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Bourbon year end 2018 - State of the State.

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flahute

Warning, this is a long read.

 

It's time to reflect on the overall state of Bourbonia at this year's end. There is much to discuss. We've been collectively discussing the pertinent topics all year: new releases, lost age statements, discontinued products, whether or not we're at the peak of the boom, rising prices, LE frustrations, etc.

These are my personal ruminations and observations from the past year. They are informed by my personal experiences in my home market, my numerous trips to Kentucky and who I talk to, what I read and verify out in the Wild West of social media, and of course what I discuss with you all here.

Please note that I'm not trying to be exhaustive nor have I exhaustively researched it. If I get any facts wrong, correct me. Also, add your own thoughts as your experiences and home market might lead you to different conclusions.

 

To start, I'll say that despite the catalog of frustrations from the past year, the State of Bourbonia is still very strong.

 

Let's do a distillery by distillery review. I'll stick with the majors.

I'll start with Buffalo Trace for reasons which should be obvious and the others will follow in no particular order.

 

Buffalo Trace: Buffalo Traces remains the 800 lb. gorilla and canary in the coal mine at the same time. The annual PVW and BTAC releases still dominate the fall and are the most chased and discussed releases of the year. BT has this figured this out and it continues to baffle me why the other distilleries are content to let BT dominate this arena. BT is the only distillery outside of Four Roses (and Old Forester....sort of) that has a consistently released LE product that everyone looks forward to every year. The other distilleries have their LE's of course, but they change from year to year and/or are released at odd times of the year and don't generate as much buzz.

 

We still see the influx of new blood in the hobby that immediately shoots for PVW and BTAC before trying much of anything else. When they can't get it, many of them default to anything else they can get from BT. This is of course why all Weller products remain strictly allocated in most markets. Elmer T Lee, Rock Hill Farms, Hancock's. They all remain strictly limited. Even Blanton's is still extremely limited in most markets. If you want a sign of where we are in the boom cycle, see the social media posts of the people who are extremely excited to "score" a Blanton's. Eagle Rare is a tough find in many markets and we all know that the single barrel program was suspended for 2018. I've not heard if it's coming back next year. The namesake bourbon - it also can be a tough find. It's out there plenty but it still sells out quickly. The EH Taylor line: also strictly allocated in many markets and when regularly available, the pricing is often a turn off for those of us who've been around for a while. Stagg Jr. remains a bright spot for those who can easily find it.

 

If BT is the canary in the coal mine, the canary is telling us that BT products across the board are still in very high demand and that supply is not yet there. As it relates to discussions about the boom, Sazerac is betting on it continuing for a good while with the massive expansions that have already been completed and that are still on the way.

 

Jim Beam: Jim Beam simultaneously delights me and frustrates me. Knob Creek NAS is still good. KCSiB is usually great and the number of single barrels out there in the 12-14yr age range for a great price is amazing. Some of these are simply superb. Younger Beam doesn't do it for me so the Distiller's Cut and Bonded expressions don't get me excited but I know that they work for a lot of you at a great price. Baker's is one that I love but the price point remains a head scratcher. Beam really crapped the bed with the whole Booker's price hike followed by the partial retreat the year before and has not recovered the lost goodwill. Booker's remains a bit younger still. Sometime's it can be great, but sometimes it's fairly "meh" so I can't get behind buying it anymore at the $70-ish price point. On a positive note, Beam hasn't ruined Old Grand Dad and that remains a favorite.

Where Beam really frustrates me is with the LE's. They can't get their heads out of their butts and release a consistently great product that the consumer wants. When they do get it right, they want $300 for it. When they get it wrong (which happens a lot) they still want $150 for it. And they are all over the map. It's as if they suddenly realize they have a group of barrels on the verge of going over the hill so they scramble to come up with a LE expression to deal with it. What they don't have is a yearly release of something that everyone looks forward to. (Hey Beam - see Buffalo Trace above. They have it figured out). Beam has the whiskey. 12 year old Booker's anyone? Barrel strength Basil's? Cask strength Knob Rye with a desirable age statement? 10 year old Baker's at cask strength? So many options that people would love. Figure it out Beam.

 

Maker's Mark: there just isn't anything to get excited about here. They clearly have their core fans because they sell their whiskey, but those core fans aren't us. It's too bad because I really welcome a regularly available wheater on the market. It's just too damn young. If they could set some barrels aside for an extra 2-3 years I would probably buy it by the case. Maker's 46 still tastes weird to me and the whole barrel stave finish program can result in some really good bourbon. It just seems so hard to predict with accuracy what you will get. I'm not sold on it yet.

