For the Love of the Hunt… and for all the people out there that have pissed off their spouses for liquor store detours.

My wife thinks I’m nuts. Why do I find incredible enjoyment walking into random liquor stores when I’m on vacation or places I’ve never been before. Is it a disorder? I just have this incredible invisible force compelling me into these stores. I can’t help it. Most of the time I walk in, look around, and walk out… but then there are times when I’m there for an hour.

Hunting in 2019 (and going forward) makes me appreciate commercial fisherman on the East Coast even more… it’s over hunted, you have to go twice as far to get half the load, and every once in a while you get scolded so badly by your spouse for ignoring your children (or dragging them in with you) that you almost want to quit. But then this happens:

Here’s the story. I’m in upstate New York visiting a cidery and I forgot I had to mail a letter. I pull over to the post office and across the street appears to be a closed down liquor store. I walk over and they have a doorbell, it says “push hard.” I do. Twice. A minute later a little old lady walks out the next door and comes over, introduces herself, unlocks the door and lets me in. It’s mostly very low end stuff, but above the shelf, about 7 feet above the floor, I spot a dusty Rebel Yell. I reach for it and she says it’s not for sale because no one would want anything up there because it’s all been there since they bought the store in the mid 1970’s. Jackpot. I say I’d really like to buy it and she says, ok, but it’s probably gone bad (Turns out the Rebel Yell was a 1983, I found that out from some trolls on Facebook, but that’s a story for another time). I climb on a box and behind the Rebel Yell is an Old Fitzgerald 1976 decanter. Two Stizel-Weller bottles?? There were a few other lesser decanters and I paid cash and went on my way. I gave them more than they were asking for them because I felt bad they didn’t know what they had. But these things were sitting in plain sight for 45 years. Reminds me of Godfather III: “just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”

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I’ve never seen Stitzel-Weller bottles on a dusty random shelf before… only in glass cases for thousands of dollars. I don’t ever expect to again… but I know they must still exist.

I did another hunt a month ago and the take is below… I didn’t buy anything at MSRP, but most was below secondary. I’m going to sell some, trade some, and drink most. I didn’t get everything I wanted this Bourbon season, but hopefully with the multiples I got, I’ll be able to trade my way into my deepest desires. That’s the only way to do it these days and as far as I am concerned there is no stigma to it. Anyone who thinks there is, probably isn’t going for the stuff I am going for anyway.

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The closest I got to MSRP this year was $200 for a Stagg from my local guy I do a lot of business with. Patronizing your local guy, making friends and staying on them is still your best way to get the best price on the allocated stuff. But for those who need more, the hunt is still alive and well and there is just enough out there to stock the bunker, and keep the dream alive for next year!

QUICK Review from a bar… Willett XCF, what PHC 12 should have been

This is basically what PHC12 should have been… the notes are literally identical in terms of items, but the intensity is the difference.  The whiskey is both good, but the orange isn’t a bomb, it’s subtle and woven well.  PHC12 is barely drinkable, this is very delightful (still not worth the secondary price though).  91/100.

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2018/11/04/i-love-parkers-heritage-collection-i-dont-like-this-release-though/

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Jack Rose 3: Willett side by side

Willett 23yr Bourbon B78 black wax capsule 136.2 proof:
Dark golden hue. Big nose,  but not up the middle, it surrounds and envelopes with charcoal, French toast, butter and s’mores. Wow. This is what bourbon is supposed to taste like. It’s huge, but not too hot given the proof.  The mouthfeel is awesome, clearly not chill filtered. The finish just goes on and on. This is a three minute+ bourbon. All the flavors from the nose are on the palate and they don’t dissipate at all. If this was all I could drink for the rest of my life I would be ok with that. 97.5/100.  This was a charity bottle for the Bourbon Bonanza Benefit 2016. Bottle number 23/109.

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Willett 24yr bourbon 121 proof Barrel No. 9956:
Nice dark golden color.  Nose is closed with hints of baking spices in the background. Great mouthfeel right off the bat, but the flavor isn’t following through. It’s enjoyable but it’s a shame I tried the B79 first, because this has more wood and tannins and just not as interesting. It’s still solid though–I’m not pouring it out. 92/100

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Rowan’s Creek: Solid dram for the price

Clocking in at a proof of 100.1, this is another Willett product in disguise.  I still don’t know why all of Willett’s non-eponymous brands even exist, because they all are substantially lower priced compared to their Family Estate lines… I’m sure there is a reason, I just don’t know what it is. Rowan’s is apparently a batch bourbon and this batch is 16-81.

Rusty amber color in a nice tall bottle.

Very classic aroma, butterscotch, s’mores, gravel, ginger snaps, Twix and baking spices.

