|It was ambitious|
The point of this evening was to take a broad survey of high-end wheaterdom and compare in a few cases to more standard offerings to get a feel for the actual value added by the more expensive and harder to get bottles. We also tried or hand at a couple vattings (not so insane when you remember that PVW and lot B have often been vattings of different bourbons). It's really great to be able to try everything together to allow comparisons and really bring perspective. Here are our most notable thoughts:
- Pappy 15 is an awesome, just incredible, perfect wheated bourbon. It roundly beat everything else here and we both agree we like it better than the Pappy 20 (which we did not open last night). I don't have a clear enough memory of the Pappy 23 from my one tasting, but I think I would always pick 3 15's over a 23. At $100 this is not inexpensive but may be the best bourbon currently made and certainly ranks among the best $100 whiskeys of any kind. The only thing I can say to temper this is that I'm not sure that the best wheater really beats the best straight ryes, but that is personal preference.
- Buffalo Trace makes too many wheaters. We think they should consider discontinuing Lot B. The best bottles of Weller 12 are as good, and less stellar examples are still well worth the $25. Lot B is too expensive and too hard to find. If we got rid of it, Weller 12 could be more available.
- Along similar lines, we think that Old Weller Antique should go. Screaming OWA fans hear me out: OWA is a very nice value bourbon, but if we had more access to either Weller 12, or ORVW 10/107 (which these OWA barrels grow up to be) I think we could live without the OWA. We need to stop tapping these barrels in the flower of their youth and wait until they are the far superior 10-12 year-old versions. I guess we could keep the WSR as an incredible value alternative to Maker's.
- WLW can also go: obviously a well-selected barrel-proof Weller 12, we could stop fooling around with this and make more W12 available. While we are at it, why not put the Weller 12 in a nicer bottle at 100 proof, charge a touch more and split the difference.
- Because of all of the above, our dream lineup BT wheaters would be a pared-down roster of WSR, ORVW 10/107, Weller 12/100 and PVW15. This would maximize all that is good and right about BT wheaters while perhaps helping availability. The PVW 20 and 23 should obviously live on as limited editions.
- The Vintage 17 wheater was really, really nice. A KBD-bottled wheater made at Bernheim with KBD's usual flair for creative names. Too bad this stuff is no longer made.
- The JPS18 was not as good as the JPS17. The extra year seems to have done it no favors.
- The 50:50 blend of OWA and W12 made popular on Straight Bourbon remains a great thing, though the nose is better than the palate.
- A step-up version of the above with ORVW and W12 was incredible, and was the inspiration for our plea for W12/100.
DIY Hirsch 16- The best nose of any American Whiskey we have ever encountered!
- The best, and perhaps most heretical vatting was one I conceived during my only experience with Hirsch 16. I enjoyed it after some JPS 18 and at the time thought that they were similar but that the H16 brought much more enjoyable rye complexity to the midpalate as well as more of the acetone notes I enjoy in PVW and George T. Stagg. So we did the obvious: added GTS drop by drop to JPS18 until the grassiness faded from the midpalate and was replaced by all of the intense rye-bourbon notes we love about the Stagg. The nose on this stuff was staggering. I'm not going to compare it to the Hirsch, but I would encourage any of you whiskey nerd with both of these open to try it. As Greg put it, "Stagg might be the white truffle of the bourbon world - an expensive, exotic, wonderful flavoring ingredient that is best not consumed by itself."