Unicorn Alert! Sazerac 18 Fall 2012 Vintage WOW!

Words fail to describe how good this whiskey is.  Sazerac 18, despite being bottled at 90 proof, is probably my favorite whiskey out there.  Thank you Buffalo Trace.  All hail BTAC.  I was incredibly lucky to find this being poured at a bar in London…

Pure candy nose, mushroom in the back. Spicy cinnamon, allspice and cloves. Superb nose.

Super smooth, easy down. So crisp and sharp with sweet and spicy notes.  Small but nice tannins. Long finish. This is epic.

Obviously a special bottle. Expectations met. 98/100.

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Booker’s Rye

Booker’s Rye is one of those bottles that universally has been pegged as the early 2016 Whiskey of the Year… there are a lot of very well respected reviewers and industry folk who believe this.  That is a lot of hype for something that MSRPs for $299, but typically trades at around $450 on the secondary market.  I also did not want to judge it too quickly, so I tried this bottle several times over the course of the past month drinking it down and experiencing the evolution.  Here are my views:

Beautiful packing, easy to open wax, must easier than the regular Booker’s for some reason… Love the green… not sure who decided that rye should be green, but I like it.

Opening the bottle… the color is really deep and dark, very exciting.

Right when you open the bottle, the nose is very hot, you can tell this is going to need some time to settle before truly giving it a full and proper review.

First impressions: very hot nose, licorice sticks, hot cinnamon candy, but just too harsh initially.  The palate initially is pretty awesome though, still pretty hot, but a great mouthfeel, with complex texture.  Initial read is that it needs to settle down, but has a ton of potential.  It’s really hot though.

Two hours later: the nose is still pretty hot, but not as hot as before; cinnamon toast is coming through as well as come anis, cocoa and Twix.  The hotness from before has slightly mellowed into a more round warmth, but it’s still hot on the palate and throat–pretty consistent with Booker’s style in general.  The mouthfeel and texture have improved since opening.

One day later…. still hot, but not getting burnt orange peel, cloves, cinnamon toast and Skittles.  The tongue is ticked by the taste and although the heat it still there, it’s more of a spicy heat than a pure hot heat now.  Really getting the cloved aged orange peel on the palate now.   There is a thick chewiness to it that coats the tongue, although doesn’t linger as long as I expected.  One day later has made a huge difference and hopefully the improvements will continue tomorrow.

Two days later the hotness has finally taken a back seat and is no longer the dominant feature.  The warmth in the chest remains but the sweeter notes from the nose and palate are coming through much stronger than anything else.

One month later the hotness in the nose remains, but it is not overwhelming.  Licorice, anis, buttered cinnamon toast, Kit-Kat, those dried orange cloves are reall coming out and so is a little bit of blackberry.  The mouthfeel is just as good as it always was: chewy, complex, delicious, and long.  It’s also very warm and lingers there in a good way.

When I first opened this bottle it was always too hot to drink.  The hottness mellows over time, but still remains.  This is a very good whiskey, but is it a shoo in for number one of the year?  Even if it were $100, I would say no.  I enjoy this, but there are already several whiskeys I’ve had this year that I enjoy more, and are certainly cheaper. 93/100.

 

Four Roses Elliott’s Select

While the huge media chatter of Jim Rutledge “retiring” and then quickly going online to kickstart his own distillery has dominated the news, Brent Elliott has quietly taken over as Master Distiller at Four Roses Distillery, continuing to make great whiskey.  The newest special release from Four Roses is the Elliott’s Select 2016 Limited Edition Single Barrel.

This review is from bottle number 4473/10224, a 52.9% abv, 14 year aged, OESK from warehouse QN from barrel 47-1L.

Golden brown color.

The nose has butterscotch, anise, brown sugar, smoked maple bacon, dry hay and candied apple.

The palate is phenomenal, good oils, moderate tannins, sweet fruits and candied apples engulf the mouth.  The finish is long and complex, thick and juicy.

This is clearly one of the standouts of 2016; hits all the right notes, is complex and enjoyable.  Too bad it’s one of those hard to find bourbons for a reasonable price… I’ve seen it listed on bottle-spot.com for low 200s, and at that price it’s reasonable. 97/100

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Bourbon @ The New York Shaving Company Barbershop

The company I work for has an annual charity auction where employees both donate events/items/experiences and also bid on other people’s donations.  This year I decided to work with the New York Shaving Company to donate a great bro’s event: Bourbon at the Barbershop.  Everyone who won the event was treated to an old school barber’s shave and as much amazing bourbon as they could drink.  John Scala, owner and operator of The New York Shaving Company, was an amazing host for our event and I provided the incredible selection of Bourbon.

