Suggestions for a bourbon newbie who wants tasty and smooth?

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Re: Suggestions for a bourbon newbie who wants tasty and smooth?

Unread postby Birdo » Mon Jun 11, 2012 10:53 am

Bourbon Joe wrote:Man, from that list there's not a hell of a lot of stuff you like. Good luck.

My thought was that the guy doesn't like bourbon. To me, its all good, but some is better. I haven't tried Ten High, Kentucky Gentlemen and their ilk.
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Re: Suggestions for a bourbon newbie who wants tasty and smooth?

Unread postby EllenJ » Mon Jun 11, 2012 2:01 pm

I think there is a tendency among folks who have been discussing (and drinking, not just reading about) different kinds of bourbon and rye whiskey to forget just how long it took to reach the opinions that we have. It’s not just a matter of “Well, I tried this and it’s pooh-pooh; I’ll never try that one again”, or “I read that five famous people love this one; I hope to try it someday, but I know for a fact that I’ll love it.” It’s that we’ve been sharing opinions (and tastes) among ourselves for years.

We also tend to be the ones dominating these discussions. Partially, thinks meself (as guilty a party as any of y’all), that’s because the newer folks who might disagree with us feel reluctant to do so. They want to be heard (or read) agreeing with us “experts” so it seems as though they’re experts, too. We all did the same thing (look back sometime on your own earliest postings; be prepared to either laugh, blush, or both). What we SHOULD be doing is encouraging people with opinions that differ from our own, rather than trying to “mold them” into the same profile-appreciation we already have (and which many of us obtained by being “molded”, ie. “educated” the same way). As anyone who has read interchanges between myself and MikeV, or Linn, or Gary, or certainly Chuck will know, the idea of two or three people sitting around drinking and agreeing with one another is simply BO-RING! The important thing is to recognize the validity of what the other guy is experiencing, whether that fits with “common knowledge” or not. With folks who are new to this forum -- and especially if their other experiences involve certain other venues with which we are all to familiar -- I think we really need to go out of our way to make them feel as though their opinions are welcome here. Especially if those are POSITIVE opinions; in other words, “I like this because...” rather than “I think this is garbage because...”

So, have said all that, here’s my own responses to Dickelfanaustrailia’s list of Don’t Likes:

dickelfanaustralia wrote:Maker’s Mark no way I can not even sip that neat without some pain. The Van winkles I hear are the weat bourbons you want.

Not sure what you mean by “pain”. Some folks think it’s too smooth, because the brand’s target market is looking for a very smooth, cognac-like experience which is just what it delivers. Many bourbon enthusiasts, those who appreciate the rough edges of bourbon, find Maker’s to lack the flavor depth they are looking for, but within its own depth Maker’s has a great deal of complexity. Perhaps you’ve missed that. Or maybe, since you didn’t expect to find it anyway you simply ignored it. Basil Hayden has a similar reputation, and for essentially the same reasons. Ditto Gentleman Jack. They are also not well-received among die-hard bourbon fans, and, to tell the truth, not by me either, except when I really do want a cognac-like whiskey with just a touch of char-oak flavor for mixed drinks. Maker’s Mark is almost perfect for that, and the newer "46" bottling is even better.

As for the Van Winkles, you should save your money and avoid them completely. You won’t like them. See my notes on Elijah Craig 12-year-old below for more.

dickelfanaustralia wrote:Evan Willaims. No refinement. Just senseless menthol. Dont taste small batch at all.

Okay, so WTF does “small-batch” taste like? And are you referring to EW black label (easily one of the LEAST “small” batches you could find), or the Single Barrel? If the latter, remember that the barrel whose product you’ve tasted might not taste like the next one. That’s one of the problems of using published tasting notes, since the barrels cherry-picked for the reviewers are NEVER the same ones used for the released product. And I have no idea of what gets sent to Australia; you might not (probably not, in fact) be getting the same stuff we sip here. As for the menthol taste, yup, I agree with that wholeheartedly. But that flavor is part of the Parker/Craig Beam profile. It’s not an accident or quality-control issue; it’s the way those two very honorable distillers feel that their bourbon should taste and they’ve gone to extraordinary lengths to maintain that flavor, even after they woke up one morning to find they no longer had a distillery and had to go out and find a new one. Millions of people love that flavor, including more than a few who are pretty expert in determining bourbon quality. I don’t think “No refinement. Just senseless menthol” is a fair representation. Do you, really?

dickelfanaustralia wrote:Bufflio trace is too spiky on the palate. Bullit i don’t recoommand either.

