Sour Mash Manifesto in 2015

Happy New Year! I hope that 2014 was kind to all of you. If it wasn’t –fear not! Simply resolve to make 2015 your best year yet. I’m going to work hard to do the same for me and my family.

There is one a regret I have for last year. I’m very disappointed with my lack of activity on Sour Mash Manifesto. If you’ve visited in the last 12 months you’ve probably read numerous excuses from me. I’ll refrain from making any specific promises, but I do intend to make Sour Mash Manifesto worth your time in 2015. I’m very grateful that you have stuck with me in spite of the snail’s pace of new content.

As I look back on 2014 from a whiskey point of view, I am a little disappointed to be honest. Not about a lack of great whiskey, mind you. There’s some awesome stuff out there. I’m not even overly concerned about escalating prices. Sure, I hate paying more for whiskey, but I adjust my expectations accordingly (probably like you do). What has really disappointed me is all this clamoring for limited releases, rare whiskey, and the constant questioning of “which one’s better, which one should I buy?” The whiskey loving community is so overcome with finding these limited and rare bottles that little else seems to matter. I’m worried we are forgetting to appreciate all that is readily available.

Bloggers must take the bulk of the blame for fanning these flames. I’ve come across as the head of the Pappy Propaganda Parade at certain points over the years (Guilty!). Yes I feel the 15 year is one of the great whiskeys on the planet, I truly do, but it’s all a bit much. Ironically this contributed a bit to the inactivity here. Why pile on to this fervor?

As an aside – I recommend ignoring every review you see on a Van Winkle, Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (BTAC), Four Roses Limited, etc. If you want to secure these rare releases I’d start making friends with a few local merchants. Find out how the store determines who gets a bottle of these highly sought after whiskeys. Then spend your money with the one or two that you feel give you the best shot. You’ll have to talk to owners and buyers at the stores and get a good “read” on that. Show the store that you are committed to giving them your business, and ask them to do the same. Like anything in life, ask for what you want, but be realistic about it (they can’t satisfy everyone). If the store is one that uses a list – get on it and be patient. When you have the opportunity, buy it.

Back on track……

The answer for me and for Sour Mash Manifesto is to get back to basics. That means focusing the majority of reviews on products with at least some moderate availability. There are so many gems out there that are overlooked while we scan for scan for labels of old men or deer antlers. I’m going to shed more light on those whiskeys. Some limited releases will find their way on the site from time to time, but less often. As a result, Sour Mash Manifesto won’t be your best place to find the latest ratings on the 2015 BTAC or Limited Edition Four Roses. For that information there are a ton of other great resources.

Another area I’ll be looking at more closely is “craft”/“micro” whiskeys. I hate both of those terms, but this segment of the industry continues to grow and evolve into a category on its own. It represents a lot of younger whiskeys, regional styles, and more unique grain bills and recipes. Fear not bourbon lovers – this won’t be a micro-only site, but I do wish to help wade through some of this stuff on the shelves.

Honesty, I’ve never had an original idea when it comes to Sour Mash Manifesto. I just talk about what has my attention. Other bloggers and industry folks have stated the same as I have above. I’m not trying to grandstand or act above the fray, and I don’t begrudge others that feel differently. Clearly people want to know what enthusiasts think about certain whiskeys.

To put my thoughts in perspective, consider for a moment that I’m sipping a beautiful Eagle Rare Single Barrel (private barrel selection) from One Stop Wine and Liquors in Johnson City, TN. It’s easily on the best whiskeys I’ve drank in the last six months. It’s spectacular, but writing about it is pointless due to your chances of securing some. Even still, you probably have a better chance getting this than you do some of the others I’ve mentioned. That’s the problem with all this hoopla, and I don’t need to add to it.

Please consider this a glimpse into where things are going at Sour Mash Manifesto. I know it will allow me to provide more value to the whiskey loving community. Thank you again for visiting.

Happy New Year to you and yours and drink your whiskey!