 

Heaven Hill: Heaven Hill still mostly delights me. There's something for everyone across their core brands. Losing the age statement on EC still hurts but the return of EC to the private barrel program has resulted in so many great private picks this past year that I don't miss EC12 as much as I thought I would. ECBP is consistently superb and is regularly available to me. McKenna BIB is still a favorite but in a sign of the times its Whiskey of the Year award has resulted in it being out of stock most of the time. There's enough of the aforementioned EC private picks that I don't really miss McKenna. Larceny still befuddles me. I usually hate it. I think they are bottling it too young. Pikesville remains great and a favorite. Where Heaven Hill is really hit and miss is with the Parker's Heritage Collection. They get it right in that it's a yearly fall release but when they do something like a younger bourbon finished in curaçao casks like this year, the ballon deflates rather quickly. What I do give them a lot of credit for is their gift shop releases. William Heaven Hill, Select Stock, the Old Fitz BIB at 14yrs, etc. These can be really great. I can't think of another distillery gift shop that consistently offers unique bottles like this. The curaçao finish cask should be a gift shop release. Reserve Parker's Heritage for the truly great and deserving whiskies. 

 

Brown Forman: This is another distillery that can't get their heads out of their butts with limiteds and special releases. There's way too much giving the customer what they don't want for the privilege of a high price. The Master's Collection falls flat just about every time. WR Batch Proof was great, but for $125? Really? Woodford has the whiskey but they have no idea how to market it outside of their core product. Old Forester is doing a lot better. They have a hit with 1920 and 1910 is promising. The others in the Whiskey Row series are good but are a bit redundant given the price points. I've said this before, but cask strength Old Fo would be a runaway hit (assuming it's priced right). Birthday Bourbon allocations have all but dried up in my market. I used to be a BB apologist despite the criticisms but I can't get my hands on it anymore so I don't have a current opinion. 

I really didn't dabble much with JD this year so I have nothing to say about them. I assume the JDSiBBP is still great but I haven't had one in a while.

 

Wild Turkey: Turkey had a great year, but I'm also a biased fan. The core expressions remain strong. 101 tasted great this year and remains one of the great values. Rare Breed consistently is a favorite. RR10yr, though not loved by all, remains one of my sleeper values. I haven't had a bad RRSiB yet. Kentucky Spirit still eludes me because of the price point. It's great bourbon, I'm just not going to put it in my cart when I can get SiB at 110 proof for just a couple more dollars. RRSiB Rye can be one of the best ryes out there. Just need supply to catch up. The only place WT could do better would again be with the LE's. I haven't had a chance to try this year's Revival but I hear from a lot of you that it's great. I liked the Decades and 17yr from the past two years just fine. The only thing they could do better in my opinion is again - something yearly you can count on and look forward to such as a 12yr 101 or something at true barrel strength. I've spent enough time with Eddie to know that he knows what the customer wants. It's a matter of convincing the suits at Campari. The one-offs like Decades are great. You just can't build yearly momentum with them.

 

Four Roses: Boy how things have changed at Four Roses. Once the runaway darlings of the bourbon enthusiast community they still face the crisis of confidence they are still recovering from since the departure of Jim Rutledge a few years ago. Part of their difficulty is related to supply as they struggle to catch up from having half their capacity committed to Bulleit not long ago. They've recently doubled their production capacity but it will take 6-8 years before any of that begins to relieve the pressure. They still have very good whiskey but their rising popularity has made it harder to get. They had a hit with Al Young last year but were not able to follow with anything similar this year. The 130th LE Small Batch is very solid but does not reach the level of years past. Ages for private barrels continues to be lower than before, but, top notch private barrels are still out there. Only time will tell if Four Roses can return to the level we all got used to.

 

I'll stop there since this is already too long of a post.

If you've read this far, thanks for putting up with it. 

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FasterHorses

great summary. thanks for the great read. I would say Beam has been the consumers best friend with their reasonable pricing, great availability, impressive age, and private barrel program. I feel they have made up for any missteps theyve made in the past like removing KC9 age stmt and bookers price hike. 

BT marketing has been flawless from a buisness standpoint but ffrustrating from a consumer standpoint. Their bourbons are good enough to hold the top spots with no marketing shenanigans needed. 

Edited by FasterHorses
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Vosgar
4 hours ago, flahute said:

The annual PVW and BTAC releases still dominate the fall and are the most chased and discussed releases of the year. BT has this figured this out and it continues to baffle me why the other distilleries are content to let BT dominate this arena.

Great post, Steve!! You've made many great points but I've decided to only comment on this one ^^^^

 

As I sit here sipping on some '17 GTS, I also have wondered why no one else has taken a serious stab at duplicating what BT has been so successful with. Hell, the Antique Collection started way back in 2000 and Sazerac has been doing the PVW distilling since '02 (IIRC) so the other distilleries have had plenty of time to see what's happened and to go after it. I realize the other guys may not have the stocks available to offer the number of options BT has in its annual releases, but they should all be able to do a few. Coming up with new products on a regular basis is great, but you'll never get the cult status BT has achieved unless you have a special whiskey (unlike EWSB), released on an annual basis, with the same name and a consistent mashbill every time (IMHO). At this point, I can't help but wonder if it's a bit too late for them. You don't build a BTAC and PVW reputation in just a year or two, but I'd sure like to see the rest of the distilleries start trying.

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PaulO

Some very astute observations there Steve, and nothing I disagree with.

BT - I used to be a big fan of Weller and mash bill #2.  Don't see either one anymore.  

JB - Distiller's Cut and Overholt BIB are in my wheelhouse.  KCSB continues to be on a roll.

