Tag Archives: Buffalo Trace

Stocking the Whiskey Bar

The holidays are a time to get together with friends and family. Whether you are celebrating the joyous occasion with those close to you or enduring the extended family for the obligatory once a year visit, you probably should have some whiskey on hand. Like butter and bacon, whiskey tends to make everything better. :) Even when it’s not holiday time, if you’re a fan of the water of life you might want to have a well chosen selection at home for personal perusal or entertaining. If you’re a one brand one bottle kind of person then that’s fine. I’m not judging you but if you and/or your guests only drink one thing all the time with no exception then this article probably won’t interest you.

I’m assuming that you probably already have a bottle or two if you’re reading a whiskey blog so let’s move beyond the “if I only have one/two bottle(s)” question and talk about stocking a home whiskey bar for yourself and guests. Before we start I want to clarify that we’re talking about a whiskey bar, not a whiskey collection. A collection, whether by design or accident is a different beast entirely. Oh, and if you think you can’t collect by accident let me tell you from personal experience that it can happen very easily. I’m in the process of rectifying that transgression in my own supply so let me know if you want to stop by and “help” with that. 😉

“How many bottles should I plan on getting for a base stock in my home whiskey bar?”

It depends. If you’re just looking for bourbon or scotch then probably three well chosen bottles will get you started. If you want a nice cross section of multiple styles then I would say five to eight. It really is up to you. However, I will caution you that once you get north of 10 bottles and start heading towards 20 you starting getting into collection territory. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that but it’s a slippery slope. 😉

“How much should I plan to spend?”

You can spend as much or as little as you want. I’ll try to give you a few examples at various prices for each category. That way you can decide how much you want to spend based on personal preference and financial situation. Please note that the prices listed are for a standard U.S. 750ml bottle.

“Where do I begin?”

With scotch and bourbon a good framework would be to get a mixer, a classic, and a gem. Now when I say “mixer” I’m really referring to a table whiskey. You should use the same rule of thumb for mixed drinks and cocktails as you do for cooking with wine. That means that even your table whiskey should be something you wouldn’t mind drinking by itself. There are plenty of inexpensive and tasty whiskeys out there so you shouldn’t have to buy rot gut just to use as a mixer. Here are some examples.

Scotch – Johnnie Walker Black, Chivas Regal 12 Year Old, and Glenlivet 12 Year Old can all be had for around $30.

Bourbon – Old Grand Dad Bottled in Bond ($20), Buffalo Trace ($20), and Elijah Craig 12 Year Old ($22)

Your “classic” whiskey should be something that typifies the category. That $1,000 bottle of Macallan 30 Year Old may taste like heaven but when I say classic I’m thinking of a reasonably priced dram that is pleasant and displays many of the standard characteristics of scotch or bourbon. Again, here are a few examples.

Scotch – Highland Park 12 Year Old ($40), Compass Box Great King Street Blend ($40), and Cragganmore 12 Year Old ($50)

Bourbon – Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year Old ($40), Old Forester Birthday Bourbon ($40), and Blanton’s ($50)

Now let’s talk about that gem. Up until now you’ve probably dropped between $100 to $150 on four bottles of whiskey (2 bourbon, 2 scotch). The gem category is where you can be as reserved or crazy as you want. The notion behind these bottles is to have something exceptional. Think of it as a special whiskey or two. You can lay these on your snobby or aficionado friends to get the approving nod or you can use them to show somehow something really good tastes. Alternatively, you can think of these bottles as a little more aggressive or obscure in taste. If Glenfiddich is your middle of the road then maybe one of these bottles can be a super peaty Ardbeg. You can drop $50 on one of these or $500. It’s up to you. Below are a few suggestions but let your interests guide your decisions.

Scotch – Lagavuling 16 Year Old ($80), Macallan 18 Year Old ($130), Dewar’s Signature ($180)

Bourbon – Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit ($55), George T. Stagg ($75), Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year Old ($120)

Now you may have noticed that I’ve listed both blends and single malts for scotch under each category. This is intentional. Both are very tasty and should be considered equally. I really think that you should consider getting at least one blend and at least one single malt. One is not inferior to the other regardless of what you hear from scotch snobs.

