Is This Truly Your Bourbon Journey?
Like so many bourbon lovers, we tend to jump at the chance of getting our hands on a hot new bottle of bourbon. Perhaps we saw it on social media, or listened to a review about it on YouTube, or, maybe, we heard a well know bourbon authority proclaim it the best bourbon of the upcoming new year. If I’m being honest, I’ve been guilty of running out to buy a new bottle after hearing about how good it was, and if I’m also being honest, I’ve, unfortunately, been disappointed with some of the “best” bottles of bourbon. Why is this? Is my pallet just not sophisticated enough to recognize those being pegged as “the best” or were those bottles just not that good? Could it possibly be a little of both?
When I started my bourbon journey, I could barely drink it neat. I preferred it in a cocktail or diluted with a handful of ice or splashed with, dare I say it, Coke. Occasionally, I would drink it neat and think to myself, “How does anyone pick out flavors in this?” I clumsily developed a taste for it and over time I began to scale back the water and slowly, but surely, started picking out distinct flavors. I read every article and waited on bated breath for the top bourbons to be announced, only to be disappointed. If it was the best new bourbon, why didn’t it taste like it? Further along into my love affair with bourbon, I found some “best” bourbons I loved, and some I didn’t like as much. My pallet became more refined, but my personal reviews of some proclaimed top bourbons didn’t change all that much.
One of my biggest pet peeves in bourbon is when people put too much stock in what certain people say about certain whiskeys. I give these people credit. Most of my bourbon knowledge comes from them. However, hardly any of my favorite bourbons do. When I see a post or a proclamation about a very good bourbon from one of the top bourbon authorities, I honestly believe them. I believe they really like that particular product and want to share it with the masses. I must admit though, I no longer run out and purchase that bottle. I share with you an exert from, “The Road Not Taken,” by the great poet, Robert Frost.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
You’re probably thinking this is the part of the article where I tell you to take the road less traveled and forge your own path. Although, surprisingly, it’s not. This poem is one of the most misunderstood poems of all time. Most people interpret this poem to mean that we shouldn’t go with what the majority says to be right or best, but we should make our own choices and refrain from going along with everyone else. In all actuality, this poem is really about a man who is at a crossroads and takes one path, regrettably, and never takes the other. Even though he thought by taking the path that “looked” less traveled would be better, he may have been wrong.
Some experts might disagree with me, but so many of my favorite bourbons resonate with me as being “the best” because of the memories I have of drinking that bourbon with special people in my life. Maybe I have a soft spot for Elijah Craig because it’s my wife’s favorite and we’ve shared many great memories together while enjoying it. Perhaps it’s the recollection of the time my friend, and Whiskey Corner blogger Tony Freund, and I tried New Riff together at the Bourbon Festival. These memories and many more, change the way I taste the whiskey. The smell alone is a very powerful tool. Scientists say smell conjures up more memories with food and drink than sight alone does. It’s in our make up to associate memories with smell. Those memories are what draws me to this wonderful love affair with bourbon. Am I able to be un-bias when rating a bourbon? Maybe not. Is anybody able to review a bourbon and override their biological make up? I’m not so sure.
Robert Frost’s main character decided the path he took by pure observation. An observation that may have been false. We need to make sure, as diligent bourbon stewards, that we keep an open mind and refrain from drawing too many conclusions from what others say. Take notes and drop all expectations and just enjoy the bourbon. Don’t let them decide your path. If you spend your entire journey listening to others you miss out on so many good bourbons.
What can we learn from all of this? I’m not here to tell you to never listen to bourbon authorities or what others have to say. I’m saying you need to take their words with a grain of salt and realize your personal bourbon journey needs to cross between the road less traveled and the path not traveled. Sometimes it’s okay to listen to people and consider their advice. Other times it’s ok to forge your own path. Running blindly into the wilderness without a little direction doesn’t allow for the best experience, but your bourbon journey should be yours and yours alone with a little guidance to make your journey a bit more enjoyable. Don’t be afraid to disagree with people on what you like and appreciate. Different people have different pallets and just because you enjoy something others don’t, doesn’t mean you’re wrong.
Here at the ABV Network we have many great pallets. Not one of them is yours, however. Our resources are here to help and provide insight on things we enjoy or think you might like. Listen to our content, read our blogs, and if you feel led, stand in those long lines and wait to get your hands on some great bourbon. We are all in this journey together and with a little help from each other we can make sure it’s as enjoyable as possible.
How has the ABV Network helped with your bourbon journey? Let us know by commenting below. We would love to hear from you!
Whiskey Corner Editor