Personal Preference – Part II

Do you know what time it is? It's time to talk about what I grabbed from Four Roses today! 

I love tasting with Mandy Vance, the woman on the right who runs the Four Roses private barrel program. She's the best. I'm always disappointed that our time together is limited to the hour or so that I spend with her every few months when we make our selections. She's full of insight into the specifics of each available cask and I value her feedback tremendously when we taste together. "Do you wanna know the ages or not before we start?" she asked with a smirk. Heck no! Taste first, then reveal!

Another great (or not so great) thing about tasting at Four Roses is that they give you endless tortilla chips to cleanse your palate between samples. I swear to God there have been times when I've eaten at least a bag and a half on my own, so this time I was smart and brought a bag of almonds with me. Gotta count my calories if I want to keep my girlish figure! 

I really liked three of the barrel selections from Four Roses today and I tasted them blindly, as I always do, so I that I choose by flavor initially. That doesn't mean I don't peek at the ages and recipes when I'm done, however! When it came time for Mandy to tell me the specifics, it turned out that I had chosen a ten year old barrel, plus two eight year olds, but the three casks that I turned down were all over nine years of age. So here's my question for you, aspiring spirits buyers: what do you do with that information?

A: Do you take the nine year old casks because you know customers will think nine is better than eight? Or...

B: Do you stick with the eight year old casks and try to talk about their superior flavor profiles? 

The problem with option A is that, if the casks don't live up to your standards, your customers might lose faith in your ability to pick out good whiskey. The problem with option B is that, in our modern and cynical world of whiskey expertise, people assume that the only reason you're talking about the merits of eight year old whiskey is because you didn't have access to anything older. If I say "this eight year old barrel was even better than the nine and ten year old options," I'll be dealing with a sea of snarky responses about marketing bullshit.

You've gotta make the business decision, but which one is best for business? The better age statement or the better whiskey? 

Decisions, decisions. I went with the eight year olds because in the end they were better. Mandy agreed. Here's the round-up:

- OBSV (8 years, 8 months)

- OESQ (8 years, 9 months)

- OESV (10 years, 3 months)

I've got a lot more to type up during tomorrow's plane ride about my exciting visits to both Willett and the Bardstown Bourbon Company. But, of course, "exciting" is often the in the eye of the beholder. I think what's happening to the Kentucky Bourbon distillation landscape right now is incredibly inspiring, but that's because I'm coming from a wine background. I love visiting the great châteaux in Bordeaux and the gorgeous estates in Napa because I like the total package when it comes to booze. If you care about atmosphere, art, travel, curation, and all the romantic hospitality services that the wine industry has offered for decades to tourists, you're probably going to enjoy tomorrow's post. However, if the extent of your interest in whiskey revolves around collecting full proof, limited edition, old and rare Bourbon bottles to enjoy in the privacy of your own home, I don't have good news for you.

A number of Kentucky's best distilleries are investing heavily in the future, but they're not necessarily investing in the liquid itself. More on that tomorrow. 

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll