My 2018 Top 5 Best Available Bottle under $100 or how best to say “no I can’t get you any Pappy at retail”

OK… so I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets this question all the time from friends, family, co-workers, etc…. Usually it starts out like “hey, can you get me some Pappy?”… yes I can, you want a ORVW for $450-$500?  “Oh, I though you had the hookup, can you get it for me at retail?”  No… I can’t get it for myself at retail… then eventually we just arrive at the Seinfeldian response of “well, why don’t you just tell me what you want to pay…”  So, here is my list of the best bottles that are available and can be purchased for under $100 in 2018… I changed some of them from 2017’s list for some reasons including eliminating certain bottles like ETL, RHF, BTAC, Stagg Jr, etc because the MSRP just rarely is the price you see in stores, at least in the Tri-State area…  These are in no particular order.  I also realize every is going to have a different list here, and please add anything you think should be on here in comments!  Happy New Year everyone!!

Buffalo Trace… yes, the original one that retails for $30.  It’s the same mashbill that goes into bottles that are 1k’s of dollars in secondary, same distillery.  Whether it’s straight or in a cocktail, it’s lovely.  Always make sure you have at least one of them on your bar at all times.

Barrell Bourbon Batches… I’ve never had a batch I didn’t like.  I’ve had some that I’d LOVED.  The only one that was impossible to find was Batch 011, because it won best Bourbon of the Year from San Francisco Wine & Spirits.  At least one batch is usually available at my local store, it looks great, a perfect gift and a wonderful drinker.  You will not be disappointed.

Foursquare 2004 or 2005… cask strength, usually $60-$90, and yes, it’s a Rum!  Aged in Bourbon barrels and others, non-chill filtered, so much flavor.  These guys are the real deal.

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof… I almost didn’t put this on the list, but it seems like this is more frequent this year and I usually see it on the shelf.  I’ve never had a bad one, and I’ve had quite a few good ones.  I prefer the old bottle design, but if they are making more of them with the new bottle, I’m OK with that.  Last year I had Old Weller Antique on the list, but given I can never find it anymore without texting my local liquor store owner ahead of time, I’m bumping them for ECBP due to 2018’s availability.  Should be around $60-$70.

Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Bourbon… didn’t make the cut last year, just squeezed in this year and at $65, a solid member of the list.  I find that the first crack is just ok, but if you leave it open for a few months it gets a lot better… if I were to re-rate it, I’d say it’s a solid 92.  Worth having on your home bar.

You don’t need to buy Pappy or BTAC to make the people on your list happy!  Anything on this list will show you know your whiskey and you care about making your friends and family happy.  Happy New Year!

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Top 5 Disappointments of 2018 in Whiskey

#1 Parker’s Heritage Collection release number 12, Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished in Orange Curacao Barrels.  55% alcohol, 110 proof.  Not great.  Was hoping it would get better after being opened a while…. I’m still hoping and it’s been a few months.  I gave this a 78 out of 100 and I think I was being overly generous.  I will re-rate it again after it’s opened for six months, and hopefully it’s better; I’m not optimistic.  You gotta give some credit to the secondary market though, it came out at $200-$225 initially and has been crushed, as it should be.  Now trading between $100-$120, right where it has been offered at retail.  My guess is that is floors at $100 and then in a few years completionists will bid it up a little bit but it will go no-where.  Avoid this release, which was by far the worst ever for PHC.  Sad too because the story is great.

#2 Weller C.Y.P.B. is a perfectly fine Bourbon.  It’s like an average OWA chill filtered pick.  But it’s impossible to get, trading around $350 in secondary and it’s just not that great.  Opening my bottle was one of the biggest disappointments for me in 2018.

#3 2018 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection Sazerac 18.  This has routinely been one of my favorite releases of the year and it just came out so flat and bitter this time.  I yearn for the tanked juice.  What’s crazy here is secondary is still holding in really high.  This one is trading like a collectible and not a drinking whiskey clearly.  If you own it, sell/trade it now because I’d rather have a WLW+GTS, which I think it close to where it is.

#4 Knob Creek Cask Strength Rye 2009 Distilled special release.  I don’t know why I even buy these anymore… the store picks are almost always better, and I’m such a sucker for a special release.  They trade lower in secondary and no one likes them.  I’m just lucky I only bought one this year.  Avoid!

#5 Bad craft distillers who market well like Breckenridge Distillery… I’m picking on these guys, but Hudson (Tuttletown Spirits), Brooklyn Distillery, etc etc all qualify by putting out expensive, bad products, in good marketing packaging.  My wife JUST got a bottle of Breckenridge from one of her clients (last year she got Hudson Baby Bourbon) and I wonder why her clients must hate her so much?  Prediction for 2019… by the end of the year at least one “major” craft distiller will go bankrupt because people will realize their juice is terrible and overpriced, while you will see some of the good ones rising in popularity and respect.

