My 2018 Top 5 Best Available Bottle under $100 or how best to say “no I can’t get you any Pappy at retail”

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!

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Top 5 Disappointments of 2018 in Whiskey

#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….

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2018/11/04/i-love-parkers-heritage-collection-i-dont-like-this-release-though/

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2018/12/23/weller-c-y-p-b-for-sale-caskers-only-1000/

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2018/10/07/i-never-should-have-opened-my-weller-c-y-p-b/

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2018/07/04/knob-creek-cask-strength-rye-2018-limited-release/

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2018/11/27/2018-buffalo-trace-antique-collection-btac-reviews/

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2018/03/31/breckenridge-distillery-not-a-fan-not-worth-a-visit-or-the-money/

Newbourbondrinker’s 2018 Top 5

This year had so many great releases even though the level on social media complaining has hit an all time high… don’t worry, I will be putting out my top 5 disappointments soon… but it’s the holidays so I’m only going to be positive today!  Instead of ranking them this year, I’ve decided to go with five different categories and give the overall winner for them… Disagree?  Hit me up on twitter @newbourbondrink or facebook @ newbourbondrinker or instagram @steaknbourbon

Best Overall Bourbon: Barrell Craft Spirits 15yr Bourbon Gray Label.  For a straight down the middle Bourbon, this one can not be beat.  It also edged out everyone else from Fred Minnick’s blind tasting for Forbes’.  It got a huge score from me and everyone else.  The only downside is the limited case amount.  The one thing you can be certain, is if you see any gray label Barrell Craft Spirits product on a shelf, grab it!

Best Wheated Bourbon: William Larue Weller 2018 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection.  This one was easy, and tied for best overall with BCS, but split out the wheaters.  The finish, so long, so good.  If you can grab the 2017 or 2018 of WLW BTAC, for any reasonable price at all, pick it up.

Best Rye: Thomas H Handy 2018.  Another BTAC, but 2018 was tough for Rye, as the releases we not as strong as 2017.  The Lot 40 cask Strength 11yr was not as good as last year’s 12yr and higher priced and lower proof; Kentucky Owl Rye was also good but not quite as good as the first release.  THH stood out among it’s peers, but only by a smidge.  The secondary prices have continued to creep as well which is annoying for those of us who drink a lot of Handy.

Best Small Bottle Release: Elijah Craig Grenade… it’s a gift shop only release, but readily available on secondary.  It trades at close to BTAC levels given it’s only 200ml, but it’s sooooooooo good.  Grab one if you are ever in Bardstown, or just lift one on secondary.

Best Rum: Appleton’s Joy 25yr.  This was probably the hardest category to rate to be perfectly honest.  So many great releases: Foursquare 2004, Foursquare 2005, Barrell Rum Tale of Two Islands, Barrell Craft Spirits Rum Gray Label… all could have taken these honors, but Appleton’s 25yr comes out ahead.  Retailing around $220 and still available, this rum has crazy flavors and notes that rival any whiskey.  Looks great on the shelf too.

There it is for 2018… it was a great year, so many amazing drams and I look forward to what 2019 brings.  Happy New Year!

I still hate this store… Grand Central Cellars

Buffalo Trace 750ml $75…

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Pappy 23 Gold Wax… $10,500…

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2017 BTAC George T. Stagg $650…

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Pikesville Rye at least they reduced that price from $125 to $80!!!

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/10/08/shame-shame-nyc-central-cellars-wine-spirits-shame/

But before they went to $80 from $125, then stopped at $105…

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/12/28/central-cellars-wine-spirits-price-reductions/

The argument people tell me “oh, it’s high rent, they need to charge more”… that argument is defeated with these three photos… if you can’t sell something for $125, or $105, maybe you can sell it for $80, or maybe you won’t sell it at all and you will go bankrupt…

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Sorry for being so negative, but they guys consistently overprice stuff and I know their rent is high, but I never see any of the bottles gone… so if your rent is high, and your prices are high and you only sell cheap rose and champagne for people who need them and the bourbon just sits there… how are you still in business?  Sorry for the rant.  Have a nice day.

