Do you like a whiskey because you’re expected to like it? Do you hate another because you’ve not heard anything good about it? Are you a fanboy of a certain distiller (or producer), and absolutely anything that comes from them gets a free pass? Have you had a bad glass of whatever, and you’ve judged the entire product line based on your bad experience?
I keep thinking back to Old Weller Antique. My wife was kind enough to buy me a bottle several years ago. She was in the business and told it was very decent. I tried it. I hated it. I mean, I really, really hated it, to the point where I poured the remainder down the drain several months later because we were moving and, well, I didn’t want to go cross country with something I couldn’t stand.
I’ve had the opportunity to purchase Old Weller Antique several times over the years, and have turned down that opportunity. Why? Because I hated it. At least I was convinced I hated it.
We were vacationing in Florida late last year, and one of my friends in the Bourbon Mafia had an Old Weller Antique store pick. He told me this was just an incredible Bourbon. I told him I was not a fan of Old Weller Antique. He replied it was one of the best store picks of anything he ever had. I reluctantly tried it. As much as I wanted to hate it, I had to admit it was pretty damned fantastic.
I chalked up that experience to a fluke. After all, it was a store pick, and those are never like the regular releases. My bias was still there. The standard release is terrible, but store picks are good. It did get the little wheels in my head moving. At my next trip to a whiskey bar, I found a bottle of the standard release of Old Weller Antique and tried it. It was simply delicious.
I now own a bottle, because it is simply worth having.
Did my wife get me a bad bottle? I suppose that’s a possibility.
Old Weller Antique is bottled at 107°, and that is fairly hot for many people. Nowadays, I love cask strength whiskeys. Bottled-in-Bond, which by law is always at 100°, is one of my coveted categories of whiskey. Stick “Bottled in Bond” on your whiskey, and I’ll buy a bottle (I may regret the purchase, I may write a horrible review, but like everyone else, I’m human and have my biases).
Back when my wife gave me that bottle, my collection was much smaller, and I was far less experienced with high-proof whiskey. The more likely answer I hated Old Weller Antique then and enjoy it now is that my palate has grown and more refined.
I’ve gone through a similar experience with Noah’s Mill from Willett. I didn’t care for it when I first tasted it many years ago. A few weeks ago, I tried it again and loved it, and, like Old Weller Antique, picked up a bottle.
With whiskey, as with much of life, your best friend is an open mind. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been pushing a #RespectTheBottomShelf campaign for several years. I would never be where I am today if I didn’t #DrinkCurious and always be open to trying not only new things but also to revisiting old ones I didn’t initially care for.
This weekend I’m bringing a bottle of Elmer T. Lee to share with friends at a Bourbon gathering. Typically, I buy Elmer T. Lee for trading purposes because I’m not a fan. Or, at least I think I’m not a fan. We’ll see.