#MashMadness: #BourbonBracket 2020 — Notes from a Pandemic

Many years from now, we’ll be asked what we did during the coronavirus lockdown of 2020, and we’ll able to say we conducted our second annual taste-off of the 64 best bourbons (and ryes) to see which whiskeys were the best (at least to our individual taste buds right now at this specific time). New this year, we removed the $64 price cap from last year, and introduced some rye invaders to see how they matched up against their corn-based cousins.

Unfortunately, the afore-mentioned global pandemic shook up our established blind tasting ritual consisting of two judges — when one judge (me) had to go into full lockdown after only the first eight games. Luckily our remaining judge had his wife on hand (who set up said blind tasting samples) for any additional tastings required. Only one virtual overtime was required with a surpassingly close game between good old standby Four Roses Small Batch gaving last year’s champion Old Forester 1920 a solid run for the money.

Overall, the tournament played out as one would expect with a Final Four consisting of two number one seeds (Weller 12 Year and Elijah Craig 18 Year) a number two seed (Michter’s Rye 10 Year) and a three seed (Elijah Craig Barrel Proof). The two remain top seeds battled it out in the championship match and Weller 12 emerged triumphant.

As you can see from the final four bottles, this year’s sole remaining judge has a particular fondness for Elijah Craig. I myself have a bias towards Michter’s and did challenge him to re-tasting of the quarterfinal match between Michter’s 10 Year Old Bourbon and the Elijah 18 Year. We’ll have to wait until 2021 for a full rematch. The bottom line was once again, all whiskies are pretty darn good. While last year we did have one stinker (Smooth Ambler Big Level, which pretty much knocked me off all Smooth Ambler products), this year every game was close and it was a great way to divert the mind from what was going on outside. So, here’s to good health, liquor stores that deliver, and hopefully a vaccine in the near future. Cheers everyone!

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