Posts from the ‘Top Ten Lists’ Category

Top Ten Conversion Whiskeys (and Happy Repeal Day!)

Well, it’s Repeal Day, and that calls for some good ol’ whiskey fun.  December 5, 2013 marks the 80th Anniversary of the Repeal of Prohibition in the United States, and I am celebrating with a list of my Top Ten Conversion Whiskeys.

Since most of us whiskey nerds have folks in our lives that do not enjoy whiskey, it is important to remember that evangelism is just as important as enjoyment.  One should not impose whiskey on others, but the introduction to whiskey can never hurt, right?  (Note: I realize that there are ethical problems with tying somebody to a chair and pouring whiskey down their throat.)

This is a list of whiskeys that I have found useful in the conversion process.  Some people do not like whiskey for all kinds of reasons – because it is too harsh, not flavorful enough, does not accommodate their palate, or they are just plain old prejudiced.  So, I have tried to incorporate whiskeys from all over the map, and all across the flavor wheel to help you convert that loved one in your life.  Not all of these whiskeys are personal favorites of mine, but they are all readily available in most liquor stores to help you in your proselytizing.  (I have also limited the list to one entry per distillery, and there are no limited edition whiskeys on here, only standard range releases.)

Honorable Mention:  Wild Turkey American Honey – While this is not technically a whiskey, it deserves a mention here because it is the best bourbon liqueur on the market today at preserving the flavors of bourbon.  This can be a great gateway drug, especially when served on the rocks with a splash of Wild Turkey 101 on a summer afternoon.

10. Ardbeg Uigeadail – This might seem like a strange entry on this list since most folks are turned off by peat, but there is a story here.  The beautiful woman I am currently dating is a coffee drinker who has never found whiskey to her liking.  Ardbeg Uigeadail was the breakthrough whiskey for her, so to the coffee drinker in your life, Slainte!

9. Bunnahabhain 12 yr. – Another Islay entry on this list makes it here because on its simplicity, and its drinkability.  The whiff of smoke works well for beer drinkers, as does the dense sherry on the palate.  For the lover of wee heavy ales, and Belgian Tripels, Bunnahabhain 12 yr. can be very persuasive.

8. Gentleman Jack – I know few (if any) whiskey lovers that love Gentleman Jack, but I know a ton of weekend gin guzzlers that love Gentleman Jack.  It speaks to a unique audience, and works well at converting that gin guzzling neighbor you know.

7. Basil Hayden’s – This is a bourbon on the lighter side of bourbon, and it lacks a lot of the dense, sweet notes that bourbon is known for.  It is a great introduction to spicier, more floral bourbons for that sultry Southerner you’re trying to convert.

6. Bushmill’s 16 yr. – This is a port-finished single malt Irish whiskey that is both sweet and dry, reminding me a lot of port, itself.  If you are seeking to convert a wine drinker, have a bottle of Bushmill’s 16 yr. on hand at your next house party.

5. Crown Royal Reserve – This super smooth Canadian dram is great for this conversion endeavor because of its allure.  The packaging works just as much as the contents of the bottle to convince the stubborn hold out that their life is about to be enhanced by whiskey.

4. Four Roses Yellow Label – This is flat out the most drinkable bourbon available.  It is mellow and sexy, and prime conversion material, which is one of the primary reasons it was one of the first whiskey reviews I ever did.

3. The Balvenie 12 yr. DoubleWood – This is on the list precisely because it works.  I don’t have a ton of analysis beyond the fact that I know at least three people who have told me that this whiskey changed their life.

2. Redbreast 12 yr. – This silky Irish pour will always be the highlight of a dinner party because of its combination of floral, sweet elegance, and its superb drinkability.  It is also an Irish whiskey so the tough, hard-working stockyard workers in your life will be more easily swayed.

