Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Day

Assuming you believe in Santa Claus; was he good to you this year? I have no complaints as I received a couple of very nice gifts of bourbon and beer. A couple weeks back I mentioned my Christmas list and what I was looking for on Saturday. For bourbon, I was gifted the newest release of Parkers Heritage Collection along with two bottles of vintage bourbon; early 70’s Ancient Age 86 proof and early 70’s Cream of Kentucky. To say I was excited about these three bottles would be an understatement. Along with the bourbon I was also gifted a Firestone Walker 14th Anniversary. This beer is a blend of various barrels to achieve a particular flavor profile. I have not opened it yet but I know those that have and the accolades are noteworthy.

Christmas was very nice this year. I can’t say relaxing because I didn’t really take extra time off and having a large family in the area, we had 24 people for Christmas dinner. During and after dinner we enjoyed some very nice libations that included beer; Noel des Geants, Ommegang Three Philosophers, Southern Tier Choklat and La Chouffe. Each beer was unique and delicious. We also enjoyed a 2006 Weller Antique, Cream of Kentucky and a Redbreast 15 year.

If you received or enjoyed something nice this Christmas, let us know what it was. You’ll see the next Global Tippler up sometime this week. I’m over the Flu and Cold and ready to get back on the virtual road.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Global Tippler – accosted by seasonal flu

I'm down for the count. I usually avoid the flu each season but this year it hit me with a vengeance and I've been laid up for the last 5 days. I think I'm at the tail end and in the hopes of such, I did take a little nip of a 2010 limited release of Old Weller Antique and it was nasty. I then tried a Rock Hill Farms and the same results….nasty. My palate is shot for the time being so the virtual vacation is on hold. More to come……

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Global Tippler – Irish Whiskey

I'm gonna throw you a curve ball and talk about an Irish whiskey that is very hard get. My goal with the Global Tippler was to present some interesting whiskeys whether availability was narrow or broad and in the case of this whiskey, it's pretty stinking narrow. My foray into Irish whiskey started out with a very good example discovered in Redbreast 12 year and I found it to be such an interesting whiskey, I only wanted more. The pot still character of many Irish whiskies makes it a very unique pour which really intrigued to me.

Mitchell and Son is a long standing establishment found in Dublin Ireland that got its start in 1805. Mitchell and Son began purchasing whiskey from Jameson around the 1920's that had been aged in Sherry casks for approximately 5 years, the whiskey was then vatted and aged for an additional five years before being sold as a 10 year bonded whiskey. Originally called Pat Whiskey because the label had a picture an Irish gentleman in a green jacket, the name was eventually changed to Green Spot, as it's sold today. Today's offering is a blend of 7 and 8 year old whiskey with 25% of the distillate aged in Sherry Casks. At 80 proof, it's a light drinker but still exhibits lots of flavor. Jim Murray described it as "unquestionably one of the world's great whiskies". Well, I can't say I've had all of the world's great whiskies but his point is well taken; Green Spot is an excellent example of a pure pot still Irish whiskey that deserves a spot on any top shelf.

Color: Light golden hue. Like the color very much

Nose: A mix of odors ranging from light sherry, honey, menthol and maybe pear

Entry: On entry, there's a burst of flavors that makes me believe the nose fibbed to me. The sherry makes its presence known right up front and then subsides to a honeyed, floral quality. Very slight drying around mid palate

Finish: The mid palate transitions to something reminiscent of Concord grape, turning mildly sour, but not in an unpleasant way. The sourness lingers and then diminishes leaving you with a small smile on your lips.

I shy away from giving whiskies numerical ratings so all I'll say is this particular whiskey is up there on my "gotta have" list. If you like Redbreast or pot still whiskies, the Green Spot will……well, hit the spot.

Name: Green Spot Irish Whiskey

Distillery: Jameson – Midleton

Availability: Very limited. About 500 cases per year and can found in Ireland, the UK and Canada. If there are other locations, let me know.

Price: Around $75 US (not including shipping)

Size: 700ml with TE screw cap

American writer Oliver Herford once said "The Irish gave the bagpipes to the Scotts as a joke, but the Scotts haven't seen the joke yet." Next stop, the land of bagpipes, mens skirts and lots of good Scottish whisky.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Global Tippler – Canadian Whisky

I have confession to make; I'm no expert on Canadian whisky. Historically, Canadian whiskies are blended and very easy drinkers, e.g. Crown Royal, Canadian Club. A relative of mine gifted me a bottle of Crown Royal, purple felt bag and all. The box, bag and bottle sit in the back of the bunker unopened. I was reading some reviews of drinkers and the theme is smooth and easy……yawn….boring. I don't mean to sound like a snob but a blended whisk(e)y at 80 proof is just too darn light; no wonder it's smooth and easy, it has no chutzpah.