MM - I sometimes buy it as a value pour.  I also agree, Maker's 46 tastes "weird".  I wish they would simply bottle something at 100 or more proof and an age statement.

HH - The one high point is EW BIB seems to have improved.

BF - I thought the JD Rye was pretty good.  Old Forester 100 is no where near as good as old label Signature.  Prices for Birthday are crazy.

WT - The standard WT 101 has been great.  It seems better than I remembered.  WTRB also a big yes.

FR - I've become a big fan of their three standard releases.  Prices are creeping up recently.

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mosugoji64

GREAT points, Steve! Your observations are spot-on. Thanks, Gary, for bringing up EWSB - that one's been a disappointment for me since HH started jumping the gun by dropping the age and releasing 2-3 vintages every year. I would much rather see stocks run out and keep it as something special rather than see a new year on the shelf every few months. To go one further, let's see a special, annual edition of EWSB at barrel proof and age stated older than the standard expression. The folks at HH do an amazing job at selecting for flavor profiles so I think they could do a bang-up job of selecting for a more complex version of the EW profile. 

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Richnimrod

Thanx for those well-considered thoughts Steve!  :)

I agree with nearly (JB DC is a fave for me) all you said, as well as those comments following from others.    Good idea for a comprehensive thread!

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BottledInBond

I agree with a lot of the post here Steve. On the HH topic, I agree that it is cool that HH does special gift shop (including the Experience) bottles (WHH, the EW23, even the EC grenades, etc.). My one complaint on those is that they tend to be crazy expensive. Even when they offer something like Parker’s or EC18 at the gift shops, they tend to be like 15-20% more than you would pay at retail elsewhere. That part has always really puzzled me. Why charge a premium to the people who make the effort to come visit, versus those who just buy it at their local? 

 

In terms of the overall state of the stare, I also think it’s worth mentioning that Kentucky has continued evolving as a a destination to visit as well. There are a lot more places to visit than a few years ago, and some existing places have stepped up their games. Included within that is some fairly cool stuff to do just within downtown Louisville without having to drive all over the state. I could see a trend of bourbon fan younger guys doing stuff like taking a bachelor party weekend trip to Louisville, visiting all the urban distillery options during the day, and screwing around on 4th street all night or whatever. I actually like driving around the countryside though, and I’m excited to hit a few places I haven’t been yet on my next trip (main target being Castle & Key). Now I just wish places like Willett and Four Roses would get back to having more interesting bottles available in their gift shops more often.

 

cheers 

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GaryT

Great post Steve, well thought out, and I can only imagine how much time it took to assemble!  Appreciate it!  Like others, nothing I disagree with (I'm also one who loves the JB Distiller's Cut at the price point), and completely agree that everyone beyond BT seems to be lost on the LE front.  It pisses me off that BF with OFBB had something similar (and I guess maybe they still do with others) but they kept ratcheting the price up every year in increments that left me no longer looking forward to it (oh - and while the bottle is unique and differentiated from those on the shelf, I hate how wide it is).  I haven't bought one in many years, and don't even have an interest in searching it out (sorta like Beam with the skyrocket increase to Bookers).  

 

Maybe Beam and others will get this - you've got to wonder why they haven't at least tried to get a consistent LE release approach yet.  They could differentiate it by having something new coming out in the spring to avoid competing with BTAC/PVW.  With bourbon being "american", I don't see why they couldn't have a May/June release with some patriotic spin.  Or flip BT the bird and come out at the same time (but priced reasonably).  

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flahute
14 hours ago, Vosgar said:

Great post, Steve!! You've made many great points but I've decided to only comment on this one ^^^^

 

As I sit here sipping on some '17 GTS, I also have wondered why no one else has taken a serious stab at duplicating what BT has been so successful with. Hell, the Antique Collection started way back in 2000 and Sazerac has been doing the PVW distilling since '02 (IIRC) so the other distilleries have had plenty of time to see what's happened and to go after it. I realize the other guys may not have the stocks available to offer the number of options BT has in its annual releases, but they should all be able to do a few. Coming up with new products on a regular basis is great, but you'll never get the cult status BT has achieved unless you have a special whiskey (unlike EWSB), released on an annual basis, with the same name and a consistent mashbill every time (IMHO). At this point, I can't help but wonder if it's a bit too late for them. You don't build a BTAC and PVW reputation in just a year or two, but I'd sure like to see the rest of the distilleries start trying.

Exactly this!!

Thank you for articulating the thought with more development. As you say, the other distilleries may not be able to duplicate the number of offerings that BT puts out but they should be able to at least do one!

They have the whiskey. We all know it. What they lack is a coherent plan for it.

I'm thinking of EC18, 21, and 23. It gets released a couple or three times a year to no fanfare. It can be very average and sometimes bad. Why not consolidate those barrels, only choose the best ones, and offer them at cask strength? You might have something special. 

Every distillery has an example of something they can do. They need to listen to their distillers and brand ambassadors - the people who interact with the fans - and not the disconnected individuals in corporate who are making decisions based on questionable metrics. (The kind of metrics that brought us Cooper's Craft for example).