Let’s just let the spelling errors pass; sometimes I misssplee wrods, too, although five in two sentences is a little much :D
Buffalo Trace is pretty much my “go-to everynight pour” unless I’m seeking variety. I do have to admit that the BT I drink is single-barrel specially selected by Jay Erisman at the Party Source, but although it’s typically better than the normal bottlings, it’s really not that much better. Bulleitt rye, which is sourced from what was once Seagram’s Indiana distillery, is one of my personal favorites. The bourbon has an interesting history, though, that you might enjoy: It used to be (and probably still is) sourced from Four Roses in Lawrenceburg Kentucky. But before that it was sourced from Age International, what is now the Buffalo Trace distillery. BT hasn’t changed either their mashbill nor their distilling process since the Ancient Age days, so the ORIGINAL Bulleitt bourbon was about as close to being Buffalo Trace as today’s Bulleitt is to being Four Roses. Since I enjoy BT and 4R themselves so much, I prefer them over Bulleitt, but that’s no reflection on the quality of the product.

dickelfanaustralia wrote:WT rye does not have much power so your 1/2 bored but has a quality taste and smooth palate

I've been told that the 80-proof WT rye is a temporary situation and that 101 will be back. That said, I've been told other things by the same sources and they didn't happen either. It might also be that 101 will be back in selected areas (such as Kentucky) but not for export (such as Oz). There are better rye whiskeys, though, anyway. See if you can find some Knob Creek 100-proof rye, or Bulleitt rye.

You also might want to look into Peter Bignell's Belgrove Rye, grown, malted, distilled, and (currently being) aged right in your backyard in Tasmania. It's not available here, yet, but I've tried some at this years American Distillers Institute conference. The current bottling is unaged "white dog" (Peter has two varieties) but most of his product is going into charred oak barrels for aging. I personally love white whiskey if it's made right, and this one certainly is. I doubt it will be your favorite pour, but it does give you some bragging rights; most of the whiskey being made in Australia is ersatz Scotch. If you go to visit his distillery, say "Hi!" from John at

dickelfanaustralia wrote:Eligh Craig 12 I would leave that too. Pretty calm and massive wood.

This is what I meant by “different folks have different profiles that we prefer”. I LOVE massive wood. You don’t. That’s why you won’t like the Van Winkle bourbons. You won’t like the Willett/Kentucky Bourbon Distillers products either, nor several others that they bottle for independents. These whiskies were originally targeted at Japanese buyers who ADORED that old (maybe even too old) wood flavor, and paid premium prices for it. American bourbon aficionados, not to be outdone by a bunch of rich Japanese, began demanding the same. And after awhile, many people came to really appreciate the flavors that just weren’t found in four or five year old bourbon. Many folks didn’t, probably more than did; you’d be one of those. Some folks did, despite the artificially high prices being asked for what had once been considered “over-the-hill” bourbon; I’d be one of those. It’s a small world after all, eh?

dickelfanaustralia wrote:Old grand dad performs well. good soft rye at end. But the primary orange peel taste my not be for you.

I agree, although I do like that initial flavor. Kinda reminds me of a Old Fashioned cocktail all by itself. And here, the distinction between the 100-proof version and the 86-proof (which is probably what you’re getting in Oz) is just the opposite of Wild Turkey. The 86-proof seems to have more depth of flavor than the higher-proof version. If that’s what you’re getting, that’s probably why you enjoy this one more than WT’s lower proof version.

dickelfanaustralia wrote:All Beams 40% i would leave too. Not much at the back palate. All have a nice simple taste.

I agree completely here, at least the white label. Again, what is exported may be different than what we get at home, but Beam Black here is 86-proof and a very good bourbon for a bargain price. Devil’s Cut is 90-proof and, while overpriced, is quite tasty. Basil Hayden’s is 80-proof, but I put that into the “bourbons made to be enjoyed by folks who don’t really like bourbon” category. Beam’s Choice (green label) is also 80-proof, but at five years it’s just a bit more mature than the white label. Not bad; I just would probably spend the money on Buffalo Trace instead.

dickelfanaustralia wrote:JD 7 and Gentalman I would forget that too.
There are charcoal mellowed botton self bourbons that are ultra smooth with a very smoky charcoal infusion. A high proof of one of them may do you good. They dont have much taste or flavor from the one bottle I bought.

Jack Daniel's is one of the best selling products of any kind in the world. I think your characterization of it as "bottom shelf" might be a little over-ambitioius. That smoky flavor is highly intentional, and is probably the only reason people who normally would drink Islay Scotch would even consider drinking bourbon (which they consider it to be, regardless of what the American Code of Regulations claims). “Charcoal-mellowed”, as I'm sure you know but maybe not everyone else does, is not the same as “charcoal-filtered”, which is often touted on the labels of truly bottom-shelf whiskies. Virtually every whiskey (and every other distilled spirit) is charcoal-filtered, that is, it is run through an activated charcoal filter, as a last step before bottling. It doesn’t really strip out much color or flavor but just “polishes” the whiskey so that it is perfectly clear and clean-looking. That’s not the same thing, by the way, as “chill-filtering”, which most (including JD) also do, and that DOES strip out a noticeable amount of the whiskey’s original flavors. That’s a fiber filter, though, not charcoal. The term “charcoal-mellowed” refers to a process in which the white dog whiskey off the still is run through a large quantity of maple charcoal BEFORE it is barreled and aged. This step is commonly thought to define “Tennessee whiskey”, although prior to Prohibition it was once a very common procedure in all American whiskeys. Except for one Tennessee artisan distiller I know (Collier & McKeel in Nashville) the only two distilleries using that process today are Jack Daniel and George Dickel, neither of which should be considered bottom shelf whiskies.

dickelfanaustralia wrote:I am currently thinking myself WT Rarebread or Bookers right now. Bookers I had before but I am thinking rare bread for some power.

