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Bottom Shelf Bourbon Brackets: Prologue

Posted on by Eric Burke

I’ve been feeling the need for competition lately. No, I don’t want to actually compete. I want to watch competitions. Preferably in a comfy chair. With a drink close to hand. And one would think that this is the perfect time of year for that. What with two big, national college basketball tournaments and a national college ice hockey tournament happening or about to happen right about now.

But there is a problem. I’m bored by basketball. And hockey. When I watch either of those, I need a drink just so I can be interested in something. So what is a guy who is suffering from some serious cabin fever to do when bored by the offerings, yet still in need of competitive entertainment? Easy. Hold your own competition. 

But, it can’t be just any competition. It has to be a competition that means something. It has to be a winner takes all, earn a spot on the fancy bourbon shelf sort of competition. It’s got to be a bottom-shelf bourbon bracket with the winner earning…well...my eternal good wishes and a spot on the shelf? 

I think that’s prize enough. 

I don't want you to think this is some spur-of-the-moment thing though. I gave this some thought. I knew if I was going to have a legitimate competition, I had to have a few rules. 

  1. I wanted to find something new. So except for one selection which just happened to be already in my closet, these are all new to me. 
  2. I wanted them to be cheap. So I put the cut-off at $20 per liter or $15 per 750 mL. 
  3. I wanted them to be Straight Bourbon. Because…yeah, why wouldn’t I?
  4. I wanted them to be available in Minnesota, but I ran across two on my recent trip to Virginia which I decided to throw in as wild cards. As far as I know, neither are available in Minnesota. 

Once I knew I had the rules for selection in place, I also knew I was going to need some way of seeding these. It is a bracket after all. I came up with a few considerations to follow here as well. These are in order of importance. 

  1. Stated (or assumed) age. Straight bourbon has to be at least two years old. But unless it is under four years old you don’t have to put an age on it. So if someone does it’s either a good thing or a bad thing. I like to reward good things.
  2. Proof. Higher proof often equals better flavor. Not always, but it can be a good rule of thumb.
  3. No corporate cousins. I figured I could introduce a little more difference into each pairing if they didn’t come off the same still, or at the very least wasn’t sold by the same company.

So that’s it. The bracket is below. Division 1 chose first. Division 2 chose second. Because, math. Stay tuned.