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!

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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!

Top 21 Complaints/Arguments/Issues My Wife has with my Bourbon Hobby

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  Today I’m very thankful for my healthy family, my job and my bourbon collection.  My wife is less thankful about my Bourbon hobby and I jotted down the top 21 issues we have… My hope is that this will provide some comfort, laughs and solidarity with those who are going through the same problems.  Everyone likes to know that they aren’t the only ones with these issues… if I forgot any, add them in the comments!  Thank you for reading. (This post was inspired by Subourbia… link at the bottom).

  1. Constantly negotiating how many liquor stores we can stop at when going on family trips or drives to any new area…
  2. Excessive packing material, boxes, popcorn, bubble wrap in my home office, closet, everywhere…
  3. Having to rescue perfectly shaped bourbon shipping boxes from the trash that are former Amazon.com boxes… then see #2
  4. Any errands that I go on my own often take 2-3x longer than normal due to unforeseen liquor store stops…
  5. Most stops only take 2-3 minutes, but every once in a while you hit a honey pot and that can take 20-30 minutes to negotiate with the owner and find all the good stuff, and you can guarantee by the time you get back to the car, both kids are melting down and you have a dozen nasty texts to hurry up…
  6. Having too many bottles in general being accused of being a hoarder, or obsessive, etc…
  7. Empty Glencairn glasses littered around the house on bookshelves, ledges, etc…
  8. Going to restaurants or bars together and me complaining about either having a bad selection or overpricing the good stuff…
  9. I will decline restaurant selections she suggests if the bourbon collection or bad or if they do not do wine corkage for free or at a reasonable price…
  10. She thinks it’s weird that I bring sample bottles or flasks of good stuff to family weddings or events that I know will be lacking on the quality…
  11. Roadies…. she hates that….
  12. Do I even need to mention how much I spend on bottles?  To be fair, 1/2 of it I trade or sell, or at least that’s what I tell her… 🙂
  13. Constantly taking long inhale smells with my nose deep in a Glencairn glass… she thinks it’s silly.
  14. She hates that I display empty bottles… I mean, can anyone actually recycle their old BTAC bottles?  I can’t.
  15. Whenever her brother comes over, it automatically becomes a Bourbon tasting event with at least ten Glencairn glasses…
  16. Late at night packing bottles to ship makes a lot of noise with the tape gun… lots of shushing around that one…
  17. My home office basically looks like a liquor store or bar… but a REALLY good bar!  Jack Rose is what I’m striving for here…
  18. She hates listening to any podcast related to liquor… sorry #ThePodcask #TheWhiskeyTopic #DadsDrinkingBourbon #BourbonPursuit #WhiskeyCast #WineEnthusiast #VinePair#BeastMastersClub #GuildSomm #VinePair
  19. Lots of furniture has tiny stains from drops of spilled cask strength whiskey that wasn’t cleaned up in time…
  20. (This is more for co-workers) I always need to get the airport a little early for international flights because I’m the only one checking a bag…. you’d be amazed how much good stuff you can get in Toronto if you know the right people… be sure to pack them well!!
  21. She still thinks it all smells like rubbing alcohol and prefers a nice Sancerre…

http://subourbia.com/inside-the-mind-of-a-bourbon-fanatic-new-blog-post/

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Buy This Book! Bourbon Justice by Brian Haara

How many Bourbon books have come out in the last few years?  The answer is too many… how many good books have been released in the last few years?  Not too many is the answer.  Just like every week portends a new “special release” Bourbon, there are very few actually worth buying if you want to drink them.  Fellow blogger Brian Haara is one of the exceptions to the glut of books out there.  He actually has done real research, has a quality product, very good writing, and it’s an enjoyable read.

Unlike so many books out there that just are a bunch of poorly written reviews sandwiched between enough text to warrant a book, Bourbon Justice: How Whiskey Law Shaped America actually digs into the law cases behind Bourbon, and presents the information in a very enjoyable read.  Who knew that reading about law cases could actually be interesting?  If I had one complaint, I just wish he wrote more.  This book is not just a bunch of his blogs put into a book like some people have done.

