Whiskey Review: Little Book “The Easy” Blended Straight Whiskey

Freddie Noe, the grandson of Jim Beam’s late master distiller Fred “Booker” Noe, has created his first whiskey. It’s named “Little Book” after a nickname that the elder Noe gave the younger as a child. It is expected to be an annual limited release.

Little Book is an uncut, unfiltered whiskey in the style of the ever-popular Booker’s bourbons. There are some definite differences, though, as this one is not a bourbon. Rather it’s a blend of different whiskeys, including a four-year-old Kentucky bourbon, a 13-year-old corn whiskey, a six-year-old high-rye whiskey, and a a six-year-old 100% malt whiskey. (Apparently those last two ages are approximate.) If I had to guess, I’d say there’s a lot of bourbon in the ratio.

It’s bottled at a whopping 128.2 proof, with an MSRP of $79.99.


Little Book “The Easy” Blended Straight Whiskey, 64.1% ($79.99)

In the glass, this is a deep mahogany color. I’m not sure which of the component whiskeys is contributing such a hue. The nose is a blast of ethanol, but there is some sweetness underlying it, with cherries and marzipan. At first sip, it is very hot, as the proof would suggest. Almost overwhelmingly so. It also has a rough character that I attribute to its youth. With a little water, there is a confectionery sweetness, with vanilla and dark fruit, followed by a brief, drying oak finish with a faint vegetal note at the very end, presumably from the corn whiskey. Little Book is an interesting whiskey, for sure, and not like anything else I can think of. I recommend drinking it on the rocks.


Coming Soon: Isaac Bowman Port Finish Whiskey

I’m always interested in new whiskeys. And I have a particular interest in new Virginia whiskeys. So this one definitely caught my eye.

“This bourbon is aged for a number of years in new charred white oak barrels, then finished in used port barrels, many of which come from Virginian wineries. Caramel and spice notes from the charred white oak are elegantly combined with flavors of jam to create a deep taste. A smooth finish is attained from resting in the port barrels.”

Price in Virginia is $39.99. I’ll definitely have to pick up a bottle, assuming it actually makes the shelves. (There’s no indication that this is a limited-edition product. But you never know.)

Assuming this works like the other Bowman bourbons, it’s distilled by Buffalo Trace in Kentucky, then redistilled and aged at Bowman’s facility in Fredericksburg. Bowman has a solid reputation for good whiskeys, especially those released under the Abraham Bowman name.

isaac bowman port finish whiskey


Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2018

jim murray whisky bible 2018Today is another important date in the whisk(e)y-lover’s year, circled on everyone’s calendar: the day when Jim Murray announces the latest selections from his Whiskey Bible.

Murray is a controversial figure in the whisky world, for a variety of reasons that others would be better positioned than I to explain. (Although I’m guessing that pose on his book cover isn’t helping.)

But two things are certain about him and his humbly named book: his selections are sure to cause plenty of eye-rolling — and they’re also sure to set off a buying frenzy.

Whiskies that nobody previously paid any attention to will suddenly become the “it” spirit of the year, just by being named in Murray’s book. It’s not because he has such wonderful taste. He may or may not, and it scarcely matters either way. But much like with Robert Parker in the wine world, Murray is a “name,” he gives a number, and he gets lots of publicity.

So without further blather, here are his picks for 2018 (which are really his picks from the last 12 months).


