Taking The Bait – Git Offa Our Property, Parker!

This morning, K&L’s David Driscoll posted noted wine reviewer/professional Napa douchebag Robert Parker’s authoritative stance on bourbon as he sees it. I’ll give Driscoll the link mojo that he doesn’t need, because I saw it on his site first.

I don’t drink wine, generally speaking. It doesn’t take long before it disagrees with me and I’m in a generally bad state. I have to resort to ultra-bland food for weeks afterwards. Who knows what causes it — I don’t particularly care, because it’s easily avoided by rarely drinking wine. As a result, Robert Parker hasn’t been on my radar for much, other than as an emblem of the whole wine scene that I think is ridiculous. In my wine-drinking life I was a fan of Sonoma and Italy; I always thought Napa was kind of the sell-out alternative.

Last fall I went to Napa and while I did have some truly outstanding wine, I was mainly struck by the sheer douchebag factor of guys in their 60s tooling around in Porsches with chinos and checked oxfords dangerously unbuttoned at the collar, made safe by the addition of a blazer. Perhaps a cable-knit pastel sweater was draped over their shoulders with an artfully-tied knot designed to look careless and casual, while saying all the while “I sweated the hell out of this knot”. On more than one occasion I heard a deferential and reverent mention to what Parker thought – as if his taste is more relevant than your own.

Parker has decided to put his loafer-clad foot in our turf and has deigned to tell the masses what bourbon everyone should be drinking. In an expected quiet condescension, Parker tries to connect with the everyman by explaining how he got interested in bourbon via a TV show. How great! It wasn’t the usual expected avenues of Bourdain/Chang, Treme or Parks & Rec, but Justified. In his words:

… the bourbon drinking antics of the many violent episodes of this sensational series that takes place in Harlan County, Kentucky are a prominent sideshow.

I’d discuss how his writing in that sentence alone offends my sensibilities, but who cares: Parker has made his living writing, I make my living doing other shit in spite of my degree in journalism. The Beat fan in me, however, cringes at the dissociated, cerebral and lifeless sound of what he’s written.

A little research had me on the chase for Pappy Van Winkle, the most difficult alcoholic beverage to find in the United States. If you think I’m joking, try and find a bottle, especially of the 20-year-old and the very rare 23-year-old bourbon. They are much more difficult to find than esoteric and limited production French wines such as Romanée-Conti, Montrachet or Petrus.

The little research that Parker mentions seems to have been typing into Google, “what is the best bourbon”. Result #2? Another Wall Street Journal hack-job telling us that we need to absolutely shit ourselves over Pappy Van Winkle, because, like, it’s hard to find. We see in that article name-checks of Buffalo Trace and its brands, highlighting Pappy prominently; Willett and Black Maple Hill also rate a mention.

Apparently the wine world regards scarcity as a measure of quality. I hope Parker very quickly clues into the rich-asshole-targeted Dalmore Constellation Collection; those are extremely limited and they must be fantastic since they’re so hard to find. (Have you ever seen one in the stores?) Also, Brechin isn’t common. You ought to stock up on that shit post-haste. It closed 30 years ago! BUY NOW.

Parker goes on to discuss how Bourbon, despite what all the Schwab branch office guys are predisposed to think, is actually perhaps worth giving some attention to. Apparently Johnny Reb’s firewater made from mostly corn is worth consideration, as long as it’s rare and priced highly.

Parker’s first set of reviews are a tedious exercise in identifying virtually every hyped whisky of the last half-decade or so, with a few “surprising” and “everyman” picks thrown in to make the list relatable. You can’t get in the good graces making aspirational lists of booze most people will never see unless you stooge for a few readily accessible whiskies, I’m sure.

I recognize that palates are unique and we all have our unique tastes. I’m not going to point fingers in general at his scores; we all have our preferences. However, there are themes that emerge – Parker seems to fall for the common trap that “older is better” and rates Pappy 23 a 100%, tacitly blessing all of the fanboy bullshit that surrounds Pappy, age in general, and the overrated mythos of Stitzel-Weller. Parker also tells us in his notes that “top bourbons” should never be “diluted or served on ice”. Oh, really?

