Review #201: Hancock's Reserve

Hancock’s Reserve is a lower proof offering from Buffalo Trace’s fabled mashbill 2. I feel like it’s a little bit the odd man out of the line up with people hunting Elmer T Lee, Blanton’s and Rock Hill Farms much more than this guy but it doesn’t just sit on shelves like Ancient Age.

s Reserve

 

Hancock’s Reserve

Age: NAS

Abv: 88.9 proof

Price: $55

Neat

Nose: Sweet and gentle with caramel and vanilla notes.

Taste: Smooth and sweet with more caramel and vanilla. Thin mouthfeel.

Finish: Short to medium finish with hints of baking spice but mostly sweet vanilla.

Conclusion

This is simple, sweet and easy to drink. There’s nothing bad about it but there’s nothing great about it either. I like the sweet caramel and vanilla notes but I’d much rather have one of the other mashbill #2 bottles like Blanton’s, Elmer T Lee or Rockhill Farms. I’m glad I got this bottle but I won’t be looking for another one.

TL;DR: Simple, sweet, smooth

6 - a good whiskey I’m still happy to drink

Poor - Overpriced, not worth the money

Scale

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Analysis of the first 200 reviews

I’m taking a short break from drinking for the start of the year and I just finished review #200 so I figured this would be a good time to do an analysis of my first 200 reviews.

High Level Stats

Average: 7.09

Std Dev: 1.7

Mode: 8

Median: 7

Max: 10

Min: 1

Distribution:

  1. 2
  2. 3
  3. 5
  4. 5
  5. 13
  6. 26
  7. 44
  8. 46
  9. 35
  10. 5

I’m pretty happy with those numbers though it does reveal that I fall into the same behavior as a lot of other internet reviewers and tend to give out a lot of 8s even if they were neck and neck with 7s. I feel like 5/200 for perfect 10s is pretty reasonable with top 3% being a good approximation of the best whiskies I’ve reviewed. Clearly there aren’t many 1-4 reviews and I am fine with that since I am not going to buy much whiskey I don’t care for at this point and I don’t like to spend too much of my creative time being negative about things.

The 10 point reviews went to a distillery release of High West Rendezvous Rye aged for 4 years and 7 months in port pipes(basically MWND but higher proof and more port), 2018 Old Rip Van Winkle, Joseph Magnus Cigar Blend Batch 12, 2019 William Larue Weller and Remus Volstead Reserve. I pretty much stand by all of these and haven’t given up hopes of finding that High West release.

*Quick note that when I moved to my current scale and account I did update the reviews on atxbourbon.com but not the reviews posted on Reddit as u/scottmotorrad and the above distribution is based on the updated scores. Of course discussing the numbers without looking at the scale doesn’t tell a very complete picture so that’s up next.

Scale

Quality

10 - an all time favorite, must buy/hunt - Old Rip Van Winkle 2018

9 - a favorite I always try to keep on my shelf - EH Taylor Barrel Proof 2019

8 - an excellent bottle I’d like to have at home - Blanton’s

7 - a great whiskey I’d order at a bar - Rare Breed

6 - a good whiskey I’m still happy to drink - 1792 Small Batch

5 - a whiskey with notable strengths but also held back by some flaws - High West Campfire

4 - a fine whiskey that does not standout in either direction - Evan Williams Black Label

3 - Better than not drinking whiskey but just barely - Crown Royal Deluxe

2 - Mixer only - Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye

1 - Pouring out the bottle, Coke Zero deserves better - Hazmat MGP Light Whiskey

Value

Great - A great deal, I’d buy it again - Eagle Rare, 1792 Small Batch

Fair - Worth the money, happy with my purchase - Rare Breed, A Mid Winter Night’s Dram

Poor - Overpriced, not worth the money - Kentucky Owl Confiscated, Heaven’s Door 10 year

I am very happy with the breakdown into 2 parts 1 for quality and 1 for value.

I think 10 points might still be too many though. I’ve considered something like the New York Times restaurant scale that lumps everything from ok down into the 0 star bucket so from 5 down on my current scale and then has 1-4 stars for good to extraordinary. I do like reserving a number at the bottom for things that are outright bad though so it doesn’t quite work for me. Moving to a 7 or 8 point scale seems counter intuitive compared to a 5 or 10 point and 5 feels just a little too tight. Anyways I’m going to keep thinking about it, if you have any suggestions please send them my way!