1. The Glenlivet 12 yr. – This takes the number one spot on my list because it is the whiskey that converted me.  I was miring in a world of craft beer and rum (both of which are still wonderful) until I picked up a bottle of this juice on a whim one day.  Four years and a blog later, I could not be happier with that decision.  I also happen to know that my good friend, William from A Dram Good Time, could tell you a similar story about this Glenlivet expression.

Those are my favorite conversion whiskeys; what are yours?  What whiskeys do you keep on hand for those hold outs at your house parties?  Are there any great conversion whiskeys I have left out?  Happy Repeal Day, and don’t forget to let it ride!

Top Ten Occasions to Drink Bourbon

Of course, bourbon can be enjoyed any time.  As my roommate Chris likes to say, “I drink three times a year, my Birthday, New Year’s, and any time I damn well please.”  That said, good bourbon deserves company and good times, which is why I present my Top Ten Occasions to Drink Bourbon.

10. After Work – I always enjoy relaxing after a stressful day at work with a glass of good bourbon to celebrate not having to go back to work until tomorrow.

Photo Courtesy: whiskydisks.com

Photo Courtesy: whiskydisks.com

9. Fourth of July – The perfect time to celebrate America’s native spirit is on America’s Independence Day.  It would rank higher if it weren’t so damn hot in July.  Drinking bourbon rarely cools me down like a few cold beers.

8. Funeral – This might seem odd, but I do believe it is appropriate to toast the good life of a good friend by opening a special bottle of bourbon.

7. Birthday – Of course, nothing celebrates a good friend like a good bottle drank with good friends.

6. New Year’s Eve – In my mind, every year should start and end with bourbon.

5. Christmas – The family is all gathered together, which makes Christmas a good time to crack a bottle of bourbon.  This is also a great opportunity to win bourbon converts.

4. Thanksgiving – Guess what I am thankful for… bourbon.

3. Arbor Day – So often, we forget to thank the tall American White oaks that have sacrificed themselves to impart the soft flavors of their wood into our bourbon.  I like to salute them with a few drinks on Arbor Day.

2. Birth of a Child – Just like a child, bourbon is born raw and uncouth.  Over time, it ages, smoothing out the rough edges on a journey to a wonderful finished product.

1. A Wedding – Really, bourbon is a lot like a wedding.  A wedding brings people together into one family.  Bourbon brings ingredients together into one, brilliant spirit.  Plus, there is a lot to celebrate on a wedding, which makes it my favorite time to open up a good bottle and share the joy of bourbon.

Those are my favorite occasions to drink bourbon.  What are yours?

Merry Christmas from Bargain Bourbon,

Phil

 

Top Ten Bourbon Bottle Designs

Like every product ever sold, bourbon depends on packaging.  Great bourbon deserves great packaging.  Of course, what defines a great bottle of bourbon is just as subjective as the bourbon itself.  I like an iconic bottle of bourbon that brings forth an air of confidence that the product inside is going to be good.  If that is properly balanced with a bottle that looks cool, then you’ve got the ingredients for a great bottle.  Now all that remains is to fill it with great bourbon.  With that in mind, I present my Top Ten Bourbon Bottle Designs.  (Note: I have not reviewed all these bourbons, nor I have I even tried all these bourbons.  I am judging primarily on the packaging.)

10. Maker’s Mark – The wax-dipped top of Maker’s Mark is probably the most iconic symbol in the bourbon world.  However, the rest of the bottle leaves something to be desired.  Nevertheless, any whiskey drinker recognizes the red wax as Maker’s Mark.

9. Buffalo Trace – The epic bison on the front makes for an epic packaging.  It also makes for an awesome logo for Buffalo Trace Distillery.

8. Old Forester Birthday Bourbon – I believe that Old Forester is one of the best value bourbons you can find.  However, Brown-Forman also produces the Birthday Bourbon, a higher-end version of Old Forester.  It comes in an old-fashioned decanter-style bottle that exudes class.

