I've been lurking for about two months now. Found this forum after deciding to get serious(er) about bourbon, and I have to say, it has been a remarkable resource so far.
Just two months in to my bourbon obsession, I've already been down to Kentucky for distillery and warehouse tours (thanks to this forum, I learned about the amazing Four Roses warehouse tour, about which I will eventually post), hosted an epic tasting w/ friends (yeah, 9 was too much, but everyone chipped in to foot the bill and I got the leftovers!), and have tentatively started dusty hunting. Just this week I found some OC12 from 95 and some old label OWA 107 and Special Reserve from about the same era (I think). Not super-rare finds but nevertheless gave me a taste of how fun the hunt can be. My fiancee has so far begrudgingly tolerated my newfound desire to stop at sketchy liquor stores on the south and west sides ...
The best thing I've picked up has been an appreciation for a wider spectrum of bourbons, both in terms of price point and flavor profile. I love me some VOB BIB but am also starting to understand what's great about the various BTAC bottlings and the various Pappys.
The second best thing has been a validation of my anti-Beam leanings. It's great to know the range of opinions on particular products and get a sense of how individual members' palates align with mine.
The third best thing is the free pours I now get from bartenders after demonstrating I (kinda) know WTF I'm talking about. Even in Chicago, where I assume we have a more knowledgable bourbon drinking community than most, a slightly better than neophyte level of knowledge really blows bartenders minds. Yes, I will take that free pour of Pappy 15 and the Family Reserve Rye. And I owe it all to you guys.
It's also fun to remember that I met a certain prominent member of this board back in the early 2000s at a pig roast in southern Wisconsin. I had to pry him away from my girlfriend at the time (she's was a "dancer" so I can't really blame him!). He had just finished a book on bourbon, which is why I remember ...
These days I'm enjoying a couple bottles of Binny's Four Roses Single Barrel (OBSK and OBSF), the OC12, pretty much any/all the Weller Products, EWSB 2000, VOB BIB, and have gone to Rittenhouse 100 exclusively for mixing. Becoming more aware of bourbon's intricacies has made me more doctrinaire about rye as the go-to for old-school cocktails.
Anyway, I'm looking forward to learning even more from y'all. Hoping to meet some Chicago area folk who share the obsession. It seems that with all obsessions, when you cross a certain threshold level of knowledge, you can really only converse with people who are above that threshold. To anyone else you're a freak or a crank or a nerd ... there's just no point in having a discussion with people who drink "X and only X" (i.e. MM). I'm a bit intimidated to start posting, but I'm glad to have the opportunity to participate in a discussion with such smart, kind and knowledgable people.
Oh, and since I've listed the benefits of the forum to me so far, I might as well note the downside. Those freaking acronyms drive other people crazy. It's so hard for me -- even now just as a 2 month lurker -- to refer to bourbons without using the shorthand. I've gotten 3 emails in just the last couple of days asking me WTF I'm talking about. There's something about that sort of language that, once imprinted upon the brain, will not go away.