Barrell Whiskey 002: MAGICAL Sherry Cask Finish

I was at a whiskey tasting a couple weeks ago at the Harrison Wine Vault in Harrison, NY which was a charity event for the local pet shelter.  I convinced my wife to go with me because I said there would be lots of puppies with which our 1yr old would love to play.  There were a couple puppies, but my main purpose was to secure a designated driver for a whiskey tasting… I was sneaky, yet successful.  There were many new craft producers and only a few producers that I had tried before and liked.  I would say that 50% of the whiskeys to try were from a random new craft producer, trying to sell a product between six months and two years of age.  All of the new craft products were literally horrible.  Trying to push a nine month rye as a $60 bottle is just embarrassing–I don’t foresee many of them still in business in a couple years…  I was lucky Garrison Brothers was there (link from old review:    https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2015/11/07/garrison-brothers-texas-straight-bourbon-whiskey-another-great-drink/), Four Roses and Barrell Bourbon.  I knew I liked Batch 006 (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2015/12/29/barrell-bourbon-batch-006-home-run-top-5-of-the-year/), but they also were serving Batch 007 (very very good, but not yet on the market and I haven’t given it a proper tasting), and their new whiskey product, Barrell Whiskey Batch 002, which is a Sherry cask finish.  For those who follow this blog, you know my rants about finishing, so I was clearly skeptical about this product as well.  However, when I tried it, my concerns immediately melted away.  I was lucky to secure a bottle and my review is based on bottle number 1096.

Barrell Whiskey Batch 002 is a nine and a half year whiskey that has been finished in Sherry butts from Spain.   Like everything from Barrell Craft Spirits, this is bottled at cask strength: this particular batch is 61.9% abv.  I looked online, and I have confirmed that this is both the oldest whiskey that they have sold and their first cask finished product.  Like I said, I am extremely skeptical about finished whiskeys as I feel like most producers just mix in low quality dessert wines and pretend they have created something great–most fail at this (see my review of a failed “finished” whiskey from High West:    https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2015/10/31/high-wests-tragic-whiskey-a-midwinter-nights-dram/comment-page-1/).  Not only was I  surprised by BW002, I was blown away by how much I enjoyed this whiskey.

The color is honey suckle brown, for almost a 10yr whiskey, you can tell this has been aged in used barrels instead of the new barrels that bourbon is aged in.

The nose has hints of sherry, unlike most finished whiskeys which overpower the nose with the dessert wine that it is mixed with.  In addition to the sherry, notes of graham cracker, honeysuckle, Halloween Candy Corn, baked pumpkin seeds and butterscotch ice cream.  What is also surprising is the complete lack of heat on the nose–not something you would expect for a 120+ proof whiskey.  Perhaps that is due to the near 10yrs of age?

The palate is a delight.  The perfect integration of the sherry residue from the cask and the 9.5yr whiskey is so enjoyable on the tongue.  Every note from the nose is coming through even stronger on the palate, but the better part is the mouthfeel.  The intense thickness of oil and grit just creates a finish that goes on and on. By such a large margin, this is the best cask finished whiskey I have ever had, but it also is one of the best whiskeys I have ever had as well. The complexity of this whiskey has so many layers and the taste goes on for several minutes.  What is also amazing is how little heat comes through–for a cask strength product you often get an overwhelming amount of heat but this whiskey has just enough to know it is there, like a cashmere blanket next to a wood burning stove.

I checked into this batch and it turns out that only 200 cases (1200 bottles) were produced.  The Yamazaki Sherry Cask Finish 2016 had 3,000 bottles produced and I think this is even better than that.  I know that hoarders get a bad name, but I am not embarrassed to say that if I see any of these bottles left at any store, I will be buying them and drinking them for years to come.  I also hope that Barrell Craft Spirits comes out with another Sherry Cask batch because if this is just a one off project, the whiskey community will be at a deep loss.  So PLEASE: Barrell Craft Spirts, PLEASE continuing making a Sherry Finished product, you will have a customer for life in me.  If any of my readers are able to secure a bottle of this, just close your eyes and buy it: I guarantee you will not be disappointed.  97/100.