There is is… 2018’s top disappointments… However there was so much to celebrate in 2018, check out my top 5 list.  Or check out last year’s top 5 disappointments….

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

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2018/12/23/weller-c-y-p-b-for-sale-caskers-only-1000/

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2018/10/07/i-never-should-have-opened-my-weller-c-y-p-b/

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2018/07/04/knob-creek-cask-strength-rye-2018-limited-release/

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2018/11/27/2018-buffalo-trace-antique-collection-btac-reviews/

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2018/03/31/breckenridge-distillery-not-a-fan-not-worth-a-visit-or-the-money/

Newbourbondrinker’s 2018 Top 5

This year had so many great releases even though the level on social media complaining has hit an all time high… don’t worry, I will be putting out my top 5 disappointments soon… but it’s the holidays so I’m only going to be positive today!  Instead of ranking them this year, I’ve decided to go with five different categories and give the overall winner for them… Disagree?  Hit me up on twitter @newbourbondrink or facebook @ newbourbondrinker or instagram @steaknbourbon

Best Overall Bourbon: Barrell Craft Spirits 15yr Bourbon Gray Label.  For a straight down the middle Bourbon, this one can not be beat.  It also edged out everyone else from Fred Minnick’s blind tasting for Forbes’.  It got a huge score from me and everyone else.  The only downside is the limited case amount.  The one thing you can be certain, is if you see any gray label Barrell Craft Spirits product on a shelf, grab it!

Best Wheated Bourbon: William Larue Weller 2018 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection.  This one was easy, and tied for best overall with BCS, but split out the wheaters.  The finish, so long, so good.  If you can grab the 2017 or 2018 of WLW BTAC, for any reasonable price at all, pick it up.

Best Rye: Thomas H Handy 2018.  Another BTAC, but 2018 was tough for Rye, as the releases we not as strong as 2017.  The Lot 40 cask Strength 11yr was not as good as last year’s 12yr and higher priced and lower proof; Kentucky Owl Rye was also good but not quite as good as the first release.  THH stood out among it’s peers, but only by a smidge.  The secondary prices have continued to creep as well which is annoying for those of us who drink a lot of Handy.

Best Small Bottle Release: Elijah Craig Grenade… it’s a gift shop only release, but readily available on secondary.  It trades at close to BTAC levels given it’s only 200ml, but it’s sooooooooo good.  Grab one if you are ever in Bardstown, or just lift one on secondary.

Best Rum: Appleton’s Joy 25yr.  This was probably the hardest category to rate to be perfectly honest.  So many great releases: Foursquare 2004, Foursquare 2005, Barrell Rum Tale of Two Islands, Barrell Craft Spirits Rum Gray Label… all could have taken these honors, but Appleton’s 25yr comes out ahead.  Retailing around $220 and still available, this rum has crazy flavors and notes that rival any whiskey.  Looks great on the shelf too.

There it is for 2018… it was a great year, so many amazing drams and I look forward to what 2019 brings.  Happy New Year!

Barrell Craft Spirits Rum Gray Label Unicorn

Another Gray Label unicorn from Barrell Craft Spirits, this one the Rum. Again I’m lucky that my local store was able to secure me one for retail.

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I’ve really loved all the super rare rum releases Barrell has done in the last few years, my favorite being Tale of Two Islands (review here), I just wish they were more readily available. I’ve never seen a store with more than one or two bottles.

This release comes in the beautiful black box like the Bourbon (Bourbon review), awesome gray label and heavier than normal cork top.

Strong nose of coconuts, brown sugar, anise, orange and pineapple rinds with a touch of pine needles (although that might have been the Christmas tree in the background).

The mouthfeel really coats the mouth and feels like it’s going to be hot but isn’t. The flavor is concentrated in the back of the mouth and the finish is at least two minutes, with lots of tropical flavors going round and round.

This is another very special release and I’m happy to have been able to buy one and looking forward to sharing it with family (only the ones that know good stuff) this holiday! 97/100. Good luck finding it and if you can, but them all!

Barrell Craft Spirits Bourbon: Fred Minnick’s number 1 of the year reviewed

I’ve been following this release on social media with tons of anticipation and I was hoping to quietly accumulate a large amount of them for the bunker until…. Fred Minnick ruined everything. Why couldn’t he have waited to rate this number one in a blind tasting against some big heavyweights like BTAC George T Stagg and William Larue Weller. Anyone who follows this blog knows I’ve been on the Barrell Bourbon train for a while and love that you can always find a Batch or single barrel for under $100. And the best part is you never need to get in line or pay through the nose on secondary for one… except for this realease. I paid $250 at retail for this but the good news is that the regular batch prices have not gone up and are still readily available. Thank goodness!!  Now… is this special release worth the extra money???

