Three Things of Five – 2019

Need a last minute Christmas gift? Here are five new whiskies for 2019 I’d recommend. Need something to listen to driving over the river and through the woods to or from Grandmother’s house? Here are five new albums I loved in 2019. Need something to watch while sitting around the house in a food coma? Here are five streaming ideas for you.

Top Five New Whiskies of 2019

I’ve selected five whiskies that were new releases in 2019 that would be great last minute Christmas gifts or excellent bottles to share at a New Year’s party. This list is comprised of whiskies that, if they are distributed in your market, should be very easy to find.

  1. Four Roses Small Batch Select ($55): Brent Elliott and the gang at Four Roses simply can’t miss. This is the first new permanent addition to the Four Roses lineup in a dozen years and it is outstanding. The only thing wrong with this one is I am currently out. So, if you are still wondering what you can get me for Christmas…
  2. Booker’s ($70): Including Booker’s is cheating somewhat, but my blog…my rules. Jim Beam releases four unique batches of Booker’s each year, so technically speaking Booker’s has four new whiskies each year (technically). Nevertheless, I love Booker’s and each of the four batches in 2019 were terrific. As a gift, Booker’s high proof deliciousness always fits.
  3. Old Forester Rye ($20): Old Fo outdid itself this year with the release of their first-ever rye whiskey. They very easily could have charged double the price, but, thankfully for us, they did not. In an age when most distilleries are contriving every excuse they can to raise prices, let’s give credit to Old Forester for bucking that trend. Plus, this is a very tasty rye whiskey that would be a welcome addition to any one’s cabinet.
  4. Wilderness Trail High Rye Bourbon ($70): Some outstanding whiskey is coming from Shane Baker and Pat Heist down in Danville, Kentucky. They introduced the third whiskey to their lineup (a bottled in bond, high rye Bourbon) in the Spring of this year and it is every bit as good as their wheated bottled in bond and their rye. Get on the Wilderness Trail before it gets too crowded.
  5. Legent ($35): This one may be a surprise addition to this list. This new product from Beam-Suntory is Bourbon finished in sherry and wine casks and then blended with more Bourbon. I am not typically a fan of finished whiskies, but I liked this one. More details on it can be found on my profile of Legent written for the ABV Network.

Top Five Albums of 2019

Music, even more so than whiskey, is a matter of individual preference. If you tell me a whiskey or two that you like, I can probably recommend several others you’ll enjoy. If you tell me a few musical artists you like, if I haven’t heard of any of them then I’m no help to you. Regardless, here are my favorite albums from the year. With Spotify and Apple Music it is really easy for you to give them a try.

Photo: Scott Willis Photography
  1. Trigger Hippy, “Full Circle and Then Some”. This rock/country/soul album is so easy and fun to listen to. Trigger Hippy is the brain child of Steve Gorman, founding member and drummer for The Black Crowes. I just saw them live last weekend which is an experience I’d highly recommend, too.
  2. The Raconteurs, “Help Us Stranger”. Of all the Jack White musical vehicles, The Raconteurs is probably my favorite. So, I had high expectations when this album dropped in 2019 after an eleven year wait. This album is musical genius from start to finish and the best Jack White associated album since The White Stripes “Elephant” (and that is saying a LOT).
  3. The Black Keys, “Let’s Rock”. I didn’t care much for The Black Keys 2014 release, “Turn Blue”. This new album, however, was a great comeback to me. It is a nice blending of modern Keys albums (“El Camino” and “Brothers”) and old-school Keys (“Thickfreakness” and “Magic Potion”).
  4. Rival Sons, “Feral Roots”. This is one of those bands that I like that I don’t get why they aren’t more popular. They have a funky-Led Zeppelin vibe. Vocally and musically this band is strong and Mike Miley may be the best drummer in rock music right now.
  5. Tedeschi Trucks Band, “Signs”. This is THE best live band in music today. There isn’t a close second. Their latest studio album, “Signs”, is still a showcase for their musical talent, but nothing like seeing them live. As Steve Gorman once told me: “Susan Tedeschi is the best singer and Derek Trucks is the best guitarist. It’s hardly fair to any other band out there”.

Five Things to Stream

I’m not putting the obvious on the list. You already know about “The Office”, “Parks and Rec” and “Friends”. So, here are a few other shows to check out (or revisit) if you haven’t already.

Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Georgetown University
  1. Mike Birbiglia, “The New One” (Netflix): Mike Birbiglia is a supremely talented stand-up comedian. His shows are both hilarious and extraordinarily well-crafted. The entire stand-up is the telling of one story with clever rabbit trails and funny tangents brilliantly woven into the tale.
  2. Dave Chappelle, “Sticks and Stones” (Netflix): This special from Chappelle was viewed controversially upon its release because he pulls no punches (to the left, to the right, to you, to me and to himself). It is a very crude brand of humor, which is why I have not watched it…twice. Still, this is not for the easily offended.
  3. “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (Hulu): I wasn’t a fan of Andy Samberg when he was on SNL, but I gave his sitcom a chance when it came out in 2013 and I am glad I did. Samberg is very funny in it and the writing is fresh and clever. Andre Braugher (who I loved in Homicide: Life on the Street) is surprisingly terrific as a comedic actor, too.
  4. “Fargo” (Hulu): The FX Series loosely based on the Coen Brothers movie of the same name is extremely well-written and a case study in character acting. There are three seasons available to stream and each is a unique story line unto itself. Season One is my favorite with stellar performances from Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Allison Tolman and Colin Hanks. Good news: in 2020, we have the release of Season Four to look forward to.
  5. “Seinfeld” (Hulu): As I was writing an article on “Festivus” I got sucked in to the Seinfeld world again. For a show about nothing, it has a lot of hilarious plot lines for us to enjoy.

I hope some of these recommendations help you enjoy time off from work or time spent with family during this holiday season. If you have any feedback or other suggestions, please share them with me. On behalf of me and my family I want to wish a very Merry Christmas to you and your family.

Kevin Rose

The One That Almost Wasn’t

“You have seven months”.  That’s what Jim Rutledge was told in 1994 when he took over as Master Distiller for Four Roses. If the quality of the bourbon produced at Four Roses wasn’t significantly improved in seven months then the distillery would be shut down and the brand would continue using only sourced whiskey.  Fortunately for all of us, Jim and his team was up to the task.  They took a brand infamous for low-quality product to a brand famous for its high quality bourbon.

Four Roses Night

The Bourbon Fellowship enjoyed the accomplishments of Jim and Brent Elliott, current Master Distiller, during our recent Four Roses Night.  This gathering was extra special because it was the first time all eleven “core” members of The Bourbon Fellowship were actually together.  We also had a couple of guests with us making this the highest attended Fellowship in our short time as a group.

All ten of the Four Roses recipes were represented (several of them by more than one bottle).  We also had traditional small batch, yellow label (momma called it “yellow label”, I’m gonna call it “yellow label”), the 2017 limited edition, the 130th anniversary, and the Japanese-only release Super Premium.  With timing being everything we were also able to include the new Four Roses Small Batch Select which was released just a week before our Four Roses Night (review coming soon).  We appreciate Brent being considerate of our schedule when making that release.

Fortunately, nobody tried to be a hero that night and sample all ten recipes.  We did set up several blind tastings for the guys both to see what they really liked and test their skills at identifying the recipes they were drinking.  The OBSK recipe was most frequently selected as a favorite.  Nobody was really great at naming the recipes blind.  Everybody got to share some laughs while enjoying some of the best Bourbon on the planet.

The ABCs of Four Roses

When we talk Four Roses it can sound much more complicated than it really is.  People start spouting off letters like they are trying to win the world’s worst spelling bee. 

OESF.
Word origin, please.
Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.
Can you use it in a sentence?
Pass me that bottle of Four Roses OESF.
O-E-S-F.
Correct!

The four letter combinations associated with Four Roses are the codes that tell us the recipe of the Bourbon. The first letter is easy.  It represents the production facility.  The production facility is always Four Roses and the letter is always O.

The second letter is the mash bill.  Four Roses uses two mash bills.    One is at 35% rye and the other at 20% rye.  The first uses 60% corn and 5% barley.  The second uses 75% corn and 5% barley. The higher rye mash bill is code letter B.  The lower rye mash bill is code letter E.  To remember this, I always think: “B is bold.  More rye is bolder”. 

The third letter is for the whiskey distillation.  This one is also easy.  It is always S for “straight”. As in “go straight to the liquor store and buy another bottle of Four Roses”. Or maybe it’s for straight whiskey. It’s tough to say with certainty.

The fourth and final letter is for the yeast strain.  Four Roses uses five proprietary yeast strains: delicate fruit (V), rich fruit (O), herbal (F), spice (K), and floral (Q).  What’s the key to remembering which code matches which yeast strain?  Practice.


I created this Four Roses Cheat Sheet for our Bourbon Fellowship Four Roses Night.  There are even spots arranged to set up your tastings. If you’d like a copy, shoot me a DM or leave an e-mail address in the comments section.

Bourbon and Relationships

We started The Bourbon Fellowship to focus on the friendship side of Bourbon.  The Bourbon was the really great excuse to bring friends together.  I’ve had the opportunity to ask Jim Rutledge (now with his own J.W. Rutledge Distillery) and Brent Elliott their thoughts on the connection between Bourbon and friendships.  I hope you enjoy their responses.

Jim Rutledge’s answer was forged from his experience of taking over Four Roses.  The relationship side of Bourbon was with the people working at the distillery.  He knew everyone’s job was on the line, but they didn’t.  He was passionate not so much about the bourbon, but about the people.  Digging out of that hole and making the huge improvements that they did in such a short amount of time created a great bond among the team.

