The Whiskey Masters

We’ve all laid awake at night pondering the universal question: If you were a whiskey what would you be?

As you watch an early morning version of The Masters today, here are some thoughts on which whiskey each of the guys on the leader board might be.

Francisco Molinari – Old Forester

Molinari is like Old Forester. He has added many things to his skill set. He completely revamped his putting stroke and changed his swing to give him more power off the tee. He was already very good, but these changes have made him one of the greats in the game today.

Old Forester has done the same. They added the 1920 and 1910 to the Whiskey Row Series, brought back President’s Choice and introduced a new rye. All things that take the brand to the next level.

Tiger Woods – Four Roses

Tiger was done. He was shamed. He was hurt. His game was an embarrassment. He had fallen to 1,199th in the world. Many thought he’d never play again. Forget about winning a tournament and a major seemed an impossibility. Yet, here we are. The red-shirted one may be wearing a green jacket before the day is over.

Four Roses was done. It was horrible. It had given up on quality. It was an embarrassment. The distillery was on the verge of shutting down for good. Yet, here we are. Jim Rutledge brought the brand back from the scrap heap to height of glory most thought was impossible. Within a few days, Four Roses (with Brent Elliott now at the helm) will be introducing a highly-anticipated new small batch bourbon to the whiskey public.

Tony Finau – New Riff

Tony Finau is somewhat of a new kid on the block. If you are a casual golf fan you may not know who he is. If you do follow the game you know what he is capable of and you wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him win today. Even if he doesn’t, you’re confident he’ll be winning a major very soon and everybody will know who he is then.

Finau is like New Riff. New Riff is new brand on the bourbon shelf. If you are a casual bourbon fan you may not know New Riff. If you are a student of the bourbon game, you know about New Riff and you know how good it is. Before long it will be winning lots of awards and everybody will know about New Riff then.

Brooks Koepka – Henry McKenna 10 Year

True golf fans have been enjoying Brooks Koepka’s game for years. He was golf’s best kept secret. Then a year or two ago he started winning all the big events (3 majors in less than 2 years). Now Brooks Koepka is one of the hottest golfers in the game.

This is a similar story to Henry McKenna 10 Year. The bourbon fan knew about this best-kept secret of the whiskey world. Then it started winning awards and now, as the hottest brand in bourbon, it can’t stay on the shelves.

Webb Simpson – Wild Turkey 101

Webb is steady. Predictable. Consistent. He may not be the first golfer that comes to mind and he may not win all the tournaments, but you can’t help but admire his longevity and reliability.

Wild Turkey 101 is that steady, predictable and consistent player in the bourbon world. You can’t really remember when WT101 wasn’t around and you can always count on a solid performance…just like Webb Simpson.

Ian Poulter – Whistle Pig Rye

Poulter is brash and flashy with a lot of spice. Sometimes that brash makes us forget that he’s a pretty darn good golfer, too (especially during The Ryder Cup, but I don’t want to talk about that).

Poulter is the Whistle Pig Rye of the golf world. Whistle Pig’s brand is also brash and flashy. And a 100% rye is going to bring a lot of spice to your glass. One taste of that rye will help you remember that it’s a pretty darn good whiskey, too.

I hope you enjoy The Masters today and have a little fun with it as I’ve tried to do with this blog. Please share it with your friends who enjoy golf or whiskey or both! And if you know what kind of whiskey you’d be, feel free to leave that in the comments.

Kevin Rose

It Isn’t Brain Surgery

It isn’t brain surgery.

That’s what people like to say when they want to define a certain task as being simple to perform.  Not just simple to perform, mind you, but simple to perform expertly.  You don’t want your neurosurgeon patting himself on the back because he did a slightly better than average job fixing what’s wrong with your medulla oblongata. You want that doc getting an award for the work he did on you.  After all…it is, in fact, brain surgery. 

What isn’t brain surgery is hosting a new bourbon group.  However, if you’ve never led a bourbon group before (or even BEEN to one before) then getting it right can feel a little more intimidating than it really is.  I made notes on several different ideas for that first Bourbon Fellowship going back and forth on what would be an appropriate way to launch this group.  In the process, I developed a few “Do’s and Don’ts” that may come in handy for your own bourbon group:

  • Do…offer pours of interesting bourbon in traditional whiskey glassware.
  • Don’t…open a bottle of Benchmark telling guests to “take a swig and pass it around”.
  • Do…ask your friends to share their thoughts on the bourbon they taste.
  • Don’t…scream at them they are WRONG! (a la John McGloughlin) and then subject them to lengthy personal tasting notes.
  • Do…provide light snacks such as pretzels, crackers, cheese, etc.
  • Don’t…dump leftover Halloween candy on the table and say “Trick or Treat, suckers”.

Fortunately, on that first night I think we were closer to the “Do” end of the Do-Don’t Spectrum.  I decided I wanted each Fellowship to have a few distinctions.  One was to have a theme.  Something more memorable than just filling a table with as many different bottles as possible every time you meet. In future blog posts I’ll go into more detail on some of the themes, but some examples are a specific brand (Knob Creek, Blanton’s, Booker’s) or a different style (rye, bottled in bond, barrel proof) or…well you get the idea.  The theme for Meeting One was Ten Year Whiskey.  The lineup consisted of Michter’s, Rebel Yell, Henry McKenna, Eagle Rare and Whistle Pig Rye.  Most people wouldn’t turn down a pour of any of those, so it seemed like a safe and successful way to start and everyone seemed to like it (they’ve kept coming back, at least).

A re-enactment of the Ten Year lineup. Doesn’t it look Wonderful Tonight.

I also thought having a specific playlist as background music during the evening would be another distinction for the group.  That first night the soundtrack was live versions of Eric Clapton songs.  Why Eric Clapton? Probably because I had just been listening to a lot of Clapton at that time.  Why live?  Why not? It’s in the way that you use it, anyway.

The final and most important question was: who to invite?
The short answer is “Friends you didn’t mind drinking some of your best bourbon”.  Also, guys that you wouldn’t mind if they stayed After Midnight. It didn’t really concern me how “into bourbon” someone was.  In the first e-mail invitation I sent out I actually said: “I want to start hosting, on a semi-regular basis, a bourbon fellowship.  Where a few guys come over, slow down for an hour or two and sip some bourbon (or rye or rum or Kool Aid or whatever you prefer).”  Nobody had any Kool-Aid, but I don’t think everyone drank bourbon that night.  I think my oldest son (who is of legal drinking age and yes I am old) just drank a Dr. Pepper and joined in the conversation. He’s come a long way in his bourbon journey since then, by the way.

We’ve got eleven of us in The Bourbon Fellowship now.  The rules for membership were simple:

1. No Knuckleheads.

2. Membership is limited to how many people I can fit in my basement.

While we are currently at capacity, we try to have a guest in from time to time if a “regular” can’t make it.  A couple of the guys are very knowledgeable about bourbon, a couple are relative novices and the rest of us are somewhere in between.  We are all, however, learning more and more as we go.  Nobody has ever said you have to be an expert about bourbon in order to enjoy bourbon.  After all…bourbon, in fact, is not brain surgery. 

This week, we are having the First Annual Bourbon Fellowship Bottled-in-Bond Bracket Challenge. It will be a blind tasting of eight different bottled-in-bond bourbons. Next week, I’ll let you know how it went and we’ll have some reviews of the Final Four by a few of the guys in the group.

Kevin