Jack Rose Part 2: Old Heaven Hill Wheater & Old Bernheim

Kentucky Crest 10yr 1950s bottling by Bernheim 103 proof
Golden color, with charcoal bits; I love charcoal bits. Classic bourbon nose, with some dried apricot fruit as well.  A touch hotter than expected but really nice. Mouthfeel is average and finish is moderate. Really nice but not one you need to mortgage the house for.  As the night went on, the aroma got better and better with vanilla and baking spices really coming through. 92/100

Old Fitzgerald 1849 Heaven Hill 1990s juice
Dull straw yellow coloring. Classic wheater nose, sweet and bready.  Easy down, no heat, enjoyable but not overly complex. Not sure what the hype is on these bottles. As the night continued the aroma stayed the same and did not improve.  88/100

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Ancient Age 80 Dusty

I love me a good dusty.  I traded for this one as part of a larger bottle-spot.com trade as a throw in.  Ancient Age Straight Kentucky Bourbon 80 proof, most likely from the 1970’s, with the tax stamp.  Ancient Age is one of the Buffalo Trace brands.

Vanilla, cloves, mushrooms, butterscotch, caramel, nutmeg and allspice.  Almost no heat at all.

The taste is ok, with all the elements from the nose coming through, but all on a very weak level.  The flavors are not strong, and the mouthfeel is very thin.  It’s enjoyable but it’s not complex.  The finish is quick turning slightly bitter at the end.

I love a good dusty, but this one isn’t one worth seeking out.  Nice to try to cross off my list.  80/100.

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2016 Whisky Jewbilee and Event Tasting Strategy

The 5th Annual Whisky Jewbilee was my first time attending this cool New York City event… I brought a few clients and friends with me to enjoy the fun.  As part of any large tasting, you need to have a game plan ahead of time—know where the rare bottles are and hit them first.

A huge mistake rookies make is trying to be very polite and going through the whole vertical.  I totally understand being polite, going through each one and hearing why the 10yr is so great.  But… there will be time for that at the end of the evening if you really care.  There were about 6 Scotches that were 25yrs or older and they were all gone within the first 30 minutes, so if you didn’t hit them first, you missed out.  Fortunately for me and my friends, I had them all mapped out and we were able to try them all.  To be honest though, a the selection of 25yr Scotch didn’t really excite me…

I’m much more of a bourbon fan than scotch, so I was hoping for something special underneath the tables, that wasn’t on the original tasting list.  There were three tables that really stepped it up in my opinion:

Skinner Auctions brought a bunch of dusties including a 1970s Stitzel-Weller Cabin Still decanter.  Only a 4-5yr bourbon, but so incredibly smooth.  And to get the chance to try anything from Stitzel-Weller is welcomed.  I went back for five pours, which probably was overkill, but almost no one was hitting this table, so it was a hidden gem.

For all the negative things I have written about Balcones over the years, they actually stepped it up at this tasting.  I tried their normal products, and again, I really didn’t like them.  I had never tried their Brimstone, and I think that might be my least favorite one of theirs of all time—just horrible.  However… when I asked if they had anything under the table, I was very pleasantly surprised.  Winston Edwards (the brand ambassador) pulled a new product, the Balcones Texas Rum Special Release 63.9% abv.  He said it was mostly a 3.5yr rum blended with some younger ones.  This product blew me away.  Great mouthfeel, such rich notes, just a tremendous amount of complexity and length.  This was so good I bought two bottles online and can’t wait to try it at home and do a proper tasting.  Stay tuned in the coming weeks for a full review on this rum.

The other favorite table was Barrell Bourbon.  Joe Beatrice brought both whiskey batches, including the sherry cask Batch 002, which was a top 5 of the night as well as Batch 006 and Batch 007.  They also has a special Batch 007b, which apparently was the same barrels from Batch 007, but bottled a few months later, so a little more age, and slightly different proof, but everything else the same.  Very tasty.  I love when the presenters have a little something special under the table if you ask nicely–thank you Joe!

