Jack Rose: Old Fitzgerald BIB Stitzel Weller

Old Fitzgerald BIB Stitzel Weller:
Golden hue–just like expected. Baking spices, vanilla, heat is more than expected, creme brûlée and graham crackers.  If you were expecting me to orgasm at this point, unfortunately, you will be disappointed. The mouthfeel is good but nothing special. The taste is good, but again, not life altering. It’s solid but to be honest the finish very quickly turns bitter and isn’t that exciting. It’s similar to the Old Crow dusty in terms of enjoyment. The difference is the mouthfeel is slightly better but the bitterness on the finish is significantly worse. There is no Fucking way these bottles are worth even remotely close to what they go on the secondary market. I’m torn on how to rate this. If price was not a factor I would rate it two points lower than the dusty Old Crow, but my system takes price into account. 84/100.

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CEHT Seasoned Wood: drink a sample, buy ECBP release #11 or Barrell Bourbon instead.

Colonel E.H. Taylor Seasoned Wood Bottled in Bond is the latest special release from the CEHT line from Buffalo Trace. This one was almost impossible to find; I was completely unable to find it at retail.  While refusing to pay $400+ on the secondary market, I was able to get a trade done for 5 bottles of mine, enabling me to reduce the size of my already too big bunker. I was happy with my trade regardless of the outcome of the tasting.

Right after opening the bottle, the nose is toasted raisin bread, high heat, cinnamon sticks and cloves. It’s never fair to judge a bottle without giving it some air, but I wanted to see what it was like because I’m betting that most people didn’t buy their own bottle and relied on samples free from Buffalo Trace or trading.  After waiting 15 minutes I tested the nose again: much more mellow. Now I’m getting Cinnamon Toast Crunch with whole milk, Honey Nut Cheerios, (I must be hungry for carbs or something…..), hickory tree bark and Vermont maple syrup. The second time around the heat is much less pronounced.

The palate is enjoyable. There are brown sugar notes that are complimented by heat and a smoothness that goes straight down. My chest warms up with the easy finish, which goes on for over a minute but doesn’t morph into anything beyond the initial enjoyment.  It seems like it has been chill filtered because the tannins are weak and the bourbon lacks the grip that I was hoping to get. It’s too bad because everything about this whiskey makes me feel like at 125 proof, and no chill filtering, this could be one of the best ever.

Some people blindly love everything Colonel Taylor does…. So far I have been very happy as well but I always keep my eyes open and judge each bottle I taste on its own.  They bottle in bond everything, except their barrel proof releases, but I wish they did all their special releases at cask strength.  Buffalo Trace makes some of the best products in the world, but just because it comes off their stills doesn’t mean it’s gold–remember they also make Fireball (although technically I believe Fireball starts in Canada, but I digress….). If you were able to snag this bottle at the $79.99 retail price, you scored big time–but even at that price I prefer the most recent ECBP and Barrell Bourbon release–both have more complexity, more flavor, longer finish, and not to mention, much easier to find at retail. But at $350 secondary price, it’s not worth it. It’s very good, but not epic enough to warrant this pricing. I’m very glad I got it and not upset I opened it… Bourbon was made to be consumed, not crotch shotted, insta’d and for collecting dust on a shelf. It’s 92/100… Buy a dram at a bar or DM me to trade samples just so you can cross it off your list.

 

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2016 Whisky Jewbilee and Event Tasting Strategy

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.

 

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Oprhan Barrel Series Continues with Lost Prophet 22… maybe the best, still overrated.

After this one, only one to go to complete the current Orphan Barrel series, and thus far I have been pretty disappointed.  Largely it has been because the costs have been so high… all have been interesting in their own way, but none of have had any real value to them. This week I saw a blog that said Orphan Barrel has just had their TTB label approved for Whoop & Holler, a 28 year whiskey.  My guess is that it will also be an overoaked, not exciting bourbon, yet I will still try to buy 3 of them and will be first in line to buy it.  I will act like a Mets fan in April, self-imposed ignorantly excited, ready to open my wallet for September tickets, only to subconsciously know I will be disappointed again and should clearly know better.  But Hope Springs Eternal, and that’s how I feel when I try Lost Prophet.  As a Yankees fan I should know better….