On a shelf that has too many Bourbon books on it, Brian’s book will be placed in a position of honor.  Congrats to Brian making the leap from blogger to legitimate author, joining Minnick and Cowdery.  Buy Bourbon Justice: How Whiskey Law Shaped America for yourself and for all your whiskey buddies for the holidays!

What else is worth reading for your list?  If you haven’t read these books, be sure to pick them up too:

Bourbon Empire: The Past and Future of America’s Whiskey

Bourbon: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of an American Whiskey

Bourbon Curious: A Simple Tasting Guide for the Savvy Drinker

Bourbon, Strange

BTEC Organic 6 Grain Whiskey

Free sample from Buffalo Trace for this review. I don’t even think they read this blog so you can rest assured that what I taste is what I am writing about.

The color is on the lighter side, but I read it was new charred oak barrels and could be legally called Bourbon.

The nose is really nice. Candy corn, brown sugar covered cooked baby carrots, rice crispy treats, Golden Grahams and stone dust. It’s intriguing and not too hot.

The mouthfeel is good despite the 90 proof. It’s a little hotter in the throat than the nose would have lead me to believe. The taste isn’t as sweet as the nose either but it is interesting and the finish is long. This is very enjoyable but is quite different than most whiskies. The taste is focused on the back center of the tongue, unlike any other whiskey I can remember. The second taste comes through hot again and starts in the front of the tongue and migrates to the back again. It has a vegetable sensation to the flavor.

I’ve always been a fan of the BTEC series. Even if I don’t like the whiskey, I love that Buffalo Trace is putting out stuff that we can try of different experiments. This one is good but not one I expect them to make into a regular product. If you can buy it at MSRP you absolutely should pick it up! I wouldn’t go chasing it on the secondary for over $100 though… The 4 Grain is much better.. less is more. 89/100

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For the New Bourbon Drinker, Top 5 Whiskies to Try

Bourbonmania has hit new highs. Some people say it’s a bubble. I’m not quite ready to say that because I believe Bourbon was ignored for far too long and only now are the masses actually recognizing appreciating it. We have years before this bubble bursts and the quality and quantity will keep getting better and better for the foreseeable future.

Everyone newbie wants to get the newest BTAC, FRSBLE, or OFBB released. To be honest, it’s not just the newbies who want them–it’s all of us. But the difference between the newbies and the old timers to this hobby, is that the older group has already tried it all and realizes that some things are worth the hunt (or paying up on secondary) and some things aren’t;  what is or what isn’t is purely based on your personal preference, not a review or a bloggers piece. Personally I love the Cask strength bourbons and the high proof ryes. Pappy, OFBB, Michter’s wax capsule releases and ER17 are great, but if I come across them at retail I’ll trade them for GTS, THH or FRSBLE any day.

Today I’m putting out my top five whiskies for the “new bourbon drinker”…. These are the ones that I’m happy to drink any day of the week and are readily available.  You won’t find the unicorns on this list, but these are the whiskies that if you want to start the hobby, go for these.

#1 Buffalo Trace: yes the one that costs $20 in your retail store. This may be one of the most overlooked and undervalued whiskies in the world. Yes it’s lower proof than I like but it has the flavor, the mouthfeel, and for goodness sakes, it’s $19!!! It’s the same mashbill as some of their releases that secondary for hundreds of dollars. This is the Bourbon I serve people to see if they like Bourbon or not. It’s just that simple. (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2015/08/11/buffalo-trace-yes-the-standard-one-with-the-buffalo-one-yes-its-very-very-good/)

#2 Pikesville Rye: thank Heaven for Heaven Hill and their high proof 6yr rye. Spicy and amazing in every way and best of all you can usually find it for between $50-$60. When I don’t feel like I deserve a pour of Handy (which is my favorite, but too expensive to make this list), Pikesville comes in a close second. Just an amazing product. (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/pikesville-rye-2-of-the-year/)

