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!

2017 BTAC Reviews

Here is my take on the 2017 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection:

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Eagle Rare 17
Great nose, flowers, mushrooms, ripe peaches, graham crackers. Much fresher than ER17 in the past, much better than last year. Goes down really easily with some nice warmth in the chest. Good flavors in the center of the tongue. The mouthfeel always lacks on this one due to the chill filtering though. Finish is a solid two minutes. Very nice Bourbon. 94/100

Sazerac 18
Typically my favorite of the bunch, the nose is Necco wafers, rock candy, all spice, cinnamon and creme brûlée. Almost no heat on nose.  Nice little grip on the tongue with enjoyable heat follow through. It has very nice flavors but a touch of bitterness on the back of the tongue but not enough to detract from the enjoyment. Finish is very long. I’ve had better Saz in years past but it’s still exceptionally enjoyable. 96/100

Thomas H Handy 127.2
Big nose. Tons of flavor and heat. Kit-Kat, butterscotch, rock candy, melon balls, Fruit Loops and French Toast. Huge mouthfeel, coats the whole tongue. Very complete and full across the board. Long finish and enjoyable. It’s not as sweet as the 2016 or 2014 and lacking some of the charm but it’s still extremely good. Closer to the 2015 in character. 94/100

William Larue Weller 128.2
Sweet nose, fresh cinnamon toast, buttered raisin bagel, stewed plums and crushed graham crackers. Hotter than the rest so far, but not too hot. The mouthfeel is good but not as complete as I hoped and the back end gets bitter quicker than expected. Good finish. Still, it’s lovely and enjoyable—the bar versus previous years is just very high. 94/100

George T Stagg 129.2
By the nose alone, it’s the most enjoyable of the five: tons of butterscotch, deep rich brioche, Twix, vanilla and Life cereal. So much going on in the nose and not at all too hot. The mouthfeel is perfect: just the right amount of tannins, completely coating every part of the tongue including the roof of the mouth and hitting every taste bud with flavor. This is so complete and balanced it’s crazy.  Each of the previous four was missing something, but the 2017 Stagg has it all. If there was a complaint to be had I’d say it’s that the finish it’s as long as I’d like, but now we are just being nit picky. 98/100

Beast Masters Club Dusty Battle Tons of Fun

I was lucky enough to buy a ticket and attend the Beast Masters Club dusty battle between the Josh’s:

Josh Feldman of http://www.cooperedtot.com/

VS

Josh Richholt, co-founder of The Well. http://www.thewellbrooklyn.com/

Josh Feldman posted to his blog the selections he made, which I voted for in both rounds: http://www.cooperedtot.com/2017/10/updated-actual-selections-for.html

Josh R’s picks we both excellent, but to pull out a Pre-Prohibition era Rye and then the epic Beam was just outstanding… The crowd voted against me for the first round, going with the Bourbon De Luxe (a classic National Distillers 70’s piece), but went with me for the second round, voting the 1955 Beam glass decanter, which also ended up taking the night.  The Wild Turkey 101 Decanter was pretty awesome too though! There were lots of side drinks and by the end I think we were all way past the tasting phase.

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I didn’t take tasting notes on anything because I just wanted to enjoy the moment.  But each was unique in their own way and wonderful.  I am not sure I would spring to buy a bottle of any of them however, as the secondary prices have gone through the roof.  The quality of juice these days, despite what many people say, is better and more consistent that it was in the past.  But to be able to taste something like this, from 100 years ago, is something I couldn’t pass up!

Big thanks for Ben and Steve from Beast Masters Club for hosting such an awesome evening and I hope they do it again soon!

http://beastmastersclub.com/

http://beastmastersclub.com/events/beastmastersclublive1027

 

Four Roses 50th Anniversary is another Epic Win!

My brother-in-law was in town the other day so I thought I would share my sample with him to try.  Thank you to Four Roses for sending the sample, and as always, there was no quid pro quo.  Plenty of other sites have reviewed and talked about the mashbill, I’ll put the links below to those… I’ll just give my take:

Awesome nose: marzipan, peanuts, rose petals, caramel, butterscotch and a touch of charcoal.

Now for the taste… WOW!  The mouthfeel is close to perfect, with just enough tannins to tickle the tongue and plenty of oils to coat it.  The flavors are incredibly complex, with sweetness coming in first, then warmth on the way down.  The flavors continue to evolve every fifteen seconds and the finish goes on for minutes and minutes.  Later on you get a nice oak background with an incredible smoothness.

So far this year, this is easily one of my top three favorites, but I decided to check it against the 2015 Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition.  Very similar, and hard to pick a winner, but I think the 2015 might be slightly better.  It’s a judgement call.  My brother in law wasn’t as excited about it as I was, he really liked it, but he prefers the bigger, higher proof bourbons like Elijah Craig Barrell Proof and Barrell Bourbon.  He’s at 95 points, but I’m a 97/100.  Like Fred Minnick said, if you can get it, buy it all.  If you don’t, I will!

