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Bourbon: 5 Things Men (and Women) Should Know

I love Jimmy Russell.  Yes it is a bonified mancrush!  I mean, how can you not love a man that has spent his life making great bourbon for the masses?  Jimmy, for those of you who don’t know, is the Master Distiller at Wild Turkey bourbon distillery, where he has been making great bourbon since 1964!  Yes, they year I was born he got the nod at Wild Turkey.  He has been their master distiller for 47 years.  And what is better is he is keeping the business in the family and training up his son Eddie to take over when he decides to retire, or more likely dies.

He sat down for lunch with the writers of the AskMen blog and had these five things that every man (or woman) should know about the greatest spirit on earth…

  1. Men drink bourbon straight.  Jimmy tells us that bourbon is full of fusel oils and if you mix them with sugars you will have a bad hangover.  Drink your bourbon straight.
  2. You can’t drink bourbon everywhere. Here he is speaking mostly about the South where they still have a lot of counties and municipalities that are “Dry”.  Jimmy tells a story of walking down a street in Dallas, Texas sit in a bar and have a drink, walk a block up and its dry.  Crazy stuff, I’m glad I don’t have to worry too much about it.  Just one dry spot here in Idaho, and it is all the way on the other side of the state.
  3. Young people often prefer Bourbon to Scotch.  This is interesting to me, because I definitely prefer the flavor of Bourbon.  Now, don’t go all crazy, I know there is a large and loyal following for Scotch, and i’m trying and making some inroads into that spirit, but when presented with the choice I go bourbon every time.  Seems like that is happening more and more with the younger generation.  As Jimmy puts it, young people don’t want to drink “their Father’s” drink.
  4. Follow the “Three Finger” rule. “You know, in Kentucky we drink three fingers of bourbon. You know what three fingers is?” (Spreads his hand wide and points to his thumb, middle finger and pinky.) “We use a water glass for the bourbon and a shot glass for the water.”  I love this man (Did I already say that?).  And Finally;
  5. Distilleries smell like apples.  Particularly in the Fall when the bourbon starts to cool off in the barrel warehouses they smell like a ripe juicy apple.  I’d love to be there and smell that smell!  Some day I will.

So there you have it straight from the Distiller’s mouth.  Five things every(one) should know about bourbon.  If Jimmy says it, it must be important.

-Don

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23 Comments on “Bourbon: 5 Things Men (and Women) Should Know”

  1. scott
    January 13, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    His 3 finger rule is classic. And bourbon over scotch any day. Young people who drink scotch seem to drink it because its “scotch” more than anything else but that’s an opinion of course. And is drinking bourbon in water considered striaght?

    • Don
      January 13, 2011 at 1:04 pm #

      If there isn’t anything except bourbon or water or ice in the glass then yes it is straight. Neat is without ice or water.

    • Nick
      January 21, 2011 at 9:28 pm #

      I agree Scott. Bourbon has much more distinct flavors. To me scotch just seem watered down.

  2. January 13, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

    I wouldn’t use the terms “bonified” and “mancrush” next to each other, Don. It reads like a mancrush with a boner. Unless that’s what you meant, which means mom was right about you all along.

    • Don
      January 13, 2011 at 1:05 pm #

      Ugh!

  3. scott
    January 13, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

    Lol, and thanks for the knowledge. Neat is not for me unless there’s only an oz of liquid in there…

  4. Josh Lynch
    January 13, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

    Please further elaborate the three finger rule. I don’t quite understand it.

    • Don
      January 13, 2011 at 1:35 pm #

      That is the mystery of Jimmy Russell. I’m pretty sure it means …a lot of bourbon!

  5. January 13, 2011 at 1:40 pm #

    Jimmy Russell is a legend, no doubt about it! And speaking of dry towns, South Jersey has quite a few of those. I don’t get it.

