Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Celebrate 12/5/33

Tomorrow fellow whiskey lovers is Repeal Day.  December 5th 1933 the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution passed.  For clarification, the 18th Amendment ratified in 1919 did not make drinking illegal but the manufacturing and transportation of liquor and as a byproduct of this law, the Speakeasy came into existence.  So, in essence, people continued to drink.....a lot.

So, tomorrow, I'll be lifting a snifter of something delicious to those that came before us in repealing prohibition.  My drink of choice?  I'm leaning toward a Prohibition Old Crow and a post Prohibition Mt. Vernon Rye.

How about you? 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

How to REALLY spend Black Friday

Every year on Black Friday my wife, her mother and all of her sisters get up at o'dark thirty and take off for a day of shopping.  Remember the scene in Full Metal Jacket where the dude gets beat with a sock filled with soap?  I'd choose that over shopping on Black Friday.....seriously.

So, since the girls would be gone a good 12+ hours, I decided an afternoon of BBQ, Beer, Bourbon and Poker was in order.  I invited the family men (brother in laws, nephews, etc.) for an afternoon of goofing off.

On Thanksgiving evening I took out a 12lb pork butt and let it sit out for a little over an hour to let it come up in temp a little bit.  I applied some Dizzy Pig Dizzy Dust rub and then tossed into the smoker.  I used bourbon barrel staves for the wood.

At 3:00 a.m. I got up and checked the temp.....167.  Perfect! I pulled it out, foiled it and placed it back into the smoker.  At 9:30 a.m. when the temp reached 207, I pulled it out, wrapped it in a towel and put it in a cooler to sit for a couple hours.

I prepped the food so at 1:00 when everyone arrived, we dug in and had some great BBQ.  On tap for beer we enjoyed some Bruery Saison Rue, Goose Island Bourbon County Stout and Great Lakes Commodore Perry.  After lunch we watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail (my personal favorite) and drank Monty Pythons Holy Grail Ale (I know....corny but fun). 

We finished off the day with a 3 hour game of poker.  My sisters boyfriend who professed to have only played poker a couple of times and apologized for not fully understanding all the rules, cleaned us all out.

During the game we enjoyed some whiskey libations that included 1991 Eagle Rare 101, 1988 Weller Special Reserve, Caperdonich 19 year and Four Roses OESO barrel strength.

It was a good Black Friday and I'm thinking I'll repeat this next year....and hopefully win my money back.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

It's all about style.....

Whenever someone finds out I'm a whisk(e)y enthusiast, I can count down 3.....2.....1 "so...what's your favorite whiskey?"  I understand the motivation for the question but that's like asking what your favorite food is.  I like many types of food and the same goes for whiskey so the question really has no answer.

Thus the education begins ".....whiskey is diverse as wine in many respects...." and I go on to explain the origins of whiskey, the various grains that make up whiskey, the distillation differences, cooperage differences, aging differences, etc. etc.  This cornucopia of whiskey information typically leads then to the real question.  What style do you like?

When it comes to bourbon, I pretty much like them all.  When it comes to Scotch, almost anything except Islay (ok, for those paying attention to this blog know that last exception is a lie).  I dislike MOST Islay....there are exceptions like my Bruichladdich 15 year second edition. 

I cut my teeth on Wild Turkey back in the day and then when reintroduced to bourbon, I gravitated toward wheated bourbons like Van Winkle Family Reserve Lot B.  Today, I like a very broad cut across the whisk(e)y offerings so for me, I don't have a favorite whiskey but when it comes to styles, I do like barrel strength bourbons and in Scotch, I like Highland and Speyside primarily.

Style can cover many aspects:

Barrel proof to cut proof (that sweet spot that is your preferred drinking proof)
Single Barrel, Small Batch, or Vat
Extra age to young
World region (e.g. Japanese over Irish)
Mashbill of Rye, Wheat, Barley or Corn
Vintage or current
...and the list could go on

So, what's your style?  Is your preference a broad drinking experience like mine or do you narrow in on a specific style?  There is no wrong answer.....it all comes down to what you like.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Dirty Bourbon

One byproduct of barrel strength, non filtered, barrel to bottle bourbon is the barrel char dregs that come with it.  For some, this char layer on the bottom of the bottle is the prize at the end of the journey.

Last night I enjoyed the last pour from a 2005 William LaRue Weller.  I handled the bottle gently in order to minimize agitating the char.  I was mildly successful but still managed to get some char into the glass producing a pour that was more the color of weak coffee than the deep amber hue of a typical pour.  I added just a touch of water and wasn't disappointed with a full flavored dram of wheat bourbon goodness.  The char was present on each sip but not unpleasantly so.

Some may be turned off by this but to me it's all part of the experience of enjoying bourbon of varying degrees.....including barrel char.  You will most likely find char is George T. Stagg or Bookers and of course I've seen it in some of my barrel picks that go from barrel to bottle.

I owe an apology to a friend of mine (that's you Em), where he and I have argued over the years about which WLW is better, 2005 or 2006.  My preference over the years has leaned toward 2006 but he swears by 2005 but in this case, I tip my hat to the 2005 as it was an exceptional dram.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Knappogue Castle 1995 - Blind Tasting

Knappogue Castle Vintage selections denote year of distillation, this one in 1995 is 13 years old and was distilled at Bushmills (prior to 1993, Cooley). There's no color added so it's a very pale blond. I found the color interesting as this whiskey is aged entirely in bourbon barrels. Even though it's second use, I would have expected something a little darker. This selection comes in at 80 proof but to me, drinks like something more than that.

This is the 7th selection in the blind Irish tasting and for the most part, the results exhibited a somewhat lopsided bell curve with tasters approving more than disapproving.  Interesting data point, the Beverage Tasting Institute gave this selection an exceptional rating of 92.  Our tasting panel was not quite as generous.

My thoughts on this selection is that it's a very delicate whiskey exhibiting a profile that was somewhat grassy with citrus overnotes, honeyed, light summer berries and a touch of spice about mid palate.  The finish was somewhat oily and moderate in length.  The Knappogue is a lighter experience than say Jameson 12 and while both are 80 proof, the Jameson is a blend not a single malt like this selection.

Scores came out as follows:

95-100 Classic Whiskey 0
90-94 Excellent Whiskey 0
85-89 Very Good, Above Average Whiskey 4
80-84 Average Whiskey 6
75-79 Fair Whiskey 1
74 and Under - Pass on This Whiskey0

The tasting panel had the following comments on this Irish Whiskey:

"A delicate nose of malt, spice and citrus (grapefruit, maybe a little orange). Sweet on the palate, with a clean finish."

"Nose is very fruity, some tropical notes (Mango, papaya) and some fruit cocktail notes.
Palate: Fruit yielding to malt notes. Exceedingly light with floral notes.
Finish: Fruit stripe gum."

"Very light color, presented initially as fruity on the nose...but then ended with an alcohol kick.
Light legs in the glass leading to an OK mouth feel. Found this to be ok on the initial sip but thin and leading to a very short finish and that wallop of heat that was so evident from the initial nose....."

"Color of this whiskey is very light. Very clean, bright fruit nose.....this one is very interesting on the palate…grapefruit on the back end of the finish? This one packs a good deal of flavor, appears to have more age and is quite interesting."

