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  1. #1
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    Retailers special bottlings

    I was just looking over Binny's hand picked casks and see that they have many different bourbons that they have done this with. Does this generally provide a better quality bourbon than the standard bottling of the same name?

    For example is Binny's Buffalo Trace better than the regular Buffalo Trace?

    Do a lot of retailers do this? Do any in the Louisville market do this?

    Thanx!
    Jeff


    Give me Bourbon or give me death! ~ Hondo (1982)

  2. #2
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    Re: Retailers special bottlings

    It may or may not... the distillers allow the purchasers to pick the special, single-barrel bottlings only from a small selection of barrels. The selection is carfeully chosen by the distiller to represent the taste profile of the "ordinary" product.

    In other words, a "special" single-barrel bottling of BT may taste slightly different than the regular BT... but only very subtlely.

    Even standard single-barrel bottlings are kept within a desired taste profile by the distiller. The taste will vary from barrel to barrel but all will be very similar.

    Single-barrel bottlings from non-distilling bottlers (think KBD, for example) are likely to show more variation (particularly over time) since they have less control over the source distillate.
    John B

    "Drinking when we are not thirsty and making love at all seasons… that is all there is to distinguish us from other animals."

  3. #3
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    Re: Retailers special bottlings

    Quote Originally Posted by Hondo View Post

    Do a lot of retailers do this? Do any in the Louisville market do this?

    Thanx!
    Liquor Barn has does this occasionally. Last time I was in there they had cases of their hand selected Hancock Reserve.
    Hope is subversive, for it limits the grandiose pretensions of the present by calling into existence the possibility of something better.

  4. #4
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    Re: Retailers special bottlings

    Given your example of BT, I'll say that a single barrel bottling of the expression will taste different, but will it taste better? I'll bet that Brett thinks that it tastes better, but ultimately that's for you to decide.

    The reason that I say it will taste different is that BT is not a single barrel or "small batch" expression, so BT will select many barrels (hundreds?) to mingle to get to the desired flavor profile for their standard bottling. The odds are low that the barrel or barrels that Brett picked would adhere directly to the standard bottling taste profile.

    There are other special bottlings that certainly do not adhere to the standard profile and Four Roses seems to be out in front of this with a program that they are developing. Brett selected three non-standard barrels for special bottlings of FRSB and he was selling them as barrel 1, barrel 2 and barrel 3. I don't know if they are still available, but they are all outstanding whiskey. ACDetroit and OscarV picked what I think is a non-standard barrel at Four Roses for a bottling for the Thoroughbred Shop last fall (they picked a great barrel, too).

    Since better is in the nose and tastebuds of the beholder, it is up to you to decide if the person selecting the barrel hit the mark.
    My name is Joel Goodson. I deal in human fulfillment.
    I grossed over eight thousand dollars in one night. Time of your life, huh kid?

  5. #5
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    Re: Retailers special bottlings

    It's like any single barrel bottling, in that you get to taste the contents of one barrel, without any amendments, and at least one person has decided that barrel is outstanding. It's most fun when you are already familiar with the brand, because you get to taste a slight variation on it.

    When the retailer is particularly knowledgeable, he or she will probably be able to explain why they picked a particular barrel, how it deviated from the standard, and why they thought that particular selection was interesting. I salute the producers who operate these programs, because they play right into our enthusiasm.

    What it is not about is "better." "Better" is one of those subjective terms you really should just banish from your mind. It's not about better, it's about different.

  6. #6
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    Re: Retailers special bottlings

    Quote Originally Posted by callmeox View Post
    Given your example of BT, I'll say that a single barrel bottling of the expression will taste different, but will it taste better? I'll bet that Brett thinks that it tastes better, but ultimately that's for you to decide.

    The reason that I say it will taste different is that BT is not a single barrel or "small batch" expression, so BT will select many barrels (hundreds?) to mingle to get to the desired flavor profile for their standard bottling. The odds are low that the barrel or barrels that Brett picked would adhere directly to the standard bottling taste profile.

    There are other special bottlings that certainly do not adhere to the standard profile and Four Roses seems to be out in front of this with a program that they are developing. Brett selected three non-standard barrels for special bottlings of FRSB and he was selling them as barrel 1, barrel 2 and barrel 3. I don't know if they are still available, but they are all outstanding whiskey. ACDetroit and OscarV picked what I think is a non-standard barrel at Four Roses for a bottling for the Thoroughbred Shop last fall (they picked a great barrel, too).

    Since better is in the nose and tastebuds of the beholder, it is up to you to decide if the person selecting the barrel hit the mark.
    I'm not saying that these special bottlings are not good / great whiskey --- they usually are. I have and continue to buy some of them when they are available. But they always (and I fully expect them to) fit the brand taste profile. All I'm saying is that the distiller takes great care to be sure that they do not stray far from the taste profile that they have establshed and want to maintain for that product. But the differences are subtle and not dramatic. The term "taste profile" allows for some (very modest) latitude.

