Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Heresy, Blasphemy, and Bourbon

TransplantedTexan has asked about Old Rip Van Winkle Bourbons...  well... buckle up kids... because we're about to leave the reservation.

Now... as a Makers guy... many rightly conclude that I am therefore a fan of wheat bourbon.  This isn't actually true.  Or at least... its not true in the sense that it is universally consistent.  Makers is a wheat bourbon and I do like Makers better than many non-wheat bourbons.  But that doesn't mean I favor wheat bourbons over Rye bourbons all the time.  For example... does anyone think that I really prefer Makers Mark to Bookers?  Madness.  So... its more than just the theological differences of wheat vs rye.

I say all of that... to say...

I just don't believe the hype.  I know... I know...  I am supposed to be waving the Pappy Van Winkle Flag around... and gesticulating like a hillbilly preacher that lost his snake.  I just can't.  Look I know what the guys at Wild Turkey have to go through to age a bourbon 15 years and get a good product out of it.  I also know what happens when you don't take that much care.  The result is utter swill.  See Eligah Craig for details.

Some of you probably know about the Sour Mash Manifesto.  I'm not having a pissing contest with the guy here.  I'm just saying... if you agree with him that Elijah Craig is excellent... well then you an I just live on different planets.  We'll keep the good bourbon over here... and y'all can lick the windows of the short bus on the way to Canada... or some other place where they put pesticide in whiskey bottles.

So... because I just don't believe the hype... I've never bothered to buy any Van Winkle anything.  Kentucky is not Scotland folks.  Kentucky is 103 degrees in the summer and - 5 degrees in the winter.  Bourbon ages more in 1 year in Kentucky than it does in 5 years in Scotland or Canada.  A 20 year old bourbon is something a kin to a 100 year old scotch.  But because so much is going on in that aging... it is extremely labor intensive and a minor screw up ends up in a pretty epic clusterfutastrophe.  Though I don't suppose there are many non-epic clusterfutastrophes...  in fact I am fairly certain I coined the term so I could stop using the word epic so much...

...

That said... Wild Turkey has proven that you can... with an insane amount of work and OCD levels of dedication make a 15 or even 20 year bourbon work.  So...  I suppose I will have to give Old Rip a chance.

I am gonna try old rip 15 and Pappy... which is 20... and I'm going to be stacking them up against Bookers, and Kentucky Spirit.

I'll be honest.  I wouldn't bet on Old Rip.

We'll see.  It should make a helluva ATF post anyway.

Happy Fat Tuesday Y'all

UPDATE:

It occurs to me that there is another bit of psychology going on here that has also made me a little prejudiced against Old Rip.  Ever had a cuban cigar?  Everyone says cuban cigars are the best.  Well I've had plenty and honestly... they aren't on average better Dominican or Nicaraguan cigars.  In fact plenty of them really suck.  But see... they're cuban and we can't have them.  So there is a built in mysticism about them created by the unquenched demand.  Same deal with Old Rip.  Supply is extremely low.  You can't go into a liquor store and buy Van Winkle products.  They just aren't there.  Consequently...  people start imagining how good it must be if you can never get your hands on it.  So... I reckon that's the other reason I don't believe the hype.  As for the tasting?  Probably gonna have to wait till April.  That's when the stores around here say they will get their one annual shipment.


32 comments:

Lulabelle said...

Happy Fat Tuesday!
I eagerly await your research results.

TransplantedTexan said...

Nice to see I spawned something, and I knew in asking your opinion I would get it.
You're correct that I do like the Craig better than Jack, and told someone so recently, but I too have had better. Bookers would definitely be one.
I also concur with your opinion of the Van Winkles. I have a store here, yes damn close to Canada where I am stuck, that has a good supply of Van winkles. Probably because no one buys it. This isn't exactly a bastion of bourbon lovers as far as I have seen here.
I asked the question out of curiosity on your opinion, and it was just about what I thought it would be. I did at one time look at the hype. Bought a bottle of Pappy 12, and a bottle of much cheaper Old Rip Van Winkle. Never bought the 12 again, not seeing it worth the hype. The old Rip, I thought ok, for a cheaper bottle, but not out selling it either.
I don't discriminate against wheat nor rye either, like them both. Prob due prefer the rye though.

Raggededge said...

You'll like the rip 15 and Pappy 20. Not because they are aged long, but at 150-200 bucks a bottle, they can be very selective with what they put in it. The problem is, Kentucky Spirit is a third of the price and that is going to bias your opinion of the VW stuff. As it should, the crap is way overpriced for what it is. Bourbon should never cost more than $50 bucks a bottle, let those Scottish assholes pay through the nose for their whisky, we know better.

