Very Disappointed in American Whiskey in NYC

I was excited to visit American Whiskey. I was going with clients so I knew I could expense it (within reason).  I arrived first and flipped through the book. Big selection and mostly the prices were reasonable.

I get to the BTAC selection. Prices reasonable so I order 5 pours each of WLW, Saz18 and GTS. The waitress leaves for ten to fifteen minutes before coming back saying they are out of all of them and they only have that Handy. I love Handy but it’s not worth the same as the other three but I still order a round.  She also didn’t know which vintage, because the profile has varied dramatically from year to year.

On the way to the restroom I run into one of the managers and express my frustration that several of the whiskies I ordered were still listed on the menu. He said it costs too much money to update the menu and that they get BTAC every year so they don’t cross them out or reprint them. I’m thinking to myself…. How much could 100 pieces of printed paper cost? It’s gotta be less than the single round of drinks I ordered first. And they lost 15 minutes of time where I could have ordered again.  One round of printing would have been paid for by just me and the extra round of 6x $40 THH’s I bought.

The waitstaff was extremely uninformed about most of the whiskey. The management didn’t seem to care about the patrons or the whiskey.

On the positive note, they do have a pretty decent collection and the prices aren’t crazy. Another pet peeve though… they have several pages that they will do 1oz pours but they refuse to do 1oz pours with others. I even asked to split them for my 6 people but wouldn’t. The bartender didn’t seem to get it. Painful.

Here’s a place with so much potential, decent selection, fair prices, but they fail on so many levels, largely due to laziness. They need to invest in the staff’s knowledge; they need to make the staff care about the customers; they need to have a proper inventory system so time isn’t wasted looking for whisky that no longer exists; they need to update their menus so customers don’t get frustrated (5 of the first 6 things I ordered were gone); they need to let all whiskies do 1oz pours and they need to find a way to make me come back. If I were an owner or manager I would want all these things fixed quickly and the best part is that none of these are insurmountable. It’s a big shame.  I’m happy to provide consulting services to them if they want.  They are leaving so much money on the table…

On TripAdvisor, I struggled whether to give this place two or three stars. The food was ok but not great, the service was pretty bad, the pricing was decent, the selection was very good but the extreme frustration I had with the menu, poor inventory control and the vast amount of time I wasted waiting for rounds after rounds because they were searching for whiskies that they didn’t know they were out of stock makes me go to a two star rating. I’d do 2.5 if I could but two is fine. Management should take a trip to Jack Rose in DC to see how they should operate their business.

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My 2018 Top 5 Best Available Bottle under $100 or how best to say “no I can’t get you any Pappy at retail”

OK… so I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets this question all the time from friends, family, co-workers, etc…. Usually it starts out like “hey, can you get me some Pappy?”… yes I can, you want a ORVW for $450-$500?  “Oh, I though you had the hookup, can you get it for me at retail?”  No… I can’t get it for myself at retail… then eventually we just arrive at the Seinfeldian response of “well, why don’t you just tell me what you want to pay…”  So, here is my list of the best bottles that are available and can be purchased for under $100 in 2018… I changed some of them from 2017’s list for some reasons including eliminating certain bottles like ETL, RHF, BTAC, Stagg Jr, etc because the MSRP just rarely is the price you see in stores, at least in the Tri-State area…  These are in no particular order.  I also realize every is going to have a different list here, and please add anything you think should be on here in comments!  Happy New Year everyone!!

Buffalo Trace… yes, the original one that retails for $30.  It’s the same mashbill that goes into bottles that are 1k’s of dollars in secondary, same distillery.  Whether it’s straight or in a cocktail, it’s lovely.  Always make sure you have at least one of them on your bar at all times.

Barrell Bourbon Batches… I’ve never had a batch I didn’t like.  I’ve had some that I’d LOVED.  The only one that was impossible to find was Batch 011, because it won best Bourbon of the Year from San Francisco Wine & Spirits.  At least one batch is usually available at my local store, it looks great, a perfect gift and a wonderful drinker.  You will not be disappointed.

Foursquare 2004 or 2005… cask strength, usually $60-$90, and yes, it’s a Rum!  Aged in Bourbon barrels and others, non-chill filtered, so much flavor.  These guys are the real deal.

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof… I almost didn’t put this on the list, but it seems like this is more frequent this year and I usually see it on the shelf.  I’ve never had a bad one, and I’ve had quite a few good ones.  I prefer the old bottle design, but if they are making more of them with the new bottle, I’m OK with that.  Last year I had Old Weller Antique on the list, but given I can never find it anymore without texting my local liquor store owner ahead of time, I’m bumping them for ECBP due to 2018’s availability.  Should be around $60-$70.

Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Bourbon… didn’t make the cut last year, just squeezed in this year and at $65, a solid member of the list.  I find that the first crack is just ok, but if you leave it open for a few months it gets a lot better… if I were to re-rate it, I’d say it’s a solid 92.  Worth having on your home bar.

You don’t need to buy Pappy or BTAC to make the people on your list happy!  Anything on this list will show you know your whiskey and you care about making your friends and family happy.  Happy New Year!

