Newbourbondrinker’s Top 5 Whiskies of 2019!

Here are my top 5 whiskies/bourbons of 2019!  This year I decided to do a little something different… Instead of ranking them by my previous scores, I decided to do a little blind tasting of them… here are the contenders, with links to the reviews:

So I had my wife pour these 5 into Glencairn glasses, and to mix it up a little bit, we also put in four others just as decoys: an OWA SB NCF store pick, a Buffalo Trace SB store pick, Barrell Bourbon batch 022 and OGD 114.  Instead of giving you the play by play, here is how they all ended up:

  1. BCS 2019
  2. Cowboy 2019
  3. Barrell Bourbon Batch 022
  4. GTS 2019
  5. OWA SB NCF
  6. Cornerstone Rye
  7. Buffalo Trace SB
  8. Wiser’s 23yr
  9. OGD 114

The Top 4 were close together, but BCS took the title, while the bottom four were a bit back.  Nice to see one of the “decoys” make it into the top 5 and beat 3 of the other contenders.  The value pick clearly is BB022, edging out GTS and being much cheaper… and everyone knows that if you can snag a great store pick OWA SB NCF, that’s always worth snagging as many as you can–unfortunately those are harder and harder to get at MSRP, but even at double, still worth it for the right pick.

I’m so sorry it took so long to put out this blog, but first quarter has been a little crazy, and now that we are all working from home, I have a little more time to catch up with older posts that were partially written and actually follow through with this blind tasting!

George Remus Volstead 100th Anniversary 14yr MPG

Really nice bottle, beautiful presentation bottle and case. Apparently only 6,000 released. It’s a 14yr MGP Bourbon at $200, it has to be great right?

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I actually paid $235 with tax on this one, wasn’t $200 in my store, but close enough.

When I first cracked it open it smelled woody and tasted woody. There wasn’t much else as the wood overpowered everything. I let it sit a while and tried it again. Air does wonderful things to a fresh cracked whiskey.

You still are getting solid wood notes but graham crackers, toasted marshmallows, dried figs and black currant.

The mouthfeel is ok but lacks an oily enjoyment and the wood tannins overpower everything else. The finish is shorter than I hoped and there is more heat than the nose indicates.

I don’t know who the blender is at George Remus but it seems sad to waste such amazing juice on this product. It could have been given to a master blender to produce something truly special, worthy of this packaging. The heavy gold cap is especially nice though…. It’s still good, but not worth chasing. Initial grade: 84/100… after leaving it open for several months it opened up and the regrade is 88/100.

If you are a huge MGP fan, you are going to want to own this and you might think it’s a 90-92/100, but this is not an epic pour, and there are so many better MGP products out there.

“No I can’t get you Pappy at MSRP” or another way to show you the top 5 bottles under $100 for 2019

I’m sure every avid Bourbon hunter/collector/drinker gets the same questions I do: “hey man, can you get me the hookup on some Pappy?”  Of course I can, $450 for a Pappy 10yr… “whattttt?”…. I don’t get it at MSRP, I don’t own a store, but I know people who will sell it for secondary (which seems to be 400-500 depending on where you are, if you can get it for less, great, but don’t pay more)… But then people think they can get it for MSRP, good luck with that unless you have a serious hookup, that I certainly don’t have either… After calling a bunch of stores and asking other people, the realization settles in, they ask, well, what can I get for under $100 that is really good too? Every year my list changes, but this year I am recommending these bottles to get, either as value drinks for yourself, or to recommend to your friends for drinkers… I know there will be a lot of disagreement, and I would love to hear your recommendations:

  • Mellow Corn (~$12)… great for cocktails
  • Buffalo Trace (~$25)… hard to beat for the price
  • Elijah Craig Small Batch Single Barrels  (~$35)… great single barrel value
  • Russel’s Reserve 10yr Single Barrels (~$45)… all around solid choice
  • Barrell Craft Spirits Dovetail (~$75)… great sipper, cask strength, finished whiskey

Honorable Mention: ECBP, OWA 107, ETL, Blantons…. but they have been harder to find these days and often trade above $100 in secondary…

What do you think I should have on this list?  Comments welcome!

