Everything worth buying 20-100% above secondary prices… complete joke. Staff is pretty obnoxious about it too… they know they have good stuff and seem to rather just keep it and make fun of you rather than sell it at secondary prices.
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.
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.
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.
OK… so I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets this question all the time from friends, family, co-workers, etc…. Usually it starts out like “hey, can you get me some Pappy?”… yes I can, you want a ORVW for $450-$500? “Oh, I though you had the hookup, can you get it for me at retail?” No… I can’t get it for myself at retail… then eventually we just arrive at the Seinfeldian response of “well, why don’t you just tell me what you want to pay…” So, here is my list of the best bottles that are available and can be purchased for under $100 in 2018… I changed some of them from 2017’s list for some reasons including eliminating certain bottles like ETL, RHF, BTAC, Stagg Jr, etc because the MSRP just rarely is the price you see in stores, at least in the Tri-State area… These are in no particular order. I also realize every is going to have a different list here, and please add anything you think should be on here in comments! Happy New Year everyone!!
Buffalo Trace… yes, the original one that retails for $30. It’s the same mashbill that goes into bottles that are 1k’s of dollars in secondary, same distillery. Whether it’s straight or in a cocktail, it’s lovely. Always make sure you have at least one of them on your bar at all times.
Barrell Bourbon Batches… I’ve never had a batch I didn’t like. I’ve had some that I’d LOVED. The only one that was impossible to find was Batch 011, because it won best Bourbon of the Year from San Francisco Wine & Spirits. At least one batch is usually available at my local store, it looks great, a perfect gift and a wonderful drinker. You will not be disappointed.
Foursquare 2004 or 2005… cask strength, usually $60-$90, and yes, it’s a Rum! Aged in Bourbon barrels and others, non-chill filtered, so much flavor. These guys are the real deal.
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof… I almost didn’t put this on the list, but it seems like this is more frequent this year and I usually see it on the shelf. I’ve never had a bad one, and I’ve had quite a few good ones. I prefer the old bottle design, but if they are making more of them with the new bottle, I’m OK with that. Last year I had Old Weller Antique on the list, but given I can never find it anymore without texting my local liquor store owner ahead of time, I’m bumping them for ECBP due to 2018’s availability. Should be around $60-$70.
Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Bourbon… didn’t make the cut last year, just squeezed in this year and at $65, a solid member of the list. I find that the first crack is just ok, but if you leave it open for a few months it gets a lot better… if I were to re-rate it, I’d say it’s a solid 92. Worth having on your home bar.
You don’t need to buy Pappy or BTAC to make the people on your list happy! Anything on this list will show you know your whiskey and you care about making your friends and family happy. Happy New Year!
#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….