Jason

32 Comments

  1. Andrew says:

    2015 — The Year We Took a Stand

    Ralfy made similar comments at the end of his 2014 recap about restricting his reviews in 2015.

    http://www.whiskyreviews.blogspot.com/2014/12/whisky-review-malt-of-year-2014.html

  2. Steve Grim says:

    Jason, the timing of your post coincides with me taking a break from a number of those limited releases, specifically the barrel proof versions. I burned out my palate and needed to recover with something low proof so I’ve been doing that with the very basic Elmer T Lee and Four Roses Small Batch. I developed a new found appreciation for all that these basic bourbons bring to the table at a great price. (Well, mostly, Elmer is starting to get a little crazy itself). I very much look forward to 2015 on your blog with a renewed focus on the basics.

  3. Rock Able says:

    Bravo, Jason! Good to have you back and good that you are focusing on available whiskies. There are plenty of them. I tried a couple of the newer micro distillery bourbons over the holidays but, in my opinion, they have a ways to go to catch up with KY.

    Happy New Year!

  4. Roger Fracé says:

    Thank you, Jason. I’ve always appreciated your reviews and I look forward to reading your new entries this year on products that a> I have a chance of finding in Texas, and b> can afford.

  5. Sounds good. Because I live in an area that doesn’t provide a diversity of choices for bourbon, I appreciate you getting back to the basics.

  6. Nick says:

    I secure the rare bottle when it’s available, but I don’t go out of my way to get them. I still think, and always will, that Four Roses SB is the best value on the market today and always go back to it.

    Do not confuse SCARCITY for QUALITY!!

    Great post buddy! Bottoms up to the New Year!

  7. Andrew thanks for the link. I’ll check it out. I certainly don’t intend to restrict reviews in 2015. I guess that took place for me in 2014, and there will be more this year.

  8. Andrew says:

    Jason, perhaps “restrict” was the wrong word. He is still going to do the number of reviews he normally does. What he will be restricting is reviews on no-age statement , over priced products and similar. Best to let Ralfy say it in his own words.

  9. matt says:

    I have to say this is refreshing to hear. I am a little sick of seeing so many reviews and talk of all of these very limited releases in the blogs. I think they are for the most part overtly over priced and quite honestly don’t see them ever on the shelves barring some from the larger distillery limited offerings.

    Also It seems there are so many sub par and poorly aged “micro and/or boutique” bottles on the shelves these days. You have no idea where they are sourced from, how old they are and what the quality is because they have no history.

    I have recently gone back to some real core offerings that have been around for ages. Wild Turkey 101, Old Grand Dad 114, George Dickel #12, Old Forester 100, Rittenhouse rye, and Evan Williams Single Barrel to name a few and they have so much to offer at very fair prices. I look forward to a more every man approach in 2015, cause honestly I could care less about some $100+ 5 grain, port finished, ocean aged and cask strength bottling I will never even get a sniff of.

  10. Clay L. says:

    Jason, I always seem to come back to your blog. I find that your recommendations mesh nicely with my tastes and I enjoy your straightforward style. I have given up on the premiums and have begun to branch out to the more available offerings so I look forward to your 2015 posts! Just picked up the Elijah Craig 12 (not barrel proof) after reading your review. A great, affordable and available bourbon!!
    Thanks for what you do.

  11. GQuiz says:

    Happy New Year Jason. I appreciate the back to basics promise. I’ve tucked away the rare ones that I’ll never see again and am saving them for milestones. Now I wait to see what you unearth next. I know my wallet would appreciate it after shelling $107 for the 2014 Four Roses Limited Edition Single Barrel. It’s still capped. But thanks to you, I’ve enjoyed offerings from High West, St George and a host of others. I look forward to the continued journey in 2015. Maybe you’ll venture south and we’ll see what Chip Tate is going to do next. Cheers.

  12. Peter says:

    Happy new year to you too Jason! I discovered your site years ago as I was tumbling down the bourbon barrel, and you’ve served as the most trustworthy guide for what makes these beverages — and the people who make them — so wonderful. You’re a voice of reason in a cacophony of sycophants and poseurs. Myy best to you and your family, and I eagerly await your future reviews.