Hey Bob, did you know that Van Winkle 23 is about 47% ABV which is considered “towards the low end of ABV” in our scale? Any clue that people regularly will drop a little ice or water in their blisteringly-high-proof single cask scotches or bourbons and find a massive explosion in flavor? It’s extremely common, and if you’d spent any time whatsoever learning the culture and truly tasting whisky and learning about the spirit, you’d know that it’s not at all taboo in those cases. Instead, you’ve taken what amounts to a five-minute noob-comment-driven crash-course on Reddit and are now spreading it to a bunch of uninterested assholes as gospel truth. Why don’t you hop on the “bourbon can only be made in Kentucky” bandwagon while you’re at it? It’s as tone-deaf and factually ignorant as what you professed. Maybe you saw Paterson saying he’d “kill you” for putting ice or water in your whisky, but that’s because Paterson’s whiskies are already pretty fucking watery unless you’re spending $2000.00 for a cask strength bottle.

Parker’s list includes a ton of random Buffalo Trace including experimental releases that have been off the shelf for two years. For a guy who seems to want to portray himself as Joe Average Guy who just happened to get into this stuff and hunted it down, he’s managed to find some bottles that a lot of bourbon lovers would beat each other up for. There’s an abundance of KBD and Buffalo Trace on his list. Worse still, in his discussion of KBD (or Bulleit), he seems to be utterly ignorant of the concept of independent bottling. He rates various KBDs confidently, giving Noah’s Mill an assertive 96 – a whisky I myself know to have incredible batch variation. Hey, it’s possible, but you need to note which batch that was because they vary so wildly.

Another tiresome thread is a seeming ignorance of what’s on the bottle at times, compared with a slavish devotion to the bottle itself. Frequently he mentions something about the bottle, as if the EH Taylor bottle conveys special taste to the contents, while completely missing big-picture stuff about the whisky contained inside. His Four Roses 2012 Limited Small Batch (highly regarded among those in the know) squeaks by with a borderline score of 92, and he states, “I assume this has been aged in oak a lot longer than the basic Four Roses, and that shows in its softness.” Oh, I don’t know, Bob, what do you think? The recipe is on the back of the bottle calling out years, this information could be Googled in about ten seconds — but fuck Google, that’s not Robert Parker’s style. The inimitable Parkerian palate has detected that it might be older, so we’ll state it as fact. Yeah, it’s older. Notice those tannins? That black tea quality? More than a little bit of wood? Pretty clear sign of age and cask influence. But palate aside, that bit on the bottle that mentions a 17 year old whiskey on the back should have tipped off your older-is-better palate (given your rating for Evan Williams 23).

There’s so much stuff that Parker mentions that could easily be answered with the most perfunctory of google searches, but instead, we’re left to accept his pronouncements as truth handed down from the heavens. Parker’s Heritage 2012 – “Apparently this is no longer being produced”. Yes, that’s right, Bob. Five minutes of searching even by an assistant would have turned this up. Woodford tips its hand to Labrot and Graham as the producer. It’s made by Brown-Forman, Bob, the people who make Jack Daniels. That’s probably far too declasse for the silver Boxster and salmon-sweater crowd, but it’s the truth.

Sure, I’ve taken the bait. The know-it-all wine critic has decided he is the arbiter of taste and quality on the American whisky scene while seemingly managing to not do even the most basic bit of research and self-education on the subject. We all suffer as a result: every halfway decent whiskey will be name-checked by him and the joyless farts who swan about at wine tastings will now be regurgitating Parker’s notes with no insight and nothing to contribute to the discussion.

It’ll be a great day for the distilleries, especially Buffalo Trace. Tons of dumb money coming in, flooding the market with cash, and buying up things we took for granted. Most of these guys will probably store these bottles horizontally, which is perhaps some small consolation – speculators, take note: store your whiskey UPRIGHT. It’s great for guys who run shops, it’s great for distillers who want to wow with a thousand labels sourced from a handful of mashbills or sourced whiskey. For the average consumer, it’s yet another crowding out at the hands of shameless trend-hoppers who saw this on TV, will make no attempt to understand the culture or the spirit, but instead will blindly make pronouncements in the absence of knowledge.

