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View Full Version : Major differences when something is "specially selected?"



jwacky
01-14-2013, 10:41
So from what I understand, when a particular bottle of something is "Joe's Discount Liquor Specially Selected", it simply means that the store was given samples from a few different batches of a 'small batch' release, and from those samples they could select which batch would be bottled for their store... correct?

Do these typically vary greatly from one 'selected' barrel to another, or not much at all? I get that with anything smaller batch or single barrel there WILL be variance, but I don't know if there's a difference between, say, "generic" (for lack of a better word) EC12 and a specially selected bottle.

Or maybe I'm WAY off and that's not what it means at all?

Old Lamplighter
01-14-2013, 11:54
In my limited experience with any pvt selected 'standard juice/barrels' bottlings, the only one I've found to have much variation is Buffalo Trace. I've had good, bad & ugly with BT pvt selections. The TPS 4RSB seems to be a cut above other 'standard' 4RSBs I've tried. At same time though, I hate to use that word in same sentence as anything bottled by 4R because it's all been a cut above IMHO.

callmeox
01-14-2013, 12:07
Distilleries are shy about allowing selections like those to be made outside of the standard profile for a label.

As I can think of a small number of Binnys selections that were profile outliers and were very popular, there are probably more.

The best way to find out is to buy and try.

sailor22
01-14-2013, 12:08
So from what I understand, when a particular bottle of something is "Joe's Discount Liquor Specially Selected", it simply means that the store was given samples from a few different batches of a 'small batch' release, and from those samples they could select which batch would be bottled for their store... correct?

Do these typically vary greatly from one 'selected' barrel to another, or not much at all? I get that with anything smaller batch or single barrel there WILL be variance, but I don't know if there's a difference between, say, "generic" (for lack of a better word) EC12 and a specially selected bottle.

Or maybe I'm WAY off and that's not what it means at all?

Your correct in that typically a retailer is sent a number of samples - they are usually from different barrels that would have gone into the dump that made the batch. Because the manufacturer wants to have all the bottles of say EC12 or Eagle Rare taste pretty much the same the samples are usually pretty similar and usually not outside the shelf profile to any great degree. Since the samples are selected at random there is no guarantee that any one of them will be any better than the standard bottling, in fact they all might be in some small way inferior. Because the retailer needs product for his shelf he will pick one and proudly proclaim it a "specially selected". For the reasons mentioned it may or may not be "better" or even very different.

Some retailers work harder at it than others - TPS comes to mind - and you can count on their selections being a little different than the shelf version - if it is "better" .... that's for you and your palate to decide.

squire
01-14-2013, 13:08
It depends to some degree to who is doing the selection and what sales muscle the store has. Binny's, Specs or TPS is in a much better position to get something a bit unique than a single retail store in my neighborhood.

cowdery
01-14-2013, 13:47
My dad was an engineer for an appliances manufacturer. One time we were talking about something and he pointed to a nearby appliance. "Do you know why that says, 'Heavy Duty'?" I began to speculate about heavier gauge steel, thicker hoses, whatever. He stopped he. "It says 'Heavy Duty' because some marketing guy thought it would sell better if it said 'Heavy Duty.'"

As he was about most things, he was right.

Gillman
01-14-2013, 14:00
Talking about Dads, I remember that when I was a kid, mine always specified "heavy duty suspension" when he bought a new car. (Today, more often than not one "orders" a new car: can someone explain the nuance to me? Could it be from the fact of leasing not buying outright?).

This was at a time when you had to pay extra for that. I hope he wasn't flim-flammed. :)

Gary

Special Reserve
01-14-2013, 16:28
Chuck,

I loved the story about your dad. It warmed my heart. Thanks for posting it.

