Looking for low-end liquor? Consider Kentucky Gentleman bourbon—$6.99 a fifth, or $12.99 by the plastic “family pack” handle. But you just know this whiskey is as gentlemanly as Mike Tyson in a headlock. Russia banned Kentucky Gentleman imports this summer after the country’s scientists said it contained a “solvent” threatening “imbibers’ nervous and endocrine systems,” according to a Los Angeles Times article. (Geopolitical gamesmanship, sure, but I notice Putin didn’t block Maker’s Mark at the border.) Never mind a lost weekend—with fiery Kentucky Felon you won’t come to until Tuesday afternoon, if at all.
That's the snobby conventional wisdom, anyway. Sure, my favorite whisky in the world is Lagavulin 16, the smoky, peaty Scotch from Islay. In a more financially flush time, I even visited its island birthplace (a glass-in-hand pilgrimage to the Inner Hebrides). But at 70 bucks a bottle, Lag's viscous mouthfeel magnificence is but a memory these days. A thin wallet now sends me past the single malts to the bourbon aisle—not a huge hardship, as I'm also a fan of our native tipple. But then comes the liquor-store limbo dance: How low can you go on the shelves and still protect tongue and endocrine systems?
Moving down a notch, two scored 13s: Medley Brothers (Old Medley's younger stablemate) and Rebel Yell (origin of the Billy Idol song, says the internet). Dave was kindest to the $12.99 Rebel, giving it 4 and detecting pecans on the palette. I branded it an "affable, easy drinker." Down another peg at 12 was Old Grand-Dad 100-proof. We all felt the heat the extra alcohol brought, but the scorched-earth policy left little behind. I scored pops a 2 and wrote "meh." Coming in dead last at 8 (2s across the board) was Ancient Age that runs $17.99 a handle. Brian called it "watery" and I "thin."