The Real Whiskey of the Year

by Colonel Steve Akley


Jim Murray’s Whiskey of the Year was recently announced and the winner was EH Taylor Four Grain. With all due respect to a guy who is a Bourbon Hall of Fame writer, I wholeheartedly disagree with that pick. The Whiskey of the Year is the Four Roses Small Batch LE Al Young 50th Anniversary Celebration.

End of story.

That whiskey was nothing short of perfection. Besides the unbelievable job Brent Elliott did in crafting it, no detail was spared. The bottle was amazing… the label, so retro cool. Even the glass they gave you when you bought it at the distillery felt oh, so good in your hand.

Four Grain, on the other hand was a disappointment. It was one I sought out and simply couldn’t get my hands on. Luckily, my buddy Monty in Texas came through for me and I got a bottle. I can’t say it’s bad, in fact, unlike many, I did like it, but I also don’t think it’s one of the best whiskies I ever tasted. This award needs to go to something you are going to remember the rest of your life. It needs to be that big.

Jim Murray is just one guy. It’s his opinion, so he really can’t be wrong, right?

Also, what do I care?

I care a lot. You know why? Because the industry cares. The press cares. Jim Murray’s pick gets picked up by almost every press outlet. It doesn’t say this is just one guy’s opinion… it says EH Taylor Four Grain is the Whiskey of the Year. Plain and simple.

Man, I would love to sit down with these two pours and have Jim Murray explain to me how EH Taylor is better.

What also is so disappointing to me is the impact this would have made on Al. He has worked 50 years in the business. Fifty GD hard years mostly under the radar. Just a guy working hard to create the best product he could. What a job he has done too. The explosion of Four Roses since 2001 when they were down to just a few hundred cases a year being sold into the US to where they are now… he’s part of that. He’s part of the history of bourbon… and he’s still alive to enjoy the honor.

I’m not even throwing Al a bone here just because I think he’s the greatest brand ambassador that ever lived. Look at the internet. The court of popular opinion tells you that the Four Roses Al Young is way more popular than EH Taylor Four Grain which has mixed reviews (at best).

We also all lose with this pick. Imagine what distilleries would be doing to try to top the Al Young offering had it been Whiskey of the Year? Trust me, they love this award and they would be going all out and who would benefit from that? Us, the consumer, the whiskey fan.

Hey, Jim Murray worked hard, he built a brand that transcends just bourbon. I get that. I respect that. I appreciate what he has done to elevate whiskey.

That doesn’t mean he’s always right, though… and he certainly wasn’t this time.