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cdcdguy

Giving Up Craft Bourbon?

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cdcdguy

Working on 10 year journey with bourbon. Have tried a lot, cheap, expensive, big companies and small craft distillers. I almost always seem to come away disappointed when I buy something from a small maker. Oh, it's not always bad, can be pretty good but always way overpriced. I understand it costs more to do business than, Buffalo Trace for example who turns out thousands of bottles a year. 

 

After a recent Kentucky trip, I was sipping HHBIB6, as many here suggested. At 11 dollars HOW can it be this good?  I have paid 75 dollars for a craft bourbon and it is nowhere close to Blantons, just foe example. Sometimes regular Buffalo Trace turns out better. So I may be done even trying these craft bourbons. I appreciate their pioneer spirit though. What are your thoughts?

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BottledInBond

I only acquire craft stuff via gifts basically at this point. I've never tried any that I thought were great, and as stated they are always way overpriced. I like the idea but the execution sucks. Especially the ones using small barrels. Either come into it with enough investment capital to do full size barrels and be able to wait long enough for revenue so you aren't selling sub-4 year old product, or don't bother at all.....

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jvd99

Craft is a waste of money when the big boys are putting out higher quality product at a fraction of the price.  

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berto

I'd like to support little guys doing things the right way, especially if they're local-ish, but the price is always too high and the quality too low.  I try new craft stuff at tastings and some has promise while some is dreck.  I won't pay for someone's learning curve.    

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0895

Generally agree that craft is a waste of my money.

That being said, we have a local distillery in STL that does a fantastic job with their products.

Just released a 5 year rye that approaches levels close to THH for me.

The owner is also a great guy, so I support the heck out of them.

 

My rule with craft is to always try before I buy and if its good, I'll support it.  So far, there are only two craft places I support - both in Missouri. 

Three places, if you count Willett's house distilled ryes as "craft".

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The Black Tot

Someday one of them is going to do something amazing under the radar. Maybe one of them already is.

 

But I'm not going to be the one who spends thousands on bad bottles to find it.

 

I'll leave that to the bloggers and authors. That's their job.

Edited by The Black Tot

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musekatcher

Some of our "craft" products are bait.  It works!  But some of it is honest product born of sweat, creativity, passion, and tenacity.  You just have to sort thru.  Enjoy the search!

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PaulO

Somebody must be buying this stuff.  I see a lot of it on store shelves.  I can't comment on repeat business.  

I was at a store having a great sale a few months ago.  A distributor guy happened to be there.  He asked if he could help.  I said yeah, do you have any more KCSB (empty shelf)?  He said "a lot of people" like Traverse (full shelf).  He did manage to find one KCSB in back.  

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EarthQuake

My impression with nearly every craft whiskey I've tried recently: "This tastes like it could be good if it was aged in full sized barrels for 8 years or so".

 

I had the Willet 3 year rye. It tasted like it would be good at maybe 6 years. Interesting to try and I'm glad I got a pour in a bar and not a bottle. I've had numerous other craft whiskey and they all tend to taste very young and rough, or they've clearly been aged in small barrels and have a nasty, sour oak thing going on with them. In the last year I took a tour at Few in Chicago and another at Cedar Ridge (just 10 minutes from my house), and tried multiple types at both locations, all were decidedly underwhelming and clearly very young and lacking any sort of complexity or interest, yet priced in the $40-60 range. Craft whiskeys tend to be like the uncooked onions of the culinary world, raw and unpleasant in most cases unless you really like that sort of flavor.