This is an Irish whiskey that is interesting enough to keep on the bar when you want something easy to sip on.  Somewhat complex with a good mingle of flavors.  I'm not sure if this particular release is still available but the pricing should be reasonable if found.  If this one cannot be located, maybe try the current 12 year.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Almost 3 years ago I added a post about Bourbon and Ginger Ale.  Little did I know at the time that it would trump any other post by a margin of almost 2 to 1.  Almost daily, that post has the highest number of pageviews on this blog.

So, now I'm challenged to go beyond just bourbon and try other whisk(e)y expressions with Ginger Ale.  I'll use the same base soda as I did back then, Blenheims Ginger Ale, and try it with various Scotch expressions, Irish, Japanese, Canadian and Indian. I was thinking about avoiding anything with a heavy peat/smoke influence but maybe the results of that mix would surprise me (not thinking likely). 

So, over the next number of days, I'll be mixing up various whisk(e)y with ginger to see how they stack up to the traditional Bourbon Highball.

Whiskey vs. Whisky

I had the pleasure of meeting a couple of like minded whisk(e)y enthusiasts this past week while on business in Dallas.  We had a good time enjoying multiple pours in the Gaylord Texan Cigar Lounge (we kind of snuck stuff into the lounge).

I've mentioned before that my whiskey journey started with Bourbon and after many years began branching out to other whiskies.  In talking with one of the guys, Tim, he started with Scotch and migrated toward Bourbon.

While I still buy quite a bit of Bourbon, those dollars are for the most part focused on barrel picks.  The other portion of my disposable income now goes to other whiskies like Scotch, Irish, etc.  I can see this starting the slip down that slippery slope since there's not many other whisk(e)y expressions that I don't like in some fashion, obviously, some better than others. 

Tim was gracious enough to pick up a new Scotch expression for me from Specs Liquor in Dallas that was a selection in a recent Scotch tasting he attended.  The Duncan Taylor 19 year Caperdonich ended up being one of the tops picks and Tim highly recommended it.  So, being very game and trusting Tim's palate, he grabbed two bottles, one for me and another for a friend.

That got me thinking about how my purchasing has changed over just the last year.  Looking at the bunker I've added a number of various Scotch expressions in just the last 10 months that include:

Caperdonich 19
Compass Box Spice Tree
Glenmorangie 18
Balvenie 21
Glenburgie 14
Glen Grant
Signatory Royal Lochnagar 17
Springbank 10
Springbank Claret 12
Springbank 13
Springbank Madeira 14
Aberfeldy 21

Prior to that I added:

Redbreast 12 cask
Yamazaki 18
Jameson 18
Rosebank 20
Aberlour a'bunadh batch 22
Greenspot Irish
Slieve Foy 8
Greenore 18
The Glenlivet Nadurra 16
Balblair '89

I see over time my purchasing becoming more balanced in the acquisition of Whiskey and Whisky.  I feel I missed out on years of great drinking by ignoring Scotch, Irish, Japanese and the like.  Better late than never I guess.  By the way, the recent release of Balvenie 17 year Doublewood is giving me palpitations.

Question:  Anyone else find more diversity in their whisk(e)y purchases?  If so, what?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Bourbon Influx – Spring 2012

Yup….I'm a little late posting the picks of the Spring 2012 barrel picks. Better late than never…..
These bottles rolled in early July and consisted of multiple picks from Four Rose and Buffalo Trace. In all the entire group purchased 13 barrels of bourbon….a rather silly amount of juice but this consisted of the group buy and those in our group that wanted to purchase their own barrel. For this posting, I'll focus on only those that I acquired myself as I didn't go in on any of the private purchases.

Back in June I posted a couple of blogs about the trip to KY here and here .

Old Weller Antique 7.4 years 107 proof (#8) - Loaded up with caramel, burnt brown sugar and cinnamon, this selection was quickly a top favorite. One member described this selection and "liquid candy" and I can't argue with that. This barrel and the following two were all distilled on the same day but the aging certainly took a different turn on each of these. The heat is non-existent and drink way too easy even at 107 proof. 

Old Weller Antique 7.4 year 107 proof (#9) – This one to me has an abundance of ripe fruit. The profile also exhibits spices, toasted nut and a creamy mouthfeel. It's a very intriguing and another one that is too easy to drink and very full of flavor. Another cracker pick.

Old Weller Antique 7.4 year 107 proof (#10) – I didn't get many bottles from this barrel which is my own fault and I'm sorry I didn't acquire more. This one has turned out to be another favorite. I think at first opening, the bourbon was somewhat tight but after getting a little air, it opened up very nicely exhibiting a wonderful array of flavors similar to #9 above but different in some aspects. The fruit isn't as dominant and is more in line with pear or apple, add in caramel, vanilla and buttercream. This bourbon is a bit drier than the previous two selections but that's not a negative in this case. One member commented that they thought it was very similar to Pappy 15. 

Four Roses (OESK) 11 year 124.5 proof – As I mentioned in my previous post about the Four Roses tasting, this barrel was extremely short and Jim Rutledge didn't think we would actually get any bottles from the barrel. Well, we ended up with 48. That was it. Unfortunately, this was the top pick for the group during the tasting. So, allocation went out by lottery. I managed two bottles. This one was described as a bourbon candy bar exhibiting a flavor profile of fruit, nut, caramel and vanilla. I would add in that the finish is long and lingering. Heat's totally in check….another drinkable bottle at barrel strength.

Four Rose (OBSF) 9.9 year 122.7 proof – This one was an interesting pick as I picked up a herbal/mint aroma on the nose with some moderate heat about mid palate. There a nice sweetness to this bourbon that's not overdone but a subtle mix of sweet, barrel char, stone fruit with a finish that's complex and deep. A very compelling bourbon and unlike the other two FR picks. Very tasty.

Four Rose (OESF) 9.9 year 122 proof – The "F" yeast is quickly becoming one of my favorite yeasts of the Four Roses mashbills. I find this to be another complex whiskey with a berry and chocolate profile. Long lingering wood notes and char (which gives the chocolate flavoring). This is a very satisfying bourbon and another great example from Four Roses. The fact that they have 10 mashbills really makes their bourbons so unique and appealing. 

I'm expecting two more barrels selections to show up and both from Kentucky Bourbon Distillers; a Willett 9 year barrel strength and an 8 year barrel strength. Hopefully not too much longer to wait.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Midleton Very Rare - Blind Tasting

I'll point out right up front that the Midleton Very Rare Irish Whiskey is expensive with the typical range around $125 to $150 for a 750ml bottle.

This offering comes from Irish Distillers, a Pernod Ricard company, who also distribute Jameson, Paddy and Powers and up until 2009 also distributed Wild Turkey Bourbon.

This was selection #6 in the Irish blind tasting and I included it for the simple reason that it's a premium blend and I wanted something top shelf in the mix.  I first came across Midleton back in early 2010 and vacillated purchasing the bottle due to the price.  I ended pulling the trigger and for the most part am glad I did.

This blended whiskey comes from 50 hand selected casks by the Master Distiller and contains whiskey that is as young as 12 years up to 25 years old.  This label first appeared in 1984 as a special annual release.  Midleton has won many awards at various spirits competitions and is well regarded in the industry as well as world whiskey enthusiasts.

At 40% ABV, this is not a powerhouse whiskey but is instead an elegant dram exhibiting flavors of aged oak, honeycomb, summer fruits and baking spice.  The finish is long and smooth coaxing the drinker to take yet another sip. To me, a very good example of a high end blend and one to be savored and shared among those that appreciate a unique and rare whiskey.

