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/

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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!

2018 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection BTAC Reviews

I tried each one of these three times, on three separate days, over the course of the last few weeks, to make sure my reviews were accurate.  I made some minor changes by the final time, but nothing drastically changed.  I was unable to try the ER17, which is a shame, but given it’s trading north of 1k on secondary, I wouldn’t have opened it either…

Sazerac 18 (Saz18)
I miss the tanked juice. It’s good but not great. Muted compared to yesteryear. Candied apple, skittles, wood, a touch of menthol with a follow through of Christmas spices, cloves and pine needles. Decent mouthfeel and long finish but grows increasingly bitter. The price isn’t justified here; this one will be a strong pass. Trading around $600 secondary.  84/100

Thomas H Handy (THH)
Amazing mouthfeel coupled with a very good but hottish nose. Butterscotch and spice and everything nice. Finish is medium long and good. Better than last year but not as good as 2014 or 2016.  Trading around $375 secondary.  I’m a buyer at $300 all day–send me a note if you are a seller. 95/100

George T Stagg (GTS)
Big boy here. Big nose of Wether’s Original, liquid caramel and ginger snap cookies. Big tannins and big flavor on the palate. Big and long finish. Definitely a GTS here. So much flavor.  Did I say Big? Trading around $425 secondary and worth buying there. 96.5/100

William Larue Weller (WLW)
This has the best nose of the bunch with hot cocoa, Cinnamon Toast Cruch, warm brioche and biscotti. Sweet and strong at the same time. Insane mouthfeel and fantastic finish that goes way beyond two minutes.  Interestingly the fresh crack was a little better than after three weeks.  This is the BTAC to get this year to drink… not surprised it’s trading around $700 secondary. 98/100

 

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And yes… it’s pronounced Bee-Tack… thank you.

Beware of BTAC Sellers on Craigslist!! #BourbonFraud

I work in New York City and occasionally will look for Bourbon on the secondary market in the area so no shipping is needed.  I’ve built a decent network of people that drink, collect and trade; they share the passion and I trust them.  I saw an ad on Craigslist for some very old bottles of George T Stagg.  I haven’t seen these Buffalo Trace Antique Collection bottles pop up on the secondary for a while, I don’t have them and I wanted them.  I was hesitant, but really interested, so I emailed the person for additional photos.  This is what the person sent:

It bothered me that there were a lot of empties in the background.  Was this person refilling them?  Was he just a collector of empty bottles they drank?  I don’t know… I actually keep all my BTAC empties too, and I have a shelf I call my graveyard that all the epic bottles I have drank over the year stay.  I decided to give this person the benefit of the doubt and just ask them why there were so many empties around and if he could send me photos of the laser code.

The person, who claimed to be an avid drinker of BTAC and Handy send me a photo of the UPC symbol on the back, saying that was the only code they knew of.  They also claimed to make lamps out of the empty bottles.  The lamp thing I can see, but I don’t know anyone who has a huge collector of BTAC that doesn’t know about the laser codes–that’s pretty much common knowledge for everyone who trades them.  This was a huge red flag to me that required further inquiry.

I told the person that I was still interested in purchasing the bottles, but expressed my concern about them given all the empties in the background, referencing that there have been known to have fakes/refills going around.  If he was a legit seller he would have come back to me and understood my concern, and willing to talk to me, provided references, etc.  Instead he went on an expletive rant, accused me of being a personal ad craigslist troll, and then deleted the ad.  I guess he was upset that I caught him in a fraud.

The moral of the story is that if you think something smells fishy, ask a few questions and most likely if it is a fraud, it will unravel.  Or if you are smarter than me, just stay away to begin with and only trade/sell with trusted/verified people on better websites like bottle-spot.com.  Is there a small chance that this person wasn’t selling fake bottles?  Yes… but then he’s just a mean person with very bad manners that isn’t worth dealing with anyway.

