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Friday, October 12, 2012

CHEAP WHISKEY!!!

Some great value bourbons on the shelf
  • Some great value bourbons on the shelf
Over on Thirsty South, where I tend to write about things like vintage cocktails and strange blends of whiskey, I recently shared some favorite "value" bourbons at different price points. Now, my definition of "value" certainly includes price, but it's the quality of the drinking experience that is the dominant variable (sorry for the quant jock-speak). To continue on with the math theme, I guess my equation would look something like:

BOURBON VALUE = (HOW MUCH DO YOU ENJOY DRINKING IT^2) / (PRICE per 750ML)

Of course, I never used actual math in coming up with my picks for best value bourbons since it really all comes down to feel, but if I did have to give an actual numerical value to "drinking enjoyment," I guess I'd have to default to the equally heralded and hated 100 point scale. People love the 100 point scale for its clarity, and people hate it for its evil, myopic, soul-rotting lack of true insight. So it goes.

I like to play with the devil's devices, so will fully embrace the 100 point scale for this purpose. Let's suppose that Pappy Van Winkle 15 year old, which is one of the greatest bourbons you can find, earns a kick-ass score of 99 on "drinking enjoyment." Now, let's compare that to an inexpensive bourbon, like Jim Beam, which costs about $15 a bottle. In my experience, Jim Beam earns a not-nearly-respectable "drinking enjoyment" score of 27.33333333 (those last few decimal places are critical), thanks to unpleasant notes of charred corpses, corporate greed, and post-drinking hurling. That's harsh, I know, but so is Jim Beam. (Really, I have nothing against Jim Beam, I just need a foil to contrast with the angelic visage of Pappy Van Winkle, everyone's favorite bourbon-loving granddad).

Now, Pappy, if you get incredibly lucky and can actually find a bottle for sale, goes for around $70, so Pappy's BOURBON VALUE score would be (99^2)/$70, which equals 140.014, while Jim Beam's would be (27.333333^2)/$15, which equals 49.806. See? Pappy wins despite its steep price, with almost three times the BOURBON VALUE score of JIm Beam. (My pick in the $20 and under category is Four Roses Yellow Label, which gets a "drinking enjoyment" score of 84, that, at $12/bottle, earns a BOURBON VALUE score of 588.000!)

Where was I going with this? Oh yeah, so when I posted my picks for best value bourbons (I'll spare you from reading the entire thing, though it avoids math entirely. My "best value bourbons" are Four Roses Yellow Label, Elijah Craig 12 year old, Elmer T. Lee, and Pappy Van Winkle 15 year old), I got a comment from Grady who runs Holiday Wine and Spirits out on Buford Highway. He boasted that at $9.99 (at Holiday, of course), W.L. Weller Special Reserve is "the best value on the damn planet. Hands down... no arguments... FACT." I must say, $9.99 is a great price for a very respectable bourbon (made by Buffalo Trace), since it goes for up to $16 in other shops. Heck, Holeman & Finch keeps the W.L. Weller as a well (AKA workhorse) bourbon, so if it's good enough for them, it's probably a damn good bourbon. Holiday carries a lot of good bourbon at prices better than you'll find other places, and they earn extra points for NOT carrying Jim Beam (seriously). They've got that Four Roses for just $12, which is a screaming deal (it's $16-$18 most places), Elmer T. Lee for $24.99 (vs. $28 elsewhere), and my favorite bargain in rye whiskey - Rittenhouse Rye Bottled in Bond - for just $14.60! Yowza.

I'm still sipping on that W.L. Weller, so I can't compute their BOURBON VALUE score quite yet, but my guess is that their score will be well north of Jim Beam's, but not quite up there with Four Roses Yellow or Elijah Craig 12. I may just have to go back to Holiday Wine and Spirits to do some more research.

What's your favorite value bourbon? (No mathematical formulas required)

(Side note: each individual will have their own unscientific method for coming up with their score for "drinking enjoyment," so it is fair to assume that any individual's scores are not worth diddly to any other individual).

The doors are open at Holiday Wine and Spirits
  • The doors are open at Holiday Wine and Spirits

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