My Bourbon Journey Header

My Bourbon Journey

In Banter by Patrick "Pops" Garrett7 Comments

As I’ve proclaimed elsewhere on this website, I really, really love bourbon. My love for bourbon has resulted in a personal bourbon collection of around 20 different brands, a fantastic Facebook page about Bourbon that is growing in popularity, this website and a growing network of friends around the country who love bourbon as much as I do. Reflecting on all these great things it’s hard to believe that about 4.5 years ago I didn’t even drink bourbon.  In fact, I think that I can tell you that the only bourbon I had consumed up till then was Jim Beam in a “Three Wise Men” shot back in college. (For those of you unfamiliar with the Three Wise Men shot it’s a glass full of a shot each of Jim Beam, Jack Daniels and Johnnie Walker. Not necessarily something that will make you found of bourbon or whiskey.

So how did I go from being totally ignorant of bourbon to a huge fan and evangelist of the bourbon gospel? What’s my personal bourbon  journey?

Truth be told it was a combination of my work schedule and a desire to simplify my life. Let me explain.

At the time, 4.5 years ago, my job had be traveling 30-40% of the time. Many of these trips involved late night dinners and entertaining. Although I would make sure to be moderate with the amount of alcohol I consumed while out on business I started noticing that my mornings were getting rougher and rougher. I wasn’t waking up with a full-blown hangover but I was finding myself more tired and groggy. After exchanging my story with some friends I realized that perhaps it was what I was drinking that was causing the problem.

You see, at the time my favorite drink was the classic 7 & 7.  And when I didn’t have one of those in my hand you would find me with a vodka and 7-Up or similar sugar + alcohol mixed drink. I started to realize that it was the combination of cheap alcohol and sugar that was leaving me a bit leftover in the mornings.

I decided to get rid of the sugar immediately and switched to vodka + diet 7-Up or if necessary, rum and diet coke. While it definitely solved the morning grogginess it was a complete pain in the ass.  Seriously. It was a complete and total pain in the ass.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to consistently find bars that stock diet 7-Up? It’s a rare thing indeed.  And the whole rum + diet coke routine? Well that’s a good way to get constantly teased by your colleagues all night. (“Hey sweetie, trying to watch your figure?”)

This is where my desire to simplify my life kicked in and led my down the road to bourbon.

I decided that it was too much work, and too much hassle, to find diet 7-Up or drink rum + diet Coke. It was time to simplify my life and find a straight drink that I could enjoy. On the recommendation of a few friends I turned to Scotch to see if it fit my needs. As you already know Scotch was not the answer. It fell too much into the “acquired taste” category for me and I couldn’t run away from it fast enough. (To be fair, I have become found of some of the milder Scotch’s but I still can’t handle the smokey and peaty varieties.

Since Scotch was a no go for me I turned my inexperienced palette towards bourbon.

My first taste of bourbon was Maker’s Mark from a bottle supplied by a friend. My inexperienced palette definitely jumped at the first taste but after the initial shock became quickly accustomed to bourbon’s now familiar tasting notes. I knew almost immediately that I had found my drink and that my search was over.  Within a few weeks I headed out to buy my first bottle of bourbon and came home with a bottle of Black Maple Hill.  And from that bottle my love and admiration of bourbon has continued to grow.

Shortly after I began drinking bourbon the industry really started to grow and I’ve been thrilled to witness the rebirth of the bourbon industry as a true fan and believer in the bourbon gospel. And with that growth I see more and more people embracing bourbon for the first time or simply admitting in public for the first time their love of bourbon. (I think the whole “I’m afraid to tell others I like bourbon” thing is a topic for another post.)

Everyone has their own journey of coming to love bourbon. I hope that you enjoyed mine. If you have the inclination please share your own journey in the comments section of this post.

And as always, please visit us on Facebook to join the conversation and make sure to share this post with some of your bourbon loving friends.




