In the aftermath of the National Bourbon Day Party, Ken Brown texted our Krewe this article from Garden & Gun, which is a list of eight great bottles of bourbon according to various southern bartenders, and Kemp Wright wanted to know my thoughts on each of them. I told him I would do that. So here goes.
Willett 80 Year Anniversary – Never found or saw one of the 5,400 bottles of this. However, Willett Pot Still Reserve, which I have on my bar, is decent. Really cool pot still shaped bottle for pretty average whiskey. Willett does put out some good whiskey though, and I shared a bottle of Willett Rye with Tom Spencer he still has in his study unless he drank it all. I think he saves that one for cigar time.
Elijah Craig 18 year old – I got a bottle of this around Christmas and put it in the dirty Santa game at my in laws to watch my brother in law do anything to get this bottle. Watching that was worth the price of admission. I’ve actually never tried it. Last time I was at his house he had some Weller 12, see below, and I chose that over the Elijah Craig. I like the Elijah Craig Barrel Proof a great deal, but I am generally not a huge fan of Elijah Craig. Heaven Hill and Jim Beam, whose master distillers are all from the Beam family, use a unique wild yeast that when their whiskies are proofed down gives the bourbon this peanut finish that I don’t like. However, other people love it. So, for Heaven Hill and Jim Beam whiskies, I am all about them if they are 100 proof or more, but less than that not so much. I am right now drinking some Old Fitzgerald 100 proof 11 year old bottled in bond wheated bourbon from Heaven Hill and it is delightful.
Henry McKenna 10 year old Bottled in Bond – really a great budget whiskey with a high enough proof such that the peanut funk is pretty minor on this Heaven Hill bourbon.
Old Medley 12 – haven’t tried this one yet but have heard good things about it from Robb Gibb, who reviewed it here.
W.L. Weller 12 Year Old Bourbon – just an amazing bourbon, the same juice (same mashbill, same distillery) as Pappy Van Winkle bourbons. I used to be able to buy this all the time; now it is harder to get than hen’s teeth. I wrote a more extensive review of it and Van Winkle Family Reserve 12 Year Old.
Booker’s – another really amazing bourbon. Jim Beam now names all the different batches and includes cards with how the batches are named and tasting notes. I am cask strength bourbon nut so I am all about Bookers. I wrote a review of Maw Maw’s Batch and I have tried five other batches since then, and the 2018-1 batch is quite good.
Wild Turkey Rare Breed – this is the only Wild Turkey I really love and I reviewed it a couple of months ago. It’s cask strength, reasonably priced, very available, and I always have a bottle by the humidor in the study. In that price range, I’d rather have Stagg Jr., but Stagg Jr. Is getting harder to come by.
George T. Stagg – I think I am on my third bottle of this in five years. It’s awesome. I have described it thusly:
A friend of mine who has never had George T. Stagg but who has had Stagg Jr., the eight to ten year old version, asked me to describe the difference between the two. I said I drink Stagg Jr. because it reminds me of Stagg Sr. The former is like methodone and the latter is like pure heroin for the bourbon drinker’s taste buds. Yes, it is that good. And you know exactly where that extra money went when you drink it. There is a lot of hype on the bourbon world about certain expensive whiskies and I have called quite a few out on this blog and elsewhere. There is no hype in George T. Stagg.
It’s my number two all time favorite bourbon, but only because this exists. Oh, and Kemp, you tried it the other night…