Foursquare Rum Distillery 2004 Exceptional Cask Selection

This is one of those finds that I credit to Fred Minnick.  I had my store in NYC specially order it for me (thank you  This is the 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%.

Dried apricot color in the glass.  Notes on the nose are pineapple, rose petal, dried cherries, candy corn, dried apricots, caramel, vanilla, molasses and coconut shavings.  Lots going on there.

For 59% alcohol, this is an incredibly easy rum to sip, yet still enjoyable warmth on the chest.  The mouthfeel is wonderful with both tannins and oils surrounding the mouth.  So much flavor too with caramel and tropical fruits coming in wave after wave.  The finish on this is extremely long, more than two minutes.

Although the 2006 Foursquare is a better rum, it’s impossible to find and insanely expensive.  For the price, you can’t do any better than this one.  The MSRP is around $70, and if you can grab it, grab two or three. 95/100


Top 5 Whiskies of 2017!!

This year has seen secondary prices continue to go up, and primary prices also increase.  I’m on so many Facebook groups about people complaining about this, but I wish people would just be realistic.  Sure, the special releases are getting a little out of hand, but the standard release products are also the best they have ever been.  Now, this list happens to celebrate the best of the best, but I will also pay homage to the under $100 list soon, for the perfect holiday stocking stuffer.

This is the first year that I do not have a rye on the list, but Kentucky Owl Rye Batch 001 was so close it deserves an honorable mention.  MSRP of $130, and secondary in the $175 range made it reachable for most people and it was a standout. I picked four Bourbons and one Rum for the list, and they are all so good, you could easily pick any one of them to be #1.  I did another blind taste test with all five spirits last night and decided based on that final test that I couldn’t put them in order, but each one was the best for a certain criteria (cop out?  probably… but it was just too difficult).


Most Underrated by the Critics: E.H. Taylor Four Grain was one that I liked from the very beginning although was panned by the Bourbon community.  The MSRP of $80 is pretty irrelevant for this one, but the secondary started at $325 and fell all the way to $175 before Jim Murray dubbed it the number one bourbon of the year and secondary now is $350-$400.

Best Lower Proof Bourbon: Four Rose Al Young 50th Anniversary was dubbed early on at the odds on favorite to win number one of the year, yet no large publications awarded it the honor.  Again, MSRP of $150 was pretty irrelevant, but if you could get it there you were lucky.  Secondary was pretty stable at $350 all year for this one.

Best Higher Proof Bourbon: George T. Stagg 2016 was a scorcher at 144.1 proof, yet in the right glassware was epic.  Again MSRP of $90 for BTAC is irrelevant, and secondary for this one ranged between $375-$525.  (For those who complain that I should be talking about the 2017 GTS, it also would have make this list)

Best Value: Barrell Bourbon Batch 011.  By far the least expensive of the list with an MSRP of $89.99, but after winning the number one Bourbon of the year from San Fransisco Wine & Spirits, the secondary basically doubled and you are now lucky if you can find it for $150-$175.

Best Non-Bourbon: FourSquare 2006 Single Blended Rum Double Maturation was one that you could only get at auction and prices were between GBP 150-300 depending on whether you bought it before or after Fred Minnick’s book came out.  This was one of the perfect rum’s that Fred rated in his book, and once you taste it, you will understand.

Agree? Disagree?  Continue the discussion on Twitter @newbourbondrink or Facebook  Cheers to 2017 and a great 2018 to come!

4 New Releases from Barrell Bourbon!

Barrell Craft Spirits remains one of my favorite brands and they continue to put out consistently excellent products at reasonable prices, with good availability and you don’t have to beg, borrow or steal to get them. To me, it’s the best secret left in Bourbon Hunting. I have put a bunch of previous batches away in my bunker because each one is unique and only released once. I was able to grab four new releases at once and thought instead of doing four reviews I’d do one mega review:


Barrell Bourbon New Year 2018: 55.6% ABV and a marriage of barrels from TN, KY, IN, TX and NY. It has an incredibly sweet nose. French toast, Necco wafers, Twizzlers, Butterfigers, yellow flowers, dried cherry pits and creme brule. Almost no heat on nose at all. Wow so easy going down and lots going on. More nuts on the palate than I was getting on the nose and really enjoyable heat in the chest. Solid mouthfeel with the needed oils and tannins following through with a good finish. Really nice special edition. This is the one I’ve had the hardest time finding but if you can get it for a reasonable price, buy two or three. 96/100.

Barrell Rye Batch 002: 5yrs old and 117.5 Proof. I’ve never had a rye distilled in Poland so this is pretty exciting. It is married with an Indiana (MGP?) one which I always enjoy. When I first opened it up the aroma was muted so I waited a few minutes to give it some air. After some time notes of honey suckle, cracked pepper, rock candy and biscotti came through. I decided to wait on this one and try again a week later because I could tell is was still tight–maybe from the plane from Poland?  Easy on the way down with great salted caramel flavor I missed on the nose coupled with strong spiciness.  When I initially opened this rye, it was tight and unforgiving; after a week it’s totally different and the finish goes on for several minutes completely enveloping the tongue. I’ve never had a rye like this before and I’m excited to drink it. I bet that this will continue to evolve in the bottle over the next month or two as I drink it down. 94/100.

