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  1. #1
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    The allure of value bourbons: quality, quantity or both?

    I am (still) intrigued by a lot of the conversation and regard for low cost bourbon. OGD 86/BiB/114, FC103, EWB, AAA, OF Signature, VOB and others. There is much less conversation for labels like Blanton's, RHF, Noah's Mill, Booker's, Bulleit and others which are generally double or even triple the price.



    Is the interest in lower cost products primarily based on price, or do you find these bourbons simply superior to their significantly more expensive siblings? Put differently, would you still prefer OGD BiB over RHF if they were the same price?



    My personal interest in asking is because I have very little resistance to buying the more expensive products, mainly because I don't drink a large quantity of whisky overall. I have to share it with my wine and beer habits. I really don't care much about the price of a dozen or so regularly open bottles because it might take me six months or more to finish them, so my overall cost to have them readily available is still quite low. But if I was emptying a bottle a week (or more) I could see where being more frugal would be necessary, even if it meant avoiding my "favorites" to achieve more quantity.



    Do the OGDs and VOBs of the bourbon world get your attention for their outright superiority or their bang-for-the-buck?

  2. #2
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    Re: The allure of value bourbons: quality, quantity or both?

    Both. Neither. One simply cannot generalize, each and every comparison stands on individualized merits. Since price is of little concern to you, buy 'em all (high and low priced favorites) and decide fer yerself. The value lies in self-determination alone.

  3. #3
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    Re: The allure of value bourbons: quality, quantity or both?

    The quality OR quantity set-up does not do the topic justice; people discuss them because they are of surprisingly or disproportionately high quality, but not because they allow you to drink higher quantities. In other words, yes, people talk about them so much because of their value, but crucially, people don't talk about them as a compromise of quality for quantity. The general consensus on, say, OGD114 or OWA, is that it is either every bit as good or almost as good as these higher priced brands at a staggeringly lower cost. In many cases, people get specific and say 'X whiskey is technically just Y whiskey (except for one factor, like a few years of age or something) under a different brand at double the cost, so I will always get Y whiskey '; Rock Hill Farms and Elmer T. Lee are a pretty good example of such a pairing.

    In short, we talk about value brands not so much because of their bang-for-buck value but rather because they are a secret, and references to them indicate insider knowledge that defines discourse in hobbyist forums like this one.

    More specifically, we talk about the value brands mostly to show, confirm, and refine the insider knowledge implied by identifying high quality and low cost products - not so much to cautiously manage quality against quantity in order to balance a budget. I mean, people practice the quality/quantity/budget management described above, but that clearly isn't the reason that we like to talk about the value brands so much. On this site, we want to discuss specific tricks and idiosyncrasies of the bourbon world that the general public wouldn't know. It gives us satisfaction that we know that Average Schmuck Shopper probably assumes that RHF is twice the quality of ETL just because of the price tag: 'but I know better!' Even more importantly, value bourbons drive hobbyist discussions because showing one's knowledge of them shows that one has real insider knowledge and therefore belongs on hobbyist forums in the first place. Even if you have the money to blow on tons and tons of top shelf liquor, it makes you look bad to not also make references to the low cost / high quality bottles you bring home - because those purchases show knowledge that the ignorant consumer would not have. (That's largely why you'll find that many of the same people with obscene "Show Us Your Stash" posts are quick to emphasize their love of the value brands also - to prove that they are still one of us and not some rich ignorant yuppie or hipster who blindly assumes that the higher price tag and rarity denotes higher quality.)

    A long while back, in one of the "New to Straightbourbon" threads, a new poster who introduced herself with a categorical statement: 'I always buy top shelf' or 'I never stoop to buy value brands' or something like that. (I wish I could remember either the name of the poster or the thread title; I think it has long been locked.) Needless to say, she got passive-aggressively criticized pretty good on here. Not only did she come off sounding a little arrogant (her good intentions notwithstanding, I'm sure), but her blanket no-value statement put into question whether or not she really knew the tricks of the bourbon world and therefore belonged in this community at all. That's what I'm talking about.
    Last edited by CoMobourbon; 04-02-2013 at 01:46.
    I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different.
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  4. #4
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    Re: The allure of value bourbons: quality, quantity or both?

    I can understand why some threads encourage the "don't ask us, make your own opinions" responses, but I dont understand what makes you think that I haven't. I tried to word my message to specifically avoid that response, but will accept that I failed. I want others thoughts on how price, quality and quantity interact with each other.

    You have to admit that it's not a typical environment. You will not find wine collectors discussing the merits of their Lafites and Margauxs while also singing the praise of $4.99 case buys from the corner market.



