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The Daily Gopher Bourbon Bracket: Quarterfinals (1st Post)

The Daily Gopher bourbon bracket rolls on with the Value and Barrel Proof Regional Finals!

So we have all of our first round winners set and time to move on to the quarter finals. I'll do a couple seperate posts one for the left side of the bracket and one for the right side.  But it is time to move this thing along so we can get into Gopher Football.

The matchups...


My two favorites of this region advanced and this is a pretty good matchup.  I have actually done a blind taste test of these two and there was a clear winner.  Both are great bourbons and when you factor in the price both are outstanding bourbons.  The Weller 12 is hard to find but I strongly encourage you to use this as an excuse to head to South Lyndale (South Mpls) or G-Will (mostly northern suburbs) or Cellars (SE suburbs and Plymouth) and grab yourself one of their private single barrels of the Elijah Craig 12.

1 - Weller 12 yr

Whiskey Advocate Rating: 89
Distilled by: Buffalo Trace
Tasting Notes (hijacked from here) : A pleasantly sweet, easy-going, well-balanced experience. Creamy vanilla, caramel, candied corn, and ripe berried fruit , along with more subtle notes of glazed orange, cocoa powder, and wood shavings. If I were going to ease a new bourbon drinker into the category, I might pick this one.

This bottle of bourbon is often heralded as the one bottle to buy if you cannot get your hands on the exclusive and elusive Pappy Van Winkle.  Mostly because it is also a "wheated" bourbon, which means the secondary grain used is wheat rather than rye.  The Weller line as well as the Pappy line was previously distilled at the now shut-down Stitzel-Weller distillery before having the label and recipe purchased by Sazerac (essentially Buffalo Trace) where it is now produced.

The Weller 12 is just so well balanced and gives you some sweet flavor while still being under $30.  With this bourbon I appreciate the caramel and creamy vanilla taste and the drinkability of it.  In Minnesota this is a difficult bottle to find, I find that it gets allocated here once or twice a year and only at stores who carry a healthy whiskey selection.  Other places of the country, like Texas, this stuff is readily available year round.  If you see it.  If you don't like it, I'll take it off your hands.

2 - Elijah Craig 12 yr

Whiskey Advocate Rating: 88
Distilled by: Heaven Hill
Tasting Notes (hijacked from here) : Very much in the Elijah Craig style: thick and chewy, with layers of toffee, molasses, and vanilla cream. Notes of caramel-nut fudge, cinnamon bun, and blackberry brandy keep it fun. There’s just the right amount of dried oak spice on the finish to round things out. Very good, solid, affordable bourbon.

The Elijah Craig 12 year old bourbon is much easier to find than it's regional championship opponent and delightful.  On the shelf you can find the small batch with relative ease and is also pretty easy to find a liquor store's private single barrel around town (South Lyndale, G-Wil Liquors, Cellars to name a few).  The difference in this case is minimal.  The regularly produced bottling is technically a small batch, meaning they will take a smaller number of barrels, mix them and then bottle them.  This is done to maintain a bit of taste consistency.  The single barrels can taste different from barrel to barrel, liquor stores are sent samples and can pick the specific barrel they want to be bottled exclusively for them.  These can vary in taste but are all relatively similar.  You cannot go wrong with the small batch and some single barrels are outstanding for the price point.

This bourbon will have a bit more spice and thickness than the Weller 12 while still holding some of the caramel sweetness.  This is nearly an everyday pour for me.  For a private single barrel of this, I highly recommend South Lyndale located in South Minneapolis).


This region had a significant upset.  I assume the familiarity and availability of the Bookers won out over the name and label of the Stagg Jr.  Not totally surprising and the Stagg Jr may have been overseeded.  ECBP on the other hand won through and I'm guessing should win this matchup as well.  Both of these barrel proofs are very strong.  One is going to give you little caramel with it's punch and the other is going to be more of the toffee and molasses ilk.

2 - Elijah Craig Barrel Proof

Whiskey Advocate Rating: 89
Distilled by: Heaven Hill
Tasting Notes (hijacked from here) : Quite dark in color, turning cloudy with water. Don’t let that deter you. A thick, chewy bourbon, with layers of nutty toffee, nougat, cocoa, and toasted marshmallow, peppered with cinnamon and vanilla. Oak and leather on the finish dry out the whiskey nicely. Not the most refined bourbon, but the flavors it delivers make up for it.

This is another 2013 new release and it was wildly popular.  This particular barrel proof is thick.  There is a thick molasses to this BP that I haven't found elsewhere.  This BP was pretty hard to find, has had multiple releases over the last year but all are a chewy, tasty treat.

I'm a big fan of every Elijah Craig I have had.  The 12 yr is my favorite daily pour, the no-longer-sold 18 yr is outstanding (maybe the best under $60 bottle I've ever had) and this ECBP is a unique and complex barrel proof.  Hard to find.  There have been a few different releases and most of them have made it to MN, they don't typically sit on shelves for very long but they will hit shelves.

4 - Bookers

Whiskey Advocate Rating: 89
Distilled by: Jim Beam
Tasting Notes (hijacked from here) : Big and chewy, with nutty toffee, molasses, nougat, tobacco, pencil shavings, subtle fruit, and dried spice (cinnamon, vanilla). Leather, barrel char, and a hint of licorice root on the finish. Big, bold, and very enjoyable.

There are probably other BP bottles I like more but this one is readily available and still rather good.  Heavy and caramelly in my opinion.  Good complexity of flavor over the tongue.  This one is strong and will knock you back a little but it is still very drinkable, especially with a splash of water.  When I'm at a restaurant, and most restaurants have a terrible bourbon selection, this is what I'll drink.

Just about any bar/restaurant and liquor store will have this available.  This bottle has some wild price swings ranging from $37-$55, best price I have seen was at Haskell's.


  1. I will put each of the matchups in the comments below
  2. You vote by "Rec'ing" the comment.
  3. Please only vote for one in each of the match-ups.
  4. Voting will go for 2 days.

Have fun.  Get out and try some of these!