Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Whiskey to be Thankful For

In this age of limited releases, retail lotteries, Pappy mania, declining quality and rising prices, it's good to remember that there is still some great, consistent, affordable whiskey out there.  I don't write about these whiskeys as much because, well, it would be boring to write about the same readily available whiskey all the time, but every once in a while, it's good to take some time to be thankful for the stuff that doesn't require hustling your retailer or taking out a second mortgage.

For Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for these great spirits:

  • Elijah Craig 12 year old ($30).  When I do novice bourbon tastings, I lead people through four or five bourbons and Elijah Craig 12 is almost always the consensus favorite.  It's rich, complex and delicious. Yes, the price has gone up about $10 in the past few years, but it's still a great deal.
  • George Dickel No. 12 ($23).  Oaky, minerally and unique, Dickel is still widely underappreciated, and the 12 is just about perfect.  It's great neat and makes an awesome Manhattan.  I would easily choose it over the more expensive Barrel Select. 
  • High West Double Rye ($40).  With shortages of almost everything these days, it amazes me that I can almost always find plenty of High West offerings on the shelf. The original Rendezvous Rye is still my favorite of their current line up, but as far as deals go, you can't do much better than Double Rye.  
  • Smooth Ambler. I haven't been a big fan of their standard brands, but the private barrel picks of MGP bourbon from this West Virginia distiller/bottler are excellent, reasonably priced, and pretty easy to find, like the Faultline Bourbon for K&L. 
  • Glenfiddich 12 ($27).  I've probably had more of this than any other single whiskey. Glenfiddich 12 continues to save me from plonk at airports, hotel bars, conventions, weddings and other booze deserts. It's always there and always good. 
  • Brandy.  I know I've been a broken record about the golden age of brandy we are in, but to my mind, brandy is the best cure for the whiskey doldrums.  
Which whiskeys (or other spirits) are you thankful for?


Anonymous said...

Larceny - Best wheater around. Affordable, high quality.

EW-BIB - Very good quality, low price.

Buffalo Trace - High quality, low price.

Have a great thanksgiving!


NewYorkJosh said...

Heaven Hill BiB - superb quality at a dirt cheap price. McKenna BiB. Four Roses Single Barrel and plain old Four Roses Yellow are all really satisying Bourbons for fine prices. No dry holidays for me.

Curt said...

Couldn't agree more with your mention of Elijah Craig 12 yr. Great taste and complexity, strong finish for a $30 bourbon. I'm also grateful for Woodford Reserve, Distiller's Select. Another $30 bourbon with more sophistication than one would expect for the price.

Harry said...

Old Grand Dad Bonded and OGD 114 proof still at bargain prices; Bernheim for when I feel like a wheat whiskey, my stockpiled Michael Collins Irish, Blanton's, Rittenhouse for Manhattans, and Buffalo Trace for when I have trouble choosing.

Unknown said...

Smooth Ambler 7yr. This high rye bourbon hits all the great notes a bourbon should. Easy going balanced and approachable. Its everywhere and never seems to last long on my shelf.

Rendezvous Rye High West. Not as easy to find as Double Rye but at usually $50.00 it drinks a lot more high end than is price. Personal all time favorite.

Wild Turkey 101 in the times of expensive high-end whiskey this Bourbon keeps getting churned out like Ford F-150's. Solid reliable and proof that the bourbon industry has not forgotten how to make a quality everyday product.

Happy Thanksgiving my whisky friends. Share a glass and have some peace.


Anonymous said...

Four Roses Single Barrel. Agree with your selections, too!

signde said...

Four Roses Single Barrel, especially the private selections. With a bunker full of much more expensive and elusive things I often find myself reaching for Four Roses Single Barrel instead. It's a shame their prices are going up but I can't blame them and will still consider it a good value.

Agreed on the Smooth Ambler private selections, especially the cask strength rye.

Anonymous said...


Alex said...

I agree with your list and many of the others mentioned here. I also prefer Dickel No. 12 over their others, and it's near the top of my list.

I would replace Glenfiddich on your list with Glenmorangie. A few years ago it might have been Balvenie Doublewood before they raised the price.

Anonymous said...

WT 101 - what better bourbon for Thanksgiving than the good ol' bird?

Anonymous said...

Glenmorangie Original and Rittenhouse 100 BiB Rye.

Anonymous said...

