Little Book 2017 #1

I’ve had this one for a while but didn’t open it until recently… I’ve been attempting to not open bottles recently, instead, drinking down what is already open.  I’ve been unsuccessful in my ability to not open new ones, because I want to review them!  Anyway… here is the review, long overdue.

Beautiful dark amber, roasted almond coloring.  Initial impressions of the nose is of a roasted nutty character, smooth peanut butter, graham cracker s’mores and a hint of baking spices in the back.  The tickling heat I’m getting on the nose hairs hints at being cousins of a Booker’s, just enough to be recognizable, but not quite the same.

The taste is strong, with lots of tongue tingling spices.  Hotter on the palate than the nose would indicate, but no where near the heat of a typical Booker’s.  Peppery spices continue to evolve on the roof of the mouth as the finish is long.  The classic Beam nuttiness is clearly evident throughout.

This is a very good introduction to a new line from Beam.  I’m not sure it’s worthy of stockpiling in a bunker, but it looks great, tastes good and is a welcome new addition.  92/100.



2017’s Top 5 Bourbons & Whiskies Under $100

I’m using the secondary prices (which are very close to MSRP for these picks) for this list as nothing bothers me more than someone saying at $89.99 MSRP Sazerac 18 is their favorite bottle under $100.  Get real guys!  The secondary market is here to say and you might as well just get used to it. Also… only two here are actually Bourbons, I have one rum, one rye and one corn whiskey… but who’s really counting?


Barrell Bourbon is the winner here, although it is the most expensive of this list.  Usually retailing for around $80, they consistently beat out bottles that you can’t touch on the secondary for 2-4x the price.  While they still are priced under $100, stock up. MSRP $80.

Pikesville is my favorite rye under $100.  115 proof, delicious.  Thank you Heaven Hill!  Second year in a row it continues to be available, awesome and affordable.  MSRP $60.

Foursquare Rum 2004 Exceptional Cask Selection… Exceptional Cask Selection Mark III Single Blended Rum aged 11 years in ex-Bourbon casks, distilled in 2004, released in 2015.  It’s full proof, 59%.  Thanks for Fred Minnick for tipping me off to this one.  Yes, it’s not a Bourbon, but it’s aged in ex-Bourbon casks and is just as delicious. Order one today! MSRP $60.

Old Weller Antique 107 Store Pick Non-Chill Filtered.  Make friends with your local liquor store owner.  Beg them to get a bottle of OWA NCF, ask to buy 4 of them when they come in.  Best $35 you can spend.  MSRP $35.

Mellow Corn.  I’m sorry, you may think I’m nuts by putting this on the list, but for $9.99, bottled in bond, again, thank you Heaven Hill.  This is my go-to after I’m three sheets to the wind and shouldn’t be touching the top shelf stuff, because it holds up and still has a good taste. MSRP $9.99.

Honorable mention goes to Old Forester 1920 Prohibition.  It should have been the number five on the list, but I just couldn’t help myself by putting on Mellow Corn instead.

Agree?  Disagree?  Continue the discussion on my Twitter @newbourbondrink or Facebook  https://www.rumsixtysix.comfoursquare-rum-distillery.html/

Top 5 Whiskies of 2017!!

This year has seen secondary prices continue to go up, and primary prices also increase.  I’m on so many Facebook groups about people complaining about this, but I wish people would just be realistic.  Sure, the special releases are getting a little out of hand, but the standard release products are also the best they have ever been.  Now, this list happens to celebrate the best of the best, but I will also pay homage to the under $100 list soon, for the perfect holiday stocking stuffer.

This is the first year that I do not have a rye on the list, but Kentucky Owl Rye Batch 001 was so close it deserves an honorable mention.  MSRP of $130, and secondary in the $175 range made it reachable for most people and it was a standout. I picked four Bourbons and one Rum for the list, and they are all so good, you could easily pick any one of them to be #1.  I did another blind taste test with all five spirits last night and decided based on that final test that I couldn’t put them in order, but each one was the best for a certain criteria (cop out?  probably… but it was just too difficult).


