ORANGE COUNTY DISTILLERY… back to the drawing board please

I love a good craft distillery; I hate a bad craft distillery.  Orange County Distiller may be the epitome of everything I have come to hate about the craft movement:

  • They have a cute farm in upstate New York and are really stressing the farm-to-bottle thing.
  • They are making vodka and gin because you can sell it fast.
  • They are using small barrels for their bourbon and aged rye, and tried to explain to me at their stand that seven months in a small barrel in upstate New York is the equivalent of five years in a large barrel.  Wrong!!!
  • They bottle their products in 375ml apothecary-like bottles, trying to be like another small New York State producer known for good marketing and lesser products.
  • They charge way too much.
  • On their website they write: “This is what a craft distillery should be.”
  • And the only thing that matters… they have a shitty product.

It’s too bad that the craft movement has become overwhelmed with new entrants who are rushing their products to market and diluting the truly good stuff out there.  There are some great craft distillers out there, there are some great craft made sourced producers out there as well, but they are now becoming the minority in a field inundated with awful to marginal liquid.  There are far more bad “craft” producers out there than quality ones, it’s sad.

Anyway… maybe you can guess how I am going to rate these before I even get to them?

OCD Bourbon Whiskey: sweet and nail polish nose, yet thin palate, honeysuckle, more nail polish and tongue numbing finish.  Not enjoyable.  Maybe needed another couple years in the barrel? 73/100


OCD Aged Rye: spices and medicinal on the nose with spicy notes and menthol coming in strong on the palate.  Mildly less offensive than the Bourbon, but still needs a lot more time in the barrel.  77/100.


The moral of the story is don’t just buy the new craft whiskey at your local liquor store or farmer’s market because the bottle looks cool.  Try it, do your research, and be a smart consumer.  Everyone hates buying that bottle that sucks and keeping it on your shelf for years, looking at it every day, mocking you for your poor choice.  Damn you shitty craft whiskey!

Booker’s Rye

Booker’s Rye is one of those bottles that universally has been pegged as the early 2016 Whiskey of the Year… there are a lot of very well respected reviewers and industry folk who believe this.  That is a lot of hype for something that MSRPs for $299, but typically trades at around $450 on the secondary market.  I also did not want to judge it too quickly, so I tried this bottle several times over the course of the past month drinking it down and experiencing the evolution.  Here are my views:

Beautiful packing, easy to open wax, must easier than the regular Booker’s for some reason… Love the green… not sure who decided that rye should be green, but I like it.

Opening the bottle… the color is really deep and dark, very exciting.

Right when you open the bottle, the nose is very hot, you can tell this is going to need some time to settle before truly giving it a full and proper review.

First impressions: very hot nose, licorice sticks, hot cinnamon candy, but just too harsh initially.  The palate initially is pretty awesome though, still pretty hot, but a great mouthfeel, with complex texture.  Initial read is that it needs to settle down, but has a ton of potential.  It’s really hot though.

Two hours later: the nose is still pretty hot, but not as hot as before; cinnamon toast is coming through as well as come anis, cocoa and Twix.  The hotness from before has slightly mellowed into a more round warmth, but it’s still hot on the palate and throat–pretty consistent with Booker’s style in general.  The mouthfeel and texture have improved since opening.

One day later…. still hot, but not getting burnt orange peel, cloves, cinnamon toast and Skittles.  The tongue is ticked by the taste and although the heat it still there, it’s more of a spicy heat than a pure hot heat now.  Really getting the cloved aged orange peel on the palate now.   There is a thick chewiness to it that coats the tongue, although doesn’t linger as long as I expected.  One day later has made a huge difference and hopefully the improvements will continue tomorrow.

Two days later the hotness has finally taken a back seat and is no longer the dominant feature.  The warmth in the chest remains but the sweeter notes from the nose and palate are coming through much stronger than anything else.

One month later the hotness in the nose remains, but it is not overwhelming.  Licorice, anis, buttered cinnamon toast, Kit-Kat, those dried orange cloves are reall coming out and so is a little bit of blackberry.  The mouthfeel is just as good as it always was: chewy, complex, delicious, and long.  It’s also very warm and lingers there in a good way.

When I first opened this bottle it was always too hot to drink.  The hottness mellows over time, but still remains.  This is a very good whiskey, but is it a shoo in for number one of the year?  Even if it were $100, I would say no.  I enjoy this, but there are already several whiskeys I’ve had this year that I enjoy more, and are certainly cheaper. 93/100.


BTEC Infrared Light Experiment

I’ve tried a lot of Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection bourbons over the years, but I haven’t rated as many as I should have.  I will try to do better about that going forward.  The most recent BTEC release is the infrared light barrel aging experiment.  It’s a higher rye recipe as well, so it’s harder to do an apples to apples comparison vs the standard Buffalo Trace, but I used it as a test subject anyway.  I tasted it after pouring it immediately, then again after an hour and then once more after adding water.

The standard buffalo on the cover Buffalo Trace:

15 minute BTEC: good nose, a touch of peanut butter, wheat thins, raisin bread, decent heat.  The finish is ok, a touch sour, not very complex or interesting.

