Top 5 Drams of the Year 2016

Another year gone by and I’ve read so many negative stories, yet, there were some pretty awesome bourbons released this year.  Overall the prices have gone up, but you can still find bargains and making friends with your local retailer has never been more important… onto the list!


#1 2016’s Buffalo Trace Thomas H Handy 126.2 proof 97.5/100  secondary price: $300 (  This was my favorite of the BTAC releases, with a close second being GTS, but THH is far easier to get your hands on and better price giving it the edge.  Handy may be the BTAC that is least respected, but time and time again it is my favorite release.

#2 2016 Release Four Roses Elliott’s Select OESK 52.9% abv 91/100 secondary price $225 (  There was a lot of worry when Jim Rutledge retired from Four Roses, but when Brent Elliott came out with this bottle immediately afterwards, all fears were assuaged.  In fact, this bottle was substantially better than the 2016 Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition release, although not quite as good as last year’s winner, the 2015 FRSBLE.  I think we can all sleep soundly knowing that Four Roses is in good hands.

3# Barrell Bourbon New Years 2017 retail price $99.99 (for now!) (  Another top award for this up and comer.  This is their first true marriage release of 4 different barrels from Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee, and once again blows the competition away.  Grab a few while you still can as the first release of this bad boy probably will be worth a lot of money in the near future…. keep your eye

#4 Willett Family Estate Single Barrel Bourbon #438 119.8 proof 96/100 $120 @ gift shop (  This was one of the bottles I was lucky enough to buy when I visited Willett in January of 2016.  This was a honey barrel if I’ve ever tasted one.  If you are ever able to get some of this, don’t hesitate!

#5 Garrison Brothers Single Barrel Bourbon #3824 97 proof 96/100 $100 retail price ( Garrison Brothers consistently puts out a great product.  I also visited their distillery this year and really enjoyed meeting Dan and the team.  Very excited to see the 2017 Cowboy Bourbon when it is released next year!

There were so many that almost made the cut… I tried a couple rums this year that were really good including one from Balcones ( and another from Barrell (  Barrell’s Whiskey 002 was another one that almost made the cut, but after careful consideration I preferred the New Years (  Most lists have Booker’s Rye on their top 5, and although it is a good whiskey, it’s just too hot and expensive and does not deserve to make it in my very humble opinion (  PHC 10yr was also hotly debated, and I thought it was extremely good, but given the price, just not quite worthy vs the Garrison or the WFE (

I’ll have my top five disappointments in the world of bourbon coming up soon… thanks again for a great 2016 to everyone who reads this blog.  Readership has gone up 5x and I hope to continue that trend into 2017.  I’d love to hear what your top 5 of the year were?  Happy New Year!

Stagg Jr: This Bourbon is Awesome

I’m going to jump right into this one.  This is one of my favorite whiskeys of all time.  Bottled at a powerful 134.4 proof, this is the bottle that is often available, while it’s older brother is a unicorn most of us have never seen.  I drank this 4 nights in a row and didn’t write anything because I was just enjoying it too much…. I’m ready for the review.

Nice dark amber color with rust hues.

The nose is strong heat as you would expect, but also chewy molasses cookies, melted brown sugar and butter (like the kind on top of sweet potatoes), cinnamon sticks, smokey charcoal briquets, salt water taffy and crushed white pepper.

The palate is has everything from the nose and more.  The most astounding part of this bourbon is the mouthfeel and the finish.  You want to keep this in your mouth for so much longer than any other whiskey because it just massages the tongue and works the flavor deeper into the taste buds.  The finish doesn’t stop, one minute, two minutes, three minutes… it keeps going.  Not just the heat, but the flavor continues as well.  It’s an experience.  It’s so hard to believe that it is 134.4 proof.

I know this is a bottle that is highly allocated and some stores are doubling the price, and most places don’t even have it… but this one is worth it.  They say the retail price is $49.99, but only once in Cape Cod did I see it even close to that, and I bought two at $54.99 when I saw it… usually it’s $69.99 at the minimum all the way up to $99.99.  Even if you have to pay up for it, remember it’s 134.4 proof, not one of those watered down 80 proof jobs…  This is a must own.  96/100.