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Friday, January 29, 2016

Sipp’n Corn Bourbon Review – Yellowstone Limited Edition Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.

A formerly popular historical label has been revived and saved from its recent bottom-shelf status.  The origin of Yellowstone lies with the union of the Beam and Dant families 105 years ago, and continued today at Limestone Branch Distillery with brothers Steve and Paul Beam.

Luxco owned the Yellowstone name, but now in partnership with Limestone Branch, the brand reunited with the family re-launched with a limited edition 105-proof Bourbon, sourced and blended from 12 and seven-year Bourbons using rye as the secondary grain, and a seven-year Bourbon using wheat as the secondary grain.  Limestone Branch has followed this initial reintroduction with a lower-proof and lower-priced regular production Yellowstone Select, but the Limited Edition is up first:

Bourbon:
Yellowstone Limited Edition Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Distillery:
Not Disclosed

Blending:
Limestone Branch Distillery, Lebanon, Kentucky

Age:
Minimum of 7 years

ABV:
52.5% (105 proof)

Cost:
$105.00

Tasting Notes

Color:
Dark amber with a slight reddish hue.

Nose:
Caramel, brown sugar, and vanilla dominate, with other subtle aromas, like fresh clover, creamed corn, oak, leather, and very slight mint.  I would not have guessed that it is over 100 proof.

Taste:
Consistent with the aromas, the flavors start with creamy, buttery caramel and vanilla flavors, with brown sugar and fig to add another dimension of sweetness.  Then the flavors shift to cinnamon, leather, and more oak than I expected from a Bourbon using two seven-year components, followed with a transition to something much more unique:  a tang of black tea.  A single large ice cube made Yellowstone creamier, and contrary to my usual experience of ice accentuating sweet flavors, here it amplified the rye spice.

Finish:
The finish was longish, and was overall dry, despite some corn sweetness, with a nice swell of rye spice (almost prickly) and lingering warmth.

Bottom Line

Blending Bourbons that use different secondary grains is a fantastic idea, and it provides an opportunity for home-blenders to experiment as well.  Here, although we do not know the percentages used, the flavors suggest a higher usage-rate of the 12-year Bourbon.  It’s arguable that we ought to be told which percentages were used in accordance with 27 C.F.R. § 5.40(a)(1), (e)(1), (e)(2) and TTB’s The Beverage Alcohol Manual; A Practical Guide, Basic Mandatory Labeling Information for DISTILLED SPIRITS, vol. 2, at Chapter 8 (2012), but the seven-year age statement on the front label is arguably sufficient.  Either way, I expect more blending of different mash bills as producers seek to distinguish themselves in a crowded market.

Although I’ve removed value as a component of my ratings, Yellowstone warrants some mention of value due to its price tag and limited availability.  No doubt, Yellowstone is pushing the limits of what it can reasonably expect consumers to pay, but considering its uniqueness and one-time batch, Yellowstone Limited Edition is priced appropriately in the market, although I recognize that many other people will pass because of the price.  There are worse “values” and better “values” out there, but at least here we have a trustworthy producer, and we have more information about the Bourbon than many other sourced brands offer.  Hopefully with Steve and Paul Beam at the helm, Limestone Branch can create a track record of excellent blends in partnership with Luxco, which will help justify the cost of future editions.     

Score on The Sipp’n Corn Scale:  4.0

The Sipp’n Corn Scale™:
1 – Swill.  I might dump the bottle, but will probably save it for my guests who mix with Coke.
2 – Hits the minimum criteria, but given a choice, I’d rather have something else.
3 – Solid Bourbon with only minor shortcomings.  Glad to own and enjoy.
4 – Excellent Bourbon.  Need to be hyper-critical to find flaws.  I’m lucky to have this.
5 – Bourbon perfection.  I’ll search high and low to get another bottle of this.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Sipp’n Corn Bourbon Review – Booker’s and Revisiting Booker’s 25th Anniversary

Beginning in January 2015, in a stroke of genius from a marketing perspective, Beam Suntory released batches of Booker’s with individual names.  I took the contrarian view and passed over the first named batch, and bought the last batch of 2014 instead, which was still on the shelves.  While others have compared and contrasted each of the named 2015 batches, for this review I’ll go “old school” with the last unnamed batch.

