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View Full Version : 3 Bourbons for a beginner: Redux



Richard
09-04-2004, 11:10
First, I would like to say thanks to everyone for revisiting a previous topic. I've been lurking on the site and boards for awhile as my interest in Bourbon has been increasing, but I haven't posted. It seems the longer and farther I'm away from the midwest (born in Cincinnati) the more I'm interested in taking some of it with me. So even though wine is the drink of choice here in California (and I have had some wonderful wines) I'm really interested in exploring bourbons more.

So, my question. I have been trying out Makers Mark and Knob Creek for awhile to get a sense of their differences (wheat vs. rye, high proof vs low proof) and I tend to drink them both on the rocks (though the MM with a lot less ice, just a cube, mostly because it can be so hot here in the summer). To expand a little more I'm thinking of buying a bottle of Woodford Reserve. Is this a good choice? value? If not what might provide a nice contrast to the Knob's Creek?

Thanks for all your help, past and present!

Paradox
09-04-2004, 11:36
I don't think that Woodford Reserve is that good of a value even if it has gotten better than it used to be as others have said. If you want something that is reasonably priced and in the middle of Knob Creek and Makers Mark I would say to try Buffalo Trace, Wild Turkey Russell's Reserve 10yo or Elijah Craig 12yo. Eagle Rare 10yo is one other good choice. Bevmo should have them and if not HiTime in SoCal has them for order...

Gillman
09-04-2004, 11:43
Nice post, welcome to the board.

My suggestion would be Barton Very Old, which is 6 years old. Go for the higher proof range if you can find it, say, 90 or even 100 proof.

My next choice would be Evan Williams Single Barrel 1994 vintage.

Both these offer a good contrast to Knob Creek yet on the ryed bourbon side of the divide.

I would think Trader Joe's or the many good liquor stores in Southern California would carry these two brands.

Gary

lakegz
09-04-2004, 11:46
If you want something that contrasts with your Knob, i would go with an Evan Williams Single Barrel bottle. I have a '93 bottle and I find it to be very light-oaky on the nose with a nice refreshing vanilla scent, rather then a heavy vanilla scent one gets with a heavier drink such as KC. The taste of my '93 is an extremely gentle vanilla and instead of tasting oak, i got the impression I was drinking something so refreshing it had to have come from cedar or something (but still sweet of course). My '93 is one smooth and airy drink and is a good contrast to the rougher edged KC.

Another great all around choice is Wild Turkey Rare Breed. This is an extremely sweet bourbon that just blankets your mouth with the flavor of overly buttered vanilla cake batter. it finishes off with the right amount of spice too that is like the kick you get when you eat your meat with a good amount of black pepper. this is a solid drink without any rough edges like KC.
I saw an Evan Williams Single Barrel at an Albertsons here in San Diego(the only place ive ever seen it on the shelves after checking a million liquor stores).
The Wild Turkey Rare breed can usually be found at any supermarket liquor section and that one should be no trouble getting....unless you cant afford the 30 bucks it costs http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif
well then, have a good drink.

ratcheer
09-04-2004, 13:03
I will answer before I read what others have answered.

I would try some representative samples from different distillers. From Wild Turkey, you could try their standard 101-proof, or Russell's Reserve 10-year old, or Rare Breed barrel strength.

From Heaven Hill, try either Elijah Craig 12-year old or Evan Williams Single Barrel.

And, from Buffalo Trace, you could select Buffalo Trace, Rock Hill Farms, Blanton's, or Eagle Rare. (RHF and Blanton's are pretty expensive, though).

Do try the Woodford Reserve, it is a honey.

Tim

cowdery
09-04-2004, 13:44
All of the suggestions already made are good ones and I'll echo some of them there. The hot segment within the American whiskey category right now is the $20 to $30 price point. Two of the leaders of that segment are Knob Creek and Maker's Mark. Woodford Reserve is the third. The other contenders (one from each major company) are Evan Williams Single Barrel, Eagle Rare Single Barrel, Bulleit and Russell's Reserve. Barton's Ridgemont Reserve, when it returns, will be in that segment as well. All of these are good products, well supported by their makers, and they may represent where the category is going. They also offer pretty good variety.

gr8erdane
09-04-2004, 14:06
Having read your post as well as the answers, I feel the need to remind some of us that some of the bottlings (VOB, BT) are probably not available in California and therefore you are teasing the poor fellow. Of the widely distributed bourbons you are most likely to find I would agree with several here on Russell's Reserve and Evan Williams Single Barrell. Both are superior IMHO to the regular versions without costing too much more. I'll reserve comments on Woodford Reserve until I taste the newer bottling though as the older bottle I have now is less than impressive and am looking forward to sampling a newer bottle possibly at bourbon fest.

