It’s time to take a serious look at some serious Ciders….

I’ve come full circle… wine, craft beer (IPAs, stouts, sours…), Bourbon… now it’s time to take a serious look at some serious ciders.  I’m not talking about Strongbow or something like that, I mean some of the best ciders in the world that are being made in our own back yard (assuming you live in/next to New York State).

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There are two cideries up near Ithaca that I want to highlight: Eve’s Cidery and Redbyrd Orchard Cider.  Both have been around a long time and are producing amazing ciders.  Two that I had recently were Perry Pear from Eve’s and Starblossom from Redbyrd.  Both made in the Methode Champenoise style, refermenting in the bottle to create the bubbles.  Complex, tasty, interesting… and crazy value.  In the $20-$25 range each, a bargain compared to other liquor.  I highly recommend picking these up if you can.  Ithaca is a 4.5 hour drive from Manhattan, but if you have a few podcasts backed up on your phone, it might be a good way to crank those out.  The tasting room at South Hill Cider is also worth stopping by, as is Finger Lakes Cider House. (I prefer the producers I mentioned for their cider way more, but their tourist/tasting options are much more limited).

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For my favorite West Coast Producer, Tilded Shed Ciderworks is doing great things, and their Wickson is my favorite.  Again, a bubbly one, perfect for a Tuesday or the holidays given the price.  Please don’t buy them all though, as I want more and they are running low.

 

For an easy day trip up to the Hudson Valley, doing the tour at Angry Orchard is worth the time.  They have a 60 acre orchard doing some really cool experimental stuff…

All these ciders are fermented and bottled dry… these aren’t the sweet ones you might have remembered from college.  Some have more funk than others, so those who like sour beers are more likely to like the funkier ones.  I highly recommend trying them all and making your own decisions.  I love finding value… the best Bourbon out there is around 1k a bottle, while a good one goes for $80… a GREAT wine might cost $500-$800 (or Harlan which is now over 1k), while a good one is around $100… the best cider on the planet right now can be had for just around $25.  If that isn’t value, I don’t know what is!

Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Cornerstone Rye

This review is about six months late… sorry… and this isn’t even my first bottle I opened.  I love this rye, contends with Thomas H Handy for my favorite rye of the year because of the price point… I posted a range of scores from a sample I had in August, but now that I’m done with the bottle, I’m giving the full one.

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Great bottle, heavy cap… just looks great. Beautiful nose, love of sugar and spice coming through, Necco wafer, cinnamon stick, Chex mix, melted butter and almost no heat.

Really nice oily mouthfeel with enjoyable tannins up front with a flowing and spicy finish.  Just a really nice pour here.

This might be my favorite Master’s Keep release, even if it’s $175.  Worth grabbing a few.  95/100.

Pam… you could be a little nicer…

I was driving through Walden, NY on some cider trips and little Bourbon hunting side trip… managed to grab a few Staggs and ORVWs… however, Pam wasn’t particularly nice… a touch rude, but that’s ok… I don’t need to buy her overpriced bottles…

Stagg was $649.99… Pappy 15 was $1299.99… but she was willing to give it to me for 1200… thanks but no thanks.

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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The BTAC Reviews…. Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2019

Clearly these are all amazing whiskies. I get a lot of negative feedback on how I can possibly grade some of these so low. I take into account prices when I do, so if it’s a secondary $500 bottle but tastes no where near that, the score will suffer. Hate my system or love it, thanks for reading. All clicks are good clicks, right???

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Sazerac 18 / Saz18
Good but subtle nose. very subtle rock candy, subtle hints of mushroom umami, watermellon Jello , #2 pencil shavings, orange clove. Reminds of Saz18 past but less vibrant. Moderate mouthfeel, starts slow but builds up over time. Clove, Skittles and graham crackers on the tongue. The finish is pretty good and doesn’t drop off… it still gives you that 18yr dry dust just in the back of the tongue to let you know it’s the oldest of the bunch. This is one of the better Saz18s from a taste and finish perspective, but the nose is a little lacking. The tanked stuff is still the best. Easy drinker, but still really complex. 95/100. Not going to chase given secondary prices.

William Larue Weller / WLW 128.0
Rich deep nose with moderate heat, spicy ginger snaps, cinnamon raisin toast, allspice, teddy grahams and a touch of Panettone in the background dipped in tawny port. Big mouthfeel, tannins cover all over. The initial taste is a little bitter though which is disappointing. The finish is long but never goes sweet as I hoped it to be. It’s a big wheater, but just comes up short for the Weller name. Nose is better than the taste. I will say that this bottle had been open for three days and I have the feeling of you left it open for a month it might grade much better. 93/100. Not going to chase, last two years were much better.

George T Stagg / GTS 116.9
Crazy sweet and smooth nose. Rare for a Stagg to not give you at least a soft punch in the nostrils. Deep dark butterscotch, Cherry Cola, Juicy Fruit, stewed blackberry currant and a hint of cedar closet. Quick spicy hit up front that melts into an easy velvet caramel blanket over the tongue. Very long finish. The lower proof is noticeable on the diminished heat, especially if you side by side the 144.1. The finish is very long and it’s enjoyable. If people negatively judge and price this based on lower proof I’m happy to buy them… 96.5/100. This one has been the cheapest on secondary the last two years, I’ll try to grab a couple of these.

Thomas H Handy / THH 125.7
Spicy and moderate heat on the nose. Blondies, red hots, cloves, with a hint of vermouth. Biggest and hottest of the initial tastes, a real mouth roof grabber. Lots of the cinnamon red hot flavor with more spice to follow, although it is a little one dimensional for a Handy. Finish is pretty good though. 93/100. Will not chase, the previous releases are much better.

So in terms of my rankings, and I apologize I wasn’t able to try the ER17 this year… but I’m going Stagg, Saz18, WLW, THH. I think I’ll be an outlier but that’s what my palate is telling me. I will also like to say even though my scores are not high, these are still some of the best whiskies on the planet and you should try them if you can.

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HazMat Release from Barrell Craft Spirits!! 13yr Canadian Rye. Unicorn Alert!!

Unicorn alert… Single Barrel from Barrell Craft Spirits… 13yr Rye… Barrel L943, bottle #100… this clocks in at a HazMat 145.2 proof.  When I saw this, I grabbed a few… don’t think I’ll ever come across a Barrell HazMat again and I strongly regret not getting enough of the ECBP 140.2 proof back when I could…

Nose… the moment you pop the cork the nose jumps out at you–before even pouring the glass.  You can tell this is Canadian… maple syrup and vanilla rock candy permeates the room.  With the whiskey is the glass I’m also getting Necco wafers, heavy cream, butterscotch and gingerbread houses.  The crazy part is, I’m not getting much burn here on the nose, and this is HazMat!

The mouthfeel is great, completely oily covering the whole mouth.  There is decent heat and you can tell it’s not bottled in bond, but it’s enjoyable and balanced.  There is a strong tannin structure that goes right through the center and the finish builds up momentum with more and more flavor coming through.  This is a two to three minute finish.

In one way this is very different than any of the other Barrell releases I’ve had before… but it’s also consistent with quality and nuance and putting out really good whiskies, straight from the barrel.  If you can find this on the shelf, do not hesitate to grab it (or two or three!).  Finding HazMat whiskies that are good are extremely hard to find, and this is one of them.  Will be something that probably just goes up in value due to scarcity, but if you find them, grab two, so you can still open one.  I will probably open another one once this is gone… It’s worth it!  96/100.