Maker’s Mark is one of the most mainstream bourbons on the market and because of this, people tend to write it off. The combination of rotating aging barrels and a wheated mashbill with an above-average amount of malted barley creates a very sweet palate that stands out from most bourbons on the market. No matter what your relationship with Maker’s is, give it a chance. It’s a great place to start if you’re new to bourbon, and if you’re a seasoned drinker it just might be better than you remember.
Old Grand-Dad 114 might not be for everyone. It’s a full flavored affair, and its 114 proof can taste stronger than other bourbons at a higher proof due to the intense heat that this bourbon gives off. Typically around $25, there are few bourbons in the price range at this high of a proofpoint. Old Grand-Dad 114 is certainly not the smoothest sipper, but its rich flavors of cinnamon, brown sugar, and rye heat make up for it. If you’re new to bourbon and looking for something a little more challenging, this is a great place to start. If it’s too bold at first start with a few cubes in it and get to know it. Its unique flavor profile might really grow on you. Fortunately, despite talk of discontinuing the brand, Jim Beam has continued to offer it for the time being.
Evan Williams Single Barrel is a inexpensive way to get into aged single barrel products. While it’s age has started to decrease in recent years, a mellow flavor profile with a touch of heat makes it approachable for anyone just getting into bourbon as well as those who have enjoyed it for a long time. Even though the flavor profile will vary year to year, and barrel to barrel, Evan Williams tends to put out a consistently high quality product for the price. Everything about this bourbon makes you think that it should be selling for more than it is. From the tasty mellow flavor profile and the handwritten wax-dipped bottle to the actual vintage date, Evan Williams Single Barrel makes its presence known. It’s a great, inexpensive, well balanced bourbon that deserves a place in everyone’s collection.
The 101 proof expression is Wild Turkey's most well known bourbon and their flagship brand. This is a fantastic robust bourbon that deserves to be in everyone’s collection. It sports a surprisingly layered flavor experience for a budget bourbon with its nice mix of sweet and spicy flavors and a slightly dry, medium-length finish. The low price and above-average proof also makes it a great mixing bourbon. Wild Turkey 101 almost nails everything you want out of a budget bourbon. While it might be too hot for some, it will be near-perfect for others.
Everything about this bourbon tastes like its been crafted to be the perfect example of what a bourbon should be. As Buffalo Trace’s flagship brand, it needs to appeal to everyone while maintaining a good value. Sometimes that description can bring with it a negative connotation since mass appeal and quality don’t always go hand in hand. In this case however, Buffalo Trace Bourbon is a solid bourbon that will appeal to any level of whiskey drinker. For someone new to bourbon, it’s extremely accessible with its sweet nose and palate capped off with a finish that introduces a perfect mix of oak and spice. Although it may not challenge a seasoned bourbon drinker’s developed palate, they’ll still appreciate its overall quality and great value. This could easily become anyone’s everyday bourbon.
Breaking Bourbon: And you don’t have any plans to become, or ideas to become, larger on a scale of say...let’s open another distillation location or something of that nature? I know there’s another warehouse that’s in the works, at least, as we toured the warehouses, and were speaking about that, from a distillation and production standpoint. Or would you grow into demand, do you think...or do you think you’d want to keep it in the tighter kind of way you have it right now?
Jay: One thing I can say with certainty is, we’re going to remain independent. As we’re in this business now and I start to work inside the bourbon industry in a totally different way than we did when we were retailers, you can start to see people’s business models. And these are all good...no criticism of anybody...they’re all viable ways to do your business, what have you...but I can see places making decisions for an eventful outcome. And sometimes that outcome is to remain independent and often that outcome is to someday be bought up. Sell it to someone.
I can look at someone now and see that they’re making decisions to do one or the other. Nothing wrong with that, but if Ken Lewis’s intention is to get bought up someday, he’s doing it wrong. We are not doing the kind of things...you know, putting the money where the mouth is...that would lead us to be bought up. We are making decisions that are for long-term independence and quality. So that I can say with a certainly is what you will see in 10 or 20 years. Will we be owned in 10 or 20 years by, take your pick of Diageo, Sazerac, William Grant, Brown-Foreman? No. We’re not going to be sold. I don’t know that we would ever expand with another distillery. It’s doubtful. We think that you are not wanting to get too big.
One thing that we are not really concerned about is the very thing that all these big companies are concerned about, which is two words - the words are market share. Market share. What’s our market share in San Francisco? How we doing in London? What’s our market share? We don’t really care about that. We don’t have stockholders. We don’t have shares out there. We have one brilliant owner who’s a fantastic guy to work with.
You know how you hear of such and so entrepreneur is just the most amazing boss to work for, but it’s never your boss.
Well, Nick, it is my boss.
Working with Ken Lewis is tremendous. And I think that’s not going to go away, so. We don’t need to get really big. Our goal here is not to get rich. We’ll have nice lives and we’ll make our money, and we’ll be successful, but the point is not to gain market share. The point is to be a great small distillery. Which if you think about it, is an amorphous goal. How do you know if you’ve made it? What do you do every day to get there? If your goal is market share, it’s simple. You need to make and sell more booze. But that’s not the case when your goal, your stated goal, that you remind yourselves in every meeting every week, is to become a great small distillery of the world and to do it in sour mash Kentucky whiskey. If that’s the goal, how do you go about it? How do you know that you do it?
You just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other with confidence and skill and commitment to quality. That’s what will go on. I’m sorry that sounds corny but its the truth.