Age is Everything

Enter rant at your own risk….

I keep meaning to branch out of KY on my bourbons. I’m a fan of TN whiskies but I consider them a breed unto their own. I hear good things about some newer bourbons and craft distilleries popping up around the country, but my general stopping point comes down to age. I don’t think you get to call it bourbon if it’s only been aged 2-4 years. I’m damn sure not paying $80 a bottle for something made in haste.

According to the official standards, you must age the bourbon for no less than 2 years in a white oak barrel. But, since when is the minimum of anything the best?! I was raised by a builder. My dad manages the building of major buildings and skyscrapers here in Nashville, and he’s always said there’s a reason quality costs more and that it’s worth the initial expense every time. I personally think 8 years is the sweet spot for aging bourbon, but that’s not a sticking point. When you consider the better, historically long-standing great bourbons of the world, they’re all aged for 6+ years, with the better bourbons being aged 12+ years. With the bourbon shortage, I understand a little less aging and support sending a product out at that 6-8 year window. But 2 years?! Camman!

With all the hipster hype surrounding bourbon right now, everyone’s wanting to get in the mix. I once shared with hubs my “If we ever got rich…” plans, to which he replied, “You know you’d have to wait 10 years to start a distillery, right?” This is especially problematic for me since I have attention span issues, but he’s got a point. This is something these newer brands are really compromising on. It’s one thing to start a distillery in 2008 and release a spirit 2 years later and try to call it bourbon. It’s straight out laughable to try to charge $80 for a bottle. In that time frame, you’re going to taste too much of the corn and not enough of the wood. It’s like buying moonshine from the strip in Gatlinburg- you can do it, but that’s just sad. And unfortunately, a craft distillery pretty much has to charge that much since they’re producing on such a small scale. This is why patience is a virtue, and getting into bourbon has to be one of those “If we ever got rich…” plans.

I’m sure one of these days, I’ll make it outside of KY, TN, and those few, proud, bold, aged in KY bottled in CA bourbons. In fact, I recently bought a bottle of Smooth Ambler Contradiction. It’s a newer brand with the good sense to take a two year rye and mix it with a nine year bourbon. Distilled and bottled in WV even. (I’ll let ya know how it goes.) We were at my favorite Nashville whiskey bar last weekend, William Collier’s, and the bartender had a very good point- “You have to respect a distiller willing to meet the BIB standards.” You have to respect the spirit enough to be patient and respect the buyer enough to charge what you have to for a product that’s worthy of the price-tag.

I support this branching out insofar as certain standards are being met. Past that, I’ll be happy to branch out a bit when these craft distillers start putting a little time and love into their products.

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