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Virginia Gentleman

Homage to Inexpensive Bourbon 2016

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@VictorReview by @Victor

11th Feb 2016

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  • Nose
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  • Taste
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  • Finish
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  • Balance
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  • Overall
    87

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

...or, alternate title, "Ten Bucks, The Bottom Shelf, a Plastic Bottle, a Screw Cap, 40% ABV, No Age Statement, Heavy Char, and...a Whiskey Worth Buying."

I reviewed my first bottle of Virginia Gentleman Bourbon in 2011, from a bottle purchased in 2009. When I heard that Virginia Gentleman was being "de-emphasised", maybe discontinued soon, I decided to buy another bottle. Virginia Gentleman is/was the mass market bourbon of the A. Smith Bowman Distillery in Fredericksburg, Virginia, owned since 2003 by the Sazerac Company, which also owns the Buffalo Trace Distillery and the Barton/1792 Ridgemont Distillery. Virginia Gentleman Bourbon is distilled at Buffalo Trace, then redistilled and aged at the A. Smith Bowman Distillery. Virginia Gentleman currently has no age statement

As far as I know it is only in the US that there still exist $ 10 bottles of whiskey well worth buying. This is one of them. It would not surprise me to see these 'jewels of the bottom shelf' to either disappear or to double in price within the next 2 years. This is a little thin at 40% ABV, and definitely young, at, probably 3 years old, 4 at the most. A few years ago this was a 6 yo whiskey

Heck, you can't have everything...having the bottle at $ 10, in my county in Maryland, anyway, is more than enough for 750 ml of very drinkable bourbon

By the way, this is a 90.5 point whiskey in Jim Murray's Whisky Bible

The reviewed bottle has been open for 20 days and is 80% full

Body: thin

Nose: sharp rye spices, heavy char, a little caramel sweetness, some vanilla. Mild, pleasant, sweet, of moderate intensity. Water added bundles the flavours into a pleasant sweet and spicy mass. Score: 20.5/25 points

Taste: robust flavours are translated from the nose with an intensity great for a 40% ABV whiskey. This has a thin body, and I prefer lighter char, but, other than these things, this is a very decent bourbon. Water added increased the spices. Score: 22.5/25 points

Finish: strongly spicy medium-long length finish with a slow fade-out of flavours. Stays very tasty, if you like the spicy heavy-char style. With water, this is even more spicy and sharp with the char...on a soft sweet glow. Score: 22/25 points

Balance: good balance in the nose, very good balance thereafter. Score: 22/25 points

Total Sequential Score: 87 points

Strength: moderate flavours in the nose; very strong flavours thereafter. Score: 22.5/25

Quality: very good quality of flavours throughout. Score: 22/25

Variety: good variety of flavours throughout. Score: 21.5/25

Harmony: very compatible flavours, though I would like less char influence. Score: 22/25

Total Non-Sequential Score: 88 points

Comment: make Virginia Gentleman 50% ABV and cut the char a hair and this is for me a 92 point whiskey. Whiskey this good and this cheap is still underappreciated in the US. It can vanish at any time. What will/would continue to happen is that industrial assets will be re-directed and solid inexpensive products will be replaced by slightly better products costing double or triple their cost. Great Britons and Europeans, if you can get this Virginia Gentleman Bourbon under $ 40, you are getting a deal, provided you can accept a thin-bodied whiskey. Lots of flavour, though

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21 comments

@Robert99
Robert99 commented

@Victor Only in the USA! I say to everyone who cares to listen to me that ,even if I prefer Scotch to Bourbon, the average quality of the American whisky is far better. I did have bad Scotch but I never had a bad Bourbon. When you put the price in the equation, the American are unbeatable. Cheers!

4 years ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

Let's not forget OGD 114. Sure it's hugely expensive compared to this (I got mine for $20 a bottle) but it is better than many whiskies twice that price (in bourbon)! And compared to some Scotches, well I've had $100 Scotch that wasn't as satisfying.

