Well, he didn't make me post it for all to see, but he did make me write it, sort of. He innocently asked me how I came to become a participant in StraightBourbon.com.
Being the sort of guy who sometimes fills in the background until the foreground goes underground, I started with the beginning of my personal odyssey from being a drinker to becoming a taster. After I put all of that effort into it, I decided to share it with you.
(Note to Linn: I've tweaked it a bit, but not enough to make it worth reading yet a second time. <g>)
I searched intermittently for several weeks before I found StraightBourbon.com and its discussion board. I think Google finally gave me the hit I needed when I searched on "bourbon" rather than "whiskey".
But why was I searching in the first place?
My interest in tasting American whiskey increased considerably just within the last few months. For years I occasionally drank JD-black, partly because I enjoyed their distillery tour back in 1975, partly because of all of the cool, branded merchandise (I sometimes wore a black No.7 tee shirt at gigs when I played in my son's blues band), and partly because I didn't know that there are many better tasting whiskies available.
Several seemingly unrelated events nudged me in the direction I am now taking. First off, a few years back my son bought me a bottle of Gentleman Jack for Christmas, and that was the end of my loyalty to JD No.7.
Not long after that I bought a four-bottle, variety pack of the tiny bottles of the Jim Beam small batch line. (At the time I had no idea of their origin; I had never heard of Baker's, Booker's, etc., but the bottles looked swanky in the little wooden box.) I think I planned to give it to someone, but for some reason I didn't. It just sat on the seldom-used liquor shelf, along with our alcohol-related glassware, for years.
At some point my wife was looking for something old-timey and with a touch of red for a knick-knack shelf. I spotted a tiny bottle of Maker's Mark, and she said it was perfect. I bought it, and she put it on the shelf. I frequently looked it at, wondering what the contents might taste like.
A few months back, after our band broke up, my son ( http://home.earthlink.net/~stilettorain/index.html ) was subbing with Brian Young and the Blues Station at a Lucille's Smokehouse here in Long Beach. My wife and I went to hear him and have some ribs.
I noticed that Lucille's drink menu included nearly a dozen mint juleps, all identical but for the brand of whiskey, each of which was described in a paragraph of breathless prose. Just for fun I decided to order two at once, just to see whether I could tell the difference. I chose JD No. 7 and Maker's Mark because I'd at least heard of them and because they were cheaper than many of the others.
To my surprise the taste of JD came barreling through the other flavors. The Maker's Mark barely managed to make its presence known. The contrast piqued my interest in comparing them straight.
Then a couple of months ago as I was rearranging the liquor shelf, I had all four of my JD whiskey glasses out at the same time, and I decided to do an impromptu comparative tasting, just on a lark. (Retirees do things like that.) I discovered that all I had in large bottles was JD No.7, Gentleman Jack, and Evan Williams 12 y/o charcoal filtered (red label).
Since I had four glasses but only three whiskies, I decided to postpone the tasting until I could pick up another bottle so I could do a four-way comparison. I got my chance when I was in Trader Joe's (boutique food store chain for the masses) a day later; they had Knob Creek for about $20. Not knowing anything about it, I hesitated, but I finally gave in when I recalled that it was represented in the little four-pack I had at home. Then, with the first olive out of the bottle, so to speak, I noticed they had Rebel Yell (another of the choices at Lucille's), and I grabbed a bottle of it, too.
That evening I took four bottles and four glasses into the TV room, placed them all on a TV tray, and poured. I was careful to set them down in the right order so I'd know which was which. I was amazed to learn that I didn't really like JD No. 7, that the EW was no more appealling than when I bought it, that Gentleman Jack is pleasant but not particularly interesting, and that Knob Creek tasted like something from another planet. Is that really whiskey? Or are the others fake? (At the time I hadn't bothered to learn the definitions of bourbon and Tennessee whiskey.)
Well, I'm sure this is all getting a bit tedious, but you can see that by that time I was really hooked. Wanting to know more about what I was doing, I went to Amazon.com and searched on "whiskey". I came up with a book by Jim Murray that reviews Scotch (which always sucks, all the time, right, Linn?), bourbon, and other varieties. Reading his descriptions of distilleries and their products heightened my interest even more. I started buying bourbon that he recommended, any time I found a bottle that I felt I could afford.
It was about at this point when I began the online search that led to my finding StraightBourbon.com. You know the rest.
Retiree, Musician, Dog-Lover, Whiskey-Drinker