I’ll apologize upfront for the tone of this post.
It’s been a week of ups and downs. And for the first time ever, I’ve found myself at a loss for writing. It’s not that I don’t have things to write about – pick a bottle, review it, done. It’s the heart – that “deep-down-inside” feeling which for some reason is struggling to rise to the surface (a.k.a. my keyboard) tonight. Nevertheless, I sat down to write. Stephen King has his six pages; I have my … well, this.
Let’s start with the downs. It’s that time of year … Pappy, BTAC, Birthday Bourbon, yada yada, big whoop. Folks, this foolishness happens every year. Can we please give it a break already? Is it really worth a month’s rent to find a bottle of William Larue Weller? No. It’s not. How about two months’ for a bottle of Pappy? Again, no. Absolutely not. Of course, there’ll be a few that say, “Hey, Mr. Bird – that’s like, your opinion, man.” It is. This is also my lawn, so kick back, pour a glass of 101, or kindly guide your mouse (or thumb) to the back button and enjoy the rest of your day.
Speaking of Weller and Pappy, how about that recent Bourbon Pursuit episode? Between the numbers that didn’t quite add up and the good cop/bad cop routine, I found myself lost in the pathetic mumblings of a sad tater fryer (bourbon counterfeiter). Where were the questions that really matter? I could give two flips about some guy’s “remorse.” What are the red flags to watch for? What materials did he employ? Where did he buy them (other than “empty bottles on eBay”)? I mean, what precisely does it take to pull off a credible counterfeit? Apparently, it’s pretty damn easy (and considerably lucrative too). And why withhold which labels were faked if participants on the secondary market have long been aware? Maybe if “John’s” specific bottles, methods, and sources of materials were made public, producers and retailers could take note and enact immediate measures to protect consumers. Sure, the secondary is (mostly) dead – but – all it takes is a few shady vendors to figure out how much money could be made and – BOOM! – more effortless fakes.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I genuinely appreciate Bourbon Pursuit. Kenny, Ryan, and Fred are hard-working guys who run a quality program. Their interviews with the Russells were invaluable when writing my book. They’ve also graciously invited me on the show a few times. But let’s call a spade a spade – the episode was a low point. If I were them, considering all the legal hoopla, I’d contemplate removing it altogether. Besides, outside of its “Above the Char” segment (which I feel made some excellent points regarding the antiquated three-tier system), it provided very little factual takeaway for the concerned viewer/listener. But to Kenny, Ryan, and Fred (if you’re reading), I’ll admit – I have my low points too. Hell, this post may just be it. So feel free to criticize as you feel appropriate. (I won’t fault you at all, fellas).
Back to Pappy …
Did everyone catch Fred’s latest “Pappy Versus the Field?” How about that? Weeks after Wild Turkey Rare Breed trampled the entirety of the 2019 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection bourbon lineup (as well as the “f’n gross” Maker’s 46 🙂 ), W. B. Saffell mopped the floor with the “shit-turd” Pappy 23 (not to mention four other whiskeys). Look, I get it. It’s a one-off blind tasting. I’ve written about the significance of such ad nauseam (most recently, two weeks ago); however, it just goes to show that 1.) People value Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year too highly, and 2.) W. B. Saffell truly is delicious (and arguably worth its retail price of $50/375ml). Of course, there’ll be those that say the whole tasting was rigged (blah, blah, blah). People are free to wear tin-foil hats. They’re also free to be “butt hurt” for spending ridiculous amounts of money for an overhyped bourbon that’s produced by the thousands every year (and loses out to Bernheim wheat whiskey in blind tastings 🙂 ).
The bottom line is this – I don’t care what the label is or who’s smoking a cigar on it (even if it were Jimmy Russell). No modern bourbon released year after year (after year) is worth $2k+ for a 750ml bottle. That’s a few ounces over a standard retail water bottle by volume. Good grief. No wonder there’s whiskey counterfeiters.
Alright – enough of the negative talk. Since I’m riffing, I need a drink. You know what? I’m going to pour a Buffalo Trace bourbon just to show I’m not a bad sport. In fact, I have an excellent Eagle Rare private selection I received from a very generous friend (thanks, Brett). It’s aptly named “Psycho Eagle,” and it has (IMHO) the best custom sticker I’ve owned to date. Here’s a picture.
