Sour Mash Manifesto

Bourbon and American Whiskey

Thanks Bob!

What a crazy couple of months it has been. Between running a growing staffing firm and trying to corral three beautiful, active girls, I’m learning just how tough managing it all can be. But who isn’t busy right?

I just have to say thanks to Robert Parker, noted wine expert and writer, for digging me out of my hole a little sooner than I anticipated this week. Frequent readers know I’m a fan K&L Wine’s blog, Spirit Journal, written predominantly by David Driscoll. David’ post from yesterday has more than a few bourbon writers/bloggers puzzled. You can check it out here.

I’ll summarize by simply saying that Robert Parker felt compelled to go on a bourbon “conquest” for us all. That is correct. One of the foremost experts on wine decided to lock down bourbon and rye whiskey in a nice, tidy list.

Tim Read over at Scotch and Ice Cream had a strong take on Parker’s efforts. Chuck Cowdery did as well. I can’t wait to read Sku’s that is surely coming down the pipe (no pressure Steve!).

Obviously, Robert Parker is well known and clearly accomplished, but I am more than a bit surprised at his audacity. You might say, “Jason this man clearly has a great palate and a rolodex of descriptors to boot.” I’d agree…..when it comes to wine. Ask yourself if a man, regardless of his resume, knows the brown stuff if he is compelled to state this “shocker”:

“To tell you the truth, I have never been a big fan of liquor, but I was blown away by the quality of the top bourbons. They are every bit as good as a great cognac or Armagnac … and I’m not kidding!

For another laugh, check out his notes on Blanton’s, where he remarks that its either “a masterful blend or a bourbon of serious age.” You all of course know that it’s neither. In addition, The curious arrangement of whiskeys he chose to talk about also made me scratch my head a little. Experimentals mixed with some middle shelf stuff, a dash of the highly lauded releases, and a sprinkle of micro for good measure. To me it ended up an odd collection.

Of course there’s no law against Parker’s foray into “liquor”. It also doesn’t upset me in the least. In fact he’s shown a lot of balls tackling something he clearly knows only a wee bit about. Hmmm – Grapevine Manifesto has a ring to it.

One thing Parker and I do agree on: “Drink your bourbon!”


  1. VERY interesting. I like the RP Reviews but I gravitate towards W.S. reviewers tastes as they mirror my palate more so. That being said I am a bit surprised that he would come out into this arena. I would think the ability to switch one’s palate from wine to Bourbon would be incredibly difficult ( not the enjoyment and tasting but the objective ability to rate which requires not only a rolodex of descriptors BUT a repository of past bourbon experiences of which should be recent) to lay out the different bourdons and rate them with a modicum legitimacy. The best part though is he got you away from your firm so you could fire up the key board and give us something to discuss. Cheers!

  2. Funny, reading through his stuff it seemed odd but I will respect his attempt to get out on a limb a bit.

    He did nail Hudson Baby Bourbon though….that stuff sucks. Ha.

  3. I have to say that I also love Justfied, but if it really took place in Kentucky then Boyd wouldn’t have a Jack Daniels neon sign hanging on the wall of his bar. In the same vein, if Parker had really done “a full throttle/inspection of bourbon” then he would be far better informed about our native spirit.

  4. Marvelous isn’t it, how in one brief declaration Mr. Parker has summed up the entire world of bourbon and given us a roadmap for all our future bourbon aspirations. No further need for Sour Mash Manifesto, nor any other whiskey blogger/reviewer. I’ll miss you Jason, but what more is there to be said now that Sir Robert has bestowed us with his wisdom.

  5. Tim gave the ultimate treatment, but I will try not to disappoint.

  6. @alligatorchar

    May 9, 2013 at 2:46 AM

    So he reviews Evan Williams 23. Seriously? Out at the gift shop lately Robert?

  7. Hilarious! It begs the question… Was this really written by Parker? It seems comically cliche, even for somebody who doesn’t know s@#t about bourbon. Every review had a delicious punchline, so with that, I too will say thank you to Mr. Parker. Thank you for showing us the light gracious tasting god. The whole article came off as completely condescending to me. You can take your Kentucky stereotypes and shove them right up your ring piece.

    Mr. Parker, please keep to destroying wineries with your snobbery and let us country hicks to our drink.

  8. But did you know Robert Parker wears Levis 501s, John Varvatos casual shirts, vintage ties, Banana Republic suit jacket, herringbone wool overcoat, cattleman’s hat, ostrich boots, a solid gold horseshoe ring, and a Sig Sauer P226 while evaluating his bourbons from inside a black Lincoln Town Car? And my take on, “the curious arrangement of whiskeys he chose to talk about,” is 1.) the “more difficult to find than esoteric and limited production French wines,” as he puts it, is for the deep pockets/secret handshake executive suite crowd and 2.) the notes on hoi polloi-ish brands carries his name out to the carnival tented masses; his shelf talkers dutifully adhered to the shelves of every liquor store in the Country–especially big box liquor stores and wholesale club/retail giants.