Dave Pickerell's brainchild Whistlepig, while Canadian, is anything but smooth and easy. At 100% unmalted rye and 100 proof it is brazen and vibrant. Aged for 10 years in new oak barrels, this whiskey (which is spelled with the extra "e" even though it's Canadian) is bottled in Vermont. This is a unique product because it's 100% rye which is typically used for blending in Canadian whiskies. American rye by comparison is at least 51% rye with the remaining mashbill made up of corn and about 5% barley. Bottling something like this was a bold move and maybe somewhat risky but Dave hit the ball out of the park on this one.

Color: Moderate golden hue.

Nose: Mint/Wintergreen. Wow! Undertones of honey vanilla, citrus

Entry: Blast of spice and sweetness. Amazing flavor profile. Distinguishing

Finish: Long and lingering. Wonderful

Whistlepig will retail for about $70 and I would typically shy away from something in this price range but I'll go out on a limb and say get a bottle if you're a lover of Rye whiskey. This one will not disappoint. Let's hope that Dave's Whistlepig is not a one hit wonder but will be something that remains an amazing offering.

Name: Whistlepig Straight Rye Whiskey

Distiller: Provenance unknown but listed as Whistlepig Farm Distillery

Availability: Limited markets

Price: High

Size: 750ml bottle with cork stopper

Next stop, we head across the pond and stop off in Ireland. Sláinte!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Holiday (ABV) Bourbon Cake

Caution: Do not eat and drive!

I made this bourbon cake last year and shared it with other enthusiasts during a Christmas gathering. I think if we had forgone the bourbon and just had cake, it would have been enough alcohol for the evening as this cake is soaked in bourbon……YUM!

Another word of caution, using lots of bourbon while making this cake can lead to tippling during cooking. This is a very dense cake, sort of like fruit cake without the nasty fruit. Johnny Carson once said "The worst gift is a fruitcake. There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other." This is not that cake. I really enjoyed a slice of this cake in the morning with my coffee, only problem was, I had to have my wife drive me to work.

If you want to impress your friends and neighbors with an awesome holiday cake….give this one a shot.

1 c butter -- softened
2 c sugar
4 c flour -- sifted
4 ea eggs
1 lb pecan pieces
1 1/2 lb white or golden raisins (if you want to get crazy, soak the raisins in bourbon for 48 hrs)
1 c bourbon
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp soda
1/2 tsp salt

Heat oven to 275F. Sift 1 cup flour and mix with nuts and raisins. Sift remaining flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and soda together. Grease a tube pan and coat inside with light coating of flour.

Cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, making sure each is incorporated before adding the next one. Alternately add bourbon and flour. Add nuts and raisins.

Pour into tube pan and bake 3 1/2 hours. Remove from oven and cool thoroughly.

Sprinkle generously with additional bourbon and wrap in aluminum foil with a couple of apple wedges to keep it moist. Each weekend leading up to Christmas, unwrap cake and sprinkle again with additional bourbon. You can make this cake 4 weeks in advance, depending on how soaked in bourbon you want it.

When I made this cake, I basted it with Very Old Barton BIB for a full three weeks before serving which made the cake a no smoking zone. If you make it, let me know how it turns out.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Global Tippler – American Whiskey

Before departing on the virtual whiskey vacation, I'm going to start right here in my own backyard so to speak. Well, actually Kentucky could be my backyard since at one point, it was part of Virginia. I digress. My whiskey introduction started with bourbon many, many years ago and my love of bourbon and rye grew exponentially. My goal is to select an example of good American whiskey that can still be found on retail shelves but also is not a run of the mill, mass produced expression. I wanted an American whiskey that exhibited a degree of quality, craftsmanship and uniqueness. Van Winkle Special Reserve 12 year "Lot B" is a bourbon I've kept in my bunker for many years. To me, it stands out as an above average pour and is unique in its flavor profile as one of its flavoring grains is wheat versus rye, it's moderately aged and is proofed at an easy 90.4.