Last fall, I also finally found a bottle Booker’s 25th Anniversary, so I can pick up my previous sample review with a little more in-depth contemplation.  I was gouged by a store in Tennessee, but I was glad to find the last bottle there.

Bourbon:
Booker’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey,
Batch 2014-07

Distillery:
Beam Suntory, Clermont, Ky.

Age:
7 years, 7 months, 13 days

ABV:
64.45% (128.9 proof)

Cost:
$49.99

and

Bourbon:
Booker’s 25th Anniversary Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Batch 2014-1

Distillery:
Beam Suntory (at the time, still Jim Beam), Clermont, Ky.

Age:
10 years, 3 months

ABV:
65.4% (130.8 proof)

Cost:
$99.99 suggested retail

Tasting Notes

Color:
Both are dark amber on the verge of brown, but the 25th Anniversary is slightly darker, as expected because of the additional age.

Nose:
The aroma of each is powerful, but not in a nose-singeing way.  Instead, the power is in the depth.  Batch 2014-07 is full of brown sugar sweetness, lots of cinnamon, and some furniture polish, while the proof is more evident.  The 25th Anniversary hits hard with darker aromas (like oak and leather), rich vanilla, and overall less sweetness, with the high proof better-disguised.  A splash of water or an ice cube opened up the caramel sweetness.

Taste:
These are bold, spicy Bourbons.  Batch 2014-07 has toffee and dark fruit sweetness, peanuts, orange zest, heavy baking spices with herbal flavors, and decent oak.  The only downside is that it’s too hot and a little yeasty hitting the back of the throat.  I liked it better with a splash of water, but water didn’t take away the slight throat irritation, which left it a little distracting.  I tried it with a single cube too; some somehow that seemed to accentuate the heat, and not do much else.

I expected the 25th Anniversary to start very hot and to need some time in the glass first, but I knew that I would struggle to find that kind of patience.  The sample that I reviewed last spring already had some air, so it was great from the first sip, and this time, trying from a freshly opened bottle, I vacillated between diving right in and waiting.  I didn’t give it much time, but it was enough, because the 25th Anniversary was as phenomenal as I had remembered.  It’s a classic, robust Bourbon, starting with deep brown sugar, caramel, and vanilla, balanced by plenty of cinnamon, leather, and oak.  The 25th Anniversary has great creaminess, especially with a splash of water or a single ice cube.  It’s still worth trying neat, however, before experimenting with ice or a splash.

Finish:
Batch 2014-07 had a good finish with great warmth, but it was still a little distracting in a few ways (like raw heat, yeastiness, and furniture polish).  I suspect that my scoring on the taste and finish of Batch 2014-07 suffered due to a continued comparison with the 25th Anniversary edition.  While the taste of the 25th Anniversary was fantastic, just as I had found with my sample last year, the finish takes it up a notch further.  The 25th Anniversary finishes with a huge swell of cinnamon and warmth, and you can feel it shift gears, transitioning to dark oak and leather with maple sweetness.

Bottom Line

The standard Booker’s is a top-notch barrel strength beast, and probably my favorite of the Beam Suntory lineup.  At retail from $50 - $60 and readily available – along with other barrel proof options from Maker’s Mark, Four Roses, and Heaven Hill – there’s no reason to wait for certain “antique” limited fall releases to get your barrel proof fix.  As with all smaller batches, you will find batch variation in Booker’s, and some are better than others.  All of the 2015 named batches that I’ve tried have been better than Batch 2014-07.

Additionally, the 25th Anniversary batch shows that, with a little focus, Beam Suntory – known predominantly for its ubiquitous “white label” Jim Beam – could challenge the kings of the super-premium segment.  I’d put Booker’s 25th Anniversary and Parker’s Heritage Collection 8th Edition as the two best American whiskies of 2014, and both will likely be in the top 10 for the decade.  Now that we’re into 2016, you’ll have to rely on a friend to try either of those, but I hope that you’ll get the chance.  If not, try the next standard named batch of Booker’s.

