Drinking the Bottom Shelf: Jim Beam Rye

Drinking the Bottom Shelf

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


I'm not privy to Serious Eats' demographic research, but simply poking around the user profiles and comment histories offers compelling evidence that a fair few of you are employed in the adult entertainment industry. That's to be expected, and I don't judge your career choices. Plenty of us around here freely admit to working in the legal, financial, and schnapps-reviewing industries, so who are we to throw stones at our professionally naked friends?

Although I'm not morally opposed to the institution, I've never actively explored the small but lucrative market for crazy-eyed, jerky-eating, fully clothed bystanders in pornographic films, because I'm convinced that if you turn a hobby into a job it reduces rather than compounds your daily pleasure total. A career in adult cinema sounds like fun, but wouldn't it eventually numb you to the subtler joys of real-world encounters with sexy plumbers, librarians, and strangers?

That's why I don't write about high-end liquor or work in a grocery store. Man, do I enjoy grocery shopping. I like all kinds of food stores, from the regular ones with rock-hard avocados to the cruddy ones with accidentally ripe avocados to the hippie ones with three kinds of avocados. And I say this as a man who doesn't particularly enjoy avocados. Imagine how happy the mustard shelves and apple pyramids make me! Wicked happy.

We've already discussed why I can't work at a grocery store. Once the initial thrill of insider access to fresh-from-the-truck pretzels wore off, it'd be a long spiral of diminishing returns that eventually left me unable to get excited over even the most special of civilian grocery events, like $2.99 12-pack of Coke Zero Week or Free Hummus Sample Day. But at least the proliferation of self-scan checkout aisles gives me regular opportunities to indulge in a little bit of fantasy grocery clerk role-playing.

The self-checkout aisle was somewhat troublesome when it was introduced back in whatever year it was introduced, because no one knew how to use the damn things. Then they enjoyed a brief and glorious heyday in the late summer and early fall of 2009, when competent shoppers had figured out how to whiz right through them while the cowards and slowpokes stuck with the traditional humanned lines. Now it's basically a wash, time-wise, because nearly everyone (in my neighborhood at least) has cottoned to the fact that looking up your own banana code is infinitely preferable to making eye contact with a stranger.

Another advantage of the self-scan lane is the regular reminder to pat myself on the back for being an upstanding member of society. When it comes time to weigh the non-barcode-bearing produce, I always think, "Hey, what's to stop me from saving upwards of 80 cents by entering these organic black grapes as regular green grapes? Or even potatoes!" And then I remember, "Oh, right. I can't do that because I don't defraud grocery stores via phony fruit accounting practices." Then I smugly pay full price for my deluxe grapes—minus the fistful I ate in the produce section because what am I supposed to do, weigh myself upon entering and leaving the store and then mail them a check for the difference?—and take my satisfied leave.

The only drawback to this grocery approach is that, as a self-employed one-man editorial gang who refuses to make or receive phone calls, retail clerks provide my only opportunity to speak during business hours, since I don't have any pets or demons. This is no big deal except that it leads to embarrassing voice-cracking when the sun finally fades and I dust off the pipes to order a drink. Ever go mum for 12 hours and then try to jump right back into it with, "Tequila and pineapple with a warm McGillicuddy's back, large onion rings, hold the ketchup, phone calls, and judgment?"

So until I finally hire an intern or a cat to yell at throughout the day, I think it's best to find a simpler way to order the evening's first lube. I need to come up with an easily barkable whiskey, so the other day I settled into a bottle of Jim Beam Rye to see if it's any better than ho-hum Beam bourbon.

It is! Much better, in fact. It's not as good as Old Overholt rye for roughly the same price (around $14 a bottle), but it's much easier to say three times fast with a rusty larynx. Beam Rye is very rye-like in its spicy pepper nose, and while it's not much more complex than its name, it does open with a faint orange note before the spice reasserts itself for the follow-through.

Jim Beam Rye is easy on the wallet, the voice, and the tongue, and it will suit me fine as I transition from the day's toils to the night's dreams of a world with self-checkout liquor stores.