Thursday, May 22, 2008

Hit Me Again, Bartender

I’m a bourbon drinker and after reading Eric Felten’s recent bourbon taste test I decided to do one of my own. My study falls far short of being scientific. I only had four different brands of bourbon whiskey in my liquor cabinet and these are the four that I compared.

I’m a Jack Daniel’s drinker and have been for many years. Marilyn has always liked Weller’s, a scarce commodity lately because, according to Darla, our local liquor store manager, the Chinese are buying up every bottle they can find. This is the reason that I had these two brands readily on hand. I had the other two brands for completely different reasons.

As you have probably already guessed, I’m an avid reader of Eric Felten’s column How’s Your Drink that appears every Saturday in the Wall Street Journal. He is witty, insightful and always tells a good story. When he picked Evan Williams as his favorite less-expensive Kentucky whiskey, I bought a bottle to check it out. While I was at the liquor store I also purchased a very inexpensive bottle of Early Times simply because it was the first whiskey I had ever tasted.

I quickly turned my nose up at the Early Times and was ready to proclaim Felten crazy after drinking several rounds of the Evan Williams. While I like Weller’s a lot, Jack Daniels is by far my favorite. Hmm! I thought. I know that it’s not likely but maybe, just maybe I have a built in bias. I decided to find out.

I labeled the bottom of four 1-ounce paper cups (probably not a perfect container but the only thing that I had four of) and filled them with the bourbons. Marilyn assisted me in my experiment, mixing up the cups so that I wouldn’t know which was which, and then handing them to me one at a time. Having no idea how I should rate them, I decided on four characteristics: 1) flavor, 2) aroma, 3) sweetness and 4) presence of any harshness, edge, or unpleasant aftertaste. I gave the first two traits a numerical value between one and ten with ten being my favorite. Here is my unexpected result:

Weller’s Flavor – 9; Aroma – 9; Sweetness – yes; other – smooth with no aftertaste, unpleasant or otherwise.

Evan Williams Flavor – 9; Aroma – 9; Sweetness - only slightly; other – just a hint of harshness.

Early Times Flavor – 8; Aroma – 6; Sweetness – no; other – no harshness or aftertaste.

Jack Daniel’s Flavor – 6; Aroma – 6; Sweetness – no; other – had an indescribable under taste, almost unnoticeable but not pleasant

What does all this mean? Probably that Marilyn, the Chinese and Eric Felten all know more about liquor than me, but heck, I already knew that. I still like Jack Daniel’s the best and maybe it’s just an acquired taste. If that’s the case then that’s all right too. I intend to keep drinking Black Jack, or else have someone mix the drink for me and tell me it’s Jack Daniel’s. After two drinks I’m sure that I want know the difference anyway, or care.

No comments: