5 Bourbon Annoyances

Look, I'm an easy going guy. I live by the motto "don't be a dick." That said, when you've run a site about bourbon for as long as I have, it's hard not to find occasional annoyances in the bourbon world. And hey, I'm human, I get annoyed just like anyone else. Though probably less so...I mean bourbon helps with that too.

1. Brittle or Messy Wax.

I love bourbon. I'd rather have bourbon in my glass than almost anything else. But sometimes it seems that companies are going so far out of their way to fancy up the bottle that they forget that some of us actually want to get into the damn thing. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten a knife out to cut through the tough, cheap wax it was dipped in. And if you try to open a bottle of Knob Creek, you will shatter the wax. There will be pieces on your counter, on your floor, in the sink, and maybe in the dog (if you aren't fast enough or they are particularly curious).

As far as I'm concerned, there is one company who does a wax dip correctly, and that is Maker's Mark. The wax is soft and smooth. It tears easily and comes off without making a mess on your counter or floor. Everyone else, just use some foil or something.

2.Extraneous Packaging.

I dislike excess packaging. A cardboard and metal tube or box? Annoying. A wooden box where the bottle needs to be glued in in order to keep it from falling out? Super annoying. Not only is it less convenient to get to the Bourbon and less convenient to store, but there is excess trash to throw away. I tend to be super tree-huggy when it comes to trash. I want to make as little as possible.

3. Agglomerated Cork Closures.

Just about a year ago, I wrote an entire post about how much I dislike this type of "particle cork" closure. And I'll sum it up for you now. They break! Damn near every broken cork I've had to fish out of a bottle has been this type of closure. I will say that as of right now, I have zero open bottles that use this. That makes me very happy. But Bulleit? I'm looking at you. You seem to be the biggest offender of the "regulars" on my shelf I keep extra synthetic corks on hand to pop into Bulleit bottles they break so often.

4. "Experts."

Yeah, this is interesting coming from a blogger, right? But I don't mean whiskey geeks that are enthusiastic on the internet. We are a dime a dozen, and if you were annoyed by them, you wouldn't be here to read this and I wouldn't read the scores of whiskey blog posts that I read each week. I like people who are exploring things and I like reading things from people who really do know their stuff. Those people that I get annoyed by are the ones who tell you all the "facts" they've read about bourbon. The myth-spreaders that tell you Kentucky is the only place you can make bourbon. I try not to let this one annoy me too much. But when they switch from telling people falsehoods about bourbon to telling them how they _should_ enjoy theirs? That's when my hackles go up. How someone enjoys their whiskey is their own damn business. Want it on the rocks? Cool. Want it in soda? Fine, it's your bourbon. 

5. Whiskey Cynics.

This is where it goes from sometimes annoying me to sometimes angering me. There are people in this world that seem to think that everyone is out to get them. That conspiracy lurks behind every corner. And the more logical hurdles that they have to go through to get to their conclusion, the more they are convinced it must be true. These people seem to be a minority of the whiskey community, but they are a very vocal minority. And they come at you with guns blazing. These whiskey cynics think every blogger is a shill for the companies. Especially if said blogger has a PR contact for a company or gets samples from them. 

And I'm speaking from experience here, these people seem to think that after multiple years of honesty, that people are just willing to throw away their reputations for a sample of bourbon worth, at most, $20. And when you call them on it, they tell you things like "if you can't handle the heat, get out of the kitchen." Yeah, that actually happened. I don't tend to publish these comments because I try not to interact with trolls, but I read them all. 

And then there are the bloggers who have gone from being fans of whiskey to the "guardians of purity" for the industry. These guys seem to think that being a cynic means you are being edgy or that you are "sticking it to the man." But really, you're just being a dick. And like I said at the top, I try to live by the mantra of "don't be a dick."

Giveaway

Ok, I could go on forever on that last one, but I won't. Instead, if you've made it this far, I want to reward you. I was recently sent a box of goodies by the PR team that represents Bulleit. Some of them, I can't send out because they are alcohol and it is illegal to mail that, others I opened and in the process made them unpresentable for a giveaway. But there were a couple that I thought would be fun to share. I have a winter hat and a mini-flask keychain that I would love to send to you.

You can enter the giveaway using the form below, please only enter once. I’m planning to remove duplicates before I randomly pick a winner so it won’t help your chances. There will be two winners chosen one getting each item. All I’m asking in return is that you answer a question. The answers will help inform future posts and in an anonymized and aggregate sort of way may end up in a future post on their own. 

Good Luck! You have until Friday, January 26th to enter (you need to "log-in" so I can receive your email address to notify you if you win, either log-in method gets me that).  


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Buying Bourbon, the Arok Way

A few weeks ago, a reader got in touch and mentioned an article about buying and collecting wine. He mentioned it might be interesting to read a bourbon take on that topic. And while I initially thought about doing a guide on collecting bourbon, I realized two things that put me off of it. The first being that I don't collect bourbon. Price and availability took that off the table for me long ago. The second is that there are plenty of "unicorn hunting" tales out there on the internet. Most of them are probably better than I would write.