Others
Scotch and bourbon are great but there’s a wider and ever expanding world of whiskey out there waiting to be sampled. Personally, I would recommend a good rye that you can drink and mix as a staple. Rittenhouse Bottled-In-Bond ($20) or Sazerac Rye ($27) are great examples. If you’ve only ever used bourbon in your cocktails then get ready for a treat. A good rye cocktail is hard to beat.

I also think you should have a bottle of something a little different. It will allow you and your guests to expand your whiskey horizons and give you something interesting to compare and contrast. A nice bottle of Yamazaki 12 Year Old Japanese Whisky ($40), Redbreast 12 Year Old Irish Pot Still Whiskey ($50), or Amrut Fusion Indian Whisky ($60) would all be nice additions.

“What about other spirits to have on hand?”

Believe it or not, I don’t only drink whiskey. I often enjoy other fine brown spirits. Around the holidays I especially enjoy a nice brandy after a big meal. Pierre Ferrand Ambre Cognac ($35), Germain-Robin Shareholder’s Reserve ($75), or Kelt XO Cognac ($150) are all nice examples.

If a nice aged rum is more your speed then maybe a bottle of Cruzan Single Barrel ($28), Appleton Extra Jamaican Rum ($35), or Bacardi Reserva Limitada Rum Anejo ($100) would give you something nice to sip with guests.

“Is there anything else I need?”

It’s probably a good idea to have a few other basic ingredients on hand for cocktails. Below is a suggested list but you can add or subtract as you see fit. Remember, this list is focused on whiskey cocktails. If you’re doing a White Russian or a Sex on the Beach then that’s something entirely different.

  • Simple Syrup (make your own)
  • Sodas (Coca-cola, diet cola, ginger ale, club soda, tonic water, etc.)
  • Bitters (Angostura, Peychaud, etc.)
  • Fruit – Juice and whole fruit (Lemons, oranges, maraschino cherries, etc.)
  • Vermouth – Sweet and Dry
  • Liqueurs

I would recommend that you actually look at the kind of cocktails you plan to make and back into a list of additional ingredients instead of blinding buying stuff that the guy on the internet said you had to have. Having a huge selection of cocktail accoutrement looks cool but if you never use it then it’s a waste.

“Wait a minute. What about vodka and tequila?”

Like your mom said about little Scotty Powell down the street…”You don’t need friends like that.” In all seriousness, we were talking about stocking a nice selection of whiskeys. I could go on and on with my belligerent opinions of the vodka and tequila culture that’s exploded in the last 15 to 20 years but that’s not the point of this article. Look, if you need to have vodka and tequila, and a good host probably should, then you don’t need to fret over the bottles as much as you might think. Probably about 99% of vodka and tequila consumption in the U.S. occurs with some type of mixer. As long as you’re not buying the stuff off the bottom shelf in the plastic jugs you’ll probably be okay with the majority of brands when making a vodka tonic, vodka and cranberry, or margarita. Personally, I buy Kirkland Signature brand vodka and anejo tequila at Costco. Both are very good quality and ridiculously well priced. If you’re worried that your snobby friends will scoff because you have Costco brand or Stolichnaya vodka instead of Grey Goose or Ciroc then pick up a nice decanter to keep it in. It will class up your bar a little and then if they ask what it is you can tell them whatever the hell you want.;)

If you’re in a quandary the next time you go to the liquor store to stock up then I hope this helps. As always, these are merely my opinions on the subject. Let your taste and wallet be your guide. If you have any questions or need additional suggestions please send me an email. Enjoy the holidays and share some good whiskey with good company.

Drink wisely my friends,

Richard

Buffalo Trace

Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
45% ABV/90 Proof
$20 to $25
Widely Available

What the Distillery Says:
Light bronze in color with streaks of gold, Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey bears a complex aroma of vanilla, mint, and molasses. Its taste is pleasantly sweet and contains notes of brown sugar and spice that give way to oak and leather. The long and dry finish has significant depth. When enjoyed with water, flavors of toffee, dark fruit and anise are revealed.

