Posts tagged ‘Antique Collection’

Don’t Always Trust the Experts (Some Thoughts on the Antique Collection)

So, before I start getting angry emails, I realize that some folks might think I am an “expert,” so I am saying you should not trust me.  Well, I am not a whiskey expert, only an avid drinker and blogger.  Also, you should not trust me just because I have a blog, similar to the way you should not trust Jim Murray just because he writes a Whisky Bible.  Take all us whiskey yappers with a grain of salt, and trust your own palate.

In Jim Murray’s 2013 edition of his Whisky Bible, he said he thought the 2012 Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye was the best whiskey in the world for the previous year.  His runner-up vote went to William Larue Weller, a barrel-strength wheated bourbon also from the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection.  This is the first year that I have actually gotten a bottle of Jim Murray’s Whisky of the Year, so I was pretty excited.  I got to try three different whiskeys from Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection, which was also exciting for me.  For me, out of the 2012 editions of the Sazerac 18, the Thomas H. Handy Sazerac, and the William Larue Weller, my favorite was the Saz 18.  Both the Weller and the Handy were both very good, but I thought the Sazerac 18 was the deepest and most complete whiskey.  It leapt out of the glass, and different layers to its spices and sweetness.  In addition, there are Scotches that I can think of that I thought could have won out over the Sazerac 18.  I have not tried all the whiskeys that Jim Murray has, but I do think there were finer whiskeys released in 2012 than the Thomas H. Handy Sazerac.

My point in writing this article is not to call out Jim Murray for being wrong about the best whiskey in the world.  Jim Murray has his own palate, just as I have mine, and you have yours.  Therefore, if Mr. Murray thought the best whiskey in 2012 was the Thomas. H. Handy, then he is well right in his own mind with his own senses.  I disagree with him on this point, just I some of y’all have disagreed with me about my favorite whiskeys.  Be careful not to take blogs and whiskey reviews as the all-knowing authority on whiskey.  My point is that we shouldn’t all go out and buy a bottle of something just because you hear one person (even an “expert”) tell you it’s the best whiskey in the world (if ten experts say so, it might be worth the investment).  Taste the whiskey for yourself, and see what you like.  There are no right or wrong answers in tasting whiskey, just how much we love the various whiskeys we have the privilege to encounter.  Few things permit the indulgence of subjectivity like whiskey, so appease your own palate and let it ride!

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W.L. Weller 12 Year Review

Today, I am reviewing W.L. Weller 12 year-old, the self-proclaimed, “Original Wheated Bourbon.” It is made at the W.L. Weller and Sons Distillery, and bottled by Buffalo Trace.  I have already reviewed Maker’s Mark on the site, which is also a wheated bourbon.  This means that these whiskies are made from a mash bill that is comprised of only corn (at least 51%) and wheat.  As you may recall, I am not a big fan of Maker’s Mark.  I think it is overpriced, especially for what you get.  However, Maker’s Mark is only aged 6 years, a rather short time, especially for wheated bourbons.  One thing you commonly hear in the bourbon world is that wheated bourbons take oak well, meaning they dramatically improve with age in the oak.

W.L. Weller is a bourbon label bottled at many different temperatures, ages, and proof points.  The most famous in the bourbon world is William Larue Weller, part of Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection (I have tried the 2010 bottling, and it is quite delicious).  However, William Larue Weller is a bit beyond my price range.  At about $28-$30 per bottle, W.L. Weller 12 year-old is a very nice price range, especially for a quality whiskey.

The first thing you might notice about W.L. Weller 12 year is the color.  It is a dark, rich amber, which makes sense considering the time it spends in the American oak.  On the nose, it is very sweet (a trademark of wheated bourbons).  There are rich scents of maple sugar, brown sugar, caramel, and butterscotch.  There is also some nuttiness and some cinnamon spice that creeps through.  On the palate, the sweetness continues.  The first thing that jumps out is the caramel, which dominates the front of the palate.  However, soft notes of butterscotch and vanilla begin to arise over time.  As the whiskey moves to its conclusion, the oak begins to take hold, giving the whiskey notes of sweet oak and charred almonds.  The finish is long and very warming.  It starts out very sweet, as if somebody soaked a brown sugar cube in caramel and dropped in the back of my mouth.  However, as time passes, the oak begins to show more, leaving a sweet, charred feeling that lasts a while.

