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 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?