Elijah Craig. Who is he? What does he want?
And the winner is…
Well folks, here it is, the semi-finals and final showdown. With the has-beens and wanna-bes out of the running, it was time to get serious. For the second round, every judge participated in both matchups, for a total of five votes per match (one judge bowed out).
Old Taylor vs. Ten High
This matchup pitted two seriously old farts toe-to-toe. Neither of these whiskeys were favorites by any of the judges, but they did respect the history and heratige of these ancient brands. In the end, Old Taylor (who is actually younger than Ten High) nudged out a win. I’m almost certain it was because OT comes in a glass bottle, where the TH is wrapped in plastic.
Old Taylor: 3
Ten High: 2
Kentucky Tavern vs. Old Crow
Here was one of the more interesting matchups of the evening. One one side, we have dark-horse Kentucky Tavern, who just trounced the favored Very Old Barton. Opposite KT, we have non other than Old Crow – by far the most well recognized name of the bunch. We have glitz and glamour vs. staunch tenacity. It was a pretty close call, but Old Crow could not flap by on name alone. The mighty KT won the swing-vote and took the round.
Kentucky Tavern: 3
Old Crow: 2
The Final Round!
Old Taylor vs. Kentucky Tavern
Well here it is. The championship round. Number one seeded Old Taylor maintained his dominance and settled into the final round with confidence. But the scrappy Kentucky Tavern, with an identical number of votes, clawed his way to face Old Taylor in the final showdown.
For the last mactch, I decided to do something a little different. Rather than announcing the contender before each tasting, I figured these two mighty contenders deserved a blind taste test. So I took myself out of the running and set up the tasting table. With only four judges left, I would act as tiebreaker if the need arose.
Each judge carefully examined, sniffed, sloshed, and sipped both bourbons – sometimes twice. Nobody could tell which one was which, but the results were always the same. One bourbon took every single vote!
Yeah, pretty unbelieveable that such a lopsided result would come from such strong contestants. But the results don’t lie. The winner of the First Annual (or possibly ever) Bourbon Basement Bottom Shelf Battle is…
Really! I’m not shitting you! Everyone voted for Kentucky Tavern, and they didn’t even know it. I was flabbergasted by the apparent coincidence of KT winning both the BBBSB and the Kentucky Shootout.
So here’s to the champion twice over! Kentucky Tavern, hall-of-famer in the Bourbon Basement history books.
It’s tournament time!
No, not the springtime variety with elite eights and final fours, but rather the first annual Bourbon Basement Bottom-Shelf Battle! Eight of the finest brown spirits found just below knee level were gathered in preparation for four rounds of raucous bourbon taste-off. Each contestant was seeded (by me) and placed into a single-elimination bracket.
I had five friends participating as judges, plus myself. For each matchup, judges would sample both bourbons, and cast a vote for their favorite. Votes would be tabulated, and the winning bourbon would move up the bracket. For the first round, the judges were broken up into two groups, and alternated games.
The first ‘game’ was Old Taylor vs. Early Times. Old Taylor had a smashing victory, winning all three votes. The second game pitted Old Heaven Hill (Bottled in Bond) against Ten High Whiskey. I was pretty sure that this would be a no-brainer, but Ten High pulled the upset with a 2-1 victory. I was flabbergasted, but there’s a dark horse in every group. Up next, Old Crow squeeked by Yellowstone with a 2-1 win, and finally in what was to be the closest matchup (a 4 and 5 seed), Kentucky Tavern ran away with the victory at 3-0. It looked something like this…
The first round went something like this…
The first round was full of great bottom-shelf surprises. With the first four contestants headed back to the cubby hole under my desk, the judges were primed and ready for round two. Since round 2 only serves up two games, the judging groups were combined into one massive pile of judgement. In order for the contending bourbon to move to the championship round, it must curry the favor of at least 3 of 5 judges.
The next two games were nail-biters. Old Taylor marched into the round as the #1 seed facing #6, and may have been a tad over-confident. Kentucky Tavern and Old Crow are long-time arch rivals, with a storied history of drawing blood and pissing vinegar. These were matchups for the history books, ladies and gentlemen. Tune in next time to discover the mighty victors, and lowly losers. Not only that, but the supreme champion of the bottom shelf will also be reavealed!
I was posed an interesting question the other day. A friend of mine inquired via text-message as to what might be a good giftable bourbon. Due to expediency, I gave a hasty reply (which I will not share here). Since then, I’ve been pondering the question, and believe I have a pretty good advice for some tasteful gifts. Below is a list of bourbons that would please any non-aficionado if received as a gift. In other words, these bourbons taste good and look cool.
- William Larue Weller - buy it because it is delicious. May be hard to find, though.
- Colonel E.H. Taylor - Fanciful packaging sure to please, and a unique release each year.
- Willet Family Reserve - Easy to find. Anitque-ish bottle. Tastes like bourbon.
- Wild Turkey American Tradition - Comes in a big-ass box and has a well known name.
- Four Roses Single Barrel – There are dozens of varieties based on different combinations of barrel types. Could be interesting for the recipient to read about, and definitely good to drink.
- Blanton’s – It’s got a metal horse on top of the bottle. Everyone loves this.
- Angel’s Envy – because all the cool kids are drinking it these days, and it’s still possible to get a 1st edition.
- Basil Hayden’s – Smooth and easy drinking. Great for a beginner. Bottle is really cool.
- 1792 - Decent bourbon in a nice, solid looking bottle. Fits in well on a liqour shelf.
- W.L. Weller 12 year – Classic bottle and it’s just good bourbon.
Lower (< $25):
- Jim Beam’s Devil’s Cut – Good for people that think they are ‘hard-core’.
- Old Grand Dad 114 – Comes in a nice box. Classic name. Good gift for Grandpa’s 114th birthday.
- Rebel Yell – Don’t be a yankee. Go for the 1.75 L.
- Fighting Cock – You know why.
- Kentucky Tavern – It’s what winners drink.
- Red Stag - Do not under any circumstance give anyone money for this. It will only encourage the manufacture of more.
- Ten Point WhiteTail Buck Brand Caramel Flavored Whiskey
Here are the results of an ambitious, yet ultimately failed, experiment in whiskey vatting.
The first blend was mediocre.
|Day 1||Like a bunch whiskeys mixed together. Too smokey|
|Day 15||Delightful. Smoky, but more balanced. Almost scotch-like.|
The second blend, a definite disappointment.
|Weller 12 Year||1||14.29%|
|Day 1||Pretty awful. A definite disappointment. Very harsh whiskey flavor. Smoke barely noticable. Short finish.|
|Day 6||Sweetness from the bourbon starting to shine through. Still quite bland with a short, pungent finish.|
|Day 12||Grain from Bernheim completely taken over. A little vanilla/caramel bourbon flavor. Less smoke now than ever.|
|Day 126||Yeah, it’s been forever, right? Still tastes like the Day 12 description. Maybe with slightly less vanilla/caramel and more grain. Will not be making this concoction again.|
So after several weeks of the bottle just sitting around on my shelf being ignored, it must have given up on the idea of tasting good. In fact, it pulled a u-turn and now just tastes plain bad. Like a terrible blended scotch, I guess. This whole mix ‘n match system seems like it could be pretty difficult. I think I’ll stick with more creative endeavors for the duds on my shelf.