4 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@Robert99, @Nozinan, thanks for joining in.

It always pays to evaluate products on their own merits. Finding ignored value is usually where the best acquisitions are made. The most important skill in acquistion is trusting in your own judgment as to the quality of things. If your judgment says it is great, and the price is good, you stock up, no matter whether anyone else likes it or has even tried it. If you hang around and decide to like whiskies because others do or don't, and, if those whiskies are great and reasonably priced, then those whiskies very often disappear into someone else's hands before you get any.

4 years ago 0

@Alexsweden
Alexsweden commented

A high score for a 10$ whiskey. It's always good to be reminded that you do not need to spend your whole paycheck for decent whisky!

4 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@Alexsweden, yes, if I were scoring on value for money, Virginia Gentleman would be a 95 point whiskey. Jim Murray does not consider price in his evaluations either, and he rated Virginia Gentleman 3.5 points higher than I did. Put another way, Jim Murray scored $10 Virginia Gentleman Bourbon higher than he did the secondary market $1,600 Pappy Van Winkle 20 yo, and the secondary market $2,600 Pappy Van Winkle 23 yo.

The bigger point I wish to make is that even in the US I think that these bargain products are the last remnants of the days when all whisk(e)y was out of favour, and consequently whisk(e)y was inexpensively priced. The current market of world-wide high whisky popularity incentivises higher-priced highly hyped "premium" products which may or may not live up to their prices. Many many of the $ 100 bottles do not currently make it to an 87 point score for me.

4 years ago 0

@Misty
Misty commented

Is Pappy 23 really worth that much! I can't believe I lost a third of a bottle in the Christmas cake episode....

4 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@Misty, sometimes people who haven't tasted the Van Winkle bourbons ask me what I think of them, and how much I think they are worth. In the current timeframe I tell them that I consider the Van Winkle Rye, the 10, 12, 20 and 23 year old bourbons to be worth $ 120 to $ 175 per bottle, for drinking purposes. The 2010 and prior Stitzel-Weller distillate 15 yo is worth $ 300 to me, and the Buffalo Trace 2011 to present 15 year old is worth $ 175 to me, for drinking purposes.

Yes, Pappy Van Winkle 23 yo recently auctioned for $ 2,600.

I think all of this is very sad, because it means that many whisky lovers will never be able to taste the Van Winkle line...plus, the secondary market prices paid now are so ridiculous that unrealistic expectations are engendered when people do get the opportunity to buy Van Winkle now. Those unrealistic expectations can easily lead to disappointment.

Don't get me wrong. I love everything Van Winkle, even the very woody 23 year old. But Van Winkle requires its own peculiar mood to fully enjoy it.

4 years ago 0

@Misty
Misty commented

The 'for drinking purposes' is a great way of looking at it. I have to admit to not being 'blown away' with the Van Winkle 23, but then again I am a total novice with bourbons.

Never realised it was so expensive though! To think that all the dried fruit for our Christmas cake was marinated for a couple of days in the Van Winkle and then poured down the sink! Life is funny sometimes...

4 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@Misty, your mishap is a lot like...@whiskyshiba's Christmas Turkey marinated by his wife in George T. Stagg. An expensive mishap.

I passed up the opportunity I had 5 years ago to pick up 2 bottles of Pappy Van Winkle 23 yo for about $ 192 total per bottle because that just seemed too ridiculously expensive to me then. At that time the Pappy 15 year old usually cost about $ 65, if you could get it. And it is a better whiskey.

The current difference between dealer prices and secondary market prices for Van Winkle is extreme. Pappy 23 is probably currently usually sold for $ 250-300 through an allocated dealer.

Clarification on this review: Virginia Gentleman can be assumed to be 4 years old, because it is labeled Straight Bourbon Whiskey and has no age statement. Straight Bourbon less than 4 years old is legally required to have an age statement. Virginia Gentleman is probably primarily a 4 year old with a few casks which are 5 or 6 years old included.