Breakdown by type

Bourbon

Count: 128

Average: 7.34

Max: 10

Rye*

Count: 32

Average: 7.00

Max: 10

Speyside

Count: 17

Average: 7.47

Max: 9

American

Count: 10

Average: 4.80

Max: 7

Japan

Count: 4

Average: 7.50

Max: 8

Canada*

Count: 3

Average: 4

Max: 6

Islay

Count: 3

Average: 6.67

Max: 8

Highland

Count: 2

Average: 7.5

Max: 8

France

Count: 1

Average: 2

Max: 2

*Canadian Rye sold as Straight Rye whiskey in the US is bucketed as Rye

Not a lot of surprises here for me. I like bourbon a lot and drink it the most so naturally most of my reviews were bourbon. With my tastes tending towards higher proofs these days and the new tariffs I just don’t see myself getting back into scotch all that much. I’ll still drink it from time to time especially for things like the r/scotch Wardhead pick and definitely when I am in Europe and can get cask strength stuff at a reasonable cost. American and Canadian whiskey that are not straight bourbon or straight rye are generally not for me and that shows in the stats.

TL;DR The first 200 reviews went well. Looking forward to 200 more!

Reviews #195-200: The 2019 Van Winkle Collection

Pappy New Year r/bourbon! In addition to tasting through the 2019 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection I also succeeded in tasting through the 2019 Van Winkle Collection. It’s been a fun and delicious, if expensive, month or so around here. This was the first time I was able to try the Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye and only the 2nd or 3rd taste of most of the other Van Winkles, Old Rip excluded of course. I didn’t secure any Van Winkle bottles this year so these were mostly bar pours at Nickel City with one taste at drink.well and one tasting at a liquor store.

The tasting notes are in the order that I tasted them in.

 

Van Winkle Special Reserve 12 Year

Age: 12 years

Abv: 90.4 proof

Neat

Nose: Soft and sweet with rich brown sugar, vanilla and faint cherry notes.

Taste: More brown sugar, a clear but not bitter oak note and more faint cherry. It had a thinner mouthfeel than I expected, even given the proof.

Finish: Medium length finish that was sweet and oaky.

7 - a great whiskey I’d order at a bar

Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye

Age: 13 years

Abv: 95.6 proof

Neat

Nose: Amazing nose that is spicy, herbaceous, sweet and oaky at the same time. Very complex but well balanced.

Taste: More rich and sweet herbals notes with rye spice and rich oak. Thin mouthfeel though.

Finish: Long and warm with herbs and rye spice.

8 - an excellent bottle I’d like to have at home

Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year

Age: 15 years

Abv: 107 proof

Neat

Nose: Sweet vanilla, rich oak and creamy butterscotch notes.

Taste: Rich oak notes with no bitterness, sweet and creamy vanilla and butterscotch. Effectively no spiciness. Excellent mouthfeel.

Finish: Medium length and mostly oak notes.

9 - a favorite I always try to keep on my shelf

Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year

Age: 10 years

Abv: 107 proof

Neat

Nose: Soft and sweet with brown sugar and slight baking spice notes

Taste: Brown sugar, warm spice and rich oak. Excellent mouthfeel.

Finish: Long and warm with more spices and some oak and brown sugar to balance.

9 - a favorite I always try to keep on my shelf

Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year

Age: 20 years

Abv: 90.4 proof

Neat

Nose: Lots of oak, slightly bitter but balanced with some sweet butterscotch and vanilla notes.

Taste: Tannic and oaky with a similar sweetness to the nose. Surprisingly good mouthfeel for the low proof.

Finish: Short to medium length finish that was all rich oak

6 - a good whiskey I’m still happy to drink

Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year

Age: 23 years

Abv: 95.6 proof

Bottle: K4897

Neat

Nose: Strong oak notes balanced by butterscotch and warm spice.

Taste: Brown sugar, oak and faint spice notes with a thinner but velvety mouthfeel.

Finish: Long and lingering with warm spice and brown sugar.

8 - an excellent bottle I’d like to have at home

Conclusion

Those were some good whiskies even if most of there weren’t amazing.