Paradox
09-04-2004, 14:48
Alot of stuff can be ordered off the net now, like the Buffalo Trace. (http://store.yahoo.com/randalls/rws23879.html) Sometimes you jsut have to be willing to make a call and be persuasive. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif Even if the newer WR's are better for their price I really don't see myself buying one when there are so many other buys out there cheaper that have been good all these years.

OneCubeOnly
09-04-2004, 16:26
Even if the newer WR's are better for their price I really don't see myself buying one when there are so many other buys out there cheaper that have been good all these years.



As much of a bourbon nut as I consider myself, I have to echo Mark's sentiments with regards to WR. I've had such a bad experience with their (presumably previous) product that I can't bring myself to try their new one. My batch 99 is really going down with a LOT of difficulty. It'll take a lot of post 110+ batch reinforcement (maybe at the Bourbon Festival!?) to win me over as a customer. I even get the stuff on sale for $19.99 and it *STILL* hasn't pushed my buttons. YMMV. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/skep.gif

jeff
09-04-2004, 17:59
Barton's Ridgemont Reserve, when it returns, will be in that segment as well



It has indeed made its come back http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/toast.gif In Lexington at least it has reappeared at $24.99. I haven't picked up a bottle yet but plan to do so soon.

clayton
09-04-2004, 19:35
Great suggestions all around. This would be my suggested shopping list:

Evan Williams Single Barrel 1994 - Gingery and silky
Wild Turkey Russell's Reserve - Heavy and rich
W.L. Weller 12 Year - Wheat recipe like Maker's Mark, but far better. I get lots of creamy chocolate from this one.
Van Winkle - Whatever you can find in California. The 15 year is particularly well liked. Another wheat family, but among the finest.

I personally like the Woodford Reserve. I tried it starting with batch 121, and it's excellent.

Honestly, though, you might want to try a straight rye if you're interested in contrast. The Wild Turkey Rye is good and fairly commonly available. I recently had the Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye for the first time, and it's one of the finest American whiskies I've had yet.

TNbourbon
09-04-2004, 19:50
The hot segment within the American whiskey category right now is the $20 to $30 price point...Barton's Ridgemont Reserve, when it returns, will be in that segment as well.



1792 Ridgemont Reserve has already returned, at least in Tennessee, and, I suspect, Kentucky. We have a bottle of it in the store right now.
I'll second, third, whatever, the sentiments about many of the bourbons herein listed, with a proviso -- rarely do all of us agree on any one bourbon (Stagg, maybe, being close to an exception among those who've gotten to try it). For example, I see Elijah Craig 12yo recommended here -- I don't like it. Many favor Very Old Barton -- I'm lukewarm about it. Yet I agree about so many other bourbons/whiskeys.
My point: these are all sound choices, but don't be put off if you find a highly-recommended bourbon doesn't suit your taste, or you like something panned otherwise here. There's great knowledge and experience to be had on these boards, and any of us would be fools not to benefit from it -- but only you can decide what YOU like. In the end, that's what we all do. And, in some form or fashion, we all like bourbon.

Vision
09-04-2004, 21:28
Try the WR and I'd wet your curiosity with Bookers, Rebel Yell, and JBeam Black also. Oh, and don't forget about rye:)

robbyvirus
09-04-2004, 23:07
Hi Richard...Welcome aboard! I too was born and raised in Cincinnati and only discovered bourbon after I moved to California. I would heartily recommend you cut to the chase and find one of the Van Winkle bourbons. You can find them in California if you look hard, though they're definitely not everywhere. To me you can't go wrong with anything they make. I assume you have Beverages N' More in Sacramento...they carry the Van Winkle "Lot B" (or at least they do in the Bay Area). I also recommend Wild Turkey...the 101 is found everywhere, and the Russell's Reserve, which is even better, is not too hard to find in liquor stores out here (Beverages n' More has it). Evan Willaim's single barrel is a good contrast as well, and again can be found at Beverages 'n More. Good luck, and keep us posted on your bourbon exploits!

Richard
09-04-2004, 23:28
Thanks for all the great feedback. I was hoping to get enough posts to keep me busy for a while, and looks like I shouldn't have been concerned. I do make trips back to Cincinnati to visit family and friends about twice a year. If I'm looking for some hard to find bourbons is there a place anyone recommends around there? I go see River Bats games every now and then when I'm in town too, so Louisville isn't out of the question.

Thanks again!

(Sorry Offtopic-OK, now I know its been too long since I visited, does anyone from Louisville know when/why the AAA River Bats change their name?)

TNbourbon
09-05-2004, 09:58
Cork 'N Bottle, just over the river in Covington, is well-stocked.

robbyvirus
09-05-2004, 23:45
Cork 'N Bottle, just over the river in Covington, is well-stocked.




This is where I go every time I'm in Cincinnati for a visit. Great selection!

ddubb
09-15-2004, 00:39
Greetings-

Just wanted to introduce myself, I hope Richard doesn't mind if another newbie piggybacks on his thread to ask a related newbie question. But first let me just summarize my very limited experience with bourbon.