The lineup for the event was:

  • Old Rip Van Winkle 10yr
  • Blade & Bow 22yr
  • Willett Family Estate Bourbon bottle #438
  • Thomas H. Handy BTAC 2014
  • Elijah Craig 18
  • Elijah Craig 23
  • Barrell Bourbon Batch 002
  • Barrell Bourbon Batch 005
  • Barrell Bourbon Batch 006
  • Barrell Whiskey Batch 002 Sherry Cask Finish
  • Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition 2014
  • Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition 2015
  • Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection Rediscovered Barrels 17yr
  • Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection Rediscovered Barrels 19yr
  • Michter’s 10 Bourbon
  • Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project
  • Elmer T. Lee
  • Weller Special Reserve

We raised a lot of money for charity and everyone had a great time–the hangovers were proof.  Thanks again to John and the great people at the NY Shaving Company and to everyone who bid high to win tickets to the event.  It was also a great way to finish off a bunch of heels from my collection.  18 bottles gone, which means I can take 18 more out of the bunker 🙂

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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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Barrell Whiskey 002: MAGICAL Sherry Cask Finish

I was at a whiskey tasting a couple weeks ago at the Harrison Wine Vault in Harrison, NY which was a charity event for the local pet shelter.  I convinced my wife to go with me because I said there would be lots of puppies with which our 1yr old would love to play.  There were a couple puppies, but my main purpose was to secure a designated driver for a whiskey tasting… I was sneaky, yet successful.  There were many new craft producers and only a few producers that I had tried before and liked.  I would say that 50% of the whiskeys to try were from a random new craft producer, trying to sell a product between six months and two years of age.  All of the new craft products were literally horrible.  Trying to push a nine month rye as a $60 bottle is just embarrassing–I don’t foresee many of them still in business in a couple years…  I was lucky Garrison Brothers was there (link from old review:    https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2015/11/07/garrison-brothers-texas-straight-bourbon-whiskey-another-great-drink/), Four Roses and Barrell Bourbon.  I knew I liked Batch 006 (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2015/12/29/barrell-bourbon-batch-006-home-run-top-5-of-the-year/), but they also were serving Batch 007 (very very good, but not yet on the market and I haven’t given it a proper tasting), and their new whiskey product, Barrell Whiskey Batch 002, which is a Sherry cask finish.  For those who follow this blog, you know my rants about finishing, so I was clearly skeptical about this product as well.  However, when I tried it, my concerns immediately melted away.  I was lucky to secure a bottle and my review is based on bottle number 1096.

Barrell Whiskey Batch 002 is a nine and a half year whiskey that has been finished in Sherry butts from Spain.   Like everything from Barrell Craft Spirits, this is bottled at cask strength: this particular batch is 61.9% abv.  I looked online, and I have confirmed that this is both the oldest whiskey that they have sold and their first cask finished product.  Like I said, I am extremely skeptical about finished whiskeys as I feel like most producers just mix in low quality dessert wines and pretend they have created something great–most fail at this (see my review of a failed “finished” whiskey from High West:    https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2015/10/31/high-wests-tragic-whiskey-a-midwinter-nights-dram/comment-page-1/).  Not only was I  surprised by BW002, I was blown away by how much I enjoyed this whiskey.

The color is honey suckle brown, for almost a 10yr whiskey, you can tell this has been aged in used barrels instead of the new barrels that bourbon is aged in.

The nose has hints of sherry, unlike most finished whiskeys which overpower the nose with the dessert wine that it is mixed with.  In addition to the sherry, notes of graham cracker, honeysuckle, Halloween Candy Corn, baked pumpkin seeds and butterscotch ice cream.  What is also surprising is the complete lack of heat on the nose–not something you would expect for a 120+ proof whiskey.  Perhaps that is due to the near 10yrs of age?

The palate is a delight.  The perfect integration of the sherry residue from the cask and the 9.5yr whiskey is so enjoyable on the tongue.  Every note from the nose is coming through even stronger on the palate, but the better part is the mouthfeel.  The intense thickness of oil and grit just creates a finish that goes on and on. By such a large margin, this is the best cask finished whiskey I have ever had, but it also is one of the best whiskeys I have ever had as well. The complexity of this whiskey has so many layers and the taste goes on for several minutes.  What is also amazing is how little heat comes through–for a cask strength product you often get an overwhelming amount of heat but this whiskey has just enough to know it is there, like a cashmere blanket next to a wood burning stove.

I checked into this batch and it turns out that only 200 cases (1200 bottles) were produced.  The Yamazaki Sherry Cask Finish 2016 had 3,000 bottles produced and I think this is even better than that.  I know that hoarders get a bad name, but I am not embarrassed to say that if I see any of these bottles left at any store, I will be buying them and drinking them for years to come.  I also hope that Barrell Craft Spirits comes out with another Sherry Cask batch because if this is just a one off project, the whiskey community will be at a deep loss.  So PLEASE: Barrell Craft Spirts, PLEASE continuing making a Sherry Finished product, you will have a customer for life in me.  If any of my readers are able to secure a bottle of this, just close your eyes and buy it: I guarantee you will not be disappointed.  97/100.

 

http://www.barrellbourbon.com/

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