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Hand Picked Selections Mega-Post


   First, check out the most recent update to The Whiskey Hotline. This one’s our Spring Edition, and it’s totally packed full of neat stuff: a rundown of recent microdistillery releases, more new items, special Spring Cleaning sale pricing (while stock lasts), a sneak peak of our upcoming World of Whiskies event, and an update on our 2011 Hand Picked Selections program.

   About the Hand Picked Selections: the tasting panel met twice in the last two weeks, and we have another meeting scheduled next week. We’ve been focusing on bourbon, since last year’s choices sold a lot better than we were expecting, and now our stocks are running low. So here’s a little extra insider info on upcoming single-barrel releases, presented in quick-notes form.


Old Weller

   This one’s interesting. We haven’t had a Hand-Picked Weller for a while, and we totally need one. We tasted across a current Old Weller Special Reserve bottling and then ten barrel samples, looking for examples that fit the profile while offering a little more oomph than the standard bottling. What we ended up fits that traditional Old Weller style round with lots of brown sugar, butterscotch and cloves and a light peachy fruit note.

   The problem is that our vatting is just too drinkable at full strength. We fell in love with it at barrel strength, but the Weller Special Reserve is bottled at a lighter 90 proof. We’re also considering the Old Weller Antique Original 107 Brand, bottled at 107 proof, which would be more faithful to what we were tasting. Plus, it looks like our four barrel choices meet the minimum age requirement for the Antique bottling. The tradeoff is it’s an extra couple bucks per bottle, and because of the higher proof there will be less to go around. Tough choice, right? What do you think we should do?



   Blanton’s is a perennial favorite and a Hand-Picked Selections staple. Tasting for Binny’s exclusive casks is a blast for our panel. We shoot for a ballsy bourbon overloaded with intense baking spices and caramel.

   After comparing this round of five choices, we found two that we really liked, both showing the familiar Blanton’s profile, but both are intricate and complex, each in unique ways. So it looks like we’re getting two barrels, which I guess is great because we’re seeing the demand for more than one barrel at once. We won’t know which bottlings will go to which stores, so if you find a favorite, be sure to stock up. Or better yet, try to find a bottle of each different barrel.


Elmer T. Lee

   For our Elmer T. Lee bottling, we chose from nine samples, eventually narrowing it down to just two barrels to be bottled separately (or maybe three, depending on a couple things). This one has a more complex, intricate style. Along with the caramel and nutmeg notes you might find in the Blanton’s, I think of bright honey, salinic qualities, vegetal and herbal notes (dry straw, pepper), slight char, and even hints of smoke. There’s not much more to say; the choice was tough because the samples were consistently delicious and complex. This one’s a killer value.


Four Roses Single Barrel

   Here’s the short version of the story: Four Roses uses ten unique whiskey recipes that involve different mash bills and different yeast strains, resulting in ten different styles that are blended into their Yellow Label bottling. We were really excited last year when we were able to offer single barrel bottlings of all ten.

   Then in January, we held an event at our Lincoln Park store called The DNA of Four Roses, where we sampled out all the recipes (and other surprises; it was way cool). There were two interesting results. First, the unexpected crowd favorite was the oddball recipe known as OBSF, odd for its combination of high-rye mash bill and herbal yeast, resulting in lots of minty/herbal/savory/eucalyptus notes. Second, we sold through a lot more bourbon than we expected, and need to refill our stocks once again.

   We had to pick four new barrels for bottling: OBSO, OBSK, OBSQ and OBSF (you can decode that here). I won’t bore you with all the details of each bottling (each one could fill an entire blog post the whiskey is just that complex), but here are a few quick points of interest.

   Several of the new choices were distilled on the same date as our previous bottlings, and were found in the same areas of the warehouse. This means that there’s a good chance that what we have in these bottles for this upcoming release is the same thing as what is in the bottle from last year, only with that extra time in wood. It’s interesting to see what that extra time in wood does, and if you still have some of the last batch, you can try them side-by-side.

   My personal favorite this time around is the OBSK, a high-rye blend with yeast that imparts more spice. And by spice, I mean tons of baking spice: nutmeg, clove, molasses, butterscotch. But then my preference is for big whiskey.


Knob Creek Single Barrel

   The new Knob Creek Single Barrel release has gotten a lot of attention lately; it’s one of our most-requested items. As mentioned in the Whiskey Hotline, the new Binny’s picks won’t arrive for a few more weeks. We tried the sample from the distillery, but we just couldn’t commit to a big purchase without the chance to Hand Pick the best barrels for our customers (we’re selfish like that). So a few weeks later, the tasting panel met to try fifteen barrel samples aged in three different warehouses, along with an official retail bottle.


7 thoughts on “Hand Picked Selections Mega-Post

  1. In regard to what you should do about the Weller issue I’d say talk Buffalo Trace into letting you do a single barrel bottling of William Larue Weller, that way you can get it at barrel proof.If that is completely out of question, which it shouldn’t be really, they already have a labeling method for the variation proof, then do the Antique but only if it is at least 7 years old. And put a sticker on there stating it’s age.