Most Underrated by the Critics: E.H. Taylor Four Grain was one that I liked from the very beginning although was panned by the Bourbon community.  The MSRP of $80 is pretty irrelevant for this one, but the secondary started at $325 and fell all the way to $175 before Jim Murray dubbed it the number one bourbon of the year and secondary now is $350-$400.

Best Lower Proof Bourbon: Four Rose Al Young 50th Anniversary was dubbed early on at the odds on favorite to win number one of the year, yet no large publications awarded it the honor.  Again, MSRP of $150 was pretty irrelevant, but if you could get it there you were lucky.  Secondary was pretty stable at $350 all year for this one.

Best Higher Proof Bourbon: George T. Stagg 2016 was a scorcher at 144.1 proof, yet in the right glassware was epic.  Again MSRP of $90 for BTAC is irrelevant, and secondary for this one ranged between $375-$525.  (For those who complain that I should be talking about the 2017 GTS, it also would have make this list)

Best Value: Barrell Bourbon Batch 011.  By far the least expensive of the list with an MSRP of $89.99, but after winning the number one Bourbon of the year from San Fransisco Wine & Spirits, the secondary basically doubled and you are now lucky if you can find it for $150-$175.

Best Non-Bourbon: FourSquare 2006 Single Blended Rum Double Maturation was one that you could only get at auction and prices were between GBP 150-300 depending on whether you bought it before or after Fred Minnick’s book came out.  This was one of the perfect rum’s that Fred rated in his book, and once you taste it, you will understand.

Agree? Disagree?  Continue the discussion on Twitter @newbourbondrink or Facebook  Cheers to 2017 and a great 2018 to come!

4 New Releases from Barrell Bourbon!

Barrell Craft Spirits remains one of my favorite brands and they continue to put out consistently excellent products at reasonable prices, with good availability and you don’t have to beg, borrow or steal to get them. To me, it’s the best secret left in Bourbon Hunting. I have put a bunch of previous batches away in my bunker because each one is unique and only released once. I was able to grab four new releases at once and thought instead of doing four reviews I’d do one mega review:


Barrell Bourbon New Year 2018: 55.6% ABV and a marriage of barrels from TN, KY, IN, TX and NY. It has an incredibly sweet nose. French toast, Necco wafers, Twizzlers, Butterfigers, yellow flowers, dried cherry pits and creme brule. Almost no heat on nose at all. Wow so easy going down and lots going on. More nuts on the palate than I was getting on the nose and really enjoyable heat in the chest. Solid mouthfeel with the needed oils and tannins following through with a good finish. Really nice special edition. This is the one I’ve had the hardest time finding but if you can get it for a reasonable price, buy two or three. 96/100.

Barrell Rye Batch 002: 5yrs old and 117.5 Proof. I’ve never had a rye distilled in Poland so this is pretty exciting. It is married with an Indiana (MGP?) one which I always enjoy. When I first opened it up the aroma was muted so I waited a few minutes to give it some air. After some time notes of honey suckle, cracked pepper, rock candy and biscotti came through. I decided to wait on this one and try again a week later because I could tell is was still tight–maybe from the plane from Poland?  Easy on the way down with great salted caramel flavor I missed on the nose coupled with strong spiciness.  When I initially opened this rye, it was tight and unforgiving; after a week it’s totally different and the finish goes on for several minutes completely enveloping the tongue. I’ve never had a rye like this before and I’m excited to drink it. I bet that this will continue to evolve in the bottle over the next month or two as I drink it down. 94/100.

Barrell Rum Tale of Two Islands: 8yrs old and bottled at 132.8 Proof. Jamaican pot Still, same source as Batch 001 finished is Islay Scotch casks. I really liked last year’s release: brown sugar, tropical fruits, coconut shavings, white flowers and molasses. This one is very similar to last year but much less heat on the nose. The extra year of aging in the Scotch casks really smoothed this one out even better without the peat taking over. The taste is great, sweet and tropical, and it is shocking how at this proof for a rum the heat is so mellow. The finish goes on for at least two minutes. Great rum and if you liked last year’s release you’ll love this one. I’m hearing it’s very limited release, so buy all that you can. 96/100.

