The Top 10 Most Overrated Whiskeys
We have posted several “Best of” articles over the last several months, so we thought it was about time to reveal our top 10 most overrated whiskeys.
The premise is simple – all whiskeys on the list are currently available and have reputations that greatly exceed their quality. While neither was a sole determinant, cost and collector appeal/hype were also taken into consideration when making final decisions.
Just to be clear – we are NOT saying these whiskeys are bad – we are saying they are overrated.
With that, on to the list…
10) Angel’s Envy
Store Owners love to tout Angel’s Envy as a top shelf bourbon – especially to more inexperienced drinkers. However, the bourbon is just too sweet for many people’s liking. The same can be said for their rye, which tastes like it should come served on a stack of pancakes rather than in a whiskey glass. And don’t get us started on the grossly overpriced cask strength version. Angel’s Envy comes in at #10 on our list of overrated whiskeys.
9) Elmer T. Lee
Elmer T. Lee died on July 16, 2013 at the age of 93 – and the bourbon community proceeded to lose its mind. The once easy to find Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel suddenly became a ghost in many parts of the country as bourbon fans snatched up every bottle in their path. This trend regrettably continued, leading to shortages and drastic increases in retail prices (we have seen it as high as $150!). ETL is a fine buy if you can find it at MSRP ($35-$40), but the quality does not justify a higher price tag. Elmer T. Lee comes in at #9 on our list of overrated whiskeys.
8) Stagg Jr.
We can’t tell you how many times we have heard store owners tell us that Stagg Jr. “flies” off the shelves. We have also seen ridiculous markups on this comparatively easy to find bottle. Are people just lured in the by Stagg name? Or the fact that its barrel proof? Regardless, there is little detectable complexity in this bourbon – many releases are straight up fire in a bottle. Stagg Jr. is a hard pass for us. Stagg Jr. comes in at #8 on our list of overrated whiskeys.
7) Elijah Craig Barrel Proof
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is one of those whiskeys that you always think will taste better than it really does. Everything seems in line for a great experience – solid age, barrel proof, established producer – but in the end, you get a ton of alcohol and wood that covers up the sweeter aspects of the bourbon. ECBP is not a bad whiskey by any means, but it feels like it could be so much better. ECBP comes in at #7 on our list of overrated whiskeys.
6) Weller 12 Year
If you read our recent article on Pappy alternatives, you know that Weller 12 Year did not fare particularly well in a blind tasting of wheated bourbons. In fact, it ranked behind the much easier to locate Larceny, which outscored it in every category (nose, palate, and finish). So why is W12 nearly impossible to find? And why does it regularly show up on secondary sites for a 200% markup? Other than a tenuous connection to the Van Winkle line, we don’t know. If you have a choice, opt for Old Weller Antique instead. Weller 12 comes in at #6 on our list of overrated whiskeys.
5) Michter’s 10 Year
Oh the hype of a limited release. Every year Michter’s comes out their 10-year bourbon and rye and people clamor over the opportunity to pay over $100 for a moderately aged and proofed product. If you want a solid 10-year bourbon, try Henry McKenna 10 Year Bottled in Bond for a third of the cost. For rye, go with Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye or High West Rendezvous Rye. They are both technically younger, but also cheaper and often just as good. (Note: we have not tried the 2017 M10 bourbon but have heard good reviews. We’ll try to hunt down a sample to do a Quick Sips soon.) Michter’s 10 year comes in at #5 on our list of overrated whiskeys.
4) Colonel E.H. Taylor Four Grain
Once again, Jim Murray makes a controversial selection for his whiskey of the year by choosing E.H. Taylor Four Grain for the 2017 award. We didn’t dislike EHT 4G, but we didn’t exactly love it either. We also think there are several bottles more worthy of 2017’s best, most notably the highly regarded Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition Al Young’s 50th Anniversary. Regardless, EHT 4G won the title and secondary madness will ensue. Four Grain comes in at #4 on our list of overrated whiskeys.
3) Old Forester Birthday Bourbon
Comment: Old Forester Birthday Bourbon has had several stellar releases (2007 and 2013 immediately come to mind), but the vast majority have been disappointing. In fact, we prefer the cheaper, widely available Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style Bourbon to nearly every OFBB we have sampled. Yet, every fall people scramble to find a bottle for their shelf. Yes, the bottle shape is cool, but can we all agree that the bourbon is just ok? Old Forester Birthday Bourbon comes in at #3 on our list of overrated whiskeys.
2) Sazerac 18 Year Straight Rye
This is going to be a controversial choice, but let’s talk this through. Sazerac 18 typically demands the highest price in the Buffalo Antique Collection line. Yet, when you ask most experienced drinkers to rank the BTAC products, Sazerac 18 is usually third (behind George T. Stagg and William Larue Weller), and sometimes as low as fourth if the ranker prefers the younger, bolder Thomas H. Handy Rye. This means that you are paying for ra
rity, not quality. That makes Sazerac 18 overrated. Sazerac 18 comes in at #2 on our list of overrated whiskeys.
1) Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year.
You had to know we would include a Van Winkle on the list. And of course, we went straight to the top – the 23 year-old granddaddy of the VW lineup. PVW 23 currently has a MSRP of $269.99, but you will rarely see it for under $2,000. Sorry, but that’s insane. The over-oaked 23 year isn’t even the best of the lineup – the 15 year is a far superior pour. We understand that most people plan to keep their Pappy tightly sealed, but why not spend a ridiculous amount on a bottle that is both rare and delicious (just in case)? Pappy Van Winkle 23 year tops the list as #1 on our list of overrated whiskeys.
If you agree, check out our list of Bourbons Better than Pappy Van Winkle