This selection received good marks among the tasting panel

95-100 Classic Whiskey 1
90-94 Excellent Whiskey 4
85-89 Very Good, Above Average Whiskey 1
80-84 Average Whiskey 2
75-79 Fair Whiskey 1
74 and Under - Pass on This Whiskey0

Comments from the panel consisted of:

"Caramel, malt, sherry, spice, and a hint of citrus. As good as it gets."

"I like the fruit flavors but the metallic aftertaste was a bit of a turnoff for me."

"Wow! A stunner. Seriously I could drink this all day and all year."

"DELICIOUS !!!!  I really enjoyed this whiskey and it comes closest in our sample to date to the type of flavour profile that I look for when reaching for an Irish Whiskey."

"To me, a one dimensional whiskey, not unplesant, but not something I'd crave."

The Midleton Very Rare has a limited distribution and may be difficult to find in some markets.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Is it Bourbon or is it Beer?

It's Both!

I've mentioned before my beer preferences lean toward the dark and malty side of the beer flavor spectrum and I typically dislike hopped selections. This weekend was no exception. I attended a local gathering of beer, bourbon, bbq and cigar enthusiasts that encompassed both Friday evening and all day Saturday. Practically everyone that attended brought some sort of beer selection. My contribution entailed those of the pumpkin variety; Williamsburg Alewerks Pumpkin Ale, Schlafly Pumpkin Ale and Southern Tier Pumking. All great selections. 

Over the last couple of years I've indulged in a number of beers finished in bourbon barrels. Few are great, some are good and a number of them are mediocre. A couple standouts have been Firestone Walker Anniversary releases, Schlafly Imperial Stout, Founders Backwoods Bastard, and Goose Island Bourbon County Stout to name just a few.

This weekend I enjoyed a couple new ones. Both from Williamsburg Alewerks; Bourbon Barrel Porter (BBP) and Cafe Royal (CR). Williamsburg Alewerks has a nice selection of beers from their seasonal Pumpkin Ale, to their standard offerings like Washington Porter, Tavern Ale and Coffeehouse Stout. The Bourbon Barrel Porter does not use the Washington Porter as the base but a different porter recipe. The Cafe Royale uses the Coffeehouse Stout as its base. 

Bourbon Barrel Porter is aged in barrels from Bowman Distillery for a period of two months according to the brewery website. I believe the aging period may be longer just based on unofficial information and my own observations while visiting the brewery recently. After the porter is dumped, the barrel is re-filled with the Coffeehouse Stout and aged for a period of at least 3 months.

The results are amazing. First, you have to start with a great beer base and both the porter and stout are fantastic. I recently visited another VA brewery, Corcoran, and they also had a barrel aged stout that was lacking in so many ways. 

First, the BBP was outstanding. The mouthfeel wasn't overly syrupy or too thick and the flavors were wonderfully balanced exhibiting a profile of roasted malts, caramel, bourbon (of course) and milk chocolate. Carbonation is moderate and the finish is lingering with a slight smoky sweetness. Some of these types of beers tend to be too heavy, too boozy or too sticky sweet.....BBP is none of these. A great barrel aged porter.

Second, the CR was also outstanding. The coffee stout base really pops with an overlay of bourbon that melds very nicely. A friend sitting next to me this past weekend tried the CR for the first time and stated "I think this very well may be the best beer I've ever had.....". I find the CR to be somewhat more complex that the BBP giving up flavors of coffee, bourbon, dark malts, bitter chocolate and toffee. Again, the brew is not sticky sweet or too overpowering. 

I've managed to locate a number of these little gems locally so I've procured and bunkered them down for later enjoyment. These should age quite nicely. 

These two selections come in bomber size bottles and run about $8-$10 retail. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Michael Collins - Blind Tasting

I'm trying to play catch up here so bear with me.  As a reminder, I hosted a blind tasting of Irish Whiskey and the Michael Collins was selected due to its age.  Coming in at 10 years, I figured this would provide additional complexity to the whiskey even though it's bottled at 80 proof.

This is a Single Malt offering from Cooley that is distilled twice instead of thrice as many Irish selections tend to be.  Why is the number important?  For those that are curious, the more you distill, the more flavor is stripped from the distillate.  The Michael Collins is also an interesting selection as it's slightly peated.  I noticed the peat and smoke just a touch with the fruit profile playing a more dominate role overall in the whiskey.

From the website, Michael Collins is described as such:

"Robust and complex, with a subtle peatiness, Michael Collins 10 Year Old Single Malt is double distilled for proper balance of purity and character, then matured in small bourbon seasoned casks for a minimum of ten years.  Michael Collins 10 Year Old Single Malt has a slightly sweet nose that is rich and complex with hints of ripe fruit, meadow flowers and peat. Clean and smooth, the dry-to-medium finish has a lingering light smokiness that is made to savor."

The tasting panel liked this selection for the most part as the bell curve was above average.  It ranked as follows:

95-100 Classic Whiskey 0
90-94 Excellent Whiskey 1
85-89 Very Good, Above Average Whiskey 5
80-84 Average Whiskey 2
75-79 Fair Whiskey 0
74 and Under - Pass on This Whiskey 1

Some comments from the panel starting with my own:

"The nose was bready and sweet with a hint of smoke and peat. Very inviting. The entry had sweet start that exhibited traces of orange peel, vanilla biscuit with a subtle smokey peaty finish. Nice deviation from a normal Irish (e.g. Bushmills, Jamesons)"

"Nose shows light smoke, reserved fruit and scotch like nuances. I suspect a bit more age as the nose reveals increased complexity. Less sweetness on the nose and a bit more alcohol. The palate reveals good depth of flavor, fruity sweetness, hints of smoke and nice balance. This is a much more interesting whisky and it exhibits good complexity… once again it is very scotch like. Good finish with a lingering smokiness."

"Lots of honey and fruits in this one. Very enjoyable, and definitely my favorite so far. I think this could handle some extra proof and become something outstanding. Well picked....."

 "A nice start with white grape juice and some malt notes but it dulls pretty quickly, getting flat and watery.  The finish isn't much, slightly malty."

"Initially sweet and delicate, this one seems to deliver some heat mid-palate; a little bit of dryness with vanilla, some of those pear notes and a nice lingering finish that seems to dry out as it goes along"

 This whiskey runs about $40 which in my opinion, is a fair price for this offering.  Michael Collins 10 year is not overly complex but delivers enough flavor and interest to make this a regular resident in the bunker.  This label also comes in a blended version that is not age stated.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Good Bye Old Overholt *sniff*

Ok, so I'm not trying to be Mr. Dusty drinker in your face snobby blah blah blah.....but the reality is, there are actually quite a few enthusiasts out there that have a decent bunker that includes out of production whiskies.  So, I share just for the heck of it plus it's fun rolling through these older whiskies.

A number of years back, I'm pilfering through D.C. liquor stores and I walk into one store that is a treasure trove of older whiskies in bygone era decanters that included a Baccarat Crystal Decanter of Wild Turkey 101, two full train sets of Jim Beam, various Michters Jug Decanters and a few others that escape me.  The owner had a decent inventory of whiskey and when asking him about these very unique decanters he indicates that they may not all be for sale.  So, on a whim, I ask about the Baccarat Decanter, hold my breath and wait for the answer.  He indicates he would take no less than $1,200.  I secretly think "yah, I bet you would".  Moving on....nothing to see here.

