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TDG Bourbon Bracket Semi Finals

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

We are down to the Final Four, each distinctive region has a winner and now they face off with the other winners.  Time to place your votes...

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VALUE BOURBON vs. BARREL PROOF BOURBON

The semi-elusive Weller 12 vs. the occasionally released Elijah Craig Barrel Proof.  A very interesting match-up between two very different bourbons.  The ECBP was a brand new release in 2013 and Heaven Hill has announced that they will continue to release this bourbon into 2015.  Weller 12 is a staple but hard to come by in parts of the country.

Weller 12 yr

Whiskey Advocate Rating: 89
Distilled by: Buffalo Trace
Tasting Notes (hijacked from here) : A pleasantly sweet, easy-going, well-balanced experience. Creamy vanilla, caramel, candied corn, and ripe berried fruit , along with more subtle notes of glazed orange, cocoa powder, and wood shavings. If I were going to ease a new bourbon drinker into the category, I might pick this one.

This bottle of bourbon is often heralded as the one bottle to buy if you cannot get your hands on the exclusive and elusive Pappy Van Winkle.  Mostly because it is also a "wheated" bourbon, which means the secondary grain used is wheat rather than rye.  The Weller line as well as the Pappy line was previously distilled at the now shut-down Stitzel-Weller distillery before having the label and recipe purchased by Sazerac (essentially Buffalo Trace) where it is now produced.

The Weller 12 is just so well balanced and gives you some sweet flavor while still being under $30.  With this bourbon I appreciate the caramel and creamy vanilla taste and the drinkability of it.  In Minnesota this is a difficult bottle to find, I find that it gets allocated here once or twice a year and only at stores who carry a healthy whiskey selection.  Other places of the country, like Texas, this stuff is readily available year round.  If you see it...buy it.  If you don't like it, I'll take it off your hands.

vs.

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof

Whiskey Advocate Rating: 89
Distilled by: Heaven Hill
Tasting Notes (hijacked from here) : Quite dark in color, turning cloudy with water. Don’t let that deter you. A thick, chewy bourbon, with layers of nutty toffee, nougat, cocoa, and toasted marshmallow, peppered with cinnamon and vanilla. Oak and leather on the finish dry out the whiskey nicely. Not the most refined bourbon, but the flavors it delivers make up for it.

This is another 2013 new release and it was wildly popular.  This particular barrel proof is thick.  There is a thick molasses to this BP that I haven't found elsewhere.  This BP was pretty hard to find, has had multiple releases over the last year but all are a chewy, tasty treat.

I'm a big fan of every Elijah Craig I have had.  The 12 yr is my favorite daily pour, the no-longer-sold 18 yr is outstanding (maybe the best under $60 bottle I've ever had) and this ECBP is a unique and complex barrel proof.  Hard to find.  There have been a few different releases and most of them have made it to MN, they don't typically sit on shelves for very long but they will hit shelves.

LIMITED EDITION REGION vs. RYE REGION

This one should be a landslide (hate to lead the voting here).  The Sazerac is a nice rye, versatile in that it can stand alone as a nice sipping rye and it is excellent to be used in mixed drinks.  But the Four Roses Lt Ed bottlings are just too strong here.  This is like when Florida Gulf Coast made a nice run to the Sweet 16 only be thwarted and held to just 50 points by Florida on the second weekend.  But maybe the voters will surprise me here...

Four Roses Limited Edition Single Barrel & Small Batch

Whiskey Advocate Rating: 96
Distilled by: Four Roses
Tasting Notes (hijacked from here) : SMALL BATCH 2013 - A marriage of 13 and 18 year old bourbons. A mature yet very elegant whiskey, with a silky texture and so easy to embrace with a splash of water. Balanced notes of honeyed vanilla, soft caramel, a basket of complex orchard fruit, blackberry, papaya, and a dusting of cocoa and nutmeg; smooth finish. Sophisticated, stylish, with well-defined flavors. A classic!

Whiskey Advocate Rating: 92
SINGLE BARREL 2014 - Thirteen years old, but it shows its age nicely. It’s peppered with complex dried spice notes (mint, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla), yet it also has interwoven sweet notes (maple syrup, caramel, honey) to keep the whiskey from being too dry. Hints of dark chocolate and berried fruit add complexity. Dry, spicy, tobacco, and leather-tinged finish. Great complexity!

Every year Four Roses has 2 separate limited edition releases. In late spring they will release a LE Single Barrel.  This will actually be multiple single barrels and one bottle to the next might be dramatically different.  In the fall they release their LE Small Batch.  This is taking a few different batches, blending them together and bottling them.  The 2012 and 2013 LE Small Batch won Whiskey Advocate's American Whiskey of the Year award.  Both were a couple of my favorite bourbons I've ever tasted.

What makes Four Roses unique is that they have 10 very specific recipes.  There are 2 different matshbills and 5 different yeast strains they will use to make their bourbons and each bottle will tell you the recipe that was used.  Their regular single barrel that you can find on most liquor store shelves is the OBSV recipe.  The letters to note are the 2nd and 4th letters.  In this case the B represents which mashbill was used.  The B is a higher rye content as opposed to the E which is slightly higher corn.  The 4th letter represents one of their 5 yeast strains which bring out various flavors.

The 2014 LE Single Barrel is an OESF recipe that is 11 years old.  Higher corn, fuller bodied whiskey that is a bit more sweet and fruity than other strains. Still hunting for this one.

vs.

1 - Sazerac

Whiskey Advocate Rating: 88
Distilled by: Buffalo Trace
Tasting Notes (hijacked from here) : Youthful and very lively. Bold, crisp, spices (mint, cinnamon, vanilla) are softened by soothing, sweeter notes (candied fruit, coconut, caramel, and rum notes), becoming dry, flinty, and spicy on the finish. It is very clean and polished, and it is superior to other rye whiskeys in this age range. Nicely done!

This rye is one of the best ryes you can actually find on a shelf.  It isn't easy to find but you can find it on shelves around town.  I originally bought a bottle as this was the primary rye to buy if you wanted to make a sazerac drink, the official cocktail of New Orleans. But I've come to appreciate and drink this one straight on nights when I feel like a rye.

VOTING

  1. I will put each of the matchups in the comments below
  2. You vote by "Rec'ing" the comment.
  3. Please only vote for one in each of the match-ups.
  4. Voting will go for 2 days.

let the voting begin.