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!