He also indicates the other decanters are not for sale as they belonged to his father and had sentimental value.  Ok, fine.

I'm ready to walk out and move on to the next store when I spy a couple of bottles of Old Overholt Rye Whiskey.  The label on this whiskey hasn't changed in years so it's hard to tell what's recent and what's dusty.  On closer inspection, they both have tax strips so I ask to see them. This Rye whiskey has a very long history in American whiskey production and as such has contained a couple different mashbills.  Early on, Old Overholt was produced in Pennsylvania, then was moved to Kentucky by National Distillers.  In 1987, Jim Beam purchased the brand and began using their normal Rye whiskey for this label.  The timeline is somewhat important for these two bottles I'm eyeballing as I didn't want the whiskey if it contained Beam juice.  For a more detailed explanation of Old Overholt, see Chuck Cowdery's post here.

I flip the bottle over and see "84" on the bottom......glory be!  I purchase both bottles for $9.95 a piece.  A a general rule, National Distillers made some pretty fine whiskey from Old Grand Dad to Old Talyor and Old Overholt.

The 1984 Old Overholt at 80 proof was packed with flavor, had a nice mid palate that exhibited sweet floral notes.  The finish was moderately long with a good bit of sweetness lingering on the palate after the sip made it's way to my gullet. I've been nursing this bottle for quite some time but it was time to retire this bottle.  I still have the sister bottle in the bunker and I'm not sure when I'll get around to opening it.  Maybe if I ever go hunting again, I'll make an effort to find more of this very fine Rye.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Good Bye Benchmark and Michael Collins

I'm on a roll!  I've had some success in draining those low fill bottles.  It's a bittersweet success though as some of these selections are not in production any more and chances are, I won't find more. 

A 1978 Benchmark gave up its last the other night.  One of tastiest and smoothest dusty bourbons I have is the Benchmark.  This particular bottle was non-age stated (NAS) and came in at 86 proof although I suspect it was older than 4 years just by the depth of flavor and long finish.  Whenever I drink this bourbon, I think of velvet.

Second dead bottle was a Single Malt Irish, Michael Collins coming in at 10 years old and 80 proof.  This particular Irish has nice transitions for a low proof.  Fruit, spice and sugar coated nuts.  A very pleasant whiskey.

So now I'm on to other selections on the list.  The BTAC stuff is going to take some time as I don't hit those that often; not sure why, but I don't.  My tastes have changed over time and I'm less inclined to hit the big barrel proof bruisers.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Good Bye Old Crow and Old Fitz

Back almost 3 years ago to the day, I posted an Exam-o-dram for a 1969 Old Crow 10 year.  I've been on a mission to drain my low fill bottles.  As someone posted on this very blog, I have bottles with low fill and if I let them sit too long, they could over oxidize and turn on me.

So, rather than taking my normal eclectic approach to drinking, I've decided to focus on those bottles that just need to be killed off.  Two bottles I focused on in the last week or so was the Old Crow and a '82 Old Fitz BIB.  After being open for a number of years, they were both still very enjoyable and tasty to the last drop.

The short list of low fill that I'll be concentrating on in the coming weeks will be:

70's vintage Cream of Kentucky
1959 Old Forester BIB
1992 Old Fitz Prime
1978 Benchmark
1984 Wild Turkey 101
Various BTAC
Various Willett
Michael Collins 10 year
Redbreast 12 year

Actually, that's not a short list after all.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Abraham Bowman 17 year

Over the course of my bourbon education, one thing I've learned is that a single sip doesn't tell the whole story on a bourbon or whiskey.  As many of you enthusiasts may know, oxidation can make quite a difference. There's been many of bourbon that when first opened is tight, hot, flat, etc.  Given enough air time, magical things can happen.

Unfortunately, neither Tinker Bell nor Harry Potter can do anything to help this latest release from Bowman.  I'll caveat once again, this is my impression only; I leave final judgement up to those that drink it and come to their own determination.  I have friend in MD that loves this stuff.....he says the more heat and wood the better.

This latest release from Bowman is cask strength at 147.5 pf and 17 years old.  Color is a golden hue with shades of amber.  Nose is actually interesting giving up caramel and barrel notes but the heat really gets in the way of doing proper nosing. 

First taste is nothing but heat that attacks the palate first thing which masks any flavor components on the front end of the sip.  As the heat subsides around mid palate, there's hints of burnt sugar, wood and a bitter note that detracts from the overall profile.  From mid palate to finish, it's rather flat and one dimensional.  I added water taking it down to about 100 pf and while there's a touch of sweetness that pops up, the heat is still way too dominate to enjoy.

Bowman released an 18 year last year and it's fantastic.  In a previous post, I blogged about our 14 year old barrel pick and that one is also fantastic so I had fairly high expectations of this 17 year.  Unfortunately, it's really not a bourbon I would add to my bunker nor drink.  I hate to be this critical of this bourbon but that's the way I taste it and my taster typically doesn't steer me wrong.

I revisited  this bourbon a couple of times and it's just not going to get any better.  If you enjoy heat and wood, go for this bottle.  Other than that, I would recommend the big bypass on this one.  It's just too one dimensional to invest nearly $70 for a bottle.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Tobacco and Whiskey - Indulgent Pairing

For quite a few years, I've enjoyed my pipe while sitting on the front porch during temperate times of the year.  A few years back a good friend of mine piqued my interest in cigars and I was hooked.  Unfortunately, my pipe took a back seat for a spell until recently and I found that I missed the mellow times pipe smoking brings.

I've paired tobacco and whiskey together whether it be cigars or pipe on a regular basis and thoroughly enjoy the combination.  There's no right or wrong pairing when selecting a whiskey or tobacco, it's really whatever you happen to like, but it's also fun trying various combinations that may be better than others.  In the end, this double indulgence provides a time of relaxation, reflection and pure gratification.  The one bit of advice I do offer, and again, this comes down to preference, is paring a whiskey that is not cask strength when smoking a pipe.  The high ABV will impact the palate minimizing your ability to enjoy the subtle nature of the pipe tobacco.

For this post, I'll focus more on pipe tobacco.  There's a very broad selection of pipe tobacco and the topic would take far to long to articulate here.  There are numerous resources on the web if you're interested in researching.

Growing up, my Father smoked a pipe and I always remembered the sweet aroma that lingered in the room or car as he puffed away.  Unfortunately, my Mother was not a fan and my Father eventually gave up smoking and gave his pipes away.....a real shame that I don't have some of his pipes today.

When someone asks me to make recommendations on cigars and they are new to smoking, I recommend something mild that has a light wrapper and little to no Ligero as this particular leaf adds strength to a cigar.  For pipe tobacco, the selections are almost endless.  There are a number of tobacco's that have higher nicotine content which can provide the same physical effects as a Ligero cigar......a good sucker punch to the gut.

I won't recommend anything here but will point you to a good website that has a deep database of user reviews at http://www.tobaccoreviews.com/index.cfm.

I have about 15 various selections and I recently picked up a couple more.  Last night I enjoyed one of the new acquisitions; Dunhill Navy Rolls.  While this is a Dunhill offering (Dunhill is a UK company), the blend comes from Orlik Tobacco Company in the Netherlands.  This tobacco is labeled as medium in strength and very mild in flavor.   Navy Rolls is a Virginia tobacco blended with Perique.  The tobacco itself was coin rolled, not loose, which required the added job of breaking apart the coin before loading the pipe.  Overall, an enjoyable smoke that exhibited a sweetness which comes from the Virginia tobacco and a spice on the finish that comes from the Perique.