For the Love of the Hunt… and for all the people out there that have pissed off their spouses for liquor store detours.

My wife thinks I’m nuts. Why do I find incredible enjoyment walking into random liquor stores when I’m on vacation or places I’ve never been before. Is it a disorder? I just have this incredible invisible force compelling me into these stores. I can’t help it. Most of the time I walk in, look around, and walk out… but then there are times when I’m there for an hour.

Hunting in 2019 (and going forward) makes me appreciate commercial fisherman on the East Coast even more… it’s over hunted, you have to go twice as far to get half the load, and every once in a while you get scolded so badly by your spouse for ignoring your children (or dragging them in with you) that you almost want to quit. But then this happens:

Here’s the story. I’m in upstate New York visiting a cidery and I forgot I had to mail a letter. I pull over to the post office and across the street appears to be a closed down liquor store. I walk over and they have a doorbell, it says “push hard.” I do. Twice. A minute later a little old lady walks out the next door and comes over, introduces herself, unlocks the door and lets me in. It’s mostly very low end stuff, but above the shelf, about 7 feet above the floor, I spot a dusty Rebel Yell. I reach for it and she says it’s not for sale because no one would want anything up there because it’s all been there since they bought the store in the mid 1970’s. Jackpot. I say I’d really like to buy it and she says, ok, but it’s probably gone bad (Turns out the Rebel Yell was a 1983, I found that out from some trolls on Facebook, but that’s a story for another time). I climb on a box and behind the Rebel Yell is an Old Fitzgerald 1976 decanter. Two Stizel-Weller bottles?? There were a few other lesser decanters and I paid cash and went on my way. I gave them more than they were asking for them because I felt bad they didn’t know what they had. But these things were sitting in plain sight for 45 years. Reminds me of Godfather III: “just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”

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I’ve never seen Stitzel-Weller bottles on a dusty random shelf before… only in glass cases for thousands of dollars. I don’t ever expect to again… but I know they must still exist.

I did another hunt a month ago and the take is below… I didn’t buy anything at MSRP, but most was below secondary. I’m going to sell some, trade some, and drink most. I didn’t get everything I wanted this Bourbon season, but hopefully with the multiples I got, I’ll be able to trade my way into my deepest desires. That’s the only way to do it these days and as far as I am concerned there is no stigma to it. Anyone who thinks there is, probably isn’t going for the stuff I am going for anyway.

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The closest I got to MSRP this year was $200 for a Stagg from my local guy I do a lot of business with. Patronizing your local guy, making friends and staying on them is still your best way to get the best price on the allocated stuff. But for those who need more, the hunt is still alive and well and there is just enough out there to stock the bunker, and keep the dream alive for next year!

Rating Quick Three Samples Mic Drop 3.0, Wild Turkey Cornerstone J. Mattingly Curvey Blonde

It’s been too long since I’ve posted anything. I’m going to try to make up for that in the coming weeks…. going to start tonight with some samples that I’ve been waiting to try… going forward I’m only going to rate samples in ranges, and will only give firm ratings to bottles I own myself and have tried multiple times.

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First up the new Wild Turkey Cornerstone Rye. Dark color, inviting. Not a super strong nose from my glass, no heat at all, cinnamon and spice in the background. Mouthfeel is really nice and super spicy. I definitely need to get a bottle of this to get the full experience. The finish on this went on for more than three minutes—wow this just builds and builds. Really great pour. Estimated rating: 94-97.

Mic Drop 3.0 … new hot release. This one is only 4yrs old, Bourbon from MPG. Light to medium color, as expected for four years. Candy corn, pine, butterscotch like you expect but you can tell it’s too young from the nose with a touch of that bandaid note. The mouthfeel is really good though—gotta love that nonchill filtered MPG. The finish makes up for the less than desirable nose. This is good but would be much better in two years. Estimated rating: 90-92.

