Controversial take… Little Book… time to give up

Ok… I continue to be a sucker for a pretty bottle in a box. The newest one is Little Book 3. The first version was barely ok, the second was actually ok, but neither were worth the price. Did they learn and make the third one better? No. This is by far the worst….

Nose is ok… pencil shavings, butterscotch and granola. Here is where is departs, once you drink it. The mouthfeel starts being pretty good, but then immediately the heat takes over and dominates everything. This is completely off balance, with heat being the dominant factor.

This is just sad. The mouthfeel is decent and the finish is actually ok after the heat subsides but the heat is just such the dominant factor here. I’m not sure how this passed through QA, but Beam needs to go back to the drawing board on this experiment. Hopefully this is the last Little Book I buy in the store before I try. 75/100.

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1960’s Dusty Decanter Tasting in NYC

I met a new friend in NYC and he treated me to three delicious dustys that he had tucked away. It wasn’t a scientific tasting but I’ll give you my notes.

Old Forester had this really cool dusty funk to it but still had the classic banana forester notes hidden away. Mouthfeel was ok and finish decent. Was a lovely Bourbon.

OGD BIB the highest proof. Lots of caramel and the finish was long. National Distillers coming through big here and still a nice hug. Really special bottle.

I.W. Harper was the winner of the three. Cocoa, mocha, with some interesting spices like cardamon in the back. Great mouthfeel with flavors of burnt orange peel on the long finish. Incredible pour.

If I had to rate them I’d say 84 (OF), 90 (OGD), 95 (IWH) in order. But these are such unicorns, it’s hard to do them justice.

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It’s time to take a serious look at some serious Ciders….

I’ve come full circle… wine, craft beer (IPAs, stouts, sours…), Bourbon… now it’s time to take a serious look at some serious ciders.  I’m not talking about Strongbow or something like that, I mean some of the best ciders in the world that are being made in our own back yard (assuming you live in/next to New York State).

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There are two cideries up near Ithaca that I want to highlight: Eve’s Cidery and Redbyrd Orchard Cider.  Both have been around a long time and are producing amazing ciders.  Two that I had recently were Perry Pear from Eve’s and Starblossom from Redbyrd.  Both made in the Methode Champenoise style, refermenting in the bottle to create the bubbles.  Complex, tasty, interesting… and crazy value.  In the $20-$25 range each, a bargain compared to other liquor.  I highly recommend picking these up if you can.  Ithaca is a 4.5 hour drive from Manhattan, but if you have a few podcasts backed up on your phone, it might be a good way to crank those out.  The tasting room at South Hill Cider is also worth stopping by, as is Finger Lakes Cider House. (I prefer the producers I mentioned for their cider way more, but their tourist/tasting options are much more limited).

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For my favorite West Coast Producer, Tilded Shed Ciderworks is doing great things, and their Wickson is my favorite.  Again, a bubbly one, perfect for a Tuesday or the holidays given the price.  Please don’t buy them all though, as I want more and they are running low.

 

For an easy day trip up to the Hudson Valley, doing the tour at Angry Orchard is worth the time.  They have a 60 acre orchard doing some really cool experimental stuff…

All these ciders are fermented and bottled dry… these aren’t the sweet ones you might have remembered from college.  Some have more funk than others, so those who like sour beers are more likely to like the funkier ones.  I highly recommend trying them all and making your own decisions.  I love finding value… the best Bourbon out there is around 1k a bottle, while a good one goes for $80… a GREAT wine might cost $500-$800 (or Harlan which is now over 1k), while a good one is around $100… the best cider on the planet right now can be had for just around $25.  If that isn’t value, I don’t know what is!

What happened to Bottle-Spot? The Bourbon Secondary Market will continue…

It’s been since, I believe, Tuesday, January 7th 2020 that bottle-spot.com has been unable to load up.  It says it’s been doing maintenance since then, but given all the Facebook groups that have been shut down (BSM being the most famous last year during the Van Winkle’s bold statements on stage with Fred Minnick) or more recently Corn Appreciation (although there was so much threadsh*tting going on being allowed by the moderators that I’m not surprised by that at all).  There are a few left on Facebook, but for their own sake I am not going to publicly mention them.  I’ve sent Joel a couple DMs and an email and he hasn’t gotten back to me…  I just hope that bottle-spot.com is ok, comes back stronger than ever and continues to fight the good fight.

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Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Cornerstone Rye

This review is about six months late… sorry… and this isn’t even my first bottle I opened.  I love this rye, contends with Thomas H Handy for my favorite rye of the year because of the price point… I posted a range of scores from a sample I had in August, but now that I’m done with the bottle, I’m giving the full one.

