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!

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More Obnoxious Liquor Stores Part II + one surprising good one

Sometimes when I have a lot of free time I’ll just go for a long walk in New York City and stop at every liquor store along my walk.  It’s good exercise, nice to be outside, and I like trying new neighborhoods that I’ve never been in (or haven’t visited in years since I move to the suburbs), so I try new stores.  Last night I went for a long walk up through the Upper East Side and hit up a bunch of stores, and three stood out.  The first two, well, just see the photos, you’ll understand.  The third one, as I got closer to Harlem was surprisingly good and worth checking out.  There were dozens of others that just didn’t have much but were not worthy of making the blog, either positively or negatively.

Big Apple Wine & Spirits: 1408 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10021…. Weller Reserve for $109, Thomas Handy for $699… come on guys.  Plus the guy at the front was extremely obnoxious.  Avoid this place.

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Manhattan Wine Xchange 1079 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10065: Weller 12 for $299, Kentucky Owl Rye for $269, Handy 500, Stagg 850… Why bother?

Crown Wine & Liquor 1587 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10028: This place was surprisingly good.  I picked up a ECBP B517 for retail as well as a Hirsch 20yr American Whiskey (from IL, so it probably stinks, but I’ve never seen it before on the shelf) for $99.99.  They had a Handy way in the back on the top of the shelf for $350, which is high, but for NYC, not obnoxiously high, so I passed on it.  I did offer them $250 cash, but the manager wasn’t there so the guy at the front didn’t know what to do.  They were fine, the selection was good, and the prices reasonable.

More Obnoxious Liquor Stores… Avoid unless you want to get upset… Part I

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Sag Harbor Liquor Store: 52 Main St, Sag Harbor, NY 11963 …. Take a look at the prices on this one.  I realize this quaint store is based in the center of Sag Harbor riches, where most houses are second homes of Wall Street elite or primary residences of independently wealthy people who probably don’t even check prices… but these are insane.  $185 for Weller 107?  That’s a $30-35 bottle and it isn’t even a store pick. I find that one the most offensive, the $245 for Weller 12 750ml doesn’t even bother me as much, even though its 2x secondary. How about $1,600 for Michter’s 20, no not the one from a few years ago that was probably SW juice, this year’s release.  I know that’s the bottle in the background in Billions, but seriously guys.  There are so many more, but I had to leave the store before I got really angry.  Anyway, this store is one to steer clear of, don’t even get tempted.

Murray Hill NYC: Winfield-Llynn Ltd Wine & Spirits: 558 3rd Ave @ 37th st: COMPLETELY obnoxious… on the top shelf they have a bunch of bottles that we are all searching for, but are charging close to double secondary values.  When I asked if they are negotiable, the guy basically laughed at me.  What a joker.  Ignore this store…

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JL Wine & Liquors: 60 East 34th Street.  If you want bad service, lack of knowledge, and a Parkers Heritage 11 for $499.99, then this is the store for you!

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Beekman Liquor 500 Lexington Ave: besides horrible service, obnoxious people, you can get a 2017 BTAC George T Stagg there for $699!  Just the worst… avoid like the plague!

Madison Square Grapes: 342 7th Ave & 29th st.  You gotta see these photos to believe it… the funny thing is some of the prices aren’t insane, but some just make no sense at all.  Micthers 10 for $239.99, while EC18 is only $10 more?  Stagg Jr for $119.99 and Forged Oak for $189.99?  It almost makes their Seasoned Wood for $399.99 look like a bargain?

 

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.

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BTEC Entry Proof Experiment

I love the BTEC collection, even if I don’t love each of the individual whiskeys. The fact they are experimenting and letting us try them is pretty cool. I’m not in love with the costs either, but the market has dictated most of high prices.  Not to give this one away, but this experiment is one of my absolute favorites when it comes to the results.

The BTEC is about entry level proof into the barrel, 105 vs 125 using the BT rye bourbon mash #2 and aged for 13.25 years.

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Both look equally golden Amber in color.

105: a bit hot on the nose initially, but butterscotch, lemongrass, peach pits, cinnamon, allspice and oak come through in the second whif.

125: surprisingly not hot on the nose, it’s sweeter with toasted raisin bread, butter cornbread, cracked walnut and baking spices. The nose on this one seems far more developed and approachable.