7. Rock Hill Farms – This single barrel bourbon comes in a sleek, square bottle with horses and forest landscapes decorating the bottle.  It is a bottle design that could inspire some fine bourbon-induced poetry.

6. Angel’s Envy – The Angel’s Envy looks divine, with its angel wings and massive size.  It seems to tower over almost everything else on the shelf at the liquor store.

5. Willett Pot Still Reserve Single Barrel – Speaking of tall bottles, there are few bottles taller than the decanter-style of Willett Pot Still Reserve.  It just looks awesome.  You can’t buy a bottle and not feel on top of the world.

4. Eagle Rare 10 yr. Single Barrel – This bottle is just plain epic.  It is tall and elegant, but the eagle on the front and the jagged edged label also makes it seem bold and rugged.

3. Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve (15 yr., 20 yr., 23 yr.) – All three of these bottlings are recognizable by the picture of Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle, Sr. on the front of the bottle.  He is puffing on a big cigar (and most likely drinking some good bourbon).  There are few things more iconic than a bourbon legend like Pappy.

2. Woodford Reserve – I love the simplicity of this bottle.  To me, Woodford Reserve’s bottle design says, “The bourbon contained herein is a great bourbon; it needs no embellishment.”

1. Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection (George T. Stagg, William Larue Weller, and Eagle Rare 17 yr.) – These three bourbons are consistently among the contenders for bourbon of the year, and there bottle designs are indicative of the quality.  The bottles are tall and powerful.  There are no fancy designs on the bottles, allowing you to see the perfect color of the whiskey.  Even more so than Woodford Reserve, the Antique Collection’s bottle designs say, “No frills needed, this is great whiskey.”  And judging from the only one I’ve tried (William Larue Weller), the bottles don’t lie.

These are my favorite bottle designs (I’ve included pictures below), what are yours?  Leave me a comment, and let me know if I missed any.

Top Ten Foods to Pair with Bourbon

In honor of July 4th, a day when many folks will be eating a ton of food, I thought I should do a post of my favorite foods to drink bourbon with.  Of course, bourbon is a big, flavorful spirit that is certainly not in need of a food pairing.  However, it is July 4th, and bourbon whiskey is America’s native spirit, so why not try a few fingers of bourbon with some of good food?

Here are my favorite foods to pair with bourbon…

10. Peanuts – Of course peanuts are a beer companion.  However, I think they go well with certain types of bourbon as well.  I think peanuts go especially well with oaky bourbons, so maybe try a bottle of Rowan’s Creek next time you are shooting pool and munching on peanuts.

9. Apple pie (a la mode) – I find that the sweetness of an apple pie is bolstered well by a full-flavored bourbon with a lot of brown sugar and caramel flavors.  If you’re up for it, try a finger or two of Booker’s with your apple pie this evening.

8. Pistachios – Pistachios are another great beer companion that also works well with bourbon.  I like a big bourbon with my pistachios to compliment the big pistachio flavor.  Take it slow, and enjoy a long evening with friends, pistachios, and a bottle of Eagle Rare 10 year.

7. Fresh Peaches – Fruits are a great bourbon companion, and I have found that peaches have a delicate enough flavor to compliment bourbon well.  Peaches are a fantastic pairing with the subject of my most recent bourbon review, Jefferson’s.

6. Cheese and Crackers – Crackers are especially good for a bourbon tasting because they will clear the palate to ready you for more bourbon.  However, a light-bodied cheese with some crackers is a fine snack for the next summer evening with friends.  Like with peanuts, I usually like a big, oaky bourbon with my cheese and crackers.  However, a flavorful, rye-forward bourbon like Wild Turkey 101 also makes for a great evening.

5. Banana Bread – Banana bread has a tempered enough flavor profile to make for a very good bourbon companion.  I find that banana bread goes especially nice with a balanced, sweet bourbon.  This is where I recommend a bottle of my favorite value bourbon, Buffalo Trace.

