Gift Shop Distillery Rankings… Some will agree, some will send me hate mail…

So… these rankings, unless specifically mentioned, are based solely on the gift shop.  Some of the distilleries mentioned below have great tours and experiences, but I’m only rating the gift shop, unless otherwise specifically mentioned.  There are several listed below that have received some very bad scores… this doesn’t mean that I don’t like their products or their tour or the people, but what it does mean is that if you are just looking to allocate time to hit up a gift shop, looking for a good experience or access to bottles that they only have there, you should not go.  A great example of this is Buffalo Trace… it’s my favorite distillery tour I’ve ever done, and they make my favorite whiskies, but their gift shop is a complete waste of time.  If you are a distillery owner and unhappy with your gift shop score, maybe you should put some more single barrels or limited release stuff there to keep people like me happy?  Happy to lend my consulting expertise if anyone needs it.

Boone County
2/5 unless it’s a release date then don’t have anything special there and it’s out of the way. Nice people and they let you taste though.

Evan Williams
4.5/5 Lots of gift shop only releases these days including the 23yr and 12yr… people there are super friendly and easily accessible.

Old Forester
1/5 This one upset me. They only have a couple single barrels available in the gift shop but they won’t let you taste it. They make you pay $14 to go next door to the bar to pay for a flight of three. Well I did that and guess what? They weren’t that good so I didn’t buy. Maybe they knew their single barrels weren’t that good so they wouldn’t sell them? The staff was also pretty obnoxious about it too. I never did the tour but I can’t stress enough that this gift shop is a complete waste of time.

Peerless
4.5/5 Beautiful building, amazing staff that are both friendly and knowledgeable. We got to try all the single barrels they had for sale and one was really good so I bought it. Highly recommend going here if you are on Whiskey Row.

Michters
2.5/5 Sometimes have some unique stuff. Closed on Wednesday’s though which is random.

Angels Envy
2/5 Probably a pass for most people but only go if you are a huge fan. Beautiful building though.

Barrell Bourbon
5*/5 Only open if you are looking to buy a barrel, but they let you try everything and you can even play cornhole right in their warehouse. Otherwise they don’t really have a public gift shop (thus the *), but this was my favorite stop in Kentucky given their hospitality and willingness to let us try so many different things.

Wild Turkey
2/5 Gift shop not worth going to. Zero unique products and not close.

Four Roses
2/5 No longer do they have good single barrels available. Far away and generic. Pass.

Willett
2/5 This used to be a 5/5 but unless they have a WFE release they have nothing there you would want and it’s out of the way. Staff was pretty standoffish when I asked about WFE. Exceptionally disappointed by my trip here. I guess it’s only good if you are doing a barrel pick, otherwise don’t bother. If you are meeting with Drew and doing a barrel pick it’s a 5/5 though, but for just the gift shop, it’s a 2.

Heaven Hill
5/5 William Heavenhill, Grenades, what more could you want? Great gift shop. **Must Visit**

Barton
2.5/5 Free tastings, first gift shop open in Bardstown, but limited options in the gift shop. Would be two stars except the staff was just so nice to me even though they didn’t even know who I was.

Kentucky Artisan Distillery/Jefferson’s
2.5/5 Would be three stars if it were more conveniently located… they have a well stocked gift shop, mostly available everywhere but a couple unique items… if you love Jefferson’s it’s worth going or if you are just driving through, but not alone.  The person at the front desk wasn’t particularly knowledgeable.

Lux
2.5/5 Beautiful facility, hit or miss on availability of single barrels.

Bardstown Bourbon Company
4.5/5 Definitely hit this one up after Heaven Hill. It’s almost brand new. Cool items in the gift shop you won’t find elsewhere and they let you try it. Next time I’m there I’m having lunch as well.

Wilderness Trail
3/5 It gets knocked by half a star for being so far out of the way. It’s a great facility and although their product is young, it’s good. Single barrels available and free stickers! Not worth a trip by itself but if in the area it’s worth a detour.  Will plan to go back in five years or so once they have more aged stock.

Belle Meade/Nelson Green
4/5 Lots of aged MGP cask strength single barrels available that are delicious. I generally hate tours and refuse to do them but this one is actually entertaining. Kolby the tour guide is great. Worth going if in Nashville.

