Happy New Year!
I hope everyone had a great Holiday season, and I hope your new year is off to a rousing start. For me, aside from a cold that started right around Christmas eve and a nagging chest cough (probably Bubonic Plague), my holidays were great.
It’s that time of year when we all are chasing our New Year’s resolutions with gusto. I know in a month’s time, they’ll mostly be forgotten, but for now, we’re all 100% sure we’re sticking with them and will change our lives completely over the coming 12 months. And my resolution couldn’t be any more stereotypical. I am going to lose weight. It’s not a surprise that adding a new baby into a mix that includes frequent tastings of whiskey and beer doesn’t really lend itself to exercise and healthy diet. I’ve definitely added more than a couple pounds over the past 3 years, and the past 6 months in particular. So now that I’m in my 40s and my metabolism isn’t as user-friendly as it once was, I’m going to do something about it. Hopefully, my photos on this site reflect that over the next year.
But for the site, we have several new resolutions:
- We are always looking for ways to provide more content with a wider range of whiskey and beer related topics, and to that end, we’re going to cover more world whiskeys. We also want to give you a wider array of thoughts and opinions on the site. To that end, we’re going to add at least one more regular writer to ModernThirst.com. The first will cover World Whiskys like Scotch, Irish Whiskey, etc. as well as a smattering of American Whiskeys. After that, I’d love to find someone who can write about other topics related to the “good life” like whiskey and cigar pairings, food pairings, etc. I’d also like a good mixologist to start giving us some whiskey cocktail contributions as well.
- We resolve to really ramp up our production of podcasts. Our previous podcasts were pretty well received, and we love doing them. So over the past two months, we’ve vastly upgraded our audio equipment and want to begin on-location podcasts. We’ve spoken with a brewery for our first, and hope to add a new distillery for a second. We’ll keep you posted.
- We’d like to encourage more interaction with the readers. What do you want to see from us? What should we do differently?
For 2016, I wrote in a previous blog post that overall, it was a bit of a disappointing year for the bourbon world, with a few very notable highlights. here are my top 3 highlights and top 3 lowlights from the world of whiskey in 2016:
Booker’s Rye. I mean, how much praise should really be heaped on this whiskey? It’s excellent. It is to Rye whiskey what George T. Stagg is to bourbon. It’s big and powerful and eschews subtlety in exchange for a smack-you-in-the-mouth and Kick-you-in-the-nuts punch of robust whiskey flavor. It beats you around violently, and makes you say “Thank you, sir, may I have another!” it’s not perfect. The price is just out of line for what most drinkers would ever pay, and it was so limited in production that it’s barely fair to compare it with products that drinkers can actually afford that it’s like comparing a concept supercar from Ferrari to a Ford Mustang GT.
- Rebel Yell 10 Year. I don’t mean this as a shot at heaven Hill, but how does Luxco manage to take Heaven Hill’s distillate and do a better job getting it into the bottle than the distillery that actually produced it does? While Heaven Hill appears to be phasing out higher proof or extra aged versions of their wheated mash bill, Luxco proudly puts it in bottles in a 100º single barrel format and sells it at a reasonable price. Really nice whiskey.
- 1792. Why 1792? Because a few years ago I referred to it as “the forgotten distillery.” They made one product, one mashbill. If you didn’t want a lower shelf option of the same mash, like Kentucky Tavern, you could get 1792 Ridgemont Reserve. That’s it. It was never one of the distilleries I thought of visiting or a producer I gave much thought to. You either liked their product or didn’t. Then I visited and tasted a 13 year old version straight out of a barrel. Wow. A couple years go by and we get word that a 1792 was producing a full proof version and I got excited. In 2016, it hit shelves. My first thought was that “full proof” wasn’t barrel proof. It was the proof at which it goes into the barrel, and the whiskey is proofed back down to that before bottling. I still wonder why they bother with it. Regardless, it’s a really nice whiskey. Then I started seeing single barrel private picks of it. I had one that absolutely blew my socks off. In the end, the 1792 Full Proof lineup is one of the better things to hit the market in a while.
- Willett. More specifically, Old Bardstown. I’m very worried about the future of Willett’s offerings when the distillate I’ve tasted both as new make and now with a little age all seem to suffer from the same faults- namely a tar-like menthol flavor on the rear palate. And it’s not so much that I don’t prefer that flavor, it’s that it’s actualle distasteful. No serious bourbon should make an experienced bourbon drinker say “yuck” when then take a taste.
Jim Beam. “Wait a minute, Bill!” You might argue, “didn’t you list Booker’s Rye as a highlight? Yes indeed. I see it right above in this same post! What gives?” Well, you’re right. Where Booker’s Rye is a highlight, Beam seems to have mis-stepped quite a bit outside of that. From the flap over Booker’s pricing increases to the overpriced nature and seemingly endless supply of “limited” Knob Creek 2001, to the removal of the age statement on standard Knob Creek, to the axing of Old Grand-Dad 114, it seems every major decision Jim Beam has made (while perhaps necessary from a production standpoint) is bad for the loyal bourbon drinker. And for the love of all that is holy, Fred, please give us a Basil Hayden above 80 proof!
- Rip Van Winkle bourbons. Oooooooh now I went and did it. I called out the uncalloutable. Collectors, flippers, and newbies are probably peeing their pants over this one, but it bears mentioning. It took me a while, but I finally got to try the 2016 versions of several Van Winkle releases, and i’m disappointed. No, they’re not “bad.” But they’re also not particularly good. And more importantly, they’re not worth the hunt and cost of the bottles in this market, in my very humble opinion. These are not the pappy bottles of old. The 10 Year Old Rip Van Winkle and the 15 year Pappy were the highlights for me, though I wouldn’t pay a penny over retail for either. The 12 and 20 year are, well, not very good. You can get away with that if it’s a standard bourbon, but not something that has been elevated to the realm of “mystical” in terms of availability and price. So they fare better than the Willett distillate, in terms of being “fine” to drink, but they fail to live up to their own hype, and that’s trouble. I say that as someone who thought some of the same bottles even 5 or 6 years ago were epic.
Anyway, thanks for reading ModernThirst over the past few years, and we really can’t wait to see where this adventure takes us in 2017 and beyond. Cheers!