 

http://www.barrellbourbon.com/

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1929 Hiram Walker Prohibition Unicorn

The 21 Club in NYC found a few cases of Prohibition Era whiskey a few years ago and now they are down to just a couple bottles.  It is Hiram Walker Private Stock Blended Canadian Whiskey from Walkerville, Ontario, Canada–it looks like like Canadian Club.  Distilled in 1919, aged for 10 years in barrels and bottled in 1929, this whiskey has continued to mellow in the brown bottle for the last 87 years.  Initially very skeptical about paying up for something like this, however, I am glad I went ahead and bought it.

The color was lighter than a bourbon, but on par with a Canadian Whiskey aged in used barrels.  The nose was all Madagascar Vanilla, uber velvety and oozing of smoothness.  The second draw had cinnamon sticks, cotton candy, with a steam shower water vapor-esque consistency which was just so light and fresh.  The nose was not overpowering at all, but so gentle and unique I could only hope the taste equaled.

At 90.4 proof I had lower expectations for the palate and mouthfeel, but oils on the mouth came in nicely, although any remnants of tannins were long gone if they ever were present to begin with.  Vanilla clouds permeated through each sip, and this was one you wanted to keep in your mouth for a long time to get every nuance.  Something about 87 years in the bottle after 10 years in wood really did some magic with this whiskey.

If you are in NYC you need to go to the 21 Club and order it.  On the menu it is $100, but if you ask Anthony nicely for a half pour, then may give you a full one for $50.  At $50 I would buy this every single time. Hard to grade something that isn’t readily available, but I feel comfortable giving it a 98/100.

 

ETL for $200?? Boycott these Stores

My wife and I were Long Island bound last weekend to attend one of her college friend’s wedding. We negotiated a couple things: I would drive both ways, but I would be able to stop at as many liquor stores in between the wedding (2:30pm) and the reception (6pm)–the multiple liquor store stops has caused tension in our relationship so doing it with her was not an easy ask, see my previous hunting related blog (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2015/12/14/whiskey-hunting-a-passion-or-obsession/). I had some success, acquiring Hibiki 17, 21 and some Mitcher’s 10 Bourbon at the right prices; it’s always fun to find some new hunting grounds. However, I also found two stores that should be boycotted by everyone.

Pavilion Wine & Spirits: Plainview Shopping Center 361 S Oyster Bay Rd, Plainview, NY 11803  **BOYCOTT**

This store was a huge tease: multiple Family Van Winkle 12s, George T. Stagg 2015, Yamazaki Sherry Cask, Michter’s 20, and more… on the glass door it said to ask for the manager… enter Tim… Tim is arrogant, not friendly and a liar. I asked him about the Pappy 12, instead of giving me a price, he picks up his phone, goes on wine-searcher and tells me it’s $900. Are you kidding me? I told him I’d be happy to sell him mine for half that. We go through the same routine for GTS: $800, Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2016: 3.5k, M20: 1.5k. These prices are so far above secondary prices it’s silly, but what’s more offensive is that he completely lied to me. He says he sells online and they fly off the shelves at these prices–he doesn’t even have price tags on them so how does he know??? In addition, if it were true, how does he still have 8 bottles of pappy 12?  In New York State liquor stores need to buy from distributors, so how exactly does he has 8 bottles?  Maybe he’s never sold one? The rest of the store was mediocre, nothing worth buying, so I would never go there again, plus, I really don’t like being lied to by the manager.

Wine Post & Spirits: 510 Jericho Turnpike, Syosset, NY 11791  **BOYCOTT**

A picture says a thousand words…. ETL $200, W.L. Weller Special Reserve $49.99, ECBP 128p $139.99. I asked the manager if he was flexible on any of these, and he obnoxiously said and recommended I look in the other section “for bourbons more in my budget.”  Are you serious??  He also told me that ETL is “liquid gold” and is a bargain at any price. This guy needs to have his head checked, but if anyone actually spends $200 on a ELT, those are the heads that will really need to be examined. The store has a decent selection of wine and other items, but literally everything is 10-200% overpriced. Another store to put on the blacklist.

The wedding was fun, I managed to find a few items that I didn’t have in my bunker and now we have two more stores to add to the blackball list. Share with your friends and hopefully stores like this who massively overcharge and do it with an attitude will slowly disappear.

