I told the Bartender at the Hotel I was staying at in Louisville. Older gentleman, maybe 70. Had garters on his sleeves, a bow tie, and a thick shock of silver hair. I was a freshly retired Army Non-com turned contractor on one of my first business trips. Flattop, power suit, briefcase, the whole nine yards. It was just him and me in there, plus some yuppie yammering into his blackberry and drinking gin and tonics.
"Yeah, I'm sure you would, but you don't look 21. Not any more, at least."
"Pardon me?" I asked, incredulous and a bit unsure of what to think.
"Beam and Coke is a kid's drink. Using the Coke to mask the taste of the Beam. Why not Jack Daniels?" The guy smirked, folding his arms and leaning back against the back bar. Hook was baited.
"Because Jack is a Tennesee whiskey, and I like bourbon. " I said, feeling smug. "Now, my drink please." This guy was getting no tip if he kept it up.
"You like Bourbon?" He didn't make like he was moving toward making a drink. He didn't move. He just stood there smirking. I started looking for the hidden cameras.
"Yeah. And I've had a long day that was preceded by an even longer week. Now, could you please quit screwing around and get--"
"So you like bourbon. Yet a well dressed guy like you orders a kid drink made with a bottom shelf bourbon. You don't like bourbon. Hell, you don't even know bourbon." He then proceeded to pour a shot of Beam white label over a few ice cubes, and swirled it around. He squirted a dash of water into the glass and set it in front of me. No Coke. He then rubbed his chin, selected another bottle I didn't recognize (1792) and did the same. "Taste them both. On me." Bait taken.
Miffed, but with some alcohol in front of me, I was a bit less annoyed. I did as instructed. For the first time in my life, beam tasted like...well, Beam. The 1792 was, as I believe the Official Bourbon tasting vernacular would put it, Yummy. I finished the 1792, savoring every drop. Then, I loosened my tie and pushed the Beam back at him. Hook sunk.
"He looked over his spectacles at me. "What have we learned?"
I took a couple of twenties out and laid them on the bar. "The real question is...What can you teach me?"
Two hours later, and a good eight or nine mini-shots of different bourbons later, I was only slightly buzzed. The drinks weren't full sized, but rather small samples. From the Bulliet to Makers to some Wild Turkey varieties, he kept it up, providing an introductory primer of how bourbon is made, what's in it, why they're different. He made a real Old fashioned, and a genuine mint Julep. ("Don't sip it, Sarge. Just Drink it.")
Which brings me here. a budding Bourbon explorer. I have no collection or anything, and I'm sure I haven't found my favorite bourbon yet...Though I have bought a bottle of Bulliet and a bottle of 1792, uncorked and enjoyed a little of both. I also replaced my beam white label with Makers as my "utility" bourbon. So, I realize I am a neophyte, a Noobie, a rookie... But, here I am. A newborn Bourbon connie-sewer, just beginning my journey through the amber trails of bourbondom.