What Richard Says:
Nose: It takes a little water to open the nose up but when you do you’re rewarded with fruity sweetness, cereal notes of corn, cherry blossoms, honey, vanilla, and a hint of mint.
Palate: Smooth, measured, and flavorful. Creamy, vanilla, and oak. Classic bourbon.
Finish: Dry. It fades away slow and steady.
Comments: Wow, I can’t believe it’s taken us this long to review Buffalo Trace! It’s been a personal favorite of mine since the first time I tried it almost a decade ago. When it was originally released it was touted as being around nine years old. I’m not sure if that’s still the case but this is a fine bourbon. It has great flavor and works equally well in cocktails and by itself both on the rocks and straight up. When you also consider that it can be had for at or around $20 a bottle I really couldn’t recommend this more. They also don’t water it down to 80 proof like some other bourbons. (you know who you are)
Rating: Must Try, Great Value

What Matt Says:
Matt has not had a chance to review this whiskey yet.

New Releases – August ’10

I’m a little late with August this month. Life outside of Whisk(e)y Apostle has been a little hectic. Here’s what we heard about in August.

Parker’s Heritage Collection, 4th Edition
Timeframe: September 2010
ABV: 65.6%
Price: $79.99
This is the newest release in the acclaimed Parker’s Heritage Collection. This year’s release is a 10 year old wheated bourbon. Heaven Hill began distilling wheated bourbon back in 1999 after they acquired the Old Fitzgerald portfolio. 52 barrels totaling 4,800 bottles are being released so get yours while you can.

Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection
There are two releases this year, both 15 years old. One was aged in new toasted French oak casks and the other was aged in used charred American oak casks seasoned with toasted oak chips.
Timeframe: Fall 2010
ABV: 45%
Price: $47/375 ml
I should also note a couple of things about these releases. First, these were both fully matured, not just finished in their respective casks. Second, because these weren’t aged in new charred oak casks these can’t actually be called bourbon. However, they still sound tasty to me!

Canadian Mist Black Diamond
Timeframe: Fall 2010
ABV: 43%
Price: $14.99
This is a new release from Canadian Mist that is supposed to be “a richer, more robust blended Canadian whisky.” Is this CM’s answer to Crown Royal Black?

Glendronach Grandeur
Timeframe: Now
ABV: 45.8%
Price: $700
This is a new 31 year old release from Glendronach. Bottled at cask strength, this looks very interesting if you have the means to afford the bottle.

Glendronach 33 Year Old
Timeframe: Now
ABV: 40%
Price: $379.99
This one is another release from Glendronach and is matured in Spanish Oloroso sherry casks. I’m not sure why the 31 year old is twice the price of the 33 year old but either way they look to be interesting luxury drams.

The Balvenie Peated Cask 17 Year Old
Timeframe: September 2010
ABV: 43%
Price: $129.99
This is the latest release in Balvenie’s annual 17 year old releases. This one is finished in casks previously containing exceptionally peaty whisky. Didn’t Glenfiddich do this with Caoran?

The Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask
Timeframe: September 2010
ABV: 43%
Price: 59.99
This is a new line extension from Balvenie with their lovely whisky finished in Caribbean rum casks. They’ve had a Golden Rum finished Travel Retail Only bottling at 14 years old for a while. I wonder if this is the same thing released to the masses?

That’s it for August. Balvenie, Glendronach, and Buffalo Trace led the way this month. I also heard about a couple of Benromach releases in their Origins line but no word yet on whether they are coming stateside. As always, if I missed anything please let me know.

Drink wisely my friends,

Richard

New U.S. Releases – April ‘10

I’m late with this again and I’m sorry. I was on vacation with my lovely wife. Without further delay, here’s what we heard about this month.

