More Obnoxious Liquor Stores Part II + one surprising good one

Sometimes when I have a lot of free time I’ll just go for a long walk in New York City and stop at every liquor store along my walk.  It’s good exercise, nice to be outside, and I like trying new neighborhoods that I’ve never been in (or haven’t visited in years since I move to the suburbs), so I try new stores.  Last night I went for a long walk up through the Upper East Side and hit up a bunch of stores, and three stood out.  The first two, well, just see the photos, you’ll understand.  The third one, as I got closer to Harlem was surprisingly good and worth checking out.  There were dozens of others that just didn’t have much but were not worthy of making the blog, either positively or negatively.

Big Apple Wine & Spirits: 1408 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10021…. Weller Reserve for $109, Thomas Handy for $699… come on guys.  Plus the guy at the front was extremely obnoxious.  Avoid this place.

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Manhattan Wine Xchange 1079 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10065: Weller 12 for $299, Kentucky Owl Rye for $269, Handy 500, Stagg 850… Why bother?

Crown Wine & Liquor 1587 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10028: This place was surprisingly good.  I picked up a ECBP B517 for retail as well as a Hirsch 20yr American Whiskey (from IL, so it probably stinks, but I’ve never seen it before on the shelf) for $99.99.  They had a Handy way in the back on the top of the shelf for $350, which is high, but for NYC, not obnoxiously high, so I passed on it.  I did offer them $250 cash, but the manager wasn’t there so the guy at the front didn’t know what to do.  They were fine, the selection was good, and the prices reasonable.

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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!

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

 

Balcones Texas Rum Special Release Batch 15-1 63.9% abv

I first tried the Balcones Texas Rum at the 2016 Whisky Jewbilee a couple of weeks ago and liked it so much I needed to get a bottle (or two) for my personal collection.  I confirmed with the brand ambassador that the one I tried at the event was Batch 16-1, but this bottle that was available in New York is Batch 15-1, bottled on May 22, 2015.  This is a six barrel blend made of two new American Oak barrels, one new European Oak barrel, and one each used barrels of American Oak, French Oak and European Oak.  The average barrel age is three years.

Initial notes are brown sugar, cloves, smoked hickory chips, Cuban cigar box, almond croissant and candied walnuts.  When the bottle was first opened, the heat on the nose was hot, but after waiting a few minutes, the heat quickly dissipated into pure smoothness, especially nice for a 127.8 proof spirit.

The palate is unlike any rum I have ever had before.  It’s big and takes over the entire mouth with a creamy thickness that reminds me of a very high end non-chill filtered bourbon.  The notes from the nose all come through on the palate, but are a little warmer than the nose.  The finish goes on for a solid two minutes, putting it in an elite category.

I was told this is the oldest to date product that Balcones has ever produced and the patience has paid off–apparently Batch 16-1 is slightly older. The previous products I have tried were all way too hot on both the nose and the throat, but this one is not.  The time in the barrel has paid off and anyone who buys it will be happy.  It’s a shame that too many of their products have been rushed to market, but hopefully the success of this one will show the extra time is worth it.  93/100.

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2016 Whisky Jewbilee and Event Tasting Strategy

The 5th Annual Whisky Jewbilee was my first time attending this cool New York City event… I brought a few clients and friends with me to enjoy the fun.  As part of any large tasting, you need to have a game plan ahead of time—know where the rare bottles are and hit them first.

A huge mistake rookies make is trying to be very polite and going through the whole vertical.  I totally understand being polite, going through each one and hearing why the 10yr is so great.  But… there will be time for that at the end of the evening if you really care.  There were about 6 Scotches that were 25yrs or older and they were all gone within the first 30 minutes, so if you didn’t hit them first, you missed out.  Fortunately for me and my friends, I had them all mapped out and we were able to try them all.  To be honest though, a the selection of 25yr Scotch didn’t really excite me…

I’m much more of a bourbon fan than scotch, so I was hoping for something special underneath the tables, that wasn’t on the original tasting list.  There were three tables that really stepped it up in my opinion:

Skinner Auctions brought a bunch of dusties including a 1970s Stitzel-Weller Cabin Still decanter.  Only a 4-5yr bourbon, but so incredibly smooth.  And to get the chance to try anything from Stitzel-Weller is welcomed.  I went back for five pours, which probably was overkill, but almost no one was hitting this table, so it was a hidden gem.

For all the negative things I have written about Balcones over the years, they actually stepped it up at this tasting.  I tried their normal products, and again, I really didn’t like them.  I had never tried their Brimstone, and I think that might be my least favorite one of theirs of all time—just horrible.  However… when I asked if they had anything under the table, I was very pleasantly surprised.  Winston Edwards (the brand ambassador) pulled a new product, the Balcones Texas Rum Special Release 63.9% abv.  He said it was mostly a 3.5yr rum blended with some younger ones.  This product blew me away.  Great mouthfeel, such rich notes, just a tremendous amount of complexity and length.  This was so good I bought two bottles online and can’t wait to try it at home and do a proper tasting.  Stay tuned in the coming weeks for a full review on this rum.

The other favorite table was Barrell Bourbon.  Joe Beatrice brought both whiskey batches, including the sherry cask Batch 002, which was a top 5 of the night as well as Batch 006 and Batch 007.  They also has a special Batch 007b, which apparently was the same barrels from Batch 007, but bottled a few months later, so a little more age, and slightly different proof, but everything else the same.  Very tasty.  I love when the presenters have a little something special under the table if you ask nicely–thank you Joe!

I was very disappointed by a lot of the other bourbon tables, especially Four Roses, Bookers, Basil Hayden, Bakers, etc… they just brought their normal bottles.  Four Roses should have at least brought the Elliot’s Select, but just brought their normal ones.  For a tasting, they should have stepped up their game a little bit.  If I wanted a glass of Basil Hayden, I could just go to any bar, their performance was not exciting.  For next year, hopefully the larger brands lose the attitude and bring something a little special.

At the end of the evening, my clients and friends had a great time, we all drank quite a bit of very good whiskey and I even got to meet Mark Gillespie from WhiskyCast which was a treat.  Because it wasn’t in a proper tasting setting, I am not going to give any grades but the top drams of the night, not in any order were: Stitzel-Weller Cabin Still 1970’s dusty, Barrell Bourbon Batch 006, Barrell Whiskey Batch 002, Balcones Texas Rum Special Release, Balvenie 25.

 

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