Score on The Sipp’n Corn Scale:
Booker’s Batch 2014-07:  3.0
Booker’s 25th Anniversary:  4.5+


The Sipp’n Corn Scale™:
1 – Swill.  I might dump the bottle, but will probably save it for my guests who mix with Coke.
2 – Hits the minimum criteria, but given a choice, I’d rather have something else.
3 – Solid Bourbon with only minor shortcomings.  Glad to own and enjoy.
4 – Excellent Bourbon.  Need to be hyper-critical to find flaws.  I’m lucky to have this.
5 – Bourbon perfection.  I’ll search high and low to get another bottle of this.


Monday, January 4, 2016

Sipp’n Corn Bourbon Review – Old Forester Single Barrel at Butchertown Grocery

Louisville has had a thriving restaurant scene for decades, which has paired perfectly with our love of Bourbon.  Now, just east of downtown in the Butchertown neighborhood – and a stone’s throw from Copper and Kings – Butchertown Grocery is our newest culinary star, with Chef Bobby Benjamin nailing the interplay between creativity and approachability.

Butchertown Grocery also has an ambitious beverage program headed by Marie Zahn.  While still working on expanding its Bourbon selection, Butchertown Grocery opened with fantastic cocktail options, including entirely different cocktail menus downstairs and upstairs; downstairs focuses on classic cocktails and upstairs is more modern and adventurous.  The upstairs cocktail menu is helpfully arranged from easiest-drinking to strongest, and sweet to dry, plus, a bespoke cocktail program allows guests to choose three words from a menu, which are then used to create a custom cocktail.

I went back to Butchertown Grocery for Bourbon, though, and the Old Forester Single Barrel Private Selection in particular, to see if the Bourbon selection could match the culinary side of the menu.

Bourbon:
Old Forester Single Barrel Private Selection

Distillery:
Brown-Forman, Louisville, Kentucky

Age:
6 ½ years for this barrel
Barreled May 11, 2009
Lot ID:  09 E 11

Mash Bill:
72% corn; 18% rye; 10% malted barley

ABV:
Bottled at 45% (90 proof), and 67.5% out of the barrel

Cost:
$12.00 / 2 oz. standard pour

Tasting Notes

Color:
Reddish amber, but the room was dark. 

Nose:
Rich caramel, honey, and candle wax up front, followed by pecans (reminiscent of the classic New Orleans Praline), and balanced with slight leather.

Taste:
Caramel and honey sweetness are the primary features, dominating the sweet profile (without any fruit sweetness).  The rye comes through nicely, along with leather and polished wood as hinted in the aroma, and toasted candied nuts.  It’s not particularly complex or assertive, which should make it a crowd-pleaser.

Finish:
The finish was medium in length, with nice, lingering warmth.  Oak became more noticeable in the finish, without being overly-woody.  While the finish was overall dry, it still had a pleasant fading caramel sweetness and a hint of fig pastry.

Bottom Line

Old Forester is sometimes lovingly referred to as “Louisville’s House Bourbon,” and for good reason.  It is one of the absolute best values on the quality/cost matrix, and when you drink as much Bourbon as we do in Kentucky, not everything can be a Limited Edition.  Old Forester works well in cocktails (especially the Old Fashioned), neat, or on ice, which isn’t true of all Bourbons.

It’s always nice to mix it up between the different Old Forester proof options, an occasional Birthday Bourbon Limited Edition, and great private barrels like Butchertown Grocery’s.  This private barrel had less of the corn flavors than I typically find in both the 86 proof and 100 proof Old Forester options, and none of the fruitiness, but it had much more caramel, which is one of the dynamics that I love about single barrels.

After proofing down, the barrel produced 225 bottles, so you’ll have several months to try this Old Forester at Butchertown Grocery.  On the other hand, there’s really no reason to wait when both the restaurant and the Bourbon are outstanding.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Sipp’n Corn Bourbon Review – William Larue Weller Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (2013 edition)

By the fall release season of 2013, Bourbon’s popularity had already been surging for a decade.  While it had legitimately developed into a “craze” about two years earlier, 2013 was just about the time that truly limited edition Bourbon became nearly impossible to find in Kentucky.  The market hadn’t yet been flooded with 50 new “super-premium” brands or previously “lost” barrels, and brands like W. L. Weller 12-year were still four deep on shelves.  Unfortunately, Weller 12 was just being discovered by a new breed of Pappy histrionics who were hearing that Weller 12 “was the same thing as Pappy.”