30 minute BTEC: similar but distinctively different nose, not as much peanut butter, more cedar.  The palate is dryer, but also has that sour note.  Equally disappointing.

After sitting for two hours:

BT Standard: better, more vanilla and cinnamon, more enjoyable.

15m BTEC: baking spices and smoother, nicer finish, it needed the air.

30m BTEC: sweeter nose, enjoyable finish.

After adding several drops of reverse osmosis water:

15m: very floral, perfumed and vanilla, the water really released hidden flavors.

30m: same as the 15m but even more.  Water is the key here.

I’ll be honest, when I first tried this experiment, I did not like it.  But after giving it air and water it really came out.  But I’ll be honest, I couldn’t tell any significant difference between the infrared light treatment or not.  Just another solid whiskey from Buffalo Trace.  I don’t think it’s worth investing in given the high prices of the BTEC series.  87/100 each.



Four Roses Elliott’s Select

While the huge media chatter of Jim Rutledge “retiring” and then quickly going online to kickstart his own distillery has dominated the news, Brent Elliott has quietly taken over as Master Distiller at Four Roses Distillery, continuing to make great whiskey.  The newest special release from Four Roses is the Elliott’s Select 2016 Limited Edition Single Barrel.

This review is from bottle number 4473/10224, a 52.9% abv, 14 year aged, OESK from warehouse QN from barrel 47-1L.

Golden brown color.

The nose has butterscotch, anise, brown sugar, smoked maple bacon, dry hay and candied apple.

The palate is phenomenal, good oils, moderate tannins, sweet fruits and candied apples engulf the mouth.  The finish is long and complex, thick and juicy.

This is clearly one of the standouts of 2016; hits all the right notes, is complex and enjoyable.  Too bad it’s one of those hard to find bourbons for a reasonable price… I’ve seen it listed on for low 200s, and at that price it’s reasonable. 97/100


Mellow Corn: Must have for all bars….

I like to drink…

If you are reading this blog, you probably like to drink as well.  There is nothing wrong with enjoying imbibing bourbon, rye, American Whiskey, red wine, white wine, or anything else, in moderation and in a little more than moderation and maybe quite a bit more than moderation.

I’ll be honest, occasionally I drink a little too much.  When I do, I try not to drink my top shelf stuff, in fact I have an entire system about what to drink, and when.  But I have found that there is only one thing to drink when I have had way too much on the very very bottom shelf that still is enjoyable… Mellow Corn.

What’s nuts is that it is REALLY hard to find Mellow Corn.  It’s a bottled in bond corn whiskey, made in America, that costs between $11-$15.  Fucking cheap AND bottled in bond???  Fact.

We all have been in that moment, some of us are there every single night, some of us are there several nights a week, and some of us lie and say we are only drunk a few times a month….  Mellow corn is the perfect drink for once you have already had several drinks.  But for your first drink of the night, it actually is pretty good as well….

Now……… if you are sober, how does it taste?  Great question…..

Light golden straw colored…hot nose as expected, but also sweet toasted, buttered cornbread flavors.  Nice palate, has some good grit and oils, warm all the way down.  It’s not overly complex, but has a good taste and a decent finish.

I can’t believe that there exists a product that is Bottled in Bond, drinkable and only costs around $12.  If price wasn’t a consideration it’s probably mid 80’s at best, but given how cheap it is, it gets a few bonus points.  If you see this in the store: BUY IT.  Thank you Heaven Hill!  90/100.


Bourbon @ The New York Shaving Company Barbershop

The company I work for has an annual charity auction where employees both donate events/items/experiences and also bid on other people’s donations.  This year I decided to work with the New York Shaving Company to donate a great bro’s event: Bourbon at the Barbershop.  Everyone who won the event was treated to an old school barber’s shave and as much amazing bourbon as they could drink.  John Scala, owner and operator of The New York Shaving Company, was an amazing host for our event and I provided the incredible selection of Bourbon.

The lineup for the event was:

  • Old Rip Van Winkle 10yr
  • Blade & Bow 22yr
  • Willett Family Estate Bourbon bottle #438
  • Thomas H. Handy BTAC 2014
  • Elijah Craig 18
  • Elijah Craig 23
  • Barrell Bourbon Batch 002
  • Barrell Bourbon Batch 005
  • Barrell Bourbon Batch 006
  • Barrell Whiskey Batch 002 Sherry Cask Finish
  • Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition 2014
  • Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition 2015
  • Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection Rediscovered Barrels 17yr
  • Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection Rediscovered Barrels 19yr
  • Michter’s 10 Bourbon
  • Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project
  • Elmer T. Lee
  • Weller Special Reserve

We raised a lot of money for charity and everyone had a great time–the hangovers were proof.  Thanks again to John and the great people at the NY Shaving Company and to everyone who bid high to win tickets to the event.  It was also a great way to finish off a bunch of heels from my collection.  18 bottles gone, which means I can take 18 more out of the bunker 🙂