#3 Just when you though I was going to go all cheap on you and only mass produced products, I’m going to throw you for a loop. Barrell Bourbon, any batch, is #3 for all new bourbon drinkers. Unlike most limited release, Cask strength, Bourbon releases, this one can usually be found and retailers aren’t jacking up the prices on it. Retails for between $70-$90 for a regular batch and $10 more for a single barrel release, Barrel is worth every penny. As a sourced whiskey, Barrell finds the best of the best and bottles it at cask strength to provide the consumer with the purest Bourbon you can get. I’ve never been disappointed, and more often blown away by what they come out with on a regular basis. I’ve never missed a release, and some of them I’ve stockpiled because I know once they are gone they are gone for good. (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2017/04/25/newest-barrell-bourbon-batch-is-a-home-run-011/)

#4 Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style. Although I wasn’t a huge fan when I first opened it, after sitting for a month or two it really mellows out but keeps the nice spice and strong mouthfeel. By far the best of the series, this one is still pretty readily available at around $60.  Although my review makes it sound just ok, I would revise it up a point or two after airing it out for several months.  (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/12/21/old-forester-1920-very-good-not-great/)

#5 Blanton’s. The Original Single barrel Bourbon. This is most people’s gateway to great Bourbon, and I was no different. Still pretty readily available and looks great on the shelf. I’ve never been disappointed by any Blanton’s I’ve ever had. If you are overseas and can get the Straight From the Barrel, it’s even better and totally worth snagging. (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/04/02/4-bottle-blantons-tasting/)

I really wanted to put OGD114 on this list, but you can never find it. I also wanted to put Mellow Corn on it, but again, almost every store is sold out of it. Part of the criteria for making the list was being readily available and not trading for silly prices on the secondary, which is why ETL, which is amazing, obviously got cut.

Anyway… I hope people like the list and learn from it. Happy to answer any questions on DM on twitter or on the comment section of the blog. Happy drinking!

P.S. Yes this is my top shelf, and you won’t find most of these on this list, but if anyone wants to come by I’m happy to pour any of them for my readers!

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http://www.barrellbourbon.com

http://www.buffalotrace.com

https://www.blantonsbourbon.com/

https://www.oldforester.com/

http://www.pikesvillerye.com/

BTEC Entry Proof Experiment

I love the BTEC collection, even if I don’t love each of the individual whiskeys. The fact they are experimenting and letting us try them is pretty cool. I’m not in love with the costs either, but the market has dictated most of high prices.  Not to give this one away, but this experiment is one of my absolute favorites when it comes to the results.

The BTEC is about entry level proof into the barrel, 105 vs 125 using the BT rye bourbon mash #2 and aged for 13.25 years.

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Both look equally golden Amber in color.

105: a bit hot on the nose initially, but butterscotch, lemongrass, peach pits, cinnamon, allspice and oak come through in the second whif.

125: surprisingly not hot on the nose, it’s sweeter with toasted raisin bread, butter cornbread, cracked walnut and baking spices. The nose on this one seems far more developed and approachable.

105: enjoyable initial taste, although thin mouthfeel and quickly drops off with a slightly sour aftertaste with just warmth remaining.

125: even more enjoyable initial taste, with a medium mouthfeel that continues for much longer and does not give a sour aftertaste. The finish is moderate and there is a much more balanced flavor, feel and warmth profile that the 105 entry point is missing.

There isn’t even a comparison here and it’s shocking to believe these started as the same, with everything identical expect for the entry proof into the barrel. The 105 proof is an incomplete and lacking bourbon, while the 125 is very enjoyable. A bit expensive for a 375ml, but good to know how important entry proof is into a barrel, and it’s no wonder that most distillers fill their barrels at the legal maximum.  Great experiment and worth trying side by side to see.

105:  83/100
125:  91/100