A Bourbon Drinker’s Guide To Your Health

For as long as I can remember, I’ve collected things. When I was a child, it started with trading cards, then comics, then cassettes, CDs, etc.

I’ve since gotten rid of all of those things over the years. I’d move from state to state when my family would get transferred, find another thing to be fascinated with and start collecting that too.

When I started RevFit, my next collection became my books. I’m a voracious reader and while I can’t say that I have many collector’s items on my bookshelf, it’s nice to walk into my office where I keep all of them and see what I’ve read, what I’ve loved and what I have yet still to read.

Several years ago, my wife bought me a vintage turntable and that turned me into a record collector (shocker, I know!) It was with records that I chose to be more particular with the way I purchased. I’m more into limited edition versions, special colored variants, etc.

Somewhat in jest, my newest fascination I wholeheartedly blame one of my clients, Bill K., for. That would be my bourbon collection.

Last year, Bill and I were talking and I had mentioned that I liked bourbon but didn’t know much about it. Historically, I’ve never really been a heavy drinker. I don’t have the physical tolerance for it, nor is it something I’m looking to develop.

As I’ve gotten older, beer and wine don’t sit well with me as they did once before, so bourbon became the drink I could handle without feeling bloated or just wanting to fall straight to sleep as wine has a tendency to make me do.

Much like anything, you can fall down a significant (and expensive) rabbit hole with bourbon. It was this rabbit hole that inspired me to write this week’s article.

What does your health have to do with an ever growing bourbon collection in my dining room?

Well, follow me down this path for a bit.

As I mentioned, Bill was the one who I credit with really lighting this fire under me. When he found out that I had an interest in bourbon, he asked me if I had ever tried one called Blanton’s. I had not.

If you’re a bourbon drinker, you are probably already smirking at this.

Bill was kind enough to gift me my first bottle of Blanton’s. It’s a tasty one and it normally sells for around $60. There’s a caveat to that, though. Supply and demand is such that Blanton’s is not particularly easy to find in most parts of the U.S. and I’ve seen secondary market prices of upwards of $200 just to buy one bottle (thanks, but no thanks!)

Of course, once the bug bit me, I started trying to learn more about bourbon:

-What were the best kinds?

-How easily can they be found in Ohio?

-Are the more expensive ones actually better in taste?

For Christmas last year, Bill (that terribly kind soul that he is) gave me a limited edition book that helped me learn a little bit more about the making and history of bourbon along with a convenient list of bourbons that “should” be on everyone’s shelf.

That’s pretty much where I took off with it. As I was reading that book, I happened to be driving down to Tennessee (conveniently passing through Kentucky, the indisputable birthplace of bourbon) and I started looking at shops down there to see what I could find.

I learned a fair amount on that trip. I learned that each state runs their liquor sales in totally different ways. In Tennessee, for instance, liquor stores can charge whatever they want independent of one another. By comparison, in Ohio, the stores are overseen by the state board and (essentially) every store in the state has the same prices (which can be good or bad depending on the item).

Needless to say, I came home from that trip with the first inkling that collecting these bottles would be my new thing.

Curiously, I don’t have the olfactory senses that allow me to accurately pick out all of the notes in bourbon. I can’t really tell you if there’s caramel, vanilla, pepper, or butterscotch. All I know is: I like how that tastes and it’s either strong (high proof) or not. More on this later…

I’ve also discovered that while I love learning more about different bourbons and distilleries, I don’t have a huge interest in buying extremely expensive (a relative term) or very rare bottles (Pappy Van Winkle, anyone?)

Much like collecting records or books, I like seeing the collection grow but I want to be able to enjoy what I have and fulfill that obsessive nature of mine to watch shelves fill up over time.

I would say though, that my bourbon collection maybe more closely resembles the way I collect books. I don’t need the most expensive or the rarest bottle, I want something that I can simply appreciate and perhaps recommend to others (which is of course where my fascination has led me to of late).

Little by little, I’m learning more about how bourbon might pair with certain foods. I like a good rye but Heaven forbid, don’t try pairing a rye with a spicy dish. It’s not a good match! A high proof pick is the way to go if you’re going for spicier foods.