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FacePlant
21 hours ago, flahute said:

The only thing they could do better in my opinion is again - something yearly you can count on and look forward to such as a 12yr 101 or something at true barrel strength. I've spent enough time with Eddie to know that he knows what the customer wants. It's a matter of convincing the suits at Campari. The one-offs like Decades are great. You just can't build yearly momentum with them.

 

Great observations. 12yr 101 in a fancy bottle with a simi-reasonable retail price and released at the holidays EACH YEAR. Yeah you're on to something here flahute. I'm sure that would be a big hit! (Even though I added a little to your words) :) 

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Harry in WashDC

Thank you, Steve - and you other commenters.  Today before reading SB.com, I took stock mentally as I rearranged bottles in the bunker before vatting OGD 114 and WSR 2 to 3 as Grandpa Weller's 4-Grain Blend (thanks, Frank, for the recipe).  Having given up actively looking for BT's LEs based on price/value and intentionally passing on JB's funny LEs in the perfume bottles based on inconsistency, I learned that BT is not well represented but that JB still fills a large chunk of my inventory - OGD BIB and 114, KC, and pre-2018 Bookers in the bunker - with Distiller's Cut and BIB and Baker's recently added in smaller numbers.  The only Brown Forman products I have are some JD Barrel Strength and OF 1897 (well, I do have a couple of opened releases I bought as novelties or for the VBT).  HH's Pikesville and Ritt are my go-to ryes, and I have a few bottles of other HH brands but not many.  Retailers here just don't stock a lot of them.

 

The lack of BT products is because it is a pain to find them.  I buy them in chunks and then consume them in chunks.  I hate that.

 

IN SUM, 2018 did bring us OO BIB, and after getting off the ladder (checking upper shelves) and off the floor (checking under the workbench), I'm not all that disappointed at what IS available.  I do wish HH would sell a few more things in WashDC (the EWs are everywhere here, but . . .), and like some commenters above, that JB and WT would do some special releases of their traditional lines, and not just fancier labels.  4R?  Whatever happened to the Private Selections in WashDC?  I have to drive to Ellicott City to pick them up. 

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Paddy

Nicely done, Steve. 

 

Things are tough on the south side of Lawrenceburg.  Based on what I'm hearing it's going to be a while... and yes, you'll soon be seeing rolling blackouts on the single barrel.  I jumped the 4R ship a couple of years ago when the single barrel prices jumped up at the same time the product in the bottle started tasting too young and hurried.  I promptly moved my wagon over to Clermont and loaded up on well aged KCSB

 

This year, I've moved my wagon over to the east side of Lawrenceburg, and filled it up...

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The Black Tot
15 hours ago, mosugoji64 said:

GREAT points, Steve! Your observations are spot-on. Thanks, Gary, for bringing up EWSB - that one's been a disappointment for me since HH started jumping the gun by dropping the age and releasing 2-3 vintages every year. I would much rather see stocks run out and keep it as something special rather than see a new year on the shelf every few months. To go one further, let's see a special, annual edition of EWSB at barrel proof and age stated older than the standard expression. The folks at HH do an amazing job at selecting for flavor profiles so I think they could do a bang-up job of selecting for a more complex version of the EW profile. 

 

YUP YUP YUP.

 

Evan Williams and Elijah Craig are very different profiles. I love Evan Williams, and I don't like EC. There's a note in EC which doesn't agree with my taste buds, and it's also why I have trouble with McKenna and, I think, a lot of the Wild Turkey portfolio. Someday I'll find the right descriptor to communicate this note, but I know when it's there, and it's central to Elijah Craig...

 

...but it's NOT in Evan Williams, which makes it my fave of the HH bourbon profiles.

 

It's a hard life if you prefer the EW side of things:

 

EC fans get ECBP, EC18, 21, etc. Even the small batch is 94 proof and until recently 12yrs of age.

 

EW fans? You can have basic 86 proof (which tastes decent anyway, but), BIB at presumably young age, and the annual "limited edition" (in quotes because you can get it at the grocery store year round and as Steve said if they start to run out, they just drop the age and keep crankin') is...86 proof (what whiskey enthusiast prefers this?!), and younger in general than the regular EC.

 

Japan got (and maybe still gets) a 12yr age stated 101 proof EW. If HH released that here it would probably be my daily drinker.

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Richnimrod
1 hour ago, The Black Tot said:

 

One word: Grenade!  :)

I find those little EC 125-proof bottles available at the Gift Shop to be quite different from the other EC brand offerings, in fact if asked to guess without reading the label I'd have said this distillate is Evan Williams at 125-proof.    Maybe it's just me; but that's how it hits me.

Your impressions?

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The Black Tot
1 minute ago, Richnimrod said:

One word: Grenade!  :)

I find those little EC 125-proof bottles available at the Gift Shop to be quite different from the other EC brand offerings, in fact if asked to guess without reading the label I'd have said this distillate is Evan Williams at 125-proof.    Maybe it's just me; but that's how it hits me.

Your impressions?

 

Firstly, I am immediately inclined to hear in my head the French character in Top Secret yelling "GRENAAAAD!!!"

 

...but once that is out of the way, clearly I've got to check this out.

