Blind Tasting Is Truth

Like me, Galileo is a fan of blind tastings. Because, you see, blind tastings are truth. There is no label bias. No influence of Bourbon journalists. No social media pressure. It’s simply you, the whiskey and what you like. What you really like.

At a recent Bourbon Fellowship we had thirteen guys participate in two blind tastings. The “Bourbon experience” level in the group ranged from novice to what I would consider to be sophisticated. They were given no clues about what they were tasting other than the liquid in front of them was, in fact, Bourbon. There were three Bourbons in each flight and they were instructed to rank them 1st, 2nd and 3rd. The results were surprising to both me and Galileo.

Blind Tasting #1

For the first tasting I decided to explore the wheated mashbill from Buffalo Trace. The Bourbons included were Weller Special Reserve, Old Weller Antique and Pappy Van Winkle 15 year. The results:

While none of these Bourbons are easy to find, the one that is the most difficult to locate and will cost you $1000 on the secondary market finished last. LAST! And with only one 1st place vote along the way.

Galileo: “I just discovered the moons of Jupi…wait, Pappy’s finished last?

Blind Tasting #2

For the second tasting I also picked on a highly-allocated Buffalo Trace product. I matched Blanton’s against Cooper’s Craft (82.2 proof) and JTS Brown bottled-in-bond. The results:

While the betting favorite (Blanton’s) came out on top in this flight, it was by a very slim margin. Some of the more experienced palates in the group actually preferred Cooper’s over Blanton’s. So, the question at hand: Is it worth hours of hunting to get Blanton’s when other less expensive and more readily available Bourbons may be close to it in terms of your actual taste preference?

Can we draw definitive conclusions here? Probably not. If the same group tasted the same Bourbons a day later the results could be different. Likewise, if another group did the same blind tastings the order of finish would likely not be the same.

What we can conclude is that blind tastings do reveal truth. Or if that goes too far for you, blind tastings at least dispel myths: well-entrenched, very expensive myths. And unlike Galileo, you don’t have to suffer the wrath of the Inquisition to do so.

These blind tastings were a lot of fun. The group seems to really enjoy them. I would encourage you to do these with friends in small or large groups. You are sure to learn a few things and have a good time while doing it.

Kevin Rose

In the beginning…

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty…

Genesis (the book of the Bible not the rock band)

In the beginning?  Well, there are numerous legends, tall tales and far-fetched fables about who (in the beginning) created bourbon. Regardless of who started it, my beginnings in bourbon can only be traced back to six or seven years ago.  Before then my bourbon cabinet was “formless and empty”.  It’s only been in the past three or four years that my bourbon stash has been fruitful and multiplied. 

A year ago in February I decided the best way to celebrate my birthday was to invite a few friends over and open a newly-acquired bottle of Elijah Craig 18.  I don’t know where an EC18 ranks in your collection, but it was pretty near the top of mine and I couldn’t think of a better time to open it than with the best of company. 

This Elijah Craig 18 was outstanding. The Reverend Craig would be proud.

As we talked of legends, tall tales and far-fetched fables about each other, we sipped away about half of the delicious whiskey in that bottle. Before calling it a night, we might have sampled a bit of Blanton’s and a splash of Booker’s, too.  The guys enjoyed and appreciated the bourbon, but everyone seemed to also enjoy just being together.  Even though we didn’t have Birthday Bourbon, this birthday bourbon tasting was a great way to celebrate.

For a group of guys, however, what else would you do? Have your buddies over for birthday cake?  Most normal people like cake, but are we drinking Capri Sun and playing pin-the-tail on the donkey, too?  Probably not.  Getting together to watch a ball game is always fun, but the focus is always on the game and not the fellowship.  You could go watch a movie, but unless it’s “Die Hard 8” or “Rocky 47” or the highly-anticipated “Die Hard vs. Rocky”, then going to the movies just seems a little too date night-ish. Now you could talk me into a steakhouse and a really nice, medium-rare rib eye but, other than that, getting together to share some bourbon with friends is tough to beat.  Of course, any rib eye would likely be paired with a double pour of Kentucky Spirit anyway.

After everyone left and I was putting away glasses and bottles, I thought about how well the evening went.  It wasn’t just drinking good bourbon.  It was a few hours of laughs and conversation with friends that I just haven’t seen as often as I should. 

So, the very obvious thought occurred to me: we should do this more often.  And so, we did.

The next blog post will be about the first meeting of The Bourbon Fellowship. Many of the future posts will be about our group which will, hopefully, give you some ideas on what to do in your own group.

Kevin