Adbeg Ten (32-40EUR/1l) and Glenfarclass 105 (up to 40EUR / 1l). But also Queen Margot 8yo if you can get in in your local Lidl (10EUR/0.7l)

Funky Tape said...

I'm thankful for all the 'flippers' everyone has grown to hate. I've flipped more of today's crap whiskey for bygone era goodness it's ridiculous.

Also very greatfull for all the Pappy hype as its allowed the secondary market to expand to include otherwise totally unavailable whiskies those that have them would never give up. I'm looking at you Ritt 21-25 rye, older Willett bottles, dusty Turkey, etc.

Also thankful for the David's at K&L for being so aggressive in finding otherwise market-limited stuff like Cut Spike, Corti bros, endless scotch barrels, Darroze Armagnac, the list goes on.

And a major gobble to Chip Tate at Balcones for being the baddest ass distiller in the country, sticking to his laurels and telling 'the man' to get f'ed.

And of course SKU who does honest reviews and commentary, a guy who's not afraid to make fun of how ridiculous the market has become while the rest seem to have sold out.

Anonymous said...

agree wholeheartedly with the elijah craig and the high west.

i'd add old grand dad 114 and henry mckenna 10 BIB

althought ogd 144 can be a little work to find at times, always happy to have it open on the bar

happy thanksgiving sku!

Anonymous said...

Willet 4 year old Rye. Under $40 and among the very best ryes.

Todd said...

I'm also thankful for Elijah Craig 12. I'm extra thankful for Costco selling 1.75 liter bottles in the Bay Area for $35.

Anonymous said...

Funky Tape mirrored my thoughts. Also thankful for good ol Ardbeg Uigeadail and Lagavulin 16. Best bang for buck on Islay, IMO.

Jaded said...

No Way, Bro. Do not short change us. Affordable, readily available Badass whisky is nothing boring to read or write about. We would all love a BMW 5 - but a Honda is just as well.

sku said...

Jaded, I absolutely will continue to write about good, affordable whiskey, when I find it. I just meant that I can't review Elijah Craig 12 every week. It would get boring.

Curt said...

Where are you finding Willett 4 yr Rye? I can't find bottles of 4 yr or 6 yr--my favorite ryes-- anywhere on the West Coast. I just bought a 7yr for $90 and it did not have the same complexity.

Anonymous said...

I'm thankful for Laird's BIB Apple Brandy for under $30. That's the oldest production booze in the country by a mile, it's BIB for no real apparent reason still, and it's amazing.

For bourbon, I still think Buffalo Trace is the standard whiskey to beat.

Rye - Rittenhouse, though I did like the DSP 354 version better than the current 1.


Keith said...

I'm grateful for the Davids at K and L. Every year I slip them each $5 to give me a heads up on the BTAC and each year they save me two bottles of each - Sazerac 18, handy, etc for list price. Best $10 I ever spent!

Anonymous said...

(That last comment was a joke. I've never been able to buy any of that. Davids, I will seriously slip you each $5 for a bottle if you are reading this!)

Andrew G. said...

Agree with Humchan2k about Laird's. Really interested to try the 12yr, but the 7 1/2 is great, looking forward to the bonded.

I can pick up the OGD 114 at my parents' in VA for $23. Wow, what a value.

Elmer T. Lee, when I can find it.

Curt said...

I see a couple shout outs for OGD 114. I tried a bottle a month ago and begged the retailer to take it back as bad goods. It tasted like a 5 yr old, unsalted, dry roasted peanut shell. There were no other flavors, zero. And it was so dry my mouth felt like it was full of cotton balls after the first sip. Must have been a bad bottle or batch. The retailer did take it back.

Rajesh said...

Several days past Thanksgiving ... but ...

Four Roses (Yellow Label/Small Batch/SB)
Lot 40 (2012) -- (Priced at <40 dollars)
Bank Note Scotch
Rittenhouse BiB
Delaware Phoenix (Limited distribution area)

sku said...

Great call on Lot 40 Rajesh.

TylerP said...

I 100% agree with you on Elijah Craig 12 year old. That is the bourbon that brung me to the dance and there will always be a bottle on my shelf. Personally, I love Glenfiddich- I have 9 different bottles in my collection that I enjoy each for one reason or another. I honestly don't love the 12 year old. I think it is just missing something.

I think Bulliet 10 Year is a solid choice for the under-ish $50 list.