The end result of this for me is to call into question the worth of Parker’s wine ratings, given how spotty his foray into whisky has been. However, again, I don’t care much: I’ll continue to pull against my bunkered stock of whisky and private barrel buys that Parker will never have access to. I only hope he doesn’t wreck the market for American whiskey as well. Surely this will attract the “investment-grade-whisky” speculative douchebag market.

And that’s all I’ve got to say on Parker.

At a glance:

Pappy Van Winkle 23y, Bottle C8752. 47.8% ABV
Nose: 
Strong presence of old wood, light aroma of dark fruits. Strong alcohol initially. Soft sweetness. Alcohol eases in a few minutes and reveals toffee scent with a hint of caramel.
Palate:  Initially dry mouthfeel, warming, strong wood, dark fruits, pleasing sweetness like cotton candy or bubblegum but also vanilla. An evolving trace of caramel and toffee that never become too huge. Wood stays somewhat bitter but does not overpower.
Finish:  Vaguely bubblegummy and toffee sweetness and again wood. Balanced, some traces of grain flavor. Medium finish.
Comment: This is not the equal of the 20y or even the ORVW 23y selection. It’s out of balance and overoaked.
Rating:  B-

62 thoughts on “Taking The Bait – Git Offa Our Property, Parker!”

  1. Spot on!

    Whenever I read about “experts” who equate price with quality, I think about Julia Child. The late, great French chef loved McDonald’s french fries. That speaks volumes about the ability to be a true connoisseur without being a snob.

    I too know little about Robert Parker, and after reading David Driscoll’s blog entry, I believe that is a good thing. Robert Parker seems like the kind of disingenuous “expert” who would never allow himself to enjoy fries from Mickey-D’s.

    You dissected Mr. Parker’s reviews far better than I can. I do have to mention his review of Rowan’s Creek It’s one of my favorite bourbons, although I’d rate it a 91. I hope that I’m safe from a run on it because Mr. Parker’s disciples will be looking for “Rollin’s Creek.” Even if they do get the right whiskey, I doubt that they’ll enjoy it as much as I do because they’ll refuse to add water.

    1. I tried as little as possible to focus on ratings – I truly find that’s where individual taste and the basis for discussion begins (though the Pappy 23 = 100 thing was like declaring Westvleteren XII or Pliny the Younger your 100 point beers on day one as a bid for legitimacy).

      I truly don’t know where this goes with Parker but I’m not optimistic. I can only hope that if he becomes the force that he imagines he’ll become, that he does a little more homework next time and discloses a little more completely.

      Perhaps the good thing that might come out of this is the inevitability of him drawing heat to the annual releases and potentially leaving the saner segments unbothered.

  2. He seems to be completely blinded by the notion of exclusivity. I do enjoy Pappy 23 but ‘pure perfection’ is not even close to the words I would use to describe it. It is troubling when people with this sort of clout put their stamp of approval on brands because the people that are too lazy to do any research or probably don’t even like whiskey go around purchasing all the PVW’s or Antique Collection whiskies leaving us (who actually enjoy drinking the stuff and not let them collect dust) get the shaft. This is just another example of the whiskey hype run amuck.

    1. Agreed 100%. I also said below that his small batch/single barrel reviews lacked a lot of transparency. It seems like he was sucked in like the average consumer – see it on TV, read a couple WSJ articles, find those hard-to-find bottles that have been ordained in the past, and then turn the full weight of his persona on it.

      It’s irresponsible at best but perhaps this will make the next glut more imminent.

    2. I have a strong wine background and was stunned that he gave any bottle a perfect 100 only because he VERY rarely gives any wine a perfect 100, and he reviews thousands every year! It is pretty clear that he was playing to masses on a lot of those reviews, and he has a huge audience folks, be prepared to see some dude at your local liquor store buy the whole shelf of black maple hill cause he read Parker’s review…

      1. “he VERY rarely gives any wine a perfect 100″???

        From Lettie Teague’s article in the WSJ March 2, 2013:

        “After all, Mr. Parker is far more famous for his 100-point scores than for his 88-point finds. By my count, he and his deputy critics awarded 78 wines perfect 100-point scores in his newsletter last year alone (most were awarded by Mr. Parker himself). By contrast, the Wine Spectator didn’t award a single 100-point score in 2012.”