Maker’s Mark
Tour 4/5
Gift Shop 4/5
If you are going all there way here, you should do the tour… gift shop gets a four instead of a three because you get to actually dip your own bottle… pretty cool experience.  If Maker’s is just ok to you, I’d pass, but if you love it, it’s a must go.

Buffalo Trace
Tour 5/5
Gift Shop 1.5/5
Go to Frankfort for the tour, but if you are hoping to find literally anything allocated, good luck because it ain’t happening. A colleague of mine thought he’d be able to find Pappy there and flip it back in NYC. I just laughed at him. He was disappointed when he came back and thought I was lying to him. Oh well.

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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Bourbon and Charity… special thanks to New York Shaving Company!

The Bourbon Community has always been really great about giving back.  We recently had our third annual Bourbon at the Barbershop special charity event that we hosted at The New York Shaving Company.  We raised over 3k for local children’s charities and everyone had a great time.  Take a look at the photos below, but let’s just say that everyone felt they got their money’s worth.  We had 80% of the BTAC collection, Al Young, Willett Family Estate, a couple great Barrell Bourbon releases, Garrison Bros. Cowboy, Lot 40 Cask Strength, Wiser’s 35yr, EHT Four Grain, Kentucky Owl Rye, Appleton’s Rum 25yr Joy, Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition, Elliot’s Select, JPS 25yr and more!  It was the best heel party I’d ever been to!  Thanks again to New York Shaving Company for being an amazing partner!

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2017’s Top 5 Bourbons & Whiskies Under $100

I’m using the secondary prices (which are very close to MSRP for these picks) for this list as nothing bothers me more than someone saying at $89.99 MSRP Sazerac 18 is their favorite bottle under $100.  Get real guys!  The secondary market is here to say and you might as well just get used to it. Also… only two here are actually Bourbons, I have one rum, one rye and one corn whiskey… but who’s really counting?

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Barrell Bourbon is the winner here, although it is the most expensive of this list.  Usually retailing for around $80, they consistently beat out bottles that you can’t touch on the secondary for 2-4x the price.  While they still are priced under $100, stock up. MSRP $80.

Pikesville is my favorite rye under $100.  115 proof, delicious.  Thank you Heaven Hill!  Second year in a row it continues to be available, awesome and affordable.  MSRP $60.

Foursquare Rum 2004 Exceptional Cask Selection… Exceptional Cask Selection Mark III Single Blended Rum aged 11 years in ex-Bourbon casks, distilled in 2004, released in 2015.  It’s full proof, 59%.  Thanks for Fred Minnick for tipping me off to this one.  Yes, it’s not a Bourbon, but it’s aged in ex-Bourbon casks and is just as delicious. Order one today! MSRP $60.

Old Weller Antique 107 Store Pick Non-Chill Filtered.  Make friends with your local liquor store owner.  Beg them to get a bottle of OWA NCF, ask to buy 4 of them when they come in.  Best $35 you can spend.  MSRP $35.

Mellow Corn.  I’m sorry, you may think I’m nuts by putting this on the list, but for $9.99, bottled in bond, again, thank you Heaven Hill.  This is my go-to after I’m three sheets to the wind and shouldn’t be touching the top shelf stuff, because it holds up and still has a good taste. MSRP $9.99.

Honorable mention goes to Old Forester 1920 Prohibition.  It should have been the number five on the list, but I just couldn’t help myself by putting on Mellow Corn instead.

Agree?  Disagree?  Continue the discussion on my Twitter @newbourbondrink or Facebook https://www.facebook.com/newbourbondrinker/

 

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2017/04/25/newest-barrell-bourbon-batch-is-a-home-run-011/

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/08/15/mellow-corn-must-have-for-all-bars/

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2017/05/27/old-weller-antique-ninety-9-single-barrel/

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/pikesville-rye-2-of-the-year/

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2017/12/27/4-new-releases-from-barrell-bourbon/

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2017/09/25/barrell-bourbon-lucky-013/

http://www.heavenhill.com  http://www.barrellbourbon.com  https://www.rumsixtysix.comfoursquare-rum-distillery.html/

