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Giving Up Craft Bourbon?

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lcpfratn
Master of Malt is selling a Rock Town 1 year old bourbon for $120+.  If that doesn't put anyone off craft, I don't what will.

You can't blame Rock Town for the ridiculous secondary market pricing of Master of Malt, which was probably brought on by a favorable review of Rock Town by Ralfy a year or so ago. While Rock Town has aged their bourbon in small casks with some success, as they are also aging in regular barrels, the pricing of any Rock Town products I've ever bought at retail liquor stores has always been below typical "craft" distillery pricing. I've bought several of their young bourbons and whiskeys at different ages and I've never paid more than $35 as I recall, and some were less than $30. The jury is still out on their long term success, but I respect them for not asking the high prices that I see from so many new distilleries. And unless the bourbon bubble bursts sooner than some of us suspect, I think they will be a long term success.


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Jazzhead

I love the craft whiskies.   Sure, it's not all good but there's enough that is that it makes the search lots of fun.    New distilleries, using malt milled on site and small pot stills,  experimenting with  different mashbills  and craft philosophies,  just intrigue me more these days than dusty bottles and new labels from the companies I've known for years.

 

It takes a practiced eye, because some folks are just trading on the term;  using sourced whiskies from MGP isn't craft,  although I love some of the independent wine cask finishing experiments like Straight Edge and Rough Rider.    

 

But, yeah, there is some good craft whiskey out there.    I'm drinking a fantastic  bottle that for some unfathomable reason turned up at the Jerseu shore,   from Washington State called JP McTrodden.   It's a wheated bourbon from a pot still, and aged three years.   It's wonderful, with an oily mouthfeel and complexity that belies its years.   I tried it side by side last night with Rebel Yell 10 year,  which I'm sure most of you know is one of the best bourbons of the year,  and it compares quire favorably.   And it beat a Weller Special Reserve to boot.    McTrodden is one of the top three craft bourbons I've tasted.

 

Another good one I can easily recommend is Wyoming Outryder.   It's a mix of two mashbills,  distilled in the same year so it can be marketed as bottled in bond,  one a conventional corn/rye mashbill,  and the other a four-grain,  so it's rye forward but can neither be called bourbon or rye.    (I've never tried their flagship Wyoming Whiskey, which is a wheated bourbon.   Might be an interesting participant with the wheated comparo I've been focusing on this past month. )

 

I fully understand the reluctance to try craft when there are excellent 6 year bourbons for half the price from the big boys.   Craft bourbon is in a tough category.    Craft distillers tend to try ryes,  or wheat whiskeys,  or four grain mashbills with things like oats and millet.     Craft ryes are like smoky Islay scotches - lack of age really isn't a problem;  young variants have a boldness that makes them compelling on their own terms. (e.g Catoctin Creek or Dad's Hat.)   

 

There are some interesting American single malts,  or whiskies with malt-forward mashbills,  although they don't really compare with scotch.   Most to me have a graham cracker vibe,  sort of like Johnny Walker Rye Cask.   Stranny's is a good example, so is Brickway from Nebraska.    

Edited by Jazzhead

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musekatcher
On 10/20/2017 at 2:36 PM, BottledInBond said:

 I've never tried any that I thought were great, and as stated they are always way overpriced.

I agree.  Its a given now, that I see a newcomer, and instantly think, "probably mediocre at twice the price".  IMO, Bourbon is still a game for the experienced, established distilleries employing career lifer professionals.  There's a lot of good bourbon produced under $30.  Its just that curiosity thing for the unknown that keeps me optimistic ;) 

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Flyfish
On 10/22/2017 at 6:16 AM, DCFan said:

Yeah I don't get all this hate for the little guys. There's a lot to be said for taking the road less traveled and getting something that uses locally sourced ingredients and is a presence in your community or state. Sure it'll cost a little more but you may get lucky and find a diamond in the rough or you could be paying a premium for dog poop. I don't view it any differently than trying a new restaurant or bottle of wine from a place I've never heard of before. Who wants to eat and drink the same thing every day?

1. I don't think it's "hate" but that craft bourbons are, of necessity, overpriced for what they are--mostly under aged. 2. I'm not clear on the value of "locally sourced." Corn is corn. Why do I want to pay more for local corn? (Do you care where the wheat comes from in a loaf of bread?) Besides, the cost of ingredients is a relatively minor consideration. 3. I have never seen any craft bourbon that cost "a little more." They always seem to cost a whole lot more but they make up for it by giving you a lot less. Of course, there are consumers of many products who believe that if it costs more it must be better.  4. Buying from the big boys doesn't mean the same-old, same-old every day. There are literally dozens of options offered by people who have shown rather clearly that they know what they are doing.  

Finally, I'd rather put my money on a lowly sourced bourbon if it comes from a reliable source--say the boys in Lawrenceburg, IN.  SAOS is reasonably priced while the boys at SA are giving their own juice a chance to age properly. 

