BOOZE: LOW SHELF BOURBON

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.

15 thoughts on “BOOZE: LOW SHELF BOURBON”

  1. Benchmark, if you can find it. It’s made by Buffalo Trace and is better than any other cheap bourbon i’ve found. Runs about $8.99 a fifth here in Memphis TN.

  2. I have been drinking Old Grandad 100 proof neat I really like it. I have tried Old Grandad 114proof and woo thats hard to swallow but it gets you there fast.I think I’ll give Old Crow a shot next.

  3. I send the Old Crow call. It tastes like ass, but it’s actually pretty smooth – and as such works great with mixers. It’ll fool a lot of people who only ever drink their bourbon with coke or ginger ale into thinking it’s a higher-priced bourbon. It runs 7.95 here in NC.

    Stay away from Henry McKenna. Its cheap. You can drink it straight out of the bottle if you’re drunk enough. That’s also the bad part about it. It won’t make your face pucker enough straight from the bottle to keep you from drinking it too fast. And therefore, it makes you run around naked and embarass yourself. True story. Sidenote: Henry McKenna Single Barrel is the opposite of its lower-priced compadre. At 25 bucks it kicks the shit out of anything else at that price range, and some more expensive over hyped bourbons (cough. makers mark.). Eagle Ridge is another great cheap single barrel. So is Evan Williams Single Barrel, believe it or not.

    Evan Williams Black. Makes me wet the bed no matter how much I have. Even just one glass. No, I don’t know why. It defies logic. I avoid it like the plague now, for obvious reasons.

    Lastly, my go-to cheap bourbon: Old Weller 107. Good enough to drink on ice. Costs 14 bucks (used to be 11. sometimes goes on sale.). 107 proof so it’s more cost effective anyway. Seriously though, it actually tastes pretty good.

  4. this comment does not really fit this post but what the hell.

    i started reading ninebullets about 2 years ago. i live in fort collins, colorado and a guy i work with found out we were interested in the same kind of music and burned me a few drag the river albums because they were playing a few weeks later and knew i would like them. obviously i fucking loved them. about a week before i got to see them live i stumbled on this website (while looking for more info on drag the river) and have since been introduced to some of the best fucking music. two cow garage, have gun will travel, ha ha tonka, possessed by paul james, slim cessna.

    god damn, i just want to say thanks.
    keep it up
    aez

  5. The Get Drunk Not Fat website may not be your cup of tea, though it’s worth a look if your girl is putting on a few lbs. But I think about ninebullets when I see the sub-site GET DRUNK NOT BROKE.

    http://getdrunknotfat.com/index.php

    Note to other fans: Hit the ninebullets tip jar on the WMNF.org programming site with your liquor savings!!! Tip while you’re drunk for more personal satisfaction.

    BT

  6. Evan William Black is def. my go-to, I find Beam a bit sweet….

    that being said have had some great experiences with Old Crow straight from the bottle…..

  7. Rebel Yell all the way for me. Lacks the “I’m swallowing 60 grit sandpaper” feeling and just the right amount of 53% corn sweetness a bourbon should have. Mixes with sour mix and any soda perfectly. I can’t comment on water, since I’d never ruin any type of whiskey with water or ice.

  8. Another supporter of Old Crow here. While I’ve gotten laughed at a fair amount for drinking it I’ve found it to be better than any other whiskey I can pick up for under $25 a fifth. Also, where I’m at Beam runs about $14-15 a 750mL bottle before taxes, while you can usually pick up a 1750mL bottle of Old Crow for about the same after taxes, making my drinking budget stretch over twice as far.

    A side note on mixers, I usually use one of three: Coca-Cola, store-brand Dr Pepper, or Ginger Ale depending on my budget and how much caffeine I want. I’ve found that all three mix well with cheap whiskey at ratios up to 75/25 whiskey/mixer before the whiskey starts to completely override the mixer.

  9. Another vote for Old Crow. We are usually camping in the desert when the old crow comes out. The combination of scenery and friends makes old crow taste like Basil Haydens.

  10. Anybody mix with root beer?
    Harrrd sasparilla.
    I like it. What of it?

    (Carolyn Mark’s recipe.)

  11. Around my parts you can get a half a G. of white label Evan Williams for around 21 bucks. Hell, I don’t know any better so I mix it with Sprite and it goes down right smooth.

  12. I’m surprised nobody has mentioned Rebel Yell. It blows Beam, Old Crow and all them others out of the water. Sometimes you can find it for $9.99! I consider myself a bourbon aficionado and it’s my cheap booze of choice!

  13. I was making bourbon ribs and couldn’t see pouring $40 of Makers down the drain so i looked for a substitute, I found a Bourbon at Dominick’s it was in jug style bottle with yellow painted writing . Can’t recall the name. Any help would be great !!!!

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