With this smoke, I paired a low proof Bruichladdich 15 year 2nd Edition (I know...it's an Islay and I said I didn't like those.....).  The 'Laddie exhibited a profile of summer fruits, very mild peat, and a nice viscosity promoting a creamy mouthfeel.  The whisky spent 15 years in used Bourbon Casks and then another 26 weeks in Sauternes Casks imparting an additional layer of sweetness; an exceptional dram.

Connemara Peated - Blind Tasting

When selecting whiskies for the Irish tasting, I purposely picked a peated expression in order to have a selection that deviated from the more standard Irish profile.  The Connemara is a peat monster; at least to my palate.  This particular expression is double distilled (rather than triple distilled) and aged in oak casks and bottled at 80 proof.  This selection is from Cooley distillery and they offer a couple expressions of Connemara with this one being their base offering.

To be honest, I couldn't even finish this whiskey.  I was just too nasty for my palate since I'm not a lover of high peat content and this one was over the top for me.  The tasting panel was pretty split on this whiskey.  A little more than half liked it and the rest agreed with me.  Here are how the numbers stacked up:

95-100 Classic Whiskey  0
90-94 Excellent Whiskey  0
85-89 Very Good, Above Average Whiskey  5
80-84 Average Whiskey  2
75-79 Fair Whiskey  0
74 and Under - Pass on This Whiskey  4

If you like Scotch, particularly those from Islay, you may find this Irish agreeable.  Here are some comments from the tasters:

"An unpleasant nose dominated by rubber, with a little smoke and malt in the background. Bitter on the palate."

"Peat tea with honey, well balanced sweet and peaty elements. A nice flavor profile but a bit weak tasting.  The peat is lighter on the finish but still very present."

"Beautifully complex - drinks nicer and smoother than the nose would suggest (didn't much care for this nose on an Irish whiskey), finish that goes on and on - great legs on the glass - just enough warmth on the sip to add to the complexity of the entire experience..works greatly with the sweet woody taste."

"A nice medium mouthfeel, this is pleasantly different than what I was expecting; there’s a sweet smokiness that follows the nose with a pleasantly drying smokey finish that lasts a while."

Bottle comes packaged in 750ml and is priced around $40.  If you like Irish Whiskey and you like Peat....knock yourself out.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Fast and Furious

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm busy.  As I've mentioned, I own a Franchise and am in the process of opening my second location.  Most nights I'm buried deep in e-mails and paperwork until hitting the sack late.  I'm scheduled to open August 4th so I hope to get some breathing room after that.

I have a couple things stacked up to post:

Bowman 17 years cask - new release last month
Springbank Scotch
Personal barrel pick reviews
Irish Blind Tasting results
Pipe Tobacco - anybody else enjoy a good evening smoke?  I'll review a couple tobacco's I've enjoyed recently.

I do miss posting here on Bourbon Dork and hope to be back in full swing soon.  As I take a quick break to make this post, I am enjoying a Julio's release of Weller Centennial done back about 5 or 6 years ago.  Superb pour.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Bourbon Influx #2

Just received partial shipment of the barrel picks from last April.  Four boxes arrived Saturday with three different selections of Old Weller Antique; all single barrel. The last OWA we picked had just turned 8 years old a day or two prior to the barrel dump.  This time around they were approx. 7 yr 4 months old.  One of them in particular reminds me of an older Pappy 15. 

The three Four Roses Single Barrels were different recipes; OBSF, OESK and OESF, picked in that order by the group of tasters.  The OESK selection was a very short barrel.  In fact, Jim Rutledge didn't think it would actually yield much of anything.  He was almost right...we managed to pull 48 bottles from the barrel. The "F" yeast recipes are terrific.  I've opened the OESF and it's got a big fruity profile.  

Have not received the selections from KBD and we're still working a possible selection from Heaven Hill that would be a barrel from the Parkers Heritage line of wheaters. 

I haven't opened and tasted everything yet but what I have opened is top shelf.  I'll post tasting notes later.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Glenmorangie - Flight of 8

For those that are interested in Scotch, hear ya go.  A couple of us local guys got together last Friday evening and decided to try a flight of various Glenmorangie (Glenn-Morrun-Jee) selections ranging from the standard 10 year shelf offering Original to the cask strength Astar.

I've mentioned before that my whiskey journey all started with Bourbon and that's still my mainstay drink.  But....world whiskies are getting my attention as I'm starting to find and try various selections.  Late 2010 I posted a blog series called Global Tippler where I sampled various whiskies from different countries, starting with an American Whiskey, Van Winkle Family Reserve 12 year.  Since that 'round the world trip, I've come across other great selections.  Last summer my wife and I cruised the Easter Caribbean and one of the stops I always look forward to is Philipsburg St. Maarten due to the fact they have a good selection of liquor stores where I can find stuff not sold in the U.S.  One bottle I picked up on that trip was a Glenmorangie Sonnalta PX.  I was really impressed with the whisky and added that label to my list of acquisitions. 

So, last Friday the group cobbled together a flight of 8 different selections of Glenmorangie pulled from our respective bunkers.  Here's what we sipped on over the course of the early evening:

Original: 10 year old 86 proof.  From the Glenmorangie website ".....maturing for ten long years in a range of ex-bourbon casks such as our famous slow-grown and air-dried 'designer casks' from Missouri, that our raw spirit develops a perfect balance between sweetness and complexity"

The Original was a pale golden color with orange zest on the nose with undertones of vanilla and floral.  The feedback from the group included "viscous, fruit, honey, citrus zest, sweet, transitions nicely, good finish, delicate and lighter profile"  Overall rating 85/100

Nectar D'Or: 12 year old 92 proof.  From the Glenmorangie website "...hand selected wine barriques from Sauternes: the most famous and ancient sweet wine growing region of France, that this whisky develops its rich, spicy and dessert-like flavours."

This one I really like as the Sauterne second finish added a very nice musty, light fruit quality to it.  From the group comments included "Winey, hint of mustiness, earthy, sweet, creamy, light fruit, Sweet, viscous, long finish, almond paste"  Overall rating 87/100

Quinta Ruban: 12 year old 92 proof.  From the Glenmorangie website "The darkest and most intense whisky in the extra-matured range, Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban has spent 10 years maturing in American white oak casks, before being transferred into specially selected ruby port pipes from the Quintas or wine estates of Portugal.  Extra maturation in these port pipes develops Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban into a voluptuous spirit with a complex balance of sweet and dry flavours and an intriguing contrast of smooth and crisp, cooling textures." 

Another expression that hit home with the group.  I liked the winey character of this offering as the port finish really popped on the nose.  At entry the port was less dominant but there nonetheless.  Group feedback included "Big dark fruit notes, winey, cocoa, citrus, long finish"  Overall rating 88/100

Sonnalta PX: NAS (No Age Statement) and 92 proof: From the Glenmorangie website "Having spent 10 long years maturing in American white oak casks this whisky is transferred into Spanish ex-Pedro Ximenez (PX) casks for its final two years of extra-maturation. Often described as the 'king of sherry casks' this rare wood was brought back from Jerez in Spain by our head of whisky creation Dr Bill Lumsden."

