Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye: Worth the Hype?

The VWFRR is one of those very rare releases that trades at crazy prices on the secondary market and is arguably the hardest to find of the Pappy line. It is the only Rye and it is 13 years old.

Very spicy nose, lots of cracked pepper, strong oak notes, crushed smoked pecans, Twix, s’mores on cinnamon graham crackers and cedar closet. Moderate heat for a 95.6 proof whiskey.

Initially an enjoyable mouthfeel but then comes in with a big punch of oak. Heat is a little higher than expected the first time around but still very enjoyable. The finish is moderate long as it fades away into mostly wood flavors. The palate is dominated by the oak flavors instead of the more complex spicy ones.

VWFRR is a very good whiskey but isn’t one you need to camp out to try. It’s a little too oaky for my taste. Just to make sure my palate wasn’t completely nuts I thought it prudent to pour some of my favorite rye, the 2014 THH. Everything about the Thomas Handy is better: more spice coming through on the palate. The Handy is hotter, but it’s half the age and 35% more alcohol so that’s not surprising. But the finish is more enjoyable and longer. For 1/3 the secondary price, albeit still expensive, THH kicks VWFRR’s butt. I still really enjoy it, but for the price there are just so many better options. VWFRR 93/100.



Bar Review of ER17 2016

I tried this at a bar near my office, so not as scientific as we are used to, but still accurate…

Forest floor, hay, yellow Necco wafers, wet gravel, old cornbread, frozen waffles and moss. Not terribly exciting to be perfectly honest as the aroma is only found when the nose is deep in the glass, the aroma is not jumping out like a lot of other whiskies have…

Uber mellow but the low proof and chill filtering had taken so much away from the experience. The finish is fine, but nothing exceptional. A bit disappointed. Certainly wouldn’t buy this at secondary prices and at retail I would buy only to sell or trade for any other BTAC.

Try at a bar like I did, but I do not recommend to pay up for this: 88/100.



BTAC Thomas H Handy 2016

Unlike a lot of bloggers out there, I have yet risen to the level of free BTAC samples; I have to fight and scrape and use the secondary market like the rest of people to get my BTAC. I bought this one on (like most of you) for around $300.

The 2016 edition clocks in at 126.2 proof, NAS as always, and forever beautiful in the iconic BTAC bottle. Nice amber color.

Candy corn, rock candy, white pepper, cloves and cinnamon. Not very hot considering the age and proof, but that’s why it’s THH. Smells amazing.

And the taste… Wow. The spices and sweetness come through immediately while firming up a nice grip on the tongue. There is an extremely enjoyable warmness that permeates through your mouth and upper chest creating an absolutely incredible finish. Even after two minutes the flavors are still evolving and improving. This review is without a drop of water; I don’t think it needs it and I won’t even do it because it is just that good.

I’m pretty much obsessed with Handy. The 2014 was one of my favorites of all time and this one is pretty darn close. If you can find one at a reasonable (and I’ll let your budget determine that) price, don’t be afraid to pick it up. And if Buffalo Trace is reading this and wants to add me to next year’s blogger sample list, I won’t say no (please add me to next year’s list–thank you so much). 97.5/100



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.


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 🙂


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.



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 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:

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:

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!