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!

Lot 40 Cask Strength 2018 Release

This is the second year of the Lot 40 Cask Strength Limited release, coming in at 11 years and 58.4% abv after last year’s 12yr and 55%.image2(4)

First note that hit me was candied orange peel when I first opened this bottle. After some air the orange nose is still present but isn’t overpowering as you get follow through aromas of rock candy, Christmas spices, anise and burned brown sugar in butter sauce.

Really big mouth feel and a lot of heat, much more than the nose suggested. To some this might be too hot and spicy but I enjoyed it, but I’d prefer it not be this sharp and jagged; it probably could have used an extra year in bottle.   Maybe last year’s 12 years was the right number? The finish is long but again, pretty hot to start but does end in a nice lingering sweet and spicy completion—the long and non-bitter finish really is the highlight of the dram. Great mouthfeel and very complex.

This is a really enjoyable rye and a wonderful special release from Lot 40 following up from last year’s incredible first edition. However last year’s was so crazy good the anticipation of this one was so high and it just didn’t quite reach last hear. Last year got a 96 and this one is still good but gets 94/100.

Last year was released at C$60, and this one has been increased to C$100. Still worth it at retail, but if you are looking for secondary, try to find Batch 1 instead.

image1(9)

Kentucky Owl Rye Batch 2, Disappointing Follow-up…

Kentucky Owl Rye Batch 1 was one of my favorite whiskies of last year, and my second favorite rye, next to Lot 40 Cask Strength 12yr. Batch 1 came out strong and the secondary ran up quickly to 200-250 before people realized that tens of thousands of bottles were released and eventually MSRP came all the way down to $110 and it was easy to get everywhere. At the $110 price, it was a no brainer to buy 6 or more and become a daily drinker (I still have 3 left in my bunker). Batch 2 has come out with an MSRP of $180, which is what I paid for this one. I’ve seen secondary offers in the 200-250 range, but I expect this to drop to the MSRP level extremely quickly.

The bottle looks the same, but the top doesn’t have the fake tax stamp and has a slightly different enclosure. This one is slightly less proof as well, but from afar, they look the same.

The nose is good, candied orange peel, NECCO Wafers, honeysuckle, rose petals, brown sugar, ginger snaps and cherry pie. Not too hot.

The candied flavors come in strong on the palate and the mouthfeel is good, but a little thin, as it fails to coat all over as much as I wanted. The finish is medium long but does fade to bitter at the end, far sooner than I hoped.

Batch 2 is a decent, but given the sky high expectations, mildly disappointing follow up to Batch 1; the original is better. The nose and palate are similar with the strong candied orange peel, but the main difference is the mouthfeel, which is superior in the original. The heat is equal, even though this is lower proof. The price increase of more than 50% doesn’t help it either. Worth picking up a bottle, especially if you liked the first one, but certainly not one worthy of stocking up on given the price. 90/100

IMG_1663

Knob Creek Cask Strength Rye 2018 Limited Release

Knob Creek Cask Strength Rye 2018 Limited Release. Barrelled in 2009, bottled at 119.6 Proof.

IMG_1600

The last two Knob Creek special releases were exceptionally disappointing and I promised not to buy more than one this year. I still have the last few in my bunker because no one wants to buy or trade for them. This year the price is half and no fancy wood box.

The nose is rock candy, heat, band aid, pencils and cinnamon toast. It’s not particularly exciting.

It’s very spicy and the mouthfeel is initially ok but turns hot and bitter quickly. This isn’t one of those sweet and spicy ryes that evolves, it just goes flat.

