The bottle that started it all…
When my husband and I started dating, we had known each other for several years and were both whiskey drinkers. For our first anniversary, we decided to branch out of our standard Four Roses, Buffalo Trace, Elijah Craig rotation and try some new things together. Between the two of us, we had had a decent working knowledge of whiskeys, but we hadn’t crossed a certain bourbon line yet. We bought a bottle of Basil Hayden’s, which neither of us had tried before, and headed up to a cabin in Pigeon Forge for a weekend. We cracked the Basil Hayden’s along with a bottle of Veuve and proceeded to get a bit too tipsy to really notice the nuances of how great Basil Hayden’s really is.
The next morning after some bacon, eggs, and a nap, we decided to make the trek into Gatlinburg to sample the mainstream moonshine that’s now dominating the main strip of the mountain tourist town. My husband’s family is from West Virginia, so we tend to keep a little White Lightning on hand at home. We passed a little liquor store just before the busy part of the strip and joked that we should check out their selection. (The small town liquor store with Pappy on the shelf is our white whale, so to speak.) After walking the SUPER CROWDED strip and standing in line behind the oddest crowd of tourists, we finally had our turn to try miniscule shots of subpar, commercial moonshine in twelve fruity, crowd-pleasing flavors attempting to mask the distinct taste of lighter-fluid. But hey, it’s always fun to be a girl who can hold her liquor in such a setting.
Once we’d bought some souvenirs for the kiddo and abandoned the hope of getting through the line into the aquarium, we decided to pop into that little liquor store on the way back to Pigeon Forge. Alas, no Pappy on the shelf, lol. We did, however, find a bottle of E.H. Taylor Small Batch. If you’ve never encountered Taylor, it looks pretty impressive on the shelf, especially since it’s one of those brands that you sometimes have to ask for out of the back of the store where the allocated bourbons are hoarded. We knew enough to be stoked and buy one of the two bottles they had. We debated buying the second as well and later regretted not doing so.
We went about the rest of our day and after dinner decided to crack the bottle. We poured a couple fingers each and were pretty much immediately hooked. It’s simply a perfect, solid bourbon. Taylor Small Batch has a really subtle burn to it, with a smooth caramel finish. We were relishing our Taylor just as the documentary “Bourbontucky” was coming on TV. We followed the Taylor with a pour of Basil Hayden’s, paying more attention to it’s taste this time as well. Stumbling through trying to pick out the complexities in the tastes of the two bourbons, we sounded slightly ridiculous, but we were hooked. We knew we were starting a bourbon journey.
As with most real bourbon lovers, you hit a point at which you want to taste them all. You want to pick apart each individual barrel and flavor and find that perfect tasting whiskey. We’ve collected and savored so many more fine bourbons since then and continue to try and find those special, hard to find, sometimes allocated bottles of goodness. At the same time, we still have a rotation of solid, tasty regular drinkers that are worth keeping on hand or buying on random occasion.
This blog is my attempt to catalog our tastings and give outlet to my love of bourbon. When you find a fellow barrel junkie, it’s an awesome moment of sharing your passion and mapping out locations to find the next bottle. So, I hope you enjoy the notes of our journey!