Bourbon Shootout DirectionsWell folks, the Bourbon Shootout was a rousing success. Thanks to everyone who stopped by and filled our tiny apartment to the gills. We ended up trying every bourbon I own, except for the Jim Beam, which means we tried nine (9!) different bourbons plus a variety of other cocktails and liquors. Fortunately the tasting was post-potluck, where much delightful food was consumed.

So what were the popular bourbons? The 3 clear winners were:

  1. Woodford Reserve – this great bourbon (in a lovely bottle), was the clear favorite. At 90.4 proof it’s not as strong as some of the other contenders and the balance of flavors and sweetness appealed to every taster. It’s generally about $30/bottle at BevMo which is an great price for an excellent bourbon.
  2. George T. Stagg – One of my favorite bourbons, this one split our tasters. Those who liked it, loved it. Those who thought drinking 140.6 proof (this is a 2006 bottling) bourbon was like being punched in the mouth (even with a bit of ice to open it up and cool it down), were less enthusiastic. The Stagg is just loaded with flavor, and even while you can feel it warming your body the conversation with your tongue and brain continue. It’s generally in the $75/bottle range (prices vary pretty widely), if you can find it.
  3. Elijah Craig (18yr) – This is a single barrel bourbon that’s aged much longer than the average bourbon (bourbons have to specifically label how long they’ve aged in the barrel if it’s less than 4 years. As such, many bourbons are allowed to mature for only a bit over this magic number) but is still plenty spicy. This was one of the first bourbons tasted, so it’s hard to say how much it’s popularity was influenced by it being one of the few clearly remembered, but it’s always been a bourbon I enjoy. It’s age leads directly to it being more expensive, and I typically see it at BevMo for about $45/bottle.

Other bourbons tried (in no particular order):

  • Bulleit – a debate opened up on how to pronounce this popular bourbon.
  • Four Roses single barrel – Another of my personal favorite bourbons, the Four Roses was well received by some but the strong 100 proof turned other folks off of it.
  • Elmer T. Lee – less remarkable than hoped, people generally liked it but couldn’t think of anything that set it apart.
  • Eagle Rare single barrel – This one comes with a “hand selected by BevMo!” sticker on it, but none of us could figure out why.
  • Russell’s Reserve (10 yr) – has a strong, almost smoky taste that a few of us enjoy but several tasters were put off by.
  • Maker’s Mark – this is the bourbon that most folks tend to have in their cabinet, and it’s generally seen as a high caliber bourbon when compared to what else is hanging out on a drug store shelf. It was tried late in the tasting, and unanimously voted as the worst of the bunch. Not that it was bad, per se, but it had a more shallow, sweet taste when compared to the many other fine bourbons in the shootout.

So that’s the verdict, folks! The Four Roses and George T. Stagg remain my favorite, but I’m delighted that Woodford Reserve was so popular as I agree it’s a fine option. I’ll be sampling the Bulleit more in the near future, as that’s a recent acquisition, and continuing to slowly acquire other tasty bourbons as time goes on.

Other highlights of the evening include:

  • Pam won “Hero of the Week” for deciding that a Negroni is actually intriguing and kind of tasty instead of just terrible. Pam may just be the first female of my personal acquaintance to feel this way.
  • When we started the tasting who are the first over to get it moving? All women. Here I thought it was going to be a manly gathering! Some of the fella’s did meander over and a few joined us for the whole tour, but it was contrary to how I would have predicted the drinkin’ crowd to be.
  • Speaking of heroic women: who pushed us to try every bourbon on the table? Amy. Peter and Mirko joined in to complete the Shootout with us but Amy totally wins Badass of the Party.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by, I had a blast and hope y’all did, too. Next in line is probably either a scotch tasting or another Tour of Gin.


  1. Uh-huh, and how *much* of the Negroni did Pam drink?

  2. Hrm, that does sound kind of tasty although *two* homemade liquors in one drink seems a little much. It’s not like I’m not already short on bar shelf space, why must all the interesting cocktails feature bottles I don’t already have?

    The house across the corner from us is up for sale. It’s called the Grand Dame and would be a fabulous location to drink a Lazy Madame! It’s a steal at only $900,000…

  3. I come down firmly on the side of Four Roses, George T. Stagg and Negronis.