Black Friday = Bourbon County Brand Stout

If you are a beer guy, like I am in addition to loving Bourbon, Black Friday means one thing and one thing only: The release of Bourbon County Brand Stout.

I was very lucky to get a couple cases this year, although last year I got more. They changed the bottle design from last year, which was normal beer bottle sizes. This year it’s 16.9oz, and the bottle looks amazing, but I strongly prefer the other design. When you are dealing with a 14.3% alcohol beer, that also had a ton of calories, opening up this larger size is harder to do solo.

I secured a single Rye, and will open that in a few months once it settles down–I found that the flavors for the varietals last year were overpowering initially and were better after a few months.

For $9.99 a bottle, the regular stout is probably the best beer on the market.   I try to buy as much as I can for a few reasons, but primarily because once it’s gone, it’s gone. But also because it ages very nicely and will evolve for years. It also is good trade bait for other things.

I love how dark this is when it pours out. You can smell the bourbon on the nose. Chocolate, espresso, vanilla bean, charcoal and happiness. There is a richness to the taste.  I drink this out of a snifter or a wine glass because it’s meant to be consumed slowly and evolve in the glass more like a wine than a beer. Every year this is just such an amazing drink.

To me, Black Friday is synonymous with BCBS, and the 2015 is another winner. 99/100.

 

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Four Roses LESB 2014 vs 2015

I liked the 2015 edition so much, I went on bottle-spot and found someone selling the 2014 for a “mere” 2x retail, so I lifted two of them. Prices have certainly gone up, but at the same time availability has increased for older stuff… I wasn’t into bourbon a few years ago, so finding a BTAC at retail was never something I experienced, so bottle-spot is where I have been sourcing and trading for a lot of interesting bottles recently.

Anyway, here it goes….

Similar color to the 2015, sparking golden amber, slightly lighter. This all makes sense as it is a little younger. The breakdown on this one is: again a blend of four mash bills, OBSK 9 year, OBSV 13 year, OESV12 year and OBSF 11 year.

The nose has a touch more hotness compared to the 2015, and the proof is a touch higher: 111.8 vs 108.6. I’m getting a lot candied orange peel, almond butter, pumpkin pie, maple wood charcoal and Werther’s Original. It’s very good but not quite up to the 2015 on the nose.

I have decided that I love non-chill filtered bourbons. And this is no exception. The gritty mouthfeel is delightful and the finish keeps going on. The palate is very enjoyable but again, not quite as complex as the 2015. When the bottle was first opened it smelled and tasted a little stale, the key was the wait and keep it open for a few hours. If I rated this when I first opened, if would have graded quite poorly.  After a few hours the palate is lovely.

Overall, this is a other amazing bourbon. I’m going to try to find the 2013 and earlier online if possible to try, but my guess is the 2015 will be unmatched. This one gets a 95/100.  It’s a shame that Rutledge is retiring, because these limited editions are amazing.

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Here is the release from Four Roses about this one:

Four Roses Distillery will release the newest in its series of limited-quantity special bottlings with the 2014 Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon, featuring four of the distillery’s ten Bourbon recipes from barrels ranging in age from 9 to 13 years.

Four Roses is the only distillery that combines two mashbills with five proprietary yeast strains to produce ten distinct Bourbons, each with its own unique characteristics. These Bourbons can be mingled in nearly infinite combinations to create a wide range of flavor profiles.

Master Distiller Jim Rutledge selected four of the ten Bourbons to create the 2014 Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon: 13-year-old Bourbon from Four Roses’ OBSV recipe, 12-year-old OESV, 11-year-old OBSF and 9-year-old OBSK.

“It’s exciting and challenging to select the Bourbons that will be used in various percentages for a special and different Limited Edition Small Batch,” Rutledge said.

The 2014 Limited Edition Small Batch, bottled at barrel strength, is both bold and refreshing, with aromas of light orange zest, glazed maple and fresh spearmint. The flavor profile includes orange citrus and mellow hints of honey, which are expertly mingled with a palate of mild cloves and cool mint for a long, bold and smooth finish.

“We’ve only scratched the surface with what we can do with our ten Bourbon recipes relative to varying flavor profiles for special releases,” said Rutledge.

Jefferson’s Presidential Select Bourbon 25yr

Jefferson’s Presidential Select Straight Bourbon Whiskey 25 years 45.2%

Batch 2, bottle number 0170

Another bottle-spot trade and my first JPS ever–clearly excited and doing my best to avoid the chance of disappointment. My enthusiasm is tempered by my string of disappointments for 20+ year bourbons, so we shall see…

Nice golden dark amber color in the glass….

