scotch blends, both of course sold in clear bottles so one can see the colour, have lost a considerable amount of their dark hue. Not all have: the Crown Royal retains its rich brown but one of the Canadian Clubs, I think it is the 12 year old, has lost a lot of its regular brown hue. I infer that caramel (burnt sugar) is added to the bottles that lost colour because it is known that with time and the effect of light, caramel can fade from the alcohol. How this happens, I am not exactly sure (maybe the sugar precipitates to the bottom but that does not occur with bottles stored in the dark, so it may be light-related). Whether for any of these bottles taste is affected by mere heat is hard to say although I would have thought something that is almost half alcohol should be robust enough to withstand any heat short of boiling. I have had some less-than-good experiences with whiskies in bars. Odours in bars can be strong and diverse (from food being cooked, from cigaret smoke, nearby auto traffic and so forth). Maybe this accounts for the bottles in restaurants or bars that don't taste quite as they should.


08-24-2004, 09:46
I've had similar experiences. I tend to avoid drinking anything particularly good (read: pricey), since it's difficult for me to fully enjoy the drink in most bar situations. I will of course order something to be social, but it's usually something fairly ordinary.

For one thing, I drink everything at home from a brandy snifter and pay close attention to the nose of the drink. The small tumblers that are generally used for whisk(e)y in bars are not exactly beneficial to the nose (to say nothing of all the cigarette smoke typically floating around in bars). I've also had a glass or two come down with a tinge of soap left in it. Nothing sours a drink like the taste of Palmolive (which is why nothing but hot water touches the barware at home).

There's also the fact that ordering by the glass is so fantastically expensive compared to buying by the bottle. Oy!

08-24-2004, 18:03
Even worse than the taste of Palmolive is the taste of bleach that is used sometimes in the final rinse to kill bacteria. Some bars use higher concentrations than others.

08-24-2004, 19:20
The difference in taste could be from a variety of factors. Bar glasses aren't always squeaky clean as has already been pointed out, especially in a smokey bar. I'm so happy with our smoke free bar situation here in NYC now that I can actually go out and have a drink and actually get a good nosing on my booze. Another possibility is that sometimes sheisty things go on behind the bar, like putting cheaper products in a bottle to "restock" the bar. Could be maybe something you ate altered the taste, as well. Many lights that I've seen used to illuminate a bar don't put off that much heat so the whiskey shouldn't be cooked, per say, I wouldn't think. You just never know.

08-24-2004, 19:58
^ that would be downright awful if any bar would pour in a little water or restock an EWSB with a cheaper and more plentiful Jack Daniels. Im gonna go play some pool tonight and they only have WT101, MM, and Knob so ill keep my fingers crossed and go for the knob.

08-25-2004, 01:38
Last night I had another bourbon from a bar - Maker's Mark with the black wax seal (I've not had this one before). Again I was not that impressed - it seemed a bit too bitter / dry / over-oaked but I'm not sure if its the whisky or the bar.

I don't think its a case of them putting cheap bourbon in the nice bottles, as it tasted like an aged whisky but spoilt - it definitely was not JD as I'm pretty sure I could recognise that locked in a suitcase.

As for the type of glass - I always order my whisky in a white wine glass or brandy balloon - which does not look very cool but does definitely improve the enjoyment.

The smoke in bars you mentioned is I'm sure a factor. Dirty glasses - maybe. Light vs. heat, that's a mystery to me. Bottom line is though is that I think I'll probably stick to beer (when out) from now on.



08-25-2004, 17:58
Wow. Two whiskeys a bit off in the same bar. Could be they just don't move that much and those opened bottles have been sitting a while. I used to work behind the bar and sometimes was amazed at how long some slower bars would keep some stock.

08-27-2004, 00:41
I have a sneaking suspicion that bars rarely, honestly, renew anything, until it's all gone. Watering down, adding less expensive booze to the low stock, high end bottles and such, it probably happens alot more than we think.

08-27-2004, 02:07
I agree that bars don't renew stock until it's all gone, but I'm not sure about the watering down theory, maybe some of the lower end bars do, but decent bars certainly don't.
I think that all bourbons taste weird in bars, but I think that beer sometimes does as well (ever notice how your favourite beer doesn't taste like it does at home?)I think that atmosphere and ambience play a large part in how we think things taste.