  2. 1. Do the Weller as 7/107. Charge more for it if ya need to. I will be buying some, no doubt. Don’t water it down. PLEASE. I’m suprised I’m only #2 here, but I will get a letter writing campaign together if need be. The answer here is obvious. The wussies can add a tablespoon of water or whatever. 2. Please, try to give some specific tasting notes on the various Knob Creek barrels. There are 4 of them. I can’t figure out which to buy based on the freaking warehouse info. Or that one is .1 proof higher than another. Or whatever. Really you should do this any time you sell multiple barrels of a particular product. Really, the lack of tasting notes at Binny’s in the bourbon section is sort of baffling. Y’all clearly KNOW your *&%$. I don’t always agree with tasting notes generally, but they do form a guide, especially if I do end up finding them accurate. And since so many of the Binny’s SB releases have been freaking amazing, your tasting notes will have instant cred with me. Take, for example, the Four Roses single barrels. Y’all provide a nice laminate (at least at the S Loop store) of the taste profiles of the various barrels, but they are so much more than that. Tell us about the nuances of the specific barrels you selected. Take us into the tasting room. I’ve met Joe, he’s great. I’m sure the rest of you guys are equally knowledgable about bourbon. Provide some of the details of your discussions — (a) tastes cloves and nutmeg (b) thinks (a) is crazy and tastes X, Y, and Z … etc. My point is — let us know why you guys CHOSE these barrels over the others. Clearly Binny’s is well-respected … there are maybe only 10 at most other stores in the whole USA with your clout, so it’s clear that they’re sending you the primo shizz … but you still got to get me to buy it — or tell me what I’m getting so I don’t feel like I’m blindly buying stuff just because it’s your SB release. With the 4 different KCSB barrels, I know there’s a method to your madness. From the photo it looks like you tried 15 different barrels. Why did you pick the 4 you did? Seeing all 4 on the shelf, why should I pick one over another? I ended up buying 2 and 4 simply b/c I left the #2 (I think!) at my mother in law’s house (!!!) for drinking on future visits. Grabbed the #4 tonight. The #4 seems more like KC on steroids; still has that Beam nuttiness I’m ambivalent about. The #2 seemed much spicier, and had some almost Four Roses-ish qualities to it, which really threw me. I was really blown away by it. In any event, I’m glad to have found this blog … but please, provide a bit more info in the store, especially for those of us who can’t always hit the S Loop or other stores where there are smart peeps like Joe on hand to answer questions. Same goes for Blanton’s, which I’ve always been underwhelmed by. What’s great about these barrels? You say they are unique in their own way … but what does that mean? Your employees are really smart, great tasters. It’s hard to post detailed stuff on shelves (there just isn’t enough room) but I do think it could help to do so online — show the individual tasters’ notes. Or to at least post more detailed info than you do here. Maybe you do it and I just missed it… But otherwise people like me will hesitate — why is this damn barrel so special? There was a recent ETL release where they went so far as to “brand” the bottles. I don’t know how this came about, but it seemed helpful even if I found the “cotton candy” and “insult to a certain Asian religion” names a bit dumb, I did at least get a sense of what they supposedly taste like, which helps! Especially when one is confronting 2 choices , or 4, or 10 … It’s sort of like high school math: show your work! We know you got the right answer, we just want to know how you got there. C-Man’s fantasy of a WLR single barrel offering is probably a non-starter, but a great idea nevertheless. LIWSP

  3. As to hand picked Old Weller–Do both. Botttle 1/2-to-2/3 of the vatted casks as Old Weller Antique Original 107 (with a minium age statement tacked-on), and bottle the balance as Weller Special Reserve. More choice is a good thing.

  4. Hey guys – First up, we did bottle the Weller as Antique 107, and it should arrive any time now.About online tasting notes of the different barrels: we can try to get our notes for the Knob Creek barrels up (and more going forward). The prospect of getting the entire tasting panel’s notes, or a running narative, well that would probably take more time than the tasting itself, and I’d like to spend more time tasting!

  5. I have come in possession of a collectors estate that has this in it. Original Barrel 110 Proof”WELLER’S Antique Reserve TEN YEARS OLDKentucky straight Bourbon WhiskyGenuine Old Line Sour MashDistilled and Bottled by Stitzel – WellerDistillery,- – – Louisville KentuckyThe label on the back reads,“This is a unique bottle of bourbon whisky not duplicated by any other on the market. It is bottled in it’s original state because we feel that whisky connoisseurs will appreciate its robust body and intriguing character, It was in this manner that the very finest club whiskies were packaged in the golden days prior to the prohibition era.”KENTUCKY STRAIGHT BOURBON WHISKY110 PROOF 4/5 QUARTTHIS WHISKY IS 10 YEARS OLDThe bottle cap is preserved with a wax seal. It is probably 25 years (or more) old.The bottle is inside a tan corduroy sac, closed with a drawstring.The is a gold colored filament scribbled across the body of the bottle.I would like to sell it, but I have no idea what it is

  6. That’s pretty exciting. It sounds like you might have a Stitzel-Weller bottle. You should contact Julian Van Winkle ( jvanwinkle oldripvanwinkle com)

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