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I love Parker’s Heritage Collection. I don’t like this release though…

Parker’s Heritage Collection 12th Edition Barrel Finished Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished in Orange Curacao Barrels.  55% alcohol, 110 proof.

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I love Parker’s Heritage Collection… I love that part of it goes to charity, and I love how it’s always different each year.  Last year’s 11yr single barrel was one of my favorite of the year.  The 24yr was another favorite of mine. I wasn’t a fan of the 8yr malt, but I’m not really a malt guy.  I was looking forward to this one as well.

The bottle always looks great, and the copper color is so inviting.

When I first opened the bottle I got smacked in the face with Orange Curacao… that was the only note.  I had to wait a while for it to drift off, but it never really did.  In the background I got notes of licorice, peach pie, and other deeper flavors of orange: candied orange peel, baked orange peel, dried orange peel… you get the idea.

The mouthfeel is initially decent with oils and tannins adding complexity, but the orange flavor takes over and although the finish is decently long, it is mildly bitter and orangey.

This is not my favorite and I don’t think I will be buying any more bottles for the bunker on this one.  I did wait a while to write this review hoping that the Bourbon would evolve after exposure to air, but after a week or two it hasn’t… in fact I think it got worse.  It’s possible that after a few months it will, and if it does, I will write an update to this post.  Although this MSRPs for under $100, I paid $170 on secondary for it.  When it first came out people were asking $250 or more, seemed like $200 was the trade point for a while, and now it’s under $200 and heading lower.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this goes for $125 by Thanksgiving.  If you really like orange flavor, maybe try 4 parts ECBP and 1 part Orange Curacao… I may try that later tonight…  78/100

PS… I recommend buying a sample before opening your bottle if you have the opportunity… check out bottle-spot.com to see if anyone is listing them.

Little Book Batch 002 Noe Easy Way

Last year’s release of Little Book Batch 001 was a solid release but priced appropriately at retail that it didn’t make much of a splash on the secondary. Seems that I liked it more than the average consumer, giving it a 92/100 (Batch 001 Link). It had lots of complex spiciness with a good finish but was on the hotter side—not uncommon with Booker products. This edition is totally different. 8yr Kentucky Straight Rye, 13yr Canadian Rye and a 40yr old Canadian corn whiskey. 118 Proof, uncut, unfiltered. For those hoping for a big Kentucky Bourbon, they may be disappointed, but anyone who had last year’s Northern Border Collection releases (Link 1 and Link 2) will know better.

Side by side you can see the color difference. Batch one has the copper notes, while Batch 002 has a softer, lighter, amber tone. The bottle and box look great.

The nose is moderately hot, spice coming through, rock candy, candy corn and some light caramel. The taste is really good, lots of all-spice, enjoyable wood hints and a really long finish. Easily two minutes or more ending with a nice Kentucky hug, but more moderate than the nose would imply.

Batch Two, Noe Easy Way, is a very good follow through from Batch 001. Given the 40yr juice in this I could also see it trading up in the secondary. It’s very good and absolutely worth adding to your collection. 94/100.

 

Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Revival Sherry Cask Finish

Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Revival Sherry Cask Finish

I’ve had mixed success with some of the high end Wild Turkey release in the last few years. Some have come off too old, too woody, too hot, just off or just not right. Despite my mixed history, I decided to take the plunge on this one, and I’m glad I did.

The bottle looks great with a nice wood and metal cap cork with a thick glass base. The Bourbon is dark amber and inviting.  The bottles and packaging has never been lacking…

The nose is great with the sherry complementing, not overpowering. Notes of baking spices, cinnamon stick, caramel, baked scones, raisins and just the right amount of sherry. I was worried it would be over sherried, but it definitely isn’t.

The mouthfeel is really nice, completely covering every part of my mouth with just enough heat to make sure you know it’s over 100 Proof, but smooth enough given the age. Spice comes through on the palate, but the finish ends a little early and a touch bitter.

It’s a really good sherry finished bourbon and I’m happy I bought it. It will look great on my wall and tastes great. Not one I will bunker given the price, but a very good one worth picking up. 93/100.

I took these photos in my backyard and as luck would have it, a flock of wild turkeys were walking by at the same time….