In those long ago days before June 1, the bottom shelf of the liquor store kept to itself and I to mine own self.
That day, everything changed.
That day, the state of Washington was officially shoved out of the liquor arena, and hard liquor sales were fully given over to the private sector.
There are weird anomalies in price around here, almost five months later. For instance: Evan Williams, my barometer whiskey, was around $12.50 before the change … I saw it yesterday at a downtown Olympia liquor store for $23.94.
So the bottom shelf was a natural response, for the likes of me.
And there’s a blog for that …
Enter the keywords “bottom shelf” and you’ll get to a Website called Serious Eats , whose proprietor, Will Gordon, “drinks his way through the bottom shelf of the liquor store…so you don’t have to.”
He’s funny, most of all, and he seems to know his territory, the relative location of which is all he apparently aspires to as far as any claim of expertise.
The stuff he calls “bottom shelf” tends to lie north of the products I apply the term to. He recently wrote about Overholt Rye and Jim Beam Rye, which shined a light on an underappreciated segment of the whiskey world. That’s good, but it doesn’t get close to the real bottom shelf, where live Monarch and Potter’s and where I recently entered into a nodding acquaintance with Prestige and 75 South.
Gordon in a recent post wrote about McAfee’s Benchmark No. 8, which costs $11.99 a fifth in Massachusetts (but not available in Washington, at least insofar as my shallow research has turned up).
He doesn’t get around to actually talking about Benchmark No. 8 till the last three paragraphs of a longish tour of the tire tracks of his mind and what has been squished beneath the treads, which is not to say it isn’t more or less relevant to the stated subject matter, nor that you will mind the digressions.
It’s Mr. Gordon’s theory that the readers of his site must be mostly worker/soldiers in the a-dult entertainment industry, and as you know by now my site is far too prudish (!) to look too deeply into the veracity of his hypothesis …
Reviewers of stuff like 75 South seem to share the thinking that it’s hard to rate because it’s hard to know what it ought to taste like.
Because it’s not like real whiskey at all, but some combination of moonshine, shit and shinola. The J. Harrison Company is proud to put its formula on the label of Prestige blended whiskey: “A unique blend of 20 percent straight whiskey and 80 percent grain neutral spirits.”
75 South and Prestige are distilled in the same part of California’s San Bernardino Valley where lies Mira Loma and/or Loma Linda, each of which will always be confused with the other, but in any case this area is said by the Website thecasks.com (also worth visiting) to be “the new epicenter in the nascent non-craft distilling movement.”
That same site gave 75 South a rating of 66.6 with an asterisk, which it explained like this: “ *Scores of 66.6 simply reflect the most hellish whiskies and despite their numerical appearance, do not sequentially fall between 66 and 67 in terms of ‘quality.’ They stand purely alone.”
I’ve always believed that good whiskey – sipping whiskey – should never be mixed, because all you’ll taste is the mixer (although the Scots insist the best single malts are enhanced by a splash of water). Once you’ve paid good money for decent booze, I believe, you should taste what you paid for.
When you dole out the relatively tiny price for 75 South, you get what you pay for, indeed. And you will never feel bad about mixing it … you’ll only feel OK about improving your cocktail experience.