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http://fourrosesbourbon.com/celebrating-al-youngs-50th-anniversary-with-limited-edition-four-roses-bourbon/

https://www.fredminnick.com/2017/03/09/four-roses-limited-edition-2/

http://www.breakingbourbon.com/who-is-brent-elliott.html

https://thewhiskeywash.com/whiskey-styles/bourbon/four-roses-celebrates-whiskey-legend-al-young-one-hell-bourbon/

For the New Bourbon Drinker, Top 5 Whiskies to Try

Bourbonmania has hit new highs. Some people say it’s a bubble. I’m not quite ready to say that because I believe Bourbon was ignored for far too long and only now are the masses actually recognizing appreciating it. We have years before this bubble bursts and the quality and quantity will keep getting better and better for the foreseeable future.

Everyone newbie wants to get the newest BTAC, FRSBLE, or OFBB released. To be honest, it’s not just the newbies who want them–it’s all of us. But the difference between the newbies and the old timers to this hobby, is that the older group has already tried it all and realizes that some things are worth the hunt (or paying up on secondary) and some things aren’t;  what is or what isn’t is purely based on your personal preference, not a review or a bloggers piece. Personally I love the Cask strength bourbons and the high proof ryes. Pappy, OFBB, Michter’s wax capsule releases and ER17 are great, but if I come across them at retail I’ll trade them for GTS, THH or FRSBLE any day.

Today I’m putting out my top five whiskies for the “new bourbon drinker”…. These are the ones that I’m happy to drink any day of the week and are readily available.  You won’t find the unicorns on this list, but these are the whiskies that if you want to start the hobby, go for these.

#1 Buffalo Trace: yes the one that costs $20 in your retail store. This may be one of the most overlooked and undervalued whiskies in the world. Yes it’s lower proof than I like but it has the flavor, the mouthfeel, and for goodness sakes, it’s $19!!! It’s the same mashbill as some of their releases that secondary for hundreds of dollars. This is the Bourbon I serve people to see if they like Bourbon or not. It’s just that simple. (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2015/08/11/buffalo-trace-yes-the-standard-one-with-the-buffalo-one-yes-its-very-very-good/)

#2 Pikesville Rye: thank Heaven for Heaven Hill and their high proof 6yr rye. Spicy and amazing in every way and best of all you can usually find it for between $50-$60. When I don’t feel like I deserve a pour of Handy (which is my favorite, but too expensive to make this list), Pikesville comes in a close second. Just an amazing product. (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/pikesville-rye-2-of-the-year/)

#3 Just when you though I was going to go all cheap on you and only mass produced products, I’m going to throw you for a loop. Barrell Bourbon, any batch, is #3 for all new bourbon drinkers. Unlike most limited release, Cask strength, Bourbon releases, this one can usually be found and retailers aren’t jacking up the prices on it. Retails for between $70-$90 for a regular batch and $10 more for a single barrel release, Barrel is worth every penny. As a sourced whiskey, Barrell finds the best of the best and bottles it at cask strength to provide the consumer with the purest Bourbon you can get. I’ve never been disappointed, and more often blown away by what they come out with on a regular basis. I’ve never missed a release, and some of them I’ve stockpiled because I know once they are gone they are gone for good. (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2017/04/25/newest-barrell-bourbon-batch-is-a-home-run-011/)

#4 Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style. Although I wasn’t a huge fan when I first opened it, after sitting for a month or two it really mellows out but keeps the nice spice and strong mouthfeel. By far the best of the series, this one is still pretty readily available at around $60.  Although my review makes it sound just ok, I would revise it up a point or two after airing it out for several months.  (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/12/21/old-forester-1920-very-good-not-great/)

#5 Blanton’s. The Original Single barrel Bourbon. This is most people’s gateway to great Bourbon, and I was no different. Still pretty readily available and looks great on the shelf. I’ve never been disappointed by any Blanton’s I’ve ever had. If you are overseas and can get the Straight From the Barrel, it’s even better and totally worth snagging. (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/04/02/4-bottle-blantons-tasting/)

I really wanted to put OGD114 on this list, but you can never find it. I also wanted to put Mellow Corn on it, but again, almost every store is sold out of it. Part of the criteria for making the list was being readily available and not trading for silly prices on the secondary, which is why ETL, which is amazing, obviously got cut.

Anyway… I hope people like the list and learn from it. Happy to answer any questions on DM on twitter or on the comment section of the blog. Happy drinking!

P.S. Yes this is my top shelf, and you won’t find most of these on this list, but if anyone wants to come by I’m happy to pour any of them for my readers!

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http://www.barrellbourbon.com

http://www.buffalotrace.com

https://www.blantonsbourbon.com/

https://www.oldforester.com/

http://www.pikesvillerye.com/

Jack Rose: Old Fitzgerald BIB Stitzel Weller

Old Fitzgerald BIB Stitzel Weller:
Golden hue–just like expected. Baking spices, vanilla, heat is more than expected, creme brûlée and graham crackers.  If you were expecting me to orgasm at this point, unfortunately, you will be disappointed. The mouthfeel is good but nothing special. The taste is good, but again, not life altering. It’s solid but to be honest the finish very quickly turns bitter and isn’t that exciting. It’s similar to the Old Crow dusty in terms of enjoyment. The difference is the mouthfeel is slightly better but the bitterness on the finish is significantly worse. There is no Fucking way these bottles are worth even remotely close to what they go on the secondary market. I’m torn on how to rate this. If price was not a factor I would rate it two points lower than the dusty Old Crow, but my system takes price into account. 84/100.

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