I was very disappointed by a lot of the other bourbon tables, especially Four Roses, Bookers, Basil Hayden, Bakers, etc… they just brought their normal bottles.  Four Roses should have at least brought the Elliot’s Select, but just brought their normal ones.  For a tasting, they should have stepped up their game a little bit.  If I wanted a glass of Basil Hayden, I could just go to any bar, their performance was not exciting.  For next year, hopefully the larger brands lose the attitude and bring something a little special.

At the end of the evening, my clients and friends had a great time, we all drank quite a bit of very good whiskey and I even got to meet Mark Gillespie from WhiskyCast which was a treat.  Because it wasn’t in a proper tasting setting, I am not going to give any grades but the top drams of the night, not in any order were: Stitzel-Weller Cabin Still 1970’s dusty, Barrell Bourbon Batch 006, Barrell Whiskey Batch 002, Balcones Texas Rum Special Release, Balvenie 25.

 

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1929 Hiram Walker Prohibition Unicorn

The 21 Club in NYC found a few cases of Prohibition Era whiskey a few years ago and now they are down to just a couple bottles.  It is Hiram Walker Private Stock Blended Canadian Whiskey from Walkerville, Ontario, Canada–it looks like like Canadian Club.  Distilled in 1919, aged for 10 years in barrels and bottled in 1929, this whiskey has continued to mellow in the brown bottle for the last 87 years.  Initially very skeptical about paying up for something like this, however, I am glad I went ahead and bought it.

The color was lighter than a bourbon, but on par with a Canadian Whiskey aged in used barrels.  The nose was all Madagascar Vanilla, uber velvety and oozing of smoothness.  The second draw had cinnamon sticks, cotton candy, with a steam shower water vapor-esque consistency which was just so light and fresh.  The nose was not overpowering at all, but so gentle and unique I could only hope the taste equaled.

At 90.4 proof I had lower expectations for the palate and mouthfeel, but oils on the mouth came in nicely, although any remnants of tannins were long gone if they ever were present to begin with.  Vanilla clouds permeated through each sip, and this was one you wanted to keep in your mouth for a long time to get every nuance.  Something about 87 years in the bottle after 10 years in wood really did some magic with this whiskey.

If you are in NYC you need to go to the 21 Club and order it.  On the menu it is $100, but if you ask Anthony nicely for a half pour, then may give you a full one for $50.  At $50 I would buy this every single time. Hard to grade something that isn’t readily available, but I feel comfortable giving it a 98/100.

 

Whiskey Hunting: A Passion or Obsession?

The answer to the question in the title depends on whether you ask me or my wife. Because Star Wars 7 is being released this week I do not feel bad about quoting one of everyone’s favorite Jedi Masters, Obi-Wan Kenobi:

“Many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.”

My view is that if I have the time, and I like it, it’s fun and enjoyable.  I do admit that I have too much alcohol in the house, but I don’t plan on drinking every bottle… A lot of hunting involves finding multiples of rare or great bottles to use in trade.  My wife’s view is that I get more excited about scoring a great bottle at the retail price than most other things I am doing.  She may be right about that, but when nothing at home is good enough, being able to find a great bottle at well under the bottle-spot price, is a tangible victory.  The truth probably is somewhere in the middle, and I probably need to pare down the collection a little bit.  It’s too bad she doesn’t enjoy them.  I probably should also cook dinner tonight, make sure the house is clean, ensure our nine month old has a clean diaper and maybe even buy some flowers… but enough about my problems…

Off to my hunting finds… I was in San Francisco for a couple days last week as my wife had a business trip and I decided to take advantage of the free hotel room and come out a day before her trip ended, see a client, and spend the afternoon going to different liquor stores.  We also had an amazing day in Napa the following day, where we visited Checkerboard Vineyards (Amazing Vineyard, email Ingrid to set up a tasting!), Ovid and Joseph Phelps (join the club, great value) in addition to having the best lunch of our lives at Keller’s French Laundry.  Worth the price in every way.

In San Francisco, I had almost no luck in the Financial District, as I did find a bunch of pappy, but when retailers are trying to sell their ORVW for $500 a bottle, I know I needed to find a different strategy.  I did find a Scottish shop selling all sorts of Scotch and Indian whisky, so I bought a bottle of Amrut cask strength, as I really enjoyed that bottle in DC when I was there a month ago–maybe I will re-rate it in a couple months.  My luck changed when I moved to the seedier neighborhoods south of Market St on 6th St.

