Last year the SCWC gathered and we put on an 8 Blind Rye event and ever since that night we’ve been plotting a follow up… which we recently held. The setup was the exact same as before with someone (thanks Rumi) pouring the bourbons into color coded beakers so that even Mike and I didn’t know what was in each beaker. This way we could participate and rank along with everyone else.
The three of us were the only ones who knew what whiskies were in the lineup making everyone else in attendance completely blind. The only information attendees had before they arrived was that it was bourbon (duh), each bottle was from a different distillery and they were cask strength / barrel proof – except the Pappy we were keeping secret. Those are the only clues anyone had when they stared down the line of color coded beakers.
To help everyone keep track of what they were tasting and ranking Mike made some great looking tasting and ranking sheets and attendees got stickers to put on their glasses to correspond with the beakers and help keep track of everything. This is definitely my favorite way to do something like this. The color coding helps ensure nothing gets mixed up, forgotten or accidentally cross contaminated; I highly recommend a setup like this for your own blind tasting adventures.
At the end of the night we had everyone vote for their top 3 whiskies and tallied the points to come up with the ranking. While the results were interesting it was even more interesting that every single bourbon received points – each bourbon was placed in the top three by at least 2 people. There is no more eloquent display of the difference in taste than that right there.
Below I’ve listed the whiskies in the rankings with the points they received to the right of them. I didn’t include full tasting notes because, to be honest, I didn’t take a whole lot. I spent a lot of time taking photos, talking to the group, etc. and so I just focused on ranking them and making minor notations. And speaking of ranking, multiple people – including myself – commented about everything they were tasting being B+ / A- level whiskies, so keep that in mind while looking at the results below.
- Four Roses OBSV 9yr 6mo Warehouse JE Barrel 1-2M (NASA Liquor Pick) – 59.7% ABV (21)
- Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch A117 – 63.5% ABV (20)
- Booker’s 2017-01 Tommy’s Batch – 64.25% ABV (19)
- Stagg Jr. – 67.20% ABV (12)
- Van Winkle Lot “B” Special Reserve 12 Years Old – 45.2% ABV (10)
- Belle Mede Barrel #2573 (K&L Pick) – 55.66% ABV (9)
- Rare Breed – 56.4% ABV (6)
- Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style Bourbon – 57.5% ABV (5)
The biggest shocks to me were how high the Booker’s ranked and how low the Rare Breed placed, even in my own rankings. Mine almost mirrored the above and came out like this:
- Four Roses
- Elijah Craig
- Rare Breed
- Van Winkle
- Belle Mede
- Old Forester
Like all good experiments this one has answered some questions – how does a several hundred dollar Pappy stack up to what’s found on the shelves today? – and created some entirely new ones. Would a different batch of Booker’s have taken the whole thing? Would a different single barrel of Four Roses rank at the bottom? Would the order of everything be completely upended if we brought the proof down to the same as the Pappy?
There are so many variables to play with and opportunities to explore in a setup like this I don’t know how we can leave it as open as it currently it. There’s so much more fun to be had with this format so expect more in the future. Till next time, cheers!