On the whole, this is a very impressive whiskey.  A bottle was given to me as a birthday gift, but I would definitely buy it again.  It seems like it would be a wonderful whiskey for the fall, so I plan to make it last until the leaves are turning to their gold and auburn hues.  It definitely shows that not all wheated bourbons have to achieve the dross flavor profile that Maker’s Mark does.  My grade: B-. Price: $25-30/750ml.  If you like wheaters, this one should be in your cabinet; its a great day-to-day pour.

Top Ten Bourbon Bottle Designs

Like every product ever sold, bourbon depends on packaging.  Great bourbon deserves great packaging.  Of course, what defines a great bottle of bourbon is just as subjective as the bourbon itself.  I like an iconic bottle of bourbon that brings forth an air of confidence that the product inside is going to be good.  If that is properly balanced with a bottle that looks cool, then you’ve got the ingredients for a great bottle.  Now all that remains is to fill it with great bourbon.  With that in mind, I present my Top Ten Bourbon Bottle Designs.  (Note: I have not reviewed all these bourbons, nor I have I even tried all these bourbons.  I am judging primarily on the packaging.)

10. Maker’s Mark – The wax-dipped top of Maker’s Mark is probably the most iconic symbol in the bourbon world.  However, the rest of the bottle leaves something to be desired.  Nevertheless, any whiskey drinker recognizes the red wax as Maker’s Mark.

9. Buffalo Trace – The epic bison on the front makes for an epic packaging.  It also makes for an awesome logo for Buffalo Trace Distillery.

8. Old Forester Birthday Bourbon – I believe that Old Forester is one of the best value bourbons you can find.  However, Brown-Forman also produces the Birthday Bourbon, a higher-end version of Old Forester.  It comes in an old-fashioned decanter-style bottle that exudes class.

7. Rock Hill Farms – This single barrel bourbon comes in a sleek, square bottle with horses and forest landscapes decorating the bottle.  It is a bottle design that could inspire some fine bourbon-induced poetry.

6. Angel’s Envy – The Angel’s Envy looks divine, with its angel wings and massive size.  It seems to tower over almost everything else on the shelf at the liquor store.

5. Willett Pot Still Reserve Single Barrel – Speaking of tall bottles, there are few bottles taller than the decanter-style of Willett Pot Still Reserve.  It just looks awesome.  You can’t buy a bottle and not feel on top of the world.

4. Eagle Rare 10 yr. Single Barrel – This bottle is just plain epic.  It is tall and elegant, but the eagle on the front and the jagged edged label also makes it seem bold and rugged.

3. Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve (15 yr., 20 yr., 23 yr.) – All three of these bottlings are recognizable by the picture of Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle, Sr. on the front of the bottle.  He is puffing on a big cigar (and most likely drinking some good bourbon).  There are few things more iconic than a bourbon legend like Pappy.

2. Woodford Reserve – I love the simplicity of this bottle.  To me, Woodford Reserve’s bottle design says, “The bourbon contained herein is a great bourbon; it needs no embellishment.”

1. Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection (George T. Stagg, William Larue Weller, and Eagle Rare 17 yr.) – These three bourbons are consistently among the contenders for bourbon of the year, and there bottle designs are indicative of the quality.  The bottles are tall and powerful.  There are no fancy designs on the bottles, allowing you to see the perfect color of the whiskey.  Even more so than Woodford Reserve, the Antique Collection’s bottle designs say, “No frills needed, this is great whiskey.”  And judging from the only one I’ve tried (William Larue Weller), the bottles don’t lie.

These are my favorite bottle designs (I’ve included pictures below), what are yours?  Leave me a comment, and let me know if I missed any.