Little Book 2017 #1

I’ve had this one for a while but didn’t open it until recently… I’ve been attempting to not open bottles recently, instead, drinking down what is already open.  I’ve been unsuccessful in my ability to not open new ones, because I want to review them!  Anyway… here is the review, long overdue.

Beautiful dark amber, roasted almond coloring.  Initial impressions of the nose is of a roasted nutty character, smooth peanut butter, graham cracker s’mores and a hint of baking spices in the back.  The tickling heat I’m getting on the nose hairs hints at being cousins of a Booker’s, just enough to be recognizable, but not quite the same.

The taste is strong, with lots of tongue tingling spices.  Hotter on the palate than the nose would indicate, but no where near the heat of a typical Booker’s.  Peppery spices continue to evolve on the roof of the mouth as the finish is long.  The classic Beam nuttiness is clearly evident throughout.

This is a very good introduction to a new line from Beam.  I’m not sure it’s worthy of stockpiling in a bunker, but it looks great, tastes good and is a welcome new addition.  92/100.



Top 5 Disappointments in Bourbon in 2017

In no particular order… here are my top 5 disappointments in Bourbon for 2017:

Knob Creek 25th Anniversary edition… once again this bottle was no better, if not quite a bit worse, than a lot of store picks for Knob Creek; but because it came in a nice box, they charged $125 or more and people paid for it.  It wasn’t that good.  I’m such a sucker that I bought three, and the secondary market dropped immediately on it and everyone like me is stuck with this sub-par product.  Good for them for knowing we would buy it, and if they did another Bourbon next year, trust me, I wouldn’t buy it.  But now I’m hearing they are doing a cask strength, straight rye, also in a nice box instead.  Uggg… what am I going to do????  Touche Knob Creek.

Orphan Barrel Entrapment… Once again, we should never be surprised that Diageo continues to put out poor products under their Orphan Barrel name.  It’s crappy.  Don’t waste your money on it.  You know if Crown Royal thinks it is so bad they wouldn’t release it under their own label, and I mean CROWN ROYAL, then you know it’s bad.  It’s also hilarious that it’s a rip off at $149.99, the normal MSRP, but you see it on the shelf at some stores for $300-$500.  Crazy.

Basil Hayden’s special release ryes… some good hype for these and yet THEY WERE ONLY 80 PROOF!  What were they thinking?  This was such a missed opportunity for those of us who love high proof ryes to break into the market that Lot 40 Cask strength and Kentucky Owl Rye moved into this year and Pikesville and Handy had been in for years.  The price was right, the proof was wrong.  They had two releases this year and both fell flat.  I hope they fix it next year.

WhistlePig Farmstock was my most hated whiskey of the year.  After loving so much of their sourced product, by only putting in 10% of their new make to completely destroy it was almost unbelievable.  They get double negative points for making their Dark Prince $500 minimum retail just because they won Whiskey of the Year from San Francisco Wine & Spirits.  Barrell Bourbon won best Bourbon of the year and their retail prices didn’t change, why did WhistlePigs’?  I don’t think I’ll buy another WhistlePig product again.

Facebook groups that post too many newbie messages is my fifth disappointment of the year.  I had to unfollow a bunch of groups because I spent too much time clicking and seeing nothing useful.  I hate to be a hater, but I’m trying for 2018 to spend less time on social media and more time with my family, so staying parts of the groups, but unfollowing the messages is the best way I know how.

Share with me on Twitter your top disappointments in Bourbon for 2017 and you hopes for what is to come for 2018!


Northern Border Collection III: Pike Creek 21yr Speyside Finish

Part III of the Northern Border Collection series: Pike Creek 21yr Old Canadian Whiskey finished in Speyside Single Malt Casks. I’ve never been a huge fan of single malt Scotch finishes (except the the Barrell Rum one recently: review here), but I’m willing to be opened minded for top blenders when I know it isn’t a gimmick.


It’s medium straw colored, not unusual for Canadian Whiskey. Notes of toffee, caramel, roasted almonds, dark maple syrup and honeysuckle.

Easy down the hatch it goes, but perhaps a little too easy. The mouthfeel is good but not overly complex. The finish is medium length but keeps the enjoyable notes until the end.

This is another good Whiskey but not as multidimensional as I hoped. Fortunately the Speyside casks don’t overpower this whiskey, however, it just doesn’t excite me. It’s solid, but for the hype of this limited release, it doesn’t hold up. 84/100.

For a more in depth take on this Whiskey take a look at Mark Bylok’s review:

Northern Border Collection II: Lot 40 Cask Strength

Part II of my reviews of the Northern Border Collection: Lot 40 Cask Strength 12yr 55% abv. This is the one I’ve been most excited about as I’ve had samples from my friend Mark Bylok—and who doesn’t like a aged high proof rye?


Copper/dark amber color just reaching out. Sweet, inviting nose of rock candy, cracked pepper, vanilla, baking spices, maple syrup and Christmas trees.

Seriously good on the palate. Coats everything, tingles the tongue, enjoyable but not overpowering warmth and a finish that keeps going on. Sweet and spicy flavors keep going and don’t drop off. The finish is epic… worth leaving in your mouth for a few seconds to get the full flavors before swallowing to realize the total potential.

This is a special whiskey. I am 1/3 through bottle number 2,251 of 4,968. This is better than this year’s Thomas H Handy, but not as good as 2014, 2015 or 2016. It’s in the upper echelons of ryes and deserves to be. I think this is similar but a touch better than the Kentucky Owl rye release. If you can snag one of these for less than 3x retail, it’s worth it. I hope they release it again next year. 96/100.

For a more in depth review, check out Mark Bylok’s Piece:

Northern Border Collection I: Gooderham & Worts Little Trinity 17yr

Part of the Canadian only release Northern Border collection, Goderham & Worts Little Trinity is a 17yr Canadian Whiskey from rye, corn and wheat. Bottled at 45% abv.  Stay tuned to all four of the releases in the coming days.


Medium amber color. Smooth nose of baked bread, rock candy, stewed baby carrots with butter and brown sugar, and candy corn. Not a huge aroma from the glass. Much less spicy than I was expecting and less “Canadian” from normal Canadian whiskies but maybe that’s because it’s using more corn and wheat than normal.

After open for a while the classic Canadian flavors come out: maple syrup, vanilla, etc… like a Canadian pretending to be American, after a drink or two, the “eh” comes out and can’t be denied. It’s more enjoyable as a Canadian compared to an American imposter.

Enjoyable dram, super easy going down, very little heat. Sweet notes come through on the palate. Moderate oils and tannins, chill filtering removed a lot of them, but there still is enough there to ensure the finish is more than a minute. Finish tapers off without losing the sweet flavors which is nice.

Looks like this was probably aged in all used cooperage given the colors and flavors. It’s enjoyable but not something I would chase down. The CAD price is certainly right at retail, but impossible to get that price in the USA. Probably best to use for trade bait. 89/100.

For a more in depth analysis, check out Mark Bylok’s piece:

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?


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.rumsixtysix.comfoursquare-rum-distillery.html/

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).


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  Cheers to 2017 and a great 2018 to come!