The Lot B a step up from Weller 12 but not a big one imo. It’s got that wheat sweetness, nice oak and it’s low proof and easy to drink. There’s nothing offensive about it but it’s a touch boring. If it were priced based on it $80 MSRP it would be a nice pour from time to time but nothing to seek out and certainly not something worth hunting/overpaying for.

The Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye had an amazing nose. I’d be interested in a cologne, deodorant, body wash or candle with those notes. The taste was more of the same but a little muted and the thin mouthfeel was disappointing. I think a few more points of proof would turn this into a 9/10 for me. I preferred to it this year’s Handy and Saz 18.

Pappy 15 tends to be the consensus pick for the best of the Van Winkle line up and this year I agree. Based off the nose, palate and mouthfeel I was going to give PVW15 a 10/10 but the finish was a let down and knocked it back down to 9/10. Is this bottle worth all the Pappy mania? Certainly not. Would I buy and drink this at or near its retail price? All day.

My personal favorite of the Van Winkles tend to be the Old Rip Van Winkle. This year’s Wizard Pappy didn’t have the cherry note that I got from the 2018 which bumped it down a point. It was still very delicious and I haven’t given up hope of acquiring a bottle.

This year’s Pappy 20 reminded me a lot of Rhetoric 25 but without the warm spice notes. It was all oak, but not harsh and only slightly bitter compared to last year’s release which I thought was too bitter and astringent. Still I wouldn’t regularly drink this even if I could for a reasonable price, though I wouldn’t say no to a pour. It was my least favorite of the bunch.

Pappy 23 is the rarest and most expensive of the bunch but didn’t live up to that for me. For such as old, oaky bourbon it was surprisingly easy to drink and still had more to the taste than just oak. The mouthfeel was thin but still nice somehow which was surprising to me. I liked it quite a bit but not for the retail price much less secondary or bar pour cost.

Overall the Van Winkle line up consists of good bourbon, with 2 standouts and a very solid rye. Pappy mania has blown these way out of proportion but I think the backlash can go too far as well. The 10 and 15 in particular are outstanding whiskies that I would love to have better access to.

 

TL;DR: Old Rip and Pappy 15 are the best of the bunch, the rye was no slouch either

Scale

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2019 Whiskey Awards

After all the excitement around Jim Murray and Whiskey Advocate picking 1792 Full Proof and George Dickel Bottled in Bond as their whiskies of the year I figured it would be fun to do my own whiskies of the year list. Do I have any meaningful credentials or have I tried enough of this year’s whiskey releases for this list to be authoritative? Of course not! So let’s do this.

Requirements to be on the list:

  • Released in 2019
  • I was able to get a bottle and drink a reasonable amount of it
  • No barrel picks for the non-barrel pick award categories

Judging Criteria

  • For whiskies I wrote reviews for this year I respected the scores given
  • Otherwise it is whatever I enjoyed most

To be clear this my favorite whiskies released in 2019 and not “The best whiskies released” or “Whiskies I think everyone will love” and definitely not “Things you should tater over.”

Straight Bourbon

Winner: Remus Volstead Reserve

Runner Up: 2019 George T Stagg

Apparently most folks didn’t love the Remus Volstead as much as I did which is great because it means I will have the option to get a 3rd or 4th bottle if needed. As I wrote in my review this a better price on 14 year old MGP than I can find anywhere else and it is masterfully blended compared to the Smooth Ambler and Boone County single barrel releases(which are also fantastic). I am actually drinking it while I type this up.

I really enjoyed this year’s George T Stagg and found that it still had all the flavor I wanted from Stagg and was more approachable at the lower proof. It was also my first BTAC at retail which didn’t hurt!

Finished Bourbon:

Winner: Joseph Magnus Cigar Blend 12

Runner Up: Bardstown Bourbon Company Copper and Kings Collaboration

Despite the high price I’ve been a fan of Joseph Magnus Bourbon and their Murray Hill Club blend for a while. The Cigar Blend tends to be their best release and of the 5 or so batches I’ve tasted 12 stood out from the pack. It’s rich and complex with one of the best finishes I’ve had on a bourbon. As the name implies it also pairs brilliantly with a cigar.

The closest thing I’ve had to Cigar Blend that wasn’t Cigar Blend was Bardstown Bourbon Company’s collaboration with Copper and Kings. It’s 11 year old MGP bourbon finished in American apple brandy casks and is quite delicious.