 

When I first got into whiskey about 5 or so years ago, I thought craft whiskeys were where you would find the good stuff. This is a mentality I picked up from craft beer, I do not like beer from Miller, Bud, etc, but I have had great beers from more micro breweries than I can count. A lot of people my age (30s) have the same sort of mentality and will rush to find the latest craft or local whiskey, and without really having much experience with whiskey from the big labels (because they shun them for the same craft beer/hipster reason), they fool themselves into thinking craft whiskey is great. This was me for the first year or two that I enjoyed whiskey - and then I started trying more things from the bigger makers, especially Buffalo Trace, but also Beam, HH, WT, FR, and various ryes. A number of my friends are still trapped in the cycle of hunting for the latest local craft bottle and I can't do much but laugh about it. My wife and I did some errands for some friends when they were out of town recently and they brought us back a bottle of 2 year old craft bourbon from Colorado as a thank you, a lovely gesture for sure but as expected it was not good, but again a lot of folks my age think that craft = quality and my poor friends probably dropped $50 on that bottle.

 

Personally, I can't say I've ever had a craft bourbon as good as a $13 bottle of Ancient Age. So now, I don't buy any craft whiskey that I can't taste first. The only decent craft whiskey I've had recently was a pour Stranahan's at a bar, which I think is about 5 years-ish these days and aged in full size barrels. This is an American single malt and while not up to Scotch standards, it was very interesting and a good pour, not quite rush to the store and get a bottle good, but if I saw it on sale I would consider it.

 

I love the idea of supporting local, craft distilleries, and small/local businesses in general. We buy a lot of hard cider every year from the local orchard, which is great. I just find it increasingly hard to justify buying craft whiskey when the product they put out is poor. I am hoping that in 5 or 10 years the market will be flooded with excellent craft whiskey - if any of these smaller distilleries are smart enough to put away some stock in full size barrels that is.

Edited by EarthQuake

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PaulO

How about you could do a blind tasting for friends? :lol:

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cdcdguy
13 hours ago, EarthQuake said:

My impression with nearly every craft whiskey I've tried recently: "This tastes like it could be good if it was aged in full sized barrels for 8 years or so".

 

I had the Willet 3 year rye. It tasted like it would be good at maybe 6 years. Interesting to try and I'm glad I got a pour in a bar and not a bottle. I've had numerous other craft whiskey and they all tend to taste very young and rough, or they've clearly been aged in small barrels and have a nasty, sour oak thing going on with them. In the last year I took a tour at Few in Chicago and another at Cedar Ridge (just 10 minutes from my house), and tried multiple types at both locations, all were decidedly underwhelming and clearly very young and lacking any sort of complexity or interest, yet priced in the $40-60 range. Craft whiskeys tend to be like the uncooked onions of the culinary world, raw and unpleasant in most cases unless you really like that sort of flavor.

 

When I first got into whiskey about 5 or so years ago, I thought craft whiskeys were where you would find the good stuff. This is a mentality I picked up from craft beer, I do not like beer from Miller, Bud, etc, but I have had great beers from more micro breweries than I can count. A lot of people my age (30s) have the same sort of mentality and will rush to find the latest craft or local whiskey, and without really having much experience with whiskey from the big labels (because they shun them for the same craft beer/hipster reason), they fool themselves into thinking craft whiskey is great. This was me for the first year or two that I enjoyed whiskey - and then I started trying more things from the bigger makers, especially Buffalo Trace, but also Beam, HH, WT, FR, and various ryes. A number of my friends are still trapped in the cycle of hunting for the latest local craft bottle and I can't do much but laugh about it. My wife and I did some errands for some friends when they were out of town recently and they brought us back a bottle of 2 year old craft bourbon from Colorado as a thank you, a lovely gesture for sure but as expected it was not good, but again a lot of folks my age think that craft = quality and my poor friends probably dropped $50 on that bottle.

 

Personally, I can't say I've ever had a craft bourbon as good as a $13 bottle of Ancient Age. So now, I don't buy any craft whiskey that I can't taste first. The only decent craft whiskey I've had recently was a pour Stranahan's at a bar, which I think is about 5 years-ish these days and aged in full size barrels. This is an American single malt and while not up to Scotch standards, it was very interesting and a good pour, not quite rush to the store and get a bottle good, but if I saw it on sale I would consider it.