As I mentioned, this was my introduction to the Glenmorangie line and it really captured my attention the first time I tried it.  This expression to me exhibited a creamy entry with dark dried fruits like raisins and plums.  There's vanilla and cocoa that pop in about mid palate.  From the group "creamy, dry floral, elegant, sweet honey finish, complex, spice cake"  Overall rating 87/100.

Finealta:  NAS and 92 proof:  From the Glenmorangie website "Glenmorangie Finealta is a painstaking recreation of a recipe dating back to 1903. Matured in a combination of American white oak casks and Spanish Oloroso sherry casks this whisky is unusual for its light touch of peatiness - a reminder of a time when Glenmorangie dried its barley in a peat fired kiln.  Distillery archives show that at this time, Glenmorangie Highland Single Malt was being served at The Savoy in London. Making this whisky a window onto a grander age, where optimistic young souls toasted sweeping changes within Art, fashion, and technology. And where society demanded a drink of both depth and distinction.  Glenmorangie Finealta is the second release in our prestigious Private Edition range: carefully selected, limited edition whiskies chosen from the 'cabinet of curiosities' of Dr Bill Lumsden, head of our Whisky Creation Team."

This was the only expression in the lineup that exhibited traces of peat and just a hint of smoke.  I picked up light summer fruit in this sample with pear and melon making it's presence known.  A well rounded pour.  Group feedback included "very light peat / smoke, slight heat, white fruit, good mid palate, smoke comes on stronger in the finish"  Overall rating 85/100

Lasanta:  12 year old 92 proof: From the Glenmorangie website " Elegant but full bodied this whisky has spent ten years maturing in American white oak ex-bourbon casks before being extra-matured for a further two years in Oloroso Sherry casks from Jerez in Spain. Lasanta is Gaelic for warmth and passion, a reminder not just of the Spanish provenance of these Oloroso sherry butts, but also a reflection of this expressions lusciously soft texture and deep, enticingly sweet aroma."

As someone who gravitates toward the sherried Scotch, this one was interesting to me.  We discussed this expression as compared to the The MaCallan 12 year which is about $35-$40 more than the Lasanta.  We agreed that this was as good if not better than The Macallan for a fraction of the price.  I thought this offering was very good exhibiting a profile of sweet dark fruit, baking spice, just a hint of citrus and vanilla.  Very warming and chewy.  Group comments were "chewy, sweet, rich, viscous, spice, concentrated flavor, caramel, long finish"  I personally rated this one a 90 with the overall group rating this an 88/100.

Artien:  NAS at 92 proof: From the Glenmorangie website "While crafting Glenmorangie Artein Dr. Bill Lumsden, Glenmorangie's Head of Distilling & Whisky Creation, was intrigued by the influence of stone in the natural ingredients of the whisky, especially considering the material's special significance to us.
This relationship begins with the Hilton of Cadboll Stone, an ancient monument that is the whisky's inspiration. But of no less importance is the layer upon layer of limestone that filters our Tarlogie Spring water, giving Artein its fruity aromas and layers of complexity. Or the rocky Tuscan hillsides which concentrate the flavours in vines that will, in turn, add complexity to the 'Super Tuscan' casks in which we extra mature our precious spirit."

This is another one that I really liked with an entry of fruit and cream.....in fact my comment to the group was "this is berries and cream".  This was probably the most complex of the selections as the Tuscan influence really added layers of flavors while experiencing this whisky.  Group comments "berries, peaches, plums, very creamy, honey suckle, concentrated flavors, huge finish."  Group rating 90/100

Astar: NAS at ~115 proof:  From the Glenmorangie website "Five thousand miles away on a secluded Missouri hillside, oak perfect for the maturation of this whisky reaches straight for the heavens. Here, in the relative shade of these north-facing slopes, we hand-select oak that has grown slowly enough to create a spongier and more porous wood. Perfect for welcoming the spirit and imparting the maximum amount of flavour.  The 'Astar', meaning journey in Gaelic, has certainly come a long way. But with its bright gold colour and smooth but spicy finish, we feel the journey has been more than worth it."

Since I tend to like barrel strength expressions, this last one I was looking forward to trying.  Unfortunately, it didn't ring my bell.  Surprisingly, the nose on this selection was the least compelling of the eight and the entry showed flavors of fruit and vanilla with heat taking over about mid palate.  The group comments included "big fruit, melons, sweet, heat on the back, nice finish."  Overall rating 84/100.  I personally put this at 80/100.  
After the tasting, the group played guinea pig trying out a CAB (Cert Black Angus) Brisket that had been smoked in a Cookshack.  I say guinea pig because this was the first time our host had used CAB but I have to say, the final product was outstanding.  We enjoyed the BBQ with some other Scotch expressions that included cask strength 14 and 20 year Rosebank, 1965 Johnny Walker Black 12 year, MaCallan Cask, Balvenie 15 year Singularity '66, The Arran Malt Cask, Springbank 12 year Claret, Springbank Alchemist, Compass Box Great King Street and Yamazaki 18 year (not Scotch).  

This was a great tasting that allowed us to experience different expressions we don't currently have in our respective bunkers.  I'll be hitting a Montgomery County ABC store on Tuesday to pick up a couple of the Glenmorangie expressions that I don't have.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fall 2011 Barrel Tasting - John J. Bowman Single Barrel

I posted back last year about a group trip to A. Smith Bowman distillery in Fredericksburg, VA.  I remember that day well not only because of the tasting but also because it snowed, and I hate snow.

This particular selection took some time make its way from distillery, through distribution and then finally to retail.  The tasting took place last October, bottling in February and final delivery of the bottles mid May.  Why so long?  Well, the pallet with our barrel selection got......misplaced; or something to that effect.  For a spell there, the bourbon went missing and it took a little while to track it down.  I suspect it ended up in some distribution warehouse and sat there for a bit.

Many of our barrel picks get bottled at proof with the exception of the Old Weller Antique which is 107 proof and the Bowman selection which was done at 100 proof.  As an enthusiast, I like to control the drinking proof because the sweet spot varies from barrel to barrel.

The barrel date for this bourbon was 12/31/97 making the bourbon almost 14 years old when we tasted it in October.  At bottling, it had another 4 months in wood on it but due to the fact that it was in the barrel over the winter probably doesn't mean much happened in the way of change.

The barrel at bottling yielded 210 bottles which once again, fell below the expected yield of about 250.  This has happened with just about every barrel.

Now, to the bourbon itself.  Maybe I'm drunk on my own bathwater but I find this 14 year Bowman to be fantastic.  As one friend put it "this is reminiscent of  the 70/80's vintage bourbon....".  The nose is very compelling giving up aromas of toffee, vanilla, and chocolate.  The entry, well it's fantastic as well.  Big flavor entry, mild to moderate heat that diminishes quickly leaving behind traces of caramelized sugar, vanilla, sweet corn, dark fruit and chocolate all wrapped in a creamy mouthfeel.  Viscosity on this one is very nice.  The finish is moderate to long with a sweet spice profile trailing off.  When I first tasted this at barrel strength, I was skeptical about cutting it down to 100 proof but I have to say, it drinks very fine at that proof.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Do Booze and Weight Loss Go Together?

For a number of years I've been overweight.  Not grossly obese but carrying around much more weight than is healthy.  December of last year I came to conclusion that it was time to stop playing with my health and get serious about getting in shape.