  13. Storcke says:

    Bravo, Jason. As always, you are speaking directly to me. Since I started to get into the bourbon world about five years ago, yours have always been the voice and tastes that I find most appealing and useful. To be honest, the reviews of the expensive limited bottlings have never meant much to me, simply because there is no way I could ever afford one of them. But, mainly with your help, I have managed to find a dozen or so bourbons that I really love, and that are very inexpensive. For example, purely because of you I tried Evan Wms. White Label, which quickly became one of my top five everyday pours, and I can get it for $19/handle! When Larceny was introduced it interested me greatly, but yours was the only positive review I could find, so of course I bought it at the first opportunity, and ever since it has been my #1 favorite.
    Keep doing it your way; I suspect most of your readers will be right there with you.

  14. Vince says:

    Hi Jason! Been following you for a while. I am located in VA and will be down in the TN area at the end of the month for business. My favorite place to visit is B&B Package store, but I will definitely check out One Stop. I love ER barrel select. Do they have any others or just the ER?

  15. John says:

    On a somewhat related note, has anyone else noticed how Elmer T Lee has gone from fairly available to as difficult to score as Pappy Van Winkle?

  16. Bryun says:

    Jason, I am a huge fan of this site and am so excited you are attacking it with renewed vigor. I agree with your sentiments exactly. Regarding limited release hunting, this past fall has been an exceptional frenzy. While the “hunt” is exciting, I am ready to just walk in, buy something and form an opinion organically. However, I will always look here for some sage advise. Here’s to a prosperous and bourbon filled 2015.

  17. Steve says:

    Hi Jason. I’ve been visiting this site for years and appreciate your time and opinions. While I agree with your thoughts here, I’m bummed that a lot of future reviews will be craft whiskeys. I have yet to try one that is either decently priced or halfway decent. I don’t doubt that they will churn out some interesting stuff if they use normal sized barrels and age them for 6 years. Until then, I’ll stick with the big boys.

  18. Steve, I think it’s important to stick with whomever/whatever you enjoy most. And just to make sure I wasn’t misunderstood I do not anticipate the majority of my reviews will be micro whiskeys. Like you I have tasted many that don’t agree with me. This is an ever growing segment however, and I would like to shed more light on it that I’ve done in the past. But I think you can rest easy that many of the longer aged products will be discussed here for sure. Thanks.

  19. Kelly says:

    Glad to see you posting on a more regular basis Jason!
    Your blog was one of my first go sites when I really started to appreciate bourbon. Hope 2015 is a great year for you.

  20. Michael says:

    Jason,

    Was really hoping you’d give a review of Michter’s toasted barrel bourbon. I just tasted it last week and was VERY pleasantly surprised. Would love to know your thoughts on this–of course–limited edition whiskey–which I hope becomes a Michter’s regular.

  21. Dave says:

    Hey Jason,
    It’s been a while since I commented. What I’d lie to see or suggest.

    American Whiskey/Bourbon:

    1. Jack Daniel’s Green Label……don’t laugh!!
    Here in Oklahoma most of the liquor stores state Green Label isn’t made any more and the VERY FEW that do have it state it’s in limited quantity. Why? I know it’s bottom shelf stuff, but why the confusion.

    2. How about whiskey/bourbon we either can’t get here in America(even though it’s American made) or so limited that it is only in states that border the distillery state.
    Example: Jack Daniels Silver Select

    How many American export only whiskey/bourbons are we missing out on??? Unless we go over seas and bring it BACK home?

    3. What about old or rare whiskey and bourbon….treasures to look for and snap up??!!

    4. How about decanters (vintage and new…if there are any new ones) to be on the look out to purchase. With liquor( of course) or without?

    Last but not least. How about pairings of whiskey/bourbon with a GOOD cigar…..Non-Cuban and, um, errr, well….even the ..cough, cough….”other” ones. My favorite being Cohiba and Fonseca….from South of Florida!!!

