Disclaimer: The opinions in my posts are my thoughts and not for everyone. I can only identify what is right for me. You may have very different thoughts. I will enjoy reading replies of dissent or agreement.
I guess I just like the tried and true but I tend to stick with bourbons that have been around for a while. Ones that have a history and a known brand history are found on my shelf more often than upstarts. I have had some newer brands that are pretty darn good and some of the old favorites that have disappointed me, generally I go for the tried and true.
A couple of years ago a dear friend bought a bourbon for me that came from a western state. He paid a handsome price for this bottle and it came in a really fancy bottle. However, the flavor of the bourbon really disappointed, Not that it tasted bad but it was just not spectacular. I know that he paid nearly $100 for the 750 mL bottle and I would have been infinitely happier with a bottle of $30 of-the-shelf Kentucky juice for one third the price.
I have been impressed with some of the craft spirits that have come on the market. A few of these have even entered the mainstream market. New distillers bring fresh ideas and experimentation to the offerings many of them are pretty darn good. I recently read about an upstart distiller who will soon be making bourbon with corn, malted barley, rye and wheat. I will look forward to giving it a try with an open mind.
Many of the small new distillers have to produce white spirits to have something to sell while the bourbon is aging. You can’t expect a new distiller to spend the volume of money that has to be invested in the production of bourbon to wait for 10 years to sell the first drop of whiskey and start bringing in money. In addition, many of them are buying juice from a mega-distiller in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. Many of these are actually pretty good. While I object to calling the factory distilled spirits “craft whiskey” I have found that they usually aren’t bad.
I do appreciate honesty. If a new distiller acknowledges purchasing their bourbon from another source, I have typically OK with it. However, if they try to disguise it or imply that it was produced in a particular location, I tend to have a less than positive attitude. Still, I try to find the bourbon that tastes good not the one with the best sales gimmick.
I respect that some old brands are coming back as premium whiskey. Some pre-prohibition brands are now owned by some of the big bourbon conglomerates. A few of these are really pretty darn good. It makes me feel good that a brand that was a good whiskey in the 1920s and either disappeared or became a rot gut is now being reintroduced as a good premium bourbon.
Probably the bottom line is that a good bourbon needs to stand on its own without a cute name, a fancy bottle or a lot of hype. I won’t be excited about a new bourbon just because it is in demand or is getting a lot of press. I will buy a shot and see if it fits my taste preferences and whether it is not overpriced for the quality of the drink.