Will

fishnbowljoe
01-14-2013, 18:03
I pretty much agree with what everyone here has said. I'm lucky in that I live fairly close to a store that does one or two private barrels selections each year. (I'm also fairly close to Binny's. :rolleyes:) The one store I go to has been gracious enough to allow me and another member to participate in tasting barrel samples for a couple of their picks. It's fun, but not as easy as one would think. We were asked for our input, but they had already pretty much decided on what their picks were going to be. Sometimes we were in agreement, and sometimes we weren't. I have to say that IMHO, every selection they've done has been at the very least, a little better than the standard bottlings. More often than not, their bottlings have been noticeably better. This is one of those stores that, like Sailor22 said, works harder at it.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are stores that might have a distillery select a barrel especially for them, and they don't bother with tasting any samples. Sometimes it might be good, other times maybe not so good. An example of this is a store I visited in another state a few years ago. At the time, one of my favorite bourbons was "ABC" bourbon. (I'm substituting ABC to try and be nice.) I stopped in at this store, and low and behold they had ABC bourbon on sale. It was around $7 cheaper than what it generally sold for at that time. And it was a private selection to boot! I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. I was thinking about buying a case of it. Hell, I even had my wife's blessing. :bigeyes: I wasn't sure what to do because they had a couple of other things on sale that I really wanted too. I decided to only purchase one bottle of ABC bourbon, and the others that I wanted. After all, I could go back for more ABC if it was great. As it turned out, I'm glad I only bought one bottle of the ABC bourbon. To be blunt, it was pretty bad. It didn't even come close to tasting anything like any bottle of ABC bourbon that I'd ever had before, or since. I got lucky on that one.

So, to quote from the movie Forrest Gump, My momma always said, "Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." As a generality I think that most private selections will be at least a little better than their normal counterpart, but there's always a stinker barrel lurking in the rickhouse. :skep: Callmeox pretty much summed it up. The best way to find out is to buy and try.

Cheers! Joe

bourbonandbacon
01-14-2013, 18:55
in my limited experience, i have come across a difference between specially selected and private selection. FR comes to mind as one where they have their own private selection labels, but i have also seen stores claim that a single barrel with no private selection label was specially selected by the store. They could be telling the truth, though, as Chuck points out, it could also be marketing by the store. I have also seen bottles in stores with a sticker not from the distillery saying "specially selected by XYZ liquors" and this again reads to me as marketing as opposed to actually going through the process of private selection. I would like to know from anyone who works at a distillery if they would ever allow a store to go through the whole tasting process and then not buy a whole barrel, thereby not getting their own private selection label but perhaps being able to purchase some whiskey from a certain barrel. Does that happen?

sailor22
01-15-2013, 08:16
My local store buys at least 8 single barrels a year and half the time they forget to specify a sticker whole they are at the distillery. Hey, they're busy and they have been drinking, er... sampling. When the bottles get here they typically have their own sticker or neck tag printed up. Their picks are typically better than the shelf version. One or two are heavy duty.

cowdery
01-15-2013, 15:18
One good thing about store selections is that you often get a single barrel offering of a product that's not normally single barrel, e.g., Weller Special Reserve. Often they're also at a 'deal' price.

Whenever a distillery does a 'buy a barrel' program for retailers, the only barrels the retailers can choose from are barrels that have already been selected for that product. But within that range, retail buyers seem to have a tendency to pick the barrels with the most ompf. That may be why enthusiasts also tend to like the store selections.

But in no sense are they objectively better.

White Dog
01-15-2013, 15:42
My avatar is a line-up of EC12 barrel-proof samples that were sent to a retailer for a private selection. HH still cuts the proof down to 94 for bottling, sadly, but the various samples had a wide variety of taste profiles. They were within the HH profile, but were all quite different.

sailor22
01-15-2013, 16:01
Their picks are typically OMPFIER than the shelf version.

There, now it's fixed.

Josh
01-16-2013, 09:04
Good discussion.

I'll put it this way. I have never had a retailer bottle of something that was worse than the stardard offering. They usually cost the same as the standard offering, so no blood, no foul as we used to say on the playground.

Correction: The last TPS AAA 10 y/o selection I tasted was worse than the standard 10 y/o. Cherry cough syrup. Bleck.

But that remains the only exception I have tasted.

PaulO
01-16-2013, 16:29
My experience with single barrel selections for different stores has been encouraging. The Eagle Rare (Binny's) to me tasted the same as regular Eagle Rare. Some of the Wellers, and ETL tasted better than what I was used to. If it's something I allready like, the single barrel selection sticker does make me more interested.

bourbonandbacon
01-17-2013, 22:11
i recently got a bottle of FR private selection, 10 year old OBSQ. it was interesting. i had not had that recipe previously. i got a little bit of astringency early on, but more flavors developed in time. I am getting pickles now, and find it a pretty good buy at $50. given that it is such a unique flavor profile though, i am not sure it is an every day kind of sipper. definitely glad i didnt drop $80 for the LESB 2011 they had as its the same recipe with a few more years of aging

theglobalguy
01-20-2013, 14:31
It's been interesting reading this thread, then thinking about the FRSB OBSV from the local Kroger Wine/Spirits. Was on sale @$28, and i was shocked that someone in the staff there made the trip to 4R. Didn't even think that they ship the samples out and narrow it down for you. Great information as always on SB.