2017 BTAC Reviews

Here is my take on the 2017 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection:

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Eagle Rare 17
Great nose, flowers, mushrooms, ripe peaches, graham crackers. Much fresher than ER17 in the past, much better than last year. Goes down really easily with some nice warmth in the chest. Good flavors in the center of the tongue. The mouthfeel always lacks on this one due to the chill filtering though. Finish is a solid two minutes. Very nice Bourbon. 94/100

Sazerac 18
Typically my favorite of the bunch, the nose is Necco wafers, rock candy, all spice, cinnamon and creme brûlée. Almost no heat on nose.  Nice little grip on the tongue with enjoyable heat follow through. It has very nice flavors but a touch of bitterness on the back of the tongue but not enough to detract from the enjoyment. Finish is very long. I’ve had better Saz in years past but it’s still exceptionally enjoyable. 96/100

Thomas H Handy 127.2
Big nose. Tons of flavor and heat. Kit-Kat, butterscotch, rock candy, melon balls, Fruit Loops and French Toast. Huge mouthfeel, coats the whole tongue. Very complete and full across the board. Long finish and enjoyable. It’s not as sweet as the 2016 or 2014 and lacking some of the charm but it’s still extremely good. Closer to the 2015 in character. 94/100

William Larue Weller 128.2
Sweet nose, fresh cinnamon toast, buttered raisin bagel, stewed plums and crushed graham crackers. Hotter than the rest so far, but not too hot. The mouthfeel is good but not as complete as I hoped and the back end gets bitter quicker than expected. Good finish. Still, it’s lovely and enjoyable—the bar versus previous years is just very high. 94/100

George T Stagg 129.2
By the nose alone, it’s the most enjoyable of the five: tons of butterscotch, deep rich brioche, Twix, vanilla and Life cereal. So much going on in the nose and not at all too hot. The mouthfeel is perfect: just the right amount of tannins, completely coating every part of the tongue including the roof of the mouth and hitting every taste bud with flavor. This is so complete and balanced it’s crazy.  Each of the previous four was missing something, but the 2017 Stagg has it all. If there was a complaint to be had I’d say it’s that the finish it’s as long as I’d like, but now we are just being nit picky. 98/100

For the New Bourbon Drinker, Top 5 Whiskies to Try

Bourbonmania has hit new highs. Some people say it’s a bubble. I’m not quite ready to say that because I believe Bourbon was ignored for far too long and only now are the masses actually recognizing appreciating it. We have years before this bubble bursts and the quality and quantity will keep getting better and better for the foreseeable future.

Everyone newbie wants to get the newest BTAC, FRSBLE, or OFBB released. To be honest, it’s not just the newbies who want them–it’s all of us. But the difference between the newbies and the old timers to this hobby, is that the older group has already tried it all and realizes that some things are worth the hunt (or paying up on secondary) and some things aren’t;  what is or what isn’t is purely based on your personal preference, not a review or a bloggers piece. Personally I love the Cask strength bourbons and the high proof ryes. Pappy, OFBB, Michter’s wax capsule releases and ER17 are great, but if I come across them at retail I’ll trade them for GTS, THH or FRSBLE any day.

Today I’m putting out my top five whiskies for the “new bourbon drinker”…. These are the ones that I’m happy to drink any day of the week and are readily available.  You won’t find the unicorns on this list, but these are the whiskies that if you want to start the hobby, go for these.

#1 Buffalo Trace: yes the one that costs $20 in your retail store. This may be one of the most overlooked and undervalued whiskies in the world. Yes it’s lower proof than I like but it has the flavor, the mouthfeel, and for goodness sakes, it’s $19!!! It’s the same mashbill as some of their releases that secondary for hundreds of dollars. This is the Bourbon I serve people to see if they like Bourbon or not. It’s just that simple. (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2015/08/11/buffalo-trace-yes-the-standard-one-with-the-buffalo-one-yes-its-very-very-good/)

#2 Pikesville Rye: thank Heaven for Heaven Hill and their high proof 6yr rye. Spicy and amazing in every way and best of all you can usually find it for between $50-$60. When I don’t feel like I deserve a pour of Handy (which is my favorite, but too expensive to make this list), Pikesville comes in a close second. Just an amazing product. (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/pikesville-rye-2-of-the-year/)