    I'm sure Brett was not given free run of the rickhouses to select his FRSB bottlings. In fact I'd bet that he was given a handful of barrels to choose from and I'm sure he picked the "best" or most unique from that selection. But I'm also confident that none of those available made available for choice were outside the FR taste profile for SB bottlings (and may in fact have been destined for that purpose in any case).

    The distillers have a lot of time / money / reputation invested in their brands that they understandably want to protect and maintain. They go to great lengths to make sure that if a consumer picks a bottle with their label on it, he / she will have a consistent experience.
    Last edited by jburlowski; 03-22-2009 at 14:37.
    John B

    "Drinking when we are not thirsty and making love at all seasons… that is all there is to distinguish us from other animals."

  7. #7
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    Re: Retailers special bottlings

    Nobody said that Brett had free run of the rickhouse...that's just plain silly.

    I know for a fact that Brett was able to select from barrels that were not the standard mash/yeast combo for FRSB. I spoke to him about it on the phone after he returned from selecting the barrels and he was vary excited about the opportunity to make the selections.

    Here's the original thread and the descriptions of what was selected (taken from an email conversation that I had with Brett). http://www.straightbourbon.com/forum...ad.php?t=10254

    It looks like they have sold through the stock of all three casks as they no longer list them on their site.

    Not to knock your confidence in how the bourbon world works, but I'll take Brett's word over yours since he selected the barrels.

    I've also been enjoying the FRSB that AC and Oscar picked and it's all fruit and rye to me, much different than the standard FRSB profile when tasted side by side.

    In the end of year 2008 Mellow Moments newsletter, Jim Rutledge mentioned that they are launching a barrel strength private reserve program in 2009 for retailers that will include all 10 expresions that are made at FR. I'll take a wild guess that they will not be creating 10 different labels for these releases though I'll concede that the variability from barrel to barrel will be a feature of the program.

    As far as the distilleries taking great care to protect their brand identity, I'll offer the Willie Wallace bottling of WTKS as an example of where that failed. I'm not piling on the WW bottle, but it's just not good WTKS though it still wears the WTKS label.
    My name is Joel Goodson. I deal in human fulfillment.
    I grossed over eight thousand dollars in one night. Time of your life, huh kid?

  8. #8
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    Re: Retailers special bottlings

    Quote Originally Posted by jburlowski View Post
    The distillers have a lot of time / money / reputation invested in their brands that they understandably want to protect and maintain. They go to great lengths to make sure that if a consumer picks a bottle with their label on it, he / she will have a consistent experience.
    This is the crux of John's point, and he's right. I might quibble about the word "consistent." I would like the statement better if it ended with the words, "a brand-enhancing experience." A positive, brand-enhancing experience may tolerate a bit more variation in this context than the brand might prefer normally.

    Most of what we know about these programs comes from the Buffalo Trace experience and John described the usual practice at BT. I have not the least bit of trouble believing that Four Roses did it a little differently, and probably when Jack Daniel's does it or Heaven Hill does it, they have their own version. Woodford Reserve, for example, won't sell you a single barrel. They will, however, let you select two barrels to be mixed together and sell you the equivalent of one barrel of that mixture.

    Buffalo Trace has been a leader in encouraging retailers to make personal selections of single barrel bottlings of brands, like BT itself and Weller Special Reserve, that are not single barrel in their standard expression. I don't think anyone else does that.
    Last edited by cowdery; 03-22-2009 at 19:14.

  9. #9
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    Re: Retailers special bottlings

    Quote Originally Posted by callmeox View Post
    As far as the distilleries taking great care to protect their brand identity, I'll offer the Willie Wallace bottling of WTKS as an example of where that failed. I'm not piling on the WW bottle, but it's just not good WTKS though it still wears the WTKS label.
    Here is an example of why there are many different bourbons and why individuals should be their own judge when it comes to evaluating them. I happen to like the Willie Wallace Kentucky Spirit. In fact, in a blind tasting with four of my friends 3 out of 4 picked it (neat) over the standard Kentucky Spirit and 2 of 4 picked it after cutting it with water. One is not better than the other. They are different. Their differences are what appeals to individual tasters and that is the joy in tasting privately-selected barrels.

  10. #10
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    Re: Retailers special bottlings

    I'm with you on this one, Doug. When I sampled it at the Gazebo, I thought the Willie Wallace Kentucky Spirit was very good whiskey and good Kentucky Spirit to boot. The only bottle I sampled there that stepped outside the "house" style for the brand was the 4 Roses Mariage, but I think that was what they intended.

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