2018 World Whisky of the Year
Colonel E.H. Taylor 4 Grain Bourbon

Second Finest Whisky in the World
Redbreast Aged 21 Years

Third Finest Whisky in the World
Glen Grant Aged 18 Years


Scotch Whisky of the Year
Glen Grant Aged 18 Years Rare Edition

Single Malt of the Year (Multiple Casks)
Glen Grant Aged 18 Years Rare Edition

Single Malt of the Year (Single Cask)
Cadenhead’s Glendullan 20 Year Old

Scotch Blend of the Year
Compass Box The Double Single

Scotch Grain of the Year
Cambus Aged 40 Years

Scotch Vatted Malt of the Year
Compass Box 3 Year Old Deluxe


No Age Statement (Multiple Casks)
Ardbeg Corryvreckan

10 Years & Under (Multiple Casks)
Glen Grant Aged 10 Years

10 Years & Under (Single Cask)
Scotch Malt Whisky Society Tomatin Cask 11.32 8 Year Old

11-15 Years (Multiple Casks)
Gordon & MacPhail Ardmore 2002

11-15 Years (Single Cask)
That Boutique-y Co. Clynelish 15 Year Old

16-21 Years (Multiple Casks)
Glen Grant Aged 18 Years Rare Edition

16-21 Years (Single Cask)
The First Editions Ardmore Aged 20 Years

22-27 Years (Multiple Casks)
Sansibar Whisky Glen Moray 25 Years Old

22-27 Years (Single Cask)
Hunter Laing’s Old & Rare Auchentoshan 24 Year Old

28-34 Years (Multiple Casks)
Glen Castle Aged 28 Years

28-34 Years (Single Cask)
Old Particular Glenturret 28 Year Old

35-40 Years (Multiple Casks)
Brora Aged 38 Years

35-40 Years (Single Cask)
Xtra Old Particular Caol Ila 36 Year Old

41 Years & Over (Multiple Casks)
Gordon & MacPhail Glen Grant 1957


No Age Statement (Standard)
Ballantine’s Finest

No Age Statement (Premium)
Compass Box The Double Single

5-12 Years
Grant’s Aged 12 Years

13-18 Years
Ballantine’s Aged 17 Years

19 – 25 Years
Royal Salute 21 Years Old

26 – 50 Years
The Antiquary Aged 35 Years


Irish Whiskey of the Year
Redbreast Aged 21 Years

Irish Pot Still Whiskey of the Year
Redbreast Aged 21 Years

Irish Single Malt of the Year
Bushmills 16 Year Old

Irish Blend of the Year
Bushmills Black Bush

Irish Single Cask of the Year
Dunville’s VR First Edition Aged 15 Years


Bourbon of the Year
Colonel E.H. Taylor Four Grain

Rye of the Year
Thomas H. Handy Sazerac 126.2 Proof

US Micro Whisky of the Year
Balcone’s Texas Blue Corn Batch BCB 16-1

US Micro Whisky of the Year (Runner Up)
291 E Colorado Aged 333 Days Bourbon

No Age Statement (Multiple Barrels)
George T. Stagg 144.1 Proof

9 Years & Under
Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection Organic 6 Grain Whisky

10 Years & Over (Multiple Barrels)
Colonel E.H. Taylor Four Grain


No Age Statement
Thomas H. Handy Sazerac 126.2 Proof

Up to 10 Years
Pikesville 110 Proof

11 Years & Over
Sazerac 18 Years Old


Wheat Whiskey of the Year
Bernheim Original


Canadian Whisky of the Year
Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye


Japanese Whisky of the Year
Nikka Coffey Malt Whisky

Single Malt of the Year (Multiple Barrels)
Nikka Coffey Malt Whisky


European Whisky of the Year (Multiple)
Penderyn Bryn Terfel (Wales)

European Whisky of the Year (Single)
The Norfolk Parched (England)


Asian Whisky of the Year
Paul John Kanya (India)

Southern Hemisphere Whisky of the Year
Limeburner’s Dark Winter (Australia)


Whiskey Review: 2017 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection

The Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (BTAC) is an annual release of five whiskeys (three bourbons and two ryes) that are among the most sought-after of any in the spirits world. Although they arrive in stores with an MSRP of under $100, they can almost never be found on the shelf at that price. Stores either reserve them for their best customers, sell them via online lottery, or slap a huge price tag on them. To buy them on the secondary market requires paying something on the order of $500 each.

But are they worth the hype? Assuming you’d be willing to shell out half a grand for a bottle of whiskey, are any of these the ones you should buy? To find out, I put my oh-so-refined palate to the task of tasting the BTAC. Here are my thoughts on this year’s offerings, in the order tasted.

Buffalo Trace Antique Collection

Eagle Rare 17 Year Old Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 45% ABV ($90)

It smells of marzipan, chocolate cake, and vanilla, with a little smoke hiding in the background. Surprisingly sweet. There is little of that on the palate, however. Although there is a burst of sweetness at first, it quickly turns very dry and oaky, with some harsh tannins on the short finish. I know as little about aging whiskey as I do about combing hair, but my instinct is that this spent a little too long in the barrel. I’m a fan of the regular Eagle Rare (aged for 10 years), but didn’t care much for this one.