I’ve noticed that although liquor stores in bad neighborhoods generally have lesser stuff, more often that not, you will find the one store that has some amazing items sitting around because their clientele won’t pay the price.  At a couple stores like that I managed to get a few BCBS Ryes, Barleywine, one Rare, a 4-pack of KBS and 3x EC18s.  I also found a couple dusty pre-merger Suntory Whiskys in the original box–no clue about their value, but I’m sure it’s a lot more than I paid.  I also found a handle of Canadian Club with a 1980 tax stamp on it–not an amazing bottle, but 1980 is my birth year, so I’m always partial to distilled dates or tax stamps bearing the number.

While in Napa we did buy a few bottles of wine, but at a little grocery mart I was able to find a few more bottles of BCBS Rye and 2x coffee.

So below is a photo of my proud stash.  More beer than whiskey on this trip, but amazing beer aged in Bourbon barrels, and not easy to find.

So… do I have an obsession?  Probably.  Is it a passion though?  Definitely.  I do realize that wanting to go into every liquor store I ever drive by may not be the healthiest of instincts, but you never know when you might uncover than amazing bottle that you don’t have.  If you don’t go into the store, you’ll never know.  May luck and the Force be with you.

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Garrison Brothers Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey: Another great drink!

Garrison Brothers Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey 2yr

Another corn whiskey from Texas and this one is just a baby at two years. I bought this one after falling in love with the Cowboy hoping to find the same magic in a bottle at 40% of the price. The photo gives away all the info that you need… I bought the Cowboy three weeks ago and the regular two weeks ago and they both have less than a third left. Actions speak louder than words… In vino veritas.

#1 Panhandle White corn variety
Corn harvested in 2000, distilled and barreled in 2010, released in 2013.
Bottle number 16409, 47% alcohol, born and bred in Hye, Texas.

Dark Amber with tiny charcoal dust floating in the bottle.

The nose is similar to the Cowboy with caramel popcorn, a little butterscotch and some French toast brioche.

The palate is extremely smooth and very enjoyable. It isn’t nearly as big or complex or tannic as the older brother but it is very enjoyable. The finish is long for a sub 100 proof whiskey with a very pleasing mouthfeel.  This doesn’t taste or smell like a two year old whiskey at all… Clearly the Texas weather does something special.

This bourbon is basically a baby brother of the Cowboy with similar characteristics, just not as much. I usually switch to this one after over consuming the Cowboy to save money once I’ve drank too much. It’s a good bourbon on its own, but again suffers from the same high price as the other… but to be fair, they use the highest quality ingredients and are a small producer, so they don’t get the economies of scale that a Buffalo Trace would get.  The products are expensive, but so are the inputs, so it is understandable.  So far everything Garrison Brothers has produced that I have tried has been absolutely top notch.  I am willing to pay for the quality. They should bottle this at barrel proof like the older brother, and would be worth another two points on the grade at least. I can’t wait to try what they come up with next!

If you aren’t trying the products that are coming out of Garrison Brothers you are doing yourself a disservice.

94/100.

 

http://www.garrisonbros.com/

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Ezra Brooks Train Decanter Serious Dusty

Ezra Brooks 12 Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon 90 Proof in Train Decanter

I found this recently in my travels and the cork was still in it, but the seal was broken and although I don’t think it was ever opened, I think the cork disintegrated enough so it was exposed to the elements. But…. I figure I would try it anyway. They say alcohol doesn’t go bad, this experiment will test that assertion.

The liquid is cloudy brown. I even decanted this for two weeks, ran it through cheese cloth twice and did everything I could to get the clouds to settle, but they never did. It’s just brown, cloudy and unappealing.

The nose is very faint, almost nonexistent.

The taste… Also nonexistent. You feel a small amount of burn on it, but there is nothing there. It’s like the flavor just disappeared. Very weird.

I’m not even sure if this is safe to drink so I’m going to stop. But it’s boring and worthless. It’s too bad though, because I bet it wasn’t that bad when it was fresh.  1/100

At least I didn’t pay much for it and the train still looks cool…. It gets a one instead of a zero because I am keeping the train, but dumping the whiskey.

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