The first bottling was indeed the one that hatched the concept. I remember vividly when Doug called me while I was in my car driving home from work, elated and gushing about having just come back from dinner with Drew and had tasted one of the best whiskies he'd ever had. I think about that moment every time I go past the tree where I pulled over to talk for 1/2 an hour about how to get ahold of that barrel.
However, by the time we compared it to several other barrel samples that Drew later sent, Doug and Neal preferred what became the second bottling. Tim Hoban (I really miss Tim3), Titus, Ed, Susan and I lobbied for what became the first bottling, and I believe Greg the Norcal Boozer couldn't make it that night.
Those were great times. Here is a post about it. Several posts before and after that one go into more detail on how we picked those barrels. I had forgotten until I reread those posts that some of the people interested in this wacky barrel proof, unfiltered old rye project were hesitating when it turned out it would cost about $8 more than originally anticipated.
The other night a friend of a friend came over to pour some cognacs. This guy is a blues harp player whose brother (also a talented blues musician) married a girl from the Cognac region of France. The harp player, Matthew, is using his new-found family connections to begin importing small batch cognacs from local farms. Normally, most of their run is sold to the four major cognac producers and then blended into big names: Remy, Courvoisier, Martell, and one other that escapes me now. Matthew hopes to do for cognac, what the single malt movement did for scotch. Anyway, the cognac was AMAZING. A couple of distinctive younger examples (5-7 years); one, perfumed and floral, the other, rich and fruity, with loads of pear. Then three vintage samples with quite a bit more age. And finally an unusual cognac/framboise liqueur that was very dry and served chilled. After all that, Matthew asked me to wow him with some bourbon.
I pulled out an open '07 Stagg, a 70's bonded Old Taylor, and an 86 proof PA Old Overholt. After trying the three, Matthew said that he had recently had the yellow label Beam Rye, and with the OO lingering on his palate, he thought he "really liked rye." I dragged out my ladder and crawled above the Murphy bed (space in my studio apartment is at an absolute premium), reaching for one of my last two bottles of Willett's 22 yr. rye. It took some doing to get through the wax, but after the bottle had been cracked and sampled and the assembled group had been left with smacking lips and eyes wide, one of Matthew's friends, an old blues guitarist who was a longtime bourbon drinker but whose health had recently switched him over to exclusively wine, declared "That's the best whiskey I've ever had." Who was I to disagree? To give you some idea of this guy's bona fides, he plays all the guitar parts for the Muddy Waters character in the recently released Cadillac Records.
The VanBlankle, a barrel proof S-W from Julian's private stash (thanks, Tim), a 60's era six year bonded Crow, the 12 yr old barrel proof Willett that Fricky offered me at the Gazebo this year; each of those was THE best at the time.
I'm sure there were others but those stand out right now. How did I get through that list without mentioning a single WT?
"This is the real article. It is double-rectified busthead from Madison County, aged in the keg. A little spoonful would do you a power of good."
-True Grit by Charles Portis
I've not had the pleasure to sample some of the more revered (and very expensive) specimens, but I have to say Very Rare Old Heaven Hill 10yo BIB is my favorite. Templeton Rye would be second.
My favorite pour is probably EC12, but what I think is the best I've had is definitely this year's Handy Saz Rye. I haven't tried a lot of different brands and I have a bunch of different kinds bunkered that I will be trying for the first time soon, but so far, nothing is as smooth, complex and tasty as this bottle. Not an everyday pour, but a head turner for sure.
"A person can work up a mean, mean thirst after a hard day of nothing much at all . . . "
My Favorite one is easy for me it would be any Old Hickory from Continental Distilling, and especialy the 86 Proof stuff from the 1960's.
No Matter How much I try Whiskeys I always still like my Old Hickory the best!
Guess it is just so Dam Smooth I love drinking it
It Seems All The Nicest People Drink Old Hickory
America's Most Magnificent Bourbon