For the Love of the Hunt… and for all the people out there that have pissed off their spouses for liquor store detours.

My wife thinks I’m nuts. Why do I find incredible enjoyment walking into random liquor stores when I’m on vacation or places I’ve never been before. Is it a disorder? I just have this incredible invisible force compelling me into these stores. I can’t help it. Most of the time I walk in, look around, and walk out… but then there are times when I’m there for an hour.

Hunting in 2019 (and going forward) makes me appreciate commercial fisherman on the East Coast even more… it’s over hunted, you have to go twice as far to get half the load, and every once in a while you get scolded so badly by your spouse for ignoring your children (or dragging them in with you) that you almost want to quit. But then this happens:

Here’s the story. I’m in upstate New York visiting a cidery and I forgot I had to mail a letter. I pull over to the post office and across the street appears to be a closed down liquor store. I walk over and they have a doorbell, it says “push hard.” I do. Twice. A minute later a little old lady walks out the next door and comes over, introduces herself, unlocks the door and lets me in. It’s mostly very low end stuff, but above the shelf, about 7 feet above the floor, I spot a dusty Rebel Yell. I reach for it and she says it’s not for sale because no one would want anything up there because it’s all been there since they bought the store in the mid 1970’s. Jackpot. I say I’d really like to buy it and she says, ok, but it’s probably gone bad (Turns out the Rebel Yell was a 1983, I found that out from some trolls on Facebook, but that’s a story for another time). I climb on a box and behind the Rebel Yell is an Old Fitzgerald 1976 decanter. Two Stizel-Weller bottles?? There were a few other lesser decanters and I paid cash and went on my way. I gave them more than they were asking for them because I felt bad they didn’t know what they had. But these things were sitting in plain sight for 45 years. Reminds me of Godfather III: “just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”

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I’ve never seen Stitzel-Weller bottles on a dusty random shelf before… only in glass cases for thousands of dollars. I don’t ever expect to again… but I know they must still exist.

I did another hunt a month ago and the take is below… I didn’t buy anything at MSRP, but most was below secondary. I’m going to sell some, trade some, and drink most. I didn’t get everything I wanted this Bourbon season, but hopefully with the multiples I got, I’ll be able to trade my way into my deepest desires. That’s the only way to do it these days and as far as I am concerned there is no stigma to it. Anyone who thinks there is, probably isn’t going for the stuff I am going for anyway.

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The closest I got to MSRP this year was $200 for a Stagg from my local guy I do a lot of business with. Patronizing your local guy, making friends and staying on them is still your best way to get the best price on the allocated stuff. But for those who need more, the hunt is still alive and well and there is just enough out there to stock the bunker, and keep the dream alive for next year!

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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Barrell Craft Spirits: BCS 2019 15yr Bourbon Gray Label Release: Best Whiskey of 2019???

Barrell Craft Spirits Gray Label in black box, 15yr Bourbon 2019 release is the follow up to last year’s special release. 2018’s Bourbon won Fred Minnick’s best whiskey of the year in a blind taste, making it very hard for Trip and Joe @ Barrell Bourbon to come up with a worth successor to their, arguably, best release to date.  The year is a blend of Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee and age stated 15yrs (which means there probably is stuff much older in here as well)… On to the review…

Beautiful nose, Milk Duds, cotton candy, and Rolos in the front, all candy and deliciousness. Deeper dive brings out notes of graham cracker s’mores, fresh luxury car seat leather and cracked roasted peanuts. At 106.52 proof you don’t even get a hint of heat even if you stick your nose all the way deep in the glass—almost unheard of.

Perfect balance of oils and tannins and flavor and just enough hug to let you know this is a Bourbon. The mouthfeel perfect coats the entire tongue and the upper sides of the cheeks. The candy and nut flavors rush in and build over time. I’m amazed by the finish here, more than three minutes and never dries off in a bitter note. (The finish might actually be closer to five minutes)

I think this might be the best whiskey I’ve tried this year; it certainly has impressed me more than any of the BTAC line… I didn’t know what to expect after last year. Last year was insane and had so much hype. How could they possibly follow up after that one? Well… they did and I think they even eclipsed it. This Bourbon is phenomenal. MSRP is $250, I’m seeing it on secondary for 300-350… do whatever you can to grab more than one bottle as you will want at least a backup here. 99/100.

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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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Peerless Bourbon 4yr New Release

No intro here… just straight into the review… Color is shiny copper, really inviting.  Gorgeous bottle, beautiful, heavy cap.

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Quick pop of the gold cap, tons of aroma. Necco wafers, Eggo waffles, muted cinnamon sticks, buttered cinnamon raisin toast and toffee ice cream. Heat is muted.

Really nice mouthfeel, hotter than nose implies but not that hot…. spicy taste with allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon dominate the palate. Finish is good but not epic. Drops off after a minute but not in a bad way.

This is one of the best four year Bourbons I’ve ever had. I’m not surprised by that as their young ryes are also awesome. It does feel like to get something epic, it’s going to need another 2-3 years in barrel, but even at four years it’s extremely enjoyable.

Hard to grade as it needs a little more time to show it’s best, but even at four years it is still a solid 93/100. At six to eight years this might be a ninety-eight… and I bet there will be a single barrel that hits a 99.

I can’t wait until they have more age on their products. Check out my other reviews for their rRes which are also great. I also highly recommend you visit their distillery if you ever go to Louisville. It’s great. Full disclosure: I paid retail for this bottle in NYC, but they did send me a rye for free a year ago. I also got a free tasting when I visited early this year. None of which have any bearing on this review. If this sucked, I would have graded this poorly.

Peerless Rye 3yr Review