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!

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.

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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Curry Hill’s Most Obnoxious NYC Liquor Store… 111 Lexington Avenue

These photos pretty much say it all… CYPB $900… M20 $4k… OWA $150… ETL $200… Stagg Jr $150… Pappy 23 $5k… but… low and behold, the new Little Book is only $110… but THH is $630….

Located at 111 Lexington in New York City, Wine & Liquors is just one of the most obnoxious liquor stores I’ve been to in a while and the staff are equally obnoxious.