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!



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!

2017 BTAC Reviews

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


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

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!


The Hits Just Keep on Coming… Barrell Bourbon Batch 012

Batch 12 is the most recent release from Barrell Bourbon, just off the heels of their best Bourbon of the year award from San Francisco Ultimate Spirits ( I also was a huge fan of Batch 011 (link). I think I have a future as a spirits judge…

Batch 12 is quite a bit older than 11 coming in at 9 years, but is lower proof, 108.5. I’m not sure, but this might be the lowest proof they have ever released.

The nose on this one is completely different than any previous batch I have tried. This one is a complete fruit bomb: plums, dried cherries, orange peel, hints of graham cracker and brioche. Very little heat on the nose.

Great oils and tannins on the mouthfeel with a wonderful spiciness I didn’t get first on the nose. Getting the fruit and more on the palate. Warmer than expected, in a good way.  The finish is at least two minutes long.

This is a really solid follow up to Batch 011. While most of the stores I go to have sold out of Batch 011, if you buy 012, you won’t be disappointed. It might be enjoyed even more by people who don’t like their Bourbon at 135 proof–probably is more approachable to most whiskey consumers. 94/100.