Thursday, May 15, 2014


Over here at Whiskey Phoenix, when we actually get around to writing, we only engage in the most serious whiskey journalism (whiskalism?).  No, I'm not talking about digging up breaking news on what the major distilleries are up to, or what non-distiller producers are scheming -- only the weightiest of stories will make the cut for us.

So, today we're dedicating this post to which bottles we like the most (and the least).

First, a couple of ground rules:
1.) As is likely true for many of you, I'm relatively new to the wide world of whiskey, so I'm limiting bottles on this list to those which can still be found today (or at least at the time I bought them, which is within the past year or so).
2.) I'm only including bottles for which there is a reasonable (as defined by me) chance that they can be found by the average (as defined by me) whiskey consumer.  So no Pappy 23 specially-etched Glencairn decanter bottles will find its way to this list.  Side note: no regular Pappy bottles would make the cut anyway as their bottles are fairly boring on the whole -- though this betrays the heart-flutter-inducing effect it tends to have on those who behold a bottle in person.
3.) I'm limited to what I have on hand.  This means that there's a decent chance that the bottles will be open (if not empty) as I, for one, purchase whiskey to drink it, not to look at it (or flip it).
4.) The list will be limited to American whiskey.
5.) Packaging won't be included in the rating.  So, while the EH Taylor series has some pretty nifty packaging, only the bottles themselves will be judged.  However, labels affixed to the bottle/wax seals/stoppers/etc. will be included in the ratings.
6.) Bottle contents won't factor into the decision regarding bottle aesthetics (see comment on Pappy in #2 above).
7.) This list is just my opinion as I don't have the ambition or the know-how to create a voting/bracket type site.  That's ok though because I have impeccable taste and my views should be understood to be authoritative.  Deal with it. (With that said, you're welcome to weigh-in with your less-enlightened opinions in the comments section).

With that out of the way...on with the list!

Top five favorite, in reverse order:
5.) High West

The High West series manages to be both contemporary, and to hearken back to a long-ago time with it's bottles.  The tiny bubbles trapped in the hand-blown bottles lend themselves to an antique feel.  The wooden-topped cork stoppers complete the look.  Given that the bottles originate from the Wild West town of Park City it's a very fitting bottle.*

4.) Willett Rye

I don't know if there's a classier bottle around.  The elegant Willett Family Estate crest on the label is beautiful.

3.) Buffalo Trace Antique Collection

Another tall, slender offering, the BTAC bottles are beautiful and hip.  The stoppers which match the branding on the bottle are a nice touch.

2.) EH Taylor

Even apart from their fancy tube packaging the EH Taylor series is beautiful.  The gradual widening from the base through the shoulder is a nice touch and helps to differentiate them from their BTAC cousins.  The labels are also beautifully designed, preserving a unified brand while the different colors separate individual offerings.

1.) Willett Pot Still

Lest I be accused of favoring the tall and slender over the more...shall we say..."rotund" bottles, my favorite bottle is the Willett Pot Still Reserve.  The bottle replicates the still the contents are distilled in.  It manages to be elegant and weighty at the same time.

Honorable Mention:
Four Roses Single Barrel

The round-base-to-square-shoulder Four Roses bottles are certainly worthy of mention.

And now to the more homely offerings...starting with my favorite least-favorite bottle, and ending with my least-favorite least-favorite bottle:

3.) Weller Series (Special Reserve, 12 year, and Antique 107)

I have large hands and this is still awkward to hold/pour with its short/squat figure.

2.) Rittenhouse Rye

The Ritt's inclusion on my least-favorite list is proof that the contents don't matter.  This is one of my favorite ryes, but the boring, clunky label and otherwise-boring bottle just don't do it for me.

1.) Wild Turkey Rare Breed

I can't even put exactly what it is I don't like about this bottle in words.  I just don't like it.  I mean look at's ugly, right?  It is.

Dishonorable Mention:
-Elijah Craig

I've never liked the shape of the Elijah Craig bottles with their thin, but wide figure.  However, the sleek-looking label is enough to keep it off the actual least-favorite list.

*The High West Double Rye is missing its stopper because my wife, Mrs. Whiskey, uses it for a vase sometimes -- further evidence of it's rightful place on this list.