Straight Rye:

Winner: The Senator 2019

Runner Up: Michter’s 10 year rye

I don’t drink nearly as much rye as bourbon but I still had a few favorites this year. The Senator was excellent last year so I jumped at the chance to get a bottle of this year’s release and it did not disappoint. It’s spicy and complex without being overwhelming. I also thought this year’s release of Michter’s 10 Year Rye was better than previous releases or at least the barrel I got was. A review is forthcoming.

Finished Rye:

Winner: High West A Midwinter Night’s Dram

Runner Up: Sagamore Spirit Cognac Finish

I didn’t think this year’s MWND was a good as last year’s but it was still delicious. I’ve enjoyed the shift in flavor profile as they’ve moved to using more of their own distillate and I am always a fan of a sweet finish on a rye. Sagamore Spirit had a pretty interesting release of their own port finished MGP rye last year and while I didn’t think it was quite as good as MWND it was still a solid, cheaper and more available alternative. This year they stepped it up with a cognac finish which was even better. I’m looking forward to next year which I believe will be an apple brandy finish.

Bourbon Barrel Pick:

Winner: Moonshine Grill Cheesy Gold Foil

Runner Up: Oak Liquor Cabinet Magnus

Rarebird101 wouldn’t put Moonshine Grill’s Cheesy Gold Foil as his top Wild Turkey single barrel of the year but I will and will pick it as my top bourbon barrel pick in general. Maybe it’s because I drank my whole first bottle, probably at least 1 at the bar and have another one at home? Maybe it’s because I didn’t have access to his winner the Single Cask Nation Wild Turkey? We’ll never know.

The runner up was super hard to pick as there were several great barrel picks this year but I am going with the batch 3 of Oak Liquor Cabinet’s Joseph Magnus pick. I am fan of well aged ~100 proof MGP, of Magnus and of the picks at Oak. I think this pick is the best of the 3 and hopefully not the last pick but with Magnus moving to Republic from Victory things look bleak.

Rye Barrel Pick:

Winner: High West Barrel Select Cognac Finish

Runner Up: High West Barrel Select Rum Finish

These were both distiller barrel selects and thankfully I have a connection in Park City Utah. The rum and cognac finishes do great things for High West’s ryes and their distillery releases are some of their best.

Scotch:

Winner: Glenfiddich Spirit of Speyside Festival Bottle

Barrel Pick Winner: r/Scotch Wardhead

I coincidentally was in Scotland when the Spirit of Speyside Festival took place this year so naturally I went. It was an amazing experience in its own right and on top of that I was able to get a bottle of Glenfiddich’s festival release which was a 15 year old, cask strength bottling fully matured it port pipes. It was right up my scotch alley. One thing I wasn’t able to track down on either of my UK trips this year as a bottle of Wardhead, indie teaspooned Glennfiddich. Thankfully t8ke and the r/scotch panel picked an outstanding cask of Wardhead for the r/scotch pick and closed that gap in my scotch collection.

Whiskey You Can Actually Buy For a Reasonable Price:

The criteria here are simple a bottle must be on shelves at ~MSRP in Austin and <$5 for a 1.5 oz drink so <80 for a fifth or <40 for a pint.

Winner: Four Roses Small Batch Select

Runner Up: Remus Repeal Batch 3

The Four Roses Small Batch Select was an awesome release that brought a lot of what I want from Four Roses, higher proof, older, NCF to an accessible affordable offering. I wish we were back in the days were it was easy to get Four Roses picks for $65 but alas we are not and this bottle helps fill that gap.

When MGP released their own label of MGP bourbon with George Remus I was unimpressed and the release of the Remus Repeal batches flew under my radar for a while but not any more. The Repeal Batch 2 was great and one of the better values in MGP bourbon. Batch 3 is even better imo and the same price.

 

Honorable Mentions

  • Four Roses 2019 Small Batch Limited Edition: I had to trade to get this and have only had a single pour so far but it is quite good. It would definitely be a contender in the top category.
  • EHT Barrel Proof: This year’s EHT Barrel Proof was amazing, I think I prefer the GTS though. I’ll have to do a blind.
  • Smoke Wagon: I’ve taken a shine to these lately but haven’t picked a favorite of the lot.
  • Four Roses picks: A lot of the ones I have been drinking aren’t from 2019 and I haven’t picked a favorite yet.
  • Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond 13 year: Surprisingly no wheaters made my list this year but this one was the closest.
  • Knob Creek picks: The 13-15 year old Knob Creek picks this year were great especially for the price but price wasn’t a major factor in this list.