    As far as Scotch being an old man drink, I don’t think that’s really fair. Let’s not forget that a great deal of Single Malt Scotch is aged in used bourbon barrels, so there’s clearly a connection. Much like with craft beer, what I drink depends on my mood, and of course, what’s available. To cut yourself off from other styles of whisky is a crying shame! Then again… that does mean that there will be more for me. 🙂

    • Don
      January 13, 2011 at 1:44 pm #

      Yo G-Lo, all Jimmy was saying is that the trend has reversed. When he first started his gig at WT most young people ordered scotch, now he says that trend has reversed. What he didn’t say is that he was probably in good measure responsible for that reversal. 😉

      • January 13, 2011 at 1:52 pm #

        Ahh… guess I misread. My bad. 🙂

        And while we’re on the topic of Bourbon, does the great state of Kentucky hoard all the special edition Bourbons? I keep reading about Buffalo Trace (their antique collection) and Heaven Hill (Parker Heritage editions) special editions, but never seem to find them near me. They get great reviews and I am dying to sample them. I know you can get them in NYC, but I still think that alot of the really good stuff stays in Kentucky. Just a theory. Thoughts?

        • Don
          January 13, 2011 at 3:46 pm #

          Yo G-Lo

          You can usually find them, but it might take a relationship with your local liquor store owner. Kevin from Liquor Outlet, who sometimes frequents this blog is one that would be good to get friendly with. I’ll bet you many places don’t order what they could because of cost, etc. For example the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection or BTAC for short is about $300 and if you don’t have a distributor that is willing to break up the cases and sell the sets individually you would have to order 12 bottles at a time with 5 different whiskeys in each set, so that is five cases at about $1-1.2K a piece. That can get pretty spendy. Most places you have to get on a list and they won’t order until most of the sets are presold. So that is part of it. I’m sure there are a lot in KY, but I think it is more a function of cost, and overall demand for the products.

      • January 14, 2011 at 9:55 am #

        It’s funny that you mention the wheeling and dealing with a distributor. A friend of a friend (Miracle Max) worked a deal with a local liquor store to get the Jim Beam small batch collection (1 each of the Bookers, Bakers, Knob Creek, and Basil Hayden if he ordered multiple sets) for under $150 (it may have been closer to $100). I didn’t take him up on this offer (stupid, stupid me!), but I did go in with him on a bottle of Ardbeg Corryvreckan (aka The Kevorkian!) and we did save a few dollars. I’ve talked to a few guys at the local stores, and you’re right, they’re very willing to get what you want, but only if they know it’s going to sell. I can’t say I blame them. First rule of retail: if it’s sitting on the shelf, you’re losing money.

        That is one good thing about the PA LCB controlled stores. They don’t have a huge variety of whisky, but what they do have in inventory (which you can search online), they will order for you from any State Store in the state. The downside: it takes them forever to get anything. I’ve been waiting for my Eagle Rare 17 for 3 weeks, but at only $60, I shouldn’t complain.

  6. Carmen
    January 13, 2011 at 5:30 pm #

    I love my Bourbon and have had literally dozens of different blends, single-barrels, and special runs…but at the end of the day I have yet to have one that can compete with even moderately high-end single malts for complexity and fullness of flavor. If you ever get the opportunity to have some Lagavulin aged beyond the normal 16 years, give it a try.

    Of course, bourbon has the serious advantage of price right now. You can get some seriously killer bourbons for $20-30 less than a similar quality scotch. The other side of that coin is that the price advantage doesn’t seem to be holding up. Scotch has got more expensive over the last 15 years, but bourbon has as well, and even faster more recently. Hope it levels off soon.

    Just in case it hasn’t, I suggest taking a look around and finding some nice aged rums. 15 year old Rhum Barbencourt costs $40 and I would put it up against a scotch or bourbon twice that price for all the wonderful complexity in a glass…

    • Don
      January 13, 2011 at 5:40 pm #

      Like i said Carmen, I’m not trying to disparage scotch. It is well known to regulars on this blog that I had an incident with scotch about 25 years ago in college that has made it very challenging for me ever since. With the mentoring of Keith Wood from http://www.thewhisky-emporium.com I have found a couple of scotches that I actually like. You are correct however in saying that there is a serious price advantage to being a bourbon drinker, and double that advantage for a guy that runs a whiskey blog. I spend lots of $$ on booze. So when I can get two or three killer bottles of bourbon for the same as a bottle of scotch that I’m not sure will make me want to hurl, I tend to lean toward bourbon. I do not disparage scotch drinkers, and I know it is a wonderful spirit, however the peatiness is tough for me. I actually have a very good bottle or rum in my cabinet that I haven’t gotten into yet. I’m not sure how to drink it, I’ve only ever had rum and coke, but I know there has to be a better way to drink the stuff.

