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Computing value in a bourbon


Over on Thirsty South, where I tend to write about things like vintage cocktails and strange blends of whiskey, I recently shared some favorite “value” bourbons at different price points. Now, my definition of “value” certainly includes price, but it’s the quality of the drinking experience that is the dominant variable (sorry for the quant jock-speak). To continue on with the math theme, I guess my equation would look something like:


Of course, I never used actual math in coming up with my picks for best value bourbons since it really all comes down to feel, but if I did have to give an actual numerical value to “drinking enjoyment,” I guess I’d have to default to the equally heralded and hated 100 point scale. People love the 100 point scale for its clarity, and people hate it for its evil, myopic, soul-rotting lack of true insight. So it goes.

I like to play with the devil’s devices, so will fully embrace the 100 point scale for this purpose. Let’s suppose that Pappy Van Winkle 15 year old, which is one of the greatest bourbons you can find, earns a kick-ass score of 99 on “drinking enjoyment.” Now, let’s compare that to an inexpensive bourbon, like Jim Beam, which costs about $15 a bottle. In my experience, Jim Beam earns a not-nearly-respectable “drinking enjoyment” score of 27.33333333 (those last few decimal places are critical), thanks to unpleasant notes of charred corpses, corporate greed, and post-drinking hurling. That’s harsh, I know, but so is Jim Beam. (Really, I have nothing against Jim Beam, I just need a foil to contrast with the angelic visage of Pappy Van Winkle, everyone’s favorite bourbon-loving granddad).