Posts tagged ‘William Larue Weller’

Phil’s Favorite Bourbon

What better way to kick off my favorite whiskey series than bourbon?  In honor of awards season, I will present five nominees for the category, with the winner being revealed along with other winners at the end of the month.  In cases where two of the same whiskey might be nominated (i.e. two different releases of George T. Stagg), I have chosen my favorite iteration of the bourbon to be nominated.  These nominees achieved their status based on their taste profile alone; unlike most of what I do at Bargain Bourbon, price was not a consideration.  Without further ado, here are the nominees for Phil’s favorite bourbon (in alphabetical order).

Name: Booker’s

Distillery: Jim Beam

Age: 7 years, 5 months

Batch: C05-A-12

Release Year: 2012

Proof: 128.5 (64.25% abv)

Price: $50-60/750ml

Notes: This uncut, unfiltered, barrel strength bourbon rarely disappoints, and each batch tends to have something worth enjoying about it.  This particular batch was my favorite because there were some cinnamon and oak spice notes that rounded out the big caramel and vanilla notes that Booker’s is known for, giving the whiskey a depth and complexity that stood out above other Booker’s batches I have tried.  Unfortunately, as this was an older release, it is extremely unlikely that there are still unopened bottles of this juice floating around, but Booker’s bourbon is readily available at most liquor stores.

 

Name: Elijah Craig Barrel Proof

Distillery: Heaven Hill

Age: 12 years

Batch: 3rd release

Release Year: 2014

Proof: 133.2 (66.6% abv)

Price: $45-50/750ml

Notes: This barrel strength bourbon is another one that could have placed multiple releases on this list.  What set this particular release apart for me was the layers that the bourbon had when diluted at various levels.  The flavors were deep and complex at barrel strength, and as water was added, the bourbon just peeled back layers of flavor to reveal a sweeter profile, softening some of the coffee and dark chocolate notes that stood out at full strength.  Unfortunately, this release is probably long gone, and people have started to realize the quality of this bourbon, so current releases are harder to find, and they are selling for a good deal more than they did three years ago.

 

Name: Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch

Distillery: Four Roses

Age: 11 years

Batch: 2012

Release Year: 2012

Proof: 111.4 (55.7% abv)

Price: $90-100/750ml

Notes: Four Roses could have had multiple limited edition releases make this list, but their 2012 small batch release is my favorite because of the balance between all the flavors that make bourbon great.  It was sweet, oaky, and spicy, all in perfect harmony.  Like many great whiskeys, a little water brought out different twists on each tasting note, making for an even more diverse experience.  Four Roses releases a limited edition small batch bourbon every autumn, but this specific release is undoubtedly unavailable excepting only the rarest and most esteemed of bourbon collections.

 

Name: George T. Stagg

Distillery: Buffalo Trace

Age: 15 years, 11 months

Batch: 2013

Release Year: 2013

Proof: 128.2 (64.1% abv)

Price: $80-90/750ml

Notes: This is one of the most famous and most sought bourbons in the world, and for good reason.  Many years, George T. Stagg could make an argument that it’s the best bourbon released that year.  However, the 2013 release caught my taste buds because it was bottled at a slightly lower proof than the Stagg usually is, and I believe it did the Stagg a lot of good, peeling back rich oak and cigar box notes not often found in bourbon.  This was a bourbon that worked to transcend bourbon.  If you know where to look and are willing to pay the price, there are always bottles of Stagg floating around, but this one is going on 4 years since its release, which makes me think that it is probably extinct.  However, more Stagg is coming this fall, so keep your eyes peeled.

 

Name: William Larue Weller

Distillery: Buffalo Trace

Age: 12 years

Batch:  2012

Release Year: 2012

Proof: 123.4 (61.7% abv)

Price: $70-80/750ml

Notes: This wheated bourbon was one of those bourbons that brought wave after wave of rich, sweet flavors set upon a board of rich mahogany and oak.  Dried fruits, maple fudge, and vanilla all roared over the palate when sipping this bourbon.  There have been many worthy Weller releases, but this one was my favorite to pour after a delicious meal.  This one falls into the same category as the Stagg as far as availability.  There will be more coming out this year, but the old releases are hard to find and often have massive price tags on them.

 

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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!

(What’s in) Phil’s Cabinet? March Edition

This is my cabinet as of March 1st, normally when I start to move towards more spring and summer whiskeys, but the seasons are so messed up in Boston that it is pretty hard to actually do anything concrete with them.

American:

Bully Boy American Straight Whiskey – A young, exciting whiskey from Bully Boy Distillers in Boston.

Bourbon:

1792 Ridgemont Reserve Barrel Select – I cracked this one open the other day.  I know I’ve had a few requests for this one, and I’ll be reviewing it in a few weeks.

Angel’s Envy (unopened) – I’m saving this one for warmer temperatures.

Rebel Yell (unopened) – I’ve had some requests for this one, so I snagged a bottle the other day.  I’ll have a review up as soon as I kick a few of the other open bottles presently in my cabinet.

William Larue Weller (2012 bottling) – I opened this one up during Nemo the blizzard, and I haven’t decided whether or not to review this one yet.  At $70, it is right on the upper end of my price range for whiskey.  Any thoughts?

Rye:

Old Overholt Rye (unopened) – This is another one I have had some requests for, and although I have a bottle, it might be a month or two before a review goes up.

Thomas H. Handy Sazerac (2012 bottling) (unopened) – This one will probably get opened up before it gets too warm in Boston.  Like the Weller, let me know if you want to see a review on the blog.

Willett 4 yr. Estate Reserve Single Barrel – This one is going to be a tandem review with William from a Dram Good Time.  We should have our notes up for you by the end of next week.

