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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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!

Full 2019 Pappy Lineup Reviews…

I recently shared a tasting with a friend and client…. here are my notes. He’s not the same experience of taster that I am but on average he agreed with my conclusions. If anything he had a lower score for the rye and higher score for the older Pappy’s. The reviews are in order of my tasting… enjoy!

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The 13yr rye has an epic nose, better than both BTAC. The spice of Handy with the complexity of Saz…. and I haven’t even tasted it yet. It a touch hot but not bad on the palate, but the mouthfeel is a little lacking. The flavors are good but it just falls off a little too soon. The nose was epic but the follow through just missed it for me. Still wonderful, but not worth the price. 94/100 (When I went back to this after the Pappy 15, the nose was still great but the mouthfeel was even thinner than before)

Pappy 15, always a crowd favorite…. creme bruele, toasted corn bread and cinnamon toast crunch on the nose with hints of dusty wooden age surrounding it, so you know it’s older. Really nice mouthfeel, good tannins and oil coating the entire mouth with butterscotch, toffee and graham cracker flavors oozing into spaces between my teeth. This knocks it out of the park. The finish goes on for 3 minutes or more. I wish this was affordable. 98/100.  I’m a buyer of this one… send me a DM please…

Old Rip Van Winkle 10yr…. another favorite, usually the best value of the bunch…. to be fair I had this after the 15yr which probably wasn’t fair…. nose is great, much fresher than the 15yr but not young in the bad way… getting tons of orange peel, chocolate covered orange peel, dried orange peel with cloves stuck in them… oh and a little bit of butterscotch and buttered, toasted brioche. Mouthfeel is awesome, might even edge out the 15yr… flavors lovely too. So… how does it stack up? The nose is very good but not insane. The mouthfeel with the heat component might be the most perfect balance I’ve ever experienced. The finish is long and good but the flavors from the Pappy 15 are more complex and enjoyable. This is my favorite Rip 10yr in a while though… 97/100.  I’ll be trying to hunt for this one…

Lot B… 12yr… generally people’s least favorite one… the nose always is older then the statement and this one is one different… forest mushroomy floor, No 2 pencil shavings, ginger snaps, dried cherries and Rollos. Mouthfeel is not bad but not great…. a little thin and falls off quickly. I guess they get points for consistency? Still enjoyable but this one you should trade for a 10yr if you can sucker someone into that trade… 87/100

Pappy 20….. interestingly light and floral on the nose, lightly toasted wheat toast with Nutella lightly spread across. Mouthfeel is a little lacking and the flavors go a touch bitter on the finish. It’s still enjoyable and complex but doesn’t compare to the 10, 13 or 15… 90/100

Pappy 23….. oldest for last but is it best? You can tell from the nose it is the oldest. Definitely wood forward but lots of tertiary notes of chocolate, leather, candy and almonds. Almost no heat at all and the mouthfeel is pretty good. Not a lot of oil but a good amount of enjoyable tannins. Finish is less sweet but not bitter, I’d consider it savory. It’s good. No, it’s very good. It’s the oldest, but it’s not the best. Trade this one for 2x 15yrs. 94/100.

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Kentucky Owl Confiscated? How about the $100 that I feel was confiscated from me? Strong Pass.

Often times when I don’t like something I do not feel like writing a large preamble… so… Initial impressions are muted nose. It’s a classic Kentucky Bourbon but not exciting at all.  Would say a solid $25 Bourbon. Not $100+. Going to try it again after it opens up for more notes.IMG_5574

Ok… so I rarely do this, but now the bottle has been opened for about three months and I’m trying it again… I really didn’t want to slash this with just a fresh crack impression… the nose is now less muted, but it’s not good. Very medicinal, Band-Aid, pine needles, hints of caramel way (way way way) in the background. The mouthfeel is ok, the heat is bigger than expected, and the flavor is average. The heat actually grows instead of mellowing, which is a downside, and the flavor falls off to a bitter note pretty quickly. The highlight is the mouthfeel which extends longer than normal.

My initial impressions were pretty accurate, but after three months there are some more flavors coming through, but not necessarily good ones… if this was $20, fine, but it still wouldn’t beat the normal BT. But at $100 and higher? Strong pass. 75/100.

Barrell Craft Spirits: BCS 2019 15yr Bourbon Gray Label Release: Best Whiskey of 2019???

Barrell Craft Spirits Gray Label in black box, 15yr Bourbon 2019 release is the follow up to last year’s special release. 2018’s Bourbon won Fred Minnick’s best whiskey of the year in a blind taste, making it very hard for Trip and Joe @ Barrell Bourbon to come up with a worth successor to their, arguably, best release to date.  The year is a blend of Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee and age stated 15yrs (which means there probably is stuff much older in here as well)… On to the review…

Beautiful nose, Milk Duds, cotton candy, and Rolos in the front, all candy and deliciousness. Deeper dive brings out notes of graham cracker s’mores, fresh luxury car seat leather and cracked roasted peanuts. At 106.52 proof you don’t even get a hint of heat even if you stick your nose all the way deep in the glass—almost unheard of.

Perfect balance of oils and tannins and flavor and just enough hug to let you know this is a Bourbon. The mouthfeel perfect coats the entire tongue and the upper sides of the cheeks. The candy and nut flavors rush in and build over time. I’m amazed by the finish here, more than three minutes and never dries off in a bitter note. (The finish might actually be closer to five minutes)

I think this might be the best whiskey I’ve tried this year; it certainly has impressed me more than any of the BTAC line… I didn’t know what to expect after last year. Last year was insane and had so much hype. How could they possibly follow up after that one? Well… they did and I think they even eclipsed it. This Bourbon is phenomenal. MSRP is $250, I’m seeing it on secondary for 300-350… do whatever you can to grab more than one bottle as you will want at least a backup here. 99/100.

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