View Full Version : New to Bourbon, need advice

10-28-2004, 13:03
I found this forum while looking for some Bourbon advice. I am a afficiando of many things, but Bourbon surely is not one of them. I have many friends who drink bourbon and keep bugging me to join them. I usually stick with vodka, wine or beer. My problem is this, I had a bad experience as a youth with Old Grand Dad (ugh) and to this day, the smell of any brown spirit brings back bad memories. I have tried a few big name bourbons, mixed various ways with not much luck in enjoying the flavor.

Can any of you bourbon fiends recommend a "Baby" bourbon and/or a "new to bourbon" drink that might ease me into this spirit and allow me to gain a taste for it?


SpanKy in VA

10-28-2004, 13:10
Welcome. Here's a good start. Click on the slide show.



10-28-2004, 13:12
Funny you should post that link. I read it today and thats what got me thinking and finding this site... ahha.


10-28-2004, 14:02
Yikes! Did you see the results so far of that survey (which is your favorite bourbon)? Maker's Mark is way out front in the polling. None of the above is second place so far.

10-28-2004, 14:10
I know many folks in this forum would disagree, but I think that a very approachable bourbon is Maker's Mark. It's a bit pricey for what you get, but it is quite smooth for a beginner.

Something with a little more depth and flavor would be Knob Creek or Evan Williams Single Barrel (1994 vintage is the newest). I've recently gotten my wife (definitely not a bourbon drinker) hooked on Eagle Rare Single Barrel, which is not too pricey where I am - a very reasonable $19 / bottle.

Try diluting with water (bourbon can handle quite a bit of dilution due to its strong flavor). Mixing bourbon with some soda water is also doable, although I bet some folks here will have a coronary when they hear me recommending that. Bourbon and coke is a popular drink, but since most of the flavor is masked, you can get away by mixing an inexpensive (but definitely not cheap) bourbon like Evan Williams black label.

Drinking on the rocks can mask a lot of the flavor, and leave you with just the burn. Some whiskeys fare better than others over ice, and I haven't experimented enough to give you a good direction here.

You could also try making a whiskey sour (although this can mask a lot of the bourbon flavor) or a Manhattan. Manhattan's are another good way to get used to bourbon while having a bit of vermouth to make it go down a bit easier.

Good luck, and welcome aboard!

10-28-2004, 14:17

Eventually it may be possible for you to get past your early, unpleasant experience with Old Grand Dad. Your story certainly rings a bell (http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/showthreaded.php?Cat=&Board=General&Number=9274&Fo rum=All_Forums&Words=morefield%20grand%20dad%20gin ger&Match=And&Searchpage=0&Limit=25&Old=allposts&M ain=8794&Search=true#Post9274) with me. Today Old Grand Dad has a permanent spot on my shelf (assuming I can replace my current bottle, now that I live in Outback, Arizona).

BTW, to respond to your question, I'd suggest that Virginia Gentleman, 6 year-old, 90 proof (aka, "The Fox") would be a good one to try. It certainly is a far cry from Old Grand Dad, with its strong rye bite. For an even greater contrast (wheat takes the place of rye), try Old Weller 12 year-old, which I hold to be just about the smoothest, full-flavored bourbon around.

If it turns out that bourbon is just not the drink for you at this time, fear not. Some of my best friends are scotch-drinkers. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif (My son is one example.)

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

10-28-2004, 16:02
I would echo the suggestion that you start with Maker's Mark and dilute it with water 1:1, then if you like that, gradually reduce the amount of water. Using room temperature water will give you more whiskey flavor, but chilled water just seems to taste better. I think dilution with water, room temperature or cold, is better than using ice. For one thing, it's easier to get an exact ratio and every sip will taste the same. With ice the drink becomes progressively more diluted as the ice melts. If the flavor is too strong even at 1:1, add more water. Unless you have a lot of confidence in your local tap water, spring for some spring water.

10-28-2004, 16:15
Hey Spanky!

First of all, welcome to SB.com! I see you're from VA, so the suggestion Dave had for Weller 12, although is 100% right on the money for a non-aggressive bourbon, isn't going to work. (I know this because VA ABC refuses to carry it!)

My suggestion for an approachable bourbon would be Eagle Rare Single Barrel 10yo. Many SB.com'ers would probably protest this one, but I find it extremely approachable for a beginner, and there are MULTIPLE layers of flavor should you choose to explore them!

If you make it to a Maryland liquor store, definely try some Weller 12...I went years without trying it and it's absolute ambrosia, and it's a complete bargain as well!

Enjoy, and welcome!