The taste has everything that the nose has following through with an enjoyable finish that tickles the tongue.  The mouthfeel is enjoyable but not overly complex.  It’s not as thick as I would like, but with a non-cask strength bourbon, it does pretty well with the tannins and a touch of oil.  Finish goes on for well over a minute and stays consistently fun.

This is a good value bourbon.  I think I paid $40 for this, but it’s readily available in the mid to high 30s, and for that price it’s absolutely worth it.  I’d be curious to see what the other batches taste like and when I go through this bottle I probably will check out another batch.  The funny thing is, if this was an eponymous Willett, it easily would command $100 or higher.  90/100.

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Johnny Drum Private Stock 101 Proof Gem

Johnny Drum is one of those hidden gems that those in Kentucky know about, but few people outside of the Bluegrass State have been made aware of yet.  It retails for around $32, is aged 15 years and comes from Bardstown, at the Willett Distillery.  It’s a sourced whiskey and I have know idea where the Willett boys find it, but where are you going to get 15 years Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey for around thirty bucks?  I have the sneaky suspicion it’s a blend of stuff they think is not quite good enough for their WFE single barrel program, but still good enough to drink.

The color is a darker golden amber, shows the age without doubt.

There is an earthy aroma on the nose, mushrooms, dried hickory bark, but also baking spices with some brown sugar in the background.  It is an enjoyable nose with minimal heat.

The taste is good.  Upfront you get the richer notes which evolve into the spicy notes afterwards.  The palate is enjoyable and the finish is fairly long.

The is not a particularly complex bourbon, but it is enjoyable with rich notes given to it by the 15 years in the barrel.  It may be the stuff that doesn’t make it into the Willett Family Estate Single Barrel program, but it’s pretty good.  Not to mention the price, which can’t be beat.  It’s better that Forged Oak by a large margin, the only other 15 year bourbon easily available on the market, costing 2-3x (or more if some retailer is ripping you off).  90/100.

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3yr Rye Distilled, Aged & Bottled by The Willett Distillery

I’ve been drinking a lot of really great sourced whiskey from Willett over the past several years.  Their products contain some of the best juice in the world and bottled it at cask strength–just the way I like it.  My hope is that Drew & Co have taken the same skills in sourcing, blending and bottling into the distilling world for their rye.  It’s in the same beautiful Willett Family Estate bottle we all love, green capsule for the rye.

This bottle is bottled at 112.6 proof.

Medium light amber color.

Sweet candy nose, a bit hot with menthol but not overwhelming.  Cotton candy, rock candy, and a touch of peppermint are the stronger notes, with a hint of apples and cedar on the back.

The initial taste is ok, but not as good as I expected.  Some of the notes on the nose come through in the palate, but the mouthfeel is thin and the follow through lacks good flavor, only bitterness and heat.  The only enjoyment in this dram is the very first moment, because after that, it all goes away.

This rye is very disappointing.  For all the amazing products I’ve had from Willett, this is the worst one so far.  Maybe it’s because it’s only three years old?  I don’t know… I’ve had some very good 3yr ryes before and ones that I knew had a lot of potential, but I don’t know about this one.  I’m hoping this might have been a one-off occurence, but I won’t be trying any young Willett products for a while…  if anyone wants a sample, I’m happy to send one.  82/100.

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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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Trading Samples Is Awesome

About a year ago my collection got a little nuts… I was completely guilty of doing what most beginners do, always buying every new release, every limited edition batch, everything I had not tried before… I had over 100 open bottles, not to mention another 100+ in the bunker… things were getting a little out of hand.  I shifted gears–I still looked for the high end limited edition batches, found a couple brands that were always consistent with their batches and single barrels, but I also started to trade samples.  It helped me reduce my existing collection while simultaneously enabling me to try all sorts of other limited edition and single barrels that I wouldn’t normally be able to unless I owned a bar.  I wholeheartedly recommend everyone do some sample swapping, whether it’s to try new single barrels or before you decide to make a big purchase or just to do some trades for fun… http://www.bottle-spot.com (links below) has some people looking to trade samples and there are other sites as well.  Below are some brief reviews based on samples.  Thanks for reading!

Willett Family Estate 9yr Bourbon Barrel #1330, 117.6 proof: hot but good nose, with anise and butterscotch.  Great mouthfeel, goes down smooth.  Maybe a touch medicinal for my taste though… solid WFE single barrel.  88/100.

Willett Family Estate 11yr Bourbon Barrel #774, 128.1 proof: good age on the nose, quite a bit of forest floor, mushrooms, pencil shavings and bone.  The palate is very enjoyable, strong tannins, nice spicy taste, long finish.  Very enjoyable single barrel, wish I had a whole bottle of this one.  94/100.