Color: Dark golden honey with hues of orange

Nose: Caramel, baking spices like cinnamon and cloves, oak

Entry: Sweet with baking spices, tinges of leather and mildly tannic

Finish: Sweetness diminishes with leather and mild char coming through at the end. Moderately long finish

This is not a big bruiser of a bourbon. Its cousin Pappy 15 (one of my favorites) is aged 3 additional years and has about 17 extra proof points on it. The Lot B is more refined and approachable; almost encouraging the drinker to take another sip, and yet another. This is a very pleasing bourbon with no off notes. I wouldn't say this is widely available, but shouldn't be too difficult to find. My only criticism is the price which here in my area runs $50.

Name: Van Winkle Special Reserve 12 year "Lot B"

Distiller: Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort, KY

Availability: Good

Price: Fair

Size: 750ml bottle with cork stopper

Next up, I'll be travelling to Canada (ok, not really) and we'll be trying a whisky that is actually bottled here in the U.S. but is pure Canadian Rye.

Global Tippler (no, not the pigeon)

My fondness for whiskey isn’t any secret and as such I have a collection that would put most liquor stores to shame. In my defense, I have friends who are also fellow enthusiasts that blow away my hoard so I don’t feel out of control just yet. My open bottle collection hovers around 60 bottles of various bourbons, rye’s, Tennessee, Irish, Scotch, Indian and Japanese whiskies and making a decision some nights on what to pour is a chore. Last night, I was all over the whisk(e)y map. I started out sipping on a Japanese whisky then moved on to bourbon and finished the evening with Irish. I was a world traveler and didn’t leave the house. It got me thinking and I thought it would be fun to blog about different whisk(e)y expressions the world over. Now, I can only write about what I have in my bunker but I think I have a decent representation of the world of whiskies.

I’ll be starting off here on my home turf and write about an American bourbon or rye whiskey. After that it’s wheels up and we’ll be landing in Canada and visit one of the best expression of Canadian Rye I’ve ever had. After that we’ll head to Europe and then shoot on down to India and finish up our trip to Japan. So pack your flask, bring your snuggly and off we go.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas Wish List - should I be sad?

For a number of years my Christmas wish list included bourbon and without fail, my loving bride would come through with the items I wanted most which usually meant that years release of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. For the first time, BTAC didn’t make it on my list this year. The only thing I’ve asked for is the newest release of Parkers Heritage Collection (4th Ed). This year’s release is the first from Heaven Hill produced wheat bourbon since they took over the Bernheim Distillery in 1999. Malt Advocate rated it a 93 and other enthusiasts have been quite positive in their feedback. I’ve had it and it is quite good. I initially did not intend on getting a bottle because of its steep retail price of $80 but through the kindness of a friend who acquired multiple bottles at a steep discount, I hope to unwrap a single bottle on Christmas morning. I’m not sad or second guessing my decision to not ask for any BTAC for a couple reasons. First, I have a deep bunker of previous releases, many of which I have yet to try. The last full set of BTAC that I had open was from 2006; I know, pretty sad. I’ve opened singles along the way but never a full set all at once since 2006. Second, I’ve recently hooked up with other enthusiasts who are hard core and like to travel to Bourbon Mecca (Kentucky!) and pick out their own barrels. I’m fortunate to be included in this exercise and as a result, I’ve acquired bottles that I find to be stellar bourbon from start to finish. For a little over a year, I’ve participated in some fashion the tasting or selection of 5 barrels and in my very biased opinion, they are top shelf all the way. The lure of single barrel offerings like Stagg or William LaRue always get my attention but I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t have them all and have settled into a state of contentment with what I have.

So, for Christmas this year I anticipate getting a single bottle of Parkers, a coffee roaster, a Belgian waffle maker and a stocking full of assorted candy. I’m thankful that I don’t need soap on a rope, socks or underoos.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Pending Holiday Coma

Turkey day is almost upon us and with that are thoughts of Turkey (or Turducken if you're a bit conflicted), mashed 'tater's, stuffin, cranberry sauce, baked oysters (not sure how this is festive), buttered rolls, green beans, pumpkin pie, apple pie and later in the day, leftovers. What's missing is what spirit, brew or wine will go with those various food delicacies? I'm sure we'll have wine but that's not my area of interest so I'll focus on beer and whiskey. My thoughts are to start the opening salvo with a beer before dinner and that will be Bell's Best Brown Ale. I picked this pre-dinner tipple because it's a very flavorful brown ale which will get the taste buds going and it's also a low ABV. For dinner a Widmer Brothers Prickly Pear Braggot and a La Chouffe Belgian Blond Ale. I selected these as I wanted something that would provide a little tartness or flavors of spice, fruit, honey and mild hop. While wine is all well and good, sometimes, I prefer a beer that lifts the palate while indulging and I think the Braggot and Belgian blond will do the trick. I think those that like wine will probably prefer the Braggot while others may go with the spicy ale of the Belgian. After we all awake from the tryptophan and carb slumber, we'll indulge in an upside down apple pie and a pumpkin pie paired with a couple stout selections that feature a flavor profile of coffee, dark chocolate and malt. While I haven't firmed up the selection, it will probably be either a Chimay Premier or Founders Dirty Bastard Scottish Ale. For those that want to indulge in an after dinner whiskey, I'll be offering a various whiskey's from the open bottle collection (north of 55 bottles) so it's up to those that indulge to select what they want. For me, probably a 144 proof 17 year wheat bourbon……..neat……then sleep.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Finding Founders