        Parker may have had some grading integrity in his early years, though he is a simple score whore today. In my opinion, his assessment has little to do with the region, style, or tradition of the beverage he is consuming. A self serving style of tongue ego with a passion for too much oak and not enough character is what he has been stuffing down the throats of his followers for years.

  3. Wow! What a tour-de-force, Tim! That must have taken a load off…

    Thanks for articulating what many of us must have thought at seeing that letter.

    As you say, the scores are so seemingly-random (on top of older-is-better), that it left me scratching my head. If Black Maple Hill is 96p and “Rollins Creek” is 94p, two bottles where I couldn’t get one inch below the cork, then, by this logic, all wines at Cosco should be undrinkable. Thank God he didn’t get his hands on Rare Breed! Which is shocking, since it says “rare” right there, on the label! It must have been too cheap…

    A few months ago I was looking for some reviews on port wine. I had assumed that wine must have the same healthy, lively, informative blogosphere, as whisky does – or more so, since there are so much more wine drinkers out there. Was I wrong! The level of ignorance combined with posturing and pomposity that I found was jaw-dropping and appalling! This comes to confirm it.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Florin!

      It is truly a bizarre set of ratings and the notes that accompany some are head scratchers. It’s heavily skewed towards random BT and KBD imprints; I feel like he sent a runner out to pick up anything that said small batch or looked fancy, in addition to the PVW/BTAC/Hirsch shopping list. At a glance, Beam seems to have zero representation on the list and you pointed out Wild Turkey’s absence – where’s WTAS?

      It seems like we’ll see a set of ryes reviewed as if it’s not all LDI rye anyway.

      I hope we don’t see what makes whiskey great subsumed by what makes wine terrible.

      1. Look at your home page, Tim: Yamazaki, Laphroaig, and Octomore are next on RP’s list! What, you thought you had Pappy all to yourself? He found you out!

        Of course, in ultimate analysis, the issue is not that he’s an idiot who behaves like a bull in a Glencairn factory. The issue is that we’re scared to death that he’s now turning his attention to whisky. That means a lot of pressure on available bottles and prices, – incidentally, from the kind of people we don’t like, rich assholes as you deftly put it. We’ll look back at April 2013 as the Golden Age of Whisky.

        Unfortunately, if the man got bored with his life and decided that his next thing is whisky, there’s not much we can do to stop him. Telling him he’s a fool will only make him angrier. If it turned out that he did his research and came up with a really thoughtful, historically informed review and spot-on set of ratings – which he might stil do for all we know, everybody needs a new challenge once in a while – we’d hate it even more.

        I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but if someone at BT decided to send a couple cases of well-chosen whiskies to RP, through a mutual friend, now that would be a strike of marketing genius! The more likely case is that he had a nice conversation over a glass of Chateau Rottenbourger with some guy who knows bourbon, and the friend – may he only drink Noah’s Mill for the rest of his days – convinced him that he should really try bourbon. “I’ll put together a nice mixed case for you, see what you think”. Now we know what he thinks.

        So that’s what was in Noah’s Mill, cashews… I thought all along it was peanuts. Cashews!….

        Goes great with Chinese food.

        1. Hey, I’m all for people discovering whiskey. Love it, love helping it along, delight in sharing samples and so forth. I think it’s the Cult Of Parker that I don’t want to see come in. Bourbon especially is so wonderfully inclusive and egalitarian, which makes it fun. Yeah, there are always the people who profess extensive rules about how to enjoy your drink or how you should spell something or What Is And Is Not A Bourbon, etc – but we all generally know not to take them seriously.

          Along comes Robert with a lot of incomplete information, sloppy work, and reinforcement of hype. Stuff that those who are bourbon-curious will regurgitate as absolute, inviolable fact, and if you don’t agree then you must be a complete fool.

