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  1. #1
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    Bourbons from the Same Line: (Blind) Comparative Tastings and Thoughts

    Based on my own recent experience, I strongly recommend that everyone try this: take all of the bourbons from the same brand profile (or even from the same mashbill + distillery) and do a few comparative tastings. Specifically, I recommend that you do this comparative tasting blind. So, for example, take off-the-shelf bottles of Weller Special Reserve, Old Weller Antique 107, and Weller 12 (not sure if W.L. Weller of the BTAC belongs in the conversation, but maybe that too if you have it) and try them blind back-to-back . Take notes, identify differences, and assign ratings for yourself.

    Any blind comparative tasting can be interesting, but the tasting format described above adjusts for mash bill and brand profile, highlighting other factors like age and proof. Most of the time when I drink and compare different whiskey pours, the whiskeys come from different brand profiles and even different distilleries. Most of the judgments I make about them and their defining characteristics (age, proof, etc.), then, are based on conjecture, memory, and extrapolation. Concurrent tastings of everything from the same line removes some of this ambiguity and really exposes what I like. (Do I really like more expensive? How much difference does the extra proof make? How much difference does the extra age make? How much difference does the special barrel selection make? etc.)

    I will post my first try at this below: I lined up (small samples!) the Evan Williams green label, the Evan Williams black label, the Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond white label, and the 2003 Evan Williams Single Barrel.

    Disclaimer: I could not find another thread with this premise, but I would be willing to believe that it exists.
    Disclaimer #2: I don't have the EW 1783 around me, so I could not include it.
    Last edited by CoMobourbon; 03-03-2013 at 08:30.
    I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different.
    ― Kurt Vonnegut

  2. #2
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    Re: Bourbons from the Same Line: (Blind) Comparative Tastings and Thoughts

    Last night, I did blind tasting of Evan Williams green label, Evan Williams black label, Evan Williams BIB, and the 2003 Evan Williams Single Barrel. I am usually content to just enjoy and compare different whiskeys side by side, but my friend is a science grad student and a statistician who loves that experimental rigor. Plus, he is even more casual about bourbon than I am, so he feeds my skepticism about the quality-price ratio of the fancier, more hyped bottles (e.g. EWSB) versus the value bottles (e.g. the EWBIB or the EWB). Especially considering that all the bottles came from the EW line, I thought it would be a useful test of the "do I really like it better, or do I just think I should like it better because it costs more?" question.

    I won't pretend competence in tasting notes, but I will say that we (even my friend, the ultimate bourbon skeptic) tasted significant differences in this blind format. We were both struck by the higher alcohol content and thickness of flavor in the BIB. Also, we noticed a little more going on (more muted wood char, more fruitiness, etc.) in the EWSB. And the nose on the single barrel stood out as markedly more rich and satisfying than the other two pours.

    Overall, though, we were struck by how much we enjoyed all four pours, these differences notwithstanding. The conclusion? When we pay extra for higher age, single barrels, or otherwise more special products, maybe we are mostly just paying for something different, not necessarily something better. Tasted blind, maybe I would enjoy the EWBIB almost as much as the EWSB (except for that nose) most of the time, even though the former is 2/5 the price of the latter.

    Does this mean that I would never buy the more expensive single barrels again? No; they are different, and slightly better maybe, and sometimes I want something different. But this experience has opened my eyes further on the best ways of enjoying whiskey. Most of the time, now, I intend to just find what I like and drink it, even if it is 2/5 the price of the more special bottle.
    Last edited by CoMobourbon; 03-03-2013 at 10:06.
    I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different.
    ― Kurt Vonnegut

  3. #3
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    Re: Bourbons from the Same Line: (Blind) Comparative Tastings and Thoughts

    CoMo, your conclusion is right on, "I intend to just find what I like and drink it",. Thats the key. But sometimes you have to try really hard to understand what it is you like and why. The blind test is in fact a great way to do that. I recently sampled teh Wellers you mentioned in your first post side by side, albeit not blind. I found that if I could only choose one it would be the 12. (WLW BTAC was not included). But the others have thier place and purpose. I found the spec resev to be what I refered to as a wonderful casual pour and the 107 simply a fine bourbon. But in the end I found the complexities of flavors in the 12 more to my preferance, at least at that moment. And that adds the true variable. individual palets and outside influances. I love orange juice, but not right after I brush my teeth. If you get my meaning.
    "You can't claim to have been drinkin all day if you don't start first thing in the mornin."

  4. #4
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    Re: Bourbons from the Same Line: (Blind) Comparative Tastings and Thoughts

    I have tried several blind tastings with Elmer T. Lee, Hancocks, Blantons, and Rock Hill Farms, and I cannot consistently identify which is which even though they range in price from $25 to $50.

  5. #5
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    Re: Bourbons from the Same Line: (Blind) Comparative Tastings and Thoughts

    Quote Originally Posted by Enoch View Post
    I have tried several blind tastings with Elmer T. Lee, Hancocks, Blantons, and Rock Hill Farms, and I cannot consistently identify which is which even though they range in price from $25 to $50.
    That's really interesting.

    My conclusion (if it had been me): I think I'll buy the ETL from that line 90% + of the time.
    I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different.
    ― Kurt Vonnegut

  6. #6
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    Re: Bourbons from the Same Line: (Blind) Comparative Tastings and Thoughts

    Excellent post CoMobourbon, excellent. Blind tasting is the only way to objectively evaluate whiskys and one of the first things we learn is more expensive is not better in any quality sense, just more expensive and sometimes (not always) may seem to have something a bit different.

    Try this, get 4-5 friends together, pool your money, buy a couple of the expensive bottles and compare them blind to others by the same Maker. The results can be, ahem, revealing.

  7. #7
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    Re: Bourbons from the Same Line: (Blind) Comparative Tastings and Thoughts

    Blind tasting can indeed be quite the humbling experience. It's why I don't do it very often! I'm generally okay with my delusions re quality. :P

  8. #8
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    Re: Bourbons from the Same Line: (Blind) Comparative Tastings and Thoughts

    Absolutely right; blind tastings are revealing and humbling - maybe in uncomfortable ways! Really, this is such a truism that it almost sounds cliche, but blind tastings are really the only way to know.

    But I think concurrent blind tastings of whiskeys from the same maker, mashbill, or even the same brand profile amplify the power of blind tastings even more. Because when you have different mashbills and different profiles from different distillers, you never really know what how to account for the differences in flavor. Concurrently using bourbons from the same line, though, controls for these a lot of the variables.

    I feel like, for example, that I can make some fairly useful generalizations about how much age matters to me versus how much proof matters to me. Specifically, I have come to think that higher proof matters much more - especially as it can be had for more bang-to-buck. I like older 8-12 year stuff better sometimes - there are noticeable differences in any case - but don't think that it is usually worth the money.
    I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different.
    ― Kurt Vonnegut

  9. #9
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    Re: Bourbons from the Same Line: (Blind) Comparative Tastings and Thoughts

    An attractive package will definitely sell whisky, or get you married for that matter.

  10. #10
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    Re: Bourbons from the Same Line: (Blind) Comparative Tastings and Thoughts

    Awesome post, CoMo. I'm a big fan of separating the bourbon from the label to really figure out why I like or dislike a bourbon.

    I used to struggle with why I didn't seem to like BT as much as everyone else, until it was slipped into a few blind tastings. Then I realized that to my palate, BT tastes like an entry-level bourbon (somewhat similar to EWB). It's not bad, but for me there's no reason to spend extra money on it.

 

 

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