Damn, this is tasty … toasted caramel, sweet oak, cherry cordials, orange peel, leather, milk chocolate. Nice job, Harlen. How about you keep focusing on that vodka, okay? 😉
Alright (breathes in deeply, exhales slowly) … positive vibes.
I’m knee-deep in reviewing the (hopefully) final layout of American Spirit: Wild Turkey Bourbon from Ripy to Russell. What a journey this has been! What started as an idea in early 2018, has turned into a (near complete) reality. As I scroll through its virtual pages, I’m reminded of the nights I spent at this very same Chromebook. Sometimes I felt invigorated. Other times I felt like giving up. Thankfully, I didn’t. I have my family, patrons, and you, my friends and followers (and Bourbon Pursuit, who’s likely aggravated with me), to thank for that. You kept me going with your unwavering support and heartfelt encouragement. And who could forget the Kickstarter campaign? Wow! I’m still in awe. I had no idea so many folks would be willing to back what seemed a foolhardy endeavor. Thank you … everyone.
And finally, Barrel Through Hunger. The Bourbon Crusaders, Four Roses Distillery, and Fred Minnick, together with the support of several kindhearted individuals, distilleries, and businesses, raised $375,000 for Kentucky food banks this past Saturday. What a remarkable and commendable accomplishment! Ladies and gents, my hat’s off to you. I’m so proud to see our beloved hobby – our collective passion – incorporated for such incredible good. To all of those who organized, facilitated, and donated, please take a well-deserved bow. Thank you. This is the sort of news our hobby needs – not Pappy Mania, not remorseful counterfeiters or secondary woes – but pure charity. Giving. Something that says, “We care.” If this event didn’t shout that loud and clear, I honestly don’t know what could.
And with that, I’ll sign off. Besides, it’s time to rid my glass of “Frankfort’s finest” and get back to “Mr. Russell’s Amber Restorative” (yes, I pretty much stole that from Hitch). Cheers! dj
Don’t let the hype monsters get you down. This is an amazing blog, and I can’t wait to get my copy of the book. This type of hype can be found in other “collectibles” and there will always be the “necessity” of having whatever it is. But what really does owning a bottle do to your experience? Most people I know who have one haven’t even tasted the juice. Seems stupid. Reminds me of the story Freddie Johnson told to somebody who pointed out that he had multiple pappys. I recommend it if you haven’t seen it.
Anyway, keep doing what you’re doing, spreading the good word on good bourbon, experiences, and good people.
Ps – I ran out to my local store (VA unfortunately) and made sure RB wasn’t going the way of McKenna. Seems the hype wasn’t “big” enough for those fans. And I’m 100% ok with that.
Thank you so much. I’m fine with it, honestly. I don’t seek out the highly sought-after products any longer. If I lucked up on them at retail – absolutely, I’d buy. But outside of that … I’m 110% happy with Turkey. Thanks for all of the support and I’m glad you’re looking forward to the book (I am too!). And thanks for taking the time to comment today. dj
I listened to the Bourbon Counterfeiter podcast and came away completely frustrated.
1) Why invite him on if you werent trying to spread detailed information for the community of what to look for in order to spot a fake?
2) Asking for more “remorse” was a joke. No one who was not personally affected by him cares if he is sorry enough now. It was something that happened in the past what relevance does his adequate remorse have now?
3) Glossed over was the substance abuse aspect of the counterfeiter. That seems like something this community specifically should look into fully and discuss how his actions were fueled by his addiction, and became self serving a d all encompassing. Acting like he was just a bad person for defrauding the illegal marketplace of bourbon seemed like a strange high horse to get on when a larger issue that affects many of the bourbon community was thrust right in front of their faces but all they could muster was “I don’t think you’re remorseful enough”
4) Why was Fred so intent on this guy turning himself in? Seems like a bigger issue would be if he admits that he sold a bunch of counterfeit whiskey then he is going to have to tell the authorities who exactly he sold whiskey to, thereby incriminating people that were already ripped off by this guy… That’s such a short sighted thought process by Fred, even though I don’t think his intentions were bad.
5) Again, I come back to why have this guy on unless you wanted to learn how he did it, or dig into his underlying addiction issues. Either of those topics would have been infinitely better than just berating him about not turning himself in and being properly remorseful
Your thorough comment deserves a response (and thank you for taking the time to post, BTW).