Patrick Garrett, "Pops" as he's known to his friends, is the founder of Bourbon & Banter, LLC and claims the title of Chief Drinking Officer (CDO). A long-time marketing professional and photographer, Pops hopes to use his professional experience and love of Bourbon to spread the Bourbon Gospel and help everyone realize the therapeutic power of having a good drink with friends. Read Patrick's full profile.

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Patrick "Pops" Garrett

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Patrick Garrett, "Pops" as he's known to his friends, is the founder of Bourbon & Banter, LLC and claims the title of Chief Drinking Officer (CDO). A long-time marketing professional and photographer, Pops hopes to use his professional experience and love of Bourbon to spread the Bourbon Gospel and help everyone realize the therapeutic power of having a good drink with friends. Read Patrick's full profile.

  • Dave says:

    I have a very similar journey to finding bourbon bliss. I have been a beer drinker most of my life and when I got to my late 30’s i decided I needed something different. I tried vodka drinks and rum drinks and tequillia. I was drinking tequillia for a while, the good stuff, straight and that was fun, but it wasn’t what I was looking for. And then one day I got some Woodford Reserve as a gift and it was all over. One taste of that and I was hooked. It is now my preferred drink. The best thing about it is I drink it slow, I sip it and enjoy it. No hangovers because I don’t mix it with other sugary stuff and I tend to drink water through the night. I have pretty much tasted my way through Kentucky at this point. There are just a couple bottles left in CT that I haven’t tried. Soon, I will be buying on line to get what I can’t here.


  • Eric Burke says:

    My bourbon journey started with a hot Sunday afternoon almost 2 years ago. In Minnesota you can’t buy any alcohol, but 3.2% beer. Being from Wisconsin, I can’t bring myself to drink that. So since I was out of beer, couldn’t buy any, and really wanted a cold one I was inspired by my then new favorite show, Mad Men, to check out what was in the liquor cabinet. Most of it had been there forever. A rum, a vodka, a few liqueurs that were so old that the cap wouldn’t come off. I looked at what I had, ran to the store to buy some club soda, made my self a drink (once I got home) and decided I liked cocktails. Things were going pretty good, I’d even found a way to keep a cocktail in the diet once I’d decided I’d needed to lose weight. I was exploring my way through the various categories in the liquors store. Gins, vodkas, tonics, syrups, various liqueurs. Never did get a taste for rum.

    Then I took a vacation. Due to my new found love of spirits, I looked and found a few craft distilleries along my route from Minnesota to Georgia. One of which was MB Roland located in the little tail of Kentucky (@MBRDISTILLERY on twitter, love those guys). I hadn’t made it to the whiskey section of the liquor store yet so I bought a bottle of the Malt Whiskey he was selling. I put it in the luggage and forgot about it until I got home.

    Once I got home, I decided to substitute this Malt Whiskey for my usual cocktail while watching Mad Men. I’d paid a lot for the little bottle, so I decided to not mix this and to try it straight. I’d heard that people did that with whiskey. One sip and I was hooked. I loved it. It was sweet without adding sugar, it was spicy and flavorful without bitters. I was shocked and I continued to sip on that little bottle until I realized that if I didn’t find anything to switch it up with, I’d be out really soon. And since he was a craft distiller, I’d have a long drive back to Kentucky if I wanted more. So I stopped by the liquor store to get another bottle of whiskey. Didn’t know what I wanted. Scotch was too expensive. So bourbon. I’d heard there were some good ones of that.

    I have no idea what I bought first. I do know that I liked whatever it was enough that within a few weeks, I’d bought Wild Turkey, Woodford Reserve, Maker’s Mark holiday gift packs. I also knew that as sad as I was to admit it, these bourbons were a lot more to my liking than the Malt Whiskey that had turned me on to whiskey in the first place. From that point on, I’ve been inspired to try every new kind I can. I’m up to 16 bourbons, 4 ryes, 2 non-bourbon experimental whiskies (from a craft distiller) and one quasi-local Irish Whiskey to help me celebrate St. Patty’s Day. My wife has had to put me on a whiskey budget each month (roughly $80 so I can get some of the higher end ones) and I’ve devoured every book on the history or how to make bourbon. I am fascinated my the stuff. I’m also a Bourbon Evangelist.