10-28-2004, 16:25
I second (or rather third, since I recommended it in my post as well) the Eagle Rare Single Barrel. EWSB '94 and ERSB have made my wife into a part-time bourbon drinker. No mean feat!

There's something about the sweetness of the ERSB that is very appealing to her, and I have to admit I quite like it as well.

10-28-2004, 16:25
Welcome, Spanky.

I am a afficiando of many things, but Bourbon surely is not one of them.

Safer to say, perhaps, that bourbon is not one of them *yet*.

I have many friends who drink bourbon and keep bugging me to join them.

I am guilty of exerting peer pressure myself, but only upon people I really care for. It's not that I'm a pushy person by nature, (I am decidedly not,) but because I'm deeply concerned for the wellbeing and happiness of my fellow man, I feel obliged to introduce such a rich source of joy into their lives.

... I had a bad experience as a youth with Old Grand Dad (ugh) and to this day, the smell of any brown spirit brings back bad memories. I have tried a few big name bourbons, mixed various ways with not much luck in enjoying the flavor. Can any of you bourbon fiends recommend a "Baby" bourbon and/or a "new to bourbon" drink that might ease me into this spirit and allow me to gain a taste for it?

This is a more common story than you realize. It is my own, in fact. I got foolishly drunk on whiskey in my youth, as have many wayward youngsters, both before and since, and one does not quickly forget the experience of whiskey-laden bile coursing through one's nostrils. For years I could drink anything *but* whiskey. It was less than a couple years ago that a kind soul introduced me to Sc*tch, which is very similar to whiskey. (jk, jk.) I approached it with interest, and with an open mind, and I fell in love. After some experimentation, I discovered Bourbon, which is even more agreeable to my palate than Sc*tch.

The very thing that is keeping you from Bourbon, my friend, is the very thing that holds such an attraction: the rich, deep, complex, incomparable FLAVOR which NO OTHER SPIRIT comes close to matching. I enjoy beer. Wine is nice. Vodka, gin and rum are great for getting hammered without being too involved in what you are actually drinking. But whiskey, (yes, even Sc*tch,) is in a league of its own. Brandy drinkers THINK they have the holy grail, but their taste buds have yet to attain to the epitome and culmination of the art of distillation: whiskey.

Advice: probably best to start with a lighter bourbon. Makers Mark is very smooth and mild, and would be eminently approachable by a novice, yet it still tastes like bourbon. Some here may crucify me for suggesting this, but good ol' Jim Beam white label is very mild and smooth and ridiculously easy to drink straight. Try it. It's not a sin to cut whiskey with a little water; connoisseurs do it all the time, and many whiskeys actually benefit from it. Neither is it a crime to mix bourbon with ginger ale; in fact, it's good. The flavor will shine right through. Take small sips, and let the liquid roam around your mouth, collecting saliva. Do not recoil from the experience, but fall into it. Whiskey is not (merely) an alcohol delivery system, it is all about the flavor. Explore it. Once your palate aquires the taste, sample the more bombastic expressions of this Nectar that are discussed on this board.

Welcome again, and good luck. And if you should discover that Bourbon is simply not for you, then do not fret; there is no shame in admitting it. Just crawl back into ignorance and darkness and try to forget that you were ever exposed to the truth. Maybe some French wine will help you cope.

http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/lol.gif

10-28-2004, 16:31
im kinda new to bourbon as well bt i can offer you this suggestion.....when drinking your bourbon, take tiny sips and dont move your mouth too much when you swallow it. let it just run down your throatand you will taste all sorts of sweet things, you will also get a feel for the texture and thick body that we all love in our bourbon. if you take too big of sips, you can get intimidated by the immediate smell you get and feel the need to chug it down, thus giving you considerable burn and bypassing all of the good things bourbon has to offer. remember, small sips and relaxation.... and good luck.

10-28-2004, 17:25
Yes, my experience was very similar. Imagine a bottle of OGD and 6-pack of Old Milwaukee. Make a few dozen boiler makers and then heave it for hours on end...

Thanks for the advice though.