1. That was my thought going in. I kept waiting to get the details, and outside of eBay (no mention of which label), it never came. Transparency is a good thing. We’re not talking about dirty bombs here.
2. Yeah, I could give two flips about “John’s” remorse.
3. Honestly, I think it would’ve taken us even further off the bourbon path. They should’ve just kept it focused. But that’s only my opinion.
4. Turning himself in would only expose an even larger field of legal issues.
5. It could’ve – should’ve – been more informative. There should’ve been more takeaway. That’s only my opinion. I guess it was about remorse and redemption, not counterfeiting. We need a solid counterfeiting episode.
I completely agree with what you said, and agree that talking about the substance abuse would have gotten us further from actual bourbon related information. My only reason for even considering that tract was that the podcast seemed not to care about the bourbon related information and instead focused more on the personal retributive aspects of the person. I felt that ignoring the personal retributive path of addiction and substance abuse while also ignoring the actual bourbon counterfeiting information seemed like missing all the boats for me. No information, and no understanding of what drove his actions. It just seemed like a greatly missed opportunity.
Good point. If you’re going to go down the personal/redemption path (which I’d rather they’d avoid, BUT) then that was a missed opportunity. Yes.
The total avoidance of the addiction was disappointing. Was it opiates or something similar or alcohol. If it was alcohol it should have been discussed. That elephant is almost totally ignored in bourbon culture. I wonder why?
That could be fixed with an edit of the intro. Also, checkout Ralfy’s “Great Taboo” on YouTube. 👍
I’m sorry that you feel our interview was a low point and “useless” Our motive in the interview was to highlight the emotional pain and suffering that this individual and his family had gone through as a result of defrauding individuals with his counterfeit. We hoped that highlighting the suffering and consequences would deter anyone from doing it again. Yes we could of gone over more technical “how to spot a fraud” but like Fred said in the interview, that changes rapidly. and to be honest I don’t think his methods were that advanced. Yes Fred was very angry and it even became uncomfortable throughout the interview. I feel he was taking the voice of the people that had been defrauded. I don’t think he was coming from a point of “moral
Superiority” or I’m better than you. We are all
screw ups and make mistakes and we all understand that. He was trying to voice the anger of those that had been frauded. We really thought we were trying to do the community a service by exposing the consequences of trying to defraud the community. We had no ill intentions and I’m still amazed and disappointed by the negative comments and feelings about this episode. You have to understand that we pondered on this forever and had a criminal invited into Kenny’s home to share his story. It was a very uncomfortable interview that we all three hated doing. But we felt it was too important to let it go uncovered.
Ryan, Thank you for sharing your thoughts. To be completely fair, I never said “useless.” I did say “low point,” and I stand by that. Just as I’ve criticized some of Jimmy and Eddie’s hard work (don’t forget you guys do product reviews too), I sometimes offer my opinion on bourbon-related matters. I respect your hard work, but let’s be honest – they can’t all be winners. That goes for me – for everyone.
As for specifics, I never once commented on Fred’s (or yours or Kenny’s) emotions. Fred’s admitted he would’ve handled it better in hindsight, so that’s that. And truthfully, I really appreciated your angle – but – this ain’t church. This ain’t daddy’s sit down. This is Bourbon Pursuit. It didn’t feel like Bourbon Pursuit. Look, it wasn’t fun writing this post. In fact, I sent it to several friends saying, “Should I even do this?” But the fact of the matter is it’s the truth – at least the truth with how I feel. Jimmy and Eddie don’t get a pass. If they produce a flop, I call it a flop. I admire what you were going for, but it didn’t translate for me. I’m very sorry. You guys do great work. You’ll do even better work in the future. I have complete confidence in that.
All the best, dj.
I was replying to everyone not just you David. Sorry I should have clarified that. I appreciate and welcome the criticism, I guess I just don’t understand it. The “bourbon” information that everyone was wanting us to stick to and extract was shallow and to be honest would have only lasted 5-10 min. It literary was as simple as him buying bottles off eBay, refilling them with Weller, and heat sealing them with a hair dryer. Podcast over. I understand you want the show to be just fun bourbon stuff but I feel it’s very short sighted. Our bourbon hobby, and life is more than that. It’s very emotional to us and something we are very passionate about. This individual took a piece of that away, and we didn’t want that to happen again. There’s a dark side to everything and if you don’t shine light on it then it will remain hidden and will resurface again. This will be my last comment on this and I’m sorry it didn’t translate for you and that others don’t agree with our intent. I still don’t regret it and think it was the right decision. Now back to having fun.
