Monday, September 26, 2011

Another year is history

I'm not going to broadcast how old I am but I did celebrate a birthday this past weekend. Now that I have less time on this earth, I decided it was time to open one of my prized semi-vintage bottles.

My bottle of Haller's County Fair Bottled in Bond has been sitting in my bunker for the better part of 4-5 years. A fellow enthusiast found two such bottles in the Northeast sitting on a small liquor store shelf for something around $15. Distilled in 1972 and bottled in 1978, this particular bottle is very unique and comes from a distillery not in operation for some time.

The provenance on this particular bourbon is a little sketchy and some information indicates it came from the old Continental Distillery (Publicker) near Philadelphia PA. The Distilled Plant Number (DSP) on the back indicates distillation took place at DSP-KY-24 and bottled at DSP-PA-12. So if you go strictly by the DSP number, it would stand to reason that this was distilled at the old Glenmore distillery in Owensboro KY and bottled by Continental in PA. Bourbon historian Charles Veach once told me that this was distilled by Charles Medley at Glenmore so all indicators point to KY and Glenmore as the origin.

I enjoyed a moderate pour over the weekend and was captivated by the nose and entry. This bourbon is loaded with fruit like dates, raisins and cherries. There is also hints of chocolate floating around in the background. This is one of those drinks that you savor; never rushing to finish. The Haller's County will be consumed ever so slowly in order to enjoy over the long term.

Finally, my family helped me celebrate and gifted me two bottles I've been eyeballing for some time; Jameson 18 year Irish and Yamazaki 18 year Japanese. Both distinct and outstanding in their own way. The Jameson was buttery smooth and exhibited a degree of complexity I have not typically found in Irish whiskey's.

Finally, I have to give honorable mention to a beer I enjoyed over dinner; Epic Brewery Smoked Oak. For those that enjoy a malty beer with a profile of chewy caramel, this is your beer. Very interesting and one I'll hunt down again to put in the bunker for later enjoyment.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Pumpkin Head to Head

There was a time I really disliked beer. The mass produced versions found on the shelves really were not to my liking. Having to serve a beer near freezing temperatures to mask any offensiveness isn't my idea of good drinking. Back in the 1990's I did a fare amount of international travel and one of my trips took me to Bonn Germany. As any good wait staff would do in a dining establishment, beer was offered and I declined. When asked by my traveling companions why I didn't like beer my answer was something to the tune of "beer of nasty." Well, undeterred, my companions talked me into ordering a local German Lager and from that night on, I was hooked. I don't remember what it was, but I do remember thinking "where in the world did this stuff come from?"

Fast forward umpteen years and beer is my second love next to whisk(e)y. My profile preferences tend to lean toward a malty beer rather than hoppy. This past week I was visiting a friend who wanted to do a little side by side tasting of 4 different seasonal Pumpkin Ales. I'm not one to turn down an invitation to drink for free but over the years I've avoided the "flavored" beers.

The four beers we lined up were:

New Holland Ichabod Pumpkin Ale: This one poured a light copper color. Nosing this beer didn't produce anything of interest. Upon tasting it, it was even less interesting. To me, it tasted like a standard light Ale, moderate carbonation and nothing in the way of interesting flavor, much less pumpkin. Beer Advocate readers rated this one a B- so I must be missing something here. This one wasn't finished and got dumped in the flower bed.

Uinta Brewing Punk'N Ale: Probably the poorest example of a pumpkin ale among the four as it lacked pretty much any pumpkin flavor whatsoever. Again, the flavor components were pretty much boring and in the end, this one was not finished either and tossed in the flower bed. Beer Advocate rated this a C+ which I think is generous.

Schafly Pumpkin Ale: The color on this one was poured somewhat darker than the rest leading to a slight anticipation of something better than the previous two. The nose did have some mild spice and pumpkin so a better start overall. The entry was good to start but then the finish took a weird turn and had the taste of simple syrup; a very sweet mid-palate. It wasn't bad per se, but didn't balance very well as a beer but I would say at least better than the first two. Beer Advocate rated this an A- as I would have given this a B- at best.

Williamsburg Alewerks Pumpkin Ale: This ale poured an orange bronze color and had moderate carbonation. The nose on this beer was very compelling and smelled of pumpkin pie. Very intriguing. The entry on this one was fantastic with the entry confirming what the nose displayed; a pumpkin pie profile with spices, mild hops and a finish that wasn't overly sweet. This one hands down was my favorite. In fact, I ended up grabbing a case for the beer bunker. Beer Advocate rated this an A-, a rating I agree with (not that that means anything). For fans of pumpkin ale, the WA Pumpkin is very very good.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Four Roses Limited Edition 2011

About a week ago, Four Roses announced the next Limited Edition release. Considering that Four Roses has only been re-distributing back here in the U.S. since mid 2000's, they've done quite a bit to grab market share. In September 2007, Four Roses released the first of their Limited Release selections with the 40th Anniversary which celebrated Jim Rutledge's tenure with Four Roses. Following on the success of this bottling the 120th Anniversary was released in 2008 along with the first Mariage. In 2009, Four Roses released the first Limited Edition along with another variation of the Mariage. Last year saw another Limited Edition along with a Limited Edition Small Batch at barrel strength and the 100th Anniversary release. So you're not confused, the 120th released in 2008 was the Anniversary of the Four Roses name whereas the 100th Anniversary was celebration of the distillery itself.

I hope that's not too much to take in but as you can see, they've been busy. I'll admit, I've not been a fan over the years of Four Roses with the exception of 120th Anniversary release and a private bottling done in 2007 by The Bourbon Society. In addition to those, I've also had the privilege of traveling to Four Roses with a group of other enthusiasts and picking out a couple of barrels; both of which ended up on my favorites list.

You should begin to see the 2011 LE on the shelves very soon depending on your market. Here is the presser from Four Roses:

Wednesday, August 24th 2011
Four Recipes Artfully Mingled in New Limited Edition Bourbon
Four Roses 2011 Limited Edition Small Batch Blooms

LAWRENCEBURG, Ky. (August 24, 2011) – Four Roses Distillery is adding to its collection of limited edition small batch bourbon expressions this September which mingles four recipes – aged between 11 and 13 years - of the distillery’s 10 unique recipes.

The release of the Four Roses 2011 Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon will coincide with September’s Kentucky Bourbon Heritage Month and will be officially introduced at the 2011 Kentucky Bourbon Festival. It will include four recipes hand-selected by Master Distiller Jim Rutledge. The bourbon utilizes Four Roses’ recipes coded OBSK and OESQ, both aged 13 years, as well as recipes OESV aged 12 years and OESK aged 11 years.

The 2011 Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon presents aromas of honeysuckle, toasted oak, almond toffee, and spicy hints of nutmeg and cinnamon, with subtle fruit flavors of dried apricot, ripe plum, plus brown sugar, honey and dark chocolate covered cherries.

“This year’s limited small batch release is a classically refined bourbon that really showcases our ability to utilize the distillery’s 10 distinct recipes,” said Four Roses Master Distiller Jim Rutledge. “The combination of spicy, fruity and floral flavors make this a rich, mellow offering perfect for any occasion.”

The distillery will produce approximately 3,500 bottles of the barrel strength, non-chill filtered bourbon to markets where Four Roses is currently available in the U.S.

Four Roses’ limited edition bourbon offerings have historically sold out quickly and been highly acclaimed by spirits critics. Last year’s 2010 Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon was rated third by Paul Pacult amongst the top 140 Five-Star Rated Spirits
of the world in his renowned liquor industry publication The Spirit Journal.