Top 5 Drams of the Year 2016

Another year gone by and I’ve read so many negative stories, yet, there were some pretty awesome bourbons released this year.  Overall the prices have gone up, but you can still find bargains and making friends with your local retailer has never been more important… onto the list!

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#1 2016’s Buffalo Trace Thomas H Handy 126.2 proof 97.5/100  secondary price: $300 (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/11/27/btac-thomas-h-handy-2016/)  This was my favorite of the BTAC releases, with a close second being GTS, but THH is far easier to get your hands on and better price giving it the edge.  Handy may be the BTAC that is least respected, but time and time again it is my favorite release.

#2 2016 Release Four Roses Elliott’s Select OESK 52.9% abv 91/100 secondary price $225 (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/08/15/four-roses-elliotts-select/)  There was a lot of worry when Jim Rutledge retired from Four Roses, but when Brent Elliott came out with this bottle immediately afterwards, all fears were assuaged.  In fact, this bottle was substantially better than the 2016 Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition release, although not quite as good as last year’s winner, the 2015 FRSBLE.  I think we can all sleep soundly knowing that Four Roses is in good hands.

3# Barrell Bourbon New Years 2017 retail price $99.99 (for now!) (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2017/01/02/happy-new-year-barrell-bourbon-2017/)  Another top award for this up and comer.  This is their first true marriage release of 4 different barrels from Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee, and once again blows the competition away.  Grab a few while you still can as the first release of this bad boy probably will be worth a lot of money in the near future…. keep your eye

#4 Willett Family Estate Single Barrel Bourbon #438 119.8 proof 96/100 $120 @ gift shop (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/01/27/willett-family-estate-single-barrel-bourbon-438-holy-moley/)  This was one of the bottles I was lucky enough to buy when I visited Willett in January of 2016.  This was a honey barrel if I’ve ever tasted one.  If you are ever able to get some of this, don’t hesitate!

#5 Garrison Brothers Single Barrel Bourbon #3824 97 proof 96/100 $100 retail price (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/11/24/go-visit-garrison-brothers-single-barrel-amazing/) Garrison Brothers consistently puts out a great product.  I also visited their distillery this year and really enjoyed meeting Dan and the team.  Very excited to see the 2017 Cowboy Bourbon when it is released next year!

There were so many that almost made the cut… I tried a couple rums this year that were really good including one from Balcones (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/06/29/balcones-texas-rum-special-release-batch-15-1-63-9-abv/) and another from Barrell (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/12/03/barrell-rum-batch-001-7yr-jamaican-pot-still-rum/).  Barrell’s Whiskey 002 was another one that almost made the cut, but after careful consideration I preferred the New Years (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/04/24/barrell-whiskey-002-magical-sherry-cask-finish/).  Most lists have Booker’s Rye on their top 5, and although it is a good whiskey, it’s just too hot and expensive and does not deserve to make it in my very humble opinion (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/08/23/bookers-rye/).  PHC 10yr was also hotly debated, and I thought it was extremely good, but given the price, just not quite worthy vs the Garrison or the WFE (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/09/19/phc10-parkers-heritage-collection-10-24yr-bourbon/).

I’ll have my top five disappointments in the world of bourbon coming up soon… thanks again for a great 2016 to everyone who reads this blog.  Readership has gone up 5x and I hope to continue that trend into 2017.  I’d love to hear what your top 5 of the year were?  Happy New Year!

http://www.barrellbourbon.com/  http://www.garrisonbros.com/  http://www.kentuckybourbonwhiskey.com/  http://fourrosesbourbon.com/  https://www.buffalotracedistillery.com/

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Orphan Barrel Whoop & Holler

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Perhaps the photo gave it away?  Once you taste this, it will explain everything.  Let’s not waste our times on the history of Orphan Barrel, or that this is just some 28yr old Dickel juice aged somewhere else, or why it’s called American Whiskey instead of Bourbon… I’m going to let other bloggers write about than and instead I’m just going to get into the review…

The color is extremely light, just from looking at it, I would have assumed it was a 2-3 year bourbon.  Very hard to believe this has been aged for 28 years.

The nose has aromas of my bathroom garbage can, used Band-Aids, pine needles and rubber.  The first time I tried it a few weeks ago it was more potent, now, although the smells are the same, they are less pronounced, but nothing better coming through.

The taste, hard to believe, is even worse than the smell.  It is dry, astringent, unappealing, just not good at all.  It has the feeling of being massively over oaked, without any of the positive aspects of oak–pretty amazing feat in itself.  I guess the only redeeming quality of the taste is that I’m getting a slight burnt orange aroma, which is better than the trash I was getting before.  The taste just brings a frown to your face, like you are sucking on a lemon, but a lemon that tastes like trash.  Just gross.