Often times, I work with clients who find themselves interested in following certain diets or diet trends. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. People need to find the way that resonates with them, their values and their lifestyles.

However, more often than not, I find clients who can regurgitate mountains of information about their diet “du jour” and for some strange reason, they can’t successfully stick with or succeed with those diets.

This where I want to start drawing something of a parallel between my approach to drinking and enjoying bourbon and your personal quest for better health.

It’s a perspective I’d like to offer you.

Learn just enough. I’m learning a lot about bourbon because I find it genuinely interesting. However, not every facet of it is interesting. I’m not concerned with whether or not I can sense every note in a bottle. I just want to find things I enjoy and might complement a given meal. When you decide you’re ready to take care of your health (lose fat mass, gain lean muscle, etc.) you may need to learn things like what a calorie deficit is (eating consistently less over time than what your body burns in a day) and what progressive overload is (how to get stronger over time while minimizing injury). If you go too far down the Google hole, you gain a whole lot of information but you don’t develop consistent action/execution. You end up with a head full of knowledge and no results to back it up.

-Everything in moderation. I don’t drink to get drunk and historically, I’m a one-and-done drinker. While I can’t admit to moderating the amount of bourbon I own (or records or books), I do moderate my intake. It’s why you frequently hear bourbon drinkers talk about good “sippers”. You want something that you can savor and take your time with. Anyone who has ever embarked on a diet or exercise plan knows what it’s like when they take things too far. Either the plan becomes unsustainable or an injury occurs. Then you lose ground and progress because you didn’t operate within the framework of what your body/mind can currently handle. While the middle ground might not be sexy or fancy, it is where the most reasonable and realistic results can happen over time.

Find your society. I was recently listening to a podcast for bourbon fans and I heard a sentiment I’ll share (paraphrased) with you. If more of us could spend time sharing (sipping) a drink with one another and just talking/listening, we’d have a lot less problems in this world. Of course, if for any reason you don’t partake in alcohol, bring a glass of water or coffee to the table. If you want to have a healthier life, find people around you who “fill your cup” (pun intended), not people who tear you down and leave you worse off after each interaction. Find friends/family members who support your goals and make new friends along the way (of any color, creed, religious/sexual/political preference) who can help you broaden your understanding of others and maybe make you a better version of you. Some of the best conversations and learning experiences I’ve had in my life have come from people of different cultures and backgrounds than myself.

Have fun. Unlike buying books or records, which can easily solve the thrill of the hunt with a quick search online and a “Buy Now” option, not all bourbon purchases are worth the online hunt. Those particular merchants may or may not have the bourbon you’re looking for at a reasonable price. Then, of course, you get gouged with shipping rates. This is where I’ve seen some merchants sell particular bottles at a decent price but then do a savage markup on others (like the aforementioned Blanton’s). I’ve learned to make friends with Mom & Pop local liquor stores and become a regular patron. When special or limited items come in stock, it keeps me top of mind if the owner wants to hold something behind the counter for me that others may not have access to. This makes bourbon collecting fun for me. Arguably, the best things you do for your health are the things you consider fun. Maybe they get you together with friends who make you laugh or you can forget about your stressful job for a while. Whether you’re teaching yourself how to cook or you’re learning how to get better at a particular lift, have fun learning the nuances of how self-improvement can put a smile on your face and not be a chronic drag because you’re chasing an arbitrary goal. Not every aspect of improving your life has to be one that makes you drag your feet.

Below is a picture of some of my collection. It’s almost displayed accurately as Top Shelf (more expensive) to Bottom Shelf (less so). With bourbon, however, a higher price doesn’t equate to better taste. Taste is subjective. Some of my very favorite ones are in the mid-range and some of the bottom shelf products are fantastic mixers if you’re into cocktails. I personally favor bourbon neat (no ice).

Your health is far more than what you eat and how you train. It’s who you surround yourself with, how you relax and unwind, and how you recharge your batteries. Maybe you’ll never be a bourbon drinker and maybe this post will inspire you to venture out and try some. Either outcome is fine by me.

The beauty is in finding the path that works for you.

“We Make Great People Greater”

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