J. Mattingly Curvey Blonde. Very light colored. Reminds me of some MPG Light Whiskies that I’ve had before but not quite as good as some of the older ones. Nose is sweet candy corn, cream corn and brown sugar. The taste is decent, mouthfeel is ok but finish drops off a little early. This is ok but certainly not worth chasing. Estimated rating: 86-88.

BCS Whiskey 25yr Gray Label

Apparently only 125 cases of Barrell Craft Spirits 25yr Whiskey were ever released so I’m excited to have ever scored one. On secondary market I’ve seen these go for $400-$750, but I have no regrets about opening this one.

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It’s a medium amber color in the glass. The nose has the slightest bit of Madeira on the nose but has Twix, dried figs, Raisinettes, rock candy, Necco Wafers and a drop of maple syrup. No heat whatsoever on the nose which is insane given the proof of 111.2.

Wonderful mouthfeel, mostly right down the middle, but tickles every corner of mouth. The tactile feeling actually builds throughout the finish which is so rare. You get the slightest hug, but wow is this a mellow heat whiskey, almost impossible to believe given the cask strength bottling.

This is one of the most unique whiskies I’ve ever tasted, and one of the most rare; so much flavor and great mouthfeel with a finish like I’ve never tasted before. I’m not surprised this one is so highly in demand on the secondary market. We are in rare air here when grading something like this. It’s like when grading BTAC, you look for tiny imperfections to pick out. The only one I can find is that I probably will never find a second bottle because of the limited availability. If you can grab one, just do it; you will not be disappointed. 97/100.

I love the BCS gray label! Here are my other reviews:

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2018/12/22/barrell-craft-spirits-bourbon-fred-minnicks-number-1-of-the-year-reviewed/

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2018/12/24/barrell-craft-spirits-rye-gray-label-unicorn/

Barrell Craft Spirits Bourbon: Fred Minnick’s number 1 of the year reviewed

I’ve been following this release on social media with tons of anticipation and I was hoping to quietly accumulate a large amount of them for the bunker until…. Fred Minnick ruined everything. Why couldn’t he have waited to rate this number one in a blind tasting against some big heavyweights like BTAC George T Stagg and William Larue Weller. Anyone who follows this blog knows I’ve been on the Barrell Bourbon train for a while and love that you can always find a Batch or single barrel for under $100. And the best part is you never need to get in line or pay through the nose on secondary for one… except for this realease. I paid $250 at retail for this but the good news is that the regular batch prices have not gone up and are still readily available. Thank goodness!!  Now… is this special release worth the extra money???

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On to the review…. 15yr Bourbon blended from Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee, bottled at 105.1 Proof. The box looks sleek and smart and the gray label looks awesome. I also really like the new cork design with extra weight and easier to remove from the bottle. Nice touch. It’s also a dark amber color in the bottle giving away the 15yrs of age.

The nose is strong but not hot, with marzipan (of course), Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Necco Wafers, toasted and butter cinnamon raisin bread, s’mores and caramel hard candy. Just so much going on and even more after the bottle was opened for a few days. First crack didn’t do it justice.

The taste… wow! This Bourbon has the biggest mouthfeel and longest finish of anyone I’ve tasted all year. I stopped counting after three minutes but it was sweet and complex and never faded to bitterness. What more can you ask for in a whiskey?

This Bourbon is 100% worth the hype. I just wish Fred Minnick didn’t let the cat out of the bag until my bunker was full. Now I need to beg all my liquor store contacts to try to get another bottle as this one is already half empty! 98/100

If $250 (or higher on secondary) is too much for you, the recent batches have been really good and totally worth picking up too.  But If you can find it for anywhere under $300, grab it, because the last print on secondary I saw was $400 and going higher!  I’m going to put out reviews on the Rum and the Whiskey soon which I think are even rarer and harder to get a hold of!

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