Bourbon Report from Germany and Italy...
Or at least parts of Germany and Italy anyway. After 5+ weeks in Dusseldorf and 10+ days in Venice, Chianti and Florence, I thought I would post a brief report on the general condition of bourbondom as I found it in those places.
Bourbon is not a big mover in any of these locations. Beam products are pretty well represented. White label is there and, at better stores with wider selections, Black Label and occasionally even their top shelf offerings. I was pleased to find Four Roses Yellow Label easily available because I enjoy this 80 proofer. Very difficult to find proof strengths over 80. Generally the Beam White and some dog-and-cat brands like Stars and Stripes that look to be 3 yrs old. This stuff is available in groceries and newspaper shops.
The big department stores in Germany are somewhat better with the top shelf Beam brands and Makers. I found a couple of specialty liquor stores that stocked WT 101 and even the Rye but at around 30 euros that's a very big mark-up. Old Grand-Dad at 86 proof in a 114 bottle. In Dusseldorf, one shop with I W Harper 12. I've always wanted to try this but at 50 euros for a 700 ml bottle at 90 proof, I passed. Same place (a whisky specialty shop) had Old Overholt and 80 proof Rittenhouse Rye.
Found one tobacconist in Germany with WT 12 at about the same price as the regular 101 and since I'm having to go back in a couple of weeks, I think I'll pick this up to drink while I'm there. This is the only thing I found at what I would consider a fair price stateside.
While in Cologne, I visited the Cadenhead shop and saw the only really exotic bottles of my trip. They had unfilitered, barrel strength, single barrel offerings of Heaven Hill whiskey from 7 to 15 yrs old and an 11 yr old Frankfort Barrel:
As you can see these are priced high compared to stuff like the Antique Collection but given their rarity, I'm considering springing for a couple of bottles.
The parts of Italy I visited were rougher going than Germany. Although I got a generous pour from an OLD Eagle Rare 101 bottle in a bar in Greve in Chianti for next to nothing. And had an excellent Old Grand-Dad Manhattan (pre-Beam bottle marked DSP-14), WT Sour, and WT Old-Fashioned at Florian's on the Piazza San Marco in Venice.
I highly recommend Florians. If you are serious about your drinking (and want to save some money), get off the Piazza and sit at the bar in the back. The bartender was world class: nineteen years at Florian's and 5+ years at a private club in London. He was as good as it gets. And any establishment that's been serving them up for over 250 years is doing something very right. It's no dive bar, but it covers the other end of the spectrum perfectly and effortlessly.
So in conclusion, the pickings are slim and the prices are high. I made do with Old Grand-Dad 86 and Four Roses 80. The art, the food, the countryside must be experienced to be believed, but bourbonially speaking, it's very good to be back in the USA. The first thing I did when I walked in was pour myself some WT Tribute. Here's to Jimmy Russell!
I forgot to mention that Woodford's was also readily available at the bigger shops. Brown Forman is obviously doing very well getting this one out there.
Re: Bourbon Report from Germany and Italy...
Thanks for that report, Mike.
Italy is nice, but there's no place like home...