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flahute

Bourbon year end 2018 - State of the State.

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kevinbrink
6 hours ago, flahute said:

So far on this thread I've been doing a good job of not explaining myself fully and you've been doing a good job of interpreting my intent. So thanks!

 

I was focused on the bourbons, yes. Totally agree with them competing with themselves trying to pass off extra aged KC as premium while also selling a ton of 13-15yr KC single barrels.

Putting that stuff in a Booker's bottle with extra age and at barrel proof would be a barnstormer for them.

 

Interesting point about Turkey. I recently read an interview with Eddie where he said that the Turkey expressions currently on the market are Jimmy's creations whereas the Russell's expressions are Eddie's. Eddie didn't want to mess with his father's legacy brands so the Russell's brand was created when Eddie became master distiller so he could experiment with new ideas, and, rye - which Jimmy doesn't like. Bruce is the one that really pushes the rye so your last idea is spot on. For Jimmy, it would likely be a special Turkey release. Eddie would keep doing Russell's. 

Maybe we could get a gig with Campari in their marketing dept!

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Kepler
2 hours ago, kevinbrink said:

Maybe we could get a gig with Campari in their marketing dept!

Don't you dare put in your applications without including me too!

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Bbstout
9 hours ago, flahute said:

So far on this thread I've been doing a good job of not explaining myself fully and you've been doing a good job of interpreting my intent. So thanks!

 

I was focused on the bourbons, yes. Totally agree with them competing with themselves trying to pass off extra aged KC as premium while also selling a ton of 13-15yr KC single barrels.

Putting that stuff in a Booker's bottle with extra age and at barrel proof would be a barnstormer for them.

 

Interesting point about Turkey. I recently read an interview with Eddie where he said that the Turkey expressions currently on the market are Jimmy's creations whereas the Russell's expressions are Eddie's. Eddie didn't want to mess with his father's legacy brands so the Russell's brand was created when Eddie became master distiller so he could experiment with new ideas, and, rye - which Jimmy doesn't like. Bruce is the one that really pushes the rye so your last idea is spot on. For Jimmy, it would likely be a special Turkey release. Eddie would keep doing Russell's. 

Bruce loves rye from his influence from Dave Pickerell. His little book batch 2 is a very interesting Rye blend.

 

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JCwhammie
2 minutes ago, Bbstout said:

Bruce loves rye from his influence from Dave Pickerell. His little book batch 2 is a very interesting Rye blend.

 

Maybe I'm reading your post wrong, but little Book isn't from the Russells (WT). It's Fred Noe's release at JB. 

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Bbstout
22 hours ago, JCwhammie said:

Maybe I'm reading your post wrong, but little Book isn't from the Russells (WT). It's Fred Noe's release at JB. 

Your right. Got names mixed up.

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Steven C
On 12/29/2018 at 6:27 PM, flahute said:

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. 

Stumbling on this a year late... but... this has to be the post of the year 2018.  Would be fun to have a Post-Of-The-Year thread / and vote for 2019, and going forward.  Stellar work Flahute! 

Edited by Steven C

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flahute
25 minutes ago, Steven C said:

Stumbling on this a year late... but... this has to be the post of the year 2018.  Would be fun to have a Post-Of-The-Year thread / and vote for 2019, and going forward.  Stellar work Flahute! 

Thank you sir. This post will be reprised for 2019.

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