4 years ago 0

maltmate302 commented

Misty you'll always have the claim to fame of making the world's most expensive Christmas cake!

4 years ago 0

@Ol_Jas
Ol_Jas commented

I'm no bourbon lover, but I had that Pappy 23 at an uncle's house and thought it tasted (or at least SMELLED—it's been a while now) a lot like nail polish remover. I drank some but ended up glass-vatting quite a bit of it with some Laphroaig 10 CS that I'd brought from home in a flask. That was a pretty tasty sweet + peat combo.

I later picked up an OGD 114 and I like it just as much, if not more.

Let me repeat and emphasize that this is all coming from a non-lover of bourbon.

4 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

Old Grand-Dad 114 is a whiskey which I definitely consider to be in the "inexpensive endangered species" category. It has already been discontinued in our local 25 store county liquor system. I stocked up just before it disappeared here. The big companies know damned well that they can expand their profit margins by selling higher priced products.

4 years ago 0

@Misty
Misty commented

@maltmate that's true and to be fair it did taste lovely!

I must try that old Grandad 114. IS it a screw top or cork?

4 years ago 0

maltmate302 commented

Misty it's a cork.I have a bottle that I got from TWE.It's a good bourbon but I don't think I'll be getting another one at the prices we have to pay in UK and Ireland. If I had the opportunity to buy it for less than 20 dollars I'd think it was incredible as well!

4 years ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

@maltmate, regardless of price it is a fantastic whisky. But I do understand the mark-up can make it hard to buy. For us it's the same with stuff like Uigeadail. $170 here. Got it for $80 in Calgary. How could I even think of buying it here?

4 years ago 0

maltmate302 commented

Nozinan I've already said that it's a good bourbon. The problem over here is that it costs £40 plus postage. That's virtually the same price as Blanton's and more than Eagle Rare 10 amongst others.I'm enjoying the bottle that I have but there are better BFYB opportunities over here!

4 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

Yes, gentlemen, the premise here in this review is that if a whiskey is decent enough that you can really enjoy drinking it and it costs very little, then you tend to feel very good about it.

At $ 70 equivalent, Old Grand-Dad 114 would seem quite expensive to me, and I would not have 8 bottles of it in my cabinet, as I do. I'd still like it quite a lot, just not quite with that extra exuberance which comes with getting a steal of a buy. OGD114 still does make me smile and laugh, though.

Typical US prices for Old Grand-Dad 114 are more like $ 25 than under $ 20. $ 20 is a very low price for it.

4 years ago 0

@JeffC
JeffC commented

Yes, OGD 114 is $23 on sale this month at Virginia ABC stores although I prefer the OGD BIB for the same price.

4 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

Jeff! O Brother, Where Art Thou? Good to see you posting. 20 miles away and what's it been, 3 years since we tasted together? We need to rectify that.

4 years ago 0

@JeffC
JeffC commented

Although my tastes migrate somewhat to stouts and porters in winter, tis always entertaining and educational to read of good buys. This part of the country is indeed prime territory for the bargain basement bottom shelf bourbon bottles (alliteration attempt). I fear they will go away too but even if they went up would still be a bargain. Every region of a country seems to have its local bargains, bourbon is to the American South and Midatlantic what red wine is to California and Scotch is to the UK.

4 years ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

@Victor if I could have 8 bottles in my cabinet I would feel secure about opening a bottle now and again. I only have 2 to back up my open bottle (and that's because a friend accidentally brought over the bottle I had meant for him (I didn't tell him because he cost me much more than the bottle was worth by making me re-order the Writer's Tears CS I had gotten with free shipping from Fine Drams in the summer, and the shipping wasn't cheap) otherwise I would have only one).

Every whisky is a little different, and OGD 114 has its own place for me next to Booker's.

4 years ago 0

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