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!

Bourbon and Charity… special thanks to New York Shaving Company!

The Bourbon Community has always been really great about giving back.  We recently had our third annual Bourbon at the Barbershop special charity event that we hosted at The New York Shaving Company.  We raised over 3k for local children’s charities and everyone had a great time.  Take a look at the photos below, but let’s just say that everyone felt they got their money’s worth.  We had 80% of the BTAC collection, Al Young, Willett Family Estate, a couple great Barrell Bourbon releases, Garrison Bros. Cowboy, Lot 40 Cask Strength, Wiser’s 35yr, EHT Four Grain, Kentucky Owl Rye, Appleton’s Rum 25yr Joy, Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition, Elliot’s Select, JPS 25yr and more!  It was the best heel party I’d ever been to!  Thanks again to New York Shaving Company for being an amazing partner!

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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!

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2016

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon is an annual release on September 2nd celebrating George Brown’s birthday–the founder of Old Forester. This is a 12yr bottled at 97 proof. I was not a huge fan of last year’s OFBB and I’m hoping this year is better.

Beautiful dark amber with golden hues.

Nose has mushroom, forestry smells off the bat with nail polish undertones. After waiting a while the acetone goes into the background and candied orange peel, charcoal, graham cracker and cloves hit the nose.

The taste is smooth and easy going. Solid warmth but not overly complex. The finish is moderate and enjoyable with further spice flavors coming out in the back.

Birthday Bourbon kicks off Bourbon Season so it’s always a whiskey people feel the need to get. But this one, like last year’s, isn’t a must buy. If you find it at retail price, go for it, but don’t feel the need to pay up. Add a little water to increase the smoothness, but it doesn’t make any significant improvements.  86/100.

Here’s last year’s review: https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/02/22/old-forester-birthday-bourbon-2015/

 

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Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2015

I originally wrote this review several months ago, but resisted publishing it because I thought maybe I was wrong, or that the bourbon needed more time open to show… but I tried it again tonight and I stand by my original conclusions….

So my birthday was last week (October) and I couldn’t find this Bourbon on the shelves anywhere… But I was in a store on Sunday and they had one left in stock. Happy belated birthday to me!  OFBB 2015 is a 100 proof, 12 year whiskey from our friends at Brown-Forman, better known for Jack Daniels, but have been doing even more with their Old Forester brand recently.  Released once a year on September 2nd to celebrate the birthday of George Garvin Brown.  First released in 2002, OFBB has become one of those must have bottles for collectors.

First impressions…. This whiskey is another one of those when first opened smells of dirty mushrooms and nail polish, causing me to let it set for a while. I’m just not sure what it is sometimes that makes new bourbons require aeration, but this isn’t the first and it definitely won’t be the last.

The color is a bright Amber with orange hues.

After the glass had been sitting there for over an hour the smell changed to burnt orange, crushed almonds and wet leaves; the mushroomy smells are still lingering in the background, but fortunately the offensive smells had dissipated.

Good mouthfeel with nice integrated wood tannins. There is a sweet citrusy flavor rather than the normal spicy butterscotch. It has what I can only describe as a high acid profile like certain wines. It’s very different than I expected but not necessarily in a bad way.

I added a few drops of water and it definitely needed it. The nose is fresher and the taste is better.  It still maintains the burnt orange smell and flavor. It’s enjoyable but not my favorite.

Much like my actual birthday, this bourbon wasn’t up to the hype and fairly disappointing. It’s good, it’s just not worth the price or effort.  85/100.

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