Barrell Rum Tale of Two Islands: 8yrs old and bottled at 132.8 Proof. Jamaican pot Still, same source as Batch 001 finished is Islay Scotch casks. I really liked last year’s release: brown sugar, tropical fruits, coconut shavings, white flowers and molasses. This one is very similar to last year but much less heat on the nose. The extra year of aging in the Scotch casks really smoothed this one out even better without the peat taking over. The taste is great, sweet and tropical, and it is shocking how at this proof for a rum the heat is so mellow. The finish goes on for at least two minutes. Great rum and if you liked last year’s release you’ll love this one. I’m hearing it’s very limited release, so buy all that you can. 96/100.

Barrell Bourbon Batch 014: 54.7% ABV and from a blend of KY and TN specially selected barrels of at least 9yrs old. Medium dark amber color. Really nice nutty nose, Jif peanut butter, roasted walnuts, crushed almonds, buttered cinnamon bread and Honey Nut Cheerios. Almost no heat on the nose which is crazy for this Proof.  Solid mouthfeel and good finish. The gentle warmth filters through the chest as the finish elongates. The palate gets hints of salted caramel and nuts on the way down. Another very good release from Barrell Bourbon, readily available and at a reasonable price. I’m buying one to drink now, one for next month and one for the bunker. 95/100.


Barrell Bourbon Batch 014 Review

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!


The Hits Just Keep on Coming… Barrell Bourbon Batch 012

Batch 12 is the most recent release from Barrell Bourbon, just off the heels of their best Bourbon of the year award from San Francisco Ultimate Spirits ( I also was a huge fan of Batch 011 (link). I think I have a future as a spirits judge…

Batch 12 is quite a bit older than 11 coming in at 9 years, but is lower proof, 108.5. I’m not sure, but this might be the lowest proof they have ever released.

The nose on this one is completely different than any previous batch I have tried. This one is a complete fruit bomb: plums, dried cherries, orange peel, hints of graham cracker and brioche. Very little heat on the nose.

Great oils and tannins on the mouthfeel with a wonderful spiciness I didn’t get first on the nose. Getting the fruit and more on the palate. Warmer than expected, in a good way.  The finish is at least two minutes long.

This is a really solid follow up to Batch 011. While most of the stores I go to have sold out of Batch 011, if you buy 012, you won’t be disappointed. It might be enjoyed even more by people who don’t like their Bourbon at 135 proof–probably is more approachable to most whiskey consumers. 94/100.


Rum Curious by Fred Minnick

Before I start, let me say that I will not be switching to rum going forward–I will maintain my love and long-term devotion to Bourbon, but, as you know from some of my previous blogs, I may temporarily stray from time to time to other spirits including rum.  Everyone enjoys a little strange now and then…

Fred Minnick is a world famous whiskey journalist, in addition to being one of the best spirits judges out there.  He judges at the San Francisco Ultimate Spirits competition, and it seems that every Whiskey magazine I open, he is rating and reviewing whiskey and other spirits in them as well.  I have read all of his previous books, most recently Bourbon Curious, which is another one I highly recommend.

Perfect for summer reading, Minnick covers the history, production and regulations of Rum before jumping into the tasting and reviews.  It was a nice vacation from reading about everyone repeating what Bottled in Bond is or the requirements for a Bourbon Whiskey.  Rum has an interesting history, steeped in the evolution of the United States as a country.  One could argue that it was more important building the foundation of the country than Bourbon was.  Minnick’s writing flows well, is easy to understand, but doesn’t patronize the reader.

The reviews are interesting and educational with humor intertwined as well–I especially like when he threatens anyone making a cocktail out of any rum he rated 95 points or higher.

Father’s Day is right around the corner, and for the Bourbon lover who already owns all the books, this is a perfect gift.

Below are the links to a couple rums I rated earlier… Fred and I do not agree on our ratings, I thought both were very good, however, he rated the Barrell Rum very well, but lambasted the Balcone’s Rum.  I guess I have a lot more to learn before I’m invited to be a judge at the Ultimate Spirits Competition.  Pick up your book for yourself or for your favorite Father ASAP!



Christmas Stocking Stuffer Alert! Fred Minnick’s New Book

There are a ton of new bourbon books out there in the last couple years… most of them either rehash previous stories, or are bad tasting books.  Every once in a while a really good book comes out that has new material, written well, and is worthy of a spot on my bookshelf.  Bourbon: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth and an American Whiskey, by Fred Minick, is the newest book that fits these requirements.  For everyone who is looking for that great gift for their bourbon lover, and you don’t want to buy them BTAC, this is a great choice.

Minnicks’s book travels back to the beginning of bourbon, but doesn’t rehash the b.s. stories that marketing departments have tried to convince us are gospel.  He goes into primary sources to report the facts instead of just repeating what you can see on wikipedia.  From the writing it is also clear that Minnick just doesn’t know a lot about bourbon, but drinks a lot of it too.  His expertise comes through in a non-pretentious fashion throughout the book making it perfect for both the so-called bourbon expert, as well as the neophyte.

I can’t recommend this book enough for your Xmas stocking stuffer.  Fred… if you are reading this, I’d love to do a quick phone interview with you if you have time in the near future.  Thanks!