WhiskyLive 2017

I went with some friends last week to WhiskyLive 2017 in NYC.  I didn’t use my “press credentials” to get in, rather I bought VIP tickets (at a discount 6 months ago). VIP basically was supposed to get you entry 30 minutes early, access to a special lounge and a higher end crystal glass.  Well, the line got all screwed up and even though I got there early, I didn’t get in until almost 6pm. The glass was weird and I think I’d rather have the normal glass. And to top it off the VIP lounge didn’t have anything special in it–literally they were serving Evan Williams 2008 Single Barrel, a $22 Bourbon and some awful Widow Jane swill.

However, enough complaining and venting… but seriously, next year, the line situation needs to be fixed and they need to get a few more epic bottles in the VIP lounge.

I am very glad that I went for three reasons though. First and most importantly, Four Roses brought Brent Elliott up for the event and I got to meet the man himself. He is awesome and I plan on having an interview with him in the coming weeks: stay tuned!  They also were pouring FRSBLE2016, and while I do have several bottles of it at home, it was really nice to see a special pour.  Very few producers did that, so a real special thanks to Four Roses for stepping up and bringing their best.

The second reason I was glad to go was to see the upcoming releases from Barrell Bourbon. Joe Beatrice was there pouring Whiskey 003 and the new Bourbon 009, 010 and even 011. They also had some New Years Bourbon which they were nice enough to give double pours when I asked nicely–thanks guys!!!  (The New Years Bourbon should have been in the VIP lounge as it was better than pretty much every other one there)  I can’t say enough good things about the Barrell guys, they bought tons of bottles so everyone could try as much as they wanted, no severely limiting the pours like some other people did…

The third reason I am glad I went was to try to new Michters 10yr Rye.  It was good. But it wasn’t great. If I find any this season I will be trading it for something else because I wasn’t overly impressed. I tried it three times. It was enjoyable but the finish just wasn’t enough to make me need it. It’s probably a 90 +/- but certainly not a top 10.  They also were really stingy with the pouts: yes, I’m talking about you Kenny Ng!!!!! (exceptionally stingy pours matter in this situation, and I doubt they ran out because it was still there 2 hours into the event).

Anyway, WhiskyLive was a fun event, but not as well done as WhiskyFest was in the Fall.  I am glad I went for the reasons above and it was amazing to meet Brent and great to see Joe and try both of their whiskeys. But to be honest, the rest of the booths just didn’t do it for me: too many low end whiskeys and bad craft distillers or generic Scotches that I’ve already had. I hate to be “that guy” but if people are expected to return, they need to have something unique and new each time–I’m not sure I will be going back for 2018 unless they really step up their game. And of course… they really need to figure out the entrance better… at least the weather was nice, but it could have been below zero with all of us waiting outside.

Thanks everyone for reading my venting!

I Dipped It Myself! Maker’s 46 Cask Strength

Part of my trip to Kentucky several months ago included trip to Loretto to do the Maker’s tour.  At the end of the tour I bought a couple bottles and dipped them myself.  Maker’s Mark does one of the best tours of any distillery and is a must do for those making the trip to KY.  It’s a little out of the way, but totally worth it.  For now, Maker’s 46 Cask Strength is only available in the gift shop, but I’m told that will change soon.

Lots of baking spices: vanilla, cinnamon, allspice on the nose, raisin bread, mesquite chips and pencil shavings. Not too hot on the nose, good for a 110.7 proof Bourbon.

The palate is enjoyable, nice chew, decent oils, moderate and warm finish.  The spices come through strongly tickling the tongue, but the finish drops off.

Definitely one of the best tours on the tour, but not the best bourbon.  I prefer the original Maker’s to the 46, and the cask 46 is just more of it.  Enjoyable certainly, but nothing that’s a must try.  86/100.

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Bookers Center Cut 2015-03 Good Bourbon, A bit too hot though

Quick Review here… Booker’s is always a solid dram, uncut, unfiltered, never bad, but trypically a little hot…

Hot nose, melon balls, french toast brioche, butterscotch lollipop, cracked black pepper and all spice.

Hot on the tongue too, but with a lot of interesting spices that permeate the entire cheeks in an extended mouthfeel that goes for just over a minute. Integrated wood tannins and oil that invites another taste as well.

This one was extremely well hyped and is enjoyable but doesn’t quite reach the hype. Even though it’s aged over seven years, it still had a lot of excess heat and hasn’t quite mellowed out enough to be worthy of expectations.  However, you still want to have seconds on it…  87/100.

 

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Lock Stock & Barrel 16yr Straight Rye Whiskey

I tried the Lock Stock & Barrel 13yr rye last year at a bar and really liked it.  I didn’t review it, but it was definitely a 90+ rating.  When I saw this on the shelf, three more years of age, I jumped on it.  I did some online due diligence and even though this has been aged in new charred oak American barrels (according the the bottle), it apparently is a sourced Canadian whiskey of 100% rye grain mash bill.  107 proof.

The color is an extremely inviting golden amber shimmering whiskey.

There is a sweetness on the nose, crushed rock candy, necco wafers, apple tart, and vanilla.  The nose is not particularly strong though, as I really had to put my nose in there to get the aromas.

The palate is good, medium tannins but low on the coating oils.  The flavors are ok, but not particularly strong and the finish is on the weaker side.

Although I did not give the 13yr a proper review, from what I remember, I enjoyed that one quite a bit better.  For the $150 MSRP, this one is not one I can recommend.  I always compare ryes to Pikesville and I’d much rather have three of those than one of these.  85/100.

