Four Roses 50th Anniversary is another Epic Win!

My brother-in-law was in town the other day so I thought I would share my sample with him to try.  Thank you to Four Roses for sending the sample, and as always, there was no quid pro quo.  Plenty of other sites have reviewed and talked about the mashbill, I’ll put the links below to those… I’ll just give my take:

Awesome nose: marzipan, peanuts, rose petals, caramel, butterscotch and a touch of charcoal.

Now for the taste… WOW!  The mouthfeel is close to perfect, with just enough tannins to tickle the tongue and plenty of oils to coat it.  The flavors are incredibly complex, with sweetness coming in first, then warmth on the way down.  The flavors continue to evolve every fifteen seconds and the finish goes on for minutes and minutes.  Later on you get a nice oak background with an incredible smoothness.

So far this year, this is easily one of my top three favorites, but I decided to check it against the 2015 Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition.  Very similar, and hard to pick a winner, but I think the 2015 might be slightly better.  It’s a judgement call.  My brother in law wasn’t as excited about it as I was, he really liked it, but he prefers the bigger, higher proof bourbons like Elijah Craig Barrell Proof and Barrell Bourbon.  He’s at 95 points, but I’m a 97/100.  Like Fred Minnick said, if you can get it, buy it all.  If you don’t, I will!

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http://fourrosesbourbon.com/celebrating-al-youngs-50th-anniversary-with-limited-edition-four-roses-bourbon/

https://www.fredminnick.com/2017/03/09/four-roses-limited-edition-2/

http://www.breakingbourbon.com/who-is-brent-elliott.html

https://thewhiskeywash.com/whiskey-styles/bourbon/four-roses-celebrates-whiskey-legend-al-young-one-hell-bourbon/

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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/

Interview with Four Roses Brent Elliott

Brent Elliott was nice enough to have a phone chat with me… I have made some minor edits for time purposes, flow, continuity and because I took notes and didn’t record it… on to the interview…

NBD: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today.  So… what is your daily routine?

BE: It’s different everyday, no two are alike.  When I’m here [at the distillery] I usually spend a lot of time in the sensory lab, mingling and blending different batches.  We look at every batch that comes off the still for quality check.  We check the distillate and 99 out of 100 are fine.  After four years we check each batch again to see where it will go.

NBD: How do you define a batch?

BE: A batch is about 290 barrels, coming from eight fermenters.   We make about 22 batches a month.  After four years we have a pretty good idea where it will go.  We test it and it gets designated for Yellow Label or Private Barrel or something different.  At 6.5-7yrs we test them again and at this point we are 75% sure how long they will go for and where they will end up.  From time to time we find a special batch that isn’t too astringent and still have more to go and that will often go into Small Batch Limited Edition.  Most of the longer aging are from the first or second tier.

NBD: What is a tier?

BE: Our warehouses have six stories, which we call tiers, the first being the ground floor and the sixth the top floor.  The first through third often produce batches that can age longer.

NBD: So… what is your daily drinker?  What did you drink last night?

BE: I actually didn’t drink last night, but the night before I had FR Small Batch.  When I first started out I tried everything, tried to understand the different processes, and the taste differences.  And over the years lots of people have brought over bourbons, but I do not have many competitors products at my house anymore.

NBD: So, I tried to Tweet you the other day and I couldn’t find you. Are you on Twitter?

BE:  I am not on Twitter… or Facebook or anywhere on social media.  I do check it from time to time from my wife’s account, but I’m so busy with emails and phone calls that I do not have time for it.

NBD: So, check my math.  22 batches a month, 290 barrels a batch, so you are making over 75,000 barrels a year?

BE: If we ran for 12 months a year that would be correct, but we shut down for about two months a year.  Historically we shut down for almost 4-5 months a year due to the heat in the river but now we shut down for about two months for cleanup, rebuilding and fixing the pipes, pumps and facilities.  We also are in the process of doubling our production and using that time to expand.

NBD: Thank you so much for your time… if there was anything you could fix in the bourbon industry, what would it be?

BE:  The price gauging on the secondary market bothers me and I also wish we have enough inventory.