Barrell Bourbon Batch 014: 54.7% ABV and from a blend of KY and TN specially selected barrels of at least 9yrs old. Medium dark amber color. Really nice nutty nose, Jif peanut butter, roasted walnuts, crushed almonds, buttered cinnamon bread and Honey Nut Cheerios. Almost no heat on the nose which is crazy for this Proof.  Solid mouthfeel and good finish. The gentle warmth filters through the chest as the finish elongates. The palate gets hints of salted caramel and nuts on the way down. Another very good release from Barrell Bourbon, readily available and at a reasonable price. I’m buying one to drink now, one for next month and one for the bunker. 95/100.


Barrell Bourbon Batch 014 Review

Orphan Barrel Entrapment

noun: entrapment; plural noun: entrapments
  1. the state of being caught in or as in a trap.
    “the feeling of entrapment grows as the roads close and the power goes out”
    • the action of tricking someone into committing a crime in order to secure their prosecution.
      “his style of investigation constitutes entrapment”


The title of the bottle pretty much tells you everything you need to know… you are basically being tricked into buying this because it has a big 25 on it.  Despite the fact that we know we are being entrapped by Diageo, we still overpay for the bottle anyway… on to the review:

Diageo’s Orphan Barrel Entrapment is the newest release and is a 25yr Canadian Rye from most likely Gimli, but could be Waterloo given they were distilling up to 1992  (Update: I have read online that it is in fact from Gimli).  They had admitted it is Crown Royal and decided to release it in this line instead of a special Crown Royal release or blend it into their normal product.

Extremely light colored. If it were Bourbon I’d guess it was six months old but it’s 25yrs old aged in used wood. The wood is probably so used there is nothing left to be absorbed into the distillate—I doubt the barrels were even reconditioned or recharred.

The nose is classic Canadian Rye, and that’s because it is. It’s Crown Royal and it’s smells just like their low end brand. Vanilla, Christmas tree and candy corn. Doesn’t smell like it’s been aged a lot. Reminds me a lot of older Canadian Club dusties that are easy to find, cheap and enjoyable.

The initial flavor is quite nice, smooth, sweet with vanilla and sugar candy and goes down easily. However there is no friendly heat, the mouthfeel is as thin as it can get and the finish ends before you know it. The taste is enjoyable but not complex.

Unlike some previous Orphan Barrel releases, this is totally drinkable. However it drinks well for a $40 bottle, not a MSRP $150 (I actually paid $199.99 plus tax because that was the only place around me that had it). I have several 70’s and 80’s dusty Canadian Clubs that taste better and I got for significantly cheaper. Prices affect ratings and this one is definitely not one you need to get but if you can find a pour for a reasonable price, maybe worth trying one glass.  DO NOT PAY UP ON SECONDARY FOR THIS! 86/100



Quick Angel’s Envy Cask Strength 2015 Review: Strong PASS

I’ve never been a huge fan of the AECS, I thought the 2014 was ok, but I’ll give 2015 a whirl. Sickly sweet port nose, and a ton of heat. The taste is dominated by heat as well with some raisins, plums and menthol. This is extremely bad value for the price but I wouldn’t buy it if it was 1/4 the cost, which was $179.99.

The 2015 was much worse than the 2014 and another massive disappointment… just because it’s cask strength, limited edition and in an expensive box, doesn’t make it great.  It just makes it expensive.  The port finish on this is so poor, it seems like now that they sold the company, they aren’t even trying anymore.  78/100.


Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Brandy Cask Finish

This is the first of the Master’s Collection from Woodford that I have ever owned. Historically I’ve not been a big fan of Woodford, a little too much bananas, fun but not complex. Anyway, I have heard good things about this one so I thought it would be worth a shot….

Orange peel, blood orange,  charcoal, new car leather, s’mores, raisins, cinnamon and spice on the nose. Very little heat.

Nice spicy mouthfeel, moderate heat and complex flavors. The brandy notes are coming in on the taste, well integrated.

I have a strong bias against non-cask strength bourbons and to be honest, it takes a lot to overcome that. This doesn’t quite reach that hurdle. There is a lot of potential here and if they released it at 120 proof it would probably be a lot better. It’s still enjoyable but it’s not epic.  89/100.