Barrell Whiskey 18yr Single Barrel Pick: WhiskeyMentors ButterBall

This is Irene’s pick from Canterbury Liquors in CT and is the WhiskeyMentors QS01 ButterBall.  It is Barrell Whiskey Private Release barrel A123, age stated at 18yrs.  So what I learned from these recent releases is that only the single barrel picks are age stated at 18yrs; while the others are also 18yrs, apparently the new liquor rules about blending and finishing make it very difficult to keep the age statement on the bottle.  This one comes in at 117.6 proof, is not finished, just the pure single barrel.

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The interesting thing about this bottle is when I first cracked it, I was not a fan.  It was very hot and lacked complexity.  I sat it down and a week later it completely transformed.  I never publish reviews after trying something only once after a fresh crack; you always need to see the evolution once air hits.

I know why Irene named this ButterBall… it has a punch of Jif peanut butter right in the face.  Lots of nuttiness and there is a decent amount of heat, but that certainly has turned into a secondary feature.

Good mouthfeel, totally coats the mouth, focusing in the front.  You get that good nuttiness again and the tannins come through causing your mouth to water.  Secondary taste of Cow Tail candy, buttered toast, Skittles and Captain Crunch.  The finish is multiple minutes, and never goes bitter.

This is a good single barrel pick and it’s very hard to find something with an 18yr age statement.  Quite the unicorn!  I’m glad this one was put aside and not finished as it has a very unique profile.  96/100

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Barrell Whiskey Private Release: Ratafia de Champagne Finish

A continuing part of my Barrell Craft Spirits special release series of reviews, today is the Barrell Whiskey Private Release Kentucky Whiskey Finished in a Ratafia de Champagne Barrel.  This bottle is based on an 18yr old Kentucky whiskey (Bourbon mashbill but aged in used cooperage), and they finished it in something, I’ll be honest, that I did not know it existed. I have to google what Ratafia de Champagne was: a sweet liqueur based on Champagne grapes.  Sounds delicious!

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AH09 Blend clocks in at 122.42 proof, no aged stated, but we know it is predominantly a 18yr Kentucky Whiskey.  Beautiful bottle with smart blue label.

The nose is sweet with almond butter, Twizzlers, crushed graham crackers, dried cherries, Butterfinger.  There is heat on the nose, but only when you go deep in the glass.

Medium mouthfeel with overwhelming tastes of nuts: almonds, toasted chestnuts and peanut butter than morphs into dried fruit and red delicious apple skins.  The finish is about 90 seconds.

This is a really enjoyable whiskey and with a unique finish.  I bought two extra ones, one for my bunker and one for the cabinet as I do not think the open one will be lasting too long.  96/100.

I bought mine here, they may have a few left: https://www.mashandgrape.com/collections/barrell-craft-spirits?utm_source=barrellbourbon&utm_medium=barcart

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https://www.barrellbourbon.com/privatereleasewhiskey

Barrell Craft Spirits: Joe’s Playlist #2 Genesis MG01

Barrell Craft Spirits has recently put out several very limited, very special releases.  Many of them are based on a 18yr Kentucky Whiskey, some single barrels, some barrel finishes.  In addition they released a tiny production via social media called “Joe’s Playlist.”  If you weren’t following them on Instagram, you might have missed it.  I think there might be a couple bottles left on Mash & Grape (link).  Today I will be reviewing the Joe’s Playlist #2: Genesis.

Even though I usually don’t give the review until the end,  I will say that I liked this one so much that I reached out to Barrell Bourbon directly to ask them more about this specific barrel.  It was unique and so good, and only 4yrs old, so I needed to understand how it was possible for it to be this delicious.  Joe said “these are amazing barrels that I bought three years ago.  They have been aged in Indiana, New York, Tennessee and Kentucky.  they are among my favorites and are a part of our company history.”  Four years old, aged in four states, maybe all the moving around helped expedite the aging?  I don’t know… on to the review:

Nice amber color, in the beautiful iconic Barrell bottle, their rye label is green and has the Playlist label on top “Genesis Track #2”.  Barrel number MG01 (clearly a reference to MGP), age stated 4yrs, 119.56 proof, straight rye whiskey and distilled in Indiana.