Conclusion

2019 was a great year in bourbon for me. There were a number of great releases especially in private selects and single barrels. Ignore the awards, ignore the internet hype and drink what you like. There is a lot of great bourbon out there that anyone can get even if it isn’t as ‘Instagram-able’ or doesn’t qualify as whiskey porn. Get involved in your local store pick scene and figure out who does great picks as they are one of the best ways to get bourbon that is both unique and delicious without having to hunt, build expensive relationships with store, get lucky or pay significantly above retail.

Be wary of high cost new releases as most of them were misses for me this year. KO Confiscated, BCS 15 year, Cornerstone, Widow Jane The Vaults and Cream of Kentucky were all misses at their price points. Then only one that lived up to its cost was the Remus Volstead Reserve.

 

TL;DR: 2019 was a great year for bourbon

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Reviews #191-194: The Four Horseman MGP Light Whiskies

A local group I am in did a bottle share on Elixir Spirit’s Four Horseman of the Whiskey Apocalypse(warning Facebook link) a set of 4 high proof MGP light whiskies sourced by Backbone with over the top stickers. I’d only had two experiences with MGP light whiskey before these samples with the High West 14 Year, which was interesting as a novelty but not something I want to drink regularly and Single Cask Nation’s 12 light whiskey finished in bourbon, rye and IPA casks which I did not care for. Given that I am not sure why I thought a sample set of MGP light whiskies was something I should go in on but here we are so let’s taste them.

Also based on the advise of a more experience light whiskey drinker I let these rest for 15 minutes instead of my customary 5.

 

Death

Age: 11 years

Abv: 132 proof

Neat

Nose: Potent with strong acetone notes and subtler oak and sweet notes.

Taste: Tons of burn, acetone, an almost plastic note, slight sweet notes underneath.

Finish: A welcome rush of sweet vanilla and then a faint lingering burn.

1 - Pouring out the bottle, Coke Zero deserves better

Conquest

Age: 11 years

Abv: 135 proof

Neat

Nose: Smells like vodka with some fainter vanilla and caramel notes.

Taste: Hot with a good amount of ethanol taste and some rich caramel and spice underneath. Great mouthfeel.

Finish: Long and lingering with spice and vanilla notes.

6 - a good whiskey I’m still happy to drink

War

Age: 11 years

Abv: 136 proof

Neat

Nose: Vodka and sweet vanilla notes.

Taste: Subtler ethanol with warm spices, rich caramel and oak notes. Great mouthfeel.

Finish: Shorter finish with warm spice and faint caramel.

6 - a good whiskey I’m still happy to drink

Famine

Age: 11 years

Abv: 143.3 proof

Neat

Nose: Off putting with plastic and oak notes.

Taste: More plastic and oak. Very harsh.

Finish: Medium to long finish with more of the weird notes.

1 - Pouring out the bottle, Coke Zero deserves better

Conclusion

Well that was something. The Death was aptly named and was one of, if not the worst, whiskey I’ve had this year closely followed by the Famine. The Conquest and War were shockingly better than the other two and were enjoyable if not something I would want to drink regularly. The higher proof made them more interesting if nothing else. The other folks I’ve heard back from on the bottle share agreed that War and Conquest were the best though some people enjoyed Famine more than I did.

I think I am done with light whiskey for a while at least. Bourbon, rye and scotch are more my kinds of whiskey.

On the plus side these are my first and second 1 point scores!

TL;DR: Conquest and War are what High West’s Light Whiskey should have been. Death and Famine were drain pours.

