ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rick Burchfield is a Washington, DC-based entrepreneur, blogger, and aspiring whiskey enthusiast. Born and raised in north Georgia, Rick later moved to Kentucky at the age of 15. It was here he would learn the three "B's" of Kentucky culture; Bourbon, Basketball and Bluegrass!
After college, Rick spent multiple years experimenting in the libation landscape, and it was only recently that he developed a true appreciation for the first "b" on that list.
Armed with blind ambition and a drive to make up for lost time in his newfound love, Rick decided to embrace all things bourbon, educate himself about bourbon culture, and (most importantly) expand and refine his whiskey palette!
This blog is dedicated to chronicling that journey.
Favorite Bourbon: I don't have one.*
*Note: I've heard the saying, "picking a favorite bourbon is like picking a favorite child." So I'll refrain. Fun Fact: A 9-year Willett Family Estate bourbon changed my life, inspiring me to learn more about bourbon whiskey.
Favorite Rye: Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye*
*Note: All comments about PVW pretensions aside, The Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery (Buffalo Trace) line of whiskey products has garnered a cult-like following, and for good reason. One of which happens to be this well-balanced, succulent rye offering. Reference: 2012 VWFR Rye
Favorite Cocktail: Old-Fashioned
Go-To Bourbon: Woodford Reserve*
*Note: Different people have different definitions for "go-to," but I use this as an "everyday, easy-to-find" (and subsequently easy-to-order) whiskey. For most of the places I frequent, Woodford is a $6/12 pour.
Go-To Rye: Rittenhouse Rye BIB
Go-To Cocktail: Old-Fashioned
Welcome to Bourbonatic! My name is Rick Burchfield and I’ll be your Bourbonatic guide. Here you'll find my thoughts and expressions for all things encompassing the curious, yet splendid American whiskey we call bourbon!
WHAT IS BOURBONATIC?
Bourbonatic is a portmanteau of Bourbon + Fanatic: Bourbonatic!
Bourbonatic aims to document and quantify the ever-growing list of bourbon (and other whiskies) that have graced my glass over the years. This site serves as an online “bourbon journal” to share with my fellow bourbon enthusiasts. It is my hope that other bourbon aficionados would like to join me in this experience. Hence, Bourbonatic was born.
Bourbonatic is also a way to track and examine the "bourbon renaissance," or craze, if you will. There are plenty of theories out there explaining the recent bourbon / whiskey phenomenon and how it has recently become one of the most sought-after variations of liquor today.
What do I think?
Simple: Bourbon is cool again!
Pop culture influence and the reemergence of bespoke, modern gentleman lifestyle principles and philosophies has done wonders to resurrect the popularity of american whiskies, especially bourbon and bourbon cocktails. And I won't be shy in saying that I'm on the bandwagon.
I am an enthusiast. I am a fanatic. I am passionate. But I am not an expert on bourbon! My knowledge of bourbon and other whiskies is rather limited, but ever-growing. I will not have answers and insights that some of the more well-versed bourbon bloggers out there can provide. If you’re looking for years of experience and an expansive, respected resume of bourbon tastings and reviews, please look elsewhere.
However, what I do have is an appreciation and curiosity for great American whiskey! I like to think there’s a point in this journey when I’ll reach the apex of all bourbon-centricity, but today is not that day.
After living in Kentucky for about 10 years of my life, I never fully embraced the bourbon culture. Bourbon's legend and lore is preached far and wide across the Bluegrass State, but it wasn’t until now - in my late 20’s – that I've become transfixed on this wonderful libation.
I now live in Washington, D.C., where I’ve been for the past three years, and have scoured this great city for the latest and greatest bourbon treats that I can find - be it whiskey restaurants, bourbon bars, saloons, speakeasies, and of course liquor stores and spirits retailers - all of which I will share with you!
MY 5 RULES OF (BOURBON) WHISKEY DRINKING
1. Whiskey Must Be Nosed And Sipped Neat! At least at first. I say this because, as a lot of master tasters out there will tell you, one simply cannot gain a full appreciated for a whiskey unless first experienced in its purest form. I'll traditionally do this in a Glencairn glass and follow the five "S's." Sniff. Swirl. Sip. Swish (optional). Swallow.
2. Treat Whiskey (Age) Like Fat. No. Not literally. Even though one might argue a literal case. Let me explain. Whiskey, like fat, carries flavor. This is especially true for longer aged whiskies that have had time to soak up all their barrel flavors. And typically, higher age garners better flavor. It's got more "fat." And fat tastes good!
3. Treat Water Like Salt. Again, explanation. Water to whiskey, just as salt is to food, cannot be removed once added. I add water slowly and sparingly (usually distilled, from a dropper) until I've created a balance in the whiskey's proof, allowing for expanded flavor profiles in most well-aged, higher proof whiskies. I’ll then determine if the whiskey should be enjoyed neat, with water, or cocktailed after this step.
4. Don't Taste More Than Three New Whiskies In One Sitting. After so long your palette becomes numb to certain flavors, and in my experience, you’ll start to miss important nuances in flavorful whiskies after a while. Frankly, you're not doing yourself any favors in identifying flavor after three tastings anyways. I rarely do this, but I will knock out a few tastings in one sitting, if it's a venue or situation where I won't be able to taste the desired whiskies again. Note: I oftentimes drink two, sometimes three or even four different whiskies to compare, but they'll never be whiskies I haven't already tasted singularly.