Thanks for replying and clarifying, Ryan. I thought about addressing some of your points here, because I don’t want you to assume that I only want “fun bourbon” topics. That’s certainly not true. But I’ll take a step back. It’s your episode to defend, and … well, you should. You put a lot into it. You deserve the last word. You deserve the closing argument. I will say that I think with some crafty editing you could have a much stronger, even more meaningful episode. Feel free to reach out if you’d like to hear my ideas. (Honestly, I wish I’d thought of them before this post because I probably would’ve sent them to Fred, as I often “over-message.”) I’d be happy to give you my cell. Other than that, I hope we (including Fred and Kenny) can leave this matter as bourbon friends. I respect you – all of you – and your hard work. Take care. dj
With all due respect to BP, the episode was very bad. It’s that simple. I understand their purpose for wanting to do it, but it was poorly, poorly executed. I actually feel bad for Ryan and Kenny. Fred was awful through the entire episode. The self righteous “holier than thou” act was ridiculous. I truly believe that since he has joined the show, the content and purpose has taken a wrong turn.
And above all, YOU are allowed to have an opinion. People don’t care to be criticized. It makes them uncomfortable. I’ve also learned that people defend intentions, NOT actions. The BP guys may be doing just that.
David you have a gift with this bourbon thing. And the way you express it is entirely up to you. But, please don’t ever compromise that because someone may not be able to handle truth and criticism.
Drink on Turkey man! Cheers!
Thanks for your support. As I said, it was a low point for me. I don’t place blame on Kenny, Ryan, or Fred, but rather the episode in general. I think it could possibly be improved with some content/time editing and a new intro. But even so, it is what it is. Life goes on. Thanks again, Bryan.
Glad I wasn’t the only one that felt this way. I was listening on my headphones, just cringing as Daddy Fred spanked the counterfeiter. Had to just turn it off.
I don’t really feel bad for guys that bought bogus juice. What do expect when you’re sending PayPal f/f to some schmo in Kentucky.
And to bourbon pursuit crew- this hype bs that makes bottles impossible to find is on your hands too. Cough cough McKenna…
Couldn’t agree more. Fred was angry, and felt 100% fake. Ryan and Kenny did an amazing job with the interview. The only low point in the whole thing was Fred, and his holier than thou turn yourself in BS. Worst episode ever. At this point, the whole thing would be better without Fred. I pulled my support, and rarely listen anymore. Again, Ryan and Kenny, ya’ll do a great job.
Fred has publicly expressed his dissatisfaction for how the interview was conducted on his part. I respect that, so I left it out of my post. Is what it is at this point.
Just so you know, I enjoyed your bourbon pursuit interview, and that’s where I learned about your blog which I read regularly now. Thanks!
Awesome! Not hating on Bourbon Pursuit, just to be clear. Just wasn’t a fan of that episode.
Yeah, listening to Fred say over and over “to turn himself in” just had my eyes rolling. We get it, he did a terrible thing. But it was illegal. And so was purchasing those bottles from him. Is one crime worse than another? Was this not an assumed risk for ANYBODY choosing to get there bourbon in this manner? I don’t condone what the man did, but I understand what he did and why he did it. The episode spent far too much time dwelling on his feelings. I still don’t care about those. I just wanted to know what bottles, how he did it and what to watch out for. As you stated, “It’s not like we’re talking about a dirty bomb”. Also, I don’t feel he was honest about how many he counterfeited. The math didn’t add up when he said how much he sold for and how much he thinks he made. I think he just copped to what he was definitively caught for. It was a delicate subject and they should have been far more prepared going into it. Not all of the episodes are going to be winners. I’m glad I’m not alone in how I felt about it.
That said, the Pappy 23 vs. The Field tastings were fun to watch. I ordered more W.B. Saffell and a bottle of Woodinville. Cheers to you, Dave. Always enjoy reading what you have to say. I find your rant pieces are quite entertaining. 😉