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Vosgar
25 minutes ago, Richnimrod said:

One word: Grenade!  :)

I find those little EC 125-proof bottles available at the Gift Shop to be quite different from the other EC brand offerings, in fact if asked to guess without reading the label I'd have said this distillate is Evan Williams at 125-proof.    Maybe it's just me; but that's how it hits me.

A little more than a month ago, I opened my EC Barrel Select "Grenade" when Fishnbowljoe and Galvin0791 were over. IIRC, they thought it was pretty good bourbon and I was very surprised at how much I enjoyed it. IMO, some more years in the barrel could turn it into an outstanding whiskey. The potential problem I see is that if HH follows their recent history, the price would be well over $100, which I believe takes it out of the reach of many enthusiasts. That's one thing BT has been great about, keeping the price fairly reasonable (if you can find them at retail)

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flahute
17 hours ago, mosugoji64 said:

GREAT points, Steve! Your observations are spot-on. Thanks, Gary, for bringing up EWSB - that one's been a disappointment for me since HH started jumping the gun by dropping the age and releasing 2-3 vintages every year. I would much rather see stocks run out and keep it as something special rather than see a new year on the shelf every few months. To go one further, let's see a special, annual edition of EWSB at barrel proof and age stated older than the standard expression. The folks at HH do an amazing job at selecting for flavor profiles so I think they could do a bang-up job of selecting for a more complex version of the EW profile. 

Excellent points about EWSiB which I didn't mention. Could not agree more that it's been terribly diluted by deciding to bottle it at younger ages. Every now and then they have a high age stated EW at the gift shop. I agree with you that it would be far better to do EWSiB once a year at a much more meaningful age and proof. Evan Williams and Elijah Craig are the core brands. Do something special with them. 

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mbroo5880i

Great write up, Steve!  I agree BT is the 800-lb gorilla with LEs and WT hit it out of the park this year.  I also agree with the perspective on FR's decline.  Just curious on your and others' thoughts on the other major Sazerac bourbon brand, 1792.  While the offering is somewhat one-dimensional, they are working to provide some variation.  I find the increase proof of SiB and FP to be a step up from the standard bottle.  I have not had the opportunity to try the High Rye, Sweet Wheat, Port Finished, or BIB.  However, it seems to me that even these seemingly simple variations are more than some brands are willing to venture into.

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flahute
11 hours ago, BottledInBond said:

I agree with a lot of the post here Steve. On the HH topic, I agree that it is cool that HH does special gift shop (including the Experience) bottles (WHH, the EW23, even the EC grenades, etc.). My one complaint on those is that they tend to be crazy expensive. Even when they offer something like Parker’s or EC18 at the gift shops, they tend to be like 15-20% more than you would pay at retail elsewhere. That part has always really puzzled me. Why charge a premium to the people who make the effort to come visit, versus those who just buy it at their local? 

 

In terms of the overall state of the stare, I also think it’s worth mentioning that Kentucky has continued evolving as a a destination to visit as well. There are a lot more places to visit than a few years ago, and some existing places have stepped up their games. Included within that is some fairly cool stuff to do just within downtown Louisville without having to drive all over the state. I could see a trend of bourbon fan younger guys doing stuff like taking a bachelor party weekend trip to Louisville, visiting all the urban distillery options during the day, and screwing around on 4th street all night or whatever. I actually like driving around the countryside though, and I’m excited to hit a few places I haven’t been yet on my next trip (main target being Castle & Key). Now I just wish places like Willett and Four Roses would get back to having more interesting bottles available in their gift shops more often.

 

cheers 

I know that the distillery gift shops will always charge more for a product that can also be purchased at a local store. The distilleries do this so as to not compete with the stores. 

Regarding the HH gift shop items that are unique to the gift shop I also lament the prices but I get it. These guys are tired of seeing their special releases flipped for a big profit so they charge more on the front end. Willett especially. And with Willett it doesn't matter! It still sells out immediately. 

 

You make an excellent point about Kentucky's evolution as a destination. Louisville is now a cool place to go with great restaurants and great bars. It's a pretty hip place.

Make sure you get to Castle & Key on your next visit! It's totally worth it.

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flahute
4 minutes ago, mbroo5880i said:

Great write up, Steve!  I agree BT is the 800-lb gorilla with LEs and WT hit it out of the park this year.  I also agree with the perspective on FR's decline.  Just curious on your and others' thoughts on the other major Sazerac bourbon brand, 1792.  While the offering is somewhat one-dimensional, they are working to provide some variation.  I find the increase proof of SiB and FP to be a step up from the standard bottle.  I have not had the opportunity to try the High Rye, Sweet Wheat, Port Finished, or BIB.  However, it seems to me that even these seemingly simple variations are more than some brands are willing to venture into.

Crap!!! Thanks for pointing out that I forgot 1792!

Dear Sazerac......if you are reading, please accept my apologies because I actually have a very high opinion of 1792.

 

1792: in my opinion they absolutely hit a home run with the High Rye. As smokinjoe pointed out in a recent post, I really hope that Barton doesn't forget what they did with that one. I think it's great. 