Orphan Barrel Entrapment

en·trap·ment
inˈtrapmənt,enˈtrapmənt/
noun
noun: entrapment; plural noun: entrapments
  1. the state of being caught in or as in a trap.
    “the feeling of entrapment grows as the roads close and the power goes out”
    • the action of tricking someone into committing a crime in order to secure their prosecution.
      “his style of investigation constitutes entrapment”

admiral-ackbar-its-a-trap

The title of the bottle pretty much tells you everything you need to know… you are basically being tricked into buying this because it has a big 25 on it.  Despite the fact that we know we are being entrapped by Diageo, we still overpay for the bottle anyway… on to the review:

Diageo’s Orphan Barrel Entrapment is the newest release and is a 25yr Canadian Rye from most likely Gimli, but could be Waterloo given they were distilling up to 1992  (Update: I have read online that it is in fact from Gimli).  They had admitted it is Crown Royal and decided to release it in this line instead of a special Crown Royal release or blend it into their normal product.

Extremely light colored. If it were Bourbon I’d guess it was six months old but it’s 25yrs old aged in used wood. The wood is probably so used there is nothing left to be absorbed into the distillate—I doubt the barrels were even reconditioned or recharred.

The nose is classic Canadian Rye, and that’s because it is. It’s Crown Royal and it’s smells just like their low end brand. Vanilla, Christmas tree and candy corn. Doesn’t smell like it’s been aged a lot. Reminds me a lot of older Canadian Club dusties that are easy to find, cheap and enjoyable.

The initial flavor is quite nice, smooth, sweet with vanilla and sugar candy and goes down easily. However there is no friendly heat, the mouthfeel is as thin as it can get and the finish ends before you know it. The taste is enjoyable but not complex.

Unlike some previous Orphan Barrel releases, this is totally drinkable. However it drinks well for a $40 bottle, not a MSRP $150 (I actually paid $199.99 plus tax because that was the only place around me that had it). I have several 70’s and 80’s dusty Canadian Clubs that taste better and I got for significantly cheaper. Prices affect ratings and this one is definitely not one you need to get but if you can find a pour for a reasonable price, maybe worth trying one glass.  DO NOT PAY UP ON SECONDARY FOR THIS! 86/100

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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/

Orphan Barrel Whoop & Holler

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Perhaps the photo gave it away?  Once you taste this, it will explain everything.  Let’s not waste our times on the history of Orphan Barrel, or that this is just some 28yr old Dickel juice aged somewhere else, or why it’s called American Whiskey instead of Bourbon… I’m going to let other bloggers write about than and instead I’m just going to get into the review…

The color is extremely light, just from looking at it, I would have assumed it was a 2-3 year bourbon.  Very hard to believe this has been aged for 28 years.

The nose has aromas of my bathroom garbage can, used Band-Aids, pine needles and rubber.  The first time I tried it a few weeks ago it was more potent, now, although the smells are the same, they are less pronounced, but nothing better coming through.

The taste, hard to believe, is even worse than the smell.  It is dry, astringent, unappealing, just not good at all.  It has the feeling of being massively over oaked, without any of the positive aspects of oak–pretty amazing feat in itself.  I guess the only redeeming quality of the taste is that I’m getting a slight burnt orange aroma, which is better than the trash I was getting before.  The taste just brings a frown to your face, like you are sucking on a lemon, but a lemon that tastes like trash.  Just gross.

Now… here is the kicker.  I paid $199.99 for this thing.  I actually bought 6 of them for $1200.  I was convinced I was going to flip them and make a killing on it.  Can you imagine how upset I was when I got home and tried it?  For full disclosure, I did list them on bottle-spot and was able to get rid of all of them, after shipping costs, for just a little more than I paid for them, but I feel bad for those people who bought them.  This is just gross.  And the fact that Diageo had the balls to not only put this out on the market, but charge $200 a bottle for it is so bad.  It’s even worse that I bought it for that price.  I keep buying these stupid Orphan Barrels, partially because they tend to go up in value and also because they have such pretty labels and look good on my bar.  Why do I keep doing this to myself?  I hope everyone reads this before they go out and buy another Orphan Barrel ever again… I have just one more thing to say… Diageo: go fuck yourselves.  1/100