  9. He rated Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch at a 92 and gave it a very flat review. As far as I’m concerned, that review alone disqualifies his opinion. FRLESB is the finest expression of bourbon I have ever tasted and he scores it lower than Eagle Rare and the same as Willett Pot Still (both greeat bourbons, but not in the same category as the Limited Edition Small batch). Rp obviously has a palate that is capable of discerning flavors, but I agree with you Jason, what a strange line-up of bourbons and he seems VERY inconsistent. Reading his reviews gave me a new appreciation for what you do Jason. Thank you.

  10. I too enjoyed this review, as it contained several laughs. My only mild concern is that brown liquor fever continues to envelope the consuming public and makes it even harder to obtain products. Remember when the word allocation was not in our vocabulary?
    My everyday bourbon (Weller) is now selling out at local stores just because of the distillery’s history with PVW. Crazy!
    The same people that won’t spend more than 20$ for a bottle of vodka are running around like mad trying to find spirits solely because of hype. Maybe we (bourbon evangelists) should spend our efforts educating the masses instead of just telling them about our favorite labels.

  11. @AndyJones, it’s high time we (bourbon evangelist) fess-up and share our true passion and reverence for ALL spirits. It’s time to stop living a lie and confess our hysteria for the golden age of super premium Vodka. We’re all bunkering the stuff. I know that Sku and Tim Read will clean the shelves of any store that carries vodkas adorned with Swarovski crystals. And let us all pray Rober Parker never discovers Seagram’s 7, Canadian Club, and Cutty Sark! Truly stellar tidal waves of flavor explosion that are massively undervalued and underhyped.

  12. OK, Sku’s blog entry today is classic. He parodies Parker with rapier wit. What a great slice and dice job, which R. Parker just might understand. “Onus” wine = the ultimate snub!

  13. My favorite observation is found under the Stagg review: ” I forgot to write down the alcohol of this bourbon, but I assume it is pushing 100 proof given its powerful, rustic and rugged style.” Journalist should never assume.

  14. I need to try that Old Bardstown Black Label. If a $19 bottle resembles the Pappy 20, I’m going to be on board in a heartbeat! But something tells me he might have been having a minor stroke when he was sipping that night…

  15. Can’t we just come up with code words to throw everyone off? If it’s a classic, we say it sucks. If it’s one for the ages, it tastes like it was spooned from the Panama Canal. If it warrants a Parker 82 (love the crack about his scale of 100 being a scale of 18), we say it must rest on every shelf. Which gets me thinking, what would a bourbon taste like to warrant a 5 or less from Jason? Bet it’s used for stripping paint off a house.

  16. And has anyone ever seen so many 90+ rated whiskeys on the same list? Were these rated by Whisky Advocate, most if not all would be somewhere in the 80s. Parker’s so great he’s assigned the first-ever 100 rating in his inaugural foray into whiskey. Brilliant!

  17. This is much like a wrestler entering a boxer’s ring…His “bourbon review” has just as much reason being there as the earlier mentioned. Which is NONE on any planet, at anytime…ever. The lifestyles, tastes, of the bourbon and wine enthusiast are as different as day and night. If you don’t know the difference then get offa my porch. All I saw was an average example of google skills and laziness in reviewing. I think he needs to remember that when crossing this threshold, that he will find he’s not in Kansas anymore.

  18. Hi Jason
    Love your reviews. In August last year you posted that you were working on multi-part series on how to expand and “train” your palate for better whiskey appreciation. I’ve been looking forward to it ever since, and hope that is still in your plans.

  19. “The point to which we know is the point to which we don’t know.”

  20. While I am glad that Parker’s giving kudos to American whiskey makers, I worry that he will create a stampede that will cause the prices of bourbon to go up!
    Glad you are back Jason, you were missed.

  21. The problem with Parker’s ratings is not so much the man as it is his audience. OK, it is the man, too. This is the group which will not drink anything less than a 95 rated item. They MUST have the best of everything and at any price. Parker speaks and they dutifully march out clearing shelves and annoying store personnel in their search. In some ways it is poignant that PVW product are unobtainable in that it will annoy this group. However, I do feel sorry for the David D’s of this world who have to put up with even more of these folks (idiots) now.