105: enjoyable initial taste, although thin mouthfeel and quickly drops off with a slightly sour aftertaste with just warmth remaining.

125: even more enjoyable initial taste, with a medium mouthfeel that continues for much longer and does not give a sour aftertaste. The finish is moderate and there is a much more balanced flavor, feel and warmth profile that the 105 entry point is missing.

There isn’t even a comparison here and it’s shocking to believe these started as the same, with everything identical expect for the entry proof into the barrel. The 105 proof is an incomplete and lacking bourbon, while the 125 is very enjoyable. A bit expensive for a 375ml, but good to know how important entry proof is into a barrel, and it’s no wonder that most distillers fill their barrels at the legal maximum.  Great experiment and worth trying side by side to see.

105:  83/100
125:  91/100

PHC10: Parker’s Heritage Collection #10: 24yr Bourbon

Another one of the epic releases for the year, exploding in price on bottle-spot… and I had to have it so I could share my thoughts with my readers.  I wish I bought it at retail, but unfortunately I paid up for it… was it worth it?

It has a beautiful dark, root beer-esque color too it.  But is it too dark?  We shall see…

Really rich and powerful nose… stewed berries, cocoa, leather, pencil shavings, cigar box, toasted marshmallows and Twix.  So much going on in the nose and really nice… you can smell wood but the wood is not overpowering, which is tough to do on a 24yr Bourbon.  Mild heat on the nose.`

The taste is great… all those flavors on the nose come out in the palate, heat only on the way down, and the finish is long and it improves as it dissipates.  The mouthfeel is ok, but a little thinned out, and I’m a little surprised that it’s not chill filtered.  I had to wait three minutes before the second sip because the finish was going on and on.

It’s amazing comparing this to Old Blowhard… this really nails it while Old Blowhard is the epitome of everything wrong with an old overoaked whiskey.

This is a very special whiskey.  It’s not going to be for everyone’s style, and it will be in even less people’s budgets, but it’s a great Bourbon from Heaven Hill.  I’ve seen it trade online for between $400 and $600 and I think it will probably settle down somewhere in the $450 area at the end of the day.  It’s my third favorite 2016 release this year so far (behind FRSB Elliot’s Select and Barrell Whiskey 002), but by far the most expensive.  I’ll be savouring this one for a while.  96/100

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Barrell Bourbon Batch 008

I’ve reviewed the offerings from Barrell Craft Spirits a few times on this blog and I am consistently impressed by all of their whiskeys.  My preference for whiskey is bourbon, specifically cask strength.  I also love having private single barrels or different batches, where I get to try a new permutation of the distiller or blenders vision each time, instead of exactly the same thing each time.  Every year BTAC comes out with something slightly different and yet still awesome.  The problem is that it’s nearly impossible to get at a reasonable price and paying $500+ a bottle is just not doable for an everyday drinker.  WFE used to be reasonable, but secondary prices on the good ones have skyrocketed.  Even EH Taylor barrel proof is getting hard to find, but I find them to be too hot anyway.  That’s why I love Barrell Bourbon so much: it’s great, it’s cask strength, and it’s available (for now) so you don’t need to pay through the nose in the secondary market and feel bad about drinking it every day.

Now on to BB-8… the newest release and the oldest bourbon they have released thus far.  Classic looking bottle, great dark amber color.

The nose is very complex, with chunky peanut butter, light tobacco leaves, butterscotch, anise, hints of buttered popcorn and some hickory lump charcoal in the background.  Very inviting and not at all hot, especially considering it is 132.8 proof.

Captivatingly smooth, yet still spicy and sharp with some good tannins and clearly a non-chill filtered bottling.  Good oils and weight provide a very long finish and warm follow through.  If I had to guess I would have thought this was closer to 100 proof given the lack of upfront heat.  Very well done.

This is the reason I’m so glad I have found Barrell Bourbon, it saves me to much money by buying these great batches and not overpaying for BTAC or other highly priced, impossibly allocated Bourbons.  Batch 008 gets a solid 95/100.

Can’t wait for batch 009, I heard it’s going to be over 10yrs old!!!!

http://www.barrellbourbon.com

http://www.barrellbourbon.com/batch-008

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