Top 5 Disappointments of 2018 in Whiskey

#1 Parker’s Heritage Collection release number 12, Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished in Orange Curacao Barrels.  55% alcohol, 110 proof.  Not great.  Was hoping it would get better after being opened a while…. I’m still hoping and it’s been a few months.  I gave this a 78 out of 100 and I think I was being overly generous.  I will re-rate it again after it’s opened for six months, and hopefully it’s better; I’m not optimistic.  You gotta give some credit to the secondary market though, it came out at $200-$225 initially and has been crushed, as it should be.  Now trading between $100-$120, right where it has been offered at retail.  My guess is that is floors at $100 and then in a few years completionists will bid it up a little bit but it will go no-where.  Avoid this release, which was by far the worst ever for PHC.  Sad too because the story is great.

#2 Weller C.Y.P.B. is a perfectly fine Bourbon.  It’s like an average OWA chill filtered pick.  But it’s impossible to get, trading around $350 in secondary and it’s just not that great.  Opening my bottle was one of the biggest disappointments for me in 2018.

#3 2018 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection Sazerac 18.  This has routinely been one of my favorite releases of the year and it just came out so flat and bitter this time.  I yearn for the tanked juice.  What’s crazy here is secondary is still holding in really high.  This one is trading like a collectible and not a drinking whiskey clearly.  If you own it, sell/trade it now because I’d rather have a WLW+GTS, which I think it close to where it is.

#4 Knob Creek Cask Strength Rye 2009 Distilled special release.  I don’t know why I even buy these anymore… the store picks are almost always better, and I’m such a sucker for a special release.  They trade lower in secondary and no one likes them.  I’m just lucky I only bought one this year.  Avoid!

#5 Bad craft distillers who market well like Breckenridge Distillery… I’m picking on these guys, but Hudson (Tuttletown Spirits), Brooklyn Distillery, etc etc all qualify by putting out expensive, bad products, in good marketing packaging.  My wife JUST got a bottle of Breckenridge from one of her clients (last year she got Hudson Baby Bourbon) and I wonder why her clients must hate her so much?  Prediction for 2019… by the end of the year at least one “major” craft distiller will go bankrupt because people will realize their juice is terrible and overpriced, while you will see some of the good ones rising in popularity and respect.

There is is… 2018’s top disappointments… However there was so much to celebrate in 2018, check out my top 5 list.  Or check out last year’s top 5 disappointments….

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2018/11/04/i-love-parkers-heritage-collection-i-dont-like-this-release-though/

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2018/12/23/weller-c-y-p-b-for-sale-caskers-only-1000/

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2018/10/07/i-never-should-have-opened-my-weller-c-y-p-b/

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2018/07/04/knob-creek-cask-strength-rye-2018-limited-release/

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2018/11/27/2018-buffalo-trace-antique-collection-btac-reviews/

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2018/03/31/breckenridge-distillery-not-a-fan-not-worth-a-visit-or-the-money/

Newbourbondrinker’s 2018 Top 5

This year had so many great releases even though the level on social media complaining has hit an all time high… don’t worry, I will be putting out my top 5 disappointments soon… but it’s the holidays so I’m only going to be positive today!  Instead of ranking them this year, I’ve decided to go with five different categories and give the overall winner for them… Disagree?  Hit me up on twitter @newbourbondrink or facebook @ newbourbondrinker or instagram @steaknbourbon

Best Overall Bourbon: Barrell Craft Spirits 15yr Bourbon Gray Label.  For a straight down the middle Bourbon, this one can not be beat.  It also edged out everyone else from Fred Minnick’s blind tasting for Forbes’.  It got a huge score from me and everyone else.  The only downside is the limited case amount.  The one thing you can be certain, is if you see any gray label Barrell Craft Spirits product on a shelf, grab it!

Best Wheated Bourbon: William Larue Weller 2018 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection.  This one was easy, and tied for best overall with BCS, but split out the wheaters.  The finish, so long, so good.  If you can grab the 2017 or 2018 of WLW BTAC, for any reasonable price at all, pick it up.

Best Rye: Thomas H Handy 2018.  Another BTAC, but 2018 was tough for Rye, as the releases we not as strong as 2017.  The Lot 40 cask Strength 11yr was not as good as last year’s 12yr and higher priced and lower proof; Kentucky Owl Rye was also good but not quite as good as the first release.  THH stood out among it’s peers, but only by a smidge.  The secondary prices have continued to creep as well which is annoying for those of us who drink a lot of Handy.

Best Small Bottle Release: Elijah Craig Grenade… it’s a gift shop only release, but readily available on secondary.  It trades at close to BTAC levels given it’s only 200ml, but it’s sooooooooo good.  Grab one if you are ever in Bardstown, or just lift one on secondary.

Best Rum: Appleton’s Joy 25yr.  This was probably the hardest category to rate to be perfectly honest.  So many great releases: Foursquare 2004, Foursquare 2005, Barrell Rum Tale of Two Islands, Barrell Craft Spirits Rum Gray Label… all could have taken these honors, but Appleton’s 25yr comes out ahead.  Retailing around $220 and still available, this rum has crazy flavors and notes that rival any whiskey.  Looks great on the shelf too.