I've gone through exercise and healthy regimens before but my expectations were, in my opinion,  unrealistic.  In this day and age of immediate satisfaction, I wanted the weight to come off and come off quick.  To achieve that, my plan was to work out like a maniac and cut out anything that hints of high calories or fat.  This time around I took a more rational approach and set my expectations at a more moderate rate of success.  The way I look at it, as long as I'm progressing, that's what's important and if it takes 1 or 2 years to reach my goal weight and fitness level, then so be it.

My approach encompassed three prime areas.

1. Modify food intake and eat responsibly
2. Exercise program will include a form of metabolic workout providing three dimensional vs. one dimensional exercise.
3. Continue to enjoy guilty pleasures

January 2nd of 2012 was a miserable day.  I began tracking my food intake on a daily basis using the Livestrong website.  The food database is robust and allows one to enter a missing product, food or recipe into the database to use in your personal profile.  The truth is, if you don't know what you're eating, how can it be managed?

So, looking at #1, I modified my caloric intake in order to achieve a weight loss of 1-2 lbs a week, which is 3500-7000 calories.  I also modified what I eat.  My whole life I've pretty much hated vegetables and seafood.  I disliked both of these food items because to be honest, my Mother was a horrible cook and would cook veggies until they liquified and seafood, well Lord knows how she ruined that but she managed.   So now, it's mostly veggies, fish, chicken and on occasion, a small helping of a carb like rice or potato.  At present, my intake is about 1850 calories a day.  I also track my fat, sodium, carb and salt intake as well.

January 2nd I also began my workout regimen as defined in #2 above.  It was killer.  By definition, I consider running or elliptical training to be one dimensional.  Something like Metabolic Training or HIIT to be three dimensional.  My exercise program consist of three dimensional movement using a 20lb weight that includes high intensity activity with short rest periods in between. I still run but that's in addition to the other exercise.

What does this have to do with booze?  I'm coming to that.....

Guilty pleasure, again, in my opinion, must be part of the equation.  We all have cravings and knowing myself, I wasn't going to set myself up for failure.  Pizza? Check.  Hamburger or Philly Cheesecake.  Check again.  You get the picture.  I haven't cut those thing completely out of my diet, but those are the exception now where they used to be the rule.  I still have the occasional sweet but again, in very limited quantity.

Now, about the booze.  Obviously, I like whisk(e)y and beer and those are still part of my diet.  Whiskey is actually fairly low in calories so that's one thing that has stayed a part of my almost daily intake (I typically don't drink every day).  Beer on the other hand has gone from maybe 1 a day or every other day to 1-2 a week.  On the days that I want a beer, it's also a day I work out so I bank some calories to offset the beverage.

I'm now almost 2 shirt sizes smaller and 2 pant sizes smaller.  Because of the high intensity work outs, some of the flab has turned to muscle so the weight loss hasn't been as dramatic as I would have hoped but in all I'm 30 lbs lighter.

Moderation is the key to my success.  My workouts are still killer but later as I sit and sip on a dusty Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond, a MacCallan 18 year or maybe a Founders Kentucky Bourbon Stout, I do so with no guilt. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Dusty Hunting Redux

A friend was recently visiting from Arizona so we decided to make a run into Washington DC to poke around and see what could be found.  I have to admit between myself, my brother and other local enthusiasts, DC has been picked over pretty well.  Not to say things can't be found, which I'll show in a second, but it's getting harder to find the gems.

Out of the approximately 200 or so liquor stores in the city, I've hit maybe 2/3 or 3/4 of them.  Most you can walk into and within a split second know whether anything is lurking on the shelves.  There are a couple of stores that over the years have been honey holes of dusty bourbon and I hit those when I'm hunting.  One in particular I hit again on my most recent hunt and wasn't disappointed.

I'll simply call this store ACME Liquor and this particular store I've been into at least 6 times previously. Each time I've visited this particular location, new stuff is on the shelf.  The stores in this part of DC have plexiglass and iron bars in order to discourage patrons from hopping the shelf and acting up.  In any case, I've been let behind the glass many times and rummaged around the back room looking for treasure which has turned up numerous goodies.  So, walking in recently I was shocked to see yet more stuff on the shelf that I either clearly missed the previous trips or was brought in from another location.  In either case, I was there to score and score I did.  I ended up bringing home the following:

1988 Old Fitz BIB Handle (1)
1993 Old Fitz BIB 375ml (1)
1990 ND OGD 86 pf Gift Boxes (3)
1985 Old Fitz Prime (Color is quite dark on these) (2)
1984 Old Crow 80 pf (2)
1985 Benchmark 86 pf (3)
2002 Weller Special Reserve (1)

In all with tax, my out of pocket was around $170, or an average of $13 a bottle.  Not too shabby for good dusty juice.  Special mention about the Benchmark.  I ended up opening a bottle at a guys get together that evening and it was delicious.  Tons of fruit and caramel on the palate.  We had around 30+ bottles of various whiskey on the table but the Benchmark managed to get passed around frequently.

Spring 2012 Barrel Tasting - Buffalo Trace

Last fall our group did our barrel pick at Buffalo Trace selecting two barrels of Old Weller Antique.  These of course were bottled as single barrels and aged at just over 8 years.  They are both fantastic and are my favorites (not including most older SW versions) of this particular label.  I provided tasting notes on both of these here.

The process Buffalo Trace typically goes through when conducting a barrel tasting is they pull samples at barrel strength and then provide samples cut to 50 proof.  They say it's so you can pick out the nuances.  Here's what I don't understand.  Why wouldn't they simply provide samples of the bottling proof......in this case, 107?  Well, in an effort to get to ground truth as to what the bourbon will taste like once bottled, a member of our group at last Fall's tasting brought along a graduated cylinder.  The BT rep said that was a first for him as he had never seen a group come in and cut their own whiskey.  Not to say it hasn't been done, but we made a point of doing it right then and there.  

Fast forward to this past April and we find ourselves at Buffalo Trace once again.  As we did the first time, we provided reference samples to the BT lab in advance to use when selecting barrels that matched the flavor profile we were seeking.  We also requested they not provide any samples at barrel strength or cut to 50 proof but to simply provide samples at 107 proof which they accommodated. 

The group tasted through 12 barrel samples of Old Weller Antique.  Each participant took tasting notes and scored each selection.  At the end, the results were collected and tallied up.  Because of the size of our group, we actually conducted two tastings so while one group was tasting barrels, the other half of the group was going on the distillery tour.

We ended up picking three barrels but one in particular really stood out and was the hands down favorite of the majority of tasters.  One member, ticked that his personal selection wasn't picked by the group ended up purchasing a barrel for himself......now that's hard core.

We had a great visit and once again, BT really did a great job in the barrel selections as we walked away with another allocation of great bourbon.  Now I have to wait patiently while it makes its way through distribution.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Same old song.....

I have to apologize folks.  I haven't been attentive to the blog which sucks because I have plenty to post.  As I've mentioned before, I work a full time job plus own a restaurant with my second location now under construction.  This is keeping me very busy at the moment so right now there's going to be some gaps in posting until I get past this phase of development.  Appreciate your patience. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Spring 2012 Barrel Tasting - Four Roses

Busy schedule has kept me away from BourbonDork for a couple weeks but I wanted to begin posting about the barrel selections in Bardstown recently.

