Unicorn Alert! Sazerac 18 Fall 2012 Vintage WOW!

Words fail to describe how good this whiskey is.  Sazerac 18, despite being bottled at 90 proof, is probably my favorite whiskey out there.  Thank you Buffalo Trace.  All hail BTAC.  I was incredibly lucky to find this being poured at a bar in London…

Pure candy nose, mushroom in the back. Spicy cinnamon, allspice and cloves. Superb nose.

Super smooth, easy down. So crisp and sharp with sweet and spicy notes.  Small but nice tannins. Long finish. This is epic.

Obviously a special bottle. Expectations met. 98/100.

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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 🙂

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CEHT Seasoned Wood: drink a sample, buy ECBP release #11 or Barrell Bourbon instead.

Colonel E.H. Taylor Seasoned Wood Bottled in Bond is the latest special release from the CEHT line from Buffalo Trace. This one was almost impossible to find; I was completely unable to find it at retail.  While refusing to pay $400+ on the secondary market, I was able to get a trade done for 5 bottles of mine, enabling me to reduce the size of my already too big bunker. I was happy with my trade regardless of the outcome of the tasting.

Right after opening the bottle, the nose is toasted raisin bread, high heat, cinnamon sticks and cloves. It’s never fair to judge a bottle without giving it some air, but I wanted to see what it was like because I’m betting that most people didn’t buy their own bottle and relied on samples free from Buffalo Trace or trading.  After waiting 15 minutes I tested the nose again: much more mellow. Now I’m getting Cinnamon Toast Crunch with whole milk, Honey Nut Cheerios, (I must be hungry for carbs or something…..), hickory tree bark and Vermont maple syrup. The second time around the heat is much less pronounced.

The palate is enjoyable. There are brown sugar notes that are complimented by heat and a smoothness that goes straight down. My chest warms up with the easy finish, which goes on for over a minute but doesn’t morph into anything beyond the initial enjoyment.  It seems like it has been chill filtered because the tannins are weak and the bourbon lacks the grip that I was hoping to get. It’s too bad because everything about this whiskey makes me feel like at 125 proof, and no chill filtering, this could be one of the best ever.

Some people blindly love everything Colonel Taylor does…. So far I have been very happy as well but I always keep my eyes open and judge each bottle I taste on its own.  They bottle in bond everything, except their barrel proof releases, but I wish they did all their special releases at cask strength.  Buffalo Trace makes some of the best products in the world, but just because it comes off their stills doesn’t mean it’s gold–remember they also make Fireball (although technically I believe Fireball starts in Canada, but I digress….). If you were able to snag this bottle at the $79.99 retail price, you scored big time–but even at that price I prefer the most recent ECBP and Barrell Bourbon release–both have more complexity, more flavor, longer finish, and not to mention, much easier to find at retail. But at $350 secondary price, it’s not worth it. It’s very good, but not epic enough to warrant this pricing. I’m very glad I got it and not upset I opened it… Bourbon was made to be consumed, not crotch shotted, insta’d and for collecting dust on a shelf. It’s 92/100… Buy a dram at a bar or DM me to trade samples just so you can cross it off your list.

 

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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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House of Cards Paired with Thomas H Handy 2014 v 2015

I’m a huge fan of House of Cards and I’m almost done so I thought the best thing to do was to pair it with two of my current favorites in the cabinet. As you can tell from the levels, I’m almost done with these as well. I’ve been enjoying them too much to rate them yet, but I wanted to make sure to give them a fair rating before the bottles are empty.

I’m not going to spend too much time going over the history of THH as you can find this online easily, but if you are reading this blog, you probably already know… It’s the youngest of the BTAC and by far the cheapest on the secondary market. While Stagg goes for $500 or so, you can usually snag this for around $250. Yes, still expensive, but compared to the rest of the BTAC, a relative bargain–Ignore people or stores that try to sell it for $400-$500, those people are just silly.