Knob Creek has gone three in a row for disappointing people with their limited releases. The price is good for a 9yr Cask strength rye, except that it’s just not that great. I’m proud to admit I learned my lesson and only bought one this time around. Next year I won’t buy more than one, but I’ll still buy a bottle so I can warn everyone else not to buy it. For better tasting and better value ryes, buy Pikesville or Barrell Rye. 81/100

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/top-5-disappointments-of-2016-in-bourbon/

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2018/02/17/top-5-disappointments-in-bourbon-in-2017/

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2017/12/27/4-new-releases-from-barrell-bourbon/

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/pikesville-rye-2-of-the-year/

Kentucky Owl Rye Batch 1

Although I wasn’t able to get a bottle at retail, I did snag one from http://www.bottle-spot.com and it is trading for around $200 right now, which is not bad, if it turns out to be a high quality rye.  It’s 110.6 proof, lower than both the Handy and Pikesville, but at 11 years in the barrel, it’s almost double their age.  Distilled in Kentucky, I have no idea where this is originally from… this is my first Kentucky Owl product ever as the Bourbon has been too small of a production and too high of a secondary price.  I did try a dram at Jack Rose and loved it, however, I was about 10 drams into the evening, so who really knows?

On to the review… nice dark color, very inviting.  The nose has evolved quite a bit since I opened it this weekend.  I’m getting candied orange, rock candy, nutmeg, bubble gum, graham crackers and grapefruit rind.  The nose isn’t nearly as hot as the proof would suggest.

The mouthfeel is great, really grippy and bursting with flavor.  I’m really getting the orange and rock candy and spicy notes on the tongue.  The finish goes on for at least two minutes, hard to tell exactly because I keep drinking more before I get to three minutes.

This is a really nice rye.  It is expensive though.  I did a quick side by side analysis vs Thomas Handy, and although good, not quite at THH level.  Is it better than the Pikesville?  Well, it’s different, but it is also 3x more expensive–that hurts it a little bit.  The bottom line is this is a wonderful rye and if you like rye, you should absolutely try to get it and if your budget allows, you should pay up for it in the secondary market.  Pikesville will still be my go-to rye given the cost and availability, but if you are able to grab one of these, you will not be disappointed to add it to your whiskey cabinet.  95/100.

IMG_2865

Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish Rye NEW RELEASE

The newest release from Michter’s, the Toasted Barrel Finish Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey. I’m seeing a lot of hype on twitter on this one in addition to very high secondary prices. I found this on the very bottom shelf (ironically) of a local store for $79.99, as I wasn’t going to chase it.

Nice golden color, the toasted finish really added a nice color.

When I first opened it the smell was pretty bad but after a few hours it opened up. Candy corn, toasted cinnamon raisin bread, bubble gum and walnuts on the nose.

For 108 proof it’s pretty easy to drink. The mouthfeel is good but not great. The taste is enjoyable. The finish is long and continues nice flavors with limited bitterness. This is a really nice rye.

Is this a whiskey worth chasing and paying 2x or more on the secondary market? Definitely not. If you find it at retail for $79.99 should you buy it? Yes. If you like ryes like I do it’s worth adding to your cabinet, but I would stock up on your bunker. For the price, Pikesville is still the best out there, and for the high end stuff, nothing has yet to be able to touch Handy. Solid juice from Michters, would have preferred to see it at 125 proof though. 92/100.

P.S. I have a couple extra, so if anyone is looking to trade, please DM me @newbourbondrink

 

 

IMG_2812(1)

Old Overholt Straight Rye Whiskey 80 Proof

Old Overholt is an historic rye brand dating back over two hundred years. I’ve seen prohibition bottles going for over 1k each at auction. Not sure what happened to the brand over the years but now it’s relegated to the bottom shelf and Manhattan mixers only. I’ve actually never tried it straight before, so I thought I would give it the Glen Cairn glass treatment.

Light yellowish coloring, most likely not all new charred oak barrels and representative of only three years in barrel.

Sweet and spicy nose but very one dimensional. Very little heat.

Easy to drink, goes down easily, but doesn’t have a ton there. Very little heat which is nice for a young rye but it’s also lacking in depth. Short finish, but not unpleasant.

This is a rye that I bought for $13.99 and can register no complaints. I probably won’t be drinking it straight ever again, but I prefer this to most of the new “craft” ryes that are aged for very short periods of time in small barrels and possibly from locally sourced, organic, free range, sustainable ryes…  This is definitely one to keep on the bar for mixers as at this price, it’s a great value. 81/100.

image146