Sipp’n Corn Review – Beanie Babies or Bourbon?

In Bourbon Whiskey: Useful Alternative Investment or just the next Beanie Baby? (2020), authors Carson Hartig, Conor Lennon, and Keith Teltser studied nearly a decade of bourbon secondary market sales data and considered whether bourbon ought to be considered a “collectible,” like fine art, wine, or baseball cards, or a viable “alternative investment,” due to its persistent large price increases.

The researchers found that from 2011 to 2019, secondary market prices increased by about 7% per year.  However, perhaps identifying when secondary market prices really skyrocketed, between 2014 and 2018, secondary market prices increased 21% per year.

Noting that collectibles tend to yield lower financial returns than stocks and generally have more risk over time, the authors conclude that bourbon might be considered a collectible if those who buy do so for a non-pecuniary reason, perhaps for perceived status of owning and being able to display particular bottles.

While that might be true for truly vintage bourbon and for many collectors, the authors found that, at least with recent annual and limited edition bourbon releases, the secondary market operates more as an alternative investment.  In fact, the research shows that “secondary markets are fueled by demand for recently released products rather than unique or vintage collectible items” and the secondary market shows efficiency in the sense that the price increases are seen across distinct markets. Because of the efficiency of the market and the high returns, the authors conclude, while warning that they do not provide investment advice, that “bourbon could be a viable alternative investment,” at least with regard to limited edition bourbons from the past decade.  As they must, the authors recognize that “realizing those gains is legally troublesome,” but they also promise further research and future papers to examine more bottle-specific details and the systematic risk of bourbon as an asset.  I’ll be looking forward to the next article.

Sipp’n Corn Bourbon Review – Battle of Heaven Hill 17-year Bourbon: Heaven Hill Heritage Collection and Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond.

With 1.9 million barrels of American Whiskey aging in six rickhouse sites, you have to figure that Heaven Hill had room for some more limited editions, and sure enough, Heaven Hill recently announced a new annual release called the “Heaven Hill Heritage Collection.”  The first of this new annual spring release is a 17-year age-stated bourbon using Heaven Hill’s traditional bourbon mashbill (78% corn; 10% rye; 12% malted barley).

The Heaven Hill Heritage Collection will complement the fall limited edition release of Parker’s Heritage Collection, which Heaven Hill explains is “more experimental.”  I’ve also considered Heaven Hill’s twice-per-year release of the Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond decanter series to be a limited edition of its own, and for spring 2022, it’s also a whopping 17 years old (the oldest to date in the series).  I couldn’t think of a better way to try these than together.

Heaven Hill Heritage Collection No. 1

Bourbon:        Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Edition:          First!!
Distillery:        Heaven Hill
Age:                28% 20-year; 44% 19-year; 28% 17-year
ABV:              59.1% (118.2 proof)
Cost:               $275.00

Tasting Notes

Appearance:
Beautiful brown, worn penny, showing its age.

Nose:
Vanilla, oak, old leatherbound books, and deep, deep cherry.  Gorgeous depth.

Taste:
Oak driven in the way that reminds you that you’re kidding yourself when you say six-eight years is the best range for bourbon.  There’s nothing like this kind of oak when a distillery catches it before it becomes over oaked.  There’s still the required caramel and vanilla, along with tobacco, leather, and nutmeg.  It’s downright sultry.

Finish:
Steady, long, and warm with an introduction of nutty cocoa.

Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond Spring 2022

Bourbon:        Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond
Edition:          Spring 2022
Distillery:        Heaven Hill
Age:                17 years
ABV:              50% (100 proof)
Cost:               $185.00

Tasting Notes

Appearance:
More amber than the Heaven Hill Heritage Collection, but still leaning brown.

Nose:
Oak and honey appear first, but what really impressed me was the sweet berries, more like homemade jam.  The aromas are absolutely enticing.