A friend recently turned me onto Founders Breakfast Stout, a wonderful dark ale full of roasted coffee and chocolate, malt and a slight bitter finish. Awesome! This beer comes from Founders Brewery out of Grand Rapids MI and I have to say, they are doing most things right. Last night I attended a beer and food pairing at a local restaurant and they featured Founders selections with a 5 course meal. It was superbly done. On arrival, they gave each of us a Dry Hopped Pale Ale to start with that had a grapefruit and moderate hop profile. For dinner, the first course was a seafood salad with mint blood orange vinaigrette paired with a Harvest Ale which I found to be similar to the Pale Ale but more assertive; lots of grapefruit on entry and more hop. Next up a Tomato and smoke Gouda soup with Berkshire Ham and Wisconsin Gruyere on a toasted marble rye and this was paired with Red Rye P.A. Now, I'll tell you that my beer preference tends to run toward Belgian style dark ales, low in hop and carbonation so this Rye P.A. was on the opposite end of the beer spectrum for me. The color was a noticeable red/amber hue and the flavor surprised me. While it was a hoppy beer, it was well balanced with a fruity quality that I actually enjoyed. I'm not sure I would sit and drink the Rye P.A. on a regular basis but paired with the soup and sandwich, it was quite nice. Third course consisted of a tenderized pork tenderloin (Pork Involtino) stuffed with cheese and spinach with oven baked sweet potato fries. This was paired with two selections; Dirty Bastard and Backwoods Bastard. The Dirty Bastard is a Scottish ale and reminded me of the Breakfast Stout but less coffee and less chocolate. It was very good……but when I tried the Backwoods Bastard, I quickly forgot about ole' Dirty Bastard. The Backwoods is Dirty aged in used Heaven Hill bourbon barrels that are stored underground in a defunct Gypsum mine for approximately 7 months. This one blew me away. The nose was reminiscent of an Almond Joy candy bar; caramel, coconut and mocha with a malty mouthfeel and a slight bitter finish. Superb all the way and needless to say, my glass was empty pretty quick. The fourth course was a Curmudgeon Beef Bourguignon with an Asiago Palenta paired with Old Curmudgeon. This beer is brewed with Molasses and barrel aged. It was good but at this point, I was starting to feel the effects of 6 beers and we still had two to go. Last up, dessert which was a warm chocolate bread pudding with mocha sauce paired with the Breakfast Stout. I won't put into words how to describe this beer, I'll let Founders do it for me "The coffee lover's consummate beer. Brewed with an abundance of flaked oats, bitter and imported chocolates, and Sumatra and Kona coffee, this stout has an intense fresh roasted java nose topped with a frothy, cinnamon-colored head that goes forever." 'Nuf said. As a parting "gift", they gave us some Cerise which is a tart cherry ale. I could have done without this one and left it behind, quite satisfied with the previous selections. If you're not familiar with Founders, get familiar. They're making some very creative and delicious brews that fully satisfy the most astute palate.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Goodbye 1957

Last night I poured the last of an 8 year Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond from 1957. I think I got misty as I sipped the last few drops from my Glencairn. My thought as I peered sadly into the bottom of the glass was "why can't they make bourbon like this any longer?" I hate to sound like a snob but geezy peezy, that was good… wait…correction…..that was superb bourbon. Sitting in the glass it was a moderate golden color and had a very viscous quality to it. The flavor was old school Stitzel Weller; plenty of cherries, toffee and toasted nuts. The finish was pleasing all the way down. It's nice having bourbon dork friends as they tend to feed samples to me on occasion so as I was milking the last drops of bourbon from the glass, a package arrived with what else inside…..bourbon. My buddy sent some dusties he found in Los Angeles to me and included three samples; 1965 Old Fitz BIB, 1954 Old Fitz BIB and a 1966 Very Old Fitzgerald. So, my sadness turned to glee as I now have replacements. Drink on!