4. Dark Chocolate – A few bites of a bitter dark chocolate can really set off some amazing flavors in the palate of a bourbon.  If you were to indulge in some Old Forester with some dark chocolate, you mind just find a whole new reason to love a great value buy like Old Forester.

3. Pecans – Of all the nuts that I have on my list, pecans are soundly my favorite to drink bourbon with.  They have a natural ability to compliment sweet flavors very well, which is probably why they top so many desserts.  Although I have only tried this pairing on one occasion, I was extremely pleased with the way pecans tasted as I was drinking William Larue Weller.

2. Cheesecake – Cheesecake is one of my favorite foods, with its soft, seductive flavors and texture.  It goes great with bourbon because it will not overpower the palate.  If you want to make your 4th of July a memorable one, I would highly recommend a slice of cheesecake and a glass of Woodford Reserve.

1. Steak – A nice cut of steak is my all-time favorite food to drink bourbon with.  For some reason, the savory flavors of a steak always seem to go right along with a great summer bourbon.  There are few things in life that I enjoy more than eating a good steak, and washing it down with a glass or two of Basil Hayden’s as the sun sets on a warm summer’s eve.

Of course, most of the time, I drink bourbon before or after a meal, not during.  However, if you would like to try some bourbon and food pairing, I think these ten foods are a great place to start.  Please comment and let me know which great bourbon foods I’ve left off my list.  Let it ride!

 

The Top Ten Historical People to Drink Bourbon with

Have you ever been reading a history book, and thought, “I’d like to have a drink with that person?”  As a historian and avid bourbon drinker, this happens to me often.  So, here are the ten people I would most like to have a few glasses of bourbon with.  Obviously, this is an anachronistic list because bourbon whiskey as we know and love it did not originate until the 18th century, and it was not made official by Congress until 1964.  The only qualifications for this list are that the person had to have lived at some point, and that person must have lived most of their life prior to 1900 (a list of more contemporary bourbon companions is in the works).

10. Mithridates VI of Pontus (Mithridates the Great) (134 BCE-63 BCE)  – Mithridates was arguably Rome’s greatest enemy.  He spent most of his adult life chipping away at Rome’s territory, until he was eventually holed up in his tower, where he tried to kill himself by consuming poison.  However, he had built up such an immunity to poison over his life that he ended up having his servant stab him to death instead.  In addition to being a ruthless militarist, Mithridates was also one of antiquity’s most famous polyglots, claiming to speak around 30 languages fluently.  All things considered, Mithridates the Great is one of the most epic individuals to have ever lived.  Mithridates’ bourbon:  Fighting Cock 6 year.  Its big, bold, and finishes with a bang.  Mithridates was always one to go big or go home.  Its also a bourbon of the people, not elitist, much like Mithridates and the way he fought the Romans.

9. Charles Earl Bowles (Black Bart) (c. 1829-c. 1888) – Black Bart is perhaps the most famous criminal of the American West, mostly for his gentile style and the poems that he left behind.  Supposedly, he never even loaded his gun.  He simply relied on intimidation to hold up the stagecoaches he robbed.  Like most Wild West characters, separating fact from fiction is nearly impossible with Black Bart.  However, that does not mean that he would be any less of a bourbon partner.  He was a poet with some great stories to tell over a glass or two.  Black Bart’s bourbon:  Wild Turkey American Spirit.  Black Bart was not an American, but he came to embody the romance and ruthlessness of the American West.  I’ve got him drinking a top shelf bourbon that’s a little rough around the edges.

8. Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) – To my knowledge, the only one of America’s founders to have a bourbon named after him/her is Thomas Jefferson, which puts him on my list of people to drink bourbon with.  In addition to his political exploits, he was also interested in a variety of different things, from farming to architecture.  He also had an eye for aesthetics rather than pragmatics, which is probably why Monticello was a failed business venture that left Jefferson in debt most of his life.  Like Mithridates, he spoke many languages (between 5 and 10), which would have made him a great bourbon companion.  Jefferson’s bourbon:  Jefferson’s Reserve, Presidential Select.  Come on, the bourbon is named after Jefferson’s presidency.  What else would he drink?