    If it helps lower the defenses a little, I am thoroughly enjoying a bottle of $14.99 FC. I didn't say I was a snob, I just stated that I am not put off by the higher prices as others might be, and ask why more attention is paid to the lower cost labels in general.
    Last edited by DBM; 04-02-2013 at 01:52.

  5. #5
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    Re: The allure of value bourbons: quality, quantity or both?

    To be clear, I think that it really is true that value is important, and that in the bourbon world there are whiskeys that are of the same or marginally lower quality for a much, much lower price. And for people who truly have to follow a budget (I won't get too embarrassingly specific, but I'll say that I'm on a sub-$15 grad student stipend for the year to keep my wife and myself afloat, for example), that value is actually / inherently important and worth discussing on its own merit.

    But that's not really why people - especially those either wealthy or irresponsible folks with high or non-existent bourbon budgets, who tend to dominate the post counts around here - like to talk about value bourbons. Again, they discuss value to show and then elaborate on knowledge, not so much because they have to.
    Last edited by CoMobourbon; 04-02-2013 at 01:59.
    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: The allure of value bourbons: quality, quantity or both?

    http://www.straightbourbon.com/forum...ight=top+shelf

    Here's the link to the thread I mentioned earlier about the self-avowed "only top shelf" SBer. Much more recent than I remember! Whoops!
    I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different.
    ― Kurt Vonnegut

  7. #7
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    Re: The allure of value bourbons: quality, quantity or both?

    Any time I feel bad about over-spending on bourbon, I just take a stroll down the scotch aisle and immediately feel better. I think part of the reason the hobby has really taken off over the past decade is because people began to realize the high quality whiskeys that are available here Stateside. Comparing the "value" brands to the premiums is just taking it the next step further. It is the same story that wine connoisseurs tell about Napa vs imported bottlings.
    For me, the first step was identifying what I really liked as far as bourbon goes. Then I built my bunker. Now I like to find "Value" pours that keep my bunker in tact, for special occassions. Not many of us can afford to drink Pappy as a regular pour since the prices skyrocketed.
    Bourbon is sunshine held together by water....

  8. #8
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    Re: The allure of value bourbons: quality, quantity or both?

    Quote Originally Posted by CoMobourbon View Post
    More specifically, we talk about the value brands mostly to show, confirm, and refine the insider knowledge implied by identifying high quality and low cost products - not so much to cautiously manage quality against quantity in order to balance a budget. I mean, people practice the quality/quantity/budget management described above, but that clearly isn't the reason that we like to talk about the value brands so much. On this site, we want to discuss specific tricks and idiosyncrasies of the bourbon world that the general public wouldn't know. It gives us satisfaction that we know that Average Schmuck Shopper probably assumes that RHF is twice the quality of ETL just because of the price tag: 'but I know better!' Even more importantly, value bourbons drive hobbyist discussions because showing one's knowledge of them shows that one has real insider knowledge and therefore belongs on hobbyist forums in the first place.
    CoMobourbon........

    I think you just accurately described the reason for every forum on the internet. Places to show off our superior "knowledge and/or thinking" about any subject from bourbon to guitars to photography to art and on and on.

    Well done!!!

  9. #9
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    Re: The allure of value bourbons: quality, quantity or both?

    I'll just be blunt and say it.......... I buy value bourbon because I can't afford to buy $35 and higher whisky on a regular basis. I moved to bourbon because Scotch is so pricey. I'm glad I did because I never knew what I was missing. Having said that, I still buy higher priced (supposedly higher quality) whiskey. I just don't buy it as often as I used to. I also really do like OGD BiB, EWB, WT 101, BT, etc........

  10. #10
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    Re: The allure of value bourbons: quality, quantity or both?

    When I was in grad school in the late '60s and early '70s I drank Johnny Walker Red, Jim Beam White, and Jack Daniels because I had heard of them, my friends had heard of them so I could serve them, and I could afford them. When I finally started making some money, I splurged on Chivas Regal and Crown Royal--because I had heard of them and wanted people to know I was moving on up. Gradually I discovered that the correlation between price and quality was tenuous at best.
    Today the Big Three in my house are AAA, VOB, and OWA. I stock up on the family size jugs whenever in KY because you can't get any of them in OH. I can "afford" Blanton's--and currently have three bottles--but whenever I spring for something over $40 I end up asking myself if I honestly enjoy it two or three times as much as the Big Three. There are days when I do! On a given day, high end bourbon is worth every penny. But those days are relatively rare. I'd like to think that conspicuous consumption is a thing of the past--but in many ways I'm just as shallow as I ever was. I never feel either cheap or foolish, though, for enjoying a pour of EC12 or BT. Speaking of which, BT sounds especially good today.
    If God made anything better than bourbon he must have kept it for Hisself.

 

 

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