          I’ve seen it in the past with wine; it’s tedious. If there’s something I don’t miss about wine, it’s that. I hate the idea of bourbon becoming even more of a trophy-bottle-driven culture than it already is, and with less of a giving mentality and more of a taking mindset. What I love is sharing a bottle and discussing a pour. I love blind tastings and finding, holy crap, I REALLY love a well-done 90 proof wheater. I love when I say, “oh, I thought XYZ bottle was amazing” and whoever I’m talking to says, “really? you’re nuts, it’s undrinkable” and we have a debate over it. I love the whole idea that we bring our experiences and preferences to it, and it’s very democratic and bottom-up. I don’t want to see the culture bow its head in deference to an autocrat and accept all these top-down ratings.

          Noah’s Mill: Man, I have had some bottles of that which were unbelievably great. Last few times though, i’ve seemed to get more mixed-nuts type presence. Too much wood also. A shame, I used to love it.

  4. Sir, this post is quite possibly one of most refreshing blog posts I ever read. It’s real, joyfully mean, genuine and just plain entertaining. You earned a reader today.

    …professional napa douchebag and Dalmore for rich assholes…lol.

  5. This seems like a perfect example of success breeding disdain. Robert Parker has often been pilloried for being a taste maker, someone who can make or break a Bordeaux vintage was the phrase Dave Driscoll used in his blog post. The fact is, he came to his position in the wine world honestly. In a world where wine makers can sell their wares 2 years before bottling, his tasting notes have provided valuable guidance for those wishing to find great wine when it is most available. Producers wish he would allow them to sell inferior wines en primeur with nobody holding them accountable and other reviewers wish they had his following. His publication takes no advertising, supported entirely by reader subscriptions. I have read his tasting notes over the years and find them very consistent clearly representing a specific taste and point of view, which is exactly what makes them so useful. I read Serge’s whiskyfun notes for the same reason, not because I always agree with them, but because over time they provide valuable insight that I can calibrate to my own palate. I agree that Mr. Parker’s foray into bourbon reviewing was probably ill conceived, but it hardly warrants the vitriol displayed here and elsewhere in the blogosphere. He seems to be attempting to provide his insights into bourbon to some newbies, and yes, he misspelled the name of a made up brand, and he lacked knowledge of some of the obscure products he reviewed, big deal. Your claim that he simply equated age with quality is not born out by a thorough read of the reviews. His palate when tasting bourbon appears to be very consistent with his wine preferences. As in his wine selections he seems to prefer bold, and concentrated flavors and gave high scores where he found them whatever their source. Your blog post reeks of petty jealously, nobody in the whiskey world has achieved his level of following and it clearly sticks in your craw. My suggestion, cough up the bait, man up, and move on, a few people will still read your blog even if Parker writes more whisk(e)y reviews.

    1. Brad, thanks so much for stopping by and leaving your thoughts. I can tell from the line of reasoning you’ve taken that you aren’t a regular reader, so it’s quite possible that what I’ve written seems like I’ve got an axe to grind with Parker largely due to his popularity and influence.

      In fact, that’s not the case. What I find objectionable is, in fact, the short-sighted and under-researched take he brings on this. The majority of Parker’s reviewed whiskeys are small-batch offerings or long since gone and available infrequently at auction. Parker himself notes that some of these were accessed via his connections, which opens the fair question as to the sourcing of a fair number of these – long-discontinued Experimentals, Hirsch (quoted at $325: if you can find a bottle at $325 you probably should buy the case because you’ll make your money back that same day, and so on.

      Why is that relevant, you ask? Well, it’s especially relevant in the case of KBD. To dismiss the fact that KBD presently sources everything they bottle from other distilleries as a minor omission is really missing the big point – it’d be akin to discussing a California wine with no discussion of vintage.

      As I said above, I myself know Noah’s Mill (a KBD product) to have substantial batch variation. At its best, I’d differ with his assessment of it by a few points. At its worst (that I’ve had), I’d say he’s wildly off the mark – by a very substantial margin. Yes, it really does differ that much. To give it a blanket score of 96, Parker is giving quite a high endorsement of its quality that presumably people who trust his views implicitly are going to act on. And they’ll spend $50 as I did most recently and get a bottle of cashews and splinters and wonder what they’re missing, when they haven’t missed a thing.

      This then brings us back to the question of source: If these were samples provided by the producers, of course they’re going to send him the absolute best of the best batches, which doesn’t correspond to what people are going to see on the shelves. How would the wine world react if Parker was scoring a wine at 96 with no discussion of vintage? You’re buying on hope at that point.