 

I love the idea of supporting local, craft distilleries, and small/local businesses in general. We buy a lot of hard cider every year from the local orchard, which is great. I just find it increasingly hard to justify buying craft whiskey when the product they put out is poor. I am hoping that in 5 or 10 years the market will be flooded with excellent craft whiskey - if any of these smaller distilleries are smart enough to put away some stock in full size barrels that is.

As the original poster here, your thoughts are better than I was able to write. I always think of craft bourbon, if you could age it a few more years, you would really have something!  They all taste young because they are, and young has that raw rubber taste I don't like. Many are also misjointed. We have Three Rivers Bourbon made here in Fort Wayne. It's ok at 35 dollars. I continue to buy to support the local guy hoping it will spur them on to make something better.

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Government Beard

Locally here in San Diego we had a huge beer revolution. At the forefront of the revolution was a brewery called Ballast Point. A few years ago Ballast Point was sold off to a large conglomerate (forget which). The original founders of Ballast started Cutwater Spirits here in San Diego and from this started producing rums, vodkas, and our beloved bourbon. Anyway, the other day I was shopping at Costco and saw their 4 year old bourbon was going for right around $120 retail. I read in an interview that they are deeming themselves the biggest distiller west of the Mississippi. 

 

If a craft distiller believes they can sell their 4 year old craft bourbon for over $100 bones oh well. Like the old saying goes "a fool and his money..." sort of thing. I am more than happy with my daily sippers of EC12, AN Wild Turkey 101, HMcK10, EWSB, and WSR.

 

Huzzah

Edited by Government Beard

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chappy6107
15 hours ago, PaulO said:

How about you could do a blind tasting for friends? :lol:

 

perfect solution!  good call

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fanostra

The only craft I'll go for anymore is Willett. I appreciate what they are trying to do there with their own distillate, dig their BiB and enjoy the 3 year rye in an Old Fashioned quite a bit. Even then for the price, I have others I prefer.

 

I really wanted to like Toms Foolery, but that BiB is one of the worst I've had. 

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lcpfratn

There are some craft distilleries that are doing things right, but it is going to take a few years for them to have any worthwhile bourbon. I don't like the Crafts that are buying from MGP or others and charging a fortune for slightly modified bulk bourbon while they age their own. Of course some try to release their bourbon too young and charge too much for it too, and that's not wise from a reputation standpoint. The smarter ones are making and selling vodka, gin, young rye and liqueur while their bourbon ages. Woody Creek, out of Colorado, makes some of the best gin that I've ever tasted, a wonderful 100% rye mash rye whiskey and 100% potato vodka from their own potatoes. They still haven't sold any bourbon, but I believe they have some aging in barrels. A.D. Laws (also in Colorado) has recently released some BIB Four Grain Straight Bourbon that is really good. Castle & Key in Kentucky, is taking a route similar to Woody Creek starting with Gin and Rye until their bourbon has an appropriate amount of time in the barrel. There are others that are doing it right too, so I wouldn't give up on all Craft Distillers, but do your research and taste before you buy if you can.


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Richnimrod

Just MHO; but giving up craft bourbon to me, is very much like an atheist giving up going to church for Lent.     Just sayin'.....

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DCFan
11 hours ago, Richnimrod said:

Just MHO; but giving up craft bourbon to me, is very much like an atheist giving up going to church for Lent.     Just sayin'.....

Yeah I don't get all this hate for the little guys. There's a lot to be said for taking the road less traveled and getting something that uses locally sourced ingredients and is a presence in your community or state. Sure it'll cost a little more but you may get lucky and find a diamond in the rough or you could be paying a premium for dog poop. I don't view it any differently than trying a new restaurant or bottle of wine from a place I've never heard of before. Who wants to eat and drink the same thing every day?

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fricky

What is the definition of a Craft Distillery? I have had excellent bourbon and rye that was distilled at MGP.