I also really like Sweet Wheat. I'd drink it every day if I could and it's a welcome addition to the wheater ranks given how ridiculous it is to get any of the Wellers. As I said in the OP, Larceny is generally crap to me and Makers always tastes too young but Sweet Wheat? It's a damn fine pour.

Generally speaking, the 1792 SiB is way over priced in my market so I ignore it. I recently participated in a 1792 FP store pick and the one we picked is a complete winner so I'm looking forward to that one coming in.

Overall, Barton is winning for me.

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smokinjoe
2 minutes ago, flahute said:

Crap!!! Thanks for pointing out that I forgot 1792!

Dear Sazerac......if you are reading, please accept my apologies because I actually have a very high opinion of 1792.

 

1792: in my opinion they absolutely hit a home run with the High Rye. As smokinjoe pointed out in a recent post, I really hope that Barton doesn't forget what they did with that one. I think it's great. 

I also really like Sweet Wheat. I'd drink it every day if I could and it's a welcome addition to the wheater ranks given how ridiculous it is to get any of the Wellers. As I said in the OP, Larceny is generally crap to me and Makers always tastes too young but Sweet Wheat? It's a damn fine pour.

Generally speaking, the 1792 SiB is way over priced in my market so I ignore it. I recently participated in a 1792 FP store pick and the one we picked is a complete winner so I'm looking forward to that one coming in.

Overall, Barton is winning for me.

A good call by Mbroo, and follow up from you, bro.  The High Rye is about as close to dusty Taylor as can be found.  

The line extension by Barton within the 1792 label may be the best overall brand move by any distillery in Bourbonia in the last couple of years, IMO.  Great in every measurable way.  If I’m calling the shots at Sazerac, I’m adding a Barton distilled 1792 labeled higher aged BP bourbon, or dare I hope...BP Straight RYE to the BTAC.  ‘Tis the season of Hope, yes?  :D 

 

How sexy would the Art Deco “1792 Rye” label look on a tall BTAC bottle?  Here Saz, take my money.  

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flahute
7 minutes ago, smokinjoe said:

A good call by Mbroo, and follow up from you, bro.  The High Rye is about as close to dusty Taylor as can be found.  

The line extension by Barton within the 1792 label may be the best overall brand move by any distillery in Bourbonia in the last couple of years, IMO.  Great in every measurable way.  If I’m calling the shots at Sazerac, I’m adding a Barton distilled 1792 labeled higher aged BP bourbon, or dare I hope...BP Straight RYE to the BTAC.  ‘Tis the season of Hope, yes?  :D 

 

How sexy would the Art Deco “1792 Rye” label look on a tall BTAC bottle?  Here Saz, take my money.  

Yes!!!! A Barton distilled rye in BTAC would be superb. Heck, even the aforementioned High Rye, with extra age and at barrel proof..........BACK.........UP..........THE..........TRUCK!!!.......

And I am here for all the Art Deco labels all of the time.

And I am serious about my high opinion of the 1792 FP barrel pick we did. I am loading up on that one when it comes in.

So yes - full agreement with your assessment about the success of the 1792 brand extensions.

 

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The Black Tot

Another post of praise for this cool thread. Well done Steve.

 

I'll echo your most excellent format.

 

BT - Is very much like an 800lb gorilla - in that not even Diane Fossey can keep their products from slipping further with each year into functional extinction.

 

BT still makes some of my favorite product, and yeah, they were too late to expand. Such is life, and such is the whiskey market. This summer they will really increase their capacity. So the future looks bright. 

 

BT still does some perplexing things - like give you a tour and then at the tasting bar their guides act like they've never heard of Weller or Mashbill 2, apart from putting it behind glass behind the bar and in a "drooling observatory" off to the side locked in a cage - what is that about? Just because Weller is not plentiful right now doesn't mean you can't promote that you make something iconic. If HH's gift shop can stock WHH, Parker's Heritage, and ECBP - BT could get it together to stock WSR and OWA, and yes, even W12 in their gift shop. Heck, CEHT isn't allocated - maybe put it in the gift shop and tell your visitors you, like, make it and stuff?

 

Stagg Jr is popular with a lot of people here and power to you, but personally I'd rather they left it in the barrel to increase production of 2025 and beyond GTS. Just like I wish they didn't chop so much WSR off at the knees these days when what I really want is good OWA and ORVW10. Still, these things will fix themselves in the long run with the warehouse and distilling expansions.

 

I continue to bow down to the Antique Collection, despite getting none of it this year. I'm still confused as to why we're not swimming in Handy when it's only 6yrs old. Did we not know 6yrs ago that things were picking up? I also think Handy should cost a whole hell of a lot less than it's double and nearly triple-aged colleagues. Serious kudos to BT for raising the proof of ER17 this year, though. Eventually when I get a bottle ten years from now I'll appreciate that.

 

I love you, BT - Take some space, find yourself, and come back when you have a little more capacity and maturity.

 

Jim Beam - Every year I get pulled in closer by the "Tractor Beam". They've gone from being a distillery I thought I'd never bother with to where I spend a lot of my bourbon dollars in recent years.