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Wild Turkey Rare Breed

I’ve heard a lot of good things about Wild Turkey’s Rare Breed from friends in the bourbon community, yet for some reason I never tried it… until now.  Widely available, barrel proof, uncut, Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey… what’s not to love?

Nice looking bottle, medium amber color.

Hot nose, ginger snap cookies, baking spices, dried orange peels, cooked mushrooms and forest floor.

Enjoyable mouthfeel.  Light tannins, medium oils, totally enveloping.  The heat is still strong, yet the finish is medium length but dries out and becomes slightly bitter.

For a cask strength bourbon, it’s certainly hard to find one under $50 (at least now that Booker’s is going up in price).  But from the ones that are readily available on the shelves, like Booker’s Barrell Bourbon, single Barrel Four Roses, Rare Breed falls short of them.  I’m not sure why so many people get excited about this, but maybe it’s because they haven’t tried the other cask strength ones on the market?  Rare Breed gets extra points for the price, but once this bottle is gone, I won’t be replacing it.  84/100.

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Rowan’s Creek: Solid dram for the price

Clocking in at a proof of 100.1, this is another Willett product in disguise.  I still don’t know why all of Willett’s non-eponymous brands even exist, because they all are substantially lower priced compared to their Family Estate lines… I’m sure there is a reason, I just don’t know what it is. Rowan’s is apparently a batch bourbon and this batch is 16-81.

Rusty amber color in a nice tall bottle.

Very classic aroma, butterscotch, s’mores, gravel, ginger snaps, Twix and baking spices.

The taste has everything that the nose has following through with an enjoyable finish that tickles the tongue.  The mouthfeel is enjoyable but not overly complex.  It’s not as thick as I would like, but with a non-cask strength bourbon, it does pretty well with the tannins and a touch of oil.  Finish goes on for well over a minute and stays consistently fun.

This is a good value bourbon.  I think I paid $40 for this, but it’s readily available in the mid to high 30s, and for that price it’s absolutely worth it.  I’d be curious to see what the other batches taste like and when I go through this bottle I probably will check out another batch.  The funny thing is, if this was an eponymous Willett, it easily would command $100 or higher.  90/100.

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Widow Jane Whiskey Distilled from Rye Mash: BOLD FACED LIARS

I have to say, this is one of the least attractive bottles I’ve ever seen.  Don’t judge a book by its cover…. they say, and because I’ve never tried anything from Widow Jane, let us just hope that the worst part is the visual.  The liquid in the bottle is super hazy, with weird clouds of nebulous clumps floating around, in addition to a touch of charcoal dust at the bottom–I really do like the dust.  There is a sticker they attached to the top of the bottle that says: “new technique, blah blah blah.”  Here is where I have a problem. This sticker, is a bold faced lie.  They claim they have a new technique of non-chill filtering that causes this issue?  No.  This is a very old issue that every distillery encounters.  Distillers that choose to proof their whiskey down well below 100 proof (this one is 91), are faced with cloudiness in their bourbon due to the way water interacts with the liquid.  So if a distillery wants to non-chill filter (which I’m so glad so many do!) they usually sell it at a cask strength, or at least a bottled-in-bond style.  At this proof, the liquid is clear and beautiful.  Once you get to 91, it clouds up so you would have to chill filter to remove those elements to make it look attractive.  So again, saying that it is a new technique, is just a bold faced lie.  The question is whether or not, even with the weird asthetic choice, proofing down a non-chill filtered young rye whiskey to 91 proof is the right decision from a taste perspective.  I’m willing to forgive the ugliness of the rye if the taste makes up for it.

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Spoiler Alert… it didn’t.  The nose is moderately hot, medicinal, soapy, full of cough syrup, menthol, with hints of rock candy, eucaliptis and mint.  Not particularly inviting at all.

The taste echoes the nose with heat first and foremost, with unexciting flavors that go into a short finish dominated by more heat.  The mouthfeel is the other redeeming aspect of this rye which is due to the non-chill filtered, as you get some nice grippy tannins.  Unfortunately this doesn’t salvage the dram.

I did a little research online and here is what I think happened…  No where on this bottle does it mention where this whiskey was distilled (is that still legal in this day and age?), and I heard they source it from somewhere in Kentucky.  My bet is that this is barely two years old from the new Willett rye production.  They ship it up to Brooklyn, and no, not everything is cooler and better in Brooklyn.  They probably move it into different barrels they had in the distillery so they can say they finished it in New York.  Then they bring a few barrels of water from their eponymous source upstate, and use it to proof down.  They probably wanted to bottle this at 100 or higher proof, but the heat is so bad, and they didn’t feel like waiting for the rye to mellow, that they felt they had to release it at the lower proof.  Putting a sticker at the top of a label in certain states is legal, not requiring TTB approval, so they stuck it on after the fact once they realized that it wasn’t selling because of the cloudiness.  These are all educated guesses, but I’m willing to bet that they are pretty close to the truth.  Ultimately, Widow Jane should be embarrassed to put this product out with a label that is a lie, and with a product that isn’t very good.  I’m relieved to say that I didn’t buy this bottle, instead my wife received it as a work gift from one of the law firms that her firm works with.  I guess they don’t care too much about her business, otherwise they wouldn’t have sent such a shit gift.  I can’t believe anyone would pay anything for this awful “craft” whiskey, let alone the $50 MSRP.  73/100