Cinnamon stick, rock candy and eucalyptus on the nose, very strong aroma but very little heat. Never would have guessed the age based on nose.  Secondary notes of dried orange peel, nutmeg and spearmint.

Epic mouthfeel, totally coats everything and the rock candy, spearmint and spices come through strong. There is a decent hug, more than the nose indicates but very enjoyable. The finish goes on for multiple minutes. The spice lingers for so long and not once does it fade to bitter. What gets me is how thick the mouthfeel is and how enjoyable. This is special.

The only downside to this is that it’s a single barrel and will never be duplicated. It’s an insanely good pour and rivals the best Thomas H Handy I’ve had and certainly beats last year’s.  I was told that this is the barrel that inspired Joe’s Playlist and I know why. If there is a MG02 of MG03 I know that I will be in line to get it!  I bought this bottle myself and I’m glad I bought two of them! 98/100

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Newbourbondrinker’s Top 5 Whiskies of 2019!

Here are my top 5 whiskies/bourbons of 2019!  This year I decided to do a little something different… Instead of ranking them by my previous scores, I decided to do a little blind tasting of them… here are the contenders, with links to the reviews:

So I had my wife pour these 5 into Glencairn glasses, and to mix it up a little bit, we also put in four others just as decoys: an OWA SB NCF store pick, a Buffalo Trace SB store pick, Barrell Bourbon batch 022 and OGD 114.  Instead of giving you the play by play, here is how they all ended up:

  1. BCS 2019
  2. Cowboy 2019
  3. Barrell Bourbon Batch 022
  4. GTS 2019
  5. OWA SB NCF
  6. Cornerstone Rye
  7. Buffalo Trace SB
  8. Wiser’s 23yr
  9. OGD 114

The Top 4 were close together, but BCS took the title, while the bottom four were a bit back.  Nice to see one of the “decoys” make it into the top 5 and beat 3 of the other contenders.  The value pick clearly is BB022, edging out GTS and being much cheaper… and everyone knows that if you can snag a great store pick OWA SB NCF, that’s always worth snagging as many as you can–unfortunately those are harder and harder to get at MSRP, but even at double, still worth it for the right pick.

I’m so sorry it took so long to put out this blog, but first quarter has been a little crazy, and now that we are all working from home, I have a little more time to catch up with older posts that were partially written and actually follow through with this blind tasting!

Cream of Kentucky Initial Release, Disappointing

Sorry for delay here… I’m releasing it over a year late… I just was hoping that it would get better, and it improved mildly, but not enough… here we go:

Seems like  a lot of bloggers got a free bottle of this one… I bought it on bottle-spot secondary for $160… I guess I’m not getting a lot of love from the free bottle Bourbon Gods these days… But allows my conscious to be clear when I write these reviews.  I never got into it for the free booze anyway…

Bright copper color. Bottle is fairly generic and the plastic wrapper around the top seems cheap to be honest. Juice looks great in the glass.

First crack was heat and a lot of it.

After letting it sit for a while you still get a lot of heat but it’s moderated. Really nutty nose, almond butter, toasted pecans, Reese Peanut Butter cups… afterwards graham crackers and all-spice.

Mouthfeel is ok but not great, it starts out ok but fails to last and the heat is still higher than expected for this level or Proof and age. Finish isn’t particularly long.

This is one of the limited release Bourbons that has come out recently and priced at retail around $160. It just doesn’t deliver. It’s totally average. There are dozens of offerings at half the price that are significantly better. Would have expected more from Mr. Rutledge. 84/100

Top 5 Disappointing Bourbons in 2019

Every year there are more and more “special releases” which some are actually special… and a lot are not… there are also more and more bloggers and podcasts about Bourbon… we are at an all time high of Boubon commentary and releases… a lot of that is positive, some not so much.  I just wanted to put together a few of  what I thought were the biggest disappointments of the year…

The Fall of BSM and Bottle-Spot…  These were the two biggest secondary sites for trading.  There are so many haters out there about flippers, but the truth is that sometimes you can’t get the bottle you want, but you can find some bottles you don’t, so you trade them.  Losing these sites was disappointing for Bourbon overall.

