Happy New Year! Before we start opening new bottles, I thought I’d reminisce about some of my favorites from the year just past.
Best limited-edition bourbons: Jefferson’s Presidential Select 18 Year Old, McLain & Kyne ($90 for the 750ml). Complex, smooth and buttery, this was distilled during the last years of production at Stitzel-Weller, home of the Pappy Van Winkle bourbons. It’s about as scarce as Pappy now, but I’ve seen a few bottles here and there in the past few weeks. Parker’s Heritage Collection 2012: Master Distiller’s Blend of Mashbills ($80/750ml). The sixth edition of the series that honors Heaven Hill master distiller Parker Beam combines rye-based bourbon with wheated bourbon for a final product that is smooth and sweet on entry and finishes with a zing.
Best addition to permanent product line: John E. Fitzgerald Larceny from Heaven Hill. This 92-proof small batch wheated bourbon has enough spice to give it a nice balance. A good sipping bourbon that also works in cocktails, it’s priced right at about $25 for the 750ml.
Best cocktail: The most unusual combination I encountered this year was the Woodford Ruby, the creation of Brown-Forman’s Tim Laird. I would never have thought to combine bourbon and red wine, but what a revelation. Smooth, velvety and dangerously drinkable.
Best bourbon barrel-aged beer: Anderson Valley Brewing in California paired with Wild Turkey to create Anderson Valley Bourbon Barrel Stout, a sweet oatmeal stout that picks up vanilla and toffee notes from the barrel. It’s currently available only on draft – Silver Dollar Lounge still had some when I checked earlier this week – but should be available in package stores in March or April.
Best budget discovery: At a dinner with pilgrims from St. Louis-based Bourbon and Banter, I was pleasantly surprised by a tasting of Ancient Ancient Age 10-Year-Old from Buffalo Trace. I had passed over this lower-shelf bourbon, which retails for under $20 – but what a bargain! This bourbon has a terrific nose and nice balance of sweetness and spice thanks to its high-rye mash bill. Be sure you pick up the 10 year and not the 10 Star, which is 6 years old.
OK, 2013: Impress me!