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Great bottle, heavy cap… just looks great. Beautiful nose, love of sugar and spice coming through, Necco wafer, cinnamon stick, Chex mix, melted butter and almost no heat.

Really nice oily mouthfeel with enjoyable tannins up front with a flowing and spicy finish.  Just a really nice pour here.

This might be my favorite Master’s Keep release, even if it’s $175.  Worth grabbing a few.  95/100.

Wiser’s 23yr Cask Strength: Thank you Mark Bylok

I haven’t been able to try the actual Wiser’s 23yr cask strength yet, but my good friend Mark Bylok shared a sample he got from the distillery. Thank you Mark for the sample!

Really nice nose, maple syrup, vanilla, dried orange zest, cherry Jolly Rancher, Twizzlers, mini marshmallows and Lauderee’s Salted Butter.

Big mouthfeel, freaking great tickling of the tongue. Big heat, but not in a terrible way, big heat. This sample is 142.2 proof so it should have heat. There is great spice and peppery notes on the palate in addition to the second wave of easy maple, vanilla, caramel and candy flavors. The finish is about 90 seconds, and never goes bitter. Really enjoyable.

I’m excited to try the actual Wiser’s 23yr cask strength, even if it’s been watered down from the 71.1%. Do not believe them when they say it’s uncut… that’s ok, there is no legal definition of barrel proof or cask strength, even though people assume it means uncut. Maybe they think it tastes better at low 60’s percent. They may be right. If they can knock down the first smack of heat but maintain the mouthfeel and not reduce the finish, it will be a success.  Ideally the finish would be longer but the flavor and texture is just awesome. I’m a big fan of Wiser’s 35 and once I get a bottle of W23, I will do a proper side by side. This sample, I’m rating a 94/100. Thanks again Mark!

Mark’s Review, which is almost almost more thought out, better edited and contains far more information and research than any of my pieces:

For the Love of the Hunt… and for all the people out there that have pissed off their spouses for liquor store detours.

My wife thinks I’m nuts. Why do I find incredible enjoyment walking into random liquor stores when I’m on vacation or places I’ve never been before. Is it a disorder? I just have this incredible invisible force compelling me into these stores. I can’t help it. Most of the time I walk in, look around, and walk out… but then there are times when I’m there for an hour.

Hunting in 2019 (and going forward) makes me appreciate commercial fisherman on the East Coast even more… it’s over hunted, you have to go twice as far to get half the load, and every once in a while you get scolded so badly by your spouse for ignoring your children (or dragging them in with you) that you almost want to quit. But then this happens:

Here’s the story. I’m in upstate New York visiting a cidery and I forgot I had to mail a letter. I pull over to the post office and across the street appears to be a closed down liquor store. I walk over and they have a doorbell, it says “push hard.” I do. Twice. A minute later a little old lady walks out the next door and comes over, introduces herself, unlocks the door and lets me in. It’s mostly very low end stuff, but above the shelf, about 7 feet above the floor, I spot a dusty Rebel Yell. I reach for it and she says it’s not for sale because no one would want anything up there because it’s all been there since they bought the store in the mid 1970’s. Jackpot. I say I’d really like to buy it and she says, ok, but it’s probably gone bad (Turns out the Rebel Yell was a 1983, I found that out from some trolls on Facebook, but that’s a story for another time). I climb on a box and behind the Rebel Yell is an Old Fitzgerald 1976 decanter. Two Stizel-Weller bottles?? There were a few other lesser decanters and I paid cash and went on my way. I gave them more than they were asking for them because I felt bad they didn’t know what they had. But these things were sitting in plain sight for 45 years. Reminds me of Godfather III: “just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”

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I’ve never seen Stitzel-Weller bottles on a dusty random shelf before… only in glass cases for thousands of dollars. I don’t ever expect to again… but I know they must still exist.

I did another hunt a month ago and the take is below… I didn’t buy anything at MSRP, but most was below secondary. I’m going to sell some, trade some, and drink most. I didn’t get everything I wanted this Bourbon season, but hopefully with the multiples I got, I’ll be able to trade my way into my deepest desires. That’s the only way to do it these days and as far as I am concerned there is no stigma to it. Anyone who thinks there is, probably isn’t going for the stuff I am going for anyway.

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The closest I got to MSRP this year was $200 for a Stagg from my local guy I do a lot of business with. Patronizing your local guy, making friends and staying on them is still your best way to get the best price on the allocated stuff. But for those who need more, the hunt is still alive and well and there is just enough out there to stock the bunker, and keep the dream alive for next year!