“No I can’t get you Pappy at MSRP” or another way to show you the top 5 bottles under $100 for 2019

I’m sure every avid Bourbon hunter/collector/drinker gets the same questions I do: “hey man, can you get me the hookup on some Pappy?”  Of course I can, $450 for a Pappy 10yr… “whattttt?”…. I don’t get it at MSRP, I don’t own a store, but I know people who will sell it for secondary (which seems to be 400-500 depending on where you are, if you can get it for less, great, but don’t pay more)… But then people think they can get it for MSRP, good luck with that unless you have a serious hookup, that I certainly don’t have either… After calling a bunch of stores and asking other people, the realization settles in, they ask, well, what can I get for under $100 that is really good too? Every year my list changes, but this year I am recommending these bottles to get, either as value drinks for yourself, or to recommend to your friends for drinkers… I know there will be a lot of disagreement, and I would love to hear your recommendations:

  • Mellow Corn (~$12)… great for cocktails
  • Buffalo Trace (~$25)… hard to beat for the price
  • Elijah Craig Small Batch Single Barrels  (~$35)… great single barrel value
  • Russel’s Reserve 10yr Single Barrels (~$45)… all around solid choice
  • Barrell Craft Spirits Dovetail (~$75)… great sipper, cask strength, finished whiskey

Honorable Mention: ECBP, OWA 107, ETL, Blantons…. but they have been harder to find these days and often trade above $100 in secondary…

What do you think I should have on this list?  Comments welcome!

Full 2019 Pappy Lineup Reviews…

I recently shared a tasting with a friend and client…. here are my notes. He’s not the same experience of taster that I am but on average he agreed with my conclusions. If anything he had a lower score for the rye and higher score for the older Pappy’s. The reviews are in order of my tasting… enjoy!

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The 13yr rye has an epic nose, better than both BTAC. The spice of Handy with the complexity of Saz…. and I haven’t even tasted it yet. It a touch hot but not bad on the palate, but the mouthfeel is a little lacking. The flavors are good but it just falls off a little too soon. The nose was epic but the follow through just missed it for me. Still wonderful, but not worth the price. 94/100 (When I went back to this after the Pappy 15, the nose was still great but the mouthfeel was even thinner than before)

Pappy 15, always a crowd favorite…. creme bruele, toasted corn bread and cinnamon toast crunch on the nose with hints of dusty wooden age surrounding it, so you know it’s older. Really nice mouthfeel, good tannins and oil coating the entire mouth with butterscotch, toffee and graham cracker flavors oozing into spaces between my teeth. This knocks it out of the park. The finish goes on for 3 minutes or more. I wish this was affordable. 98/100.  I’m a buyer of this one… send me a DM please…

Old Rip Van Winkle 10yr…. another favorite, usually the best value of the bunch…. to be fair I had this after the 15yr which probably wasn’t fair…. nose is great, much fresher than the 15yr but not young in the bad way… getting tons of orange peel, chocolate covered orange peel, dried orange peel with cloves stuck in them… oh and a little bit of butterscotch and buttered, toasted brioche. Mouthfeel is awesome, might even edge out the 15yr… flavors lovely too. So… how does it stack up? The nose is very good but not insane. The mouthfeel with the heat component might be the most perfect balance I’ve ever experienced. The finish is long and good but the flavors from the Pappy 15 are more complex and enjoyable. This is my favorite Rip 10yr in a while though… 97/100.  I’ll be trying to hunt for this one…

Lot B… 12yr… generally people’s least favorite one… the nose always is older then the statement and this one is one different… forest mushroomy floor, No 2 pencil shavings, ginger snaps, dried cherries and Rollos. Mouthfeel is not bad but not great…. a little thin and falls off quickly. I guess they get points for consistency? Still enjoyable but this one you should trade for a 10yr if you can sucker someone into that trade… 87/100

Pappy 20….. interestingly light and floral on the nose, lightly toasted wheat toast with Nutella lightly spread across. Mouthfeel is a little lacking and the flavors go a touch bitter on the finish. It’s still enjoyable and complex but doesn’t compare to the 10, 13 or 15… 90/100

Pappy 23….. oldest for last but is it best? You can tell from the nose it is the oldest. Definitely wood forward but lots of tertiary notes of chocolate, leather, candy and almonds. Almost no heat at all and the mouthfeel is pretty good. Not a lot of oil but a good amount of enjoyable tannins. Finish is less sweet but not bitter, I’d consider it savory. It’s good. No, it’s very good. It’s the oldest, but it’s not the best. Trade this one for 2x 15yrs. 94/100.

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Elmer T Lee 100… Just a smidgen better than the regular ETL

I tried… at a bar… didn’t open my bottle… how could I when it’s going for over $600 on secondary?

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How was it?  It was wonderful!  Of course it was, it’s Elmer T Lee, just with a few extra proofs.  I tried the ETLC a few years ago at a bar, and it also was lovely, just like the regular ETL.

