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Last Week In Bourbon January 15-21, 2024

Last Week In Bourbon January 15-21, 2024

“All the muck that’s fit to rake”

Are we sick of Elijah Craig news yet?

Over the last 7 days, we’ve had two major news stories come out involving Elijah Craig Barrel Proof. The first one involved the upcoming A124 Batch which was updated on the Heaven Hill website to show that it would be 10 years and 9 months old while also being 119.0 proof. The two trains of thoughts on this from the enthusiast community appear to be “let’s be rational about this everyone, it could be great!” to those who are sobbing “WHY HEAVEN HILL, WHY?!?!” followed by steering their car into oncoming traffic.

I’ll just be sitting over here doing my best impersonation of Montgomery Burns because I (along with many others) called it way back in May of last year that the release ages and proofs on future Elijah Craig batches would be a roller coaster ride. In fact, I’m going to predict that we will see a 14 year release within the next 5 releases!

The second ECBP story examines the response from Heaven Hill after WhiskeyTuber Drums and Drams emailed them to clarify the differences between ECBP C923 A22 and A23. For those that haven’t heard about this controversy, enthusiasts picked up on a rumor that the laser code on the back of the bottle meant that there were two different batches of C923. The speculation was that A23 was superior. Every reviewer that could find both laser codes was trying to do a review to offer their opinion. Frankly, it was all just so, so stupid. I was also asked what my opinion was and when I went to look at my bottle of C923, it had no laser code on the back!

So anyway, Heaven Hill’s response was it was all one batch and they even went as far as saying that the laser codes denoted the exact day and bottling line that the batch was bottled. Apparently, it took a lot of time to bottle, so it was split into bottling dates of August 11 (A22) and August 23 (A23).

Now look, this story is probably old news in the 6 days since it came out, but I want to point out two things about it:

  1. I have noticed a huge backtracking from a lot of the folks that said they could taste a difference before this story broke to them now saying that it was obvious there was much ado about nothing. I swear, the one thing in this hobby that even I have been guilty on a couple times is being wrong but acting like you never said what you said, haha. Just stick with your story or stop being so damn rigid about everything! Whiskey is fun! Do you hear me?!
  2. 12 days separated the bottling of this entire batch. That’s not an insignificant amount of time. And while all of the barrels were (I believe) dumped and in a vat already, that’s still a decent amount of time for the liquid to change – especially in the hot month of August in Kentucky.

I do want to expand on the last one real quick by saying that there are two well-known instances of liquid changing between bottlings. The first one is the large vat of 24 year old Pre-Fire Heaven Hill that has been bottled 3 times so far by That Boutiquey Whisky Company, Single Cask Nation and C. Dully. It’s the same stuff that comes out of a stainless steel vat and yet some enthusiasts swear that one of those bottlings tastes better than the other.

The second example is from Barrell Bourbon. Back in 2016, they they realized they had some excess barrels from Batch 007 that they wanted to go make more of(?). So they went to retrieve them from the Old Taylor Warehouse (where they had leased out some rick space) 14 weeks later and found that they had turned into a much different beast from the original barrels that got dumped. This necessitated a separate batch number (but Batch 008 was already bottled up and ready to ship) so they decided to call it Batch 007b.

My point on all of this is that whiskey probably does change whether or not it’s bottled 12 days or 14 weeks later and even if it’s been fully tanked or not. So if you think that C923 A23 tastes better than A22, then stick to your guns. I actually believe there would be a slight variance among them. But don’t be a know-it-all that thinks that there is some earth-shattering difference.

Chris Stapleton squirms his way out of a situation he created when he said he was sober. Is now “sober-adjacent”

In the 14 days since I was one of the first to publish a review on Chris Stapleton’s new Traveller Whiskey on Reddit, it’s received over 106,000 views. It has received tens of thousands of views right here on The Bourbon Culture. That’s my humble-brag that I might have had some direct influence on how this is all going down.

In my review, I made sure to highlight how his sobriety was discussed across multiple media outlets in the Fall of 2023. Then I pointed out how that directly clashed with the media campaign he did about selecting a blend of whiskies to carry his name (along with charity barrels of bourbon he picked in the years prior).

I didn’t write that review as a hit piece – something of which maybe I’m becoming known for – but I do think celebrity whiskey should be held to a higher standard because that’s your reputation on the label. Enthusiasts are a smart bunch that will point out when things don’t make sense and that’s just what I happened to do in my review.

But Chris (‘s agent) decided to do some damage control by releasing a statement this past week where he clarified that he both abstains as much as possible from alcohol while also keeping 200 bottles of bourbon at his home. You see, he’s got kids and responsibilities and gray hair. Same, Chris, same.

