Bourbon: Best Bang for your Buck

A friend and I went to a local whiskey bar recently, and were a bit overwhelmed at the options. However, we’re both bourbon fans and managed to pick a few at random to try. But what makes the difference between a $4.00 glass of bourbon and a $7.00 glass of bourbon? Probably a combination of factors, but I wanted to see if ratings had any bearing on price.

This graph shows 187 bourbons from Proof66 and compares the price per bottle to the professional judges’ rating. Mouseover for details!

According to the website, any rated liquor is worth drinking according to the judges. However, it is interesting to see which are overpriced and which are bargains. Note that I had to use a log scale for the price because of those few bourbons that are significantly more expensive.

The site also provides ratings of regular users. These unsurprisingly do not always align with the judges’ ratings. I normalized the two rating systems and then picked the top ten most controversial bourbons, in both directions. The bourbons at the top are preferred by users and the bourbons at the bottom are preferred by judges.

Dot plot of controversial bourbon ratings

Finally, I wanted to see how bourbons stacked up compared to other types of whiskey. This chart shows that they actually rank fairly highly and the only non-single-malt that beats it is Tennessee whiskey (which I did not know was a formal legal category!).Boxplot of whiskeys by rating

Surprised by any ratings? What’s your liquor of choice? Let me know in the comments or make some charts about what you like to drink!

9 thoughts on “Bourbon: Best Bang for your Buck

  1. Neal MacDonald

    Hi Phil, very interesting! I liked your idea of “controversial” bourbons very much particularly since we try and balance the judges against the users. Would love to leverage some of your findings and perhaps share some of our data… drop me a line if this interests you.

    One interesting factoid: bourbon tends to be a uniter of judging opinion (as does most whiskey). Meanwhile, the level of disagreement among judges in gin, vodka, and other places is astounding.

  2. memphis

    Your scatterplot and controversial chart do not agree. For example. very old barton and henry mckenna in the scatterplot rate poorly, but in the chart, they rate highly.

    1. Phillip

      I normalized the scores so (at the time of writing) the users’ normalized score for McKenna was 614.5 and the judges’ rating was 256. The score you see on the controversy chart won’t actually match up with any particular rating in the scatterplot.

  3. Benjamin

    Maybe I’m completely dense but in the text you say, ” The bourbons at the top are preferred by judges and the bourbons at the bottom are preferred by users,” but the note under the graph implies the opposite (that the grouping on the left was prefered by the judges).

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