Top 5 Disappointments of 2016 in Bourbon

Age statements going away… prices going up… there is just so much to complain about, but I would argue there is so much more to celebrate.  So please check out my top 5 drams of the year (my review) first because I do believe 2016 was a great year in bourbon.  But here are my complaints….

#1 Retailers charging more than secondary prices… it’s a huge pain in the butt and here are the ones that I found to be most obnoxious:

#2 Your favorite low cost bourbon going away… whether it was going NAS for some, but for me it was losing OGD114.  However… I called up my local retail store, took down two cases, so I now have more than 24 bottles in the bunker which should last me quite enough time 🙂

#3  Trying some really terrible new craft stuff… 99% of the time when you are at a farmers market and someone has some small batch, small barrel, new whiskey they are excited about from some local farm with locally sourced grain, it’s horrible.  There are too many to cite, but they are almost all bad (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/08/26/orange-county-distillery-back-to-the-drawing-board-please/)

#4 Diageo and their never ending cash grab… latest example was Whoop & Holler which should have been used as an industrial cleaner… it was literally not worth drinking.  There was some whiskey writer who put it on his top whiskeys of the year… I tweeted that guy directly, and I’m not sure he even knows what bourbon is. (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/11/26/orphan-barrel-whoop-holler/)

#5 Willett’s new make 3yr rye.  I love Willett products, but this was just terrible.  I’m really hoping it was a one off and will get better, but this was just disappointing. (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/09/29/3yr-rye-distilled-aged-bottled-by-the-willett-distillery/)

Again… this is just my top 5…  a few things barely missed the cut, most specifically the Knob Creek 2001: put it in a wooden box, call it limited release and 3x the price?  Seriously?  I hear they are already over 60k bottles, and to be honest, I’ve yet to have one that I like.  I’d love to hear from my readers what their biggest disappointment was and what they are most excited for in 2017!

Holiday Sample Party: Willett Family Estate Single Barrels WFE Rated

I’ve been trading and collecting samples of lots of different whiskies for a while, especially Willett Family Estate single barrels.  It got to the point when I had too many to drink alone, but I also don’t feel like writing up a full review for a single sample is warranted due to the potential of contamination in a sample.  My brother in law is a big bourbon fan as well, so we tried them all together and gave individual ratings.  The notes are from me.

Willett Family Estate 12yr #751: Nice standard butterscotch and caramel nose, graham crackers. GREAT mouthfeel, sharp, enjoyable, long finish.  I wish I had a whole bottle of this.  94/100   Brian’s Score: 90/100

Willett Family Estate 13yr #780: Very strong nose, maple syrup, much hotter and bolder than the previous sample.  Tons of brown sugar and vanilla on the nose too.  Thick, juicy and spicy palate but finishes in a bitter note. Very different than the previous one.  93/100    Brian’s Score: 94/100

Willett Family Estate 9yr #7174:  Sweet rock candy, Reeses Pieces and vanilla with some pretty strong heat.  Palate is a lot of heat as well, ok mouthfeel, sweet but not overly complex.  87/100     Brian’s Score: 81/100

Willett Family Estate 14yr #2366: Nice nose, caramel and s’mores.  Tannic with oak on the palate but without solid oils leaving it bitter and astringent on the finish.  After a solid nose, the taste is disappointing.  86/100     Brian’s Score: 80/100

Eagle Rare 17 2010 Vintage: Forest Floor, Leather, mushroom, candied walnuts, stewed pears and apple sauce with cinnamon on the nose.  The palate is equally complex with all the nose coming through in an extremely mellow way.  No heat at all, easy down.  Finish is very good.  96/100   Brian’s Score: 92/100 (he also said the nose was better than the taste)

Barrell Bourbon New Years 2017: Reeses Pieces, caramel, Twix, very nutty nose.  GREAT mouthfeel, thick and chewy, nice oils, very comple.  Moderate heat with an amazing finish.  This is a bottle that I am going to hunt and hunt and hunt until I find it and then I’ll do a very proper review.  96-97/100   Brian’s Score: 95/100

2012 Old Forester Birthday Bourbon: Classic OFBB nose with mushrooms, nuttiness, caramel with weight, but hotter than this year’s release.  The palate is less exciting than the nose, but with a bit more bitterness than I would prefer.  Overall better than the overage OFBB.  89/100   Brian’s Score: 94/100

Old Charter 10 (Old Label): Butterscotch, cedar, oak, sour cherries.  This mouthfeel, underwhelming sour finish.  79/100   Brian’s Score: 81/100

Booker’s 25th Anniversary: Hot nose, caramel, butterscotch, ginger snaps.  Amazing mouthfeel, less hot on palate than expected but still classically Booker’s hot.  Long, long and incredible finish. 96/100   Brian’s Score: 92/100 (too hot)

1993 Old Grand Dad (National Distillers): Different than the OGD 114 I had tonight, more vanille, brown sugar, stewed pears, green apple, very mellow nose.  Super smooth, very nice taste, mouthfeel ok but low proof and chill filtering take out a lot of the complexity.  Wish this was cask strength.  93/100      Brian’s Score:  90/100

 

img_0385

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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)

IMG_7680

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!

Old Grand-Dad 114: Rugged Must Own Bourbon (Better Than Crown)

The word smooth has been considered a lazy word to use when describing a whiskey. “Ooooohhh that’s so smooth” gets passed around quite a bit and I’m just as guilty as the next. Smooth has become a cliche compliment to a well made and properly aged whiskey, the opposite of all the shots of garbage we threw back in college: “uuugggggg the burn.”  So it comes a time when the word smooth is to be challenged as the prerequisite hurdle of a well made whiskey. I think I have found the perfect example in OGD114.

Old Grand-Dad 114 is 57% abv Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey made from a high rye mash bill in Claremont, KY by Beam Suntory.

Medium amber slightly dulled.

The nose is extremely spicy with cracked pepper, raisin bran and fresh ginger snap cookies. The high mash bill really shows up in the nose in a very enjoyable way.

The spice from the rye really kicks in up front while ginger and peanut butter cup coat the rest of the palate. This is an aggressive and sharp and jagged bourbon that is so enjoyable.  The rough edges of spiciness is what makes this bourbon takes so good. The mouthfeel is thick and big and the higher proof really keeps the finish going.

Old Grand-Dad 114 is one of those bourbons that if you can find for $25 like I did, you should buy two and feel lucky–I did. Finding a barrel proof bourbon that tastes this good under $30 is almost impossible to find these days and OGD has been doing it for a long time. It gets an extra couple points for the price, but I’m sure they would still sell out if they charged $40-$50.  This is a must own.  94/100

I will be rating the Crown Royal soon… I’ve opened it and am working through the review.. but… spoiler alert… if you want a $30 or less high rye whiskey… this is a better choice!

 

image1(12)