7. Henry “Long Ben” Every (1659-c. 1696) – Henry Every has been dubbed “The King of the Pirates,” primarily because he was never caught.  Of course, nobody actually knows what happened to Every after he stopped pilfering the Atlantic.  I like to think that he lived happily on Madagascar for many years.  That is where I’d like to sit and drink bourbon with “Long Ben” Every and hear his crazy seafaring stories.  Long Ben’s bourbon:  Jim Beam Devil’s Cut.  Devil’s Cut just sounds the bourbon that a pirate would drink.

6. Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519) – Leonardo Da Vinci was a genius, one of the few pure geniuses ever (in my opinion).  Unfortunately, many of his inventions were too far ahead of his time to be practical, which is why he would be a fascinating person to meet during time travel.  He was notoriously mysterious and reclusive during his lifetime, all the while pressing his mind to its limits for the sake of satisfying his own curiosity.  That’s certainly one recipe for a good bourbon companion.  Da Vinci’s bourbon:  Angel’s Envy.  It’s innovative, and a little off the beaten path.  It’s also hard to find, just like Da Vinci himself.

5. Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) – Oscar Wilde is one of the most quotable people I’ve read, which makes me think he would be a great bourbon partner.  Bourbon is not a drink for those who simply desire intoxication.  It is a complex drink that invites deep thought as well as light banter.  I believe Oscar Wilde would excel at both.  How many people have a top ten list of just their quotes?  http://www.toptenz.net/top-10-quotes-by-oscar-wilde.php  Oscar’s bourbon:  Blanton’s Original Single Barrel.  This bourbon is certainly one of the most iconic bottles in bourbon, with its orb-shape and racehorse stopper.  It is also incredibly smooth and seductive, much like the beautiful sexuality that Oscar Wilde loved so dearly.

4. Jesus of Nazareth (7-2 BCE-30-36 CE) – Regardless of your personal beliefs regarding Jesus of Nazareth, somewhat that has sparked the amount of controversy that he has would be a great bourbon companion.  His following indicates that he was an intelligent and captivating speaker, which is definitely one thing to look for in a bourbon companion.  Honestly, I’d like to just talk with him to see what was really going on in his mind.  Jesus’ bourbon:  Honestly, he would probably just supply his own.

3. Socrates (c. 470 BCE-399 BCE) – In many ways, my first introduction to Socrates was when I slowly began to learn the powers of the mind, and the powers of language.  For this reason, I would love to have a drink with the man who is partially responsible for my journey into intellectual history.  He loved a good conversation, and most good conversations are enhanced by bourbon.  Socrates’ bourbon:  Old Grand-Dad 114 proof.  As one of the grandfather’s of Western thought, it is only fitting that Socrates drink the best the Grand-Dad of bourbon (Basil Hayden, Sr.) has to offer.

2. Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) – Like Da Vinci, Franklin was pretty damn close to being a pure genius.  His curiosity knew no bounds, and his intellect followed closely behind.  He was a strong proponent of a few glasses of the good stuff, and I’m sure he would have been a strong endorser of bourbon had it been around in his lifetime.  Like Oscar Wilde, Franklin could be both a genius and a rabble-rouser in the same hour, which makes him a pretty solid bourbon companion.  Ben Franklin’s bourbon:  Hooker’s House.  Obviously, Franklin’s propensity for prostitutes makes this bourbon the logical choice.  In addition, Hooker’s House is an innovative bourbon created by finishing the bourbon in Pinot Noir casks before bottling it.  Creativity and sex were definitely two of Franklin’s hallmarks.