      I’m not questioning Parker’s prominence in the wine world; I’m not secretly pining for his readership or even his job adapted into the spirits world. I’m objecting to the person who decided to put his stamp on spirits without a clear sense of history or understanding of what’s going on. I’m objecting to the implication of expertise when it’s clear that there is a long way to travel still. Why? Because those who appeal to Parkerian authority or whose tastes are unquestioningly obeisant to his will cite him as the one true source of truth.

      In the end, it’s about having the humility and politeness to sit and learn about the spirit that we’re so passionate about. It’s about having the courtesy and politeness and patience to learn what’s out there, what drives it, what’s good, what’s bad, and where it comes from. Maybe it’s not important to the casual drinker, but for someone who wields the influence he does, it’s used somewhat carelessly in this instance.

      Finally, politeness and courtesy brings me to your closing statements, where like Parker has with bourbon, you’ve presumed to know a great deal more about me, my motivations and concerns than you actually do.

      In total honesty, I don’t consider myself an expert – not by a million miles. I’m an enthusiast. I write this for my own entertainment. The traffic I have gotten is a happy accident. Even if I had no visitors ever again, I would write about whisky because I enjoy it. I have no desire to become a leading authority on whisky; Broom, Valentin, Roskrow, Murray, Hansell and even Ralfy have that knotted up far more completely and with very unique takes all.

      The other part of your personally-directed closing thoughts is the most curious, however: “Nobody in the whiskey world has achieved his level of following and it clearly sticks in your craw”. I don’t live my life and find validation in vicariously living the achievements of those who I seek to learn from. I don’t try to find personal worth in the imagined reflection of the achievements of others. It’s a terrible way to go about living. I truly hope you don’t live your life that way.

  6. Fantastic post as so many others have noted, but I’m a little concerned that your review of PVW 23 did not mention the bottle at all. Surely it should be bumped up to an A based on the sleek curvature and lovely photo on the label.

  7. I would have liked to have been in the room when John @ Whisky Advocate got hold of these reviews from the man @ “Wine Advocate.” For kicks I pulled up some of the reviews from Whisky Advocate to compare with the ones from Parker posted at K&L. Funny noticing the differences in cases where you can compare same-with-same, such as the Four Roses LE SB where Parker seemed to be more concerned with the quality of the bottle instead of what was inside it.

    Big box stores such as Total Wine include review information from sources such as Wine Advocate and Whisky Advocate on their web site and “shelf talker” printouts. Will have to keep an eye open to see if any of Parker’s reviews make an appearance should he ever review something readily available to the masses.

    1. I’d bet on seeing shelf talkers showing up with Parker scores sooner rather than later. There’s a store a few blocks away from my home that I’d be willing to bet has already done it.

      I think for me the bigger surprise was the height of these scores. People say critic X or critic Y has inflated scores. These are some of the highest I’ve ever seen. I’m fine to disagree on ratings (most notably 4R SmB LE 2012; I also think PVW 23 > 20 is utter crazy talk).

  8. Scotch & Ice Cream, A couple of points, I am a regular reader of your blog, and a whisk(e)y drinker for over 30 years. Really curious, what in my line of reasoning led you to believe otherwise? You never did complete that thought.

    My closing remarks responded to what was clearly a very personal attack in your blog post. Rather than limiting comment to the substance of his reviews you chose to attack his character and that of his readers. In my experience those type of ad-hominem attacks are most often motivated by envy.

    My line of reasoning was clear. Parker’s bourbon reviews were clearly flawed, lacking the depth of knowledge that a true aficionado would possess. I also accept your assessment that if someone with his clout enters a new arena he should do so with greater caution and humility. I don’t however accept that his reviews were irrational, simply equating age with quality, etc. From my reading, his reviews represented a clear and rational point of view on the subject. Given your journalism degree, it would be far more interesting to read your analysis of that, than your opinion on the douchieness of his wine readership.

        1. Hey Brad, I’m Tim. I hope we can put our disagreement on style and substance behind us and share a drink sometime. Looks like we’re separated by the bulk of the continent, but if you make it out west, it’s on me.