Of course, you don't like George Dickel, so...

WaterBoy said...

Nate: "Everyone says cuban cigars are the best. Well I've had plenty and honestly... they aren't on average better Dominican or Nicaraguan cigars."

Yep, that's been my (more limited) experience, too. Though I am looking forward to the day that the US lifts the Cuban embargo, simply because it will result in lower market prices overall when demand for Cubans results in lower demand for the others.

Nate said...

I didn't say I didn't like Dickel. I just said it wasn't worth a pissing match over.

Jack Daniels is watered down charcoal flavored swill.

Dickel isn't that bad... but it isn't even in the ball park of the elite bourbons.

Nate said...

As for Elijah Craig being better than Jack Daniels... yeah... I would agree.

But its like saying that being bashed in the head with a cinder block is better than having a foot carved off with a rusty butter knife.

Josh said...

Is Jack Daniels the Harley Davidson of the American whiskey world?

Nate said...

Yes.

That's pretty much it exactly.

Michael Maier said...

Why call JD the HD of whiskey? Does anyone really put a bunch of mystique around JD and call it the best whiskey you can get? I suppose some might, but I've yet to hear that.

JD is a "Starter Whiskey", to me. If you are new to whiskeys and don't like JD because it's too strong or whatever, you should probably not bother with any others.

And for the money, Single Barrel and Gentleman Jack are a waste.

I've yet try any Elijah Craig but if I feel so moved, I will definitely go to one of the local upscale liquor stores that offer free samples of their wares. They've saved me a few hundred bucks by now.

Nate said...

There absolutely is a clueless bunch of folks out there that don't actually drink much whiskey that believe JD is the best there is.

Just like most of the people in the harley cult don't actually ride motorcycles.

In each case you have a vastly inferior product paired with enormous hype. If JD advertised more you could link them with Apple to... but they really don't.

All three companies do sell an image far more than they sell their inferior products.

SDH said...

The only bourbon I've ever had is the regular Makers; it was solid if unspectacular.

Is there a widely available (i.e. might be exported to Canada) bourbon that anyone would recommend? I wouldn't mind trying something else.

I've been perfectly happy with Cuban tobacco, though I stay away from R&J and most Cohibas.

Nate said...

Wild Turkey... and the whole jim beam product line should be available.

SDH said...

I should have looked online before I asked. It's seems Booker's is available locally in a limited supply.

Are either Baker's or Basil Hayden worth trying?

Raggededge said...

@SDH: Yes, all of Jim Beam's small batch stuff is good.

Rus said...

I'm a poor freelancer and can't afford the good bourbon for everyday drinking. Does anyone know of a decent one for around fifteen clams or less?

raggededge said...

You're going to have a hard time getting decent bourbon for $15. Even Jim Beam White is more than that, and it is dog piss.

Nate said...

Rus... my advice... save your pennies and buy good stuff.

Nate said...

SDH
Both are excellent. I lean toward Basil Hayden myself... but Bookers is near the apex of bourbon for me.

J.R. Humphries said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rus said...

This economy is tough on a young profligate. I have to choose between good booze and ammo. Damn.

Nate said...

buy both... spend less on.. ...

food?

Bourbon's made with corn! It counts!

Rus said...

Bam. Problem solved.

Rus said...

Bam. Problem solved.

SDH said...

Rus... my advice... save your pennies and buy good stuff.

Rus, don't skimp on your booze...ever.

If you can afford $15 a week, wait two and buy a bottle of Maker's or something similar.

You might drink less, but it's worth it.

Rus said...

What do you guys know about Bulleit?

Nate said...

It smells better than it is... but it is significantly better than Jack Daniels or Jim Beam white. Its not bad.

bw said...

Always been partial to FourRoses

Nate said...

ain't nuthin' wrong with Four Roses.

trk said...

So I want to get into Bourbon and I agree with you about Jack D. Its really over-hyped. Never enjoyed the taste. Educate me on Makers/Wild Turkey/other good brand. If I walked into a good liquor store in Franklin, TN, what should I pull off the shelf? I just want a good glass, about once a week, straight on some ice or a good old fashioned.. I shoot CZs and lust after Sellier and Belliot ammo...so I like things outside of 'normal'.

Raggededge said...

I would suggest you start with the Jim Beam small batch bourbons. You can go here and take a look at what they offer. Cool Springs Wines & Spirits carries a large selection of bourbons.

Raggededge said...

Sorry, the link didn't work. Go to www.smallbatch.com

trk said...

thanks!