Taste:
Mellow with the plenty of oak, but not nearly as much oak as I expected from the extra aging.  Butterscotch, sweet glazed fruit pastries, and custard all compliment the oak, leather and cinnamon, producing a creamy, balanced, elegant bourbon.

Finish:
Moderately warm but long and sustained.

Bottom Line

We all knew that Heaven Hill has the supply of incredible whiskey that could support limited editions along with a stable of moderately-priced classics, and here’s the proof.  No other distillery has (or can) match the diversity of what Heaven Hill has aging in its rickhouses, and I’m excited that Heaven Hill is now showcasing that it has more than just Parker’s Heritage Collection to add to the yearly discussion about the best bourbon.  At this early stage of 2022, these two are top contenders.

Disclaimer: The brand managers kindly
sent me samples for this review,
without any strings attached. 
Thank you.

Sipp’n Corn Tasting Notes: Larceny Barrel Proof Batch B521 and C921.

I continue to look forward to each of the three yearly releases of Larceny Barrel Proof.  The second release of 2021—B521—is a little higher in proof that A121, and the third release (C921) is slightly higher.  I remember that the first release of the year had distinct black pepper note that mellowed out with some air, so I’m interested to see how the next two are different.

Larceny Barrel Proof B521 Tasting Notes

Bourbon:        Larceny Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Distillery:       Heaven Hill
Age:                NAS, but 6-8 years
ABV:              60.5% (121 proof)
Cost:               $49.99

Appearance:
Standard amber and squarely in the color range for the age (Heaven Hill’s new Bourbon Experience in Bardstown has a cool interactive exhibit that shows color profiles based on age).

Nose:
Savory spices with oak, but also with rich caramel for balance.

Taste:
Floral and spice are most prominent for an overall dry flavor, but it’s on a backdrop of caramel and maple syrup sweetness, which is really accentuated with a splash of water, bringing out creaminess that’s lacking at barrel strength.

Finish:
Crisp and dry on the finish, more than I usually get from Larceny, but a splash also sweetens and extends the warming finish.  There’s a really nice almond that appears on the finish too.

Larceny Barrel Proof C921 Tasting Notes

Bourbon:        Larceny Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Distillery:       Heaven Hill
Age:                NAS, but 6-8 years
ABV:              61.3% (122.6 proof)
Cost:               $49.99

Appearance:
Also squarely on hue.

Nose:
Most oak of the three for 2021, with nougat, brown sugar, and the slightest black pepper and leather.  Really gorgeous.

Taste:
Sweet vanilla, maple syrup, chocolate covered cherries, and dark fruit dominate before oak fills in with a cocktail quality orange zest.

Finish:
Long and dominated by brown sugar, honey, and cinnamon during the fade.

Bottom Line

The three 2021 batches of Larceny Barrel Proof have shown the available variations and room for people to have their favorites.  With Batch A121, I thought it needed some air, with Batch B521, I thought that it needed a splash of water, and C921 I liked best neat—for me it was by far the best of the three.  Even though it was the last batch of 2021, it is probably showing up in many markets here in early 2022, so be on the lookout.  This is a very strong buy folks.

Disclaimer: The brand managers kindly
sent me samples for this review,
without any strings attached. 
Thank you.

Sipp’n Corn Tasting Notes: Elijah Craig 12-Year Barrel Proof C921 and A122.

2022 is the 10-year anniversary of Heaven Hill’s Elijah Craig 12-Year Barrel Proof.  Over these years it has given us so much reason to celebrate and it helped lead the trend to barrel proof bourbon.  And I look forward three times every year for each new limited release.

When I posted a picture of the newest batch of Elijah Craig 12-Year Barrel Proof (the first of 2022, Batch A122), responses decried how slow the distributor is, because the final batch of 2021 (Batch C921, from September) hadn’t even hit the shelves yet in many states.  Since, depending on location, you might be able to find one batch or the other, and because the proof of these two are so close, let’s look at them together.