    1. Alright, I’ll concede that he did not solely judge based on age; I was merely thrown by the fact that the 18, 20, and all three 23 year old whiskeys in his review all scored 95 points or above.

    1. As do I (oxfords, not so much the sweater). And I’ve got friends who drive Porsches.

      Having these things and dressing a certain way isn’t a big deal; it’s when your entire image is wrapped up in possessions that there’s a problem. The midlife-crisis-mobile. The Patek Philippe. The trophy bottles that exist merely to show one’s connection (or means at an auction).

      In my opinion, that is.

  9. The best bit for me was the Stagg review – he misplaced the bottle, but figured it had to be pushing 100 proof from the rustic, assertive character of the flavor.

    1. Yeah, as a field study I hit a couple shops on my lunchtime outing. One store had a couple bottles of the TH Handy Rye that had been lingering on their shelves for months at $79. Today? One left, asking price $225. Wow. Their bourbon section had been quite clearly rearranged to put the Parker picks they had (Pogue, Blanton’s, etc) at eye level. Makes sense; I suspect we’ll see more of that. But the prices?

      Elsewhere there were clear runs on Eagle Rare, Angels Envy and Woodford; apparently the 97-point-scoring Blantons didn’t quite win the hearts and was in abundant supply.

      This is just the first wave of this.

  10. I would expect nothing more than such a gauntlet laydown from you Tim. Awesome, well written work as usual. It’s a damn joke honestly the tone, the audacity, the minimal effort put in Parker’s “conquest”. I know of no other whiskey lover that wouldn’t embrace a new convert. Wouldn’t do whatever necessary to educate and help someone enjoy whiskey more. I think a number of people see the reaction of whiskey writers towards Parker and see it as a territorial thing. However, the territory requires protecting when someone thinks they already own it.

    1. There were a dozen ways he could have done this and he chose the route with the most pomposity. From what I’ve read since then, it seems like that’s the usual M.O., but it’s just amazing to me.

  11. Speaking of joke, am I the only one that sees a total Chuck Norris moment here?
    So here, to get us started:

    In response to the momentous news, Heaven Hill announced that this year’s special release will be called “Robert Parker’s Heritage Collection”. The press release indicates this is a “96 proof, 98 points bourbon”.

    In other news, Rollins Creek Distillery announces that “Due to a regrettable mistake, all our bottles were mislabeled as ‘Rowan’s Creek’. All our staff, from master distiller on, is hard at work applying the correct labels on existing bottles throughout the country.”

    When Robert Parker releases his scores the bourbon bottles rearrange themselves on the shelf in scoring order.

    Who discovered the Glencairn glass? Robert Parker.
    It was at the bottom of the case, next to the bourbon bottles his friend got him for hid birthday.

    How does Robert Parker count to 100?
    82, 83, …, 97, 98, 99, Pappy 23!

    Today K&l Wines renamed their Bourbon section to
    BOURBON – AS FEATURED ON TV!!!

    Ok, your turn now…

  12. Why should he be confined to beverages? He’d be great at movies:

    Lord of the Rings
    “It’s beyond serendipitous that such a fine actor was found to play Frodo – and was the correct height. 96 points.”

    Phantom Menace
    “Despite the coying, playful feel, this expression of a heritage collection lacks the depth of character the vintage is known for. Purists will shy away. 89 points.”

    The Avengers
    “I was enamored with the old Hulk TV show. The protagonist was a sympathetic everyman – a lawyer and wine critic who turned into a bodybuilder. 97 points.”

    Herculean
    “From a small independent movie house, this low-budget gem continues to fly under the radar of the less informed. It’s a coming of age story about a plucky go-getter (DeCaprio), the woman of his dreams (Winselt), and the boat that brought them together. Like all the best movies it must be enjoyed undiluted – anyone who eats popcorn while viewing is a philistine. 100 points.”

    1. Honestly, this actually makes me want to read a Parker review of Citizen Kane. I think the opportunity is here: Parker should review everything he involves himself in. A familiarity with the territory clearly is no obstacle.