10-28-2004, 19:44
I agree with lakegz, small sips and let it glide right down. I enjoy the smells before and mostly after each sip.
It's give you that sweet appeal bourbon has. The brown sugars, vanilla and all those other things your taste buds desire..... http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/toast.gif

10-28-2004, 20:26
I've only been drinking bourbon for a few months and i started with makers. i remember thinking it was pretty good. i bought knob creek shortly after which also i thought was tasty. After discovering this forum and reading for a few hours my curiosity got the best of me. One trip to bev and more and 100 dollars less in my wallet i'm on the road to becoming the experienced bourbon connoisseur. I was overwhelmed once i got there and of cousre i didn't make a list. so there i was trying to remember all the names from the various posts i had read. here's what i got. feel free to give me some recomendations too.
Van winkle Lot B
evan williams single barrel 1994
W.L> weller special reserve 7 year
whiskey river(had to buy for the free guitar pick)
already had makers and woodford reserve
After sampling all but the Evan williams 94' i think i know why people say makers isn't what it's advertised as and also for waht it's priced at. My favorite was Van winkle lot B. it was the most different tasting. hows that for a desription? forgive me i'm still learning.-daniel

10-28-2004, 20:54
In high school I had a girl friend whos parents bought Ancient Age by the case, they never missed the bottle we "borrowed". She had a sip, I had the rest, and it was 30 years before I could drink bourbon again. I would give a stab at Basil Haydens as a good starter. The biggest knock around here is that it is a light weight bourbon, and that might be just what the doctor ordered.

10-28-2004, 21:13
Basil Haydens

It's better than most will admit. I think it got trashed early on and some let themselves be painted in a corner. If you don't like it fine, but nothing is gained by following the crowd. What it is, is, an acquired taste, I think. Also a 4th expression of Old Granddad. Light, at 80 proof , yes. A touch on the pricey side for 80 proof bourbon, and we have all paid more for less value, can't go any lower on proof and still be Bourbon. No Bourbon experience is complete without Basil Haydens at some point!
Keep trying, you'll find something. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/toast.gif

10-28-2004, 21:16
Welcome on here, looks like you are finding your way about rather well! http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/toast.gif

10-28-2004, 21:24
I hope you also figured out that the idea is to get the girl to drink.

10-28-2004, 21:46

10-28-2004, 22:23
I hope you also figured out that the idea is to get the girl to drink.

http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/lol.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smilielol.gif

10-29-2004, 07:36
I'll agree with Chuck on this but with a twist. While I don't have a single bottle of Makers in my bunker I have had the occasion to drink it at bars where it was it or JB White label or nothing. The last time was early in my bourbon education and I ordered it on the rocks which happened to be shaved ice. There was a definite bourbon flavor to it but the ice seemed to really sweeten it and take a lot of the bite out of it (assuming it had any to begin with). While it wasn't enough to make me want to run out and overpay for it, it was definitly a positive experience in my formative period for drinking bourbon.

Another suggestion, and this may sound a bit silly to some, is to go to bourbon country and try it there. For some reason, when I visit Bardstown the bourbon just seems to taste better and drink easier. Whether it's the atmosphere, the company I have been blessed to share on these trips, or some trick of my imagination, the bourbons just don't taste the same at home as they do sitting in a little Gazebo in Kentucky.

10-29-2004, 13:18
Absolutely my experience too, bourbon tastes better in Bardstown! I once asked a waitress at Talbott's why this is (she was behind the bar, for those who know my marital status) and she said many people feel bourbon doesn't travel well. With a product so robust in alcohol, at first blush this seems far-fetched but some of the lore of local people has proved its stuff to me (e.g., Charlie Thomasson's distillery experience) and I am starting to think it isn't just the company and the atmosphere at work when bourbon tastes so good in B'town. Maybe the local air is its perfect match, kind of an additional diluent one might say..


11-01-2004, 09:10
Well, after all the great advice I received, I went with The Fox. I tried cutting with water, I tried drinking it with Coke, and then finially with Ginger Ale.

I can gladly say that after alittle experimentation, I had 6 Bourbon and Gingers on Saturday night sitting out back around the fire.... I think I discovered the attraction!



11-01-2004, 13:46
I alsways suggest Ancient Age 4 YO 80 Proof for beginners. It is nice and sweet with the characteristic vanilla flavor without the bite novices shy away from in older/more potent bourbons.

Happy Hunting!!! http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/toast.gif

Ken Weber
11-04-2004, 07:37
When you speak of a starter bourbon, I agree that Ancient Age is a good choice. Aside from the fact that we make it, I believe it is a simple, straight forward bourbon. It certainly does not have great complexity of other well aged products, but it prepares tha pallette for things to come.

The bourbon I most frequently recommend for people new to the bourbon category is Weller Special Reserve. This 7 year old wheated bourbon is softer than most bourbons (by virtue of the wheat).


11-04-2004, 19:03
Evening SpanKy,

I'll second Ken on the Weller 7yr 90 proof. I had hesitated to mention this expression before because it may not be available in your area. It is a bottling I use to introduce Single Malt drinkers to real whiskey. Lacking the rye "bite" I think of it as Bourbon on training wheels.