St. Cloud… this was literally the worst thing I tasted all year.  I did a whole interview with the founder, really enjoyed it, was writing up a huge piece… and then I tried it.  It was disgusting.  I didn’t publish the piece because I felt bad about it, but at $100 a bottle for 2 year juice that is barely quaffable, I had to mention it here.  Happy to discuss privately more details.

Parker’s Heritage Collection Rye Heavy Char gets PHC on the list two years in a row…  A lot of people really liked it, I really didn’t.  I didn’t even write a review on this one because I was so disappointed by it.  Hopefully they come up with something better this year!

Kentucky Owl Confiscated… worst thing ever from Kentucky Owl.  Use in a cocktail only.  Their batch Bourbons and Ryes are awesome.  This felt like a money grab from their new owners.  Amazing to see this trade up in secondary the moment it came out, and then crater to below where Costco was offering it… definitely hurt the brand as well as you now see all the Bourbon batches sitting on the shelves and trading under MSRP too.  The Rye remains the bright spot, but I hear they are done at batch 3?

Cream of Kentucky… Too hot.  Expected more out of Jim Rutledge.  It’s hard to charge $120-$150 for a bottle that just has this much heat on it.  Would be reasonable at $40.  Another review that is still stuck in my drafts that will probably never get out…

Again… I’m sure people will threadshit all over this post.  These are my opinions only.  Enjoy.

Barrell Bourbon Batch 022 + Beast Masters Club Event

Last night I went to the BeastMaster’s Club holiday event where they poured all their single barrels from the year (well I started this write-up a few months ago… but actually this was almost two months since the event).  As a special surprise, Will Schragis and his sales team from Barrell Bourbon, was pouring 12 different bottles of Barrell Craft Spirits products, including a super small Irish Whisky release, very cool!  I really enjoyed trying each of the Beast Masters Club single barrels, especially the Smoke Wagon MPG juice.  But the clear winner of the night wasn’t even close… it happened to be the one I liked the most that evening, but it was also the one that got drained halfway through the night.  You usually know when something is good when it’s almost empty, when other bottles around it are 1/2 to 3/4 full…  I ended up buying a bottle this morning so I could write up a review…

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Barrell Bourbon Batch 022 is a blend of Kentucky and Indiana straight Bourbon whiskey, coming in at 116.6 proof and is age stated at five years.  Don’t let the 5yr fool you though, I have it on good authority that although the youngest Bourbon is 5yrs, the majority of the juice is in the ten to twelve year area… few producers would risk mixing a 11yr or 12yr Bourbon with a 5yr because if you put “12yr Indiana from a undisclosed distillery located in Lawrenceburg” you are guaranteed to sell it for at least $100… what kind of person would take that and add younger juice in it?  The only person who would do that is someone who knows it will be better and cares more about the final product than making a quick buck… well, lets go to the tasting and see if that holds up.

The color alone tells you there is no way this is just 5yrs, my guess is the average is like 8-9, with that dark golden amber… The nose is insane, rock candy, candy corn from Halloween, freshly baked corn bread out of a cast iron pan, marzipan, butterscotch syrup and Teddy Grahams.  So little heat on the nose.  Dive right in.

Perfectly balanced on the way in, really good mouthfeel… good oils, if there was one thing I’d like more of is I’d like a little more oilyness on it… The Kentucky hug shows up and builds on the candy nose.  This is such a crowd-pleaser up front, but then the complexity and finish on the back end lets you know this is a contender for a Whiskey of the year.

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I’m a huge fan of Barrell Bourbon.  Very few people put out both epic single barrels, but also amazing blends.  It’s a skill that few producers have both of, and they nail it.  This might be my favorite batch since Batch 011.  As soon as I tried this again I put my order in for another case to bunker.  This one is going to be a huge winner.  And for those people out there who like Barrell but aren’t fans of Dickel, well, this is only IN/KY, be sure to grab a case or two… 97/100.

Post Script: I know Batch 021 won San Francisco best Bourbon of the year, but I prefer batch 022… super underrated!  If you can’t find 21, grab a few 22s!

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.