Bourbonr Whiskey Of The Year – Winner
It’s time to announce the winner of the 2015 Bourbonr Whiskey Of The Year. One of the most honorable and prestigious awards in bourbon 🙂 While it may not actually be prestigious, it’s still important because you selected it. The drinker/reader, spending your money to try these limited releases. The 2015 voting included close to 2,000 votes!
The Winner is — Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition
If a whiskey didn’t receive more than ten votes, I didn’t include it in the chart.
The first thing I notice is FRSmBLE won by a landslide. It had more than twice as many votes as any other release. I completely agree with this as it was my choice as well. It’s also interesting that the winner doesn’t have the biggest price tag. Second, Heaven Hill was able to re-release the Elijah Craig 18 year with success. After going on a hiatus for a few years, EC18 has come back more popular with a much higher price tag. Finally, there are several releases that aren’t that hard to find. Be on the lookout for 1792 Port Finish and Woodford Reserve Rye.
Bourbonr Whiskey Of The Year Top 5
Nothing can really be done to remove this bias but I think the John E Fitzgerald suffered significantly due to its price tag and rarity. 5x more bottles of FRLE than JEF20 and I would imagine that significantly more people opened their bottles of FRLE than people did their bottles of JEF20 due to price point/collectibility
I didn’t have a chance to taste the JEF but every review I read said it had an unbelievable nose but fell flat on its face on the tongue the and had no finish. I did try the 2015 FR but my vote was a tough decision between Cured Oak and the Parker’s 8th.
Like “Anthony” commented above I feel also that nothing can really be done to remove this bias but I think the Col. E. H.Taylor Cured Oak suffered significantly due to its rarity. I think 4x more bottles of Four Roses 2015 L. E. Small Batch were produced and released than Col. E. H.Taylor Cured Oak and I would imagine that significantly more people opened their bottles of FRLE than people did their bottles of Col. E. H.Taylor Cured Oak due to its rarity and collectibility. I was lucky to get both the Four Roses 2015 L. E. Small Batch and the Col. E. H.Taylor Cured Oak. I liked the Col. E. H.Taylor Cured Oak a lot better than the Four Roses 2015 L. E. Small Batch.
Haven’t opened mine yet, not overrated like some say then?….
And I tried a couple of small pours of the JEF 20, I thought it was pretty f-ing good…
And Blake, I was surprised how much I like the 1792 port finish. Not as sweet or wine like that I think some of the finished bourbons take on. Very Drinkable.
Have you had the sweet wheat? Heard mixed things…
I think the sweet wheat is a little rough around the edges when first opened. Give it a few weeks though and it opens up quite nicely. Nice pour for $40
The “Sweet Wheat” I found to be insipid & gutless. Especially considering it’s “wheated” cousins (Weller & VW)!! I had 2 bottles — 1 I finally finished (thank goodness) & the second brought to the in-laws at X-Mas.
That said… STOP putting Bourbon in other barrels!! That’s Scotch!! 1792 Port Wood, Jeff’s Groth Cask, Angels Envy… American Corn Scotch!! Just sayin’… 🙂
1792 Port was very underrated. I can’t find any more bottles in Michigan and I’m hunting on a couple sites. It’s by no means an elite (Four Rouses, Colonel Taylor, etc) but for the price it was unique and tasty.
Sweet Wheat is rather harsh for a wheated. I agree with Lu Cipher above, almost any Weller is superior.
EC18 is a great bourbon. They nailed it. Four Roses LESB is out of this world. I still haven’t gotten the heart to open my Cured Oak. Need a good reason to crack it… and soon!
I finally got an opportunity to get a shot of Pappy Van Winkle 23 after not having tasted it for about 8 years. Since that earlier time, my palate has become very well educated with the other top wheated and non-wheated bourbons and I was very disappointed this time around. Given the price tag ($60 for a shot) and the cost of the bottles on the secondary market, it just isn’t worth it! Surprisingly harsh and hot, I concluded I’d never invest in it.
After stints of drinking bourbon, I always return to my all-time favorite whiskey, The Balvenie 21 year-0ld, port wood finished. Truly exceptional in every way.
It would be interesting to see the release numbers for each bourbon listed. I would guess FRLE has a higher amount of bottles released for the hard to find special releases such as Pappy, BTAC, etc… I feel like I taste a lot of different bourbons but I have only tried 7 of these this year.
