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Bourbon Bye Week: Weekend Bourbon and Football Pairings

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

It is no secret that I love bourbons.  You have no idea what kind of a freak I am about it.  I met a good friend of mine for a quick happy hour several months ago.  He noticed I was looking intently at the bar's bourbon selection.  He asked me something like "oh, you like bourbons?" (yes, he really is a good friend who was somehow unaware).  He had no idea what door he just walked though as I spent the next hour blabbering on about all things bourbon.  He knows better than to ask me about it now.

This is going to be a nice/cool weekend, perfect for football and bourbon!  You don't have to worry about the Gophers this weekend so let me give you some bourbon and football pairings.

This time of year is the time of year when all of the really elite bourbons are coming out.  The Pappy Van Winkle lineup should be hitting the state in a couple weeks.  The Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, which is almost as hard to get and probably a finer bourbon imo, hit in recent weeks.  The Four Roses Lt Edition Small Batch has been around town but in incredibly short supply along with the 8th edition of Parker's Heritage and Old Forrester's Birthday Bourbon.  All of these fall releases are outstanding, the elite American whiskeys, and nearly IMPOSSIBLE to get your hands on if you don't spend months building relationships to get your hands on one or two.

So rather than talk about these bourbons that are so good you may never get to taste them I will talk about my bottles you can actually get your hands on.  Many of these I have extolled the virtues of in the past and I will probably do so again as I feel like these are great recommendations for someone not totally immersed in this category of spirits.

As a side note...I have a basic rule when it comes to buying bourbons.  I rarely (more of a guide than a rule probably) RARELY buy anything that is priced in the $40-60 range.  Why you ask?  Because there is very little that I have tasted in that range that I like any more than several bottles I love in the $20-30 range.  There are plenty of bottles >$60 that are just amazing and worth the price for me, but $40-60?  I usually pass.   A perfect example of this is Angel's Envy, typically a $45-55 bottle.  Now I like Angel's Envy, it is a fine choice and I know there are many here who like this very much (in fact I think it was on a commenter's recommendation that I bought a bottle before it was available in Minnesota).  A fine bottle and I recently broke my rule of buying a bottle in my no-go zone by getting this for a second time.  What it did was confirm the rule in my head.  It is a fine tasting, easy to drink bottle of bourbon.  I like it, just not as much as several other, CHEAPER options.  So why spend $55 when I get something as good or better at $25?

This rule has proved problematic at times because now if I see a bottle that is typically >$40 and it is on sale for under $ I feel compelled to buy it.

Enough about that.  Moving on to a handful of games you should be watching this weekend and the perfect bourbon to pair with said game.  These are affordable bourbons that I would highly recommend (all but 1).  Any of these will make a nice start to your bourbon collection or help you to diversify your cabinet of spirits.  I'll try to give some simple descriptions of each.  I don't usually care for elaborate tasting notes, rather just like to highlight one or two things to pay attention to when drinking.

Cincinnati @ Tulane - tonight 7:00 - ESPN2
Evan Williams Single Barrel

This game does nothing for me other than it is college football and it is on.  Cincy is REALLY close to Kentucky (right Chris?) so they get the hat tip for almost being in bourbon country.

EWSB however is one of my favorites.  About $20-22 and gets highly acclaimed all over the place for being one of the best against anybody. This is a 10 year old bourbon that has a variety of flavor throughout but what I love about this one is that there is a nice cinnamon finish that lingers.  Some vintages of this get really high ratings, often as high as bourbons three or four times the cost.  Always have a bottle of this open at my house.

Northwestern @ Iowa - 11:00 - BTN
Michter's American Whiskey

Why am I including this game on your docket of games to watch this week?  We need to start our fan game-prep for Hate Week.

Want to know why I included this whiskey to drink for this game?  Cause I hate this whiskey.  It is the only whiskey I have consumed (not named Jack Daniels) that I really do not like.  I hate it, can't even mix it with Coke.  I hate it and I hate Iowa.  Makes total sense.  The only tasting notes you'll get from me on this bottle is that it tastes like cat piss.  This is a strict "Do Not Buy" especially when you factor in the price.

TCU @ West Virginia - 2:30 - ABC/ESPN2
Weller 12

I almost chose the 1792 (see below) for this game thinking that might be the combined points scored but instead I'll choose a bourbon that for some odd reason is largely available in Texas but really hard to come by in almost every other state.  Should be an entertaining game and one that at least has a little relevance to the Gophers.

The Weller 12 is easily my favorite of all the affordable (under $30) bourbons out there.  Really it is just as good as anything I've had under $75.   Problem is that around here it is virtually impossible to find unless you live in Texas (which coincidentally several regulars around here do).  A wheated bourbon, sweet like candy-corn and plenty of caramel.  If you can find it, you won't be disappointed.  I have purchased off a shelf in Minnesota but have not seen it for several months.

Auburn @ Ole Miss - 6:00 - ESPN
1792 Ridgemont Reserve

This bourbon recently surprised me.  It was one I didn't really know was all that good and wasn't expecting it to be.  But I have come to really appreciate it.  Kind of like this game that wasn't really expected to have national playoff implications for both teams.  Should be entertaining and a great atmosphere in Mississippi.

The 1792 Bourbon is one that is crisp and a little sweeter than the others I have mentioned and has a nice vanilla finish.  This bottle will typically cost you around $26-28.  I have a co-worker who does not particularly enjoy bourbons but he says he will buy this one to have on hand.  Very drinkable, even for the bourbon novice.

Stanford @ Oregon - 6:30 - FOX
Eagle Rare 10

The first bottle of ER10 I purchased has a distinct and prevalent fruity nose to it.  And we all know that Californians are all fruits, so that is why chose this particular bottle.  This has been an outstanding match-up the last 5 years or so (clearly not at the NU v NU level, but still pretty good).  A really nice prime-time pairing and you can't go wrong with the Eagle Rare while you watch after dinner.

As I mentioned this one can have a really nice cherry nose to it that also hits the pallet.  Full of varying flavors throughout and worth the $28 or so you'll pay for this bottle that is becoming increasingly harder to find.

All other games
Elijah Craig 12 yr Small Batch

This is my other favorite.  It is a 12 yr old whiskey that is usually around $22, maybe the best value out there.  Easy to drink and has some heartiness to it.  I don't like a bourbon that is so "smooth" that it lacks any complexity; this one has some heartiness and variety of flavor as it goes down.  More toffee, molasses and vanilla.  This is also always open in my cupboard.