Scale

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Review #190: The Senator 2019

The Senator is a 6 year barrel proof MGP rye release by Strong Spirits and Proof and Wood. Strong Spirits was founded by the folks from Redemption Whiskey after they sold Redemption and the rumor is that their contacts and MGP were more than happy to keep supplying their new venture with high end stocks. They managed to somehow get their first release, The Presidential Dram, mired in the 2016 election politics which mus thave been fun for them. After that they started releasing their rye as the Senator and their bourbon as the Ambassador. I’ve tasted the 2018 bottlings of both and they were both great but they both eluded me until just recently when I was able to secure the Senator at a reasonable price. MGP ryes tend to be hit or miss with me as they can have that dill note that I don’t care for so here’s hoping the 2019 Senator release holds up.

 

The Senator Summer 2019 Bottling

Age: 6 years

Abv: 112.1 proof

Price: $85

Neat

Nose: Rich and spicy with just enough sweetness. Baking spice, rye spice, herbal and vanilla notes.

Taste: Warm with a rich medley of herbs and spices balanced by sweet vanilla and hints of oak. Solid mouthfeel.

Finish: Long and spicy with rye and baking spice notes with subtler oak notes.

Conclusion

This was very much a The Price is Right level of spice for me, it was just up to the edge without going over. There were no real surprises here and this delivered exactly what I wanted from a good MGP rye. The bottle also looks great which isn’t a big deal but is a nice plus.

TL;DR: Excellent execution of the standard MGP rye profile.

8 - an excellent bottle I’d like to have at home

Fair - Worth the money, happy with my purchase

As a side note I took the picture while I was checking on some home made beef jerky, it wasn’t ready yet.

Scale

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Review #189: Medley Barrel Proof Beastmasters Club Pick

I’ve been a big fan of the Russell’s Reserve, Four Roses and Smoke Wagon picks from Beastmasters Club so when they released a new aged stated, barrel proof pick I figured it would be good too. Then after I had ordered I realized it was from the folks behind Wathens…

Well now I have this bottle so let’s see how it is.

 

Medley Barrel Proof Beastmasters Club pick

Age: 8 years

Abv: 125.9 proof

Price: $95

Neat

Nose: Spicy and nutty with cinnamon, peanut, baking spice and fainter caramel notes.

Taste: Hotter than the nose with lots of cinnamon, some baking spice and fainter nutty and sweet notes that are hard to place with all the heat. Great mouthfeel though.

Finish: Short and hot with cinnamon and a bit of oak

Conclusion

Well that was disappointing. This was a good lesson to not blindly trust a pick group when they release something obscure just because you’ve liked their previous picks. After this I’ll still be grabbing Wild Turkey, Four Roses and MGP picks from Beastmasters but I’ll be passing on the weird stuff.

TL;DR: Taste like an extra hot Old Ezra 7 that someone tipped cinnamon into.

3 - Better than not drinking whiskey but just barely

Poor - Overpriced, not worth the money

Scale

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Reviews #186-188: Four Roses OBSF v OESF

This is the fourth yeast strain tasting in my Four Roses series with a blind tasting of the F yeast strain. I have 3 picks ranging from 9 to 10 years and from 110 to 117 proof. None of the bottle are from Texas this time with a bottle from Beastmasters Club, the 2018 Kentucky Derby Festival and K&L Wines.

There’s another blind tasting video to pick my favorite and then I topped off the glasses and sat down to write these more detailed notes.

Four Roses OESF Kentucky Derby Festival

Age: 9 years 1 months

Abv: 117

Warehouse: KE

Barrel: 56-2A

Neat

Nose: Herbal, sweet caramel , vanilla and faint spice notes.

Taste: Lots of caramel, some vanilla, a bit of oak and mint. Average mouthfeel given the proof.

Finish: Medium length finish with caramel, mint and warm spice notes

Ranking: #3

8 - an excellent bottle I’d like to have at home

Four Roses OBSF Beastmasters Club Crude Oil

Age: 9 years 5 monthss

Abv: 113.4

Warehouse: UN

Barrel: 37-2T

Neat

Nose: Earthy nose with some vanilla and caramel notes as well.

Taste: Fruity and spicy with caramel and oak notes. Great mouthfeel.

Finish: Very long with rich red fruit and baking spice notes.

Ranking: #1

9 - a favorite I always try to keep on my shelf

Four Roses OESF K&L

Age: 10 years 1 months

Abv: 110.6

Warehouse: AN

Barrel: 14-20

Neat

Nose: Sweet caramel, vanilla, rye spice and faint oak notes. Very typical bourbon.