So instead I thought I would offer an insight into how I buy bourbon. Because of the site, I buy a lot more bourbon than most of my non-blogger friends. I buy stuff to review, both "special" and "every day," as well as stuff I just want to have on hand to drink.  In other words, I might have a few insights to offer. But don't worry, none of these are rocket science or secret, it's just what I've found to fit my typical needs and budget.

1. Have a budget.

Speaking of budgets, if you are going to do some bourbon shopping, you'd do well to have one of them. Bourbon as an impulse buy can wreck your finances fast unless you are independently wealthy or stick to the bottom shelf (neither of which are bad things). 

I have two different budgets I use when it comes to buying whiskey. One is a standardized Personal Price Ceiling™. My Personal Price Ceiling is the most that I am comfortable spending on a single bottle of whiskey. It allows me to not agonize over those bottles that I know I can't afford. Right now mine is $135, though there are exceptions if I'm on vacation or if I purchased it for a very special occasion. Now that I work on a freelancer's budget though, I hardly ever reach the ceiling.

This brings me to my second type of budget. The per shopping trip budget. Before I leave the house, I decide about how much I can afford to spend. I don't always know what I want to buy, but if I can at least know how much I'm willing to drop on the counter, it will help keep me in good standing with my wife/accountant. And it will ensure there is money for the next shopping trip as well.

2. Visit multiple stores.

Now, I'm not advocating running all over town every time you want to buy a bottle of Wild Turkey. But it wouldn't hurt to spread that money around a bit. I find that as I visit multiple stores, I get an idea of what each store carries and about what they charge. I know that some stores have a great selection of private barrel picks and that some have rock bottom prices. After a while, you'll learn which stores are knowledgeable, which are staffed by snobs or dicks and which are worth dealing with even if they are snobs or dicks.

Don't be afraid to check online for price and availability either, especially if they are across town. These days, your store doesn't necessarily need to be the biggest store to have their inventory or prices online. Of course, there are many reasons why they might choose not to: they might be too cheap to upgrade, afraid of competition, or maybe they are the snobs or dicks mentioned above. In any case, it never hurts to check.

3. Find a retailer that offers samples.

Finding a retailer that offers samples is an excellent way to make sure you actually want to buy a particular bourbon. It is especially important if the bottle is a little spendy or if it is a private pick. In my local market, I've got quite a few retailers that offer samples, some are massive chains and some are little one-store shops. 

4. Bring it all together. 

Once you have the budget and the stores mapped out, the last thing to do is bring it all together. Did you read about a bourbon that is losing its age statement? At this point, you probably know which stores are likely to have a large supply of it. Pro-tip: if you know that none of the stores in your area are likely to have something, then you can get a jump on asking friends in other markets to grab some for you. This is why I have a case of 6-year-old Heaven Hill Bonded sitting at a friend's house waiting to be picked up. 

Bonus Tip. 

I don't personally collect whiskey, I drink it. That said, it's still ok to stock up. I often have a three bottle buffer of things I particularly like that might not stick around. And like I said, I have a case of age-stated Heaven Hill at a friend's house waiting for me to visit him in Kentucky. Of course, don't be afraid to try something new either. The worst that is going to happen is that you'll use it for cooking or in cocktails. 


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Sample Roulette

There was a time, not so long ago in the grand scheme of things, that I fell victim to a touch of hoarding. Whiskey hoarding to be exact. I had the urge to make sure I never finished a bottle. I had some vague thought that I might never have that whiskey again. And if I never actually finished the bottle, I could still have it anytime I wanted. 

Yes, I imagined the nostalgia I would have in the future for the time I was currently living in. If that is confusing for you, try living it. As part of my need to deal with my, then undiagnosed, anxiety disorder I decided that I was worrying too much about what was still in the bottles. And so I came up with the plan to set aside two sample bottles from each bottle of whiskey I opened. I told myself it was for the blog. It was for posterity. It was long term research to see if things changed over time. But I was really trying to put off that future regret and nostalgia. 

Since that time I have dutifully put aside two samples or more of each bottle I open. Unless of course, I already have samples of that in the library. I mean how many samples of Maker's Mark do you need?

Of course, after a while my worry about the future nostalgia waned. I've had a lot of different whiskies over the course of putting up two posts a week for the last five years. And, well, after a while you notice that there will always be good whiskey, and there will always be bad whiskey, and though the particular good whiskey you are drinking today might not be available in the future, another one will.

And so, after a while, I started forgetting to pour the samples. Or if I poured them, I decided to give them to friends instead. I used to fill two to three boxes per year. Last year I filled one, and hadn't yet started a 2017 box when a startling question popped into my head. What the fuck am I doing? Do I really need to take up all the space in my house with all these little sample bottles? I had eleven boxes full of bottles at this point and was working on the twelfth. 