Maker's Mark - I was a little surprised to see how popular it is on this site. I usually only drink it in a bar when that's the best choice in that bar. But then I learn from another thread what I was beginning to suspect, anyways: the taste in a bar is not always consistent or ideal. And by the way, considering the bars I'm speaking of specialize in punk and alternative rock, I'm just grateful that they even serve MM, contaminated or not. I will definitely have to get a bottle from a decent store.

Woodford Reserve - The first decent bourbon I ever bought, on an uneducated whim; picked it based on the neck tag. Didn't even check the proof, drank lots and never seemed to get buzzed. Not as if that's what I'm going for, I just couldn't believe how little it was affecting me for how much I was drinking. As I went to bed I made the assumption that it must be a low proof (70?) that accounted for the lack of burn and lack of buzz. The next morning I totally forgot I'd had any alcohol the night before until I saw the bottle on the kitchen counter. I was a bit surprised to see it was 90 proof.

Basil Hayden - I'm trying to avoid any descriptions of flavors, but this one strikes me as a good one to have around for guests who are reluctant to try drinking bourbon straight. To me it seemed smooth enough, and nothing wrong with the flavor, but it seemed a little light, as though it poured from the bottle tasting as if one ice cube had already melted in your drink. Nothing wrong with it but it seems that bourbon lovers are looking for a little more robustness to the flavor.

I've sampled a few others in college bars (Wild Turkey, Knob Creek, etc) and decided that its not giving them a fair chance, again, considering the bars I'm trying them in. So I'm discovering that I need to try them in higher class joints and buy bottles from good stores.

There are enough recommendations made here for Richard, myself and other newbies to keep us busy for a while. However I do have a related question, with a little bit of a twist, and I hope it doesn't sound stupid because its not nearly one of the top criteria I'm using, but I just haven't seen it addressed.

I'd like to get a recommendation for a bourbon that has a good ratio, or balance, of highest proof with the smoothest taste. I'm looking for something to surprise me more than the Woodford Reserve did, something that drops your draw and makes you suspicious that the proof printed on the bottle is accurate.

Well turns out the first post here is a bit of a long one from someone so new he could have very little to say. So thanks to everyone here who has already made this a great board, and thanks for any recommendations.

Dirk

pete_d
09-15-2004, 01:23
I'd like to get a recommendation for a bourbon that has a good ratio, or balance, of highest proof with the smoothest taste. I'm looking for something to surprise me more than the Woodford Reserve did, something that drops your draw and makes you suspicious that the proof printed on the bottle is accurate.

Dirk



To a relative newbie as well, I think the Baker's 107 is essentially what I'd go for for fill that gap. I haven't had the pleasure of trying many of the smaller distillery's, being on the other side of the world and all, but to me it's the quintessential Beam profile. Booker's is too potent to be 'easily' enjoyed. 'Basil' which I'm halfway through seems too tame and disperate to the Beam profile and JB Black seems to be too Rye influenced to my taste.

Since you've enjoyed WR, my guess is you wouldn't object to a pit of cost. The Baker's is an excellent drop. I think Linn's notes somewhere sums it up well.

I'd also recommend the '94 vintage Evan Willaims Single Barrel. I've tried the '93 and '91 and found them both excellent in a sweet vanilla/oak sort of way. I beleive the '94 is that flavour turned up to 11.

Got some RB today. Straight it seems to knock me around at the back of the palate. We'll see how i adapt. WT101 may be a good compromise.

Bamber
09-15-2004, 02:14
Woodford reserve (basic one - can't remember name) tastes really strongly of bananas to me. I like it a lot but I can't get bananas out of head when I drink it http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/crazy.gif

Cheers,

B.

RedVette
09-15-2004, 07:21
I'd like to get a recommendation for a bourbon that has a good ratio, or balance, of highest proof with the smoothest taste. I'm looking for something to surprise me more than the Woodford Reserve did, something that drops your draw and makes you suspicious that the proof printed on the bottle is accurate.




Wild Turkey Rare Breed

bluesbassdad
09-15-2004, 13:35
I'd like to get a recommendation for a bourbon that has a good ratio, or balance, of highest proof with the smoothest taste.



I humbly suggest Old Rip Van Winkle 107, 10 y/o.

For my initial impressions of this fine bottling, back when I was so new I still read, and believed, labels when I selected bourbon ( http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif ), go here (http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/showthreaded.php?Cat=&Number=7443&page=&view=&sb=5 &o=).

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

robbyvirus
09-15-2004, 23:01
I'd like to get a recommendation for a bourbon that has a good ratio, or balance, of highest proof with the smoothest taste. I'm looking for something to surprise me more than the Woodford Reserve did, something that drops your draw and makes you suspicious that the proof printed on the bottle is accurate.

Dirk



Old Rip Van Winkle at 107 proof is delicious and smooth, as is Weller Centennial at 100 proof.