Skip to comments.Is there a scientifically detectable difference between high-price liquor and regular stuff?
Posted on 01/05/2014 12:24:09 AM PST by Slings and Arrows
I was in the Costco liquor section when I happened upon a locked display case with three bottles inside (one whisky, one cognac, one I cant remember), each priced upwards of $2,500. I imagine anyone who bought and drank one of these would be heavily influenced by "buyer's bias" regarding the actual taste of the product; still, Id think the difference would be great enough that an average, uneducated drinker could pick out the ultra-expensive bottle from a $30 one in a blind test. What can science tell us about why an extremely high-quality and typically older alcohol would be so much more pleasant to drink, and thus much more valuable?
Science can tell us plenty about booze, Mort. However, the relevant discipline shifts as we rise in the price scale. At the low end, where were talking about beverages commonly drunk from paper bags, chemistry can easily demonstrate what separates rotgut from the decent stuff. Above a certain point, however, we find more useful insight in psychology, if you take my meaning. The question is where that shift occurs. In bitter moments I tend to say its around ten bucks a bottle, although having had a tasty if somewhat pricey Chateauneuf-du-Pape the other night I can see where you might objectively demonstrate that $100 was money well spent. But $2,500? Sorry, this is prima facie evidence of the madness of crowds.
With the exception of pure ethanol, alcoholic beverages are complex mixtures of chemicals derived from the raw materials plus the containers theyre aged and stored in. Variations in taste generally arise from differences in volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which readily vaporize at room temp when the container is opened and give the brew, vintage, or what have you its characteristic smell not the common term, particularly among wine enthusiasts, but lets call a spade a spade.
The VOCs potentially found in alcoholic beverages make for a long list. Most of the terms mean nothing to the nonspecialist, but since you asked, here are some things you might detect if your man cave is equipped with a mass spectrometer:
Still, while we know in a general way which VOCs are associated with what taste, thats a long way from saying we can detail with any confidence the chemical differences separating an award-winning beverage from an OK one.
In many cases these differences are minute. For example, the subtle taste of greenness in a Sauvignon Blanc, an undesirable quality in other varieties of wine, arises from methoxypyrazine compounds, detectable by humans in the parts per trillion. Its surely also true that taste is a result of the interplay between multiple VOCs, some of which chemists have yet to identify. The best means of judging quality, therefore, remains the human nose and palate.
These make for an imperfect instrument. Nowhere is this more evident than in the world of wine tasting:
Does that mean alleged differences in alcoholic beverages are BS? Depends on what you consider differences. When nonprofessional tasters were trained to use a standardized whisky-tasting vocabulary and then given samples of 40 blended Scotch whiskies, their assessments generally corresponded with the four categories of whisky being tested (deluxe, standard, cheap, and West Highland). In a separate study, the four categories were themselves found to have distinctive chemical signatures. In other words, it was possible to sense broad variations in quality, and those variations had a chemical basis.
On the other hand, consistently distinguishing a presumably exquisite $2,500 bottle from a merely excellent $100 one eh, maybe somebody with an unusually sensitive palate could do it. You or me? That I doubt.
"...yeah,bout tree fitty"
Mmmm mmmm mmm.
Dunno about ‘scientifically detectable’ (although some differences would be bandied about for several years as to what makes a good liquor or what makes it rotgut), but speaking from experience: once you have tasted the truly fine ones... there really is no forgetting it. You will never mistake it for the cheap dregs ever again.
So that’s why the Loch Ness Monster wanted the money!
This is the advice I gave to my own child: you can drink cheap beer and wine, but if you are drinking the hard stuff, go high end.
A: The difference between spending the first part of the evening with a great lot of pissed mates at the sports bar, and a truly memorable night with a truly jaw-dropping sheila whose name you probably might not remember, nor ever see again, but for every moment you remember: it was worth it, s'truth! *smile* (note: I am not admitting to anything, right? *grin*)
I think that the graphic artist got to that bottle before Redd.
I’m told that Trader Joe’s single malt scotch is comparable to many of the good (perhaps not the best) “label” single malts at about half the price. I’ve not confirmed this.
LOL! I love that! That’s a wee Irish baby, I reckon.
o/~ Well they call it that good old mountain dew... o/~
Not after the first drink ... it’s ALL booze after that.
Faith and begorrah, 'tis true.
"..you hear bout dat lot ness monter?...eyea, just tree fitty"
I f'get your name, but'cha' left a legacy other men are afraid to emulate.
Just remembered ... Popcorn !
There is when I make it, versus buy it.
Doesn’t even take analytical equipment to tell them apart; just pouring through a coffee filter, then sniffing will tell the tale.
Somewhere, I have a 30 year old jug of apricot wine. First five years, it tasted like raw gasoline. A few years later, it had mellowed to #2 diesel, sitting in the tank 6 months.
Last time I checked, about 10 years ago, it could pass for mild kerosene, with a hint of fruit-flavored lamp-oil.
Popcorn Sutton was well known throughout the South and the world for making the best damn likker anyone had ever tasted.
Mmmm, petroleum products.
There is a taste difference for sure but bargains to be had
I think Evan Williams tastes great for the money....my pistol packing Mississippi ginger granny drank it...nightly in her knock you dead toddies
Sobieski vodka too....plain Pinnacle as well
Cognac Chatelier VSOP....only 18 bucks....amazing value
Piper Heidsieck Monopole brut champagne....top shelf...30 bucks..half that of Vieve Cliquot
Cazadores tequila....not cheap but as good as 100 dollar a bottle stuff
Red wines....Mascarelli...cheap but good
Villa Puccini gold label ditto
Fred McMurray pinot...yep that Fred
Barbancourt black star rum.....as good as those twice the price......rhum Martinique...white...raw....dirt cheap...great stuff.......pampero anniversaro..20 bucks and worth twice that....brandy style rum
Sam Adams lager...excellent beer...PC douchebag owners
Lots a bargains in booze...I buy a lot and pay attention
Meomi pinot.....AtoZ pinot.....