  22. Oh, gawd! -time to stock up on Rebel Yell before the 90 points R.P. gives it makes it fly off the shelves!!

  23. um… can anyone show me a real link to this article? when i search this on google all i find is whiskey blogs tearing this apart. rightfully so, but this “article from robert parker” is so poorly crafted I hardly find this believable.

  24. “Rollins” Creek? This guy can’t even get the names right.

  25. Totally agree Conner. This thing seems to stupid to be true…

  26. Robert Parker-

    Please review new Whiskey mentioned today on Chuck Cowdery’s Blog……..

    QUEEN JENNIE Sorghum Whiskey

    Made With 100% Wisconsin Sorghum at
    Old Sugar Distillery (Madison Wisconsin).

    Looking forward to reading your review.

    Sorghum Whiskey qualify for same rating system as Bourbon ?*!*?

  27. Conner/Nick – it’s posted on (subscription required).
    “Rollin’s Creek” shows up as Rowan’s Creek so this was presumably corrected rather than miscopied.
    Personally, I agree with Jon – WS reviews match my tastes better. Parker’s reviews include a lot of feel-good information about wine makers, etc. which are interesting at times but have to make you wonder whether his relationships or other factors influence his reviews even if unconsciously. WS methodology on the other hand utilizes blind tastings.
    It is interesting to read what Bob has to say about bourbon, although I also don’t agree in all cases. That Four Roses Small Batch LE 2012 was just unreal. Can’t wait to get a tast of LE 2013, which as Sku previewed will be the same recipe just a bit older.
    Thanks Jason for a great blog, really enjoy reading your posts.

  28. It right there, up above, in the second paragraph. last word that says HERE.

  29. Was referring to the original

  30. Thanks for the info Brad!

  31. I feel like I’m missing something here. So much venom towards a largely harmless set of reviews. Our bourbon world is a bit too insular and defensive, as far as I’m concerned. Parker did not claim to know as much about bourbon as wine, rather is introducing something new to his wine drinking audience. His comparison about bourbon being “every bit as good” as cognac is directed at said audience, who may find that claim unbelievable. And Chuck Cowdery likens comparing Hudson and Van Winkle to comparing two different wine styles, which I think is a bit unfair. Of course bourbon has a vast range of taste, but they are still in the same category. The more accurate analogy would be Hudson is to Van Winkle as a young pinot is to an old pinot, or cabernets from two different regions, and so forth. Don’t get me wrong, there is some pretension to the idea that you can just write about any subject matter when you aren’t an expert in said area…-Greg

  32. That’s a copy of the original. With the original misspelling.

  33. Jason,
    As an aside, you have been a big inspiration to me in my developing passion for American whiskey. I have recently started my own site and thus far have my foreword and first bourbon review up, if you could stop by, any feedback would be appreciated. Keep up the excellent work, spread the gospel.

  34. I think RP lied. He didn’t get interested in bourbon because of Justified, he ran into a friend who switched to drinking bourbon from wine. The friend boasted that RP could never get PVW 23yr. Then the friend let him taste the bourbons in his collection (hence why some rare, no longer available bourbons are in his review.) “Challange accepted” RP went out and found his own bottle of PVW23. Another indication that he might have been tasting from someone’s collection is that he failed to write down the data for GTS, which could be because it was from a sample bottle. Why else would he be so methodical about the other labels?

    I don’t disagree that RP should NOT continue to review spirits, but I do agree he needs to seriously research his subject before attempting to spew his opinion about it.

  35. Of course Parker liked Pappy 23. Anybody who knows his wine preferences would guess that. It’s a sweet, oaky, high alcohol, expensive and hard to find beverage, ergo “exclusive”. He loves all of that. It’s like catnip to the guy. He probably drank it with sushi. He doesn’t know a damn thing about Bourbon, which he made very clear in his horrific article. But, as is his wont, that didn’t stop him from making ill-informed proclamations. It did make for some hilarious reading. What a maroon, as Bugs Bunny would say.

  36. It sounds like people assume he has good taste in wine. He doesn’t. His taste in wine is equivalent to the 23 year old ex-model wives of rich men to whom he markets. He’s a big factor in why current wines are so purple and over-oaked and sweet. There are entire regions of France in which all the makers have completely shut him out – no tastings – no tours – no access of any kind – period. He is a fantastic self-promoter, but he is not an authority in the wine world. He promotes himself as such, but he is only an authority among people who know nothing about wine. It’s true that many makers genuflect to him because he brings sales, but at what price does this come? If he flourishes in the bourbon community… within 10 years we will see the rise of bland-spiceless-micro-barrel-over-oaked-sweet-as-pecan-pie nonsense.

    He is a weed. Hell, he’s Kudzu… and the American whiskey industry should crop-dust him before he sets down roots and produces seeds.

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