"Smooth" is probably the most over-used ambiguous description in all of bourbon-enthusiasdom :)
I'm guessing that your meaning does NOT imply a lack of alcohol wallop :wink: .
Have you tried Old Grand Dad 114 yet? While I personally prefer the 86-proof OGD to the 100, the 114-proof, even taken down to 86 with water, is a far superior bourbon. Maybe they use older stock? I don’t know, but I like it and you might like it as well, though probably at full proof.

By the way, Jimmy Russell himself prefers Rare Breed, which is a mixing of Wild Turkey bourbon of several ages.

Buffalo Trace's George T. Stagg is astounding in both it’s bottled proof (upwards of 130) and what *I* call smoothness (a feeling of lots less alcohol “burn” that you’d expect at that strength). You might not be able to find it in Oz (it’s not always easy to find it here, either), but maybe you can mail order it.
(the "Jaye" part of "L 'n' J dot com")
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Re: Suggestions for a bourbon newbie who wants tasty and smooth?

Unread postby JPBoston » Mon Jun 11, 2012 2:08 pm

It's probably been mentioned here, but Old Weller Antique is very smooth, and about 10x better tasting then Maker's Mark... it's 107 proof, and for about $5-7 dollars less per 750ml then MM (at least here in AZ). It's also a 'wheater' which is usually considered 'smoother' then the standard rye bourbons.

In fact, I'll probably polish off my current OWA bottle tonight while finishing the book I'm reading. Let the countdown begin. :)

* My bottle of EC12 opened up nicely after about 2 weeks... that became very smooth as well (and very tasty), and a few bucks cheaper then MM.
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Re: Suggestions for a bourbon newbie who wants tasty and smooth?

Unread postby Mike » Mon Jun 11, 2012 3:54 pm

Dear John, I love it when you 'let loose'. As usual, an interesting and excellent post!
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. - Dylan Thomas
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Re: Suggestions for a bourbon newbie who wants tasty and smooth?

Unread postby ebo » Mon Jun 11, 2012 4:43 pm

John... :urock:
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Re: Suggestions for a bourbon newbie who wants tasty and smooth?

Unread postby Mike » Mon Jun 11, 2012 5:50 pm

If I may, John, I will reinforce your thoughts this way:

As a newcomer, and one who might be new to American Whiskey, you are welcome.......... the best and most knowledgeable folks on this site are not judgemental, having been novices themselves once upon a time.

If you are new to American Whiskey drinking... be bold in your characterizations of your tastes, but never think of them as definitive (especially for yourself), hold something back for the inevitable change as your palate is introduced to new bourbon tastes.

Be prepared for your taste preferences to change even in the presence of remarkable (my opinon) consistency. Your evaluation of a particular whiskey will change (for example mine certanly did on Jack Daniel's Single Barel, and on many others too). But when I read my reviews of six or seven years ago they often stand up well today to my tastes.

Don't be in a big hurry to put your thoughts out there....... let them stew a bit....... something I wish I had done more often in the past. First impressions are important, but not the end all be all in your evaluation. Never, never, worry about being consistent in your opinions.... I have not made that mistake, when I change my mind, I go upfront about it.......... if it matters to anyone that I change opinion about a bourbon, they have never said so. They could care less.

Most likely, if my experience is any guide, your ideas will begin to coincide with those of the most knowledgeable and cool headed members of this site (Mike Veach, Bourbon Joe, John Lipman, Bourbon HQ, Gary Gillman, Vince, and many others).

It is unfortunate that many of you will never know the most interesting character on BE..... for health reasons, he seldom participates on BE anymore. But he, being unique, is the one who puts the lie to much of what I have said - that would be our friend 'bunghole'. He is opinionated, at times vulgar, and seeks controversy............ but, he is our 'bunghole', a man who is exactly what he is...... no small thing in today's world. He has many dear friends on this site, and I am glad to call myself one of them. He wrote wonderful bourbon reviews and is very knowledgeable about bourbon........... may God bless Saint Bunghole!!
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. - Dylan Thomas
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Re: Suggestions for a bourbon newbie who wants tasty and smooth?

Unread postby NotAnAlky » Tue Jun 12, 2012 11:55 am

Liquor that burns in the throat is not for me. I was turned off by Jack Daniels at a young age just for that very reason and I still won't touch that stuff today. I know it isn't the alcohol content because I've had other types of spirits with equal or higher proof without the felling that I just swallowed a mouthful of broken glass. I'm happy with my present bottle of 86 proof Heaven Hill and will probably be going back for more in a few days because it goes down easy for a young bourbon and is cheap. :drunken:
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