The Journey of a Bourbon Drinker
Jan 05, 2023
A good friend of mine used to say that the journey of all serious bourbon drinkers ends at Four Roses. His theory, as he told it to me, was that once you stopped feverishly chasing the next rare or trendy release, you would inevitably conclude that Four Roses single barrel (SiB) was just flat out better than 99% or the bottles out there. It was a bold statement to make to a guy (yours truly) that was still all about those shiny, hype-fueled allocated bottles. Why would I settle for Four Roses SiB, which I could find pretty much anywhere at the time (this was 2014-2015), when I could hustle my way into a trophy bottle like Old Forester Birthday Bourbon? It made zero sense. Until it did.
What I didn’t understand at the time is that his theory wasn’t really about Four Roses SiB. Even if it was unintentional, he was acknowledging a much broader whiskey reality – that our journeys ultimately lead us someplace comfortable. For him, that comfortable place was Four Roses SiB, which he hoarded like he was prepping for the apocalypse. For other friends of mine, it was amassing stockpiles of cask strength MGP or Knob Creek private selections. For me, numerous trophy bottles later (and far too much cash), the journey would lead to craft whiskey.
Once the allocated dust settled and I understood where my whiskey “enthusiasm” was leading me, I was left with an obvious question – why is craft whiskey my happy place? I didn’t have any whiskey friends that were obsessed with craft and none of my early standout bottles were craft products, meaning imprinting was out of the question. And it certainly wasn’t cost or availability, as neither favored craft products at the time. So what exactly was going on here? It turns out that I’m a lot more predictable than I would like to think. Two of my more obvious personality traits had found their way into my whiskey collection, and they decided to set up shop.
First, I have always valued variety over familiarity. Be it food, drink, work – variety is my security blanket. The more options I have, the better I feel. I never expected this to spill over to my whiskey purchases, but it clearly does. For starters, I almost never buy multiple bottles of the same product. And while I gravitate toward bourbon and rye, my shelves are unquestionably whiskey inclusive. For me, whiskey is about exploration, and I knew early on that limiting myself to a single producer or product wouldn’t cut it. Don’t get me wrong, Four Roses and MGP make great whiskey - this certainly is not a condemnation of the products - my journey just needed to have a bit more adventure. And craft whiskey provides that in spades.
Second, since a young age I have always felt a strong urge to wander – be it traveling, moving, or just escaping. There is something about experiencing new people and cultures that just fascinates me. This feeling of wanderlust has more relevance to whiskey than you might think. Ultimately, whiskey is a product of the soil, grains, water, and people from where it is produced. We don’t often talk about terroir* with whiskey, but it exists. When you drink craft whiskey you experience that terroir, along with some local attitude, through the spirit. Some bourbons are hard-working and rugged, while others are lighter, more vibrant and a bit aloof. Others yet are somewhat shy and reserved. What I’m saying is that whiskey has personality. And that personality often reflects the whiskey’s birthplace. If you want to know more about a region and its people, sip its whiskey and take time to think about what you’re experiencing. You might be surprised by what you learn.
We want to know where your journey is taking you! Reach out to us on social media and tell us your story. Cheers!
*Typically used when describing wine - a characteristic set of aromas and flavors imparted by the environment in which it it produce.