1. John Henry “Doc” Holliday (1851-1887) – As is the case with Black Bart and many other legends of the American West, separating fact from fiction with Doc Holliday is nearly impossible.  However, in the case of Doc Holliday, there are several themes among all his biographers and Hollywood portrayals.  Doc Holliday was a smooth-talking Georgian with a penchant for bourbon, poker, and a prostitute called Kate.  Hence, Doc Holliday is the historical figure I would most like to drink bourbon with.  Doc Holliday’s bourbon:  William Larue Weller.   I’ve got Doc drinking a bourbon that tastes great, but will also have the alcohol content to cure his tuberculosis.  Although William Weller is hard to get, Doc Holliday could sweet talk just about anybody with that soft, seductive Georgia accent.

Those are my top ten bourbon companions, what are yours?  Let me know what you think and let it ride!

The Top Ten Movie Characters to Drink Bourbon with

If you are anything like me, you’ve watched movies before where you have thought, “I would love to hang out with that character.”  I’ve often thought like that with drinking bourbon in mind, so here is my list of my top ten(ish) movie characters that I’d like to drink bourbon with.  Since the list is completely hypothetical, I’ve also tried to guess what bourbon I think the different characters on my list would drink.  For the record, I’m assuming the movie character is buying the bottle, not me, so I’m not necessarily sticking to value bourbons on this one.

10.  The Count (Philip Seymour Hoffman) – Pirate Radio.  The Count is a rebel, with a certain attitude of reverence where it is needed.  Therefore, I believe The Count would be a great bourbon companion.  He can also tell some great stories.  The Count’s bourbon:  Woodford Reserve.  The Count lives at sea, so he has to drink something he can readily get his hands on, but I also believe that he knows a great bourbon when he sees it.  Woodford Reserve might be the best readily available bourbon on the market.

9.  Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) – The Lord of the Rings.  There are many characters from Lord of the Rings who would be good drinking companions, but the first scene at the Prancing Pony were we meet Strider convinces me that Strider/Aragorn drinks bourbon, and he drinks it neat.  Aragorn’s bourbon:  Eagle Rare 10 year Single Barrel.  It is a bourbon that packs more punch that you might expect.  It is not pretentious, but it knows it is great bourbon.

8.  The Man with No Name (Clint Eastwood) – The Man with No Name Trilogy.  A dangerous, but entertaining character, and definitely the person you want on your side during a gunfight.  The Man with No Name’s bourbon:  Wild Turkey 101.  It is rye-forward and in your face, plus its available almost everywhere for those who travel a lot.  I don’t see this cowboy going for the top shelf too often.

7.  William “Bill the Butcher” Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis) – Gangs of New York.  This is a dangerous choice because Bill the Butcher is a dangerous character.  However, he is rich, so he would probably pay for the drinks.  He has some crazy stories, but I would probably only want to drink with him once.  One thing is for sure, the Butcher drinks bourbon, and he is always an entertaining conversationalist.  The Butcher’s bourbon:  Booker’s.  It is a big bourbon that will put hair on your chest, ranging from 123 to 129 proof.  It has great flavor and complexity, but unlike other bourbons of Booker’s quality, Booker’s is pretty young (6 years aged), which suits the Butcher’s style.

6.  John “Doc” Holliday (Val Kilmer) – Tombstone.  Like Bill the Butcher, Doc Holliday would be much higher on my list of people to drink bourbon with if I was not so worried about being shot and killed when I drank with him.  Also like Bill the Butcher, Doc Holliday is always good conversation, full of brilliant one-liners, making him a very good bourbon companion.  Doc Holliday’s bourbon:  William Larue Weller.  I’ve got Doc drinking a bourbon that tastes great, but will also have the alcohol content to cure his tuberculosis.  Although William Weller is hard to get, I have a feeling that Doc might know a guy…

5.  Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson) – Black Snake Moan.  The blues go well with the bourbon, so my favorite bluesman from film should be on my list of people to drink bourbon with.  I could sit for hours and listen to Lazarus play the blues (while we drank bourbon).    Lazarus’ bourbon:  Four Roses Yellow Label.  In the sultry Southern heat, a soft summer bourbon is necessary.  Lazarus is also a man who likes to keep things simple, which is why Four Roses would be the bourbon for him.