Now… here is the kicker.  I paid $199.99 for this thing.  I actually bought 6 of them for $1200.  I was convinced I was going to flip them and make a killing on it.  Can you imagine how upset I was when I got home and tried it?  For full disclosure, I did list them on bottle-spot and was able to get rid of all of them, after shipping costs, for just a little more than I paid for them, but I feel bad for those people who bought them.  This is just gross.  And the fact that Diageo had the balls to not only put this out on the market, but charge $200 a bottle for it is so bad.  It’s even worse that I bought it for that price.  I keep buying these stupid Orphan Barrels, partially because they tend to go up in value and also because they have such pretty labels and look good on my bar.  Why do I keep doing this to myself?  I hope everyone reads this before they go out and buy another Orphan Barrel ever again… I have just one more thing to say… Diageo: go fuck yourselves.  1/100

Gifted Horse: Orphan Barrel’s Newest Release

Ok…. Let me be upfront here. I’ve bought every Orphan Barrel release to date and have been largely disappointed by all of them. The only two I have legitimately enjoyed were the Lost Prophet 22yr (overall) and the Forged Oak 15yr (for value).  I picked up this bottle for $59.99.

Gifted Horse is a blend of 17yr and 4yr whiskey. Is the story about the accidental blending true? Probably not but it’s still a fun diddy to put on the side of the bottle.  It’s about 60% 4yr and 40% 17yr.

The color looks about right for the age mix with a medium dark amber hue, and the bottles all look good with a very cool design on the label.  For this release they changed the bottle to have a much larger cap and wider opening–subtle change, but a good one making it look more substantial.

Ginger snaps, mushrooms, chili peppers, plantains and fresh leather. So much going on here. For 115 proof the nose isn’t that hot.

Nice gritty mouthfeel, really bringing out the earthiness on the palate. Heat is extremely manageable, barely even recognizing a cask strength bottling. Enjoyable palate with a decent finish.

The story about accidentally blending a 17yr and a 4yr is probably complete horse shit as opposed to gifted horse. It probably was an over oaked 17yr that when blended with a 4yr was very enjoyable. Whether the blend was on purpose, fated by the stars or a random occurrence, I’m glad they released this batch the the public. 93/100.

Enjoy this release from Diageo and I deem it to be the best value they have released to date.  If you can get it from your local liquor store for $60, it’s definitely worth it.

 

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#1 Whiskey of the Year vs some lesser Rye…

Like everyone else I was a little surprised to see Crown Royal take the #1 Whiskey of the World title, but also decided that I should judge it for myself. I also thought it would be fun to try my first bottle of BTAC, that I traded for via bottle-spot. This Handy is 129.2 proof, which I believe is the 2011 bottling.

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye, made from 90% rye whiskey is a Blended Canadian Whiskey and is 90 proof. What’s the other 10%???  It has a nice honey yellow color to it. The Handy is a much richer and deeper color with copper tones.

The Crown had a very sweet nose to it: cotton candy, rock candy, honeysuckle, daffodils and a hint of graham crackers. Very little spice and almost no heat on the nose.

The Handy has very rich deep favors of butterscotch, Reese’s peanut butter cups, cracked pepper and yams.

The Crown has a very nice mouthfeel and the sweetness is confirmed on the palate. There is a nice surprise of a bit of heat which I didn’t think would emerge. The mid palate is a little weak but the finish is quite enjoyable.

The Handy is a big drink, decent amount of heat and big on flavor. The mouthfeel is great and the finish is long. The tannins are integrated and the whole experience is excellent.

Here’s the deal. These Ryes are worlds apart, but so are the prices. The Crown goes for about $30 while the Handy trades on the secondary market for $300. The crown is a good value whiskey but isn’t a great whiskey. The Handy is a great whiskey, but only to be consumed in special occasions, or in my case, tonight, Tuesday night.

Crown Royal Norther Harvest Rye 90/100
BTAC Thomas Handy Sazerac Rye 96.5/100

 

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Barterhouse Vs Rhetoric: Only the consumer is the loser here…

Of the current five Orphan Barrels released to date, these are the last two that I have not reviewed and I figured I would do them together to finish them off.  Like pulling off a band-aid, I decided it was better just to end the pain and finish them off as quickly as possible.

The first is Barterhouse 20yr 45.1% abv which is a Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey. The second is Rhetoric, the 21yr release, also 45.1% abv and is a Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Both are bottled in Tullahoma, TN. The last three bottles from Diageo were disappointing to me but interesting in their own way. The bar for me is low for these given how expensive they are.  Note that Rhetoric initially released a 20yr the year before, but I was unable to obtain it.  They say it is the same barrel selections, and that they have enough to release a 22yr next year and maybe we’ll even see a 23 and 24yr?

Both have a medium dark amber color.

Barterhouse has a nice candied orange nose, with some maple charcoal, leather saddle and wet bark. It’s an inviting nose but not overwhelming. Rhetoric has similar notes but more of a mushroomy forest floor undertones and less sweet citrus and maple; there exists hints of ash and smoke lurking deep in the glass. With the low abv, and this much age, it’s not surprising that neither have too much heat on the nose.