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On to the review…. 15yr Bourbon blended from Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee, bottled at 105.1 Proof. The box looks sleek and smart and the gray label looks awesome. I also really like the new cork design with extra weight and easier to remove from the bottle. Nice touch. It’s also a dark amber color in the bottle giving away the 15yrs of age.

The nose is strong but not hot, with marzipan (of course), Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Necco Wafers, toasted and butter cinnamon raisin bread, s’mores and caramel hard candy. Just so much going on and even more after the bottle was opened for a few days. First crack didn’t do it justice.

The taste… wow! This Bourbon has the biggest mouthfeel and longest finish of anyone I’ve tasted all year. I stopped counting after three minutes but it was sweet and complex and never faded to bitterness. What more can you ask for in a whiskey?

This Bourbon is 100% worth the hype. I just wish Fred Minnick didn’t let the cat out of the bag until my bunker was full. Now I need to beg all my liquor store contacts to try to get another bottle as this one is already half empty! 98/100

If $250 (or higher on secondary) is too much for you, the recent batches have been really good and totally worth picking up too.  But If you can find it for anywhere under $300, grab it, because the last print on secondary I saw was $400 and going higher!  I’m going to put out reviews on the Rum and the Whiskey soon which I think are even rarer and harder to get a hold of!

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Top 21 Complaints/Arguments/Issues My Wife has with my Bourbon Hobby

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  Today I’m very thankful for my healthy family, my job and my bourbon collection.  My wife is less thankful about my Bourbon hobby and I jotted down the top 21 issues we have… My hope is that this will provide some comfort, laughs and solidarity with those who are going through the same problems.  Everyone likes to know that they aren’t the only ones with these issues… if I forgot any, add them in the comments!  Thank you for reading. (This post was inspired by Subourbia… link at the bottom).

  1. Constantly negotiating how many liquor stores we can stop at when going on family trips or drives to any new area…
  2. Excessive packing material, boxes, popcorn, bubble wrap in my home office, closet, everywhere…
  3. Having to rescue perfectly shaped bourbon shipping boxes from the trash that are former Amazon.com boxes… then see #2
  4. Any errands that I go on my own often take 2-3x longer than normal due to unforeseen liquor store stops…
  5. Most stops only take 2-3 minutes, but every once in a while you hit a honey pot and that can take 20-30 minutes to negotiate with the owner and find all the good stuff, and you can guarantee by the time you get back to the car, both kids are melting down and you have a dozen nasty texts to hurry up…
  6. Having too many bottles in general being accused of being a hoarder, or obsessive, etc…
  7. Empty Glencairn glasses littered around the house on bookshelves, ledges, etc…
  8. Going to restaurants or bars together and me complaining about either having a bad selection or overpricing the good stuff…
  9. I will decline restaurant selections she suggests if the bourbon collection or bad or if they do not do wine corkage for free or at a reasonable price…
  10. She thinks it’s weird that I bring sample bottles or flasks of good stuff to family weddings or events that I know will be lacking on the quality…
  11. Roadies…. she hates that….
  12. Do I even need to mention how much I spend on bottles?  To be fair, 1/2 of it I trade or sell, or at least that’s what I tell her… 🙂
  13. Constantly taking long inhale smells with my nose deep in a Glencairn glass… she thinks it’s silly.
  14. She hates that I display empty bottles… I mean, can anyone actually recycle their old BTAC bottles?  I can’t.
  15. Whenever her brother comes over, it automatically becomes a Bourbon tasting event with at least ten Glencairn glasses…
  16. Late at night packing bottles to ship makes a lot of noise with the tape gun… lots of shushing around that one…
  17. My home office basically looks like a liquor store or bar… but a REALLY good bar!  Jack Rose is what I’m striving for here…
  18. She hates listening to any podcast related to liquor… sorry #ThePodcask #TheWhiskeyTopic #DadsDrinkingBourbon #BourbonPursuit #WhiskeyCast #WineEnthusiast #VinePair#BeastMastersClub #GuildSomm #VinePair
  19. Lots of furniture has tiny stains from drops of spilled cask strength whiskey that wasn’t cleaned up in time…
  20. (This is more for co-workers) I always need to get the airport a little early for international flights because I’m the only one checking a bag…. you’d be amazed how much good stuff you can get in Toronto if you know the right people… be sure to pack them well!!
  21. She still thinks it all smells like rubbing alcohol and prefers a nice Sancerre…

http://subourbia.com/inside-the-mind-of-a-bourbon-fanatic-new-blog-post/

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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.