Demand was skyrocketing for Buffalo Trace’s wheated Bourbon mash bill – which Buffalo Trace desperately needed to succeed since it was just about out of its Stitzel-Weller stock used for Pappy Van Winkle 20 and 23-year.  Apparently, however, Buffalo Trace had underestimated demand for longer-aged wheated Bourbon, so it had sacrificed the seven-year age statements on Old Weller Antique and W. L. Weller Special Reserve.  Weller 12 was also rumored to be discontinued or dropping its age statement, presumptively because more needed to be held back for more profitable brands.

While fans are now dealing with Weller 12 allocations, instant cleaning of shelves when it or Old Weller Antique are released, and a high secondary market, at least Weller 12 didn’t lose its age statement then (or since).  The other member of the Weller line that continued to receive high acclaim was the wheated member of its popular Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (“BTAC”), William Larue Weller. 

In 2013, Buffalo Trace set aside 39 barrels for William Larue Weller.  At 12 years old, these barrels could have been used for Weller 12 (90 proof) or Van Winkle Special Reserve 12-year (90.4 proof), and gone a lot further.  On average, about 55% of each barrel had been lost to evaporation (meaning just about 23.7 gallons per barrel), but I suppose that BTAC pricing for barrel proof Bourbon makes up for fewer bottles.  Here are my thoughts:

Details

William Larue Weller Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2013

Distillery:  Buffalo Trace, Frankfort, Kentucky
Age:  NAS label, but 12 years, 1 month
Barrel:  Independent Stave #4 Char
Barrel Entry Proof:  114
Bottle Proof:  136.2
Warehouses:  M and P, 3rd and 4th Floors
Filtration:  None
Cost:  MSRP $80.00

Tasting Notes

Color:
Dark, luscious amber.

Nose:
This is a sweet nose with the expected caramel notes, and other sweet notes of brown sugar and butterscotch, but with depth added with aromas of raisins, espresso, and tobacco.  Despite the high proof, I didn’t really get any alcohol burn.

Taste:
I tried to find similarities in the taste alongside Weller 12, and while there are some (like butterscotch, caramel, and fresh bread), even without considering the distractingly high proof of Weller BTAC, they seem barely related.  I did not particularly enjoy this Weller BTAC neat, and I struggled to find the correct ratio of water, but found that a single ice globe worked magic, retaining complexity and opening up new flavors.  The sweet caramel and butterscotch flavors were heightened, along with other rich sweetness like dried dark fruits.  There’s also a nutty quality, along with cinnamon with a blast of oak and tobacco.  With right amount of water and chill, it’s a rich and robust powerhouse.

Finish:
The warmth outlasted the flavors on the finish, which was overall dry with more leather, pepper spice, and really dark chocolate as it faded.

Bottom Line

Although we’re hardly removed from it, I think that we’ll look back at the summer of 2013 as the point when the Bourbon craze turned into Bourbon pandemonium.  Since then, Buffalo Trace has pumped out press releases of doom and gloom for the shortages of its premium brands, age statements have dropped like flies (but sometimes numerals remain on the bottle), and old over-filtered stocks have flooded the market in an attempt to capitalize on the resurgence of Bourbon. 

Value-wise, though I really enjoyed it, this isn’t worthy of the hype or worth the trouble to hunt because there are plenty of cask-strength alternatives now.  Maker’s Mark Cask Strength, for example, is readily available, and while it is a little younger, it will satisfy your need for a wheated high-proof Bourbon.  Either way, you can count me as one more person who is done hunting for the Antique Collection.  Just let me reserve the right to change my mind.

