Top 10 Whiskey Moments of 2015

2015 was a hell of a year for the Bourbon Scouts. Will and I spent many hours dedicated to whiskey- finding it, buying it, nosing it, drinking it, photographing it, writing about it, reading about it, thinking about it, and meeting people who make it and sell it. Here is a recap of this year's top whiskey moments. Drumroll, please...

10. Drinking with Bill Thomas, owner of Jack Rose in D.C. 

One of our whiskey heroes, Bill Thomas shows everyone at his restaurants a good time, every time. I grew up in Montgomery County, Maryland and have spent lots of time/money at his other bars, so I feel like Jack Rose is "my" whiskey bar. In reality, it's a world-class establishment, drawing whiskey celebrities and regular celebrities on a daily basis. In June, Bill sat with us as we sipped on 1991 Evan Williams Single Barrel and 2004 Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, and he invited us to his epic basement cocktail bar, "Dram & Grain." If you're in D.C., you simply have to visit Jack Rose Dining Saloon.

9. Finding Van Winkle and Buffalo Trace Antique Collection whiskeys at MSRP.

We found a fair amount of Pappy and BTAC in North and South Carolina this year, but we're not interested in $4,000 Pappy and $380 Thomas H. Handy rye. When you get to know your local liquor store manager, good things happen. Be a good customer. Ask and you will receive. We landed Old Rip Van Winkle 10 for $60, Van Winkle Lot B for $70 and Thomas H. Handy rye for $80. Not to mention lots of other good stuff for fair prices (i.e. under $100). 

8. Getting to know Joe Magliocco, president of Michter's Distillery.

In October, we published an article about the history of Michter's. Frankly, I was sick and tired of reading articles, reviews, and blog posts about how Michter's is "one of the oldest distilleries in the world" and how George Washington and his men drank Michter's at Valley Forge. The original Michter's Distillery is an abandoned "rat's nest of liability" in Schaefferstown, PA and no, GW's men did not drink any Michter's in 1777. To my surprise, modern Michter's president Joe Magliocco called us to defend his company and to clarify some things. Guess what? Joe is a legitimately nice guy. He was kind enough to take two subsequent phone calls and answer my questions for a long-term project. For the record, he hasn't given us a thing other than his time- we've purchased four bottles of Michter's whiskey this year- some we didn't like, some we absolutely loved. Lots of folks are critical of Michter's marketing, but if Chatham Imports didn't invest a ton of money and energy into reviving the brand, Michter's would still be a distant memory in Amish country. As long as consumers do about 30 seconds of research to discover that Michter's was a brand and distillery in Pennsylvania before the 1990s, I'll be satisfied. 

7. Chicago visit.

This summer, I traveled to Chicago for work. When I completed my duties each day, I was a kid in a candy store. Thanks to the blog Best in Bourbon, I found some great bottles and hit some awesome restaurants. I spent a night drinking at the CH Distillery, which makes the best Old Fashioned in the world (see below). Is your mouth watering yet? 

6. D.C. area distillery visits. 

I made it home a few times this year and popped in to two distilleries I have been meaning to see for a while. The George Washington Distillery & Gristmill is a whiskey geek's heaven, and the A. Smith Bowman Distillery is bourbon's best kept secret. If you like history and/or American whiskey, what are you waiting for? Make the trip.

5. Kentucky trip.

This year, we made the pilgrimage to Wild Turkey, Four Roses, Buffalo Trace, and Woodford Reserve. As I mentioned, I am from Maryland, the site of America's whiskey past. Will's family is from Kentucky, the site of whiskey present (and future). As I learn and drink more, I am astounded by how many Kentucky Bourbon stories begin with a man leaving Maryland for the bluegrass. Jacob Beam, William Willett, Basil Hayden, Daniel Weller, John Scarborough Handy. Maybe their ghosts are telling me something? 

4. Buffalo Trace mash bill #2 taste test.

In August, five of us blind tasted the Buffalo Trace mash bill #2 line-up: Ancient Ancient Age 10 Star, Blanton's, Elmer T. Lee, Hancock's President's Reserve, John J. Bowman Single Barrel, and Rock Hill Farms. Making bourbon is a mix of art and science. Drinking it is mostly art, but there is science involved too. Just ask Sarah, who still has a blood alcohol content of .10.

3. 12-year-old bourbon blind taste test at the beach.

During the annual family beach vacation to Kiawah Island, we drank and ate a lot. On night #3, we blind tasted five 12-year-old bourbons and we ate an unbelievable Low Country Boil, prepared by The Smoking Pot, out of Folly Beach, SC.

2. Drinking dusty whiskey for National Bourbon Heritage Month (September).

I told you to visit Jack Rose.

1. Establishing Bourbon Scout.

Will and I have had a great year. We started this blog for three reasons: 1) to have fun; 2) to record our whiskey adventures (this is our 148th post); and 3) to get to know some people in the whiskey industry (we have nearly 8,000 Instagram followers, we visited a dozen distilleries in five states this year, and we either met or communicated with some of our whiskey heroes.  

Look for more reviews, photos, tasting events, and opinions in 2016. Thanks for reading.