Sazerac 18 Year Old Straight Rye Whiskey, 45% ABV ($90)

This is some seriously old rye. Let’s see what all that age gets us. On the nose, I smell acetone, with sweetness underneath. Reminds me of maraschino cherries, the DayGlo red artificial kind. After it opens up some I start to get a very nice, warm caramel aroma. Not much in the way of spice. But that definitely comes once you sip it. No doubt this is a rye, even if it’s not as high a component of the mashbill as MGP uses. Trying to narrow it down a little further, I come up with allspice (like the flavor of Jamaican Pimento Dram) and stone fruit. It’s dry, but not overly so, and has a long finish. I bet this would make an outstanding Manhattan, which is how I would drink it if I had a full bottle.

Thomas Handy 6 Year Old Straight Rye Whiskey, 63.6% ABV ($90)

If the Sazerac is a seriously old rye, the Handy is a seriously strong one. The aroma on this one is much more lively than the Sazerac and full of ethanol. Once you get past that, it smells like candied fruits and jam mixed with rye bread. Sadly, the palate can’t keep up. It reminds me of Phoenix: very hot and very dry. It’s less spicy than the Sazerac, less flavorful overall despite the proof. In muted tones, I detect baking spices, mostly clove and cinnamon, and chocolate. This is essentially impossible for me to drink straight and enjoy. I would have guessed the proof was even higher if I didn’t know what it is. With a little water, it’s tamed down, but given that the flavor isn’t exactly robust to begin with, it just fades away.

William Larue Weller 12 Year Old Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 64.1% ABV ($90)

Given how much I enjoy the regular 12-year-old bottling of Weller bourbon, this was probably the whiskey I was looking forward to the most. The aroma was pretty typical of a wheated bourbon, a sweet, breakfast cereal scent like Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Once I sipped it, though, the alarm bells start ringing. This bourbon is en fuego, with a finish that seems to last forever. It’s slightly sweet with some caramel and toffee. Maybe confectioner’s sugar. That taste lasts through the mid-palate, before turning dry and slightly astringent. I could have done without the astringency, but there’s still a lip-smacking quality to it. However, this is another whiskey that is, in my opinion, a challenge to drink neat. As I have no need to show off my masculine prowess, I add some water and find it quite pleasant. Given how much more you’re likely to pay for this than for a regular bottle of Weller 12, I’d have to say it’s probably not worth it. On the other hand, if you get a chance to try it, definitely do.

George T. Stagg 15 Year Old Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 64.6% ABV ($90)

Last but certainly not least, the Granddaddy (never pappy) of them all. Assuming this doesn’t singe your nose hairs when you smell it — and it kinda does — you’ll get a snootful of wonderful aromas, including vanilla, molasses, even a little coconut. Take a drink (a small one) and you’ll find that its heat is tamer than you might expect, but the whiskey is bursting with flavor. It’s got elements of brown sugar, butterscotch, raisins or prunes, but then oak. Lots of oak and a very long finish. The oak is almost a little too much, but I forgive it. The Stagg has the richest mouthfeel — an almost creamy texture — of any of these whiskies, and it’s the one that I find to be the most enjoyable

I found my overall experience with the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection to be a mixed bag. I enjoyed some, not so much the others. But throughout the tasting, I found it hard to keep out of my mind what a sanctified collection this has become. (And what an expensive one.) There’s nothing wrong with any of that, of course. But for me at least, deifying a whiskey takes a little of the magic away.


Michter’s Announces First Bottling of 25 Year Bourbon Since 2008

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Michter’s Master Distiller Pamela Heilmann has approved the release of Michter’s 25 Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon to the company’s distributor network for sale this November. The 2017 release marks the first bottling of Michter’s 25 Year Bourbon since 2008.

“I take the Michter’s ‘Dr. No’ position as the gatekeeper for releasing whiskey very seriously,” said Heilmann. “When I tasted this 25 Year Bourbon, I knew immediately it was perfectly aged.” Michter’s President Joseph J. Maglioccoobserved, “This whiskey has really matured beautifully. Sipping it is a magnificent experience.”

Michter’s has a rich and long legacy of offering traditional American whiskeys of uncompromising quality. With each of its limited production offerings aged to its peak maturity, Michter’s highly acclaimed portfolio includes bourbon, rye, and American whiskey.

The proof of this 2017 release is 116.2, and the suggested U.S. retail price for a 750ml bottle is $800. For more information, please visit, and follow us on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter.