      1. He does, and you are quite right. Restaurants are great because he plants his fat ass in their chairs. He used to regularly report on his best meals of the year, wine personalities of the year and food personalities of the year. Food purveyors are great because he eats their beef and smoked fish. His wife makes great crabcakes (probably true) but Parker has lived his whole life in Maryland and does not know the difference between backfin and jumbo lump crabmeat. His taste in food is largely blue-collar trencherman, which makes it a little difficult for thinking people to expect that his taste for wine is any better…

  13. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! Parker has done nothing but Hurt the bourbon business by making wine snobs over pay for bourbons they were told are great finds.. Making them even more scarce and inflate prices… Same goes for the Wall Street Journal and GQ rags.. Stick to what you “pretend” to know and shut the fuck up!

  14. Or Macallan – and your comment about Brechin is spot on. My introduction to single malt scotch in 1991 included a Cadenhead bottling of Northport Brechin which until I found a particularly bad bottling of Edradour 13 by G&M was my limbo bar malt – setting the bar very low. Luckily that same night I also was lucky enough to taste Ardbeg 1975 and a Port Ellen 1969 which gave me a spread of about 60pts.

    1. Let me guess, the Edradour was soap city? I’ve seen photos floating around at certain gatherings where bottles of Edradour have the hand soap pumps attached to the neck. Always makes me laugh.

      I’m on a low-grade mission to find a decent Brechin. The law of averages says at least one distillation batch had to be good. Doesn’t seem like any were bottled though.

      Envious on the old Ardbeg & PE! They don’t make ‘em like they used to, eh?

  15. OMG Tim. You uncorked the flame of the year. Remind me to never get on your bad side. That was utterly epic.

    I, for one, hope that Parker keeps reviewing Bourbon and (please… please… please….) start reviewing Scotch too. It’s just priceless… I know we’ve all been over this, but doesn’t the man know how to use Google. How can you get the NAME of the product you’re reviewing wrong? How can you not bother to look up the proof of a whiskey famous far and wide for the the overproof king and monster? How, indeed, could he have tasted Stagg and concluded that it was “pushing 100 proof” – having actually tasted it? The mind reels. It’s just too weird…

    I never would have had the courage to write the astonishing flame you just unleashed. Bless you… and also, a little bit, fear you too!

  16. Brad has offered you folks the official Parker cult propaganda, offered up because there is no rational way to defend Parker’s particular combination of ignorance and arrogance. If you call a butthead a butthead and offer detailed, logical proofs of his shortcomings, as researcher and writer, well, then, you must be jealous of his success. Well, maybe not. The segment of the world of wine that knows of Parker is a small one, and those in that segment who still respect Parker’s opinion is a minority that continues to shrink daily. And Parker recently cashed out the empire that it took him over 30 years to build for somewhere between $10-15 million. Not chump change, but hardly anything to spark envy, at least if you have friends amng the stock options set…

  17. By the way, kudos for your careful, articulate and accurate deconstruction of Parker’s idle musings about Bourbon. As nearly as I can tell, you hit only one false note, calling Parker’s writing “cerebral”. It is anything but, as he has demonstrated over many years a lack of the basic equipment required to be cerebral. His work is now completely visceral, often nothing more than inflammatory ranting at strawman topics like “natural wines” rather than addressing the legitimate criticisms that have been directed at him and the shortcomings of his palate…

  18. Pingback: Bourbon Snobbery
  19. You’re as bad as Parker. You are just as much an elitest as he is. You think because you review whiskies you are less of a douche than a wine writer.

  20. … but I like the King Alexander III. :(

    It’s a lovely Scotch! I mean, I’m not about to pay what Dalmore’s asking for it, but if someone else is paying – I’m drinking!

    1. I haven’t had KA3 yet. Of the Dalmores I’ve had from the 12 up to the ’78 Sherry Finesse, everything just falls off in some way that makes it hard to love. I have a review coming up in a few weeks; perhaps that will break the bad luck to this point.

  21. Why so gloom dude, as far as i can this Robert Parker is attempting to bring in more business to the American Whiskey/Bourbon scene. And besides, the newly inducted whiskey/bourbon drinking crowd will hear of “oh I don’t know, the now extinct Michter Distillery in PA” and learn of the lovely liquid is no longer available ever, that would be great for those of us that has held onto at least a case of this fine booze to be auctioned off at higher values than what were originally purchased.

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