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Your Top 10 Bourbons for 2014

End of the year is always a popular time for reflection and lists. Here are the top 10 most popular Bourbon reviews as determined by my site analytics. Certainly those Bourbons reviewed earlier in the year have an edge with more time to gather hits, but whatever. This is only an exhibition. This is not a competition. So please, no wagering.

Below are some thoughts on each Bourbon and feel free to click-through to read my full review.

1 – Colonel EH Taylor Jr Small Batch

I think the entire EH Taylor Jr line is generating buzz at retail with its Fancy tube packaging. I think gives these bottles a little excitement. Made at Buffalo Trace Distillery, this uses the same recipe as the namesake Buffalo Trace Bourbon. I think it’s better than Buffalo Trace and worth the up-charge. I can see why it’s popular as the entry bottle in the lineup.

2 – Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof

ECBP is one of my favorite Bourbons as a barrel proof bottling of Elijah Craig 12. I’ve tried the last four batches and have enjoyed them all. The latest “Hazmat” batch is quite good, especially given the 140-proof. For the past year and a half, batches have tricked out every three months or so. Heaven Hill has indicated we’ll get another round, which is a very good thing.

3 – George T Stagg (2014)

Arguable the king of the annual Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. I’m surprised this got so many views simply because it’s so hard to buy. I guess I underestimated the number of people considering buying pours at whiskey bars. I’ve yet to try other BTAC lineup, but I did enjoy this year’s Stagg. If found for a reasonable price, definitely worth a purchase.

4 – Bowman Brothers Small Batch

If you like Elmer T Lee, you’ll probably like this bottle. It’s distilled at Buffalo Trace and trucked to is their sister operation A. Smith Bowman in Virginia. There it’s distilled a third time and aged on site. Very similar, a little cheaper, and likely an easier to find than ETL these days. I think it’s more refined, but ELT fans may find that extra distillation robs it a bit. Either way, if you’re hunting for Elmer, this is a good substitute.

5 – Colonel EH Taylor Jr Single Barrel

I think a lot of people are wondering if CEHTJ Single Barrel is worth spending the extra cash over the mentioned Small Batch. I like the Single Barrel better, but for me it costs 50%. For my money, Single Barrel isn’t 50% better than the Small Batch, so I recommend people check out the Small Batch. If they really enjoy it, then maybe splurge to try the Single Barrel.

6 – Old Weller Antique 107

OWA is in a unique class within a unique class. It’s a 6-7 year old wheated Bourbon, meaning no rye in the recipe, and there are only a handful of wheated Bourbons on shelves. But then it’s bottled at an ample 107-proof. Those two facts make this a popular option among Bourbon nerds. At times I find it a little rough around the edges. Still, it’s a unique pour and generally a great price. OWA can be tricky to find at times as result of its cult status.

7 – Baterhouse 20 Year

The first release from Diegeo’s Orphan Barrel initiative. The other bottle released at the same time was Old Blowhard. Being the first wave of “orphan” bottles, Barterhouse got a lot of publicity to go along with a big 20 year age statement. There was also a lot of bottles in this “limited” run, so it’s not surprising a lot of people were curious.

8 – Stagg Jr

This uses the same #1 mash recipe as EH Taylor Jr Bourbons and of course George T Stagg. I’ve heard it suggested this modestly priced bottle is the next best thing if you can’t find a bottle of GTS. So, it’s not surprising to see it in the stats, but I disagree with that. I tried the first two batches and I’ve heard the third is better, but I can’t bring myself to buy another bottle when the other two are just collecting dust. I’m not a fan of Stagg Jr and I would argue the true son of Stagg is CEHTJ Barrel Proof.

9 – Rhetoric 20 Year

Rhetoric is another 20-year-old Bourbon from Orphan Barrel. This is a little different though as Rhetoric will have progressive releases through 2019. So each year there will be a release that’s a year older. Neat idea and it will be interesting to compare these releases. Anyway, again another well marketed old Bourbon that caught a lot of eyes.

10 – W.L. Weller 12

Old Weller Antique likely got caught some of the wake from Pappy Van Winkle, but Weller 12 is definitely seeing a lot of attention due to Pappymania. Weller 12 is an older wheated Bourbon of the same recipe as OWA, but bottled at 90-proof. Again, this is a unique class with in a class as there aren’t many wheated Bourbons and no other regular released wheated Bourbon with this age. And Buffalo Trace supposedly only dumps batches once a year, so there’s not a ton of inventory coming to shelves. Then add fuel of having the same/similar recipe as the Pappy stuff, well, you have a frenzy. Oh, and price is pretty darn good on top of all that.

So there it is. I hope you enjoyed this list and hope you stick around to see what 2015 brings.

Unsolicited Advice from Whiskey Nerds

Josh from The Whiskey Jug asked a bunch of whiskey enthusiasts, myself included, what they would like to see from whiskey makers. The idea came from a passage in Chuck Cowder’s new book:

“Whiskey marketers have had trouble wrapping their heads around the enthusiast phenomenon. They recognize it as an important market but they are still trying to figure out exactly what the enthusiast consumer really wants.”

He got responses from 48 people from various outlets and social networks. Overall theme seemed to be honesty and transparency in their product. Check it out

48 Whiskey Enthusiasts Weigh In On What They Want From The Whiskey Industry

 

 

Orphan Barrel Rhetoric due in June

Orphan Barrel Rhetoric due in June

The third release from Diageo’s Orphan Barrel initiative is slated for june.

Whiskycast reports:

Diageo’s Orphan Barrel line of rare whiskies will expand to a third release in June with Rhetoric. As reported by WhiskyCast in February, Rhetoric is a 20-year-old Bourbon distilled at both the Old and New Bernheim distilleries in Louisville and matured in the warehouses at nearby Stitzel-Weller Distillery.

A little different from the Old Blowhard and Barterhouse releases, Rhetoric is planned as a progressive annual release. This means we can expect to see a new release each year with an older age statement. So, next year we can expect to see a 21 year version of this Bourbon.

It will have a suggested retail price of $85 and bottled at 45%.

Fred Minneck myth busts some current Bourbon rumors

Burning Down the Rumor Mill

Fred Minneck for Whiskey Advocate:

I’ve examined some of the prevalent rumors found on barstools, forums, and social media; let’s have a look at the facts behind them.

A lot of good tidbits of information here. A couple pieces that I found interesting as related to my recent reviews… We can expect a 5th batch of Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof in the next month or so. As I mentioned in my review I heard availability might improve, so it will be interesting to see if this release will be larger than previous batches. Also, nice to hear Elijah Craig 12 Year won’t be losing its age statement.

Also Ancient Ancient Age 10 Star isn’t going anywhere, but apparently the 10 year bottle is retired. I managed to track down a bottle of the 10 year and I’ll review it in the coming weeks.

Also, Weller 12 isn’t going anywhere and won’t be losing its age statement.