Edited by Flyfish

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DCFan
22 minutes ago, Flyfish said:

1. I don't think it's "hate" but that craft bourbons are, of necessity, overpriced for what they are-

Your first sentence and you've already lost your rebuttal. How do you know something is overpriced if you don't buy it and then state categorically that it's bad?

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Flyfish
13 hours ago, DCFan said:

Your first sentence and you've already lost your rebuttal. How do you know something is overpriced if you don't buy it and then state categorically that it's bad?

My point is that "hate" is far too strong a term for being disappointed in bourbons that tend to be under aged and over priced. I have sampled enough to be convinced that they rarely compete in value with virtually any major bourbon in the $20-30 range. Craft bourbons must be higher priced because they do not benefit from economies of scale. I could buy a totally hand-built car that is "just as good as a Ford" but it would cost more than a Rolls Royce. That doesn't mean I hate it but that I don't find that a good way to spend my money. 

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fanostra
7 hours ago, Flyfish said:

My point is that "hate" is far too strong a term for being disappointed in bourbons that tend to be under aged and over priced. I have sampled enough to be convinced that they rarely compete in value with virtually any major bourbon in the $20-30 range. Craft bourbons must be higher priced because they do not benefit from economies of scale. I could buy a totally hand-built car that is "just as good as a Ford" but it would cost more than a Rolls Royce. That doesn't mean I hate it but that I don't find that a good way to spend my money. 

This is a fair statement by my own experiences. The only "craft" bourbon I've found in the $20-$30 range to be worth my consideration compared to the big boys and to deliver a similar quality/value (e.g. WT101, BT, EW SiB, etc.) is the new Willett BiB. Seems every other craft that I've had costs at least twice as much, and to my palate preferences, leaves me disappointed. I'd like to see these many guys succeed with their own distillate, but I'm not there yet to fork over my money given the alternatives.

 

But of course, taste is subjective and your mileage may vary. 

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tanstaafl2

So far my mileage has not varied! I thought the Willett 3yo showed promise but I am not their with the Willett BIB yet. Still doesn't stand up to the big boys quite yet for me.

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camduncan

With the exception of High West and Willett, I've not had a craft bottling that I'd return to in a hurry.  I find most too raw and under aged, and unfortunately the overpriced Australian market makes it far too expensive to continually purchase different offerings that turn up on our shelves, however I still continue to keep and open mind when at tastings and bars.

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EarthQuake

I had a craft whiskey that wasn't terrible recently. It was Stranahan's, which I think is somewhere in the 4-6 year range these days (hooray, finally getting to the age range of bottom shelf bourbon). It had an interesting flavor, sort of like a scotch but very sweet, almost too sweet. I enjoyed it quite a bit more than most craft whiskey I've had, but won't buy a bottle and am glad I tried it at a bar. Still overpriced and outclassed by most stuff from large producers (especially if we're looking at the same price range) but it shows potential.

Edited by EarthQuake

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flahute
On 10/24/2017 at 10:20 AM, fricky said:

I understand; however, currently there is no parameters to describe what is meant by craft. What is micro or small distillery? Is it 1 barrel a day, two barrels per day, or 3 per day?

But there are parameters. As I said above, those parameters depend on whose definition you choose to adhere to. The KDA has parameters. The Craft Distiller's Association has parameters. Individual state laws can define it. They define it by max proof gallons per yer, or max number of barrels being stored at any given time, or even that only grains from within the state it's distilled in are used. 

 

Otherwise, totally agree that they need to distinguish themselves by taste which few of them are able to do.

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flahute
On 10/25/2017 at 6:26 PM, jvd99 said:

Master of Malt is selling a Rock Town 1 year old bourbon for $120+.  If that doesn't put anyone off craft, I don't what will.

Masters of Malt is selling EHT Small Batch for $104. You can't use their prices to judge the market position of American whiskey.

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fricky
8 hours ago, flahute said:

But there are parameters. As I said above, those parameters depend on whose definition you choose to adhere to. The KDA has parameters. The Craft Distiller's Association has parameters. Individual state laws can define it. They define it by max proof gallons per yer, or max number of barrels being stored at any given time, or even that only grains from within the state it's distilled in are used. 

 

Otherwise, totally agree that they need to distinguish themselves by taste which few of them are able to do.

I guess I should have said their are no consistent universally accepted parameters.

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dcbt

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm becoming a big fan of a Texas craft called Witherspoon.  Assuming it's no longer MGP-sourced that is.  And therein lies another problem with 'crafts.'

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jvd99
22 hours ago, flahute said:

Masters of Malt is selling EHT Small Batch for $104. You can't use their prices to judge the market position of American whiskey.

Yeah, but a 1 year old vs. EHTSB?  RT is clearly retailing magnitudes proportionally higher to its actual value to justify that price which is total BS for a 1 yr.  In other words, MOM isn't jacking the price up, they're way too smart for that.  I understand if EHTSB is marked up because it is a sought after bottle/brand.  There's nothing to objectively justify a $100+ price for 1 a year, whereas a $100+ price tag for EHTSB is arguably justifiable. 