Our first tasting event was at Four Roses Cox Creek where they rolled out 10 barrels for us to taste.  We requested that the selections be kept secret as we didn't want to know the recipe (e.g. OBSV, OESK, etc.).  Some in our group had expressed preferences to a specific recipe so we wanted the most unadulterated tasting we could have and one that was purely blind.

In tasting through the 10 barrels I have to admit, it was a difficult job as most all the samples were good to very good.  There was maybe 1 or 2 that I would classify as weak but that's only because of minor flaws found in the bourbon (e.g. short finish).  We all voted on our favorite and tallied up the votes.  Of the three we picked, the first was far away the favorite and turned out to be the OBSF recipe.  This actually surprised me as the F yeast recipe is one of the recipes used in the Yellow Label shelf offering.  The second pick was OESF and the last was OESK.  The last barrel was a short barrel only generating a measly 48 bottles.  Four Roses Master Distiller Jim Rutledge then let us know that the two "F" barrels we picked were actually the first run barrels using the F yeast back almost 10 years ago.

After the tasting, we headed to Lawrenceburg to the distillery for lunch with Jim and to discuss the tasting and then snoop through the gift shop where I picked up a couple 16 year old Single Barrels.

The folks at Four Roses exhibited great hospitality and generosity.  It was a great time and spending time with Jim was fun and informative.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Road Trip Bardstown KY 2012

Arrived yesterday afternoon for the annual pilgrimage to bourbon mecca.  The kick off theme for this year is "Only damn good bourbon."  And good bourbon was on the table for sure.  I brought along to share with the group a single barrel non chill filtered 9 year Old Weller Antique along with a Julios Rock Hill Farms from 2010. 

The group just finished up a barrel tasting at Four Roses at Cox Creek.  They rolled out 10 barrels and unfortunately, almost all of them were very good.  Headed up to Lawrenceburg to the distillery for a group lunch with Jim Rutledge, Four Roses Master Distiller. 

So far, a great start.  Tomorrow, we'll be at Buffalo Trace.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Project: Bunker Relocation

For quite a few years now I've been collecting whiskey, primarily bourbon. To clarify, I mean a collection to drink, not to shelve or sell. Said collection has been sitting on storage shelves (as seen in the pic roll) in my basement storage room that whole time. Recently, I decided it was high time to put the collection out on full display. I had recently disposed of a pool table and ended up with a large space in half my basement that could serve as space for a Bunker Bar.

Now, let me state right up front that I am not a carpenter, cabinet maker or professional wood worker. What I am is an avid reader and tinkerer and have done small wood working projects over the years. The Bunker Bar is by far my largest endeavor.

The space selection for the Bunker was easy as I had a large wall to work with. I determined the center spot where the bar would go, marked the walls and laid out the base framing using standard 2x4 studs.

For the cabinets and bar, I used 3/4 inch oak plywood. When selecting the panels, I was somewhat picky looking for veneer that was detailed with unique grain patterns. For the trim I used solid oak 1x2 inch and 1x4 inch boards for the bottom and top trim.

The shelving units measured 4 ft wide, 7 ft tall and 18 inches deep. Due to the width of the shelving, I had to accommodate for weight and sag. Anything over 36 inches in length needs to have additional support. My design consisted of a honeycomb pattern for the shelves producing a cubby hole effect.

After building the initial cabinet frames, I cut panels that would sandwich the shelves between measured panels (as seen in the drawing to the left) which would provide support and accommodate for the 1x2 inch oak trim.

Going back to my opening statement that I'm not a professional wood worker, my first mistake was not checking to see if the wall was plumb; it was not which affected the bar cabinet forcing me to make shims and cuts along the way to ensure everything was level.

After everything was assembled, I began the staining process using MinWax Colonial Maple giving the wood a more reddish hue over the typical golden oak. At first I wasn't sure I liked it but as I progressed, the color started to grow on me. Now that it's finished, I really like the color overall.

After the staining was completed, I allowed it to dry overnight. I contemplated applying a second coat but I had allowed the stain to penetrate a full 15 minutes which allowed for a deeper color saturation. I used a shop vac to vacuum all the surfaces of the shelving and cabinet and then used a tack cloth to wipe down everything to ensure there was no debris left behind in preparation for polyurethane application.

I used a water based polyurethane for two reasons; smell and cleanup. I really can't tell that much of a difference in application or final finish between water and spirits based so I took the easy way out. When applying poly on wood for the first time, you will notice after drying that the wood feels rough to the touch like it needs sanding. This is because the poly soaks into the wood raising the wood fibers which causes the rough surface. Using a 320 no load sandpaper, I gently sanded all surfaces after allowing for the full drying time. After the light sanding, I repeated the shop vac and tack cloth process to remove all dust from the sanding. I applied the second coat of poly, allowed to dry and then inspected in order to determine whether I wanted to go for a third application. I decided to stop at 2 coats in order to avoid too much of a mirror shine from the wood as I was going for a more natural look.

After final very light sanding and clean up, it was time to start loading up the bottles. It took a couple of passes and moving bottles around to get everything to fit. My initial calculations on how many bottles would fit were slightly off but for the most part, everything fit on the shelves. I added a mini fridge that will hold some craft beer and the cabinet next to the mini fridge will eventually be converted to a humidor (later project). The last addition was a barrel from Four Roses that came from one of our barrel picks from last year.

The final touches included a leather couch and loveseat with ottoman, an "Ali Baba" throw rug and track lighting to illuminate the hoard. I'm happy with the overall results although there are some mistakes that I'm not happy with but I figured the bottles will keep attention away from the little things I did wrong. It was a fun project but quite a lot of work. In the end, worth the money and time investment.

1/18/13: Made a minor modification shown here.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Jameson 12 Year - Blind Tasting

I for one think the Jameson 12 year is a good solid pour. When I first tried this I was surprised at how good it was. I'm not sure why I was surprised but I didn't get the impression this was anything more than a pedestrian mass produced whiskey. Now the Jameson takes up residence on the bar.

Established in 1780 by John Jameson in Dublin, this brand is now one of the top selling whiskies in the world producing more than 30 million bottles annually. This whiskey is distilled in pot stills using malted and unmalted (green) barley and the results produce pretty tasty whiskey.

The Jameson beat out the Bushmills by a good margin but in fairness, the Bushmills is not age stated so potentially younger whiskey and is a blend.

95-100 Classic Whiskey 0
90-94 Excellent Whiskey 2
85-89 Very Good, Above Average Whiskey 5
80-84 Average Whiskey 4
75-79 Fair Whiskey 1
74 and Under - Pass on This Whiskey 0

For the most part, the tasting panel liked this selection and had some of the following comments:

"A nose of brown sugar, malt and pumpkin pie spice......looking forward to learning what this is because we'll probably buy some"

"Nose is forward and very attractive. White fruit, honey, roasted nuts, yeasty bread and creamy nuances. Sweet entry with apple and pear notes jumping forward. Honey, shortbread, buttery notes and apricots. Creamy mouth feel makes this whisky very approachable"

"This is a very nice whiskey but a little too timid for my taste"

"I can't really find much to like or dislike about this one. Just an easy drinker that doesn't warrant much thought"

"Nose is malt, mild leather with a sherry kicker. Nice"

"First sip hits the tongue like velvet with the sweetness dominating"

Last year the San Francisco World Spirits Competition award the Gold to Jameson 12 year. The label is widely available and and can be found in various sizes, the 750ml being the standard. Price is in the $40 range.