#3 Just when you though I was going to go all cheap on you and only mass produced products, I’m going to throw you for a loop. Barrell Bourbon, any batch, is #3 for all new bourbon drinkers. Unlike most limited release, Cask strength, Bourbon releases, this one can usually be found and retailers aren’t jacking up the prices on it. Retails for between $70-$90 for a regular batch and $10 more for a single barrel release, Barrel is worth every penny. As a sourced whiskey, Barrell finds the best of the best and bottles it at cask strength to provide the consumer with the purest Bourbon you can get. I’ve never been disappointed, and more often blown away by what they come out with on a regular basis. I’ve never missed a release, and some of them I’ve stockpiled because I know once they are gone they are gone for good. (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2017/04/25/newest-barrell-bourbon-batch-is-a-home-run-011/)

#4 Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style. Although I wasn’t a huge fan when I first opened it, after sitting for a month or two it really mellows out but keeps the nice spice and strong mouthfeel. By far the best of the series, this one is still pretty readily available at around $60.  Although my review makes it sound just ok, I would revise it up a point or two after airing it out for several months.  (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/12/21/old-forester-1920-very-good-not-great/)

#5 Blanton’s. The Original Single barrel Bourbon. This is most people’s gateway to great Bourbon, and I was no different. Still pretty readily available and looks great on the shelf. I’ve never been disappointed by any Blanton’s I’ve ever had. If you are overseas and can get the Straight From the Barrel, it’s even better and totally worth snagging. (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/04/02/4-bottle-blantons-tasting/)

I really wanted to put OGD114 on this list, but you can never find it. I also wanted to put Mellow Corn on it, but again, almost every store is sold out of it. Part of the criteria for making the list was being readily available and not trading for silly prices on the secondary, which is why ETL, which is amazing, obviously got cut.

Anyway… I hope people like the list and learn from it. Happy to answer any questions on DM on twitter or on the comment section of the blog. Happy drinking!

P.S. Yes this is my top shelf, and you won’t find most of these on this list, but if anyone wants to come by I’m happy to pour any of them for my readers!

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http://www.barrellbourbon.com

http://www.buffalotrace.com

https://www.blantonsbourbon.com/

https://www.oldforester.com/

http://www.pikesvillerye.com/

2016 BTAC George T Stagg: Proper Glassware Matters!

I first had 2016 GTS at a bar a month ago.  It wasn’t it the proper glassware, the situation wasn’t perfect, and when I tried it, I found it to be way too hot on the nose and unable to enjoy it.  When I was able to acquire one a couple days ago (thanks bottle-spot.com!) I considering flipping it, but after a few drinks, drunker heads prevailed and I opened it.  I decided that I will review it twice to see how it evolves given how high the proof is.  I also decided to do the first  review in a Norlan glass to help focus on the flavors and reduce some of the heat.

Right after opening it: the Norlan glass is amazing because I’m finding this to be not nearly as hot as I remember it in the crappy bar glass.  The color is pretty much as dark as I’ve ever seen for a bourbon.  On the nose, French toast brioche with maple syrup, buttered cinnamon toast, butterscotch, candied walnuts and subtle charcoal.  The taste is BIG.  Huge tannins, huge mouthfeel and a big amount of heat.  This is so complex, and there is so much happening on the palate.  The heat quickly dissipated leaving the oak notes, tannins and the flavors.  The finish is several minutes long finishing nicely.  When you first taste it you think that the oak tannins will overpower everything, but they integrate nicely and much better than expected in an amazing way.  This is a very special bourbon.  I’m very glad I opened this because it is nothing like when I tried it in the bar with the wrong glassware.

A couple weeks later: this time in the classic Glencairn glass… the aroma is so rich with everything from a couple weeks ago and even though not in the Norlan glass, the heat isn’t that bad.  It’s incredible what a bad bar glass will do to the experience.  The taste is huge, big tannins, big flavor, with an insane finish.  So much sweetness and spice the lingers for minutes.  This is a special bourbon.

144.1 proof, a monster, but in the right glassware, it can be tamed.  Highly recommend picking this one up if you can find it at the lower end of secondary, but given pricing these days, it’s not easy to find.  97.5/100

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