4.  Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellan) – The Lord of the Rings.  Seriously, who wouldn’t want to drink bourbon with a wizard who puffs a pipe and can blow three masted Spanish Galleons with the smoke?  Although, I have a suspicion that after he became Gandalf the White, he switched over to scotch.  Gandalf’s bourbon:  George T. Stagg.  It’s a big bourbon, with a huge flavor profile and a huge alcohol content, a bourbon fit for a wizard.

3.  Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) – Bull Durham.  Baseball and bourbon go very well together, indicated by the career minor leaguer, Crash Davis.  He is shown drinking whiskey several times in the film, including once while he is ironing his clothes in his underwear in the middle of his living room.  As the movie indicates, Crash Davis would have some great stories as well.  I would love to sit and discuss bourbon and baseball with Crash for hours.  Crash’s bourbon:  Jim Beam Black Label.  Crash Davis is a classic, old-school ball player, so I suspect he would drink something pretty standard.  He can put back the white label if he has to, but the 8 year Black Label is his favorite.

2.  Han Solo (Harrison Ford) – Star Wars.  Come on, everyone over the age of 21 who has ever watched Star Wars has wanted to drink with Han Solo.  Obviously, as a bourbon drinker, I am assuming that Han would have drank bourbon were it available to him (although the honest truth is that he probably would drink anything you put in front of him).  Han Solo’s bourbon:  Angel’s Envy.  Han Solo is an original.  He is smooth, with a dark side.  Angel’s Envy is a Kentucky straight bourbon that is finished in port wine barrels, giving it a universal drinkability rarely found in bourbon whiskey.  It is original just like Han Solo, himself.

1.  After much deliberation, the top spot on my list is a tie between two of my favorite Paul Newman characters: “Fast” Eddie Felson (The Color of Money) and Henry Gondorff (The Sting).  It is difficult to say whether I would rather drink bourbon while playing pool with Fast Eddie or while listening to Henry Gondorff’s stories about playing the big con.  Nevertheless, I would most like to drink bourbon with one of these two movie characters.  “Fast” Eddie’s bourbon:  Buffalo Trace.  He’s a value man, and there is no better value bourbon than Buffalo Trace.  Henry Gondorff’s bourbon:  Pappy Van Winkle 15 year.  It is hard to find, but it is might be the best bourbon money can buy.  Several bourbon connoisseurs have told me it is the best bourbon they’ve ever had, regardless of price.  Henry Gondorff likes the finer things in life, and if anyone can get Pappy Van Winkle, its Henry Gondorff.

Those are my favorite bourbon characters (and the bourbons I think they might drink), let me know how I did.  In the meantime, drink your bourbon, watch some good movies, and let it ride!

Top 10 Albums to Drink Bourbon With

Inspired by Blue Kitchen’s “Top 10 Movies to Drink Bourbon to,” (http://www.bluekitchen.net/top10bourbonmovies.html) Bourbon for Beginners presents the best musical acts to sip a good value bourbon with.  So, next time you are drinking your bourbon while you’re grilling up steaks this summer, try one of these ten great albums.  Like bourbon whiskey itself, all of these acts are made in America.  Obviously, these albums reflect my musical preferences, and I could probably just title the post “My Favorite Bourbon Albums,” but that doesn’t sound as appealing.

10. Teddy – Teddy Pendergrass.  Bourbon can be (and should be) sexy.  Find a lover, drink some bourbon, and drop some Teddy Pendergrass.  Great bourbon songs from Teddy: “Come Go With Me,” “Turn off the Lights”

9. Fly Like an Eagle – Steve Miller Band.  To me, Steve Miller Band is pure Americana just like bourbon whiskey, and this is my favorite Steve Miller Band album.  Great bourbon songs from Fly Like an Eagle: “Fly Like an Eagle,” “Wild Mountain Honey,” “Serenade”

8. O Brother, Where Art Thou? Soundtrack – Various Artists.  This is a great album for sipping bourbon because there are a lot of different styles of music on it, and they are all vintage American.  It is also a great bourbon movie.  Great bourbon songs from O Brother Where Art Thou?: “Big Rock Candy Mountains,” “Man of Constant Sorrow,” “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues,” “O Death”

7. Tennessee Pusher – Old Crow Medicine Show.  There has to be a great bluegrass/folk band on the list, and I this is one of my favorite albums.  Great combination of ballads, and songs for the barbecue.  Great bourbon songs from Tennessee Pusher:  “The Greatest Hustler of All,” “That Evening Sun,” “Crazy Eyes,” “Tennessee Pusher”

6. Aja – Steely Dan.  I love the blues influences on this album, and the shout out to whisky on “Deacon Blues” (even though its scotch).  It’s a solid album top to bottom, and is also pays homage to my father who introduced me to this Steely Dan classic.  Great bourbon songs from Aja: “Black Cow,” “Deacon Blues,” “Peg,” “Home at Last,” “Josie”

5. For Emma, Forever Ago – Bon Iver.  Bon Iver tells stories with raw, palpable emotion, sort of a Wisconsin blues.  I have a suspicion that bourbon might have been involved in the making of this album.  Great bourbon songs from For Emma, Forever Ago:  “Flume,” “Skinny Love,” “The Wolves,” “Creature Fear,” “re: Stacks”

4. Chulahoma: The Songs of Junior Kimbraugh – The Black Keys.  The blues are the best musical genre to drink bourbon with, and this is one of my favorite takes on the blues.  The Black Keys picked some of Junior Kimbraugh’s best songs to cover, and their cover of “My Mind is Ramblin’” is one of my all-time favorites.  Great bourbon songs from Chulahoma:  “Keep your Hands off her,” “Have Mercy on Me,” “Meet Me in the City,” “Nobody but You,” “My Mind is Ramblin’”

3. Living Proof – Buddy Guy.  Buddy Guy has produced many great albums, and I almost put Bring ‘Em In on this list as well.  However, Living Proof won out because of its great music and its great cover.  The album is really a tribute to whiskey, with its insinuating title and “750 ml” on the cover.  It also proves that classics get better with age.  Great bourbon songs from Living Proof:  “74 Years Younger,” “Thank Me Someday,” “Stay Around a Little Longer,” “Where the Blues Begins,” “Everybody’s Got to Go”

2. The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle – Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.  Like Buddy Guy, there are several of Springsteen’s albums that could have made this list (see Nebraska and The Ghost of Tom Joad), but this album is my favorite.  Few songwriters tell stories like Bruce, and this album is pure Americana, steeped in the sultry, smoky summers of Asbury Park, New Jersey.  Both “Incident on 57th Street” and “New York City Serenade” portray Bruce at his best.  Great bourbon songs from The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle:  “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy),” “Wild Billy’s Circus Story,” “Incident on 57th Street,” “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight),” “New York City Serenade”

And the best album to listen to bourbon with is…

1. American IV: The Man Comes Around – Johnny Cash.  This album is more or less Johnny Cash covering his favorite songs.  His voice is coarse, but pure.  American IV is proof that the best of things age beautifully.  Like the barrel to the whiskey, Johnny Cash gives new voice to some of the finest songs ever penned.  Great bourbon songs from American IV:  “Hurt,” “Give My Love to Rose,” “I Hung My Head,” “In My Life,” “Streets of Laredo”

These are my favorites, let me know what great bourbon albums I’ve left off the list.  Give a listen, have a glass, and see what you think.  Let it ride!