    **Thank you for all that you do**!!! You got me hooked on George Dickel#12 and I thank you!!!

    Dave in Oklahoma
    Go Sooners

  22. Bob Andrews says:

    Jason, I have always enjoyed your site and am very glad that you will be continuing it in the future. thank you for all that you do

  23. Bill M says:

    I smell tulips. The proliferation of all of the new limited edition labels and micro distillers selling at ever increasing prices seems like a bubble to me. I don’t drink much whiskey, but when I do, I want something that reminds me of my youth in KY. I liked WL Weller, 7yr at the time. It was available, relatively inexpensive, and it had a smooth, clean taste that was easy to sip or mix. It was no more complicated than that. I’ll be glad when the bubble bursts, the mob moves on, and bourbon lovers get the kind of whiskey Stitzel Weller was making and selling all those years ago.

  24. Glad to see you active again. I have read your blog on/off and find your taste similar to mine, but I have to agree about the rare and bandwagon getting out of control, ala Pappy craze that stirred a frenzy both here and in Scotland, according to my good friends over there. While fun to read about and follow, the heart and soul of enjoying bourbon or whiskey is in the daily (evening) pour, which is usually something you can only get down the street at your local liquor store.

    Look forward to popping back over and reading your reviews.

  25. Michael Brown says:

    Jason,

    Might I suggest more shootouts with the lower and mid-range price offerings? Its one way to really cover the large whiskey ground that now exists. If you do one shootout every two months, you can create an end of the year list in each category that resonates.

    Forget the limited releases! Although now I find it easy after honing my hunting skills. Just today I stubbled across two Taylor Barrel Proofs, A willett Exploratory Cask Finish, A willett 8 year rye, A willett 6 year rye, Parkers heritage 2013, and Stagg Jr galore in Wisconsin of all places!

    Shootout categories:
    Tennessee whiskey-low proof
    Tennessee whiskey-higher proof
    Straight Corn Recipes
    High Rye Recipes
    Low Rye Recipes
    Wheated Recipes
    Rye
    Some like it Hot (110 proof and above-all categories)
    -Then the end of the year is a recap and retaste of the winners of each category against one another.

    Just a though….

  26. James says:

    Jason – go ahead and do the review of the Eagle Rare Single Barrel. My liquor store has a private barrel selection also. I’m interested in what you know about the selection process for these private barrel releases.

    Also, will you get back into video reviews, or are you done with that?

  27. Ryan says:

    It’s a shame that Elmer T. Lee has become nearly impossible to find. Once an easy buy at under $30.

  28. Ben says:

    Working with bars, a common comment among many owners is the rising prices of whiskeys. Many are looking to find the rare ones that will increase in price and buy them up ahead of time.
    In doing so adding to the whole cycle.

  29. Lawrence says:

    I have enjoyed your video reviews also, some of the best, most informative out there. Please consider renewing your efforts there!

  30. J. D. says:

    Thanks for the reset and refocus. You were one of the few sites I trusted when starting to go down the rabbit hole of bourbon. Knowing I’d never get my hands on a bottle of Pappy, I was hunting down Weller 12 which at this point has gone bonkers. Folks are selling it on Craigslist for $400/bottle. Yeah, for Weller 12! At that point I snapped, decided that I was actually quite happy with Eagle Rare, Four Roses yellow label and the like.

    Now, I’m looking forward to traveling out of state so I can try to find Heaven Hill BIB or Old Fitzgerald BIB as well as just giving Evan Williams BIB a go. I’m also hoping that the “50 Shades” movie goes like gangbusters so the crowd will decide it needs Gin and leave the whiskey be.

  31. Tweaks says:

    Well, I must say that I’ve enjoyed your insight on many whiskeys of late. I am a fan of your opinion and find we have similar tastes. I’ve watched a lot of your reviews and what I take a way mostly is how to break down a tasting from nosing through the finish.

    For me, I equate price to taste to determine true value. My go to Bourbon has been Elijah Craig 12yr Small Batch. My go to Rye is Rittenhouse bottle in bond.

    Through watching some of your reviews, a must find for me is Elmer T. Lee. In fact I’ll be looking into a couple more from Buffalo Trace. Sazerac 18 rye being one of them.

    Thanks again. I must admit though that I haven’t meet a whiskey that I didn’t like.

    Tweaks

  32. John Evano says:

    5 Reasons Bourbon is Better Than Scotch

    http://valleyshinedistillery.com/12-09-2015/5-Reasons-Bourbon-is-Better-Than-Scotch/36.html