I feel like it’s silly for me to write up a full review on this one, because it’s pretty much the same as my ETL review from a few years ago.  Click for it.

Let’s just say it still has the butterscotch hard candies, dried orange peels, vanilla and baking spices, honeysuckle and spice loaf cake that I have come to love from ETL, but maybe you could argue the mouthfeel was slightly better, the finish slightly longer… although it could have been all in my head.

I scored ETL a 94 a few years ago… at MSRP I’d say this is a 94.5/100, but, given where the secondary market is, you just can’t justify the value for the taste.  Looks great on your bar though as a collectible… just like the Amaranth does too.

EHT Amaranth Grain of the Gods: Secondary Price Crazy, Value? Read the Review…

There are so few actual reviews on this from real people… some BS reviews from people who got free samples and others that tasted them at events… here is a real review.

Bottle looks great… obviously…  Color looks amber beauty.

Nose…. sweet, not hot at all… Necco wafers coming in strong, with subtle ginger snaps, elderflower, licorice laced with a heavy cream undertone.

Mouthfeel is enjoyable, but not complex.  Getting those same flavors on the tongue, but the finish is quicker than I expected and leaves me wanting more.

It’s a fun whiskey, it’s enjoyable, but this wasn’t a game changer.  Amaranth is an enjoyable flavoring grain, but this is not one to open.  Try this at a bar, please do not open your bottle.  It is currently trading around $700 on secondary and for a collectible, who knows if that’s the right price… as a drinker, it clearly is not.  85/100

Parker’s Heritage Collection 13, 8yr Heavy Charred Rye… collect the series, but don’t open this one.

Let me start off by saying I think Heaven Hill is one of the best distilleries on the planet and all the good work they do for ALS through these releases is amazing.  They are also the best value Bourbon producer out there, and I love going to see them when I visit KY.  I paid secondary for this bottle because I wanted to be one of the first to review it, and I actually haven’t read any reviews on it yet, so I’m going in fresh.

Color is dark, reminds me of the color from a lot of the old 1970’s ceramic decanters…. ominous sign.

Nose is muted with graphite pencil shavings, stale store bought brownies, red Skittles, mini marshmallows and stale ginger snaps. It’s not big, it turns in on itself and isn’t jumping out or exciting.

Not much heat initially but then really heats up the chest. The mouthfeel is not exciting. There are few sweet notes up front and skips the mid palate right to the finish. The finish is really long, but it’s not enjoyable. The finish doesn’t drop off quickly bitter like you might expect, but goes on for several minutes. The problem is the finish is just ok. I’ve never had a multi minute average finish, usually a long finish is a good thing. Very strange.

Parker’s Heritage Collection is one of the favorite releases of the year for many people, yet in recent years it has been controversial.  Frankly, last year was terrible. I loved PHC 11yr, and was happy it wasn’t loved by critics so I was able to grab lots on secondary for cheap (it has since almost doubled since then)… the year before was very expensive MSRP, but was a 24yr Bourbon. I enjoyed it but $399.99 was tough for most. And now we have this one. I think the most important thing we have learned is why most people don’t use heavy char for rye… it’s a failed experiment. This might be interesting if blended with a more youthful spicy rye, but ultimately this just isn’t good. It’s going for around $190 MSRP… when it first came out a couple weeks ago, people were paying $300. Now it’s $225-$250, and soon I think it will go to MSRP and I wouldn’t be surprised if it traded below that. It looks nice sealed on the shelf as a collectible, but this is one you are going to want to keep sealed or not buy at all. If anyone bought a bunch to flip on secondary, I’m sorry, but you’ll be stuck with them for a while. 73/100

I loved the 24yr:

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/09/19/phc10-parkers-heritage-collection-10-24yr-bourbon/

Did not like last year’s:

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2018/11/04/i-love-parkers-heritage-collection-i-dont-like-this-release-though/

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Hottest New Release… Four Roses Small Batch Select NCF

Hottest release of the week… everyone on Facebook wants it. Retail is $50-$60, going on secondary this week for around $100. Was higher last week and will be lower next week… in a month or two everyone will have had it and there will be no secondary premium.

Dark liquid in the bottle. Looks good. Darker label with roses embossed on glass in center. Cork and wood stopper. All nice.

Nose is floral, tropical, fruity, piney, eucalyptus and menthol. 104 proof and not too much heat. It’s not very strong but that’s OK.

The taste is average to start but the mouthfeel is above average, decent hug and the finish is long.  It’s not overly complex, but it’s enjoyable.

This is a good Bourbon and a nice step up from the base Four Roses. This isn’t close to their FRSBLE, but it doesn’t pretend to be either. At $50 this is worth adding to your collection. Very different profile than OWA, but a competitor. At $50 it’s between some of your entry Bourbons, but below some of the really enjoyable cask strength offerings. Buy at retail, don’t pay up on secondary. 90/100.