It’s really the age old question for bourbon-lovers isn’t it? On what particular whiskey (or whiskeys) should a whiskey lover spend their hard-earned dollars? To best answer it, I decided to call in the cavalry. I contacted a number of bourbon and whiskey bloggers, podcasters, writers, and retailers and asked them to submit their own strategic allocations of a hundred bucks. The series is called “If I had a Benjamin.” (See the whole series here.)
Today’s entry comes straight from the source. Gary is regular reader of this and other whiskey related blogs and sites around the web, and posed this question to me a while ago on our message boards. I started to answer him several times, but every time I started typing, I wanted to change my mind and choose different bottles. I realized there’s no one easy or “right” answer to the query at all. It’s like asking “What’s the best hat?” Still, it’s a question anyone with some cash in their pocket has faced when they walk into a liquor store with no plan on how to spend it.
So that’s where the idea to involve what I’ve affectionately called the “Bourbon Brain Trust,” a collection of bourbon bloggers, professional writers, podcasters, retailers, and fans originated. But Gary is the guy who got all this started. So here’s his take:
By Gary Quesenberry (@GQuiz)
I just celebrated that ripe old age of 50. Two months ago, I posed the question to Bill
at Modern Thirst. “If you had $100 (a Benjamin), how would you strategically allocate that $100 on bourbon?” More specifically, if my wife surprised me with $100 in gift cards to my favorite liquor establishment, what would I get? You only turn 50 once. I wanted advice from the man. It felt like an easy enough question… until you start to peel back the layers. Are we talking allocated stuff? Is it for a party? What if I already have it on my shelf? Bill’s initial question was “is this in a vacuum or do I have to consider everything I already have in the collection?” Tough question… especially considering Heaven Hill Bill probably requires two U-Haul trucks to move his bounty and ruling those out would leave him choosing Benchmark, Old Crow, and Kentucky Gentleman by the gallons.
So we decided if Bill were to make a trip to Destin for two weeks and had $100 to drop on bourbon/whiskey, that would make the list. But you can really make the case for any circumstance. And that’s what was requested… you can see that this week with the postings from Bill’s Bourbon Blogging Brethren (and sisters). Also, we’re to pick what is available. No crazy allocations allowed. But we can use any situation.
In Kentucky, I gather bourbon makes it into the baby bottles before formula… you have tons of friends who are bourbonistas. You likely have many friends ready to help empty the bottle. Here, in my neck of the woods just south of the Texas Hill Country, all my friends are hopheads. They drink beer. The only person who I consider a bourbon drinker… well let’s just say when I showed up at my surprise party, he mischeviously told me I’d be pissed because he’d been mixing my Old Forester Birthday Bourbon with Coke. So unless I shotgun the bourbon (highly ill advised), my stock lasts a while. So for my scenario, the kitchen is being remodeled and I’ve been kicked out of the house for a few weeks. What do I reach for? I know most bemoan the lack of Weller 12, or Old Weller Antique, or Elmer T. Lee. I wish they’d make Breaking and Entering again at St. George in Alameda, California. But I can’t grab those right now.
First, I get my two sippers… whiskey to be enjoyed neat or with a few ice cubes. I reach for Elijah Craig 12 year ($27). This is a bourbon I’m perfectly content just smelling. Even if they pull the age statement and bottle this at 11.5 years, I don’t care. At the price (at any price), this is absolutely stellar bourbon. The other sipper is George Dickel Barrel Select ($32). Screw Jack Daniels. Dickel is the real Tennessee Whiskey for me. And Barrel Select is sooooooooo smooth.
Second, I get my two mixers… what I mix into a 32 ounce Yeti Rambler and sip on all night. Weller Special Reserve ($17) is my constant. For my birthday, I received two handles and a fifth. I will have Weller to go with my Diet Sierra Mist for the next year at least. And for evenings on the dock at the coast fishing for reds and trout, Diet Sierra Mist and Weller just makes the night even better. The other mixer is Old Grand Dad Bottled in Bond ($21). Jason Pyle turned me onto this garish Orange bottle. There is a nice zip to this offering. I love the taste of OGD.
So there is my Benjamin. But here’s where reality and blogging separate. I got $100 in gift cards to Spec’s for my birthday. Since I have over a gallon of Weller, a bottle of OGD and 30 others on hand, I’m going to follow the excellent advice from these intrepid bourbon bloggers who graciously offered their wishes in this series. I plan to grab a 5th of Knob Creek Single Barrel and Four Roses Single Barrel. I haven’t tried them yet. Can you believe that? I’m one of those “squirrel” guys… I walk into the store planning to buy one bourbon and leave with two others. I’ll let Bill and Jason weigh in before I exhaust the rest of the cards. I’ll walk in with a list of three and leave with those three.
What I’ve learned this week is if you throw out the allocations and follow what has been written on these dozen or more entries, you have an excellent start to a home bar, a great vacation, or one helluva card night. Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with an allocated bourbon. That Birthday Bourbon rocked. And I’m finishing the last of William Larue Weller from the 2012 BTAC. But when I jumped into the bourbon game, I chased the high dollar bottles and didn’t pay enough attention to the entry level stuff. I bought into all the hype. I was cheating myself on the bourbon journey. I’m fixing that now. Because the enjoyment of a good/great/awesome whiskey comes in the discovery. It really is all about that journey. I found a liquor store that displays its bourbon alphabetically. There is no bottom shelf. Cool, eh? Seriously, how fun would it be if you found the perfect bourbon the first time out? Would you miss the chase for what could be better? How would you ever know? If I only had a Benjamin…