The 5th Annual Whisky Jewbilee was my first time attending this cool New York City event… I brought a few clients and friends with me to enjoy the fun. As part of any large tasting, you need to have a game plan ahead of time—know where the rare bottles are and hit them first.
A huge mistake rookies make is trying to be very polite and going through the whole vertical. I totally understand being polite, going through each one and hearing why the 10yr is so great. But… there will be time for that at the end of the evening if you really care. There were about 6 Scotches that were 25yrs or older and they were all gone within the first 30 minutes, so if you didn’t hit them first, you missed out. Fortunately for me and my friends, I had them all mapped out and we were able to try them all. To be honest though, a the selection of 25yr Scotch didn’t really excite me…
I’m much more of a bourbon fan than scotch, so I was hoping for something special underneath the tables, that wasn’t on the original tasting list. There were three tables that really stepped it up in my opinion:
Skinner Auctions brought a bunch of dusties including a 1970s Stitzel-Weller Cabin Still decanter. Only a 4-5yr bourbon, but so incredibly smooth. And to get the chance to try anything from Stitzel-Weller is welcomed. I went back for five pours, which probably was overkill, but almost no one was hitting this table, so it was a hidden gem.
For all the negative things I have written about Balcones over the years, they actually stepped it up at this tasting. I tried their normal products, and again, I really didn’t like them. I had never tried their Brimstone, and I think that might be my least favorite one of theirs of all time—just horrible. However… when I asked if they had anything under the table, I was very pleasantly surprised. Winston Edwards (the brand ambassador) pulled a new product, the Balcones Texas Rum Special Release 63.9% abv. He said it was mostly a 3.5yr rum blended with some younger ones. This product blew me away. Great mouthfeel, such rich notes, just a tremendous amount of complexity and length. This was so good I bought two bottles online and can’t wait to try it at home and do a proper tasting. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for a full review on this rum.
The other favorite table was Barrell Bourbon. Joe Beatrice brought both whiskey batches, including the sherry cask Batch 002, which was a top 5 of the night as well as Batch 006 and Batch 007. They also has a special Batch 007b, which apparently was the same barrels from Batch 007, but bottled a few months later, so a little more age, and slightly different proof, but everything else the same. Very tasty. I love when the presenters have a little something special under the table if you ask nicely–thank you Joe!
I was very disappointed by a lot of the other bourbon tables, especially Four Roses, Bookers, Basil Hayden, Bakers, etc… they just brought their normal bottles. Four Roses should have at least brought the Elliot’s Select, but just brought their normal ones. For a tasting, they should have stepped up their game a little bit. If I wanted a glass of Basil Hayden, I could just go to any bar, their performance was not exciting. For next year, hopefully the larger brands lose the attitude and bring something a little special.
At the end of the evening, my clients and friends had a great time, we all drank quite a bit of very good whiskey and I even got to meet Mark Gillespie from WhiskyCast which was a treat. Because it wasn’t in a proper tasting setting, I am not going to give any grades but the top drams of the night, not in any order were: Stitzel-Weller Cabin Still 1970’s dusty, Barrell Bourbon Batch 006, Barrell Whiskey Batch 002, Balcones Texas Rum Special Release, Balvenie 25.