File Photo of Chris Stapleton before sobriety and after

I’m glad he clarified what he meant by sober – basically that he wasn’t – but let this be a lesson to the next celebrity who tries to pawn off a whiskey while having a personal life that maybe doesn’t jibe with it. I’m looking at you, Terry Bradshaw.

The 2024 release of Wild Turkey Master’s Keep will be a 10 Year Rye Whiskey called “Triumph”

I was reminded yesterday in a conversation that we already know what Wild Turkey has up their sleeve for this year’s Master’s Keep release: it’s a 10 year old rye whiskey. That label was submitted all the back in June of last year! Many of you may be saying “but that’s already been done!” Well, kind of. 2019’s Cornerstone was a blend of 9 and 14 year old rye whiskey barrels that didn’t exactly receive the highest praise out there. It’s still not high on a lot of people’s lists of the top Master’s Keep releases either.

Will this year’s be a different story? I’m not sure. I’m very so-so when it comes to Wild Turkey’s ryes. I find them to be very good (but not great) in bottles like Russell’s Reserve. I think that the rye whiskey was the major reason why Unforgotten was so good two years ago. And I think that Bruce Russell is going to be our (eventual) savior with his love of rye whiskey and his ever-growing influence with the brand. My biggest fear is that the proof will be too low and it will come out as just “average.” What I secretly hope is that the proof approaches the 120 mark and they let it be bottled that way. A guy can dream!

Link to the TTB Filing for Wild Turkey Triumph

Wheel Horse Whiskey releases a Cigar Blend Bourbon and lets enthusiasts get a glimpse at an untapped area of the market

Wheel Horse Whiskey is a Non-Distiller Producer who sources their whiskey primarily from Green River Distillery in Owensboro, Kentucky. They were one of the early adopters and got in on the ground floor. Their releases have been simple and somewhat young, but always extremely affordable. I must be honest when I say that I have not tried their stuff, but I have tried other 70/21/9 bourbons made by Green River and find them to be fantastic pours for the price and age.

But since they are not sold in Indiana, I don’t stay connected with the brand as much as I should. Then I was sent an interesting link by a good friend that showed me they recently did a small release (around 3,000 bottles) of Wheel Horse Cigar Blend Bourbon. This is a 4 year old product coming in at 101 proof and was finished in Armagnac, Sherry and Port casks. And the price? An astonishing $43. It sold out virtually overnight.

This begs the question: will we see more producers taking the plunge on bargain-basement versions of really popular categories like “Cigar Blends?” It seems like Wheel Horse thought of all the ways to keep the price contained within a certain point (the usually-dicey $35-55 price points that most NDPs dump their unwanted barrels). They did this by keeping the age statement low (but not too low), the proof low (but not too low) and the source of their bourbon cheap (if they had used 4 year MGP, it might have added another $10 to this total).

Whether you agree with this concept or not, I think we can all agree that it’s better than getting another stupid Amburana finish.

Old Forester 1924 is hitting the shelves – and not just in North Carolina

I will keep this quick. Old Forester’s newest Whiskey Row addition – 1924 – is hitting shelves now. That means that the secondary price is finally falling (it is around $180 now). Keep in mind its retail price is around $115.

To those who don’t know what the big deal is about this bottle and wonder why anyone is paying $115 for a 10 year old, 100 proof bottle when bottles like Henry McKenna exist for half the price, I can only tell you that Old Forester does not produce hardly any age-stated bourbons. So when they do, we take notice. The not-so-big secret of modern day Old Forester products is that they are generally between 4 and 6 years old. The reason why they don’t age them longer is because they’ve received artificial maturation through heat-cycled warehouses and doing that is expensive.

One thing I wanted to walk back a bit from my original article talking about 1924 last year is that it is looking like it’s not a blend of Old Forester and Early Times (now known as the “King of Kentucky”) mash bills. Instead, I’ve been hearing it’s all Early Times. So what’s the difference?

Early Times/King of Kentucky Mash Bill is 79/11/10. It uses a different yeast than Old Forester (whose yeast strain is called “1B”). The Early Times yeast strain is said to produce a slightly sweeter and much more fruity profile compared to Old Forester. Essentially, what we’re getting is an Old Forester-labeled product that does not use a standard Old Forester mash bill.

Look for my review coming soon – hopefully in the next 7 days!

CAUGHT: Finding my pictures being used around the internet

I’m just being silly with this section, but I’ve found around two dozen times where my pictures are being used by other entities on the internet. While I am by no means a professional photographer nor do I have a lick of training on how to work a camera, I do get a certain sense of pride that I must be doing something right when I see my pictures being used. So here’s this week’s “Hey! That’s mine!” picture, courtesy of Echoes in Eternity Bourbon Podcast.

Your fee for using my picture is that I get to give you one piece of unsolicited advice: you need to speed up your YouTube videos and use different camera angles and maybe you’d get more views!

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