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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Buy This Book! Bourbon Justice by Brian Haara

How many Bourbon books have come out in the last few years?  The answer is too many… how many good books have been released in the last few years?  Not too many is the answer.  Just like every week portends a new “special release” Bourbon, there are very few actually worth buying if you want to drink them.  Fellow blogger Brian Haara is one of the exceptions to the glut of books out there.  He actually has done real research, has a quality product, very good writing, and it’s an enjoyable read.

Unlike so many books out there that just are a bunch of poorly written reviews sandwiched between enough text to warrant a book, Bourbon Justice: How Whiskey Law Shaped America actually digs into the law cases behind Bourbon, and presents the information in a very enjoyable read.  Who knew that reading about law cases could actually be interesting?  If I had one complaint, I just wish he wrote more.  This book is not just a bunch of his blogs put into a book like some people have done.

On a shelf that has too many Bourbon books on it, Brian’s book will be placed in a position of honor.  Congrats to Brian making the leap from blogger to legitimate author, joining Minnick and Cowdery.  Buy Bourbon Justice: How Whiskey Law Shaped America for yourself and for all your whiskey buddies for the holidays!

What else is worth reading for your list?  If you haven’t read these books, be sure to pick them up too:

Bourbon Empire: The Past and Future of America’s Whiskey

Bourbon: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of an American Whiskey

Bourbon Curious: A Simple Tasting Guide for the Savvy Drinker

Bourbon, Strange

Little Book 2017 #1

I’ve had this one for a while but didn’t open it until recently… I’ve been attempting to not open bottles recently, instead, drinking down what is already open.  I’ve been unsuccessful in my ability to not open new ones, because I want to review them!  Anyway… here is the review, long overdue.

Beautiful dark amber, roasted almond coloring.  Initial impressions of the nose is of a roasted nutty character, smooth peanut butter, graham cracker s’mores and a hint of baking spices in the back.  The tickling heat I’m getting on the nose hairs hints at being cousins of a Booker’s, just enough to be recognizable, but not quite the same.

The taste is strong, with lots of tongue tingling spices.  Hotter on the palate than the nose would indicate, but no where near the heat of a typical Booker’s.  Peppery spices continue to evolve on the roof of the mouth as the finish is long.  The classic Beam nuttiness is clearly evident throughout.

This is a very good introduction to a new line from Beam.  I’m not sure it’s worthy of stockpiling in a bunker, but it looks great, tastes good and is a welcome new addition.  92/100.

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Rum Curious by Fred Minnick

Before I start, let me say that I will not be switching to rum going forward–I will maintain my love and long-term devotion to Bourbon, but, as you know from some of my previous blogs, I may temporarily stray from time to time to other spirits including rum.  Everyone enjoys a little strange now and then…

Fred Minnick is a world famous whiskey journalist, in addition to being one of the best spirits judges out there.  He judges at the San Francisco Ultimate Spirits competition, and it seems that every Whiskey magazine I open, he is rating and reviewing whiskey and other spirits in them as well.  I have read all of his previous books, most recently Bourbon Curious, which is another one I highly recommend.

Perfect for summer reading, Minnick covers the history, production and regulations of Rum before jumping into the tasting and reviews.  It was a nice vacation from reading about everyone repeating what Bottled in Bond is or the requirements for a Bourbon Whiskey.  Rum has an interesting history, steeped in the evolution of the United States as a country.  One could argue that it was more important building the foundation of the country than Bourbon was.  Minnick’s writing flows well, is easy to understand, but doesn’t patronize the reader.

The reviews are interesting and educational with humor intertwined as well–I especially like when he threatens anyone making a cocktail out of any rum he rated 95 points or higher.

Father’s Day is right around the corner, and for the Bourbon lover who already owns all the books, this is a perfect gift.  https://www.amazon.com/Rum-Curious-Indispensable-Tasting-Worlds/dp/0760351732/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1496021889&sr=8-1&keywords=rum+curious

Below are the links to a couple rums I rated earlier… Fred and I do not agree on our ratings, I thought both were very good, however, he rated the Barrell Rum very well, but lambasted the Balcone’s Rum.  I guess I have a lot more to learn before I’m invited to be a judge at the Ultimate Spirits Competition.  Pick up your book for yourself or for your favorite Father ASAP!

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https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/12/03/barrell-rum-batch-001-7yr-jamaican-pot-still-rum/

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/06/29/balcones-texas-rum-special-release-batch-15-1-63-9-abv/

http://www.barrellbourbon.com/rum

http://fredminnick.com/