I’ve had some of these and agree that the ELija Craig 18 is pretty nice. Not as nice as the E C 23 though.
I don’t understand the comment about these bottles being unopened. If you appreciate good bourbon, you drink it.
“”Life is uncertain – don’t save good bourbon””
I agree with Mike. If you own it open it unless there is some sentimental value to it or waiting for a big celebration. Life is a party!
Here in London we had a whiskey event in October with around 5000 of the worlds best whiskeys, I personally thought that Thomas H Handy 2015 stood head and shoulders above the rest, so smooth and easy to drink, but a killer alcohol content (68.1% vol, if I was sober enough to read correctly!).
Can’t remember the taste of the four roses, but have bought a bottle, that is on its way, as well as some of these others that you are all mentioning above. Looking forward to trying them. Thank you Blake and thank you all for your posts!
TH Handy is a nice pour alright!
I too went to the whisky show in London (if you get the chance… GO!) and was able to taste the entire BTAC line up. Agree the Handy was damn good. I’m usually not a big fan but best Handy I’ve ever had. That said I thought the standout was WLW. Better than the GTS. The Four Roses stand did not have the 2015 but I’ve been able to score a few bottles (and drink it) and though it was not my choice for this pool, I can clearly see why it won. Availability helped, yes, but nothing should take away from it. It’s great hooch for sure. BTW I voted for WLW.
If your not going to drink it why buy it. Just bought Weller for my boss as gift his first time trying it. He is a fan.
So forgive my ignorance, but do the voting results imply that all those who voted actually tasted all bourbons in the “field”? Just curious, I follow the blog as often as I can but don’t recall how this worked. I’ve only been fortunate enough to try a handful of these so far due to lack of availability in the Carolinas (or at least where I can find them), and I am just trying to better understand and interpret the people’s choices…thanks.
No. There were no requirements to taste them all. I hope those that voted had tasted at least 4-5 but there were no restrictions. I’m sure very few people actually tasted the entire list
As someone who admittedly doesn’t have a huge breadth of experience with limited releases, I was lucky enough to try a decent amount of them this year. So speaking from a limited palate, but with a decent 2015:
I thought the Pappy 15 yr was great, but slightly boring. A bourbon I’d have as a daily drinker (if price and availability were reasonable), but not a “special occasion” drink.
I liked Forged Oak, but it was a little too one-note to really stand out, and as others have suggested, EC12 is a perfectly good replacement at half the price.
OFBB is a great bourbon, but again one that tastes more like a good daily drinker than a special bourbon (price/availability are a little out of control).
GTS15 is excellent, but the things I like most about it, I found that this year’s FRSmBLE did better.
WLW is probably in my top 2 bourbons, so this was the closest for me. At the end of the day, though, while I could drink WLW all the time, Four Roses gave me a bourbon that consistently wows me every time I pour it. It’s not the easiest to drink, but the flavor pops all over the place, so that’s why it got my vote.
I’d say you did pretty well for not having that much experience
I agree that Four Rises Limited was probably wonderful but couldn’t vote for it because I never found a bottle and refuse to pay secondary prices. So could only vote for what I had found this year which was only a few of this years selections. Have to say I so much enjoy the Four Roses various single barrel expressions that that have become my favorite overall distilledr for overall consistency and quality. Fun survey .
I think it is real tough to do a fair comparison especially based on availability. The Pappy’s and BTAC are very hard to find and expensive to purchase. As are some of the others. How did Jefferson Groth Cask Reserve fair? One of my favorites. Eagle Rare 10 is excellent and my local store can’t keep it on the shelf. I just bought a bottle of George T Stagg and haven’t opened it yet. Stagg Jr isn’t to bad either. Need to let it breathe a little bit and it gets better.
I’m thrilled 4R SB LE won, I can’t help but think this is also an example of the respect given to Jim Rutledge and all his efforts. I was able to host a 4R ten recipe tasting with barrel strength picks from Liquor Barn here in Kentucky, and it was inspiring to taste them all side by side. Maybe it’s time for me to blend my own “small batch” limited edition!
MAN!!! I just cannot dig ANY of the Four Roses stuff!! I try & try. Over & over. Just does nothing for me. EC18 was rockin’ though!!
I agree with Galieo,
TH Handy is worth the search and expense of finding a bottle this year. Not to be overshadowed by the rest of the BTAC
I liked the THH but thought the FRSmBLE beat it by quite a bit in taste and complexity.