      • Carmen
        January 13, 2011 at 6:55 pm #

        Oh I know Don, wasn’t trying to call you out or anything. I’ve been there before. I feel the same way about tequila as you do about scotch, and for the same reasons. Despite the fact that I have since had some incredible aged tequilas that are nothing like the rot-gut of my youth, I have a hard time getting up for drinking it and just avoid it most of the time.

        Also, if you don’t like the peat smoke aspect of scotch, skip my Lagavulin recomendation. For folks who don’t like the smoked peat, it’s like drinking an ashtray. For folks like me, it’s heaven. 🙂

        RE: Rum. A good barrel aged rum is best drunk like a good barrel aged whiskey, IMO. Neat, or with some water. (Or if you really need to, on the rocks, but like with good whiskeys, the cold kills some of the more delicate flavors) It drinks very much like a good whiskey, and shares more in common with bourbon than scotch, while distinctly being its own spirit.

        • Don
          January 14, 2011 at 10:14 am #

          Good to know Carmen. I got this bottle as a gift from my son and it has sat in my cabinet ever since. I’ll give it a try. Thanks.

      • January 14, 2011 at 10:00 am #

        Speaking of rum. Nicaraguan Flor de Cana is AMAZING! My neighbor picked up a couple bottles while he was in St. John, and it was also quite affordable. The St. John vacation, not so much. 🙂

  7. January 13, 2011 at 5:51 pm #

    Great post! I come from a mixed marriage – my husband likes scotch and I’m all about the Bourbon (but he’s from Michigan so what can you really expect?) I will have to give him a bit of grief about his new “old-school” status.
    I would also like to point out that not just men drink their Bourbon straight. Momma likes it that way, too. And as for the three finger rule – it’s just a Kentucky thing, I guess. It was quite a while before I learned that there were actual glasses dedicated specifically to the drinking of Bourbon. I just thought that everyone drank it in an iced-tea glass. Why wouldn’t they?

    • Don
      January 13, 2011 at 6:06 pm #

      Iced Tea glass!! Thata girl Keila! And I totally agree, straight is the only way to drink bourbon, and as I get a little more mature in my tastes, I find myself drinking it neat, more and more. Old school…whoda thunk I’d be a hipster.

  8. January 14, 2011 at 10:20 am #

    Hey! When is are the brothers going to attend a whiskyfest? Or perhaps a tour down the bourbon trail?

    • Don
      January 14, 2011 at 10:43 am #

      When we start making some coin off this thing or when someone invites us for free! We love the idea of festivals, and I think Jim and I had a good time at GABF (At least I did, can’t speak for Jim) but we got tickets for $0.00. So that tipped the scales for us enough to make the trip. Jim is close to whiskey festivals in NYC and NJ, but he lives in the sticks (relatively speaking) so it would require driving and parking and staying overnight, etc. with little kids and such it is a bit of a stretch right now. So I would say a catalyst is needed like a freebie for the Brothers and then we’ll make the call John. So should we plan a trip to Chicago, stay at your place, and you get us free tickets to a Chicago Whiskey fest? 😉

  9. January 14, 2011 at 10:04 pm #

    Jimmy is a class act. I have the privilege to meet him a couple years ago and he was gracious enough to sit down and chat with me for about 20 mins. I asked him if he ever thought of retirement and he just laughed and said “I have the greatest job in the world, why would I ever retire”. He also said he thinks the best age for bourbon is about 8 years old. If ever you get to Wild Turkey, visit the gift shop, Jimmy’s probably wandering around somewhere nearby.

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