A Christmas surprise: At an impromptu blind bourbon tasting at my office’s Christmas party Thursday night, the control brand we included—Early Times—came in second out of four, a surprise considering the other players in the field were no slouches: Makers Mark, Makers 46, and an artisanal brand from a distillery in Texas run by an old boyfriend of the host’s wife (long story). One would normally dismiss results like this as being the ravings of a bunch of know-nothing yahoos, but inasmuch as I was one of those yahoos, I’d rather not overly stress that angle. Rather, here’s my explanation for why things turned out the way they did:
Early Times really does taste better than many serious bourbon drinkers give it credit for. I can confirm from experience that lot of bottom-shelf bourbons really are only semi-drinkable. That’s why they’re on the bottom shelf! But Thursday night, the Early Times we sampled was very worthwhile.
The tasting conditions might not have been ideal. I’m not sure how official bourbon tastings are run, but in this version we for some reason found ourselves sipping our whiskey, neat, out of tiny paper cups with pictures of Minnie Mouse on them. By the end of the second round, some of us might have been feeling a bit self-conscious. Perhaps we weren’t entirely on our game.
Certain small-batch bourbon distillers seem to know more about distilling than they do about bourbon. Heaven help me, but the stuff from Texas tasted like scotch. I’m sort of surprised we didn’t disqualify it entirely.
Now that I think of it, the yahoo-per-capita count on the judging panel was rather high. And, yes, some raving might have been going on.
My final verdict on the results: an extreme outlier, but not without a smidgen of pseudoscientific value. . . .