Taste: Sweet caramel, red fruit, rye spice and oak. Solid mouthfeel for the proof.

Finish: Medium to long finish that is more of the same from the taste.

Ranking: #2

8 - an excellent bottle I’d like to have at home

Conclusion

I shouldn’t have been surprised when the Beastmasters won since it already won my blind B recipe tasting. The F yeast strain was the one I had the least tasting experience with and it was solid with the Beastmasters pick really standing out. The nose was just ok on that one but everything else was outstanding. The K&L pick was exactly what I would expect from a good Four Roses Private Select but didn’t stand out from a lot of the other picks in this series. The Derby bottle wasn’t quite at that level but was still very tasty.

Next up is the elusive O yeast strain next week. It’s supposed to be fruity which is great for my palate.

TL;DR: F is a solid strain and the Beastmasters pick was awesome.

Scale

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Reviews #181-185: 2019 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection

I tried to taste all of last year’s Buffalo Trace Antique Collection but never tracked down the Saz 18 so this year I jumped on it as soon as they dropped in Austin. I hit drink.well, Nickel City, Moonshine and my home bar to try everything and while it wasn’t cheap I do think it was worth it.

I drank William Larue first at drink.well, then tried the Eagle Rare 17 at Nickel City, did a side by side of the Thomas Handy Sazerac and Sazerac 18 at Moonshine and then wrapped this adventure up with my shiny new bottle of ‘19 George T Stagg.

The reviews are in the order I tasted them so let’s get to it.

William Larue Weller

Age: 12 years 6 months

Abv: 128 proof

Neat

Nose: Sweet and inviting with caramel, cherry and chocolate notes

Taste: Amazingly rich, sweet and complex with spice and oak and cherry and caramel and chocolate notes. Very viscous mouthfeel, best of the bunch.

Finish: Extremely long, spicier than I expected, and with more of all the good notes from the taste

10 - an all time favorite, must buy/hunt

Eagle Rare 17

Age: 17 years 3 months

Abv: 101 proof

Neat

Nose: Sweet and earthy with big caramel and oak notes and smaller vanilla and warm spice notes.

Taste: Earthy, leathery, spicy and sweet all at once with warm spice, oak, caramel, vanilla and leather notes.

Finish: Long sweet and oaky.

9 - a favorite I always try to keep on my shelf

Sazerac 18

Age: 18 years 4 months

Abv: 90 proof

Neat

Nose: Soft with herbal, floral, spice and leather notes

Taste: Warm, herbal and spicy notes with subtler oak and vanilla notes. A disappointingly thin mouthfeel

Finish: Medium length with spicy and herbal notes with a distinct mintiness

7 - a great whiskey I’d order at a bar

Thomas Handy Sazerac

Age: 6 years 2 months

Abv: 125.7 proof

Neat

Nose: A strong nose with sweet vanilla, potent herbs and rye spice notes

Taste: Very spicy with rye spice, cinnamon and a surprising chocolate note. Excellent mouthfeel, about as good as WLW

Finish: Very long and a somewhat hot with more cinnamon and rye spice

7 - a great whiskey I’d order at a bar

George T Stagg

Age: 15 years 3 months

Abv: 116.9 proof

Neat

Nose: Caramel, cherries and warm spice notes

Taste: Caramel, cherry, rich oak, warm baking spice and sweet vanilla notes. Excellent, viscous mouthfeel.

Finish: Long finish with cherry and baking spice notes

9 - a favorite I always try to keep on my shelf

Conclusion

I really enjoyed all 3 of bourbons this year. The WLW is absolutely phenomenal and a step up from last year. Definitely one of my favorite releases this year and easily the best of the antique collection for me. The Eagle Rare 17 was everything I liked about regular 10 year Eagle Rare dialed way up, especially the oak and earthy notes. The low proof Stagg was also excellent. It absolutely nailed the classic bourbon profile, was loaded with flavor and wasn’t as challenging as previous years.

The rye’s weren’t for my favorites this year. I feel like the Handy was too young and harsh and the Saz 18 was maybe a little too old and definitely underproofed. That said I enjoyed drinking both of them and the Handy was noticeably better with a little water.