There it is for 2018… it was a great year, so many amazing drams and I look forward to what 2019 brings.  Happy New Year!

Barrell Craft Spirits Bourbon: Fred Minnick’s number 1 of the year reviewed

I’ve been following this release on social media with tons of anticipation and I was hoping to quietly accumulate a large amount of them for the bunker until…. Fred Minnick ruined everything. Why couldn’t he have waited to rate this number one in a blind tasting against some big heavyweights like BTAC George T Stagg and William Larue Weller. Anyone who follows this blog knows I’ve been on the Barrell Bourbon train for a while and love that you can always find a Batch or single barrel for under $100. And the best part is you never need to get in line or pay through the nose on secondary for one… except for this realease. I paid $250 at retail for this but the good news is that the regular batch prices have not gone up and are still readily available. Thank goodness!!  Now… is this special release worth the extra money???

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On to the review…. 15yr Bourbon blended from Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee, bottled at 105.1 Proof. The box looks sleek and smart and the gray label looks awesome. I also really like the new cork design with extra weight and easier to remove from the bottle. Nice touch. It’s also a dark amber color in the bottle giving away the 15yrs of age.

The nose is strong but not hot, with marzipan (of course), Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Necco Wafers, toasted and butter cinnamon raisin bread, s’mores and caramel hard candy. Just so much going on and even more after the bottle was opened for a few days. First crack didn’t do it justice.

The taste… wow! This Bourbon has the biggest mouthfeel and longest finish of anyone I’ve tasted all year. I stopped counting after three minutes but it was sweet and complex and never faded to bitterness. What more can you ask for in a whiskey?

This Bourbon is 100% worth the hype. I just wish Fred Minnick didn’t let the cat out of the bag until my bunker was full. Now I need to beg all my liquor store contacts to try to get another bottle as this one is already half empty! 98/100

If $250 (or higher on secondary) is too much for you, the recent batches have been really good and totally worth picking up too.  But If you can find it for anywhere under $300, grab it, because the last print on secondary I saw was $400 and going higher!  I’m going to put out reviews on the Rum and the Whiskey soon which I think are even rarer and harder to get a hold of!

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Hidden Gem or Obnoxiously Priced? Lynn, MA

Lynnway Liquor at 702 Lynnway in Lynn, MA 01905.

Take a look at some of these bottles… total unicorns, but the prices are way above secondary.  The owner wasn’t in to discuss, but his employees were pretty obnoxious and misinformed about them.  On the other side, maybe they were just the owner’s collection and he was showing off.

On the main shelf had quite a few good things at reasonable prices including Stagg Jr under $50 (most of MA has great deals on Stagg Jr for some reason), Jos. Magnus, Barrell Bourbon…  But in the cabinet along with some unicorns was Michters 10… they also overpriced Weller…

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When I peered into the owners office and saw three bottles of Weller CYPB.  Three!  The employee was pretty annoying about it, wouldn’t call the owner.. there was also a ton of EHT Barrel Proof and some other stuff.  Always annoying.

Anyway… If I’m ever up there again I will stop by this store and hope the owner is in to talk… but I’m not paying 5k for some old Black Maple Hill nonsense…

2018 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection BTAC Reviews

I tried each one of these three times, on three separate days, over the course of the last few weeks, to make sure my reviews were accurate.  I made some minor changes by the final time, but nothing drastically changed.  I was unable to try the ER17, which is a shame, but given it’s trading north of 1k on secondary, I wouldn’t have opened it either…

Sazerac 18 (Saz18)
I miss the tanked juice. It’s good but not great. Muted compared to yesteryear. Candied apple, skittles, wood, a touch of menthol with a follow through of Christmas spices, cloves and pine needles. Decent mouthfeel and long finish but grows increasingly bitter. The price isn’t justified here; this one will be a strong pass. Trading around $600 secondary.  84/100

Thomas H Handy (THH)
Amazing mouthfeel coupled with a very good but hottish nose. Butterscotch and spice and everything nice. Finish is medium long and good. Better than last year but not as good as 2014 or 2016.  Trading around $375 secondary.  I’m a buyer at $300 all day–send me a note if you are a seller. 95/100

George T Stagg (GTS)
Big boy here. Big nose of Wether’s Original, liquid caramel and ginger snap cookies. Big tannins and big flavor on the palate. Big and long finish. Definitely a GTS here. So much flavor.  Did I say Big? Trading around $425 secondary and worth buying there. 96.5/100

William Larue Weller (WLW)
This has the best nose of the bunch with hot cocoa, Cinnamon Toast Cruch, warm brioche and biscotti. Sweet and strong at the same time. Insane mouthfeel and fantastic finish that goes way beyond two minutes.  Interestingly the fresh crack was a little better than after three weeks.  This is the BTAC to get this year to drink… not surprised it’s trading around $700 secondary. 98/100

 

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And yes… it’s pronounced Bee-Tack… thank you.