Newbourbondrinker’s 2018 Top 5

This year had so many great releases even though the level on social media complaining has hit an all time high… don’t worry, I will be putting out my top 5 disappointments soon… but it’s the holidays so I’m only going to be positive today!  Instead of ranking them this year, I’ve decided to go with five different categories and give the overall winner for them… Disagree?  Hit me up on twitter @newbourbondrink or facebook @ newbourbondrinker or instagram @steaknbourbon

Best Overall Bourbon: Barrell Craft Spirits 15yr Bourbon Gray Label.  For a straight down the middle Bourbon, this one can not be beat.  It also edged out everyone else from Fred Minnick’s blind tasting for Forbes’.  It got a huge score from me and everyone else.  The only downside is the limited case amount.  The one thing you can be certain, is if you see any gray label Barrell Craft Spirits product on a shelf, grab it!

Best Wheated Bourbon: William Larue Weller 2018 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection.  This one was easy, and tied for best overall with BCS, but split out the wheaters.  The finish, so long, so good.  If you can grab the 2017 or 2018 of WLW BTAC, for any reasonable price at all, pick it up.

Best Rye: Thomas H Handy 2018.  Another BTAC, but 2018 was tough for Rye, as the releases we not as strong as 2017.  The Lot 40 cask Strength 11yr was not as good as last year’s 12yr and higher priced and lower proof; Kentucky Owl Rye was also good but not quite as good as the first release.  THH stood out among it’s peers, but only by a smidge.  The secondary prices have continued to creep as well which is annoying for those of us who drink a lot of Handy.

Best Small Bottle Release: Elijah Craig Grenade… it’s a gift shop only release, but readily available on secondary.  It trades at close to BTAC levels given it’s only 200ml, but it’s sooooooooo good.  Grab one if you are ever in Bardstown, or just lift one on secondary.

Best Rum: Appleton’s Joy 25yr.  This was probably the hardest category to rate to be perfectly honest.  So many great releases: Foursquare 2004, Foursquare 2005, Barrell Rum Tale of Two Islands, Barrell Craft Spirits Rum Gray Label… all could have taken these honors, but Appleton’s 25yr comes out ahead.  Retailing around $220 and still available, this rum has crazy flavors and notes that rival any whiskey.  Looks great on the shelf too.

There it is for 2018… it was a great year, so many amazing drams and I look forward to what 2019 brings.  Happy New Year!

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Bourbon and Charity… special thanks to New York Shaving Company!

The Bourbon Community has always been really great about giving back.  We recently had our third annual Bourbon at the Barbershop special charity event that we hosted at The New York Shaving Company.  We raised over 3k for local children’s charities and everyone had a great time.  Take a look at the photos below, but let’s just say that everyone felt they got their money’s worth.  We had 80% of the BTAC collection, Al Young, Willett Family Estate, a couple great Barrell Bourbon releases, Garrison Bros. Cowboy, Lot 40 Cask Strength, Wiser’s 35yr, EHT Four Grain, Kentucky Owl Rye, Appleton’s Rum 25yr Joy, Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition, Elliot’s Select, JPS 25yr and more!  It was the best heel party I’d ever been to!  Thanks again to New York Shaving Company for being an amazing partner!

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Kentucky Owl Rye Batch 2, Disappointing Follow-up…

Kentucky Owl Rye Batch 1 was one of my favorite whiskies of last year, and my second favorite rye, next to Lot 40 Cask Strength 12yr. Batch 1 came out strong and the secondary ran up quickly to 200-250 before people realized that tens of thousands of bottles were released and eventually MSRP came all the way down to $110 and it was easy to get everywhere. At the $110 price, it was a no brainer to buy 6 or more and become a daily drinker (I still have 3 left in my bunker). Batch 2 has come out with an MSRP of $180, which is what I paid for this one. I’ve seen secondary offers in the 200-250 range, but I expect this to drop to the MSRP level extremely quickly.

The bottle looks the same, but the top doesn’t have the fake tax stamp and has a slightly different enclosure. This one is slightly less proof as well, but from afar, they look the same.

The nose is good, candied orange peel, NECCO Wafers, honeysuckle, rose petals, brown sugar, ginger snaps and cherry pie. Not too hot.

The candied flavors come in strong on the palate and the mouthfeel is good, but a little thin, as it fails to coat all over as much as I wanted. The finish is medium long but does fade to bitter at the end, far sooner than I hoped.

Batch 2 is a decent, but given the sky high expectations, mildly disappointing follow up to Batch 1; the original is better. The nose and palate are similar with the strong candied orange peel, but the main difference is the mouthfeel, which is superior in the original. The heat is equal, even though this is lower proof. The price increase of more than 50% doesn’t help it either. Worth picking up a bottle, especially if you liked the first one, but certainly not one worthy of stocking up on given the price. 90/100

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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).

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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 https://www.facebook.com/newbourbondrinker/  Cheers to 2017 and a great 2018 to come!

Kentucky Owl Rye Batch 1

Although I wasn’t able to get a bottle at retail, I did snag one from http://www.bottle-spot.com and it is trading for around $200 right now, which is not bad, if it turns out to be a high quality rye.  It’s 110.6 proof, lower than both the Handy and Pikesville, but at 11 years in the barrel, it’s almost double their age.  Distilled in Kentucky, I have no idea where this is originally from… this is my first Kentucky Owl product ever as the Bourbon has been too small of a production and too high of a secondary price.  I did try a dram at Jack Rose and loved it, however, I was about 10 drams into the evening, so who really knows?

On to the review… nice dark color, very inviting.  The nose has evolved quite a bit since I opened it this weekend.  I’m getting candied orange, rock candy, nutmeg, bubble gum, graham crackers and grapefruit rind.  The nose isn’t nearly as hot as the proof would suggest.

The mouthfeel is great, really grippy and bursting with flavor.  I’m really getting the orange and rock candy and spicy notes on the tongue.  The finish goes on for at least two minutes, hard to tell exactly because I keep drinking more before I get to three minutes.

This is a really nice rye.  It is expensive though.  I did a quick side by side analysis vs Thomas Handy, and although good, not quite at THH level.  Is it better than the Pikesville?  Well, it’s different, but it is also 3x more expensive–that hurts it a little bit.  The bottom line is this is a wonderful rye and if you like rye, you should absolutely try to get it and if your budget allows, you should pay up for it in the secondary market.  Pikesville will still be my go-to rye given the cost and availability, but if you are able to grab one of these, you will not be disappointed to add it to your whiskey cabinet.  95/100.

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