Drinking the Bottom Shelf »

Will Gordon drinks his way through the bottom shelf of the liquor store...so you don’t have to.

Drinking the Bottom Shelf: Wild Turkey vs. Old Crow for Thanksgiving

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For the past few falls I've been calling Thanksgiving overrated, and for the past few days I've been taking really long, contemplative showers of the sort that tend to get a man's mind together (those undertaken with cinnamon schnapps and Hüsker Dü); I have emerged from the bathroom fog clean, wrinkled, and enlightened, and I am now ready to apologize for my gratuitous Thanksgiving-bashing.

I'm way too old and comfortable to be contrary just for the sake of it, yet I can't think of a single good reason why I didn't embrace Thanksgiving as enthusiastically as the rest of you clear-eyed stuffing gluttons. Let's just let my apology stand and move on with the column.

Because I've only been back on the right side of the Thanksgiving fence for a couple of days, I haven't had time to do much planning. I know Bottom Shelf research coordinator Emily and I are going to Aunt Mary's early in the afternoon, but I'm not sure which Aunt Mary, since we both have at least one. This uncertainty makes me nervous about washing down any turkey I might accidentally ingest while shoveling bread and potatoes down my carbhole. Gravy will of course be prominently involved, but I need something a little bit thinner and a lot higher proof to guarantee optimal overeating.

If it's my father's sister, we can count on my cousins to have laid in enough Bud Light to float the Mayflower. But what if we're going to one of Emily's Aunts Mary? The family members I've met all seem to drink heartily and shop responsibly, but what if she's been hiding an unsavory faction of teetotalers from me? Or what if Aunt Mary delegates the liquid decisions to an Uncle Something who only drinks Heineken?

So I've decided to sneak out Wednesday night and hide a bottle of liquor in the backyard of each potential Aunt Mary. Since it's a uniquely American holiday, I'm going to go with the only uniquely American option: bourbon.

Wild Turkey seems the most appropriate choice, but at $24.99 per 750mL, it's a bit rich for the Bottom Shelf; and besides, I'm partial to another fair and fowl bottling, my beloved Old Crow ($11.99). But I want to make a good impression on any new Aunts Mary I may encounter along the way, so I decided to test Wild Turkey and Old Crow against each other in every relevant category before I made my decision. (Note: I got the 80 proof Wild Turkey rather than the 101, because overproof stuff is risky when you're not sure which Aunt Mary you're dealing with, and because Old Crow's 80.)

Aroma: Both bourbony.

Taste: Oh man, almost the same again. Both have the standard midrange bourbon profile of vanilla and sweet corn. This is an impressive achievement for the Old Crow, given its low-range price, but that doesn't mean it actually tastes better than the Wild Turkey. In fact, on this day of confession I might as well admit that I preferred the WT by .00001 percent; it was slightly less harsh. The Crow carried a bit more "Woah, alcohol!" burn on the back of the throat.

Packaging: Wild Turkey has a cork! That's worth a point.

Coolness of Namesake Bird: Turkey's a fascinating country; a flock of crows is called a "murder." This one's a draw.

Flight Capacity of Namesake Bird: Aha, score one for Old Crow!

Tastiness of Namesake Bird: Uh oh. Turkey isn't anyone's favorite part of the meal, but you never hear anything good about being forced to eat crow, either. Another one for the WT, and things are looking bleak for the official bourbon of the Bottom Shelf. But then, you can still get two bottles of Crow for the price of one bottle of Turkey. That counts for a lot.

Personas as Hypothetical Classic Rock DJs: It's becoming clear that the winner can't be determined by relying on the traditional metrics detailed above, so we're going to have to settle this with a new-fashioned thought experiment. Let's say there were a couple of classic rock radio guys in midsize Southeastern cities in the late 1990s, and both were the latter half of a "Blank and the Birdman" morning show. (One was "Cooter and," the other "Skeeter"; "Boomer" was already taken in both markets.)

They peacefully coexisted from hundreds of miles away until the usual combination of ratings, fate, and restraining orders landed them on the same show in Tallahassee. After market research indicated that listeners had a hard time distinguishing between "Birdman" and "The Other Birdman," it was determined that they would adopt the bad-ass rock and roll monikers Old Crow and Wild Turkey.

Wild Turkey was louder and dumber are more likely to show up shitfaced to MC car dealership anniversary parties and minor league wrestling matches. He'd gotten two performance bonuses in the past 10 years and blown both on down payments for Corvettes; both were repossessed. He was a man of the bad people, and he introduced Tallahasseans to Zeptember and Rocktober. He liked to yell, "The Wild Turkey prefers breast meat!" and then gobble-gobble in a way that he thought approximated a howl.

Old Crow was calmer and quieter and less aggressively stupid. He wisely vetoed Wild Turkey's plan to launch a weekly Allman BroThursday tribute hour. His only real crime was his gray ponytail, and hey, it's not a visual medium. Old Crow was basically current on child support. He'd never gotten a DUI and his neighbors liked him well enough.

I think the evidence speaks for itself. I hope this Thanksgiving finds you drinking Crow.

About the author: Will Gordon loves life and hates mayonnaise. You can drink with him in Boston or follow him on twitter @WillGordonAgain.

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