New Bourbon Release: Old Ripy

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I always enjoy getting The Bourbon Review because I always learn more about bourbon.   They discuss new bourbons being released by the distilleries with good background on the releases. The spring issue that just arrived announced that Campari Group, the parent company of Wild Turkey, is bringing back brands that were popular before Prohibition. The project is called the Whiskey Barons collection. They will release 2 brands in 2017, Bond and Lillard, and Old Ripy. Campari says they are not only bringing back the names but they are attempting to replicate the bourbons by using historical documents, recipes, and methods used to make these great whiskies from the late 19th and early 20th century.

Old Ripy was founded in 1868 by Irish immigrant James Ripy in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. The original home is still there on the site of the Wild Turkey Distillery. Part of the profits from this project will be used to restore the Ripy home. Campari used old brochures, bottling, and family stories to help create what they believe is the closest they could get to the original brand. The release says, “it’s a blend of 8 and 12-year-old whiskies, along with some younger whiskies and is non-chill filtered. It will be bottled at 104 proof in 375ml bottles.”

While out running errands last weekend I stopped in our local Total Wine and they had Old Ripy. Score! That was the one I wanted to try first based on the article. Suggested retail is $50 for a 375ml bottle. Total Wine was selling it for $45.99.

As I have shared in past blog posts, I am a sucker for great packaging (comes with the job). The historic look of this bottle and label are a knock out. But great packaging only takes you so far. The product definitely lives up to its heritage. At 104 proof it’s not for the casual 80 proof drinker. This is a bold whiskey with great flavor. When you first taste it, drink it neat. Do the “Kentucky Chew” and work it over your taste buds. It grabs you from the beginning with hints of caramel, and spice, lots and lots of spice.

After you have done your first tasting drop a very small ice cube in it and swirl it around. Dropping that temperature and adding just a hint of water really opens it up. I just love it! I highly recommend you try a bottle. At the price point it also makes a wonderful gift for that serious whiskey drinking friend. It’s very good, unusual, and not something easy to find on drink menus.

3 Bourbons for Thanksgiving

Now that our children are grown, the Thanksgiving meal has evolved into being about more than just turkey. The boys generally enjoy a little bourbon before and/or after we eat (we still stick to a light red wine for dinner). With Thanksgiving just two days away, I thought I’d share with you three bourbons great for serving on Thanksgiving.

1. Buffalo Trace

buffalotraceThis is a bourbon that is good for both mixing or sipping. At this price point, you don’t have to watch the bar to make sure your good sipping bourbon isn’t ending up in mixed drinks, but also can easily serve it to a large crowd to enjoy on the rocks. Buffalo Trace is an outstanding distillery which makes premium brands such as Pappy Van Winkle and Blanton’s.

Price: $25.99 for 750mL from BevMo!

2. Basil Hayden’s
bottleThis is a great bourbon for serving both on special occasions or at an impromptu gathering with friends. It is a lower proof, well priced sipping bourbon. I recently picked a bottle up from our Costco for $39.98. We pulled it out on Sunday at Friendsgiving and it was a crowd favorite. I’ve written before about this making a great gift – consider taking this to your Thanksgiving host as well!

Price: $44.99 for 750mL from Total Wine

3. Jefferson’s Reserve Groth Reserve Cask Finish
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To go with some of the bold, tanniny red wines you will be drinking over the holidays, I suggest Jefferson’s Reserve finished in Groth Cabernet French Oak barrels. This bourbon is a superpower sipper and will be well received by all your friends and family. If you follow this blog, you know I’m a big fan of Jefferson’s Reserve bourbons. This one is perfect for a holiday – unique, smooth, easy to like.

Price: $73.99 for 750mL from Mr. Hi Time

Bourbon Review: Lexington Finest Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey

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For horse racing enthusiasts like myself, spring when a man’s thoughts (fancy?) turns to horse racing and Bourbon. Kentucky has a lot of horses and even more barrels of bourbon. According to the article in the Men’s Journal about the “Pappy Heist” some 5.7 million barrels currently reside in the state, and, yes, they pay taxes every year for sleeping in those warehouses. But that is off the subject. Spring is when the 3-year-olds who are eligible to run in the Kentucky Derby begin their campaign for the Triple Crown. It is also the time of year that part of the country talks bourbon, Mint Juleps and thoroughbred racing.

Lexington Bourbon was inspired by one of horse racing’s most successful thoroughbred sires. It was first launched by Western Spirits (Wyoming) in 2012. So we have a Wyoming bourbon with a Kentucky Thoroughbred on the label. Makes you think it’s made in Kentucky. Thus, the issue with many of these new bourbons you see on the market. You don’t know where they are made or anything about their age or heritage. They have tried to give it heritage with the “Lexington” name and the bottle has a very Woodford Reserve look to its contour.

The bourbon runs about $25.99 at Total Wine. Being my first review of the Racing Season I want to be positive. But unlike some of my other reviews, it’s not a new favorite. It is a lighter, less complex bourbon. It’s a good bourbon for your Whiskey Sours, and other cocktails. It is rather short on finish but has a vanilla, spicy, sweet, and some say woody taste to it.

They have done a wonderful job of packaging this bourbon to have that old Kentucky look. It would look good on your bar on Derby Day. But I would stick to Woodford Reserve, Blanton’s, or some of the other Thoroughbred inspired Bourbon’s for those dressed-up mint Juleps you want to make to impress your friends this Spring.

Age: Unknown
Proof: 86
Color: Golden Brown
Aroma: Vanilla, Woody, Spicy
Taste: Woody, Vanilla, Sweet
Price: $25.99 at Total Wine

“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!