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.

Shave and a haircut. Four quick reviews.

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Old Forester Rye. Super candied nose. Bananas Forester, banana split, skittles, marshmallows, graham crackers. Pretty easy down for 100 Proof. Medium mouthfeel. Nice hug. Finish does go a little bitter at the end though after a minute. Lots of hype here. Very good for $25, but not one I will bunker. 88/100.

1792 Full Proof NCF Single Barrel from 99 Bottles, 125 Proof. This one was around $55, not bad for a Barrel strength whiskey. Nutty, coconut, Necco wafers and waffles. Better mouthfeel and medium heat for the Proof. Mouthfeel builds with intensity in a good way with an enjoyable hug. Caramel and butter comes through at the end. Finish a solid two minutes. I’m generally not a 1792 fan, but this is the best one I’ve ever had. If you like 1792, this is a must get bottle. 92/100.

Barrell Dovetail finished in Dunn Cabernet barrels, 122.9 Proof. Incredible nose, so much going on. Brown sugar, Twix, cassis, totally enveloping. Crazy how easy this goes down for the Proof. I’m loving this Dunn cask finish. Finish 2-3 minutes. This is totally unique and special—tongue completely enveloped with tart cherry and tannic goodness. Glad I grabbed a couple at $80. Seeing it trade double that in secondary. 96/100.

Jefferson’s Presidential Select 16yr Twin Oak. Mixed reviews on this one, but going in unbiased. Strong wood nose but with waves of vanilla and charcoal. For 94 Proof the mouthfeel is better than expected. Interesting tastes but certainly quite a bit of oak. On the good side the finish goes for two minutes and improves instead of bowing out into bitterness. It’s a good Bourbon, but probably not worth the retail price. Worth a try at a bar. 92/100.

Very Disappointed in American Whiskey in NYC

I was excited to visit American Whiskey. I was going with clients so I knew I could expense it (within reason).  I arrived first and flipped through the book. Big selection and mostly the prices were reasonable.

I get to the BTAC selection. Prices reasonable so I order 5 pours each of WLW, Saz18 and GTS. The waitress leaves for ten to fifteen minutes before coming back saying they are out of all of them and they only have that Handy. I love Handy but it’s not worth the same as the other three but I still order a round.  She also didn’t know which vintage, because the profile has varied dramatically from year to year.

On the way to the restroom I run into one of the managers and express my frustration that several of the whiskies I ordered were still listed on the menu. He said it costs too much money to update the menu and that they get BTAC every year so they don’t cross them out or reprint them. I’m thinking to myself…. How much could 100 pieces of printed paper cost? It’s gotta be less than the single round of drinks I ordered first. And they lost 15 minutes of time where I could have ordered again.  One round of printing would have been paid for by just me and the extra round of 6x $40 THH’s I bought.

The waitstaff was extremely uninformed about most of the whiskey. The management didn’t seem to care about the patrons or the whiskey.

On the positive note, they do have a pretty decent collection and the prices aren’t crazy. Another pet peeve though… they have several pages that they will do 1oz pours but they refuse to do 1oz pours with others. I even asked to split them for my 6 people but wouldn’t. The bartender didn’t seem to get it. Painful.

Here’s a place with so much potential, decent selection, fair prices, but they fail on so many levels, largely due to laziness. They need to invest in the staff’s knowledge; they need to make the staff care about the customers; they need to have a proper inventory system so time isn’t wasted looking for whisky that no longer exists; they need to update their menus so customers don’t get frustrated (5 of the first 6 things I ordered were gone); they need to let all whiskies do 1oz pours and they need to find a way to make me come back. If I were an owner or manager I would want all these things fixed quickly and the best part is that none of these are insurmountable. It’s a big shame.  I’m happy to provide consulting services to them if they want.  They are leaving so much money on the table…

On TripAdvisor, I struggled whether to give this place two or three stars. The food was ok but not great, the service was pretty bad, the pricing was decent, the selection was very good but the extreme frustration I had with the menu, poor inventory control and the vast amount of time I wasted waiting for rounds after rounds because they were searching for whiskies that they didn’t know they were out of stock makes me go to a two star rating. I’d do 2.5 if I could but two is fine. Management should take a trip to Jack Rose in DC to see how they should operate their business.

Another sketchy liquor store… and $2500 Pappy 20 behind the counter!

If you are ever in midtown Manhattan at 55th & 8th ave… be sure NOT to stop at the local liquor store…. Westerly Liquor

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$211 for CEHT Small Batch?  $200 for Stagg Jr? Seriously?