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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I never should have opened my Weller C.Y.P.B.

This Bourbon probably has more hype on it than any one this year… Buffalo Trace’s Weller “Craft Your Perfect Bourbon.” Based on a poll, BT gave the public the choice of the mashbill, the age, the proof to choose their perfect Weller expression.  Reminiscent of Ann Rand’s novel The Fountainhead, this committee expression of a Bourbon came out just like the committee decisions in the book.

Before I go to the review, is this a good bourbon?  Yes, it’s ok.  Weller makes lovely Bourbons, and some of the single barrel, NCF Antique 107s are some of the best values out there.  This one has a lot of similarity of a mix of Reserve and Antique, with a secondary value in between them and the daddy, William Larue Weller.

Notes: Good notes of butterscotch, vanilla, graham crackers, fresh biscuits and Twizzlers.  Medium heat on the nose.

Palate: The palate is far more bitter than the nose would indicate in addition to being much hotter.  The mouthfeel is disappointing and the finish is short ending really bitter.  The nose indicates sweet and complex, but the palate just falls flat.

Conclusion: If this was $30, it would be just fine.  However, NCF Weller Antique 107 Bourbons are universally better than this one–in fact I’ve never had a NCF Antique 107 that wasn’t significantly better than this.  I paid $150 from my local retailer and he knew he was giving me a good deal, if I was going to flip it.  But I opened it and we both had a couple pours and we both decided that it was just ok.  I incorporate price into my ratings, so given it’s a $250-300 secondary market Bourbon, I’m giving it an 80/100.

 

If you want to try it first, try buying a sample first: https://bottle-spot.com/classifieds/category/317/Whisky/listings/65772/Weller-CYPB-Samples-Try-before-you-buy.html

Quick Bar Review: Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit Barrel 8

Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit Barrel 8 warehouse G rick 43, 50.5% abv.

Definitely Turkey. Spicy nose with cinnamon and vanilla and allspice. Decent heat but not overpowering.

Good mouthfeel but nothing crazy. Necco and Cinnamon Toast Crunch on the finish. Finish is nice but not too long.

Solid dram. Worth getting at a bar but not for the collection. 85/100.

 

Little Book Batch 002 Noe Easy Way

Last year’s release of Little Book Batch 001 was a solid release but priced appropriately at retail that it didn’t make much of a splash on the secondary. Seems that I liked it more than the average consumer, giving it a 92/100 (Batch 001 Link). It had lots of complex spiciness with a good finish but was on the hotter side—not uncommon with Booker products. This edition is totally different. 8yr Kentucky Straight Rye, 13yr Canadian Rye and a 40yr old Canadian corn whiskey. 118 Proof, uncut, unfiltered. For those hoping for a big Kentucky Bourbon, they may be disappointed, but anyone who had last year’s Northern Border Collection releases (Link 1 and Link 2) will know better.

Side by side you can see the color difference. Batch one has the copper notes, while Batch 002 has a softer, lighter, amber tone. The bottle and box look great.

The nose is moderately hot, spice coming through, rock candy, candy corn and some light caramel. The taste is really good, lots of all-spice, enjoyable wood hints and a really long finish. Easily two minutes or more ending with a nice Kentucky hug, but more moderate than the nose would imply.

Batch Two, Noe Easy Way, is a very good follow through from Batch 001. Given the 40yr juice in this I could also see it trading up in the secondary. It’s very good and absolutely worth adding to your collection. 94/100.

 

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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2017’s Top 5 Bourbons & Whiskies Under $100

I’m using the secondary prices (which are very close to MSRP for these picks) for this list as nothing bothers me more than someone saying at $89.99 MSRP Sazerac 18 is their favorite bottle under $100.  Get real guys!  The secondary market is here to say and you might as well just get used to it. Also… only two here are actually Bourbons, I have one rum, one rye and one corn whiskey… but who’s really counting?

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Barrell Bourbon is the winner here, although it is the most expensive of this list.  Usually retailing for around $80, they consistently beat out bottles that you can’t touch on the secondary for 2-4x the price.  While they still are priced under $100, stock up. MSRP $80.

Pikesville is my favorite rye under $100.  115 proof, delicious.  Thank you Heaven Hill!  Second year in a row it continues to be available, awesome and affordable.  MSRP $60.

Foursquare Rum 2004 Exceptional Cask Selection… 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%.  Thanks for Fred Minnick for tipping me off to this one.  Yes, it’s not a Bourbon, but it’s aged in ex-Bourbon casks and is just as delicious. Order one today! MSRP $60.

Old Weller Antique 107 Store Pick Non-Chill Filtered.  Make friends with your local liquor store owner.  Beg them to get a bottle of OWA NCF, ask to buy 4 of them when they come in.  Best $35 you can spend.  MSRP $35.

Mellow Corn.  I’m sorry, you may think I’m nuts by putting this on the list, but for $9.99, bottled in bond, again, thank you Heaven Hill.  This is my go-to after I’m three sheets to the wind and shouldn’t be touching the top shelf stuff, because it holds up and still has a good taste. MSRP $9.99.

Honorable mention goes to Old Forester 1920 Prohibition.  It should have been the number five on the list, but I just couldn’t help myself by putting on Mellow Corn instead.

Agree?  Disagree?  Continue the discussion on my Twitter @newbourbondrink or Facebook https://www.facebook.com/newbourbondrinker/

 

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2017/04/25/newest-barrell-bourbon-batch-is-a-home-run-011/

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/08/15/mellow-corn-must-have-for-all-bars/

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2017/05/27/old-weller-antique-ninety-9-single-barrel/

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/pikesville-rye-2-of-the-year/

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2017/12/27/4-new-releases-from-barrell-bourbon/

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2017/09/25/barrell-bourbon-lucky-013/

http://www.heavenhill.com  http://www.barrellbourbon.com  https://www.rumsixtysix.comfoursquare-rum-distillery.html/