When I first opened the bottle and it needed some air… Very flat on the open so I let it sit for 15 minutes.  Seriously folks, we need to do some research on this first open bottle thing…

Color looks like a black tea with two bags….

Interesting spicy nose, Necco wafers, cloves, Skippy Chunky Peanut Butter, toasted buttered cinnamon raisin bagel… Mild heat on the nose.

Very smooth, yet spicy palate. Very tasty but the finish is just okay, and not as long as I would have hoped. The mouthfeel is good but not great.  The nose teased me, but the taste just didn’t follow through.  So many great bourbons have finishes that last for one, two, three minutes or more… this was barely 15 seconds.

Thus far, Lost Prophet is my favorite of the Orphan Barrel series but given the price, it’s just not a must own. For value, Forged Oak is probably better, and given that it’s much cheaper and easier to find, if you feel to need to buy one of these, go for that one.  Overall, this is enjoyable, but if you don’t get to taste it, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it.  89/100.

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Forged Oak: Orphan Barrel Series Continued: More Focus on Marketing, Less on Distilling/Blending…

As promised the continuation of the Orphan Barrel Series tastings: Forged Oak.

Forged Oak, the youngest of the Orphan Barrel Series clocks in at a 90.5 proof level and 15 years of age in the barrel.  It is also the least expensive of the bunch, costing me a mere $60, although some retailers have decided to charge upwards of $100.  I found it in Cape Cod over July 4th weekend, and everywhere in NYC has priced it higher.  Too bad shipping across state lines has been severely curtailed–call your Congressman!

I repeat my earlier thoughts on Old Blowhard for Forged Oak: the bottle looks really cool, and it looks great on my shelf.  All five together look great, and it is a testament to the marketing folks at Diageo for coming up with some spectacular label designs, although it seems they spent more effort on the label and the PR work than with the whiskey itself.  The label is silver with a huge stag on the front, perhaps an allusion to Mr. Stagg?  Who knows… but they do drop the S-W Bomb on the side label, claiming to have “found” this bottle “while foraging through the racks of barrels in the historic Stitzel-Weller rickhouse.”  OK, who doesn’t get excited by S-W, but from what I can tell online, this was distilled at New Bernheim (now owned by Heaven Hill) and stored at the S-W rickhouse.  The mash bill is 86% corn, 8% barley and 6% rye.  This is “hand bottled” with pride in Tullahoma and is number 11,596.

The color is dark butterscotch, very reminiscent of a 18 year old Scotch.

My initial prejudice was to get a ton of wood on the nose, however, that was not my initial impression.  I got apple pie, butterscotch, baking spices, and only on the second time did I get the wood notes.  Old Blowhard had gotten me all ramped up about over-oaking, but this bottle does not suffer from the same neglect.  It also hits you like you are going to get a bunch of heat, but teases you because the heat on the back of your throat never kicks in.

The sweetness on the nose is confirmed on the palate, with medium heat.  The finish is more heat than flavor though as it does not linger as long as I hoped it would.  The wood comes though on the tongue, but the tannins are just fine.  It’s unfortunate that this was bottled at only 90.5 proof as it seems to be lacking a backbone that it could have had if it was cask strength.

I added some water to see what would happen and the nose changed.  This time it was more fruit forward, apples, bananas: sweeter and lighter.  However, when I tasted it, everything just fell apart.  The water removed whatever flavor there was and just left me with wet disappointment personified.  Warning: DO NOT ADD WATER.  This reinforced my previous notion that had Forged Oak been bottled at 115-130 proof it might have been an impressive whiskey.

Overall, this was an enjoyable Bourbon. It’s not amazing, and it’s probably not as limited release as people think it is either.  If you can find a bottle for $60, it’s probably worth buying because it looks nice on the shelf, and your friends might want to try it, but there are many better buys for the same price or less out there.  If your local store has it for $100, the decision not to buy it becomes far easier.  I’m rating this one higher than Old Blowhard because it’s cheaper and the overall experience was more enjoyable–I even went for seconds.  86/100

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