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.
Thanks, HighHorse, for sharing that.
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.
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.
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: