Did you have a Bourbon-filled Christmas?

I hope your Christmas was as Bourbon-ful as mine.  As you are reading this blog hopefully you noticed my new logo and branding. We are getting pretty professional over here! (The logo design was a Christmas gift from our daughter). And Taylor had a dark blue t-shirt made with the logo on it. Now I won’t need a name tag when out bourbon tasting!

Taylor and her husband also gave me a bottle of Reservoir Bourbon Whiskey from Richmond, Virginia. Reservoir is handmade, single run, small batch whiskey. Look for a review in a future blog. I am so excited to try it (and visit the distillery the next time we’re in Richmond)!

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Lynn gave me a fantastic gift from Pappy & Company. It was a canvas tote bag from J. Stark. Inside the bag were 2 Pappy & Company glasses, some “Pappy Hour” napkins, and 12 “Pappy Hour” plastic cups. The last part of the gift set was a box of Bourbon Balls made with Old Rip Van Winkle 10 year. The bourbon balls are handmade by Sugar Mama’s Bake Shop. What a fun gift, great for picnics or a weekend away. There is plenty of room in the bag for a bottle of your favorite bourbon (maybe a new bottle of Pappy??) and a few other bar accessories for your getaway.

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In addition to the gift set, I got a Barrel Stave Cutting Board. The board measures 8.5 x 9 and about 1.5 inches thick. It is made from Pappy Van Winkle barrel staves and it is branded with their crest. Great for the bar!

Lynn also gave me a Collared Greens Bow Tie with bourbon barrels on it. (Collard Greens is another Richmond-made item… they have lots of fun bowties on their website)

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I did take my own suggestion and stopped by Hi-Time Wine Cellars to buy a bottle of Makers 46. I just love the Makers 46 and needed to replenish my bar. Based on a suggestion from Ryan at Hi-Time I also bought a bottle of Belle Meade Bourbon. Ryan said he thought it was one of the best bourbons and values in the store. I’ve had it once before but wanted to give it a full taste and review.

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I am ready for whatever the New Year brings with all my new gear. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas or Hanukah and want to wish a Happy New Year to all!

My Bourbon Mecca

You might be a fan of a special store, techies and my kids love the Apple Store. My wife, a big fan of Nordstrom. Me – I love to shop for bourbons. My go-to store is Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa, California. I love to go there and browse for that new release from a favorite distillery, or just to look for something I’ve have always wanted to try. I love to look at the selection, packaging and graphics.

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Hi-Time Wine Cellars is my bourbon store of choice because whatever I am looking for they have. The same is true for most any liquor and wine. They have it, and if they don’t they’ll get it for their customers.  I was there a couple days ago to pick up my 2016 Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby Bottle (read my write up about its release here).

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I was wandering around the store looking at all the bourbon, scotch, and whiskey (whisky if you are an import) on the shelves. There is so much rich history and life in those bottles. Many began their journey 15, 20, 23, even 30 or more years ago.

While there I spoke with Keith Hanson their liquor buyer. His knowledge of the industry and their inventory will blow you away. On another occasion I spoke with Holden, who was helping someone get a 20-year-old bottle of Pappy out of the case. Both Keith and Holden are great to work with.  In California we have a 3 tier system. The stores have to buy from a liquor distributor, who has bought the product directly from the distillery. Young’s Market is one of the distributors Hi-Time deals with for many of the brands they carry.

Now back to the Pappy. Not only do they carry new bottles but they do purchase bottles from collectors for resale. I took a few pictures but unfortunately through the case they are not the best. If you need that special bottle for a client or best friend, this is your place (for a price).

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I would be remiss if I didn’t mention they have an equally awesome selection of Champagne. A few years ago Lynn and I stayed at a little Maison in Ludes, France called PloyezJacquemart. While there we had the opportunity to try their champagne and fell in love with it.  Hi-Time carries the champagne and they are one of the few in the US who have it, so we are also regular visitors to restock on this special champagne.

Ever since getting more into bourbon, and bourbon collecting, Hi-Time has become my go-to place (my bourbon mecca). For those not located in Southern California, I highly suggest finding your go-to bourbon place. While this is hard for people living in places with state controlled liquor stores, there still is definitely a utility to developing a relationship with your local state-run store. The managers, just like at a store like Hi-Time, will let you know when new products are coming in or there is something you shouldn’t pass up!

Bar Review: Whiskey Cake Kitchen & Bar (Plano, TX)

I have been to Bourbon Mecca in Texas, and it’s not in Dallas. It’s in Plano at Whiskey Cake Kitchen and Bar. I may start a turf war in Texas but IMHO there can’t be a better selection of bourbons in Dallas, maybe all of Texas. I looked and I looked and I looked. But at Whiskey Cake, I didn’t see anything missing. In a new brick building in Plano is a hip bar and restaurant with a southern spirits and food menu big on choices. There are so many choices you will get brain freeze picking from their over 150 offerings of the liquid gold. Whiskey Cake is named after their incredible whiskey cake. “D Magazine” has named it as the best Dallas dessert 3 years running.

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Whiskey Cake opened 5 years ago last November. It feels like an old downtown establishment. With a sitting area of sofas and chairs you feel just like you were having a drink at home. It is home to a Bourbon drinker. I started off with a Stagg Jr. from Buffalo Trace based on the suggestion of the bar staff. I had never had this one and I was told it was excellent and easier to find than the normal Stagg. It is a high proof bourbon at 134, with a lot of spice and body. Not to mention great color, very deep, very rich.   I followed that with an order of the deviled eggs which were egg-cellent. I know, bad joke, but they are incredible. I then ordered a Sazerac cocktail made with Rittenhouse Rye. Bartender Anthony made it for me and it was everything I expected and more. It was a nice follow-up to the Stagg Jr. and I complemented it with the fried green tomatoes with remoulade & lemon sauce.

