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/

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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!

4 New Releases from Barrell Bourbon!

Barrell Craft Spirits remains one of my favorite brands and they continue to put out consistently excellent products at reasonable prices, with good availability and you don’t have to beg, borrow or steal to get them. To me, it’s the best secret left in Bourbon Hunting. I have put a bunch of previous batches away in my bunker because each one is unique and only released once. I was able to grab four new releases at once and thought instead of doing four reviews I’d do one mega review:

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Barrell Bourbon New Year 2018: 55.6% ABV and a marriage of barrels from TN, KY, IN, TX and NY. It has an incredibly sweet nose. French toast, Necco wafers, Twizzlers, Butterfigers, yellow flowers, dried cherry pits and creme brule. Almost no heat on nose at all. Wow so easy going down and lots going on. More nuts on the palate than I was getting on the nose and really enjoyable heat in the chest. Solid mouthfeel with the needed oils and tannins following through with a good finish. Really nice special edition. This is the one I’ve had the hardest time finding but if you can get it for a reasonable price, buy two or three. 96/100.

Barrell Rye Batch 002: 5yrs old and 117.5 Proof. I’ve never had a rye distilled in Poland so this is pretty exciting. It is married with an Indiana (MGP?) one which I always enjoy. When I first opened it up the aroma was muted so I waited a few minutes to give it some air. After some time notes of honey suckle, cracked pepper, rock candy and biscotti came through. I decided to wait on this one and try again a week later because I could tell is was still tight–maybe from the plane from Poland?  Easy on the way down with great salted caramel flavor I missed on the nose coupled with strong spiciness.  When I initially opened this rye, it was tight and unforgiving; after a week it’s totally different and the finish goes on for several minutes completely enveloping the tongue. I’ve never had a rye like this before and I’m excited to drink it. I bet that this will continue to evolve in the bottle over the next month or two as I drink it down. 94/100.

Barrell Rum Tale of Two Islands: 8yrs old and bottled at 132.8 Proof. Jamaican pot Still, same source as Batch 001 finished is Islay Scotch casks. I really liked last year’s release: brown sugar, tropical fruits, coconut shavings, white flowers and molasses. This one is very similar to last year but much less heat on the nose. The extra year of aging in the Scotch casks really smoothed this one out even better without the peat taking over. The taste is great, sweet and tropical, and it is shocking how at this proof for a rum the heat is so mellow. The finish goes on for at least two minutes. Great rum and if you liked last year’s release you’ll love this one. I’m hearing it’s very limited release, so buy all that you can. 96/100.

Barrell Bourbon Batch 014: 54.7% ABV and from a blend of KY and TN specially selected barrels of at least 9yrs old. Medium dark amber color. Really nice nutty nose, Jif peanut butter, roasted walnuts, crushed almonds, buttered cinnamon bread and Honey Nut Cheerios. Almost no heat on the nose which is crazy for this Proof.  Solid mouthfeel and good finish. The gentle warmth filters through the chest as the finish elongates. The palate gets hints of salted caramel and nuts on the way down. Another very good release from Barrell Bourbon, readily available and at a reasonable price. I’m buying one to drink now, one for next month and one for the bunker. 95/100.

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https://www.barrellbourbon.com/batch13

https://www.barrellbourbon.com/rumbatch1

https://www.barrellbourbon.com/batch12

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

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2017/05/14/barrell-bourbon-batch-10/

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

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

https://www.barrellbourbon.com/bourbonbatches

Barrell Bourbon Batch 014 Review

https://thewhiskeywash.com/reviews/whiskey-review-barrell-bourbon-012/

Rum Curious by Fred Minnick

Before I start, let me say that I will not be switching to rum going forward–I will maintain my love and long-term devotion to Bourbon, but, as you know from some of my previous blogs, I may temporarily stray from time to time to other spirits including rum.  Everyone enjoys a little strange now and then…

Fred Minnick is a world famous whiskey journalist, in addition to being one of the best spirits judges out there.  He judges at the San Francisco Ultimate Spirits competition, and it seems that every Whiskey magazine I open, he is rating and reviewing whiskey and other spirits in them as well.  I have read all of his previous books, most recently Bourbon Curious, which is another one I highly recommend.

Perfect for summer reading, Minnick covers the history, production and regulations of Rum before jumping into the tasting and reviews.  It was a nice vacation from reading about everyone repeating what Bottled in Bond is or the requirements for a Bourbon Whiskey.  Rum has an interesting history, steeped in the evolution of the United States as a country.  One could argue that it was more important building the foundation of the country than Bourbon was.  Minnick’s writing flows well, is easy to understand, but doesn’t patronize the reader.

The reviews are interesting and educational with humor intertwined as well–I especially like when he threatens anyone making a cocktail out of any rum he rated 95 points or higher.

Father’s Day is right around the corner, and for the Bourbon lover who already owns all the books, this is a perfect gift.  https://www.amazon.com/Rum-Curious-Indispensable-Tasting-Worlds/dp/0760351732/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1496021889&sr=8-1&keywords=rum+curious

Below are the links to a couple rums I rated earlier… Fred and I do not agree on our ratings, I thought both were very good, however, he rated the Barrell Rum very well, but lambasted the Balcone’s Rum.  I guess I have a lot more to learn before I’m invited to be a judge at the Ultimate Spirits Competition.  Pick up your book for yourself or for your favorite Father ASAP!