PaulO
01-21-2013, 04:40
Yesterday, I saw something I haven't seen before. At a grocery store I saw a bottle of KC single barrel that had a tag with the retailer's name, and a barrel number. I never saw one with a barrel number before. I couldn't buy it. No Sunday sales in my state. :hot::smiley_acbt::rolleyes: Maybe I'll go pick it up today if I can. Of all the current Beam products, this one I like.

cowdery
01-21-2013, 14:17
That's from a standard KC buy-a-barrel program that preceded the current single barrel product, unless they continued the program with the current single barrel. Easy way to check. Is it 100 proof or 120?

jwacky
01-21-2013, 15:01
It's been interesting reading this thread, then thinking about the FRSB OBSV from the local Kroger Wine/Spirits. Was on sale @$28, and i was shocked that someone in the staff there made the trip to 4R. Didn't even think that they ship the samples out and narrow it down for you. Great information as always on SB.

I'm glad I asked! I'd kind of assumed that 1) representatives from the various retailers were sent samples from which to choose and 2) that ultimately, the 'private selections' would taste similar to the standard release. Slight differences, perhaps (subjectively) better, but more or less the same. I'd never heard of something like this until seeing a sticker on my Buffalo Trace bottle that it was "BevMo selected".

HighHorse
02-02-2013, 19:35
Last year I made the trip with our Tallahassee retailer, Market Square Liquors, as one of about six on the barrel selection team. We personally selected (and purchased) over twenty barrels from Beam (KC), Woodford, KBD, Four Roses, Heaven Hill (EC12's first ever dual barrel & EW), and via distiller supplied samples (WTKS & six BT's) and a yet-to-be received 21 Year Old from Jefferson. Our goal is to ALWAYS find a barrel that is better than the standard offering. Why else would we go to the expense except for the extrordinary experience of spending days with the guys who make this marvelous stuff. Is it objectively better? You bet it is .. at least it is in the opinion of those of us who select it and those back home who confirm our selections.

At Beam, for example, we picked two barrels of KC .. one for a private buyer who is on our team .. and another for the retailer. Both are amazing pours and noticably more delightful than the regular KC you'll find on the shelves around the country. And .. they are typically priced the same .. with some exceptions as in the FR barrel that only produced 48 750's. I can say the same for the Woodford dual barrel selections we have made (3) and the Kentucky Spirit. Some pretty fine afficianados who post here have commented that the KS is the best Turkey they have ever tasted.

When it comes to Four Roses & KBD it's hard to say they are "objectively" better as each offers such a variety of offerings it's hard to compare. Although I recently tasted a Willet from another group's selection that was possibly one of the best bourbons I've ever met. That was a better selection and I think any one of you would agree.

We've been getting BT through the selection process for so long - both personal and distributor sent samples - that we were commenting that we no longer know what the shelf BT tastes like. We're going to go buy a bottle from another retailer just to see how we are doing.

We'll be back up in early April for at least a week and the plan is to find at least twenty barrels so that we can have them all in before the Christmas season. On top of the list for this trip will be BT, WT & Beam plus a few others. Our goal will be .. as always .. to find the best barrels.

Finally, it is in the distillers best interest to present us with barrels that will meet our criteria of excellence. When one stops presenting us with outstanding samples, the barrel picks will likely be with a different distiller. I know for sure that they (the distillers) and the distributors roll out the carpet for us. They appreciate the fact that we put a spotlight on their talents and abilities.

I would never take a special barrel selection for granted and assume that it's likely no better than their shelf offerings. Quite the contrary .. put your trust in those of us who appreciate what magic is aging in those warehouses. It ain't all getting blended to taste like it did the last time you bought it! And keep in mind that it IS unique .. and when it's gone, it's gone.

scubadoo97
02-02-2013, 19:48
Last year I made the trip with our Tallahassee retailer, Market Square Liquors, as one of about six on the barrel selection team. We personally selected (and purchased) over twenty barrels from Beam (KC), Woodford, KBD, Four Roses, Heaven Hill (EC12's first ever dual barrel & EW), and via distiller supplied samples (WTKS & six BT's) and a yet-to-be received 21 Year Old from Jefferson. Our goal is to ALWAYS find a barrel that is better than the standard offering. Why else would we go to the expense except for the extrordinary experience of spending days with the guys who make this marvelous stuff. Is it objectively better? You bet it is .. at least it is in the opinion of those of us who select it and those back home who confirm our selections.