NBD:  Seems that if you have enough inventory, the supply and demand would be fixed and would solve the price gauging problem.

BE: That’s right…

NBD: Do you think with all the increases in production that a bourbon bubble is forming?

BE: I do think that bourbon will slow down, whether it is in ten or fifteen years, but I do not think that the bottom will fall out.  This is not like cherry vodka and next week people like grape flavor more.  With bourbon, the growth requires more people to be introduced and there is increased recognition; when people try it they love it.  Bourbon has history, tradition, is hand crafted and has a soul; most importantly it is delicious.

NBD: Thank you so much for your time.

Top 5 Drams of the Year 2016

Another year gone by and I’ve read so many negative stories, yet, there were some pretty awesome bourbons released this year.  Overall the prices have gone up, but you can still find bargains and making friends with your local retailer has never been more important… onto the list!

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#1 2016’s Buffalo Trace Thomas H Handy 126.2 proof 97.5/100  secondary price: $300 (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/11/27/btac-thomas-h-handy-2016/)  This was my favorite of the BTAC releases, with a close second being GTS, but THH is far easier to get your hands on and better price giving it the edge.  Handy may be the BTAC that is least respected, but time and time again it is my favorite release.

#2 2016 Release Four Roses Elliott’s Select OESK 52.9% abv 91/100 secondary price $225 (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/08/15/four-roses-elliotts-select/)  There was a lot of worry when Jim Rutledge retired from Four Roses, but when Brent Elliott came out with this bottle immediately afterwards, all fears were assuaged.  In fact, this bottle was substantially better than the 2016 Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition release, although not quite as good as last year’s winner, the 2015 FRSBLE.  I think we can all sleep soundly knowing that Four Roses is in good hands.

3# Barrell Bourbon New Years 2017 retail price $99.99 (for now!) (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2017/01/02/happy-new-year-barrell-bourbon-2017/)  Another top award for this up and comer.  This is their first true marriage release of 4 different barrels from Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee, and once again blows the competition away.  Grab a few while you still can as the first release of this bad boy probably will be worth a lot of money in the near future…. keep your eye

#4 Willett Family Estate Single Barrel Bourbon #438 119.8 proof 96/100 $120 @ gift shop (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/01/27/willett-family-estate-single-barrel-bourbon-438-holy-moley/)  This was one of the bottles I was lucky enough to buy when I visited Willett in January of 2016.  This was a honey barrel if I’ve ever tasted one.  If you are ever able to get some of this, don’t hesitate!

#5 Garrison Brothers Single Barrel Bourbon #3824 97 proof 96/100 $100 retail price (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/11/24/go-visit-garrison-brothers-single-barrel-amazing/) Garrison Brothers consistently puts out a great product.  I also visited their distillery this year and really enjoyed meeting Dan and the team.  Very excited to see the 2017 Cowboy Bourbon when it is released next year!

There were so many that almost made the cut… I tried a couple rums this year that were really good including one from Balcones (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/06/29/balcones-texas-rum-special-release-batch-15-1-63-9-abv/) and another from Barrell (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/12/03/barrell-rum-batch-001-7yr-jamaican-pot-still-rum/).  Barrell’s Whiskey 002 was another one that almost made the cut, but after careful consideration I preferred the New Years (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/04/24/barrell-whiskey-002-magical-sherry-cask-finish/).  Most lists have Booker’s Rye on their top 5, and although it is a good whiskey, it’s just too hot and expensive and does not deserve to make it in my very humble opinion (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/08/23/bookers-rye/).  PHC 10yr was also hotly debated, and I thought it was extremely good, but given the price, just not quite worthy vs the Garrison or the WFE (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/09/19/phc10-parkers-heritage-collection-10-24yr-bourbon/).