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof C921 Tasting Notes

Bourbon:        Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Distillery:       Heaven Hill
Age:                12 years
ABV:              60.1% (120.2 proof)
SRP:               $59.99

Appearance:
Deep amber.

Nose:
Evident heat but still inviting with classic oak, caramel, vanilla, honey, and a little more light fruit and berries than I’m used to with Elijah Craig.  The aromas are rich and luxurious, making me think that this is going to be creamy and decadent.

Taste:
The aromas ended up being the perfect predictor.  It’s beautifully sweet with rich dessert qualities—caramel, vanilla cream chocolate candy, nuttiness, and sweet berries.  At first there’s a little less oak than in many Elijah Craigs, but then it comes through in the mid palate along with some slight black pepper and rye spice.

Finish:
More oak and spice come through in the long finish, with a great fade of tobacco.

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof A122 Tasting Notes

Bourbon:        Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Distillery:       Heaven Hill
Age:                12 years
ABV:              60.4% (120.8 proof)
SRP:               $59.99

Appearance:
Deep copper.

Nose:
The aromas are classic Elijah Craig, known for caramel and oak, nuttiness, with vanilla and baking spice.

Taste:
Great balance of brown sugar, caramel apple pie, and a bit of cocoa, along with a building push of rye spice, black pepper, and oak.  It’s not a robust blast, but instead builds with complexity.  This is all right down the center of being on-profile for Elijah Craig, which is another way to say that it’s fantastic.

Finish:
Long, warm, consistent with the flavors and with the emergence of cinnamon to complement the caramel and oak.

Bottom Line

These two batches of Elijah Craig 12-Year Barrel Proof have some familial similarities, yet they’re still distinctive, and that’s exactly one of the things that I love about this series.  C921 is sweeter and despite the nearly identical proof, C921 also drinks less hot.  A122 falls more in line with the classic flavors of Elijah Craig with a big oak backbone after the caramel and complex spice.  Whichever one of these you find, they’re both a strong buy.

Disclaimer: The brand managers kindly
sent me a sample for this review,
without any strings attached.  Thank you.

Sipp’n Corn Tasting Notes – Seelbach’s Private Reserve Batch No. 1

I was lucky enough to get the inaugural release of Seelbach’s Private Reserve.  We all know Seelbach’s as the best resource for craft spirits, and now they’ve joined the ranks of craft blenders with creative finishing in toasted French Oak barrels and ex-bourbon maple syrup barrels—literally French toast and maple syrup!

Seelbach’s Private Reserve Tasting Notes

Whiskey:Seelbach’s Private Reserve Batch No. 1, a blend of Straight Bourbons finished in new medium-toast French Oak barrels and Ex-Bourbon Maple Syrup barrels.
Components:66% of two-year, six-month old bourbon and 34% ten-year, two-month bourbon, both distilled in Indiana.
Mashbill:75% corn; 21% rye; 4% malted barley
ABV:57.5% ABV (115 proof)
Cost:$99.00

Appearance:
Copper penny.

Nose:
Beautiful aromas of ripe peaches with a slight floral and cedar background, but more dominated by toffee and maple for a thoroughly sweet nose, with just a hint of black pepper.

Taste:
Baking spice and dry dark fruit are evident at first but it shifts to the flavors predicted by the nose with caramel, maple, honey, orange zest all balanced with oak and black pepper again.  There really is a feel of maple syrup, maybe with the nuttiness of some chicory coffee with cream, all with a creamy mouthfeel.

Finish:
Shifts to a hint of tobacco for a decadent long finish with rich dark cherries.

Bottom Line

Alright, this was released last fall and all 1,040 bottles sold out long ago, but the important takeaway is to jump early on future batches because Blake at Seelbach’s put in the research and the effort to get the right base bourbon, the best finishing barrels, and the discipline to know when it’s ready.  This is an outstanding first release.  Check out https://seelbachs.com/.