At Beam, for example, we picked two barrels of KC .. one for a private buyer who is on our team .. and another for the retailer. Both are amazing pours and noticably more delightful than the regular KC you'll find on the shelves around the country. And .. they are typically priced the same .. with some exceptions as in the FR barrel that only produced 48 750's. I can say the same for the Woodford dual barrel selections we have made (3) and the Kentucky Spirit. Some pretty fine afficianados who post here have commented that the KS is the best Turkey they have ever tasted.

When it comes to Four Roses & KBD it's hard to say they are "objectively" better as each offers such a variety of offerings it's hard to compare. Although I recently tasted a Willet from another group's selection that was possibly one of the best bourbons I've ever met. That was a better selection and I think any one of you would agree.

We've been getting BT through the selection process for so long - both personal and distributor sent samples - that we were commenting that we no longer know what the shelf BT tastes like. We're going to go buy a bottle from another retailer just to see how we are doing.

We'll be back up in early April for at least a week and the plan is to find at least twenty barrels so that we can have them all in before the Christmas season. On top of the list for this trip will be BT, WT & Beam plus a few others. Our goal will be .. as always .. to find the best barrels.

Finally, it is in the distillers best interest to present us with barrels that will meet our criteria of excellence. When one stops presenting us with outstanding samples, the barrel picks will likely be with a different distiller. I know for sure that they (the distillers) and the distributors roll out the carpet for us. They appreciate the fact that we put a spotlight on their talents and abilities.

I would never take a special barrel selection for granted and assume that it's likely no better than their shelf offerings. Quite the contrary .. put your trust in those of us who appreciate what magic is aging in those warehouses. It ain't all getting blended to taste like it did the last time you bought it! And keep in mind that it IS unique .. and when it's gone, it's gone.

I'm sipping on a Willett 8 YO #1319 you selected at the moment and the WT Kentucky Spirit is excellent

cowdery
02-03-2013, 14:13
Thanks, HighHorse, for sharing that.

bad_scientist
02-03-2013, 14:34
All of the TPS Willetts I've had are vastly inferior to the DC Willetts. The TPS KCSB from two years ago, however, was fantastic. Their 4R stuff always is good and sometimes great. HighHorse, you might be an exception, but from many years of experience with TPS (my family has lived 10 minutes away from them for 9 years), there's as much variability with store picks as there is with buying random bottles.

squire
02-03-2013, 15:09
Very thorough Jon, thanks, wish I could talk you guys into swinging by to pick me up next time you head North. Heck, I'll even help drive.

HighHorse
02-03-2013, 16:10
All of the TPS Willetts I've had are vastly inferior to the DC Willetts. The TPS KCSB from two years ago, however, was fantastic. Their 4R stuff always is good and sometimes great. HighHorse, you might be an exception, but from many years of experience with TPS (my family has lived 10 minutes away from them for 9 years), there's as much variability with store picks as there is with buying random bottles.

Thanks for your comments all. Scientist, I'm sure I'm not an exception. I do think that being in a team of 5-6, plus typicall distributor and distiller reps, keeps us honest and away from individual taste preferences. I'm also sure that you probably would not like all of our choices. Sailor (Steve), for example doesn't always give us a thumbs up and I hold his opinion in high regard. All we can do is take our best shot and that, I contend, will usually result in a product not just different from the shelf brand, but superior for those of us that like complexity and taste that shouts good. But you know .. when you're selecting from the majors .. you're trying to beat the best. What the hell makes us think we can outsmart Jim Rutledge or Harlen Wheatley?? We don't.
But we find some damn good barrels.
Willetts, IMO, are the toughest picks. There you have to depend on what they pull and it just may be that the DC guys have an excellent relationship.
So I guess I'm just saying that one should expect an excellent pour from a personal selection. Don't shy away from them. If you and others have issues with too many of them .. maybe it's time to put other folks on the selection team!:rolleyes: