Thursday, May 15, 2014

Bottle-icious

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 it...it'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.

11 comments:

  1. I think the lid thing is what makes the Rare Breed bottle ugly...If it had a better lid it would but cuter...

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  2. Honorable Mention: I think the 4Roses Small Batch bottle looks good and fools many novices into thinking that it is a more expensive than in actuality.

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    Replies
    1. Also, I would like to know where you can find ECBP or FR private selections in Phoenix. Please share!

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    2. I have only managed to find one private selection in the Phoenix area -- an OBSV at the AJ's in Scottsdale. The others I've had to hunt down from Portland, Chicago, and LA. Fortunately for me I have friends/relatives all over who are kind enough to pack and ship for me.
      And I agree about the Four Roses Small Batch. It just missed the cut!

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    3. And the ECBPs have both also come from Portland, though I believe Magnum's has carried it in the past.

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  3. Thanks for the feedback. FYI: I scored my first 4R private selection barrels in Phoenix last week. Bevmo Scottsdale has OBSO (115.2 proof) and Magnums had a couple OBSK (104.6 proof) bottles left if you are interested. .....First time I have seen any PS offerings and was able to score two non-standard mashbills...felt pretty good

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  4. Right after I responded a friend alerted me to the OBSO at BevMo. I would absolutely bite as that's probably my favorite recipe, but I've got a bottle waiting for me at K&L in LA for me to pick up. I'll have to check out the OBSK at Magnum's.
    Currently I've got the OESO (Binny's), OESQ (Hollywood Liquor), OBSV (AJs).

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  5. WhiskeyPhx - so much to bitch about in your selections! First off, the Willlett Rye and BTAC bottles are nearly identical. You've stolen a spot on your list by putting them in two spots (you should do a post on labels next - eht deserves praise). But I'd favor the BTAC over Willett Rye since the bottom is thicker and not as discernibly machined.

    I'd switch HW and EHT bottles on your list. EHT really is a macho, broad shouldered bottle, but I can't help but think the label is moving it higher up your list than it other wise would be. The HW bottles, on the other hand, are nearly iconic without feeling gimmicky. Really a brilliant design.

    The pot still bottle is iconic, beautiful, decanter-ish - seriously, if they simply sold that bourbony bourbon glory for about 10 bucks less, it could be the most famous bourbon in the world, and certainly the most famous bottle in the world - there is no readily available bottle that compares. The porcelain Tullamore Dew bottle would be closest, but it's average juice.

    Finally, the Weller and Ritt bottles truly are horrendous. I never want to one-hand the Weller, but a two-handed pour steals much of the GQ out of imbibing for a few seconds. The second seems like it would be a rebel's malatov cocktail bottle of choice.

    But Four Roses! You're out your mind. That bottle feels and looks as full and complex as it's contents. It would even take a top five spot for me.

    post script: you've had Magnum's OBSK. I don't recall what you made of it, though. I think it's spicy cinnamon and molassified goodness. It doesn't have any of the rose petal that's in the OESO, though.

    Andrew

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    1. First of all, I explicitly stated in rule #5 that labels will be included in the scoring. Packaging such as the fancy tubes the Taylors come in, boxes, etc. won't factor in. So while I like the shape and weight of the Taylor bottles independently the labels definitely moved them up on the list.

      Secondly, I did vacillate between including both the Willett Rye and the BTAC bottles as separate entries, or combining them. Ultimately the distinct labels/branding (i.e. the stagg horns on the bottle stopper) were enough to make me view them as distinct from one another.

      I do love the Four Roses single barrel bottles, but maybe this does expose my underlying bias for taller bottles? I'm tall...so it must be that attractive things come in tall packaging?

      Lastly, you made an excellent point about the Molotov potential for Weller bottles. I appreciate you opening my eyes to this potential new revenue source. So far this blog has earned me exactly -$147 -- that could be a way to recoup my losses.

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  6. Love the blog. Lots of good info here. I’m a big fan of whiskey as well as coffee. So I started sourcing and aging beans in whiskey barrels. Now I can get the nice finish of whiskey anytime! Would you be interesting in reviewing our coffee beans for your readers? I can get some free samples out to you. Let me know. Great site!
    -John

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  7. Anyone know where I can find Willet Pot Still Reserve here in the Phoenix area.. I have tried BevMo and Total Wine and more.. They never have it and show none in Arizona.. Any help would be appreciated..

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