By: Joe Jaloszynski
Like many of us at Barbell Logic Online Coaching, I have been incredibly influenced by Mark Rippetoe and Matt Reynolds. Back in October of 2016 they made a video all about whiskey. That video further inspired me to be more grown up about my alcohol consumption.
My very first bottle of bourbon was Elijah Craig Small Batch, a 94 proof bourbon. I bought it on a Saturday morning while buying donuts with my kids. The bottle was shaped interestingly enough. I could see the cork. How could this not be a fine entry into the world of bourbon?
The day went on, early afternoon rolled around, college football was on and it seemed like a perfect time to drink some 94 proof bourbon. I poured a little into a wine glass. It was the fanciest glass I had at the time and somehow made early afternoon bourbon seem classier.
First sip, without water, full proof, and I shivered. The full 94 proof got me and I made a silly face. So, I added some water to lower the proof and got to a point that I could sip the bourbon without making that silly face. I was amazed that this bourbon had a surprisingly sweet taste. It had some aromas that smelled like crème brulee and nice furniture. But I sipped that glass for about an hour. No rush. No need to get a buzz. No need to do anything other than enjoy this new thing I had never had before.
Since that moment in October of ’16, I have bought many more bottles of whiskey and experienced many flavors, learned more about what I like and don’t like. It has been a fun ride learning about this stuff. The craft in making bourbon. The fun in drinking it. Learning how to make new cocktails and learning the histories of the brands.
I am far from an expert. I would consider myself an advanced novice whiskey drinker. I am relatively new to this whole thing but I love it.
So, if you are looking to see what this bourbon thing is all about, here is my advice on where to start. Avoid the “college kid whiskey.” If you have ever mixed the whiskey with cola, do not start with that whiskey. The whiskey should be 86 proof or higher. 80 proof is the lowest legal proof for bourbon and 86 proof is not hard to find. At this point, do not spend more than $35 on a bottle. There are plenty of good bourbons under $30 which will serve the purpose of experimentation just fine. There is nothing worse being stuck with a bottle of whiskey knowing that it cost $80 and not wanting to to drink it because it’s just not that good. Start cheap. Even cheap bourbon isn’t that bad. Try to drink bourbon neat, no water and no ice. That’s where the true flavors come through but if the alcohol is just a little too much, add a little bit of water and taste it again. Add a little water at a time until the glass is at a perfect balance of alcohol and flavor.
You are going to want to use a glass that is tapered. A wider belly with a narrower opening. This will funnel the aromas and increase the sensation of the nose. The most popular glasses for whiskey drinking are snifters, Glencairn glasses, or tulip glasses. In the pictures below, you will see both tulip glass and Glencairn glasses.
My quick starting list for exploring bourbon:
1. Elijah Craig Small Batch
It’s findable, affordable, higher proof, and is a simple taste that’s great for entry into the world of bourbon. This is the bourbon that I started with.
2. Eagle Rare
A good sweet bourbon with a little bit of age which allows the barrel flavor to start to show. It is findable in most liquor stores and even some grocery stores.
3. Maker’s Mark
Every bar in America has it. You can try this without making an investment in a bottle. This is a wheated bourbon, so the flavor is slightly mellower.
4. Henry McKenna Single Barrel Bottled in Bond
See ‘Eagle Rare’ but with a slightly higher proof. I am really like this bourbon.
5. Old Grand Dad 114
This is a high rye bourbon that is a slightly different flavor profile than the others. An affordable price makes it a good option for something different enough to stand out. Plus it has a very high proof, 114, which makes it an ideal introduction to the higher proof offerings.
6. Evan Williams Bottled in Bond
This is one of the better bottles of bourbon that can be regularly found for under $20. One liter of 4 year old 100 proof bourbon for under $20 isn’t too shabby.
I hope you find out that you want to explore all of the flavors out there. Plenty of bottles to choose from. Pick your poison. Let me know what you think. My contact information is below. I would love to hear from you.