Top 5 Disappointments of 2016 in Bourbon

Age statements going away… prices going up… there is just so much to complain about, but I would argue there is so much more to celebrate.  So please check out my top 5 drams of the year (my review) first because I do believe 2016 was a great year in bourbon.  But here are my complaints….

#1 Retailers charging more than secondary prices… it’s a huge pain in the butt and here are the ones that I found to be most obnoxious:

#2 Your favorite low cost bourbon going away… whether it was going NAS for some, but for me it was losing OGD114.  However… I called up my local retail store, took down two cases, so I now have more than 24 bottles in the bunker which should last me quite enough time 🙂

#3  Trying some really terrible new craft stuff… 99% of the time when you are at a farmers market and someone has some small batch, small barrel, new whiskey they are excited about from some local farm with locally sourced grain, it’s horrible.  There are too many to cite, but they are almost all bad (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/08/26/orange-county-distillery-back-to-the-drawing-board-please/)

#4 Diageo and their never ending cash grab… latest example was Whoop & Holler which should have been used as an industrial cleaner… it was literally not worth drinking.  There was some whiskey writer who put it on his top whiskeys of the year… I tweeted that guy directly, and I’m not sure he even knows what bourbon is. (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/11/26/orphan-barrel-whoop-holler/)

#5 Willett’s new make 3yr rye.  I love Willett products, but this was just terrible.  I’m really hoping it was a one off and will get better, but this was just disappointing. (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/09/29/3yr-rye-distilled-aged-bottled-by-the-willett-distillery/)

Again… this is just my top 5…  a few things barely missed the cut, most specifically the Knob Creek 2001: put it in a wooden box, call it limited release and 3x the price?  Seriously?  I hear they are already over 60k bottles, and to be honest, I’ve yet to have one that I like.  I’d love to hear from my readers what their biggest disappointment was and what they are most excited for in 2017!

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.

 

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ECBP 139.4 #11 Elijiah Craig’s Best to Date? Thank you Heaven Hill

Elijiah Craig Barrell Proof Bourbon (ECBP) is a staple on my bar, but one that I have ignored for a while–and that was a mistake. The 128 proof, #7 release, was the first piece ever on my blog and it is long overdue to review another one. Today I am imbibing the 139.4 proof, which is release #11 and the second highest proof they have ever done.  Earlier in the evening I was drinking EHTBP, and when I poured this one I couldn’t believe how much darker the color and deeper the aroma was…. On to the review…

Deep and dark tawny port color.

On the nose had rich flavors of butterscotch, buttered popcorn, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Raisin Bran and maple syrup–also getting some of those tawny notes that the color alludes to.  Just a big and bold nose: some heat but less than expected given the high proof.

The first taste is fantastic. The chewy flavors are coming through and the wood tannins on the tongue are there but not as thick as I would like. If anyone has ever tried a Sam Adams Utopias before, there are some similar tastes and smells–which is very good. There is a nice warmth traveling through my body but it isn’t harsh at all. The finish isn’t as long as I expected given all the complexity upfront, but it’s quite an experience.  Very solid palate.

You have to give it to Heaven Hill because ECBP is still one of the few well priced cask strength bourbons out there. Their newest release is the best one that I have tried to date. If you see it on the shelf for a reasonable price, grab a couple and you won’t be disappointed. The only thing that prevents this from going from a great to an epic bourbon is the lack of extended finish. Worth every penny though. 94/100.

 

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