This post is a continuation of our experience at Binny’s Lincoln Park meeting and tasting with the Binny’s Whiskey Hotline. If you haven’t read part one you might want to check that out first.
Read more: Binny’s ‘Meet the Whiskey Hotline’ Part 1
After our blind tasting hosted by Brett Pontoni, Corporate Beer and Speciality Spirits Buyer, we moved on to a barrel selection experience hosted by Joe Maloney, Spirits Specialist. On the table in front of us were four single barrel samples of Buffalo Trace (BT). And a fifth glass of a BT control sample. Joe and Brett sampled 30 different single barrels of Buffalo Trace to decide on the Buffalo Trace Binny’s Small Batch, which retails for the exceptionally reasonable price of $24.99. The barrels we sampled were #025, #132, #270, and #281. They explained how, by sampling different barrels, they were not looking for a taste profile that “beat” the control sample. They were looking for a profile that would represent the very best expression of the well known Buffalo Trace bourbon. We continued to nose and taste our four samples and the control. We added water little by little, let them breath and mellow. Joe read his original tasting notes to us from a large stack of yellow ruled legal paper. His notes varied from details of the nose and taste of vanilla, caramel, and spice, to the very direct “nope”. Though they sampled 30 barrels, Joe and Brett only unanimously turned down one barrel. They agreed that the other 29 were worthy examples of BT.
Though varying in appearance, nose, and palate, they could each have a place in a bottle on the shelves of Binny’s. During the tastings Joe shared a few stories from his tenure manning the Whiskey Hotline. He told us about a frequent caller who orders $2-$3k of bourbon every other month. This guy came to visit Joe and Brett from out of the country. They took him to Delilah’s and ordered him an expensive bourbon, neat. Which he proceeded to dump into a glass of coke. Their jaws dropped in amazement. Joe also told us that recently the most common call to the hotline has been looking for Yamazaki Sherry Cask, about 250 calls per week. They do not have any to sell you. The four samples of Buffalo Trace we tasted showed subtle differences in the nose and taste. Sampling them side by side made it possible to detect; though on their own we may have been content calling them all Buffalo Trace.
We finished the evening with samples of three Binny’s handpicks. Each of these was awesome in it’s own right. The ‘WhistlePig Old World Series 12 year 2nd Marriage of Casks’ was one of our favorites of the night. WhistlePig, out of Vermont, makes excellent long aged rye whiskeys. They have been using distilled spirit from Canada and MGP in Indiana and in 2015 constructed their own farm-based distillery. They currently use their own farmed grain, at their own distillery, and age their own whiskey. This is truly a unique and admirable process in today’s market of mass production and young whiskeys pushed out the door to meet market demand. This particular bottle retails for $120. Their other offerings start at about $80.
Read more: WhistlePig and Chicago q Dinner Recap
‘Signatory Glenlivet 1995 – 19 year from FF Sherry Butt’ was the next of these final three. We hate to gloss over this fine scotch but being bourbon enthusiasts and scotch novices we don’t have much insight to share. It tasted nice to us! This one retails for $120 and is another Binny’s exclusive. If you would like to learn more about this or any other scotch we encourage you to reach out to the Binny’s Whiskey Hotline. The final selection was a ‘Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon #2392’, from Wild Turkey. Retail $55. This was another outstanding bourbon hand picked by Joe and Brett. Bottled at 110 proof this bourbon is dark, spicy, and very complex. A complex palate on a spirit makes it more difficult to put into words, as it changes while you’re drinking. And that’s what makes it so damn good. Only 250 bottles were sold and unfortunately they sold out quickly. Though reviews of other selections of Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel from other outlets have also scored very high. If you can find a bottle anywhere, at it’s retail price of under $60, don’t hesitate. This is yet another reason we were happy to attend this event and recommend you check out Binny’s future events. You never know what limited run, long sold out, spirit you may be able to try.
Brett concluded the evening with a Q&A and shared some of his whiskey wisdom with us. The group learned that Elmer T. Lee from Buffalo Trace, a current fan favorite, is chosen from just two rickhouses, Elmer’s favorite “B” and also from “Q”. We learned that Maker’s Mark is the only bourbon producer to rotate barrels within their rickhouses. And that Four Roses rickhouses are a single floor, five barrels high, and the only ones to be temperature controlled year round. This is just a tiny bit of the awesome knowledge shared at this event.
Many people today talk about our current resurgence in bourbon consumption. And it’s true, consumption is way up compared to the 70’s though the 90’s. Something to keep in mind though, as shared by Brett, we are currently at only about 60% consumption compared to the historical peak in the 1950’s and 60’s. That’s pretty cool! Do you think we’ll surpass that 60’s peak this decade? Let us know in the comments below.