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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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
Sazerac Rye Whiskey, 90 Proof, 18 Years Old
William Larue Weller Bourbon Whiskey, 128.2 Proof, 12 Years and 6 Months Old
Eagle Rare Bourbon Whiskey, 90 Proof, 17 Years Old
Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye Whiskey, 127.2 Proof, 6 Years and 5 Months Old
On July 5, 2017, at a yet-to-be-named distillery in Newport, Tennessee, Sazerac launched a new chapter in the history of this storied company. Master Distiller John Lunn and Distiller Allisa Henley filled the distillery’s first barrels with new-make Tennessee Whiskey.
Nobody’s going to be drinking this whiskey for years. (How long has yet to be decided.) And it doesn’t even have a name yet. But given the Sazerac company’s reputation for excellence, we can expect that good things will happen.
We’ve all heard of the great bourbons that exist somewhere, even if we’ve never seen or tasted them. Pappy Van Winkle, George T. Stagg, Parker’s Heritage, and A.H. Hirsch Reserve are just a few. The problem is you’ll never see them on the shelves of your local liquor store. And if by some miracle you did actually find them, you probably wouldn’t want to pay the price tag.
But fear not! Despite everything you might have heard or read about bourbon shortages, strict allocations, and skyrocketing prices, there are still plenty of top-quality whiskeys that can be found without too much trouble and won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
These aren’t bargain bourbons, per se. They’re reasonably priced, but aren’t the cheapest, and they generally come from a slightly higher spot on the quality scale.
If you’re more interested in getting good booze for cheap, I’d recommend trying bourbons such as Very Old Barton, Benchmark, Evan Williams Black, Old Grand Dad, and Jim Beam Black. Each of them can usually be had for under $20. They might not be as good as these, but I think you’ll find them quite acceptable.
On the other hand, if you want to drink some really fine whiskey, here are some suggestions that I enjoy.
A wheated bourbon — just like Pappy! — that you can always find and always enjoy. Maker’s is a shining example of Kentucky distilling excellence on proud display. There are few spirits in the world that reflect such a high level of craftsmanship as this. (The cask-strength version is a more expensive, but even better.)
This brand, from Sazerac’s Barton distillery, seemed to fly under the radar for a long time. But with the new variations they’ve been producing (full proof, sweet wheat, etc.), it’s suddenly become a hot brand. You probably won’t be able to find those other labels. But that’s okay because the regular expression is very good, too.
You’re unlikely to find the 12-year-old Weller for a reasonable price, but the Special Reserve (90 proof) and Antique (107 proof) can often be found, especially the former. Weller is one of the original wheated bourbons and if you’re craving Van Winkle, this is probably the next best thing.
Another old standby from Beam, this is a high quality whiskey at a good price. With nine years in wood and a full 100 proof, Knob Creek packs a wallop, both in alcohol and flavor. If people say there are no good, affordable bourbons around, hand them a bottle of this and see if you can’t change their mind.
The Whiskey Smash, resurrected and tweaked many years ago at the Rainbow Room by Dale DeGroff, is one of the best summertime bourbon drinks. Cold and refreshing, the mix of tart citrus and sweet mint/fruit makes for a delicious balance with the whiskey. (And it’s also, in my opinion, a better drink than the far more popular Mint Julep. It’s certainly a more complex one.)
Here is a variation with strawberries from Benny Hurwitz, bartender at Jack Rose Dining Saloon in D.C. This is an easily modifiable cocktail, so you can change up the ingredients based on what you have, as long as you stick to the same basic concept and proportions. And, as always, use a good bourbon.
Adapted from a recipe by Benny Hurwitz of the Jack Rose Saloon in Washington, D.C, after Dale DeGroff.
1 1/2 oz. Bourbon Whiskey
3/4 oz. Simple Syrup (1:1)
1/2 Lemon (cut into 3 wedges)
2-3 Strawberries (depending on size)
5 Mint Leaves
Muddle the strawberries, lemon and mint with the simple syrup in the bottom of a shaker. Add the whiskey and shake with ice. Fine strain into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a mint sprig and strawberry.
For a stronger drink, you can increase the amount of bourbon to 2 oz.
Here’s a press release from Anchor Distilling that I thought might be of interest to whiskey fans. They’re releasing a blend of high-rye bourbons from MGP under the Hirsch label. You might ask: do we need another MGP whiskey on the market? To which I say: the more the merrier. Especially when it’s a bourbon and not a rye.
The story of American whiskey is not complete without mention of A.H. Hirsch and A.H. Hirsch Reserve 16 Year Old, widely considered the best American bourbon ever produced – even inspiring revered whiskey expert Chuck Cowdery to write the book, The Best Bourbon You’ll Never Taste. The True Story of A. H. Hirsch Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Distilled in the Spring of 1974 (Made and Bottled in Kentucky; May 2, 2012). Today, Anchor Distilling Company seeks to keep the legend alive through a range of sourced whiskies inspired by the Hirsch heritage. Following the sold-out introduction in 2016 of the Hirsch Small Batch Reserve Straight Bourbon, of which F. Paul Pacult, Spirit Journal, said, “I’d give it a solid Four Stars,” Anchor now introduces Hirsch Small Batch 8 Year Old High Rye Straight Bourbon Whiskey (46% ABV; $52 SRP).
A.H. Hirsch was an investment banker that invested in the Schaefferstown Distillery in the decades leading up to its shutdown in 1989 in an effort to keep it operational. The distillery was a historic landmark for American whiskey in operation for more than two centuries, and while it would eventually close, his contribution would ultimately result in the legendary A.H. Hirsch Reserve 16 Year Old.
The newly released Hirsch Small Batch 8 Year Old High Rye Straight Bourbon Whiskey marries together two mash bills – one with 21% rye and another with 36% rye, resulting in a high rye content that adds spiced character while balancing the sweet notes of corn sourced from Indiana and Ohio. The oak barrels are a #4 char around the base and a #2 char at the head; the whiskey is barreled at 60% ABV.
“This is a whiskey that is punching far above its weight,” says Morgan Robbat, Vice President of Marketing at Anchor Distilling. “With a high rye content that makes it ideal for American whiskey fans as well as craft cocktail enthusiasts, this 8 Year Old expression over delivers on quality – as you’d expect given the Hirsch heritage.”
The New York Times recently convened a panel of experts to taste several rye whiskies. If you’re a fan of Professor Cocktail’s, you’ll know we’re rye lovers around here. So we were interested to see the results.
The tasting panel consisted of Eric Asimov, David Wondrich, Robert Samuelson, and Florench Fabricant. I think we can rest assured that this quartet knows their whiskey very well.
The article includes a lot of interesting background on rye whiskey and what’s happening with the category these days. So I highly recommend reading it.
Here were their favorites. (They mention several others as well.)
#1: Knob Creek Straight Rye Whiskey 100 Proof (3 stars)
#2: Jim Beam Pre-Prohibition Style Rye 90 Proof (3 stars)
#3: Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select Rye 90.4 Proof (3 stars)
#4: New York Distilling Company Ragtime Rye 90.4 Proof (3 stars)
#5: Michter’s U.S. 1 Straight Rye 84.8 Proof (2.5 stars)
The only two I have tried are the Knob Creek and the Michter’s. I liked both of them, but I don’t think either would be in my top five.