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Bartender gear
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Stagg Jr.
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Deviled eggs
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Fried green tomatoes and a Sazerac cocktail

I met Chris, the Assistant General Manager. Chris said the incredible selection of bourbons are the passion and vision of Tanner Fleming, the General Manager.   Chris suggested I try the 13-year Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye. I had not seen it prior to today. Well, that was incredible. I will not forget it after today. So smooth and so Van Winkle, words just can’t describe it. WOW! This is another great offering from Buffalo Trace you will not find in many bars.

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Last sip of 13-year Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye

The next time you are in the DFW area, take the time to drive to Whiskey Cake in Plano. The bar staff is all very friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable. The food was just as good as the strong bourbon selection. I didn’t have the time or capacity to try more of the menu but everyone I spoke with at the bar was enjoying their choices. I was very impressed and very happy as I left. By the way, I have been in the corrugated business for more years than I will mention. How could I not like an establishment that uses recycled corrugated with their name on it for coasters?

I ended the evening sipping the Van winkle and eating their incredible Whiskey Cake. Man that was sinful and so good.

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Photo from D Magazine

“O Pappy, Pappy, wherefore art thou Pappy?”

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My Pappy Van Winkle collection.

That elusive bottle of 12, 15, 20, or 23-year-old Pappy Van Winkle. Everyone wants to know where to find a bottle. When we toured the Buffalo Trace Distillery in 2013 everyone on our tour wanted to know which barrel warehouse had the Pappy in it. Our tour guide, who had been a 40-year employee, said he didn’t even know. By now, everyone has heard about the theft of Pappy from Buffalo Trace and the subsequent capture of the thieves. It was an inside job by one of the few people in the world who knew, “Where in the world is Pappy Van Winkle” for Carmen Sandiego fans, or, “Where’s Pappy” for Waldo fans.

How I got my first bottle

I got my first bottle because my friend John called and said they had some Pappy at Total Wine for sale. That was about 5 years ago, maybe 7. At that time they would get in all the years and sell one bottle per customer until it was gone. Those days are gone.

Collecting more Pappy

My second bottle was given to me by one of my best friends and college roommate, Jeff. Jeff buys a lot of wine from several stores.   If you are a very good customer, well, rank (and relationship) has its privilege.

My latest acquisition, a 20-year bottle, my wife Lynn gave to me for Christmas this year. She got it in a state lottery she entered on a whim while we in Idaho this fall! NOW THAT’S A GREAT GIFT.

Finding Pappy

So how do YOU find a bottle?   Pappy is released in late fall. It is never too early to start. Start early, find a friend, make a friend, get creative.

Make a friend means get close to your local liquor store manager/owner that gets Pappy. I got to know the manager of my local BevMo in Brea, California. He put me on the list early in the year in the year and they called me to say I was high enough on the list I had my pick of years. Of course, I took the 23 (more on preferred years in another post). This is key to acquiring any rare spirit, whether it’s bourbon, scotch, wine, etc. Identifying a good store and building a strong relationship will get you far.

My Christmas bottle came from a lottery. Some states with state run liquor stores have a lottery for the Pappy they receive – so, try to win the lottery. Other states with state run liquor stores have long waiting lists for Pappy. It’s worth putting your name on it, but you’ll probably have to wait years.

And, having friends scouting for you helps too.  One of my bottles came from Indiana (from Jeff).  I bought a bottle from BevMo for a family friend in LA who was interested.  Having friends on the team, especially out of the area friends, can pay off.

Years ago I saw a guy on Johnny Carson who got a White Baby Grand Piano for free. His philosophy was if you let enough people know, you can find almost anything you want, at the price you want to pay. He was looking for a White Baby Grand piano and he didn’t want to pay much for it.

Happy hunting and remember start early and be creative!

New Year’s Resolutions and Bourbon

As I started this blog with the encouragement of our friends Ray & Jeannine, the support of my wife and best friend Lynn, and the writing and internet expertise of our daughter Taylor, I debated what would I write as my first post. Then it hit me while we were on a family vacation over Christmas and New Years: resolutions and bourbon.

What is your New Years Bourbon Resolution? It could be as simple as starting a collection of some of good bourbons, or finally getting that long sought after bottle of Pappy.

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With my latest Pappy acquisition.  Fun story coming later this week on how I got it.

Maybe it’s time to start planning a trip to the Kentucky Derby this spring and see the “Most exciting two minutes in sports” while drinking a Mint Julep. Or spend the spring on the Bourbon Trail (if you want the full fall in Kentucky experience attend a day of fall racing at Keeneland Racetrack, or a college football game, then do a few days on the Bourbon Trail).  Or, to find a new favorite local restaurant/bar with a great bourbon selection.

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Outside Buffalo Trace during our visit to the Bourbon Trail in 2013.

Loving bourbon creates endless possibilities for special occasions, a celebration, or a regular weekend enjoying your favorite distilled spirit. Whether you are just sipping bourbon or enjoying it as part of a special sports or arts event. The possibilities are endless.

Now is the time to make your “Bourbon Resolution.” Plan your year and combine your love of good bourbon with good friends. The possibilities are endless. Over the next few weeks I will be giving you more ideas on how to make that resolution a reality.