5. Don't Cocktail A Whiskey Aged 15+ Years. This is more of a guideline than a rule, but I am adamant about this one. If a whiskey has more than a decade and a half of age, and you wouldn’t otherwise enjoy it neat, with water, or on the rocks, it’s probably not worth drinking. Period. I’ve heard: “Why would you waste all those years of aging [mixing it in a cocktail]?” I've also heard horror stories about people ordering a "Pappy and Coke," and the bartender served the customer Pappy neat with a Coke on the side because he couldn't bring himself to do the deed. I totally agree with this notion. There are plenty of great bourbons and whiskies out there that will make fantastic cocktails and mixed drinks without breaking any hearts!
Reviews are subjective. I get it. I don’t expect everyone to agree with my assessments, and I actually don’t mind that some of you may balk at my reviews. I’m a gull for a good debate! However, I ask that you keep in mind that this is purely one individual's opinion. I'd also encourage you to compare and contrast my reviews with those of other whiskey and bourbon reviews, and decide for yourself after some research if you're buying what I'm preaching. After all, this is more about spreading the good word about bourbon and encouraging others to follow suit.
At some point I will transcribe the full story of how I fell in love with bourbon whiskey. For now, and reference's sake, my tastes tend to favor the Buffalo Trace Mash Bill No. 1 line of bourbons, LDI / Willett Family Estate whiskies (bourbon and rye), and wheated mash bills, or "wheaters." I also enjoy higher proof or “spicier” whiskies. If "some like it hot," consider me one of those "some."
I've found that my sweet spot for proof on whiskey is somewhere between 110 and 120 proof. I don't care for anything 125+. There's just too much alcohol masking and overpowering the flavor. I'll tame the heat with a little water if it creeps into this territory.
Note: If a tasting has been provided to me for review, I will credit the provider. Otherwise, I personally purchase every whiskey I review.
Crowdsourcing isn’t anything new. Google, Yelp, Amazon and a plethora of other services make difficult decisions otherwise easier after consulting our fellow consumers. Rather than solely relying on expert opinions and reviews, I think there’s something to be said about our generation looking to its peers for reference and perspective.
There will be more educated reviews out there and teams of people with an endless list of bourbon tastings / reviews under their belt. However, I hope that my reviews will showcase my tastes in comparison to your own. The goal is to help you make a decision to try a new whiskey and find a new favorite! And, who knows? Maybe we’ll have a conversation about a newfound love I introduced to you.
My reviews will resemble the following itinerary:
- Reference: I’ll first explain how I happened upon a particular whiskey (if it was one I’ve been wanting to try, recommended to me, bought for me, tried on a whim, etc.)
- Background: I’ll research the story behind the whiskey and provide a synopsis.
- Professional Reviews: I’ll then find any other helpful reviews to use as a baseline for my own review. If my own deviates significantly from that of a professional review, I’ll make note of it.
- Relationship: I’ll then look to any similarities in the whiskey’s heritage (corporate ownership, distiller, bottler, sister-brother-cousin whiskies, etc.) and provide that information as it's presented to me.
I'll then list the following:
I use a my own (perhaps genius?) “barrel rating" grading system. I previously used a system resembling wine ratings, but I've since started using a 10-point scale, ranging from one-half (1/2) barrel to five (5) full barrels. See below:
Here's a look at what my barrel ratings represent in general terms:
.5 barrel = Horrible
Self explanatory. Let the sink have the drink.
1 barrel = Poor
Avoid at will. Usually a low quality or otherwise "cheap" whiskey.
1.5 barrels = Decent
Satisfactory, but not recommended.
2 barrels = Solid
Average, par for the course. Falls flat as a standalone whiskey.
2.5 barrels = Good
A staple whiskey. An all around good drink.
3 barrels = Very Good
Quality whiskey with above average character and appeal.
3.5 barrels = Excellent
Class whiskey. Order. Drink. Repeat.
4 barrels = Outstanding
A flavorful, delicious and sought-after whiskey offering. Invest liberally.
4.5 barrels = Superb
An unmatched accomplishment in whiskey flavor and depth. Heirloom quality.
5 barrels = Legendary
A class all its own, this is the Pelé of whiskey! The elixir of life. The finest juice known to man.
Generally, cocktail recipes that I’ll post will be of my own volition, however there will be the some from other sources (i.e., celebrity chefs, cocktail masters, local bartenders, and other aficionados of the sort) that I'll find after scouring the Internet, or otherwise stumble upon. I will make every effort to credit any recipe that is not completely my own.
Also, if there’s one you suggest, shoot me a note! I’ll be happy to give it a whirl (and a review), and if I like it I’ll be sure to add it to the list.
ABOUT THE BLOG
This blog's posts serve to tell the story of my journey through whiskey exploration and discovery. They will mainly consist of personal anecdotes, but occasionally I’ll include stories about bourbon / whiskey culture, bourbon in pop culture, whiskey events, happenings, and other "what have you's," all with a bourbon / whiskey spin, of course.
On occasion, I may compose a post enticing comments to encourage the continuation of discourse around a certain topic I find interesting, or perhaps a subject of some importance to Bourbonatic readers.
I’ll also monitor news and rumors from around the bourbon / whiskey world, but don’t expect much from me on this. There are a lot of other (better) outlets for that. A bottle's journey from the warehouse to your shelf is one only you can tell!
ARE YOU A BOURBONATIC?
Interested in contributing? Awesome! Please visit the contact page and let’s chat!