Bourbonr Blind Tasting 004

Ready to see some of the most famous rye whiskeys go head to head in a blind tasting? This month I’m joined by spirits writer Jonah Flicker, Head bartender at Lizardville in Ohio (And Cleveland Bourbon Club memberCrystal BicsBrian Haara from Sipp’n Corn and Ron Bourbondy.

January’s blind tasting was all rye whiskey. There are some great rye whiskeys available today. There are also some expensive rye whiskeys. I tried to break this tasting down into a few parts. I wanted there to be a similarity in the proof. All of these whiskeys are between 90-110 proof. Pikesville being the highest at 110. There is also a great disparity in price. I included a bottle of Van Winkle Family Reserve rye which routinely sells for more than $1,000. I also included Jim Beam Rye which sells for around $20 and is available just about everywhere. Time to see if there’s a correlation between price and taste.

Here’s the format. Each episode there are 4-5 tasters with 5-10 whiskeys. Each taster is sent samples and submits their reviews and ratings before the live reveal. Every bottle in the blind tastings has been purchased by me. No outside bottles or media samples will be selected. I try to purchase every bottle at retail but, with today’s bourbon market, have to rely on fellow Bourbonr’s to source certain bottles.

Each taster is asked to evaluate each whiskey based on the following scale:

0-60 – Terrible. Bottles should be destroyed

61-70 – Bad. Flavor is off as a whole but shows a few redeeming notes

71-80 – Decent. Could drink in a pinch but probably more of a mixer

81-85 – Good. I want a bottle on my shelf as a daily drinker

86-90 –  Really Good. Everyone should buy a bottle

91-95 – Great. This is phenomenal I would be willing to spend whatever it takes to get a bottle

96-100 – Perfect. This is everything you want in a whiskey and it has no flaws

With this tasting I’m instituiting the Bourbonr Cumulative Scoring (BCS) system. Thank you to college football for making this acronym available! The BCS weights out a whiskey’s score in the blind tasting, availability and market price. This provides a truer value for the whiskey. If a whiskey ranks high but isn’t available, or costs $500, it scores lower. If something sucks but is cheap it will still rank fairly low.

What’s interesting about Bourbonr Blind 004 is the winner. Pikesville is $50 and availble in most states. It beat out some of the most sought after whiskies around. I still love Van Winkle Family Reserve rye. I will continue to call it one of my favorites. I believe that aged whiskies are hard to taste blind. The notes that come through are appreciated when you know the whiskey had been in a barrel for 18 years.

Here are the full tasting notes and rankings. What surprised you most about this blind tasting?


    I have a bottle of 23yr old Pappy that I have had since 11/2007. I plan to open it on my retirement 2/23/18. Should I? And if I do, what should I expect? Thanks

    To me all bourbon is for drinking. Nothing wrong with saving for a special occasion. However, if you aren’t going to drink it – you might as well sell it.

    Easily a $2,300 bottle on the secondary market. I have a 2008 23 Year that I just can’t justify opening. There are plenty of other bottles that are a fraction of the retail cost that I would rather drink on a daily basis. With that said, you probably paid retail on it in 2007 before everything got crazy. I paid $200 for mine in 2009. If you want to drink it, drink it. Celebrating a special occasion is exactly what these high-end bottles are there for.

    Depends on how big of an idiot you can find. I’d guess $500 – $800. I’d never pay that much, but there is a fine line between a bourbon enthusiast and an idiot.

    Thanks for putting together the moat recent blind tasting. I am goint to habe to get a bottke of Pikesville so I can see for myself.

    You mentioned in the video that no Rye was above 100 Proof. Did I hear that wrong? The Pikesville I’ve found to match your bottle is 110 Proof.

    Do you think the higher proof of Pikesville had anything to do with the high ranking? High proof is certainly trendy at the moment but often times means more flavor. Although it was great to see Pikesville come out on top, I would’ve liked to have seen Rittenhouse in its place or in addition to. An interesting follow up would be to put Pikesville, EH Taylor, and Rittenhouse in the running with other 100+ proof ryes, to include the KOR, Alberta, and MGP ryes.

    Didn’t really enjoy my first Rye, which was a Willett. But after realizing most bourbons have a high Rye mash bill I thought there was no way I could not like Rye whiskey. So then I opened a Michter’s straight Rye and really enjoyed it so I bought the Toasted and it’s one of my top favorites. Then we splurged on a Owl my wife’s favorite and heard so many great things about Pikesville we bought one and coming in less than half of the Owl there will always a place for the Pikesville, my new fav!

    Hey Blake, great job. I love these tasting videos. Are you going to put up the scores and tasting notes from each person in this video like the previous ones?

    Can you elaborate on why aged whiskies are hard to taste blind? Isn’t the point of tasting blind to just let your palate do the judging and not the knowledge of an age statement?

    Yes, things like leather, dryness, and oak can be confused with harshness. There’s an appreciation when you know what it is. But I agree. That is the point of blind tastings

    Blake, Presence of leather, dryness or oak aren’t in and of themselves good or bad qualities. But astringency and harshness are not good qualities. I understand a score does not capture unique qualities I might find interesting but at the end of the day the score should reflect the quality of the whiskey.

    I’m sorry but an hour and 18 minute video is about 10 times too long. You need to do some serious editing. Also, don’t understand how Michter’s Rye dropped from mid pack in the taste test to the bottom in the BCS ranking. This stuff is widely available and decently priced (I last paid $38 and it’s in every liquor store around here). I would have thought it would go up when pricing and availability are factored in. You don’t give your prices and I have no idea how you quantify availability.

    Not surprised by these results, as I have been singing the praises of Pikesville for ages. By the way, BCS is an abbreviation, not an acronym. Little known fact. Thanks for all the effort you put into this. It’s fabulous information.

    Willett 2 Year Old Rye is still my favorite and I would take Bulleit Rye over most any day! Jimmy Russel is correct, “the older they are, the more they taste like the barrel.”

    Why no WhistlePig? Or Lot 40?

    I own and tried most of your list(no VWFR) and WhistlePig beats them all. And if you haven’t tried Lot 40, it’s the best value Rye at it’s price point hands down.

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