Nose has a nice combination of both sweet and earthy tones: autumnal leaves, pumpkin bread, roasted mushrooms, touch of licorice and old wood scraps and saw dust on a workbench.  After being open for several hours some subtle orange peal notes come through as well as floral tones.

Although there is definitely some good wood on this bourbon, it does not overpower the experience, allowing the other flavored to just squeak through. There is some spice on the back of the palate and it’s a very smooth pour with almost no heat. The biggest knock on this one is the mouthfeel. I’m pretty sure it was filtered, which probably removed some of the tannins and probably some of the extra woodiness, but it also removed some of the oils and tannins that take something like this to the next level. Also at only 90.4 proof, it’s perhaps too smooth because of the low alcohol. The finish is long and enjoyable but not quite to the level as I would have hoped.

I will never know what this would have tasted like if the master blender decided to either not filter it or bottle at cask strength. Perhaps this was a better product and straight out of the barrel it was too woody, too tannic, just not good enough? Maybe this was the best expression?  Maybe. Or maybe it would have been epic?  Either way, this is a very enjoyable bourbon, but doesn’t hit the upper echelons for me and certainly not worth the prices some people are charging. 92.5/100

 

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#1 Whiskey of the Year vs some lesser Rye…

Like everyone else I was a little surprised to see Crown Royal take the #1 Whiskey of the World title, but also decided that I should judge it for myself. I also thought it would be fun to try my first bottle of BTAC, that I traded for via bottle-spot. This Handy is 129.2 proof, which I believe is the 2011 bottling.

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye, made from 90% rye whiskey is a Blended Canadian Whiskey and is 90 proof. What’s the other 10%???  It has a nice honey yellow color to it. The Handy is a much richer and deeper color with copper tones.

The Crown had a very sweet nose to it: cotton candy, rock candy, honeysuckle, daffodils and a hint of graham crackers. Very little spice and almost no heat on the nose.

The Handy has very rich deep favors of butterscotch, Reese’s peanut butter cups, cracked pepper and yams.

The Crown has a very nice mouthfeel and the sweetness is confirmed on the palate. There is a nice surprise of a bit of heat which I didn’t think would emerge. The mid palate is a little weak but the finish is quite enjoyable.

The Handy is a big drink, decent amount of heat and big on flavor. The mouthfeel is great and the finish is long. The tannins are integrated and the whole experience is excellent.

Here’s the deal. These Ryes are worlds apart, but so are the prices. The Crown goes for about $30 while the Handy trades on the secondary market for $300. The crown is a good value whiskey but isn’t a great whiskey. The Handy is a great whiskey, but only to be consumed in special occasions, or in my case, tonight, Tuesday night.

Crown Royal Norther Harvest Rye 90/100
BTAC Thomas Handy Sazerac Rye 96.5/100

 

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24 Hours in DC: Indian Whiskey / Jack Rose / BTAC / Offensive Retailers… all in one blog

So… I went to DC Sunday night through Monday for business, but I managed to fit in a little bit of whiskey fun while I was there…

First up I had a client dinner at an Indian retaurant… the client was late so I figured I would order up some Indian Whiskey and do a casual review:

Indian Whiskeys…. When in Rasika in DC, why not?

Amrut Fusion has a young nose, hint of pettiness, very scotch like, straw and hay and a quick smooth finish. Nice burn, but unlike what Jim Murray says, this one doesn’t blow me away. 86/100

However, the Amrut Single Malt Cask strength has an incredible mouthfeel, so much so that you want to hold it in your mouth for a long long time. Candied apple, passion fruit and bananas on the nose. This is an awesome whiskey. Definitely not chill filtered on this one as the oils really work well into the mouth and has a very long finish.  I would buy this one for my cabinet if I saw it at a good price at my home store.  93/100

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I was not drunk at this point of the evening, and the client was REALLY late, so I had a good amount of time to think about these…

However the rest of the night I was unable to give either quantitative or qualitative reviews due to my level of intoxication.

I then decided to go to Jack Rose to continue the evening.  I was willing to give the bar another shot after my last experience which was extremely poor.  It was a Sunday night and extremely slow for them, and I will say, the service that night was excellent.  They were attentive, knowledgeable and polite.  Very different from last time… maybe they just need to increase their staffing during their busy time?  I don’t know… but I will tell you I had an awesome time.  My first order:

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BOOM! Go big or go home.  An ounce of each… $25 a pour, which is basically below the secondary market prices, so go for it!  I am unable to give a grade on these outside of: YUUUMMMMY!  One day I will do better than that, and actually dissect them appropriately, but until then, I can just say they were awesome.  The Weller was my favorite and one of the best whiskeys I’ve ever had, Saz was second and ER17 came in third.

