My Top 5 Drams of the Year

#1 Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition 2015 (98 points, bottle-spot $425)

#2 William Larue Weller 2015 (99 points, bottle-spot $600)

#3 Barrell Bourbon Batch 006 (96 points, MSRP $90)

#4 Garrison Brothers Cowboy (96 points, $200 MSRP)

#5 Bourbon County Brand Regal Rye Stout 2015 (99 points, bottle-spot $75)

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How did I pick the order my top 5?  Honestly, you could put these in any order and it would be fine by me… I’m honored to have tried every one of these and to still have them all in my bunker.

In terms of cracking the top 5, these were by far the best I had this year, so it wasn’t even close.  George T. Stagg 2015 was up there, but just didn’t come close to the Weller, and for the value the Thomas Handy was the other BTAC that was nearest to making the list.  If there was a 6-10, you would have seen the THH, Stagg Jr, Pikesville and a couple others crack it, but the differentiation between 1-5 and 6-10 was extremely significant.

For bottles you can get at the store or online at MSRP I put those prices, for ones that are impossible to find I listed the approximate bottle-spot.com going rates.

For the money it’s clear that Barrell Bourbon is the best buy of the list here (and you can still find it online for the MSRP still!!  https://www.caskers.com/barrell-kentucky-straight-bourbon-whiskey-batch-006/  http://www.barrellbourbon.com/), while if money is no object, this year’s Weller is out of this world.  Jim Rutledge’s final LESB was the winner, as he saved his best for last.  Cowboy bourbon is a totally unique product and I absolutely recommend everyone pick up a bottle, or if $200 is too much, pick up their 2yr which is also excellent (https://www.caskers.com/garrison-brothers-texas-straight-bourbon-whiskey/).  I did throw a beer in here, but if you haven’t had it, don’t judge: it’s just as complex and enjoyable as the others on the list here.  If you have a smaller budget, my $30 and under best buys of the year are Old Grand-Dad 114 (https://www.caskers.com/spirits/old-grand-dad-114-bourbon-whiskey/) and Elmer T Lee (if you can find them at those prices).  Here’s to a great 2016!

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The Whiskey Advocate vs Garrison Brothers…

As a subscriber to The Whiskey Advocate, I always check the reviews but maintain a grain of salt with their rating.  I also do the same with Jim Murray and other writers, bloggers and reviewers out there.  What you think is a 90 I may think is a 96 or a 76;  ratings are very subjective to one’s personal palate.  However, there seems to be strong agreement among most palates, the barrel proof BTAC, for example, always scores well.   Craft reviews are very interesting as they tend to have a much less consistent rating across different publications.

Despite all of this, I was extremely surprised by the grade Garrison Brothers Cowboy Bourbon received:  79.

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I agreed with a lot of their descriptors, they had caramel and baking spices and dusty corn.  Here is my review (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2015/10/14/garrison-brothers-cowboy-best-4-year-whiskey-ever/)  I had envisioned caramelized popcorn, basically those three descriptors in a single item… so it’s not like either one of us is getting different aromas on the nose, or that my bottle was remarkably different than the testers.

One major issue with Texas Bourbon is that the evaporation is intense… you start with a full barrel and end up with not much left due to the heat.  So, it’s going to cost more.  Even in my original review I mentioned that I thought it was expensive, but, as you can tell from my photo, that fact that I’ve bought several and already gone through two bottles and am on my third, tells you more than anything I can write.  Just because something is expensive doesn’t mean it should get a bad review–although if it’s expensive and mediocre, then, by all means, lambaste away (see my reviews on the Orphan Barrel series…).

I’m trying this new bottle, which is #3516, and I can confirm my original conclusion which I will just copy and paste because it was correct all along: “This truly is one of the greats out there and easily the best four year whiskey I’ve ever tasted in my entire life.  I still can’t believe that it is this smooth at 135 proof and this young.  If this were $50, it would get a perfect score–it’s not though…  96/100”

The 2yr is less than half the price, and it also very good, here is that review:

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2015/11/07/garrison-brothers-texas-straight-bourbon-whiskey-another-great-drink/

http://www.garrisonbros.com/

 

 

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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