Bottom Shelf Bourbon Brackets 2015: The Brackets

It's that time of year again. The time when everyone in the US pretends to be of Irish decent so they can spend an evening making bad choices. I'm pretty sure that if I was actually Irish, I'd be some level of offended that folks over here are using some made-up, cartoon version of my country as the excuse to drink horrible beer with dye in it.

But it's not only St. Patrick's Day season (it seems it may be a week long this year). It's also Bracket season. It's a lovely time of year. The snow is melting. The birds are returning. Office gambling meets up with pretend basketball interest to make everyone a lot of money off of amateur athletes. Really a lovely thing for all involved.

Except me. 

I feel no need to pretend to like basketball and honestly, I can make poor decisions on my own without an excuse. So what to do? Here's a thought: let's bring back the Bottom-Shelf Bourbon Brackets! Competition is the spirit of the season and I'm not immune from the lure of it.

As a reminder, the point of this is to make me try new things that I can buy in Minnesota without spending an arm and a leg on it. Best case scenario I know things to avoid. Best case, I find something I actually like. It's been a year since we last did this, so let's go over the guidelines for selection:

  1. I'm defining Bottom-Shelf as under $20 per liter or $15 per 750 mL bottle.
  2. It must be Straight Bourbon
  3. It must be available in Minnesota
  4. I was hoping to try new things, so five of the eight of these are new to me. JW Dant Bottled in Bond was last year's champ so it is back to see how it fares against other competition.

After the bottles were purchased here are the guidelines I used to seed them. 

  1. Last Year's Winner. JW Dant Bottled in Bond won last year so it get's an automatic #1 seed.
  2. 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.
  3. Proof. Higher proof often equals better flavor. Not always, but it can be a good rule of thumb.
  4. Minimize 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. Since five of these are from Heaven Hill, it's a guideline, not a hard rule, and is overridden by the above guidelines.

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