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