And of course, no night at Jack Rose is complete without some sort of Pappy… so we went for the Old Rip.  I also ordered a Scotch Egg, which was delicious 🙂

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The night was awesome.  Monday was full of meetings and all sort of professional stuff with which  I will not bore any of you.

Before I caught an Uber to the airport, I thought I’d do a little hunting in some local liquor stores, and I thought I hit the jackpot when I walked by a store called Barmy Wines & Liquor.  In the window I saw a unicorn… EH Taylor Tornado Survivor!  Two of them!  And then a Jefferson’s Presidential 25, and then a George T. Stagg, no, 4 of them, and a Weller, and a Pappy 20… holy shit!  Then I asked the prices… insane.  Stagg was $800, Tornado was $1k, Jefferson 25 was $500, Pappy 20 was 3k… All well above Bottle-Spot or Craigslist prices.  Annoying… so I went to their regular selection.  This is where I took some serious offense: Elmer T Lee @ $99.99, Stagg Jr @ $149.99, Barrell Bourbon @ $99.99… come on!  Elmer @ $100!!!  These guys were fully stocked and for good reason: no one would ever pay these prices.  Anyway, if you are in DC, boycottt this store.  I came up completely empty on my 20 minute hunt, but if anyone has any suggestions on places to hunt next time, let me know.

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Old Grand-Dad 114: Rugged Must Own Bourbon (Better Than Crown)

The word smooth has been considered a lazy word to use when describing a whiskey. “Ooooohhh that’s so smooth” gets passed around quite a bit and I’m just as guilty as the next. Smooth has become a cliche compliment to a well made and properly aged whiskey, the opposite of all the shots of garbage we threw back in college: “uuugggggg the burn.”  So it comes a time when the word smooth is to be challenged as the prerequisite hurdle of a well made whiskey. I think I have found the perfect example in OGD114.

Old Grand-Dad 114 is 57% abv Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey made from a high rye mash bill in Claremont, KY by Beam Suntory.

Medium amber slightly dulled.

The nose is extremely spicy with cracked pepper, raisin bran and fresh ginger snap cookies. The high mash bill really shows up in the nose in a very enjoyable way.

The spice from the rye really kicks in up front while ginger and peanut butter cup coat the rest of the palate. This is an aggressive and sharp and jagged bourbon that is so enjoyable.  The rough edges of spiciness is what makes this bourbon takes so good. The mouthfeel is thick and big and the higher proof really keeps the finish going.

Old Grand-Dad 114 is one of those bourbons that if you can find for $25 like I did, you should buy two and feel lucky–I did. Finding a barrel proof bourbon that tastes this good under $30 is almost impossible to find these days and OGD has been doing it for a long time. It gets an extra couple points for the price, but I’m sure they would still sell out if they charged $40-$50.  This is a must own.  94/100

I will be rating the Crown Royal soon… I’ve opened it and am working through the review.. but… spoiler alert… if you want a $30 or less high rye whiskey… this is a better choice!

 

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Quick Conversation on Glassware and a New Bar…

Don’t you hate bars that pour high end whiskey in glasses that are just not appropriate for the quality of whiskey?  I do.  Drives me nuts.  At home I have a few Glencairn glasses which I really like.  I bought them a few months ago, basically when I started this blog, and have been using them ever since.  As I said in the beginning of this blog, historically I have been a wine drinker and certainly buy into the idea of specific wine glasses for certain types of wine.  It only makes sense that whiskey should have it’s own glass.

I was recently listening to The Whiskey Topic, a very entertaining podcast by Mark Bylok and Jamie Johnson, and a new glass type was mentioned.  I logged on to Kickstarter, watched the video, and bought four of them.  The only downside is I won’t be getting them until April 2016… the idea behind the glass is that is captures the aromas of the whiskey better than other glasses, while diffusing the ethanol, all the while having the angle such that you can still see your friends while drinking.  I was sold.

Here is the link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/norlan/the-norlan-whisky-glass

Back to the bar thing… there is a new bar in Manhattan, Whiskey Social, in the west village that serves all it’s high end whiskey in Glencairn glasses–something I really appreciate.  Daniel is the general manager and is friendly, knowledgeable and very welcoming.  They have a cool thing where you can rent a locker (free with a bottle $250 or more), and store your bottles there for use later.  I have my locker there, and recommend that you get one while they still are left… as of last week about 70% of them were taken.  Anyone who wants to share a drink with me in NYC, just send me a note and I’m happy to share with fellow whiskey lovers.

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