Thus far, Romeo has been the only contributor to the Booze portion of the website and he’s done a fine job of it. Typically, Romeo writes about those $35+ bottles of whiskey….you know, the good shit. Well, since I’ve lived the bulk of 2011 without knowing what percentage of pay I might receive and if my company would exist at all in 2 weeks, I’ve become well versed in the sub-$15 a bottle variety of whiskey, so I figured I’d pen a quick piece about that.
Now, while most of the booze Romeo writes about needs to (and should) be drank neat, or if you insist on a mixer, over ice, the swill I am writing about needs a heavier (more sugary) mixer. Personally, I prefer ginger ale or tonic. Now, I know I typed tonic and you scrinched your nose, stuck out your tongue and went “ugh”, but trust me, tonic is a good (and lighter) whiskey mixer (especially for late morning/early afternoon drinking), so don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it. I mean, until eaten, who would have thought a peanut butter and syrup sandwich was a good idea? Here are some of the better whiskeys I’ve found on the bottom shelf:
Well Whiskey: When you go to a bar it’s a simple game. “Well” is cheaper, “call” is more expensive. If you’re in a high end bar, the well might be Jim Beam but if you order a Beam and Ginger then your ass will be charged for a “call”. In a dive bar, “well” is two steps above the “call” that some rich dude pisses out of his over-abused bladder the next morning. That said, I’ve found that if you’re willing to just stick to whatever they’re serving as “well” and not drink anything else the rest of the night not only will you get drunk on the cheap, you’ll avoid the dreaded hangover.
Jim Beam: Okay, honestly, this doesn’t deserve to be in this article but I included it for one reason….most Jack Daniels drinkers don’t understand the differences between Kentucky Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey. Nope, they’re all, “Wha? I got a JD shirt and Lynyrd had a JD themed shirt. It’s all brown and sour mashed and thus the same thing.” These people don’t appreciate nuance and are the type to call grilling “barbecuing”. In reality, Jim Beam is the king of the bottom shelf and while, yes, you can drink it over ice; you really don’t want to. However, the simple fact that you can means it’s earned the crown as the king of the low shelf bourbon.
However, there does come a time when even $14 for a bottle of Beam is tough to justify, and once that time comes, what do you do? You’re looking at this bottom rung of names and labels you don’t know. Some might be good, but most are probably turpentine with food coloring. Well, I’m here to help you since I’ve gone through them all. Some really are turpentine with food coloring (I’m looking at you, Old Grandad), but a lot of them are really good, albeit young, and lacking the nuance that their 7 year and older barrel-aged brethren have.
Ten High Bourbon Whiskey: This has been demoted to a “blend” in some markets but not in mine, so it counts. Not for much mind you, but it counts. Ten High is not terrible, so long as you’re mixing it. I prefer Ginger Ale for all my whiskey mixing, unless I’m feeling frisky, then I mix with Tonic Water (not something you wanna do with the bottom shelf booze…trust me). Anyhow, you’ll probably find yourself adding a little more of your mixer of choice to this whiskey but the cost saving can be worth it. My main complaint about Ten High is that as the ice melts and you get towards the bottom of your glass, it really starts to taste like crap, so drink fast and problem solved. FWIW: Early Times falls into the same category for me. It’s okay but if you dally while drinking it it really starts to get foul towards the bottom of the glass.
Evan Williams: My father-in-law and I laugh and call Evan Williams Jack Daniels’ illegitimate cousin. Why? I dunno. Probably ‘cause we have no respect for Tennessee whiskey and, as a result, there is little worse you could be called (besides Gator fan). That said, Evan Williams has actually won awards in the “best cheap shit” variety. My experience? It won’t make you piss blood and it’s good enough with a mixer that I use it as an example when I am trying to convince people to quit wasting their money on expensive whiskey if they’re just gonna turn around and introduce a mixer that ain’t water. Buy this with confidence and use your savings to treat the party to some Taco Bell…..then they can’t blame the booze for the loose poop the next morning.
Old Crow: The Old Crow brand has been around forever. It was the first whiskey to use the sour mash process and, no bullshit, it’s way better than Jim Beam White. Why one brand gets deemed crap and another good is beyond me, but Beam has no valid claims over Old Crow in the quality department. That said, Old Crow is $5 cheaper a bottle and, as a result, it’s better. You still don’t wanna drink it without a mixer, mind you….but you could, so I am ending this article removing the earlier crown from the whiskey y’all expected to get it and crowning Old Crow as the true king of the low shelf booze. It’s kind of like Pabst and Bush. Everyone drinks Pabst, but we all know Bush is better. So drink Old Crow proudly and use your savings to buy your date some afterparty Taco Bell.
That’s it for this episode of Low Shelf Booze. I think I’ll make this a monthly piece and focus solely on the cheap shit, but not solely on whiskey. For now, I bid you farewell and caution you to remember this: Excessive consumption of the bottom shelf whiskeys will probably result in stories you’ll tell your grandkids when they’re in their tweens.