I'm asked to taste a lot of whiskey. I'm not complaining, not at all. It is, for one thing, free. Still, sometimes there is a disconnect between what I want to taste and what I need to taste. If I'm not drinking for the sheer pleasure of it often enough, I get grumpy.
Even though I receive a lot of whiskey for free, I sometimes have to buy the things I want to drink. I know, poor me.
Sometimes I have to let myself drink what I want to drink, even though I'm backed up with things I need to drink. I know, I know, such a tough job, but still.
I'm posting this because people often ask me to name my favorite bourbon. I couldn't possibly have just one favorite, so I try to name a few. A good place for me to start making that list is with bourbons I pay for.
Some of these may surprise you.
The list starts with 100° proof Very Old Barton. I've never gotten a bottle for free and yet I try to always have one on hand, as has been the case for 30 years or so. More recently, Rittenhouse Rye Bottled-in-Bond has been on that list. I did, however, recently receive a free bottle of Heaven Hill's rebooted Pikesville Rye, which is close enough. I predict that bottle won't last long.
I usually have one of my favorite wheaters in the drinking queue; Weller 12, Larceny, Van Winkle Lot B.
Two recent purchases that I could no longer live without: Eagle Rare 10-year-old and Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit. Wild Turkey has been doing more and more limited editions and expanding the Russell's Reserve line, but it's awfully hard to beat Kentucky Spirit or Rare Breed, two bourbons that are just about as good as any bourbon really needs to be. Eagle Rare 10-year-old is the same way, and such a good deal too.
I'm never sorry to see a bottle of Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage, regardless of how I obtain it or what year it is, although I still have a soft spot for the 1994. The same goes for anything from Four Roses. Buffalo Trace, the brand Sazerac never intended to create, has turned out brilliantly. It, too, is always welcome in my glass.
I love Booker's and would buy it if the Beam folks didn't keep me so well supplied.
This is some of what I like. If there's a larger message here, if my personal preferences have any meaning for someone else, you'll notice that I haven't mentioned any mega-dollar wood monsters. They, in fact, come under the heading of things I sometimes get tired of tasting. I'm much more interested in what Old Forester, Blood Oath, and others are doing, creating original flavor profiles by skilfully blending different straight bourbons. In Old Forester's case, they're doing it with liquid that all comes from the same distillery and recipe.
Also absent from this list is anything from a micro-distillery or anything from an NDP. Part of that is the free stuff. In both of those categories, what I get for free and what I enjoy drinking just about balance out, so no need to spend money. That said, most micros still have a way to go to get into my regular drinking rotation and most NDPs are over-priced compared to buying comparable products directly from the makers.
Drink critics are just like critics of music, movies, or anything else. I'm only really useful to you if what you like is similar to what I like. What I like isn't in any sense what anyone should like. You should like what you like. If you happen to like what I like, then you might find my recommendations helpful. If you don't, you can read me anyway for the snarky comments about Diageo.
It's all in a day's work.