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  1. #1
    Apprentice
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    Jun 2005
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    48

    What makes a bad bourbon?

    People have talked about what makes a good bourbon, but not much on what makes a bad one.

    Is it from being too greedy in the distillation process?
    Is it from cutting corners making the mash?
    Is it from sticking the barrels somewhere unpleasant?
    Is it just lack of age?
    Is it just by accident?
    Something else?

    (P.S.: By bad I mean having a terrible flavor, not being bland. You can make a bland bourbon by just using a high distillation proof and cutting it with a lot of water before and after the barrel.)

  2. #2
    Guru
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    Re: What makes a bad bourbon?

    I'm not sure I ever had a "Bad" Bourbon. Sure, some are better than others but I never really ran across one I wouldn't drink, or buy, for that matter.

  3. #3
    Bourbonian of the Year 2011
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    Sep 2002
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    Toronto, Canada
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    8,980

    Re: What makes a bad bourbon?

    I have had a couple of bourbons I won't identify by name since both are still available. One is a price brand. It had a raw flavour that was shellac-like, or say like damp cardboard, very hard to drink unless mixed with cola or ginger ale and even then.. The other one is a merchant's bottling and it has to my mind a strong congeneric taste, almost a chemical taste from the secondary products which probably wouldn't age out (because this bourbon was 10 or 12 years old). Apart from that, in terms of the current range of bourbons available, most are quite good; some are very good; a few are not great but not undrinkable. I am not a fan of Jim Beam White Label, for example, in that bracket I'd much rather buy Wild Turkey or Ancient Age or Very Old Barton.

    Gary

  4. #4
    Guru
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    Re: What makes a bad bourbon?

    Live and learn!!! Thanks for your reply Gary.
    Joe

  5. #5
    Bourbonian of the Year 2003 and Super Moderator
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    Feb 2002
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    Kentucky
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    Re: What makes a bad bourbon?

    The main point , to me anyway, is no sets out to make a bad one, it just happens in the course of things. Sometimes the bourbon gods are smiling on a barrel or bunch of them and all goes well, other times it all stacks up to make an inferior drink. They may set out to give the boys and girls in marketing a nice cheap run,funny how that's what makes them happiest, But they don't look at each other and say "let's see how bad we can *#@% it up today"!

  6. #6
    Connoisseur
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    Oct 1999
    Location
    Sweden
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    867

    Re: What makes a bad bourbon?

    Earlier versions of Four Roses standard bottling started out with an unpleasant metallic harshness which when flavour development set in was drowned by an enormous sweetness. It is much better nowadays.

    Overall, I have to say that Im pretty impressed with the quality of bourbon. JB white, JD, Kentucky Gentleman and the aforementioned FR stomp all over the opposition when it comes to everyday whiskies.

  7. #7
    Enthusiast
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    May 2004
    Location
    Bristol UK.
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    272

    Re: What makes a bad bourbon?

    I don't like JB white label at all but I'm not sure it's a bad bourbon. Not too fond of Old Crow either (will drink it though). Those two are my bottom two. Think they're just a bit young and raw.

    Apart from those two, I've not met a Bourbon I didn't like.

  8. #8
    Apprentice
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Posts
    48

    Re: What makes a bad bourbon?

    But they don't look at each other and say "let's see how bad we can *#@% it up today"!

    Well that's a promising sign. Not all spirit makers are like that, sadly. (And it doesn't explain Georgia Moon, either. )

    Well then I was just wondering what sorta things could go wrong in bourbon making that would force a company to sell it as a lower-end brand, or if they even discriminated that way at all. Here's my reasoning:

    Take Evan Williams Single Barrel vs. Evan Williams 1783. Tasting them side by side my theory is that before the 10 years are up, nobody knows which is going to go into the ome and which is going to go into the other. They wait it out, and after the 10 years, the choice barrels turn into single barrel, and the second tier go to the other high profile Heaven Hill 10 year old bottlings, and then the ones that are just good go to the 1783, because barrel aging is so unpredictable sometimes.

    Bourbon distillers seem like thrifty folks, so I'd assume that the same thing happens with their regular younger bottlings. Like the stuff that's good goes in their standard bottles, and the stuff that's not quite so hot but still theoretically drinkable goes in their low-end bottlings, instead of just getting thrown out. Like maybe an infection got in the mash and the white dog has funky flavors that they're not sure will age out. Or they didn't cut the tails at the right time, so some weird off flavors seeped in.

    But I really don't know anything about any of this, maybe nobody really does make bad bourbon, so I thought I'd ask the knowlegable folks here what their opinion on the matter was.

  9. #9
    Advanced Taster
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    Aug 2002
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    Akron, Ohio
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    107

    Re: What makes a bad bourbon?

    Can't really say there is a "bad" bourbon. Just some not as "good" as others.

    The bottom of the "barrel" (... a little joke.) for me is Old Whiskey River. I just don't like it... but it still could be used for a mixer!

  10. #10
    Bourbonian of the Year 2003 and Super Moderator
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    Feb 2002
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    Kentucky
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    2,942

    Re: What makes a bad bourbon?

    There's another thing I don't understand, and your post sorta made me think of it. There's the theory of Quality Control and it really seems involved, the notion being that samples are taken all along a barrels aging cycle, and everything goes to plan, it becomes brand "X" bourbon. The romantic little story goes on that samples are taken before the dump and if it matches the profile then it goes in the tank. So far, so good. What I can't account for is standing in a dump room and watching the barrels come off the truck, get the bungs drilled out and dumped in the trough. My point is, I don't think they check every barrel.

 

 

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