Van Brunt Stillhouse Bourbon Lot #20, 84 proof: smells terrible, cheap and medicinal, like a band-aid.  So glad I didn’t buy a bottle of this, it’s proofed down too low, not exciting, not interesting and I can’t believe someone actually is buying this.  79/100.

Gooderham & Warts Four Grain Whiskey Blend A-A1129 2016, 88.8 proof: a friend of mine from Toronto was kind enough to share this one with me.  It has a very interesting nose, has a sweet rock candy note to it reminescent of some of the MGP ryes I’ve had.  The taste is good as well, but I would much rather of had this be cask strength and not proofed down.  Overall it’s good, but the proofing down has taken out a of of the complexity–if aged longer and high proof this one could be a real contender.  87/100.

Barrell Bourbon 8.5yr Straight Bourbon Private Retail Single Barrel #20, 120 proof: This is one of the single barrel releases from Barrel Bourbon that was only available in certain retailers in Minnesota that I traded from a local.  It has a nice peanut butter Jif nose with toasted raisin bread buttered and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.  The palate is awesome, fully coating the tongue with strong tannins.  Hot, strong, complex and long finish.  I’m going to reach out to my trading partner in MN and see if he can grab me a whole bottle.  94/100.

The Barrell Bourbon and the Willett Family Estate single barrels are both very interesting and I want to continue to try to get more of them… I’ve never had one of either that I didn’t like…  If anyone who is reading the blog has either of them, and is looking to trade a sample or a whole bottle, please DM me on Twitter.  Thanks for reading!

http://www.barrellbourbon.com/

http://www.kentuckybourbonwhiskey.com/home.html

http://www.bottle-spot.com/classifieds/category/314/Samples/listings/17325/BTAC-Samples-PAPPY,-unicorns-Willet-25,-FRLESB.html

http://www.bottle-spot.com/classifieds/category/314/Samples/listings/16534/Samples-of-Great-Hard-to-Find-Whiskeys-Trades.html

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Willett Bourbon WFE 11yr #1631 & C18D

Another gift shop purchase, this one brought back from a close friend of mine who was visiting a few months ago. I finally decided to open it a couple weeks ago when I was trying #438 and #9622. It is another 11yr Bourbon bottled at cask strength, 123.6 proof.

Everything Willett sells looks awesome in the bottle and this is no exception. Dark amber with burnt orange hues in the glass.

Underpowered nose with a bit of heat. After reaching deep I’m getting cloves, fresh ginger, white pepper. Compared to the last couple single barrels, this one doesn’t appear to be in the same league.

The mouthfeel initially is more pleasant than expected, with nice oils and well integrated tannis from the non-chill filtered. This bourbon treats you better when you hold it in your mouth for a while rather than quickly swallowing. The clove and wood flavors are good but not as enjoyable as the last few WFEs, yet the mouthfeel and grip almost make up for it. The heat is stronger than the last few as well but well within the acceptable range.

#1631 is a solid release from Willett but certainly will not be entered in the Hall of Fame. The mouthfeel and grip are the most enjoyable parts of it and I continue to appreciate producers who release unique batched cask strength Bourbons and I look forward to trying another one. 88/100.

If anyone has some older single barrels and is looking to trade samples, please reach out to me on Twitter and I’d like to trade.

http://www.kentuckybourbonwhiskey.com/home.html

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PS… I was in DC a couple weeks ago for business and tried this one. I was drunk and not in the proper mode to accurately rate it but I would say it safely rates in the 96-99 range… I may have to go back and try it again. Willett C18D.

 

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Willett Family Estate Single Barrel Bourbon 12yr #9622

I bought this bottle when I was at the Willett Distillery a couple weeks ago. They have a beautiful facility and I highly recommend everyone visit; they are distilling amazing products there. While I was there I also picked up the 11yr bottle #438 (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/01/27/willett-family-estate-single-barrel-bourbon-438-holy-moley/). When I first opened the bottles, 438 blew this one out of the water, but now that it has been a couple weeks I’m coming back to it and reviewing it–I’m glad I waited because it has really evolved.

Willett bottles always look great, this one was bottled at 118.8 proof. Dark amber.

When I opened this a couple weeks ago it was a little stale and rich mushroomy like a lesser Eagle Rare 10 aroma. Now that it has had the chance to open up there are more baking spices coming through and a very mild nose.

The palate is extremely enjoyable with nice oils and grip on the tongue with an enjoyable follow through. It is a complete and complex flavored bourbon.

This isn’t as good as bottle 438, but it’s very good in its own right, especially after being opened for a couple weeks. I love these Willett single barrels and wish I didn’t have to go to the gift shop or trade for them to be able to get them. Those who live nearby are very lucky indeed!  93/100.  I’m excited to see what it will be like in another month–probably will be even better!

http://www.kentuckybourbonwhiskey.com/home.html

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