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lcpfratn
Yeah, but a 1 year old vs. EHTSB?  RT is clearly retailing magnitudes proportionally higher to its actual value to justify that price which is total BS for a 1 yr.  In other words, MOM isn't jacking the price up, they're way too smart for that.  I understand if EHTSB is marked up because it is a sought after bottle/brand.  There's nothing to objectively justify a $100+ price for 1 a year, whereas a $100+ price tag for EHTSB is arguably justifiable. 

I think MOM may be pricing RT based on the interest that may have occurred after Ralfy gave RT a favorable review and comments on his YouTube channel within the past year. RT actually does have bourbon older than 1yr and it's not priced high like most "craft" bourbon in the US. I can usually find their bourbon in the $30-$40 range.


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flahute
1 hour ago, jvd99 said:

Yeah, but a 1 year old vs. EHTSB?  RT is clearly retailing magnitudes proportionally higher to its actual value to justify that price which is total BS for a 1 yr.  In other words, MOM isn't jacking the price up, they're way too smart for that.  I understand if EHTSB is marked up because it is a sought after bottle/brand.  There's nothing to objectively justify a $100+ price for 1 a year, whereas a $100+ price tag for EHTSB is arguably justifiable. 

$100 for EHTSmB is arguably justifiable? I'd argue against that. It's just not that good. Fair point about it in direct comparison to RT, but as noted above it retails for $30-40 so MOM very much is jacking up the price. If we go back to your original assertion that MOM's price will put people off craft bourbon, I don't think the European market is really the target audience that will make it thrive or fail. The American market that values localism and the little guy producers will support this stuff and $30-40 is not off putting to this market segment. 

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musekatcher
On 11/7/2017 at 3:41 PM, fanostra said:

This is a fair statement by my own experiences. The only "craft" bourbon I've found in the $20-$30 range to be worth my consideration compared to the big boys and to deliver a similar quality/value (e.g. WT101, BT, EW SiB, etc.) is the new Willett BiB.

I haven't seen or heard of a Willett BIB?  Is this code for Bardstown BIB?

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flahute
2 minutes ago, musekatcher said:

I haven't seen or heard of a Willett BIB?  Is this code for Bardstown BIB?

Old Bardstown BIB, as now distilled by Willett.

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fanostra
8 hours ago, musekatcher said:

I haven't seen or heard of a Willett BIB?  Is this code for Bardstown BIB?

Not so much code, but more a brain fart on my behalf. Yes, Willett's Old Bardstown BiB (the new version)

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musekatcher
On 11/10/2017 at 12:32 AM, flahute said:

Old Bardstown BIB, as now distilled by Willett.

Thanks Flahute - btw, what is your avatar? 

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flahute
9 hours ago, musekatcher said:

Thanks Flahute - btw, what is your avatar? 

It's a close up photo of a couple windows in a rickhouse at Stitzel-Weller (now Bulleit). I love the old rusting corrugated steel siding.

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mbroo5880i

I am not certain what defines a craft bourbon.  I suppose it is based on the size of the distiller.  I have found very few craft bourbons that I have enjoyed.  Tom's Foolery is one.  I honestly can't think of another.  Anyway, over the weekend, I bought a bottle of Starlight Distillery Big Red Store Select Single Barrel #1440 for $31.99.  It was part of a 3 bottle purchase to get a 20% discount.  I had contemplated getting something I knew something about but I have tried Starlight's Carl T. Bourbon and thought it was decent.  I had also heard about some stellar single barrel ryes from the distillery.  Reading the profile description on the bottle, I was intrigued enough to give it a try.  The description was "Mini-Wheater and Caramel Bomb."  It is bottled at 118.4 proof.  It is also 2 years old.  

 

They weren't kinding about "Caramel Bomb."  There really was no nose to the bourbon.  Initially, it reminded me of OC10 but slightly less complex.  However, as I explore the pouring, I found it to be very one dimensional with an overwhelming caramel flavor.  Almost to the point that it seemed they must have added caramel to it.  It wasn't harsh for 118.4 proof but rather really sweet.  This stuff could probably be used on pancakes.  I decided it would be better served balancing out another bottle that I have been struggling to finish.  I explored a little and ended up with a 60/40 blend with HW Double Rye.  The end result was a really solid blend that proofs out at 102.  I ended up only blended a little over half the bottle.  The remainder will be blended or used for cookies so all is not lost.

 

I don't mind blends of straight bourbons/ryes and it is fun to explore.  However, I always prefer straight pours from a single bottle more.  

 

The reminder is that no matter how appealing.  Most craft bourbons are still too young to be complex enough to enjoy.

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flahute
7 minutes ago, mbroo5880i said:

I am not certain what defines a craft bourbon.  I suppose it is based on the size of the distiller. 

Though there are several legal definitions pertaining to 'craft', they all come down to limiting either the size or the output of the distiller.

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