Score on The Sipp’n Corn Scale4.0

The Sipp’n Corn Scale™:
1 – Swill.  I might dump the bottle, but will probably save it for my guests who mix with Coke.
2 – Hits the minimum criteria, but given a choice, I’d rather have something else.
3 – Solid Bourbon with only minor shortcomings.  Glad to own and enjoy.
4 – Excellent Bourbon.  Need to be hyper-critical to find flaws.  I’m lucky to have this.
5 – Bourbon perfection.  I’ll search high and low to get another bottle of this.

Sipp’n Corn Bourbon Review – Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit & Russell’s Reserve Private Barrels

Wild Turkey has been making a push over the past two years to enter the “super premium” (and super-expensive) segment by offering a series of limited edition bottlings, starting with Diamond Anniversary, then Master’s Keep, and most recently Russell’s Reserve 1998.  Brands usually cannot make the jump straight from mid-priced offerings to super-premium limited editions, so Wild Turkey laid a nice foundation over many years with Russell’s Reserve and Kentucky Spirit.

Wild Turkey made another smart decision in the past few years to start a private barrel program for Russell’s Reserve and Kentucky Spirit, which helped increase its profile and buzz.  Wild Turkey had always puzzled me a little with its market strategy of having three brands (these two plus Rare Breed) all priced within reach of each other.  That seems to cannibalize itself, when perhaps instead Kentucky Spirit or Russell’s Reserve could be reserved for limited bottling runs, and of course a higher price, giving a cleaner progression between those three labels.

The plain bottle for Russell’s Reserve seems to send the message that it is intended to be not quite as “premium” as the stunning art deco Kentucky Spirit bottle, but that’s not where I’ve landed in the past between the two.  Regardless, I like the standard bottle of both of these, and had high hopes for these private selection bottles.
Kentucky Spirit & Russell’s Reserve
Private Selection Review

Bourbon:
Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit – Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (Barrel No. 44)

Distillery:
Wild Turkey, Lawrenceburg, Kentucky

Age:
8 years, 10 months

ABV:
50.5% (101 proof)

Cost:
$56.99


Bourbon:
Russell’s Reserve – Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (Barrel No. 57)

Distillery:
Wild Turkey, Lawrenceburg, Kentucky

Age:
9 years, 11 months

ABV:
55% (110 proof)

Cost:
$56.99

Tasting Notes

Color:
The Russell’s Reserve is a bit darker, as should be expected due to the lack of chill filtration, one year longer in the barrel, and less water added.  Russell’s Reserve is dark amber with a tinge of reddish-brown, whereas Kentucky Spirit is more of a standard medium amber.

Nose:
Russell’s Reserve had a better nose, with more caramel and oak, and far more robust.  Kentucky Spirit’s nose was overall faint, with plenty of corn, fresh grass, vanilla, and honey.  The edge goes to Russell’s Reserve because of its deeper aromas, but both were enjoyable.

Taste:
Russell’s Reserve was creamy with a nice blast of caramel and flavors of oak, leather, tobacco, and baking spice.  Kentucky Spirit was thin and less robust in comparison.  Prominent flavors were corn, some pepper spice and cinnamon, along with a little honey, vanilla, and lemon zest, but not enough oak to write home about.  Once again, between the two, the more robust Russell’s Reserve takes the edge.

Finish:
The finish of Russell’s reserve was overall dry, with good balance and great warmth.  I was looking for a longer finish, but it was medium at best, and even then it had to linger to get there.  Kentucky Spirit’s finish was mostly sweet and on the shorter side, but perfectly pleasant in its own right (perhaps a finish that would be preferable for someone new to Bourbon).  For me, it was an easy call in favor of Russell’s Reserve.

Bottom Line

Before you buy private selection barrels, see if your store has samples available.  Although I could have, I didn’t try either of these ahead of time.  If I had tried them, in hindsight, I might have bought three Russell’s Reserves instead of two, and I would have passed on the private selection Kentucky Spirit, but maybe bought the standard issue instead, knowing that I couldn’t have gone wrong with Jimmy and Eddie making the picks.

The choice between Russell’s Reserve and Kentucky Spirit is easy for me; I knew that ahead of time though (hence buying two Russell’s Reserves out of the gate).  Now both Russell’s Reserves are empty, and the Kentucky Spirit is still half full.  Regardless, I’ve liked the standard Kentucky Spirit much better than this private barrel, and would expect future ratings to be higher.