For those high rollers out there…
Glenfarclas 40 Year Old
Timeframe: The UK launch was 4/29 but I haven’t heard specific U.S. details yet
ABV: 46%
Price: $525
The release notice only gave a GBP price but based on current exchange rates I did the math for you. We know that about a quarter of the production for this release will be coming stateside. I have yet to try a 40 year old scotch but if anyone wants to get me something special…my birthday is in July.

For the microdistilling enthusiast:
Mckenzie Bourbon Batch #1
Timeframe: May 1st
ABV: ?
Price: $45
This is the new bourbon coming out of the Finger Lakes Distillery. Matt and I tried their rye and corn whiskeys at WFNYC 2009 and based on that experience this looks pretty interesting. Due to the small initial supply it’s only being released in New York State. However, if you’re in New York it should be available at around 130 different retail locations. Happy hunting!

We’ve got a couple of retired Master Distillers getting back into the game:
Angel’s Envy Bourbon
Timeframe: September 2010
ABV: 45%
Price: ?
This is a new project led by Lincoln Henderson, the retired master distiller from Woodford Reserve. Lincoln and his son Wes are launching a new bourbon and a new distillery. This first release is being made for them but they should be up and running at their own distillery around the same time.

WhistlePig Straight Rye Whisky
Timeframe: Late spring 2010
ABV: 50%
Price: $70
This is coming to us from Dave Pickerell who used to be the master distiller at Maker’s Mark. Dave found some 100% Canadian rye whisky that he thinks is pretty good. The mashbill is 100% unmalted rye and it’s around 10 years old.

Canadian Buffalo Invasion:
Caribou Crossing Single Barrel Canadian Whisky
Timeframe: May 2010
ABV: 40%
Price: $49.99

Royal Canadian Small Batch Canadian Whisky
Timeframe: May 2010
ABV: 40%
Price: $29.99

Both of these are coming to us courtesy of Buffalo Trace. Matt previously mentioned this release but I thought I’d add in a few more details.

Finally making it across the pond:
Kilchomon
Timeframe: September 2010
ABV: 46%
Price: $70
Kilchoman is finally making it to the U.S. It won’t be until this fall so I don’t yet know if we’ll get some of the Autumn 2009 release or if it will be a new 2010 release. Stay tuned.

Mackmyra
Timeframe: May 2010
ABV: ?
Price: ?
Swedish whiskey makes it to the U.S. I might just stop by IKEA on my way home from buying some.

And finally:
Early Times 150th Anniversary Bottling
2010 marks the 150th anniversary for Early Times and they are putting it out in a special 375ml bottle for the occasion. The retail should be around $11.99 if you’re interested.

That’s it. If you know of anything I missed then please let me know.

Drink wisely my friends,

Richard

Buffalo Trace Releases Canadian Whisky?

Straight on the heels of Richard’s momentous discovery that Buffalo Trace is now available in Atlanta, John Hansell breaks news that the Sazerac Company (makers of Buffalo Trace and countless other fine spirits) will have two new Canadian whiskies on store shelves by the end of the month.  How can an American distillery release a Canadian whisky, you may be asking.  Well, the answer is simple.  The Sazerac Company acquired some Canadian whisky stocks (no word on the source) and now they are making them available.  I have to say that I’m torn about this news.  As you well know, Richard and I are not huge fans of Canadian-style whiskies.  The only Canadian whisky we really enjoy comes from Forty Creek which is hardly Canadian-style despite meeting all the requirements to be called “Canadian Whisky.”  We are however, fans of Buffalo Trace Distillery on a level bordering religious zealotry.  So, we have to give these a try.  The two whiskies will be Caribou Crossing Single Barrel ($49.99) and Royal Canadian Small Batch ($29.99).  For the full press release and some pictures (including the ridiculously campy Caribou Crossing bottle), check out WDJK.  Some of you may have also noticed that Crown Royal announced a new expression recently (Crown Royal Black).  We will try that one at some point too.  I’m all for the idea of a bolder/richer Canadian whisky.  It certainly can’t get less bold…

Drink well, drink responsibly.

Matt