 

That said, that is going to slow down for a while. While none have been dogs, I've been underwhelmed with my last 12-16 KC barrel picks, and that is A LOT of picks. Generally, there's Beam peanut brittle flavor and there's Beam red berry. I'm a red berry guy, but it seems the rarer of the profiles there.

 

I hate $70 Booker's as much as anyone else, maybe even more than most, since it's becoming clearer to me that I'm developing a reputation for being one of SB.com's more outspoken tightwads. But the years since the hike have pretty clearly revealed to me that they really didn't have enough Booker's liquid to keep it going, where it was. I thought they were just gouging, but now it makes sense - they must have radically under-produced the stuff. Even with the brakes on at 70 bucks, they can't pull the age statement back up out of the low sixes. All I can say is that I hope every rick in the middle floors of Beam's every warehouse is straining under Booker's barrels, so that we can maybe get this fixed in the next 3+ years. I'm a buyer when it gets back to 8 and 60 bucks. Think that's never? - We'll see.

 

The discovery this year that I enjoy the profile of JBB has been a real budgetary joy. I'd have bunkered a good stash of the age stated if I'd have known. And I'd have bought that Signature 12yr if I had watched for the closeouts (because at $40 that wasn't a great marketing plan without bumping the proof above 86. Would have done very well at 100 or above, I reckon).

 

Maker's Mark - Who?

 

Heaven Hill - Apart from my plea/rant for a higher proof/aged Evan Williams previously in this thread, I almost want to forgive them every sin on their books because I've so enjoyed Pikesville since it's introduction.

 

I'd like to think they took advantage of the insanity of the bubble to unload their single malt and curacao experiments during this time where it doesn't really matter anymore what's in the bottle. Personally I hope they continue to get rid of every dog on their books until the market smartens up. I'll be around when they get back to amazing bourbon (or...rye?...you know we want it...) PHCs at fair prices.

 

HH concerns me because they're a ship without a captain right now. Two master distillers have quit in the last few years alone, and one of them had very precious family history at the distillery. He left to focus on a trucking business. Think about that for a minute - how unpleasant does working with corporate have to be for you to toss (what is recently) a Kentucky rock star job, that your dad raised you into, to focus on...trucking. And then your successor quits within a year, and the position is still unfilled. Something is going on there. Master distillers don't quit because their company supports them in making the whiskeys they believe in and can be proud of having their name on. At least, I don't THINK they do...

 

Brown Forman - Rings a bell. Can't place it at the moment. Wait, aren't they the biggest whiskey makers in the US or something? I'm a US whiskey enthusiast - why don't I drink anything they make? Seems like when it comes to high end bourbons, they don't make Jack. Oh, wait...they DO make Jack.

 

Wild Turkey - Much respect for this distillery. I still need some Turkey heads to show me where the fireworks are, but I love RR10yr all day long, and I expect to be putting a lot more effort into figuring this one out soon. Besides, how can you not love the Russells?

 

Four Roses - Has lost its soul. Even the feel of the place when you go there has gone from welcoming to heavily corporate. Take the tour and they won't even mention the man who built their reputation.

 

I don't blame Brent - he was awkwardly promoted into a role working with a management who has been waiting to shorten their master distiller's leash for a while now. That's a hard spot to be in.

 

Barrel selections here are now too inconsistent and young for me to gamble on them at 70 bucks a pop.

 

Fortunately the small batch is still delicious and great value. So is FRYL, but I'm not a buyer at 80 proof. Hey 4R! - what about THAT? How about offering a 110 proof FRYL? Or 107, since that's a traditional Kentucky proof and even your low rack houses could average out to that! You've already got the stock! You could charge the single barrel price!

 

MGP - Keep on crankin' that stuff out!!! The Belle Meades and the Redemptions and the Old Scouts and the upcoming mature agings of your product continue to affirm that you are one of the unsung heroes of American whiskey! I look forward to the upcoming days when I can reliably find your distillate at cask strength/unfiltered, over 10yrs old, and back at the <$50 price point. Thanks for the good work that you do.

 

Smooth Ambler - Breath held, fingers crossed. 

 

Bardstown Bourbon Co - Go, guys, go! Contract distill all you can while the getting is good and get your facility paid for. As much as I love MGP, they can use some competition in the contract distilling marketplace, and the more barrels we can fill right now the better. I can't wait to see what these guys do when it comes time to release their own mature product. 

 

Wilderness Trail - What is cooler than the high tech reverse-engineering of the rich, butterscotchy bourbons of yesteryear and bringing them back to life, when all the majors that created them in the first place can't be bothered? I have a feeling I'm going to spend a lot of money with these guys in a few years.


Special mention - Castle And Key - As above with Wilderness Trail, these people are working to resurrect some real flavor history that will have a unique place in the market, while also rocking the preservation of some real Kentucky bourbon history, as well as rocking the innovation of new products. The gin is delicious, and 107 proof (FINALLY a good proper strength gin to hold up in a G+T, as well as sip well on its own! Now I'm waiting on a 107/110 proof version of their great vodkas for cocktail use!). They've cleverly distilled the vodka such that there are pleasant flavor traces of the grains in the flavor profile. Honestly, I don't know why I'd bother with any other source for gin and vodka now.