Score on The Sipp’n Corn Scale:
Kentucky Spirit Private Selection Barrel No. 44:  2.5
Russell’s Reserve Private Selection Barrel No. 57:  3.0

The Sipp’n Corn Scale™:
1 – Swill.  I might dump the bottle, but will probably save it for my guests who mix with Coke.
2 – Hits the minimum criteria, but given a choice, I’d rather have something else.
3 – Solid Bourbon with only minor shortcomings.  Glad to own and enjoy.
4 – Excellent Bourbon.  Need to be hyper-critical to find flaws.  I’m lucky to have this.
5 – Bourbon perfection.  I’ll search high and low to get another bottle of this.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Sipp’n Corn Bourbon Review – Private Barrel Selections.

Private selection barrels are hot items.  Retailers, serious whiskey bars, and local whiskey societies desperately want them.  Unfortunately, the demand has resulted in some distilleries being overbooked, some are low on available stock, some give a take-it-or-leave-it option of barrels that are nothing special, and some have had to suspend their barrel selection program. 

For the most part, the barrels offered for selection are going to be superior barrels.  This does not mean, however, that privately-selected Bourbon is going to taste better than the standard issue of that brand.  Sometimes private barrels are not better, they’re just different.  Oftentimes, they can essentially taste the same as the standard, less expensive bottles, and occasionally, they’re disappointing because they’re not as good as the standard offering.

A private selection can be disappointing due to the lack of experience of the selection team, or because their personal preferences are a little off, and you can end up with a Bourbon that is too bitter, bland, or unbalanced.  Additionally, very few distilleries permit bottling of private selections at barrel strength, so when proof is taken down, the flavors in the private selection change and it might not taste anything like it did straight from the barrel, so the selection team has to toy with adding the right amount of water.  The key is that consumers need to look for private barrels from palates they trust.

In some circumstances the stars line up, a knowledgeable selection team has access to enough barrels, and fate includes a true honey barrel in the mix.  A quick Twitter survey (thanks for all of the tweets!) came up with a great list of retailers and bars who have selected your favorite private barrels.  Four Roses, Smooth Ambler, and Willett (whose program is now on a hiatus) absolutely dominated your tweets, with an occasional Old Weller Antique, Knob Creek, Woodford Double Oaked, and a few others rounding out the list.

Some of these private barrels are known by the people who selected them, like Doug Philips – whose Rye selection is spoken of in legendary terms – and newer selection groups, particularly the Bourbon Crusaders.  On rare occasions, private barrels are known by their own name, like “Wheated Warrior” and “Aged Truth.”

Certain retail stores have gained a reputation through consistently great picks across all distilleries, like Liquor Barn, or an award-winning selection, like Crown Liquors with its 2014 Four Roses OBSK pick.  Bars and restaurants with private barrel programs can become renowned for their picks too, like many Louisville establishments (as should be expected), but non-Kentucky players, too.  Dry 85 in Annapolis, for example, has an outstanding private barrel program, but it goes a step further and has also worked with Angel’s Envy on developing unique private blends.

Consumers are starting to look not just for any private barrels, but for barrels with particular characteristics, like OBSK and OESK barrels aged on the East side of Warehouse M at Four Roses (“ME” barrels), and odd 65 gallon barrels stored upright at Heaven Hill for 15 years (which became part of mysterious private barrel of Heaven Hill Select Stock).  Keep an eye and an ear tuned for these kinds of tips because this sort of information can help give the consumer confidence that the extra money will be worth it. 

I haven’t been lucky enough to try any of the Doug Philips selections, Wheated Warrior, or Aged Truth, but I’ve been amazed by the quality of private barrels that are more readily available.  Some of my favorite private barrels over the past several years (not necessarily ranked in order) have included:

·         2014 Four Roses OBSK, 9 year, 11 month, selected by Liquor Barn;

·         2015 Four Roses OESK, 9 year, 7 month, selected by Bourbon Crusaders for Joyal’s;

·         2014 Heaven Hill Select Stock, 15 year from 65-gallon barrels, selected by Bourbon Bar (despite being on the menu as a $40 pour, these bottles were returned under a shroud of mystery, and have since trickled out into retail);

·         2015 Knob Creek 120 proof – aged 15 years instead of the standard 9 years – selected by Liquor Barn (I’m in the middle of this one now; it’s the best Beam product I’ve had other than Booker’s 25th Anniversary).

