How do I get into bourbon?
The question I am most commonly asked. To which of course I answer;
“Buy a large Vat fill it and just jump in!”
I had several Bourbons long before I became so interested and engrossed in this industry.
I am a huge fan of many things about America, Basketball, Football, Southern rock, Blues, TV and Films ,Chicago, New York, Alaska, Seattle and The Pacific North West.
Most of all I love Americans. They are honest, hardworking, team players and great company.
I worked with and taught many hundreds of Americans, invariably an enjoyable experience. Not always of course like any nationality.
I worked with a guy once who was a prize idiot. I won’t tell you his name, let’s call him Scott. At the same time, I worked with Bob the most wonderful ex-special forces instructor, one of the greatest men I ever met. Scott turned up at the company dance in a full kilt outfit, seldom seen even in Scotland.
Bob asked me, ‘What tartan is that’?
I immediately replied, “ That is the McNuggets tartan!” We bonded, Bob and I went to the bar and drank bourbon, and laughed. I admit it was unkind but hey, ho!
At University I played on the basketball team for Aberdeen and Scotland with a Kentuckian, Indianian, a Californian and a 6’9” Ugandan. These were the funniest days in my life. I was introduced to Wild Turkey, Rebel Yell and more, mainly Guinness to be fair. These guys are now, a judge, an interior designer, a pastor and a Doctor but my bet is they all still enjoy their bourbon.
How to get into bourbon. Just go online, read some reviews and shop either online or at your Supermarket and see what brands you like. Brands tend to have a similar taste profile throughout their range but more expensive bottles are older, richer and more complex.
The main Distilleries are Jim Beam, Buffalo Trace, Wild Turkey, Four Roses, and Heaven Hill and Diageo. I will also mention Jack Daniels but save you for now from a world of pain about why it is called Tennessee whiskey and not bourbon although technically it is.
If I have lost you already, make friends with your local liquor store manager. Your bourbon might cost you a few bucks more but she/he will guide you through your journey, let you taste the occasional nice bottle and stop you making expensive mistakes.
They might tell you that corn gives sweetness and toffee, Rye spices, Barley malt and sugar notes. Young bourbon is fruitier and more floral while older has smoky and tannin flavours. Now they will help you to chose the flavour you like.
Below $25 you can buy – 2017 prices.
Jim Beam White label, Makers Mark, Wild Turkey 81, Jack Daniels No 7, Four Roses Yellow, Heaven Hill, Buffalo Trace
I will express my bias here. Start with Buffalo Trace or try Wild Turkey Jim Beam White and Makers Mark.
Now you are started try some others and decide what you liked best.
You should possibly start by drinking them with mixers; water, coke or dry ginger in the knowledge that the best of these are to be sipped neat or with just one or two drops of water to reveal their depth of flavour. You paid for it you drink it how you most enjoy it. If you just can’t find a way, seek out your best local bartender who will share their passion and knowledge and mix you a great cocktail.
If your favourite was:
Jim Beam try Black extra aged, Knob Creek or Basil Hayden’s
If it was Buffalo Trace try Eagle Rare
If it was Wild Turkey try 101 or Wild Turkey Rye. The 101 is much stronger so you might need to add a few teaspoons of water.
If you liked HeavenHill try Elijah Craig it’s lovely
Four Roses try the Small Batch
If you liked Jack Daniels or even if you disliked it try Woodford Distillers Select.
You are now well underway. You will try single barrel and cask strength whiskeys, you will know if you like Rye, Wheaters and your favourite Distillery. You will now comment authoritatively on this blog or start your own. You will scour local shops for Pappy, bemoan its lack of availability. You will have less money but more friends and fun. You will have friends online on YouTube and in your local liquor store.
You will only make this initial journey once. Savour every new experience and bottle. Enjoy each new relationship
Tell me about your journey in Bourbon. Which Bourbons do you recommend newbies to try? What Bourbon did you drink first?