    And I’m loving it.

  • Matthew says:

    My journey to bourbon began with a pretty bartender. I live in downtown St. Paul and would often visit a local hotel bar for beers and some t.v. (I didn’t pay for cable at the time). The reasons I frequented this bar were simple. It was quiet, close to my home, it had my favorite beer (Summit) but most importantly, the pretty bartender. Throughout most evenings as we talked she would try to get me to try different drinks. My response was always “Thanks but, I am a beer kind of guy”. One night a guest of the hotel was in the bar trying most of the bourbons on the menu. He talked to me about bourbon for quite some time before he paid his bill and left. The bartender finally talked me into trying my first bourbon, Woodford Reserve. I loved it! From that night on, she would pour me a glass of Woodford after I was done drinking my beer and asked for my tab (I think she wanted to keep me in the bar a little longer). I soon grew very fond of Woodford Reserve and began trying other bourbons. Shortly thereafter, there was always a bottle of bourbon in my place. Most likely Woodford but sometimes Knob or Makers. In my cabinet now are Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, Makers Mark 46, Knob Creek, Knob Creek Single Barrel, Elijah Craig 12 year and Pappy Van Winkly 20 year (I still haven’t opened this one yet). I am trying to plan a trip to Bourbon Country soon but, with a new son, its a little hard. I now look forward to trying new bourbons. Every new bottle is like a new friend, some you like better than others but, they are all pretty good. Prost!

    P.S. My new son calls the pretty bartender Mommy and I call her my wife!

  • Stuart says:

    Great blog Patrick. I just subscribed. My bourbon story runs pretty deep. I grew up just 20 minutes from Bardstown, KY and my earliest memories were driving past the Heaven Hill store houses and smelling the mash in the air as I child on the way to my grandmother’s house in Lebanon, KY near Makers Mark. Bourbon and everything Kentucky has always been and continues to be a great Bluegrass tradition. Of course, it’s been very interesting to see the explosion of interest in Bourbon in recent years, not to mention that I now open my Rolling Stone magazine and see ads for Kentucky bourbon.

    My Great Great Great Great Uncle was also a master distiller that started a family distillery long before prohibition and the family brand is still marketed today as Willett Bourbon. I have no direct relationship with the side of the family which runs the brand, nor has my side of the family ever been involved in the business… but it makes me proud to know that there is bourbon in the family blood.

    I now live in the Chicago area, but every year we throw a Kentucky Derby Party of which I spend half my time making homemade Mint Juleps. We also usually have a line-up of 7-8 bourbons for tasting… not to mention plenty of great Kentucky country ham, grits, fried chicken, bbq, Derby pie and more.

    As luck would have, I’ve recently had the good fortune to begin working with a small entrepreneurial restaurant group that is opening a true whiskey lovers establishment on 5/7/12, called “Lincoln Whiskey Kitchen”, just outside of Chicago. They’ve already procured some private select small batch barrels and have amassed a whiskey list which includes over 125 different bottles… we believe the most of any establishment in Chicago. The restaurant cuisine is going to consist of a collection of whiskey inspired dishes. We’ve started a blog as well:

    Keep up the good work Patrick and if you are ever in the Chicago/Schaumburg area, it would be a pleasure to host you for an evening at Lincoln Whiskey Kitchen once we open.

    • Stuart,

      Thanks for sharing your story and the connection with Willett. Hopefully I can take you up on your invite in Chicago in the near future. If you have the time available it would be great if you could join us for the Pilgrimage in October. It’s going to be quite the trip and what could be possibly better than visiting the motherland with 19 other bourbon lovers?



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