Don’t Pay Too Much for Bourbon

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December 15, 2012 by Bourbon Empire

The holidays are approaching and nice bottles of bourbon are flying off shelves to be given as gifts. Three things to keep in mind:

Hype

Don’t feel like you have to spend that much to get “the best.” There’s no such thing. Most magazine or newspaper lists telling you what to buy are wrong or ridiculous. Or both. These kinds of lists are often popular in men’s magazines that make a living telling people what to wear, buy, and drink. Bourbon, like many luxury products, occupies a space where price is determined by marketing, hype, irrational exuberance, and sometimes even quality.

Age

In the scotch world, older whiskey is often better. Not so with bourbon, where too much time in the wood can ruin it. There are some superlative bourbons aged over 10 years, but I’ve asked a lot of bourbon distillers how old their personal favorites are, and a lot of them name bourbons between 7-10 years. Older bourbons tend to be more rare, though, and thus more expensive. Don’t feel like you’re cheaping out by getting something younger.

Size

Don’t be wooed by something “boutique” from a craft distillery. There are a lot of small craft distilleries doing wonderful things, but in the whiskey world, smaller isn’t necessarily better. That’s surprising to some because smaller usually is better for most craft foods (chocolate, beer, cheese, etc.). There’s a long learning curve with bourbon, however, and big distilleries have been at it a long time. Besides, many “craft” bourbons just now entering the market are actually sourced from the majors. This doesn’t mean they’re bad — many of them are quite good — it just means that the extra money you pay isn’t necessarily for something that was toiled over by some artisan devoted to his art, it’s often so you can support that artisan while he learns his art. This alone might be worth it, but it’s only fair that you know what you’re buying.

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