Scotch:

Bowmore Legend – I should have a review of this Islay scotch up as soon as I finish my mini-series on Irish whiskey.

Those are the whiskeys I have in the cabinet as of March 1st, let me know if there are any reviews you would like to see.  In the meantime, let it ride!

(What’s In) Phil’s Cabinet

Happy New Year!  To kick of the New Year, I am starting a new section on the blog called (What’s In) Phil’s Cabinet.  People ask me all the time what I am drinking at present, what they might expect if they came by for dinner and a dram.  So, on the first of every month, I will update what is in my whisk(e)y cabinet, both opened and unopened bottles.  This is also an opportunity for you to put in requests as to what you would like to see me review in the future, whether it is Scotch, Irish, Bourbon, Rye, Welsh, Indian, Japanese, or other type of whisk(e)y.  So, leave me a comment, or drop me a line on Facebook or Twitter.

Here is what is in the cabinet as of January 1, 2013:

Bourbon:

Angel’s Envy (unopened) – This is a bourbon that some folks have asked about, and I should have a review of it up by the end of spring.  It is a bourbon finished in port wine casks, and I am very excited to try it.

Evan Williams Single Barrel 2002 Vintage – This is a wonderful everyday bourbon, and I looking forward to grabbing a bottle of the 2003 Vintage that just hit shelves a few weeks ago.

Maker’s 46 – This is very good bourbon, with a very nice, deep sweetness that unfolds beautifully.  If it were a few bucks cheaper, it would contend for one of my favorite value bourbons.

Wild Turkey Rare Breed (unopened) – Another whiskey that has been requested a lot, this is a barrel-strength offering from Wild Turkey.  I am excited to try it, review it, and here what y’all have to say about it.

William Larue Weller (fall 2012 bottling) (unopened) – This is a barrel strength, limited-release wheated bourbon from Buffalo Trace that my father found as a Christmas present.  Not necessarily a value bourbon, but it is one of the most anticipated bourbon releases every year.

Rye:

Jim Beam Yellow Label – A solid every day pour that makes a very nice cocktail, too.

Sazerac 18 yr. (fall 2012 bottling) – This is my favorite whiskey currently in my cabinet.  I love this one.  Not necessarily an ideal price point, but you get your money’s worth for $70.

Thomas H. Handy Sazerac (fall 2012 bottling) (unopened) – This is the younger, brash brother to the Sazerac 18.  Jim Murray rated this bottling as his Whisky of the Year in the 2013 Whisky Bible (William Larue Weller was his runner-up).

Willett Single Barrel Estate Reserve 4 yr. (unopened) – This is an LDI rye, bottled at cask strength.  My affinity for Bulliet 95 is what made me seek this one out.

Scotch:

Ardbeg 10 yr. – This is one of my favorite Islay Scotches from one of my favorite Scotch distilleries.  As far as Scotches go, it is a pretty good value, and I’ll probably put up a review here in the next few weeks.

The Black Grouse – A nice, peaty blended whisky that works well for an everyday Scotch.

Highland Park 12 yr. – Another beautiful Single Malt Scotch from Scottish islands.  I should have my review of this one up soon.

Those are the whiskeys in my cabinet at present.  What’s in your cabinet?  What whiskeys do you want to see reviewed on the blog?  What whiskeys are you hoping to try in 2013?  Once again, Happy New Year and let it ride!

John E. Fitzgerald Larceny Bourbon Review

Today, I am reviewing John E. Fitzgerald Larceny bourbon.  This is a relatively new product from Heaven Hill Distillery, makers of Elijah Craig, Evan Williams, and Rittenhouse Rye, all fine whiskeys at good prices.  As it is, Larceny has high standards set for it.  It has to live up to Heaven Hill’s tradition of great value, but it also has to live up to its namesake, John E. Fitzgerald.  Fitzgerald was a bourbon maker in the late 19th century, who eventually sold his distillery to Julian Van Winkle to become a treasury agent.  After the sale, Fitzgerald became famous/infamous for sneaking into the Van Winkle distillery to obtain whiskey from his favorite barrels.  Over time, these became known as the “Old Fitzgerald” barrels.  In honor of Fitzgerald’s discerning tastes, Heaven Hill created the Old Fitzgerald line of wheated bourbons.  Larceny is the newest addition to this line, a six-year old bourbon bottled at 92 proof.

Before giving my review, I will openly admit that I am not a huge fan of wheated bourbons.  Maker’s Mark, Weller, and the Old Fitzgerald line tend not to suit my palate as nicely as other bourbons.  That is not to say that I hate all wheated bourbons.  William Larue Weller and W.L. Weller 12 yr. are both very enjoyable (especially the former).  I just want to acknowledge my bias coming into the review.

On the nose, Larceny is dense and rich.  There are notes of caramel, butterscotch, corn, vanilla, and brown sugar.  I think the palate brings the whiskey down, though.  There is a dense caramel sweetness, balanced by hearty cereal grain flavors.  The back of the palate picks up cinnamon and drying oak spices.  The finish is medium to short, with the oak remaining along with some dense caramel.

Overall, this is a solid wheated bourbon.  It is not especially expensive (usually around $25/750 ml), which makes it a very good value if you enjoy wheated bourbon.  In most stores, this is cheaper than Maker’s Mark, which makes Larceny the better buy.  However, I don’t see too much between them in flavor profiles.  Larceny is not the bourbon for me, but that does not mean it isn’t the bourbon for you.  My Grade: C-.  Price: $25-30/750ml.  For me, I leave this one on the shelf.  There are better whiskeys at the price point, and I don’t think this would make a great mixer.

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.