·         2015 (first batch) Dry 85 Angel’s Envy Private Blend, comprised of three six-year old Bourbons each finished in port barrels.

What has been your favorite private barrel selection?  Which retailers and restaurants or whiskey bars routinely stock the best private barrels?  Your Twitter responses gave the following stops for an epic road trip across the U.S.:

Kentucky / Cincinnati
Liquor Barn (Louisville, Lexington, Bowling Green, Danville, KY)
Haymarket Whiskey Bar (Louisville, KY)
Down One Bourbon Bar (Louisville, KY)
Bourbon’s Bistro (Louisville, KY)
Westport Whiskey & Wine (Louisville, KY)
Cork ‘N Bottle (Crescent Springs, KY)
The Party Source (Bellevue, KY)
D.E.P.’s Fine Wine & Spirits (Cincinnati, OH and northern KY)
The Livery (Lexington, KY)

East
Julio’s Liquors (Wesborough, MA)
Joyal’s Liquors (West Warick, RI)
Dry 85 (Annapolis, MD)

Southeast
McScrooge’s (Knoxville, TN)
Bottles Beverage Superstore (Mt. Pleasant, SC)
Decatur Package (Decatur, GA)
Lincoln Road Package Store (Hattiesburg, MS)
Nasa Liquor (Houston, TX)

Midwest / Northern Midwest / West
Big Red Liquors (Indianapolis, Terre Haute, Bloomington, IN)
Crown Liquors (Indianapolis, IN)
Liquor Locker (Evansville, IN)
Tippins Market (Ann Arbor, MI)
Antioch Fine Wine (Antioch, IL)
Binny’s Beverage Depot (all over Chicago, IL)
West Lakeview Liquor (Chicago, IL)
Warehouse Liquors (Chicago, IL)
South Lyndale Liquors (Minneapolis, MN)
Ken & Norm’s Liquors (Minneapolis, MN)
Davidsons Liquors (Highlands Ranch, CO)

West Coast
Hard Water (San Francisco, CA)
Elixir Saloon (San Francisco, CA)


Which stores or bars are missing from this Twitter list?  Please add your favorites in the comments below.  Cheers!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Sipp’n Corn Scale 2.0 – No more “value” considerations.

I’ve been pondering revisions to my scale for some time now, and I appreciate the feedback on Twitter about whether, or how to, include my opinion on value in ratings.  In the past few years, I’ve reduced ratings of some high-priced Bourbon and I’ve increased a rating or two because the Bourbon was so refreshingly inexpensive or because it was lightyears better than Bourbon costing two or three times more.

Retail markets can vary pretty wildly on price, though, which reduces the usefulness of my adjustments for whatever I was lucky (or unlucky) enough to pay by virtue of living in Bourbon Country.  Plus, the secondary market has skewed value, and flippers have made finding some brands on the shelf at retail prices a rarity.

To top it off, my use of a value component is more subjective than my palate, so I’ve decided to remove it from the rating.  I’ll continue to comment on my personal opinion of value, but since everyone has their own price threshold and comfort level regardless of quality, my scoring will no longer include my perception of value.

So here’s version 2.0 of the Sipp’n Corn Scale:

The Sipp’n Corn Scale™:

1 – Swill.  I might dump the bottle, but will probably save it for my guests who mix with Coke.
2 – Hits the minimum criteria, but given a choice, I’d rather have something else.
3 – Solid Bourbon with only minor shortcomings.  Glad to own and enjoy.
4 – Excellent Bourbon.  Need to be hyper-critical to find flaws.  I’m lucky to have this.
5 – Bourbon perfection.  I’ll search high and low to get another bottle of this.


Which bottle is a better value? That’s your call.