I’ll have my top five disappointments in the world of bourbon coming up soon… thanks again for a great 2016 to everyone who reads this blog.  Readership has gone up 5x and I hope to continue that trend into 2017.  I’d love to hear what your top 5 of the year were?  Happy New Year!

http://www.barrellbourbon.com/  http://www.garrisonbros.com/  http://www.kentuckybourbonwhiskey.com/  http://fourrosesbourbon.com/  https://www.buffalotracedistillery.com/

FRSBLE2016…big shoes to fill from the 2015…

Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition 2015 was my favorite bourbon of last year… it’s almost impossible to follow that up, as expectations are aggressively high.  The Elliot’s Select, out early this year, was one of my favorites, so I was very excited to get one of these bottles.  The bottle I am rating is 262/9258 which I bought on bottle-spot, but was lucky to get one for $119.99 a few weeks later from one of the liquor stores I go to a lot (thanks for keeping one aside for me).

Last year was a blend of four, this year is only three and is a 12yr OESO, 12yr OBSV and a 16yr OESK.  The bottles looks the same as last year, just with a 2016 instead of a 2015 and this year comes in with an sbv that is 1.3% higher to 55.6%.  The colors are basically the same.

The nose is good, very sweet, butterscotch, candied popcorn, cinnamon sticks, canned dark fruits and bbq grill ash.  The depth of the nose isn’t quite as complex and deep as last year’s.  Very little heat.

The bourbon on the tongue goes down smoothly.  The mouthfeel is enjoyable with just enough grip to let you know that it isn’t chill filtered, and is warmer than expected.  The taste is better than the nose with additional complexity coming through as the finish is very long, much longer than expected.

The lack of complexity on the nose was cause for concern, but the taste on the palate and the fun mouthfeel come through in the end.  This is a bourbon with a long finish and although is not nearly as good as last year’s release, is still a very good bourbon and one of my favorites of the year.  If you can find it at retail, it’s a steal, but don’t chase this one like I am still chasing the 2015 release.  94/100.

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Four Roses Elliott’s Select

While the huge media chatter of Jim Rutledge “retiring” and then quickly going online to kickstart his own distillery has dominated the news, Brent Elliott has quietly taken over as Master Distiller at Four Roses Distillery, continuing to make great whiskey.  The newest special release from Four Roses is the Elliott’s Select 2016 Limited Edition Single Barrel.

This review is from bottle number 4473/10224, a 52.9% abv, 14 year aged, OESK from warehouse QN from barrel 47-1L.

Golden brown color.

The nose has butterscotch, anise, brown sugar, smoked maple bacon, dry hay and candied apple.

The palate is phenomenal, good oils, moderate tannins, sweet fruits and candied apples engulf the mouth.  The finish is long and complex, thick and juicy.

This is clearly one of the standouts of 2016; hits all the right notes, is complex and enjoyable.  Too bad it’s one of those hard to find bourbons for a reasonable price… I’ve seen it listed on bottle-spot.com for low 200s, and at that price it’s reasonable. 97/100

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Bourbon @ The New York Shaving Company Barbershop

The company I work for has an annual charity auction where employees both donate events/items/experiences and also bid on other people’s donations.  This year I decided to work with the New York Shaving Company to donate a great bro’s event: Bourbon at the Barbershop.  Everyone who won the event was treated to an old school barber’s shave and as much amazing bourbon as they could drink.  John Scala, owner and operator of The New York Shaving Company, was an amazing host for our event and I provided the incredible selection of Bourbon.

The lineup for the event was:

  • Old Rip Van Winkle 10yr
  • Blade & Bow 22yr
  • Willett Family Estate Bourbon bottle #438
  • Thomas H. Handy BTAC 2014
  • Elijah Craig 18
  • Elijah Craig 23
  • Barrell Bourbon Batch 002
  • Barrell Bourbon Batch 005
  • Barrell Bourbon Batch 006
  • Barrell Whiskey Batch 002 Sherry Cask Finish
  • Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition 2014
  • Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition 2015
  • Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection Rediscovered Barrels 17yr
  • Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection Rediscovered Barrels 19yr
  • Michter’s 10 Bourbon
  • Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project
  • Elmer T. Lee
  • Weller Special Reserve

We raised a lot of money for charity and everyone had a great time–the hangovers were proof.  Thanks again to John and the great people at the NY Shaving Company and to everyone who bid high to win tickets to the event.  It was also a great way to finish off a bunch of heels from my collection.  18 bottles gone, which means I can take 18 more out of the bunker 🙂

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