Barterhouse is definitely sweet on the tongue. The citrus comes through but there is a spicy pepper on the back that comes through on the palate that I missed on the nose. The spice and a touch of heat continues for a while extending the finish. This isn’t overly woody, a curse other Orphans suffered from. Rhetoric is much more woody and tannic than Barterhouse, equally spicy, but lacks some of the sweetness. The finish is equally long, but has much more wood. Both of these Bourbons are big with impressive finishes.

These are both enjoyable but only one of them is remotely worth the price. The Barterhouse wins. Whatever they did with this one, it retains a nice sweetness, while the Rhetoric shows like it was kept in wood just a few years too long. Both are expensive which hurt their scores.   Either way, neither are must owns, but they do look nice on the shelf.  It is important to mention that when Rhetoric comes out next year with a 23yr, it is best to steer clear of it as my guess is it will continue to get worse as the wood takes over.
Barterhouse 89/100
Rhetoric 21 83/100

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Blade & Bow 22: Very good whiskey, not good value though.

I apologize for the lack of attention the last couple weeks… life has been very busy, I did some traveling for work and now it is football season again… The highlight of the last couple weeks was finding a bar in London that had pours of George T Stagg for only GBP 16.  Not bad at all!  Anyway, I have a huge backlog of reviews to do and hopefully will be able to bang out a few over the next couple days.  I also took notes from the Stagg and will be posting those as well….

But today I will be reviewing the “new” Diageo product, Blade & Bow 22, and will later on be doing their regular product:

Diageo out of now where comes up with a 22 year old Bourbon, bottled by “Stitzel-Weller Distilling Co.”  Although, not the Stitzel-Weller Distillery… so… if it shut down in 1991, then a release would be 24ish years?  Unless it was bottled or removed from barrel after 22 years and only now coming to market.  Diageo often gets a bad wrap, and I’ve certainly thrown a few punches in their direction when it comes to the Orphan Barrel Series, but I’m going in with an open mind for their newest release.

Color is dark amber, like a black tea you left the bags in for an hour too long.

The nose is dominated by wood and spicy notes: cinnamon sugar, charcoal on the grill, a touch of licorice on the back and caramel in the middle.  There is a lot of wood bark on the front and back of the nose, but there is a lot more going on too, so hopefully it isn’t an oak bomb.

Good mouth feel, nice tannins and oil, enjoyable on the mouth and the burn is moderate.  The spice and wood are there, but so are the sweet notes dripping off the side of the tongue.  There’s a weightiness to the sip that maintains a long finish.  Certainly an enjoyable mouthful, and it keeps going for a couple minutes.  The second day I tried it I enjoyed it even more.  Has a very nice consistency to it, but not one that is a game changer.

It’s better than any of the Orphan Barrel Series I’ve tried so far, but it is very pricey, typically found for $169.99.  It loses points for the high price, but it’s still extremely enjoyable.  Not a must own, or even a must try, but if you do happen to have a friend who has a bottle, be nice to them and ask for a dram… but don’t lose your mind trying to find one, it’s not worth the effort or the cash.  92/100.

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Oprhan Barrel Series Continues with Lost Prophet 22… maybe the best, still overrated.

After this one, only one to go to complete the current Orphan Barrel series, and thus far I have been pretty disappointed.  Largely it has been because the costs have been so high… all have been interesting in their own way, but none of have had any real value to them. This week I saw a blog that said Orphan Barrel has just had their TTB label approved for Whoop & Holler, a 28 year whiskey.  My guess is that it will also be an overoaked, not exciting bourbon, yet I will still try to buy 3 of them and will be first in line to buy it.  I will act like a Mets fan in April, self-imposed ignorantly excited, ready to open my wallet for September tickets, only to subconsciously know I will be disappointed again and should clearly know better.  But Hope Springs Eternal, and that’s how I feel when I try Lost Prophet.  As a Yankees fan I should know better….

When I first opened the bottle and it needed some air… Very flat on the open so I let it sit for 15 minutes.  Seriously folks, we need to do some research on this first open bottle thing…

Color looks like a black tea with two bags….

Interesting spicy nose, Necco wafers, cloves, Skippy Chunky Peanut Butter, toasted buttered cinnamon raisin bagel… Mild heat on the nose.

Very smooth, yet spicy palate. Very tasty but the finish is just okay, and not as long as I would have hoped. The mouthfeel is good but not great.  The nose teased me, but the taste just didn’t follow through.  So many great bourbons have finishes that last for one, two, three minutes or more… this was barely 15 seconds.

Thus far, Lost Prophet is my favorite of the Orphan Barrel series but given the price, it’s just not a must own. For value, Forged Oak is probably better, and given that it’s much cheaper and easier to find, if you feel to need to buy one of these, go for that one.  Overall, this is enjoyable, but if you don’t get to taste it, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it.  89/100.

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