Michters 25 Year Old Bourbon


Cocktail Recipe: Brooklyn

Now that I have a bottle of Amer Picon, it was time to make a Brooklyn cocktail. This was long one of the better variations on the Manhattan, but it has frustrated bartenders in recent years due to the unavailability of the French bittersweet liqueur.

There are some substitutes for Amer Picon that have gained popularity over the years. Assuming you don’t want to make it yourself, Bigallet China-China liqueur is probably the best replacement, although you can also use Amaro CioCiaro in a pinch. But I wanted to try it with the real thing.

If you like the taste of a Manhattan — strong, yet balanced, with the rich, spicy flavor of rye — but are looking for something a little less sweet, then the borough of Brooklyn is definitely where you want to go.

Brooklyn Cocktail

Brooklyn Cocktail

The whiskey is the star of the show here, so make sure to use a good one.


  • 2 oz. Rye Whiskey
  • 1/2 oz. Dry Vermouth
  • 1/4 oz. Maraschino Liqueur
  • 1/4 oz. Amer Picon


  1. Add all ingredients to a mixing glass with ice, then stir until very cold. Serve in a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry, if desired.


Buffalo Trace Distillery Releases 2017 Antique Collection Whiskeys

Here is the press release, straight from the barrel’s mouth:

FRANKFORT, FRANKLIN COUNTY, KY (Sept. 19, 2017) Whiskey lovers rejoice, Buffalo Trace Distillery is releasing its 2017 Antique Collection. The highly anticipated collection will once again feature five limited-release whiskeys of various ages, recipes and proofs. Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley notes, “The team had another great year with the Antique Collection.  From distillation, to barrel selection, to bottling, this year’s collection showed very well.  I was particularly excited about the William Larue Weller with its extra richness, and the Eagle Rare 17 seemed more rounded and full of flavor.  None of these disappointed.”

(Note from Professor Cocktail: For addition information on the individual bottles, please visit my post on the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection.)

Here’s what fans can expect this year:

George T. Stagg

The powerhouse favorite of the Antique Collection, George T. Stagg weighs in at 129.2 proof this year.  Past releases of this uncut and unfiltered bourbon have won many top awards, including “5 Stars – Highest Recommendation” by F. Paul Pacult’s The Spirit Journal. This year’s release contains bourbon from barrels filled in the spring of 2002. This batch contained 309 barrels, a few more than last year.  Storage location of these barrels varied across warehouses C, K, M and Q.  This whiskey tastes of expresso, chocolate fudge and tobacco.

William Larue Weller

The Antique Collection’s uncut, unfiltered, wheated recipe bourbon is William Larue Weller. Previous editions of this wheater have won many accolades, including a Double Gold Medal at the 2016 San Francisco World Spirits Competition and “Bourbon of the Year” by Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2017.  The 2017 offering was distilled in the winter of 2005 and aged in Warehouses D, I, and P.  This bourbon registers in at 128.2 proof.  The bold flavors include toffee, marshmallow and leather.

Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye

Thomas H. Handy is the uncut and unfiltered straight rye whiskey. Previous editions of this whiskey have been named “World Whisky of the Year” by Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible and “World’s Best American Whiskey” by Whisky Magazine.  This year’s Handy was distilled in the spring of 2011; aged on the third, fourth and fifth floors of Warehouses K, L, and Q, and weighs in at 127.2 proof.  The flavor is described as fig, allspice and cinnamon.

Eagle Rare 17 Year Old

The previous edition of this bourbon was honored with a Silver Outstanding Medal at the 2017 International Wine and Spirits Competition. The 2017 edition has been aging on the first, second and third floors of Warehouses C, K and P.  This 90 proof bourbon was aged for seventeen years and tastes of oak, tobacco, toffee and vanilla.

Sazerac Rye 18 Year Old

Last year Sazerac Rye 18 Year Old received “4 Stars – Highly Recommended” by F. Paul Pacult’s The Spirit Journal.  This 2017 straight rye whiskey release has notable flavors of leather, clove and all-spice.  The barrels for this whiskey were filled in the spring of 1998, and then put into a stainless steel tank in 2016 to stop further aging and evaporation.

