Are You Overpaying For Bourbon?

Edit: Yes, I know Blanton’s and Buffalo Trace are two different mash bills. I’ve seen Eagle Rare picks from mash bill #2 and I’m not convinced the division is as clean-cut as we think. Even if it is, we’re talking about a 3-5% difference is rye. The point of the article is, drink what you like. But, know what you’re drinking.
No, this isn’t a diatribe about overpriced limited edition bourbon’s. This is about branding and how distillers position their labels in the market. It was fun to surprise new Bourbonr’s with the fact that Weller 12 is the same bourbon as Van Winkle 12-year. The Van Winkles select barrels first and have a slightly different flavor profile. But, it’s the same mash bill, same age, and same distillery. People still pay 4-5 times the price for Van Winkle 12-year as they do for Weller 12. This same scenario plays out with a lot of brands.
 
I don’t know what makes someone pay an extra $20 for Beam bourbon in a different bottle. There’s a quote from the chairman of Diageo Javier Ferrán that says  “A key driver of perception of quality is price.” That’s clear! With more money flowing into bourbon marketing make sure you know what’s in the bottle. None of these are bad bourbons. But, this post may have saved you some money to drink good bourbon. These bottle shelf values are disappearing. Every couple of months there’s a new label facelift. That usually means the price will increase by 25%. For now, we can continue to enjoy come of these bourbon “cheat code” bottles. What are some of your favorites?

35 comments

    My favorite two lines are Weller SR, Weller Antique, Weller 12, BTAC William Larue Weller and EH Taylor Small Batch, EH Taylor Single Barrel and EH Taylor Barrel Proof. These are all great Bourbons especially if you can find them at msrp!

    I think you are minimizing out a VERY important aspect of a Bourbon’s flavor profile.
    WHERE in the rickhouse (and which rickhouse) it was aged in.

    Those bottlings that get first pick from the prime locations in the rick get to really fine-tune their flavor and get the BEST Bourbon.

    Is it worth the price difference? – probably not.
    Are they different? – YES!
    and I would say better in ALL cases.

    I think you’re minimizing the mass amounts of barrels that go into these releases. Yes, there are honey barrels out there. No, I don’t think they’re only going into the high-end labels. The point is, drink what you like but know what you’re drinking.

    That raises some interesting points.
    I know that there is a general consensus as to which levels in the rickhouse yield the best bourbon (usually higher in the rick is better?), and I am sure those locations are the ones picked through for the best bourbons.

    But a few questions – of those ‘prime’ locations – do you think that EVERY barrel is sampled, looking for the best ones?
    And I would {i]guess[/i] that not even close to every barrel is sampled for the lower tier mass bottlings.
    But in doing so – how many ‘honey’ barrels do you think they miss picking for their top shelf offerings from these ‘undesirable’ locations? How much variation is there between these ‘pedestrian’ barrels.

    thanks

    Hi Blake – where are you getting these age statements for NAS whiskeys? Regular BT being aged 8 years is a real surprise to me.

    This is from talking with the BT as well as multiple Buffalo Trace barrel picks. I’ve never seen a barrel rolled out that was less than 8-years

    Hey-thanks for that. After doing bourbon “research” for the past 4 years, I have reached that point where I trust my tongue more than a price point or a review. I picked Elijah Craig barrel proof B517 long before Whisky Advocate did and stocked up. Same with Old Forester 1920, and the Weller whiskys. I am liking the Barrell bourbons-some are outstanding. I also really like Noah’s Mill. They lost the 12 year age statement a few years ago but still make a terrific 114 proof bourbon that compares favorably to Pappy 15. Another nice one is Old Forester Rare Breed-a barrel proof bourbon that goes down easy.
    That said, I have been seriously disappointed in some of the higher priced bourbons. Old Forester Birthday Bourbon will set you back up to $900. To my mind, the smell and taste of acetone (nail polish remover) predominated over everything else. Four roses limited edition barrel proof at roughly the same price was fumey with lots of up-front alcohol and not enough of a flavor profile to make it worth anything close to their standard barrel proof for lees than $100. Finding a great bourbon gives me a real sense of accomplishment, but the fun is in the ride to that destination.

    Hi. This is wrong. Buffalo Trace comes from Mash bill 1 while Blantons comes from Mash bill 2. BT is comparble to Eagle Rare as a lower age.

    Why is Blanton’s being compared to Buffalo Trace? They’re 2 different mash bills. You should Google thr Bourbonr Buffalo Trace mash bill chart. Oh wait…

    Blanton’s and Buffalo Trace are different mashbills. Buffalo Trace is mashbill #1 which has less rye than Blanton’s mashbill #2. For a budget product from mashbill #2 try Ancient Age 10 Star which is available is a few states – pretty good stuff for less than $20.

    Curious how you arrived at $50 for Basil Hayden, I see it at Total Wine for $29 all the time. Buffalo Trace is $24, not $30. ECBP is not $70, it is $55 in Lexington, and $50 in Ohio. Listing them on your site with even higher prices on perpetuates overpaying for bourbon.

    purely a function of where you live. ECBP in Westchester, NY is typically $99 but can be had for 79. Never less. Shipping charges usually eliminate the discount from on-line places.

    ECBP in Denver, if you can find it, is not below $70. The prices for Basil and BT that you listed are accurate. Eagle Rare is around $35 if you can find it. Haven’t seen Blantons on a shelf here in over 2 years, and it was over $60.

    That’s the thing. Sazerac is a *marketing* company. Even though bottles are hard to find, Blantons, ET Lee, Rock Hill, etc. etc. etc. are all mass produced bourbons off of the same or similar mashbills as their house juice. Bottled at different proof, each in a different pretty bottle. Yes, they are typically choice barrels or batches of barrels.

    There’s definitely lots of nuance between barrels, and there can be the same mashbill with two vastly different flavor profiles. But is it truly worth double, triple the price? Probably not.

    Nevertheless I still buy it. 😉

    Old Grand Dad Bottled in Bond is my favorite everyday Bourbon. 23 bucks in Ohio, about the same as Wild Turkey 101, but I prefer the Old Grand Dad. More flavor.

    Ages given by distillers aren’t always (or usually) the ages of all the different barrels going into each bottle. I believe it’s 6 years minimum on Blanton’s, but there are much older barrels going into it.

    Blanton’s is single barrel so it’s not like small-batch products where they may add an older barrel for balance

    I noticed recently that EHT BP tastes just like regular BT when watered down…Why wouldn’t it taste like EHT SiB?

    I love bourbon and it seems that now everyone else does too. For my daily I’ll take Larceny and Old granddad bonded
    100 proof… Still available and only $25

    When bourbon began to gain exponential popularity, I began to lose interest in all but a few of my favorites. Good whiskey especially from Kentucky (and some from Tennessee) should not cost a fortune because the taste difference just does not justify the cost in my book. Marketing and hype have taken over too much, and novice bourbon drinkers are buying into it completely. Over time, most things increase in cost. I worked in package liquor stores and as a bartender when I was a young man. Back then, Jack Daniels, Maker’s Mark, Medley Brothers, Davis County, Jim Beam and Wild Turkey were the predominant stock selections in most bars, at least in Western Kentucky. So a couple of years back, somebody was telling me that his personal physician just purchased a bottle of Pappy for $1,700. The worst part of it was that he is a Scotch drinker and bought it as an “investment.” That’s it, the end of the world is near.

    The graphic accompanying this article includes neither the costs of taxes or of marketing, which are the two most expensive costs paid for by alcohol consumers. We may think we’re paying for aging and wood and mash bills, but before we pay for those, we cover taxes, bottles, labels, and back stories.

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