 

They are simply the best bourbon destination for tourism there is - already, and no new 5 million dollar visitor's center at the majors is ever going to be able to be a tenth this authentic and cool. Their tour is expensive, but when you see where the money is going, honestly even the sb.com tightwad doesn't really mind. 

 

They're contract distilling to some of the coolest underdogs in Kentucky, they have restored some of the most venerable and unique rack houses in bourbon, which they are very cleverrly renting out to get their business started right.

 

Not to mention, everyone who works there seems cool, and there's no stifling corporate board calling the shots. C+K IMO was and is the brightest spot in 2018/2019 bourbon culture. If you haven't been, GO. And if you make cocktails or drink vodka or gin, buy their stuff and support them. It isn't even comparatively expensive!

 

This was a fun thread to post in. Thanks, Steve.

 

Cheers to you all on sb.com for another year of great camaraderie and friendly discussion.

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Mako254

Well said my #lawrenceburg man. 

 

1) BT has all but evaporated off shelves here in South Carolina. While I always keep a few Blantons around and enjoy RHF but I have largely moved past BT

 

2) Quality KCSiB is probably the best value in bourbon right now. I like Baker’s but it is $10 high in my market. 

I had a pour of Booker’s 30th and it motivated me to round up a bottle. If that profile is more 9 yr than the original 16, I’d be a hell of a lot more willing to shell out $80 for standard Bookers if it was closer to 8-9 years as opposed the the handful of months over 6 years that it is now. 

 

3) I have heard that 10-12 year cask strength Maker’s (Minnick maybe?) is sublime. Would certainly be curious to try it. Surely they see what happened to W12, an older MM seems to make sense. 

 

4) WT. I have heard cask strength Russell’s will be happening. Awesome. Even among some of my ‘bourbon nerd’ friends guys sleep on WT ans chas BT. More for me. 

Also, agree 100% with the thoughts that an annual or semi annual 12/101 release should happen. Seems like a no brainer to me. 

 

5) Heaven Hill could have an incredible barrel program but seems to choose not to. Why wouldn’t they release private EC barrels at cask, or barrels over 10 years as McKenna? Not sure why they insist on proofing it down to 94. 

 

6). Have heard Roses has a price hike for private barrels planned for Jan 1, anyone know what it will be?

standard single barrel goin alotment? Really?

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kevinbrink

Agree with a lot of what has already been said here. What I will add is that for my tastes while the popularity of BT products continue to surge my interest in them is in a state of decline as for some of the labels I feel the quality doesn't match the effort or price tags in the way they used to. I do wonder how much longer they will maintain their place at the top of the heap. 

 

Beam is a strange one for me, they are one of my favorite distilleries and I think they release some of the best values on the shelves and weaken their ability to release LE's that the enthusiast community can get excited about (with the glaring exception of the occasional Booker's LE). The KC LE's both Rye and Bourbon are very close to the SiBs and though compared to other LE whiskey's are well aged and well proofed they don't stand out enough from Beam's own portfolio. It would have been interesting to have seen the reaction to KC CS Rye had the SiB hit the shelves prior because on spec there aren't a lot of CS well aged ryes available, let alone for $60. While they aren't a hit with our community they don't seem to have any issue moving whatever BH release they churn out so kudo's to them for that, they are moderately priced and stand out and for the BH fan I can see why they would appeal. I know some still harbor ill will for the Booker's Fiasco but to my tastes it is most enjoyable regularly available CS Bourbon, and that field has certainly grown over the years. Overall they may not have the prestige of other brands but the number of well priced (Distillers Cut, Repeal Batch) and competitively priced (KC CS Rye, KC Double Barre Rye, BH LE's) limited editions certainly has added some spice to the year. 

 

I like HH and WT more than most and my opinions would show clear bias. I feel the same as most on the quality of Four Roses these days though I do think the CS SiB are still good and good value. I am slightly luke warm on Barton though I appreciate that they also keep things really respectably priced and their line extensions continue to be fun. I don't care for BF whiskey for the most part though I do think JD SB BP can be fantastic, though seems to be less consistently so these days, and JD Heritage Barrel was fantastic I thought it might have been a touch overpriced but they had no issue selling it all so what do I know. Maker's keeps doing their thing and I keep leaving it on the shelf. 

 

On the NDP/sourcing front MGP whiskey is still very good and well aged stocks are clearly no longer a secret as the minute a new one drops everyone is already talking about it. The trend though seems to be moving away from Indiana to Tennessee (which we will all continue to assume is Dickel sourced) and I wonder how long those stocks will last and what the opinion of them will be as the years pass.  

 

I will say the most exciting aspect of 2018 for me was finally seeing some of the "Craft" outfits come of age. I'm not a huge Willett guy but I find the 4 year old CS Rye to be very good. New Riff's Bourbon's were even more enjoyable to me.  And though not as directly related to Bourbon as the Rye's I have clearly already mentioned, I have spent considerable time this year exploring American Single Malts and I have to say that I was really surprised by how many "Craft" distilleries are really knocking it out of the park in that category. 

 

I feel confident that the state of American whiskey will continue to get better.

Edited by kevinbrink
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