My first association with Four Roses was in 1962. It was so bad that I have not tasted it since.
Question is, is the 1962 the same as the current Four Roses?
Yes and no. It was the same brand but different owners. It was probably blended whiskey and a different mash bill and yeast
I never had the 1962 stuff, but those in the know universally agree that it was crap. Bottom shelf, blended product. Jim Rutledge totally turned that operation around, at least for the domestic market (it was popular in Japan during the down years in the US) and while – like anything – it’s not for everyone, I think most bourbon enthusiasts are big fans now.
Try the small batch or single barrel, and if you like those you can branch into the store select 10 recipes.
Seagram’s bought Four Roses in 1943 for $42 million dollars because of the ban on distillation of beverage alcohol during WWII. All distilleries had to produce industrial alcohol for manufacturing purposes to support the war effort. All beverage alcohol was rationed because of limited supplies just as gasoline was. Seagram’s started producing a Four Roses blended whiskey in order to stretch out their inventory. Both the blend and the Bourbon was sold up to 1958. At that point Seagram’s pulled the Bourbon off the American market and converted all sales to blended whiskey. They soon went to what they called their “B grade blended whiskey” which was 75% grain neutral spirits. The Bourbon that was produced was sold in Japan and Europe, and became a component of the Seagram 7 Crown, Seagram VO and the Crown Royal Canadian Blended Whiskies. The Four Roses you drank in the sixties was a cheap blended whiskey and not Bourbon.
Did anyone else enjoy the fitz 20? Trying to decide what to do with mine and was going to trade for saz 18 after all the negative reviews. . . . . I mean if its not as good as the pappy 20 this year, then why pay the premium for half the bottle?
I liked it from the couple of sample pours I had of it. Don’t have a saz but do have a GTS 🙂
Then I’m a lucky dude because my brother gave me a bottle of the Bourbon of the Year for Christmas! And my girlfriend gave me PVW 15 to boot! It was a good year!
I have it on good authority, you have dealt out some pretty awesome bottles yourself, to your Bro.
He is lucky also. Because he got to sample the THH
And will get to enjoy the bottles you laid on him
The biggest shame is the BTAC is basically a ghost. You hear it’s real but I haven’t physically seen a bottle for sale at a retail location in 5 yrs! It’s just terrible what’s has happened to this market in general. So many products are being sourced that it’s hard to trust any brand that’s not traditional. Non-franchised stores hold everything for their buddies and larger retailers lottery everything or do a “camp out for 2 days and get a number to maybe get something good” thing. It’s become frustrating for many enthusiasts
I saw THH, ORVW, Lot B, and PVW 15 behind the counter at one store this year, but of course for high prices, so they are out there. Seems like the entire time I’ve been looking (past two years), I have seen at least two bottles from a combination of Van Winkle and BTAC lines actually out for sale at stores here in MD. Stores selling for good prices, you never see bottles it seems.
Oh, and I know a bar that as of last week, still had THH, Regular Sazerac, Eagle Rare, Blantons, ORVW, Lot B (which I went with), severl Colonel EH Taylor (didn’t read which ones), etc. This bar is where I have tried at least one release of each of BTAC except WRW (never saw it there), 2014 ORVW, and 2014 plus 2015 Lot B. All for really reasonable prices compared to other establishments!
Was lucky to sample two of the top 5 while visiting bars in Portland this year without paying too much… I found the Four Roses to be very nice (quite spicy) but I though the William Larue Weller blew it out of the water – one of the best bourbons I’ve ever tasted, IMO. I’m annoyed that I couldn’t score a bottle this year, but I feel lucky that I got to taste some.
Saw a guy picking up a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle 20 year old last night at an ABC store in Southeastern VA….as I was paying for my Elijah Craig 18 year old….they’re still out here folks!
I snagged a bottle of EC18 last night here in SE Texas and broke the seal on it tonight to celebrate the weekend. It’s very good, don’t get me wrong, but didn’t live up to the hype IMO. I did get a bottle of 1792 Port Finish a couple of weeks ago and was pleasantly surprised how good it was. It was much better than I thought it would be. Right now, my favorite sippers (at the moment) are Blanton’s, Four Roses-Single Barrel and Jefferson’s Reserve. The list is growing as fast as my exposure!