So I decided to drink them. Initially, I just decided to do it roulette style. Open a box, pick a bottle, and whatever it was I would drink. This plan lasted until the first engagement with the enemy. My wife and I had agreed that we would share each one that we pulled. But that, for the first time, we would each pull our own. She pulled a sample of a Four Roses barrel proof, single barrel, gift shop release. I pulled Fleischmann's Rye. I believe that the words that came out of my mouth were: "I'm not drinking that shit!"

And so I immediately changed the rules. I decided that we were going to keep one sample of each for the blog, at least if there was the possibility of an interesting "now vs then" post. I mean I went through all the trouble to save them, I might as well keep the ones that might be interesting. At the same time, I'd pull out all the single barrel whiskies, the limited release whiskies, all those whiskies that I couldn't imagine a need to write about, and I'd set them aside to drink. I'd also go through and pull out all the shit whiskey too. I dumped those out. I mean there are good reasons why I might want the first batch of a craft whiskey to compare to the future. There is no good reason to sit on multiple samples of Old Crow. 

And to answer the question that my wife immediately posed...no I probably wouldn't have changed the rules if she had pulled the shitty rye and I had pulled the tasty bourbon. Sue me.


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My whiskey is too young, now what?

It happens to all of us. Somehow we find ourselves with a bottle of whiskey whose age is listed in single digit months instead of years. Maybe we were given it by a friend. Maybe we were taken in by a pretty label. Or maybe we just weren't paying close enough attention. How we acquired the bottle doesn't really matter as much as what we are going to do with it now. 

Unless you are a fan of new make, you are probably not going to drink it neat. And unless you plan to use it as a door stop or to clean something, you need to find something to do with it. Well, I can't tell you what to do with yours, but since I found myself with an abundance of the stuff myself recently, I can tell you what I did with mine.

I made cocktails. 

But I didn't make whiskey cocktails, well not really. I mean I used whiskey in them. Wait...let's start at the beginning here, and I'll tell you my thought process. 

I initially thought to myself that if I looked at some colonial-era drinks, well that would be about right since they didn't age the whiskey yet at that point anyway. And while I didn't find many, I did find a couple that worked. 

The first is one one without a formal recipe. And it takes a couple of months. It's called Cherry Bounce, and I found the process I use in Michael Dietch's excellent book: Whiskey. Basically, you pierce a pound of sour cherries with a knife, toss in a bottle of whiskey, a couple of cups of sugar, some freshly grated nutmeg and a couple of cinnamon sticks. Shake it every few days at first and then let it sit for three months before straining off the liquid. It's damn good, and I think I'll be making some every summer from here on out as if you start it when the cherries are ripe, it is done just in time for the holidays.

But I'm guessing you want something you can drink right away, and I won't disappoint. The only other Colonial-era drink I found that worked well with the young whiskey I had was the Whiskey Sling, which has one thing in common with the Bounce above. Nutmeg. It turns out it really does help a young whiskey to be more palatable. A Whiskey Sling is just 2 ounces of whiskey, a half teaspoon of sugar dissolved in a teaspoon of water, a glass, some ice and some freshly grated nutmeg over the top of it all. It really is quite tasty, especially with a young rye. Just try to drink it before the ice melts too much. 

So after I decided that Colonial-Era drinks were kind of a dead-end, I decided to rethink my approach. To me, whiskey that is too young tastes less like whiskey and more like cheap tequila or rum. And so I decided to treat it that way. The first thing I go to work was a riff on a Margarita.

Whiskey Margarita

  • 1.5-ounce New-make to 12-month-old bourbon
  • 1-ounce lime juice (fresh)
  • 0.5 to 1-ounce Cointreau
  • Orange bitters

Shake with ice and pour into a glass. You may need to adjust slightly depending on the whiskey you have, but that'll get you close.

Following the lime juice and young whiskey theme, a mojito riff worked really well too. 

Whiskey Mojito

  • 2-ounce New-make to 12-month-old bourbon
  • 1-ounce lime juice (fresh)
  • 1-ounce simple syrup
  • 6 mint leaves
  • dash bitters
  • soda water

Bruise your mint and drop it into your glass, pour in the lime juice, simple syrup, whiskey and a dash of bitters. Give it a stir. Add ice and top with soda water. 

Branching out a little I also tried a Negroni/Boulevardier with the too young whiskey, and that tasted quite good. I mention Negroni because a Negroni and a Boulevardier are pretty close to the same drink. The Negroni has gin and the other bourbon. In this case, it reminded me more of the Negroni than the Boulevardier. This one is simple.

Too Young Boulevardier

  • 1-ounce New-make to 12-month-old bourbon
  • 1-ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1-ounce Campari

Give it a stir and serve it on the rocks. 

So after all that I guess my point is that when you have a bottle of whiskey that you aren't sure what to do with, sometimes you need to get creative. I made my bottle disappear by making rum, tequila and gin drinks with it. Maybe you can do the same. 


BourbonGuy.com accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts Etsy store. If you'd like to support BourbonGuy.com, visit BourbonGuyGifts.com. Thanks!