2014: sweet honeysuckle on the nose with cloves, raisin bread, allspice and brown sugar. Even though it’s 129.2 proof, the best is all smooth and sweetness without the heat. The mouthfeel is fantastic, it’s enveloping with a greet grit. The spicy rye is so well integrated into the palate that’s it’s almost unbelievable that this is only six years old.  The finish goes on for minutes and minutes–five minutes later and you can still taste it.  This is one if the best drams I’ve ever had. 98/100.

2015: different but similar to the 2014, more heat on the nose and a little spicier. I get Girl Scout Somoas on the nose, oatmeal with honey and cinnamon sugar. The mouthfeel and grip are still very solid but this one has more heat on the throat than the prior year even though this year has a lower proof, 126.9. The finish is also long and strong focusing on the spicy and heat. It’s very good but doesn’t stand up to the prior year. 95/100.

Both of these bottles are awesome but the 2014 really stands out as one of the best of all time. I wish I could get my hands on more of them.  These bottles are great examples of age not being the most important factor in enjoying a whiskey.  I find these to be just as good as some of their 17yr brothers, but that’s just one man’s opinion.

 

 

 

RIP My First BTAC Bottle: George T Stagg 2014 UK

True Story:  I’m in London last September for a business trip to see a couple clients, meet my colleagues in the office and travel with my new boss.  The first evening of the trip is for internal meetings, meeting colleagues I had not met before and building camaraderie with them.  Part of my job was to not get too drunk and look professional.  My tolerance happens to be extremely high compared to most of my colleagues, so not getting too drunk wasn’t an impossibility, however the professional aspect may have been slightly derailed because of some BTAC… at this point I had not owned any BTAC bottles (that changed later that Fall when BTAC hunting season began and my obsession on this blog expanded)….

I was at a bar with some colleagues that was selling Pappy 10, 12, 13, and George T Stagg, per pour, for less that I could buy it for on the secondary market in the states.  So… I ended up with three pours of bourbon in front of me during dinner.  Not the best way to impress colleagues, but I had never had Lot B, Pappy Rye or Stagg before, so emotions (understandably to you reading this blog, although not to those at the table) overtook me.

By the end of the night, I managed to not get too drunk and we all parted ways. After leaving the restaurant and all the hand shaking, I did a u-turn back to the bar and entered negotiations with the bartender.  The bottle was 1/4 full and I did the math and negotiated to buy the rest of it for less than 1/4 of a full bottle would cost me back at home.  My boss, smarter, soberer, sneakier than I, followed me back to the bar, scolded me, and forced me to return to the hotel before I inflict too much damage to myself, knowing that in addition to buying this bottle, I probably was going to try every other unicorn for pour that night.  (Side Note: good thing he did, because I probably would have stayed there for a couple hours and really did myself in.  He’s quite a good boss and almost always knows what’s best for the firm and his employees, myself included, even if it’s more fun to keep drinking.)

Which leads me to today… after many small pours over six months, this bottle is finally being put to rest.  And I will be giving it a review today as well.

George T. Stagg, 2014 UK edition, 138.1 proof: dark amber with tiny bits of charcoal floating in it, at least for the final pour.  Camp fire fresh s’mores on the nose with candied butterscotch, overbaked brown sugar carrots, raisin bread toast with light butter spreaded on it topped with cinnamon and sugar, and a touch of cloves.  For 69.05% alcohol, the burn on the nose is very manageable.  The first thing you get when you take a sip is the extremely thick mouthfeel which just makes me so happy.  The uncut/unfiltered texture is a delight and everything about the taste is interesting, complex and it goes on and on.  The first sip I had months ago was very good, but the last sip was the best.  Maybe it is because there is more charcoal in the final pour or maybe it’s because I’ve already had a few drinks tonight.  All I know is that I wished I kept my trumpet from high school, because this moment deserves someone playing Taps.  This was a great drink and I’m sad to see it finished, but there are many more bottles that need drinking, and I know I’m the man to do it.  97/100.

 

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