Whisky Advocate: Thanks for the Memories

It’s with a heavy heart that I announce my departure from Whisky Advocate. 

Over the past decade, I wrote more than 500 (maybe even more) blog posts, features and reviews for this magazine. And I am so thankful for the opportunities Whisky Advocate and its topnotch staff provided me over the years.

During that time, I gave the magazine my all and am so proud of what we accomplished together. I helped shed light on many incredible Kentucky bourbon happenings.

But due to my new ventures, I must move on, and I really want to take this opportunity to list my all-time favorite Whisky Advocate moments.

5. Best Whiskey. The best whiskey I ever reviewed for Whisky Advocate was the Four Roses Al Young release. When I tasted this, it just hit on every note. I would later taste it again in the market (vs. a sample bottle) and found it to be as exceptional. Like most of my reviews, not everybody agreed with me, and this was probably one of my more controversial ratings. Looking back, I probably rated it too low. It’s better than a 96.

4. Worst whiskey. With the good comes the bad. I prided myself on always being an honest reviewer. I never wrote something I didn’t taste, and sometimes that meant being brutally honest. I gave the lowest score in Whisky Advocate history. While this whiskey was certainly palatable, and I’m sure somebody liked it, I didn’t think it merited a higher score.

3. Bottled in Bond Feature. This was my first real opportunity to work with the new editor, Jeffery Lindenmuth. I quickly learned his vision was essentially “how do we help the consumer?” I never really considered that with my whiskey writing up until that point. I just sort of wrote what felt right, but Jeffery challenged me to find a new voice and I’m convinced he made me a better writer. This Bottled in Bond feature is proof a service article can still hit that geek spot, and I loved writing it.

2. Point Counter Point with Chuck Cowdery. First, Chuck and I are dear friends, and we disagree about every four years on a major bourbon issue. A few years ago, we locked horns over the issue of the bourbon shortage. He didn’t think there was one, and I was convinced of it. Like he normally does, Chuck wrote a convincing point of view that basically was “just walk into a warehouse. Do you see bourbon? Yes, okay, there’s no shortage.” (Paraphrased). I took a different route; I polled every bourbon group I could find and discovered people felt like “we can no longer buy the bourbon we want, e.g Pappy Van Winkle, but the world is flooded with Jim Beam white label.” Essentially, we were both right, and my less-than-scientific data offered a small glimpse into the growing problem of longtime bourbon consumers struggling to get their once go-to bottles. Back then, a fire burned deep in my belly and I was convinced the shortage was real. Looking back, I had a lot of fun arguing with my friend, who loves arguing, and I’m thankful Whisky Advocate let two friends bitch at one another via a blog post.

1. Leak Hunters Story. There’s something mysterious about bourbon barrels and their warehouses. In 2010, I became enamored with the people who walked through warehouses looking for leaks. They carried old timey tools and scanned barrels as if their life depended upon it. Looking for leaks was one of my favorite days in bourbon, because I was with the normal Joes, my favorite people to write about. When I approached then managing editor Lew Bryson about this story, he loved it and then bled red ink all over my first draft. It took me a couple drafts to get this one right, but it remains my favorite Whisky Advocate story. This story also had the tooling and blessing from the magazine’s founder John Hansell, who’s no longer with the magazine. And Hansell’s the one who scouted me from my days at Tasting Panel and gave me a shot in the big leagues. Without John, this run would have never started. … Back to the leak hunters, I loved telling the story of this old school job: Who knew they existed?

As I leave Whisky Advocate, I hope you all will continue supporting the magazine. I part on very amicable terms and feel extremely fortunate to have served its readers for all these years. Cheers!


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