Early times whiskey....dewars scotch....beefeaters gin
All Better than their price.... my opinion
I don’t drink anything but shine.....that’s it....apple pie shine made a few miles from my TN home...untaxed....cut down to 120 proof.or so.....just a few shots....goes down like sauterne but aint cheap....20/quart.....ball or mason jar...its addictive....like dope
Damn that Lawless movie....
“Does filtering cheap vodka through a Brita filter really work?”
Sobieski is mentioned in the comments and mentioned here, too. I don’t drink much anymore but I’ll have a vodka tonic with lime every now and then, I’ll have to try it if it’s even available in the state run liquor stores here.
As noted here, discussions about the best beer or liquor are mostly ego trips by those trying to outdo the others with exotic brands. I have had good and very good, but who can judge someone’s taste?
I drink a lot of wine, but I am happy with my one ltr. red wines that come from Spain. They come in a sealed box, and cost only 140 pesos, a little over three bucks. Even better, I can carry 20 ltrs with no problem. For hard stuff, I like a lite Scotch over ice, but I buy cheap brands. I do not need Lafleur. I am drinking a San Miguel beer as I type this, but I have some delightful Carlo Rossi California red to have with dinner.... Yes, I can see the expressions on many faces here, haha.
Depends on if you are drinking to get drunk or to enjoy.
I can’t believe I just spent about 45 minutes reading this link. Great information on it.
There's a youtube about him .. (you'll need an hour and a half ... WELL worth it!) that follows his last brew from start to finish.
Would'a LOVED him to be a neighbor and friend
Absolutely, blindfolded with a stuffed up nose and after eating a dill pickle. Makers is one of the best.
An exception is Tito's vodka (made in Austin, TX) which is still made with a pot still, but has a quality that rivals or exceeds imported Grey Goose at about half the price. I have also recently discovered Mark One vodka which I find exceptionally smooth despite its bargain price.
Over the recent holidays my brother-in-law brought a bottle of bargain vodka made by a well recognized gin maker. That vodka had a harshness that reminded me of drinking gasoline and not even spicy Bloody Mary mix could mask the terrible taste. I was forced to make a Christmas eve trip to the local wine & spirits store to get a vodka that was drinkable in my holiday Bloody Mary.
I’ve also heard that the what is it?, Kirkland vodka from Costco is almost exactly the same as Grey Goose...
Personally, I judge a spirit by more than just taste. One of my main considerations is “Am I gonna feel like crap for two days?”
Different booze, different hangovers.
I suppose if you are an oenophile you could tell the difference. I’ve met many in my life who could.
As for me, I can’t tell the difference with wine. So I buy Two Buck Chuck. I really do like it.
To the real Commonsewer of Booze waking up laying face down in the front yard when the sprinklers come on the only controversial question is ‘What happened last night?’.
It indeed used to be. Since I’ve not been to TJ’s in many years, I can’t verify this any more, but when I was drinking more single malt than I am now, it was certainly the case and I’d pick up many a bottle of good, “end of run” or similar odd-lot whisky at TJ’s.
That’s what I tell people too.
The ultra-expensive stuff, tho, usually isn’t worth the delta above the top-shelf $50 to $150/bottle stuff.
For example, I’ve found in single malt whisky that aging the spirit more than 18 years really adds nothing in terms of taste or nose. Somewhere between 12 and 18 seems to be the optimum aging time. 25 year single malts cost substantially more, but IMO aren’t worth it.
Now, is single malt better than blended whisky, or stuff like Chivas? Oh yes.
That said, there are some very good American whiskeys (bourbons, mostly) which are very good for very reasonable prices. I’ve recently discovered Buffalo Trace, and I find it very drinkable neat. Only about $25/bottle. I’d put it up there against any $60/bottle single malt.
A bunch of years ago while vacationing in Honduras, we ran out of the Tanqueray gin we had brought with us so we were forced to purchase the only gin available down there. It was an “import” from Holland I believe and the most foul tasting gin I had ever had in my life........It likely would have dissolved the bristles on a paint brush if used as a paint thinner.
There are wines that make Two-Buck Chuck look like grand cru.
Oh my God, Old Crow!! I was a young lad of 25 over so tending bar in an American Legion on the East Coast. After my shift I had time to have one beer in the back bar before going to pick up my other half at the metro station.
Well, all the big shots were there in the members only bar, buying shots and when it came to many turn, I said “Old Crow!” (cause that’s what all the cool guys were drinking.)One round turned into several, and at one point all the guys kind of backed away from me, leaving me to feel this “presence” behind me. You know., the mother of my child I was supposed to pick up hours ago..!
She smiled and said hello to all, before jerking me off that barstool, drunk as a hoot owl and dragged me home yelling about the two mile walk she had endured. I made it to the parking lot before that Old Crow started coming back up. I puked in the car, parking lot, steps of our apartment, and for the next two days I dry-heaved.I can’t even look at a crow these days.
Once, I had this wicked—and stupid—idea of sending out invitations to our small circle of friends, inviting them to a wine-and-cheese party. Once they arrived we would serve Thunderbird wine and Velveeta cheese.
We likely would have been killed right there on the spot, too.
Produced in the next town over from where I grew up. LOL
The guy asked a question about spirits and got an answer about wine.
Great for the money:
Woodford Reserve Bourbon
Pinch Scotch Single Malt
George Dickel Tennessee Whskey
Ancient Ancient Age Bourbon