I sent Brent Elliott an invitation to our Four Roses Night.  What else could he possibly have to do the week before the Kentucky Derby and a week after his distillery released its first new brand in twelve years? Brent was very gracious in sending his very polite regrets, but he also included his thoughts on the Bourbon – friendship connection:  “I get asked all the time what I feel is responsible for the rise in Bourbon’s popularity in recent years. I believe there are many contributing reasons, but I feel there are two that stand out – One, It tastes great and new consumers are learning this. Two, Bourbon is more about the bonds and friendships that form around it. No one I meet talks about Bourbon in a “vacuum”. It’s always about sharing Bourbon and moments with friends or family. And, as you probably have noticed, people in the Bourbon community are universally great people who enjoy sharing and the company of others.”

I ran into Brent at a bottle signing last week. He remembered who I was and actually apologized that he couldn’t attend our Four Roses Night. He asked about our group and how the Four Roses Night went. We talked for a while about the many things going on at Four Roses. He could not have been nicer.

I appreciate the personal responses from both of these Bourbon legends.   I know I’ve toasted many friendships with several Bourbon expressions distilled and bottled by Jim and Brent.  Thanks to Jim for saving Four Roses. Without him, our Four Roses Night would not have been possible (the one that almost wasn’t).  Thanks to Brent for continuing and expanding on the traditions of quality and excellence that are now synonymous with Four Roses.

I had been collecting Four Roses single barrel recipes for a few years. There was one that I was missing and I needed to find it before The Bourbon Fellowship could have the Four Roses Night. Three of the guys in the group got together and found that elusive OBSK and gave it to me for my birthday.
Thanks Drew, Mark & Jared for the bottle and all the stupid bourbon things. Further evidence that it is more about the people than it is about the bourbon.

Kevin Rose

The Whiskey Masters

We’ve all laid awake at night pondering the universal question: If you were a whiskey what would you be?

As you watch an early morning version of The Masters today, here are some thoughts on which whiskey each of the guys on the leader board might be.

Francisco Molinari – Old Forester

Molinari is like Old Forester. He has added many things to his skill set. He completely revamped his putting stroke and changed his swing to give him more power off the tee. He was already very good, but these changes have made him one of the greats in the game today.

Old Forester has done the same. They added the 1920 and 1910 to the Whiskey Row Series, brought back President’s Choice and introduced a new rye. All things that take the brand to the next level.

Tiger Woods – Four Roses

Tiger was done. He was shamed. He was hurt. His game was an embarrassment. He had fallen to 1,199th in the world. Many thought he’d never play again. Forget about winning a tournament and a major seemed an impossibility. Yet, here we are. The red-shirted one may be wearing a green jacket before the day is over.

Four Roses was done. It was horrible. It had given up on quality. It was an embarrassment. The distillery was on the verge of shutting down for good. Yet, here we are. Jim Rutledge brought the brand back from the scrap heap to height of glory most thought was impossible. Within a few days, Four Roses (with Brent Elliott now at the helm) will be introducing a highly-anticipated new small batch bourbon to the whiskey public.

Tony Finau – New Riff

Tony Finau is somewhat of a new kid on the block. If you are a casual golf fan you may not know who he is. If you do follow the game you know what he is capable of and you wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him win today. Even if he doesn’t, you’re confident he’ll be winning a major very soon and everybody will know who he is then.

Finau is like New Riff. New Riff is new brand on the bourbon shelf. If you are a casual bourbon fan you may not know New Riff. If you are a student of the bourbon game, you know about New Riff and you know how good it is. Before long it will be winning lots of awards and everybody will know about New Riff then.

Brooks Koepka – Henry McKenna 10 Year

True golf fans have been enjoying Brooks Koepka’s game for years. He was golf’s best kept secret. Then a year or two ago he started winning all the big events (3 majors in less than 2 years). Now Brooks Koepka is one of the hottest golfers in the game.

This is a similar story to Henry McKenna 10 Year. The bourbon fan knew about this best-kept secret of the whiskey world. Then it started winning awards and now, as the hottest brand in bourbon, it can’t stay on the shelves.

Webb Simpson – Wild Turkey 101

Webb is steady. Predictable. Consistent. He may not be the first golfer that comes to mind and he may not win all the tournaments, but you can’t help but admire his longevity and reliability.

Wild Turkey 101 is that steady, predictable and consistent player in the bourbon world. You can’t really remember when WT101 wasn’t around and you can always count on a solid performance…just like Webb Simpson.

Ian Poulter – Whistle Pig Rye

Poulter is brash and flashy with a lot of spice. Sometimes that brash makes us forget that he’s a pretty darn good golfer, too (especially during The Ryder Cup, but I don’t want to talk about that).

Poulter is the Whistle Pig Rye of the golf world. Whistle Pig’s brand is also brash and flashy. And a 100% rye is going to bring a lot of spice to your glass. One taste of that rye will help you remember that it’s a pretty darn good whiskey, too.

I hope you enjoy The Masters today and have a little fun with it as I’ve tried to do with this blog. Please share it with your friends who enjoy golf or whiskey or both! And if you know what kind of whiskey you’d be, feel free to leave that in the comments.

Kevin Rose