TL;DR: WLW > GTS > ER17 >> Saz18 > THH; the bourbons were great the ryes weren’t my favorite

I still need to taste this year’s Wizard and 20 year but the Pappy version of this is up next. I’m also going to do a blind of Stagg Jr Batch 12, ‘19 GTS and ‘19 EHT BP to see if the GTS is really the king of this year’s mashbill 1 releases.

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Reviews #178-180: Joseph Magnus Single Barrels 2019

I got into MGP single barrel bourbons right around the worst possible time as Smooth Ambler was skyrocketing in price, Blaum Bros OFK and Boone County single barrels were getting hard to come by and OKI was being discontinued. Thankfully I learned about Joseph Magnus single barrels in time to pick up a few of the Oak Liquor Cabinet Batch 2 earlier this year, I had passed on the first pick given the price and since I didn’t know what it was. So now it’s the end of the year and I’ve got my hands on 3 great Magnus picks and it felt like a side by side was in order.

Oak Liquor Cabinet Batch 3

Age: 12 years

Abv: 104 proof

Price: $119.99

Neat

Nose: Rich leather, sweet vanilla and caramel notes.

Taste: More leather, loads of caramel, vanilla and warm spice notes. A nice, oily mouthfeel.

Finish: Medium to long finish with caramel and warm spice notes.

9 - a favorite I always try to keep on my shelf

The Bourbon Enthusiast 2019 pick

Age: 13 years

Abv: 106 proof

Price: $115

Neat

Nose: A softer nose with butterscotch, vanilla and baking spice notes.

Taste: Strong, slightly tannic oak notes, sweet butterscotch and a good amount of baking spice. Good mouthfeel but the thinnest of the lot.

Finish: Medium length dry finish with oak and butterscotch notes.

8 - an excellent bottle I’d like to have at home

The Bourbon Cartel 2019 pick

Age: 12.5 years

Abv: 107.2 proof

Price: $150 (via charity donation)

Neat

Nose: Rich leather and oak notes with subtler vanilla and caramel.

Taste: Rich oak, more leather, some caramel and faint spice notes.Great, viscous mouthfeel.

Finish: Medium to long, warm and slightly dry with oak and spice notes balanced by sweet vanilla.

9 - a favorite I always try to keep on my shelf

Conclusion

I don’t know how to start this other than to say other than these were all great. I am all about MGP and Four Roses single barrels right now so it isn’t a huge surprise I enjoyed all these. The Bourbon Enthusiast pick is a shade too tannic/bitter for my taste but it is still great overall. It’s the only one of these that I didn’t get a backup bottle of. The Oak pick was the sweetest and leatheriest of the bunch, almost like licking caramel off a leather jacket but in a hot way. It had a surprising lack of oak notes and less spice than I expected. The Cartel pick was oaky and leathery with just enough sweet and spice to balance the whole thing.

While tasting through these 3 major flavor themes emerged. First was the rich leathery taste in the Oak Liquor Cabinet and Bourbon Cartel picks, second was the sticky sweet notes in the Oak Liquor Cabinet and Bourbon Enthusiast picks and lastly was the strong oak notes found in the Cartel and Enthusiast picks. Each of these bourbons really highlighted two of those themes and it was a lot of fun to taste barrels with such similar stats and really dig into those barrel by barrel flavor differences.

Full disclosure I was part of the group that picked the Oak Liquor Cabinet pick but there were several of us, we did the tastings independently and it was nearly unanimous that this was the best barrel of the lot. Unlike the Garrison Bros pick where I was vaguely leading the whole thing I feel comfortable giving a score on this pick but due to that and the charitable donation situation with the Cartel I decided to omit value rankings. Out of the 4 barrels we got to taste for the Oak pick this one was the best, the other two were of a similar quality to the Enthusiast pick but the 4th sample not good. It was super musty and had a very strange note that I couldn’t place but didn’t care for. If we can’t get another Magnus barrel lined up for early next year I’ll definitely get another bottle or two of this.

TL;DR: 12 year MGP is great and Magnus knows how to pick barrels

Just to set expectations with all the 10+ year MGP single barrels I’ve been drinking, the Four Roses series and BTAC hitting it’s going to be a parade of high scoring reviews from me for a bit. I’ll try and mix in a couple more accessible whiskies alongside some whiskies of more questionable quality but if I don’t get them in during December/January I’ll be sure to hit them hard in February to round out my score distribution a bit.

Scale

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