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Richnimrod
7 hours ago, DCFan said:

Yeah I don't get all this hate for the little guys. There's a lot to be said for taking the road less traveled and getting something that uses locally sourced ingredients and is a presence in your community or state. Sure it'll cost a little more but you may get lucky and find a diamond in the rough or you could be paying a premium for dog poop. I don't view it any differently than trying a new restaurant or bottle of wine from a place I've never heard of before. Who wants to eat and drink the same thing every day?

I totally get this viewpoint. 

However, if/when I try the stuff, and find their "locally sourced" ingredients were 'locally sourced' (and distilled) in Indiana, and or some other State, rather than Michigan, I feel a little hoodwinked.

Also, if I ever do experience one of those diamond in the (hopefully not too) rough 'craft bourbons', I'll be very surprised.    It ain't happened yet. 

Now, I haven't tried any great number of 'craft' Bourbons... maybe about 6-or-seven; but all have been woefully far from tasty.     ...And, every one came at a medium-to-large price point.

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flahute
On 10/22/2017 at 5:50 AM, fricky said:

What is the definition of a Craft Distillery? I have had excellent bourbon and rye that was distilled at MGP.

Depends whose definition you adhere to. The American Craft Distillers Assocation? The KDA? Individual state law? They are all at odds with each other. 

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CardsandBourbon
On 10/22/2017 at 8:50 AM, fricky said:

What is the definition of a Craft Distillery? I have had excellent bourbon and rye that was distilled at MGP.

Good question, without a good answer.  I work in a city planning office and we've been trying to spur redevelopment in our downtown and thinking craft breweries/distilleries would be a good use to put just in the downtown . . . until you try to define "craft distillery".  There are just about as many definitions as there are distilleries calling themselves that.  

 

My 60 or so bottles consist of no "craft bourbons", as many on here who have tried them don't give them good marks.  Any bourbon, from Beam down to the guy who puts out two barrels a year is crafted.  You can't tell me that Fred Noe takes any less time or pride is searching out the best combination of mashbill, barrel char, location in warehouse and time in the barrel than Two Barrel Tom does.  Plus Fred has a lot more experience at those choices than the "craft bourbon" guy.

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smokinjoe

I think this is more about the pragmatics of the use of the word "craft" in this case.  It's more about size of the distillery in question, rather than any description of their work ethic, practices, and results.  From my own perspective, I interchange "craft", with "micro", "small", "local", etc.  To me, and I would guess to most of us here, "craft" means nothing more than a descriptor of their diminutive size relative to the larger and established legacy distilleries.  If it means more, I will cease using it...at least as it pertains to their bourbons.  

 

 

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fricky
2 hours ago, smokinjoe said:

I think this is more about the pragmatics of the use of the word "craft" in this case.  It's more about size of the distillery in question, rather than any description of their work ethic, practices, and results.  From my own perspective, I interchange "craft", with "micro", "small", "local", etc.  To me, and I would guess to most of us here, "craft" means nothing more than a descriptor of their diminutive size relative to the larger and established legacy distilleries.  If it means more, I will cease using it...at least as it pertains to their bourbons.  

 

 

I understand; however, currently there is no parameters to describe what is meant by craft. What is micro or small distillery? Is it 1 barrel a day, two barrels per day, or 3 per day? I don't understand the need for using the word craft in reference to a new bourbon distillery whose production is considerably less than the major distilleries. I don't care about the size of your still or how many barrels a day you produce. If you want to separate your distillery from the major distilleries, make a bourbon or rye that is better or at least as good as what is currently available from the major distilleries. Also, make it affordable. My experience with product being produced by new local distilleries is that it is very young swill. Maybe in 6 to 8 years it will be drinkable.

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jvd99

Master of Malt is selling a Rock Town 1 year old bourbon for $120+.  If that doesn't put anyone off craft, I don't what will.

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