The Antique Collection was introduced more than a decade ago and has become a cult favorite among whiskey connoisseurs. Since 2000 these whiskeys have garnered numerous awards from such notable publications as Whisky Advocate Magazine, Spirit Journal, and Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible.

The 2017 Antique Collection whiskeys will be available in limited quantities this October.  Suggested retail price is $90 per bottle.  For more information visit

Buffalo Trace Antique Collection


The Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2017 Is Coming

It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for: the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (BTAC) 2017 edition is coming.

Fall is the time of year when rare and awesome American whiskey is released … and none of us are able to find any of it in stores. But someone is going to be lucky and find a bottle. So find that person and make friends with them.

Buffalo Trace Antique Collection

I’m going to have more details coming soon, but in the meantime, here is some additional information on the individual bottles.

George T. Stagg Bourbon Whiskey, 129.2 Proof, 15 Years and 3 Months Old

2017 George T. Stagg

Sazerac Rye Whiskey, 90 Proof, 18 Years Old

2017 Sazerac Rye 18 Year-Old

William Larue Weller Bourbon Whiskey, 128.2 Proof, 12 Years and 6 Months Old

2017 William Larue Weller

Eagle Rare Bourbon Whiskey, 90 Proof, 17 Years Old

2017 Eagle Rare 17 Year-Old

Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye Whiskey, 127.2 Proof, 6 Years and 5 Months Old

2017 Thomas H. Handy Sazerac


Tasting Amer Picon: 1940’s Version vs. Today’s

amer picon bitters taste testRegular readers of Professor Cocktail know that I’m an admirer of Amer Picon, the bittersweet, orange-flavored French liqueur that I grew up drinking with my Basque friends. It hasn’t been imported into the United States since the 1980s, much to the dismay of many cocktail fans. It is, however, still available sporadically in Europe, so I bit the bullet and paid to acquire a bottle.

Due to the generosity of my friend Eric Witz, a collector and expert in the field of vintage spirits, I have a sample of Amer Picon from the 1940s. That was back when Amer Picon was still the “good stuff,” with its original formula and proof of 78. The current version is only 42 proof, practically anemic by comparison.

In the interests of science, I decided to compare the two versions against each other to see how much things had really changed. It should be noted that the 1940s version was at least partially oxidized, and there’s no telling how much effect that had on its flavor. We can hope not much, but there’s really no way to tell.

Amer Picon, circa 1940s, 39% ABV (unavailable)

The nose is warm caramel, slightly sweet and inviting. On the palate, the caramel takes on a burnt edge, dry and with a flavor that could be licorice, along with bitter oranges. There’s some heat to it and a rough character. The bitterness reminds me of quinine, which was in Gaétan Picon’s original recipe. I suspect that some of the orange flavor has faded over time. But that’s just a guess. This is an interesting liqueur, but I’m not sure I’d say it’s a pleasant one to drink.

Amer Picon, current, 21% ABV ($18)

This is more what I had in mind. The aroma is dominated by sweet oranges, fresh and fruity. Sweet oranges make up the initial hit of flavor, before changing over to bitterness on the finish. There is no real heat, as you’d expect from the proof. It is balanced and tasty, a very pleasant aperitif.

My preference is, fortunately, for the current formulation. Even still, you’re not going to get any — not in the United States, anyway — without going to some trouble. But I think it’s worth it.


The World’s 15 Most Important Tiki Bars

Tiki cocktail on bar

Punch magazine has accomplished a feat worth cheering. They have put together what is, in my opinion, the most impressive list of “The World’s 15 Most Important Tiki Bars” that I’ve yet to see.

It helps that their panel of experts includes the top people in the field, including Sven Kirsten, Martin Cate, Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, and others. If you want to know what’s the best, you ask the people who are the best. And that’s exactly what they did.

Really, the only bar I can think of that they omitted is the “original” Trader Vic’s location in Emeryville. It’s not the first iteration of the bar, but it is the location that Vic himself opened in 1972, and it’s been the chain’s flagship operation ever since. It might not be the best restaurant/bar you’ll visit, but it’s still a damn fine Tiki operation, steeped with history.

Sadly, the only location on the list that I have visited is the Mai-Kai, a one-of-a-kind feast for the senses masquerading as a restaurant. I hope to cross another off my list next month, though, when I’m in Los Angeles. (That location, of course, would be the Tiki-Ti.)

I don’t have a bucket list, but if I did, this collection would make a very nice start.