Booker’s 2015-06

Booker’s is usually my go to bourbon when I go to a bar in NYC because it’s usually priced around the same as its 80-90 proof brothers, yet has ~40% more booze in it. I’m always looking for the arb.

This Booker’s is the sixth and final release from 2015. It is a 6 year, 8 month and 7 day old bourbon bottled at 128.1 proof.  This one is called “Noe Secret” and has a drawing of a message in a bottle.

Booker’s always has a dark amber color and this batch is no different. It has a tint of orange in it as well.

On the nose I get Cinnamon Toast Crunch, candied apple, butterscotch candy and dried orange with cloves.  The heat is strong like most Booker’s are, but smoother than most.

The mouthfeel had a thickness to it that is very enjoyable. The cloves and dried orange are the notes that come through most on the palate. The finish is good but after a while, it turns to just heat.

I’ve never had a Booker’s that I have disliked but, aside from the 25th anniversary that I only had once at a bar, I’ve never been blown away by it; this one is no different. Enjoyable dram, I’m glad I bought it, but I won’t be stockpiling this batch in my bunker. 89/100.

 

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4 Bottle Blanton’s Tasting

One Buffalo Trace’s favorite offererings, Blanton’s has been a mainstay on my bar for almost 10 years. The classic “Original Single Barrel Whiskey” is always one of my favorites as you can tell from my previous review (insert review here). Recently I decided to use bottle-spot.com to get some bottles that can only be purchased overseas, including three bottles for tonight’s tasting.

Special Reserve, Green Label
Sweet candy corn nose, nice cinnamon toast, butterscotch and cloves. Only 80 proof and not too hot but misses some of the mouthfeel due to the chill filtering. Not super complex but definitely enjoyable and easy to drink. Definitely a good entry level bourbon, easy to enjoy but not a finish that keeps you entranced.  Reminds me a lot of Elmer T Lee–very solid, easy drinker, always a crowd pleaser.  Don’t bother adding water, just dilutes it more. 89/100

Standard Single Barrel
A classic. See review. You can never go wrong with this one. The nose is sweet upfront with vanilla, toffee, licorice, sliced almonds, roasted peanut butter but still manages to tell you that it’s a serious whiskey.  The well integrated sweet nose appears on the palate as well, the warmth permeates as the oak and nutty flavors envelop my tongue.  I am reminded why Blanton’s is one of those bourbons that everyone likes and is very consistent.  Adding a touch of water to this one brought out a touch more sweetness.  92/100  Original Review: https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2015/07/13/blantons-oh-blantons-how-ye-never-disappoints/

Blanton’s Gold Label
First time ever trying the Gold Label and excited for the 103 proof. On the nose you can feel a bigger richness than either of the first two with more dried fruit, toasted cinnamon bread and this one had a bit more smokey flavors seeping out.  The weight on the mouth is better and more enjoyable and has a little bit of grit that gives it some complexity. This finish goes on for a while and definitely deserves a gold label.  Very enjoyable. Adding water does nothing for this whiskey, drink it neat.  This is the one for those who want a little more than the classic Single Barrel, but aren’t quite ready for the full barrel proof experience.  93/100

Straight from the Barrel
The biggest proofed older brother of the four, this bottle clocking in at 130.6 proof.  This one is by far the most enjoyable, complex and award worthy of the four. Adding a couple drops of water rounds it out a little removing some of the sharp edges, but I actually enjoy those edges so it’s a judgement call. Spicy and sweet and powerful all in one. But I’m biased towards high proof, non chill filtered bourbons like this one. I’ve heard people say they if you can’t afford BTAC to pick this one up instead. I don’t think it’s quite gets to the BTAC level, but it is a very good offering from our friends at Buffalo Trace. It’s just annoying that they don’t offer it here in the US.  94/100  Original Review: https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/03/30/blantons-straight-from-the-bottle/

What I think is very interesting about this tasting is that these are presumably all the same mash bill and similar aging, but because they are all single barrels and proofed differently, they all have very different characteristics. I am not surprised that I enjoyed them directly proportional to the level of proof, but I also enjoyed the lower proof ones and can whole heartedly recommend them to those who enjoy lower proof bourbons. The bottles have a lot left in them so if anyone wants to come over and visit and taste them with me, you are all invited!

 

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