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https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/12/03/barrell-rum-batch-001-7yr-jamaican-pot-still-rum/

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/06/29/balcones-texas-rum-special-release-batch-15-1-63-9-abv/

http://www.barrellbourbon.com/rum

http://fredminnick.com/

 

Top 5 Drams of the Year 2016

Another year gone by and I’ve read so many negative stories, yet, there were some pretty awesome bourbons released this year.  Overall the prices have gone up, but you can still find bargains and making friends with your local retailer has never been more important… onto the list!

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#1 2016’s Buffalo Trace Thomas H Handy 126.2 proof 97.5/100  secondary price: $300 (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/11/27/btac-thomas-h-handy-2016/)  This was my favorite of the BTAC releases, with a close second being GTS, but THH is far easier to get your hands on and better price giving it the edge.  Handy may be the BTAC that is least respected, but time and time again it is my favorite release.

#2 2016 Release Four Roses Elliott’s Select OESK 52.9% abv 91/100 secondary price $225 (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/08/15/four-roses-elliotts-select/)  There was a lot of worry when Jim Rutledge retired from Four Roses, but when Brent Elliott came out with this bottle immediately afterwards, all fears were assuaged.  In fact, this bottle was substantially better than the 2016 Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition release, although not quite as good as last year’s winner, the 2015 FRSBLE.  I think we can all sleep soundly knowing that Four Roses is in good hands.

3# Barrell Bourbon New Years 2017 retail price $99.99 (for now!) (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2017/01/02/happy-new-year-barrell-bourbon-2017/)  Another top award for this up and comer.  This is their first true marriage release of 4 different barrels from Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee, and once again blows the competition away.  Grab a few while you still can as the first release of this bad boy probably will be worth a lot of money in the near future…. keep your eye

#4 Willett Family Estate Single Barrel Bourbon #438 119.8 proof 96/100 $120 @ gift shop (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/01/27/willett-family-estate-single-barrel-bourbon-438-holy-moley/)  This was one of the bottles I was lucky enough to buy when I visited Willett in January of 2016.  This was a honey barrel if I’ve ever tasted one.  If you are ever able to get some of this, don’t hesitate!

#5 Garrison Brothers Single Barrel Bourbon #3824 97 proof 96/100 $100 retail price (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/11/24/go-visit-garrison-brothers-single-barrel-amazing/) Garrison Brothers consistently puts out a great product.  I also visited their distillery this year and really enjoyed meeting Dan and the team.  Very excited to see the 2017 Cowboy Bourbon when it is released next year!

There were so many that almost made the cut… I tried a couple rums this year that were really good including one from Balcones (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/06/29/balcones-texas-rum-special-release-batch-15-1-63-9-abv/) and another from Barrell (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/12/03/barrell-rum-batch-001-7yr-jamaican-pot-still-rum/).  Barrell’s Whiskey 002 was another one that almost made the cut, but after careful consideration I preferred the New Years (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/04/24/barrell-whiskey-002-magical-sherry-cask-finish/).  Most lists have Booker’s Rye on their top 5, and although it is a good whiskey, it’s just too hot and expensive and does not deserve to make it in my very humble opinion (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/08/23/bookers-rye/).  PHC 10yr was also hotly debated, and I thought it was extremely good, but given the price, just not quite worthy vs the Garrison or the WFE (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/09/19/phc10-parkers-heritage-collection-10-24yr-bourbon/).

I’ll have my top five disappointments in the world of bourbon coming up soon… thanks again for a great 2016 to everyone who reads this blog.  Readership has gone up 5x and I hope to continue that trend into 2017.  I’d love to hear what your top 5 of the year were?  Happy New Year!

http://www.barrellbourbon.com/  http://www.garrisonbros.com/  http://www.kentuckybourbonwhiskey.com/  http://fourrosesbourbon.com/  https://www.buffalotracedistillery.com/

Barrell Rum Batch 001: 7yr Jamaican Pot Still Rum

I’ve been on a little bit of a rum kick recently… My favorite thus far has been the Balcones Rum Special Reserve, while I’ve had plenty of bad ones.  The bad ones are overly sweet, and are completely undrinkable alone but only acceptable drowned in a sugary cocktail with possibly an umbrella.  It is the rare rum that is good enough to sip in a Glen Cairn glass… I think I just found the second one.

This one is a Jamaican pot still rum aged 7yrs and then finished in Barrell Bourbon Bourbon barrels.  Bottled at a steep 134.73 proof and has a nice light amber color.

The nose has brown sugar, tropical fruits, fresh mint, a hint of licorice, applewood lumps, a touch of cut grass and dried coconut shavings.  Not too much heat on the nose, surprising for such a high proof rum.

It tastes great.  The mouthfeel is extremely complex, completely coating the tongue and goes down the throat with a very warm and long finish.  When I first opened the bottle, it was little hotter than the typical Barrell Craft Spirits, but still good.  After the bottle had been open for a week the excess heat went away leaving a much more mellow and enjoyable finish.

I’m pretty excited to have scored a bottle of this given how extremely limited the release is.  You can use it in a cocktail if you want, but for me it’s a sipper.  Either way, enjoy it if you are able to find it!  95/100.

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