Category Archives: Bourbon

Up in the Klouds – Drinking in NYC

Flying in from a town whose tallest building is the 12 story Sheraton Hotel – staying in a 9th floor hotel room held a certain appeal.

Sadly the views I expected were obscured by even larger skyscrapers that we couldn’t see the tops of despite craning our necks through the permanently closed bedroom window.

Welcome to New York!

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Empire State c/othewhiskeynut

I still harboured high hopes for the hotel’s 14th floor roof top bar – Vu Bar – quietly enjoying a few drinks with a panoramic view of downtown NY below.

A cold blustery windswept veranda overlooked by even taller buildings was the reality. Well – it was March – and the building that dominated all – including our bedroom window vista – was in fact the Empire State Building!

Homer Doh!

The bar had a lovely collection of whiskey to sample however & a friendly bartender in Emilio.

I started with Maker’s Mark 46. It’s a mainly corn based bourbon with some wheat & barley in the mash bill which imparts a relatively soft, smooth & sweet overall experience to the taste despite it’s 47% strength. It goes down very easily – but didn’t really do anything for me & my penchant for bolder flavours. It definitely is a better dram than the standard Maker’s Mark which I tasted earlier on in the day though.

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Knob Creek Bourbon c/othewhiskeynut

Knob Creek Small Batch took my fancy next.

Now that’s more like it!

The darker colouring & slight dry spice on the nose indicated a high rye content in this 50% bourbon which was much more agreeable to my tastes.

Emilio mentioned a sister bar on the opposite side of the street – so the next evening after a busy day sightseeing & an enjoyable tasty meal washed down by the amusingly named Kloud lager – which had a lovely malty flavour – in a local Korean restaurant – we headed up to the 17th floor Cloud Social bar.

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Korean Kloud Lager c/othewhiskeynut

The views were far more impressive from up here. It would certainly make for a cool place to hang out on a warm summers day – but with temperatures below zero & a light dusting of snow it was back into the bar area for some warming whiskeys after a few snaps.

Again I was pleasantly surprised by the array of whiskeys before me. One that took my eye was Lot 40.

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Lot 40 c/othewhiskeynut

Now I’d heard great things about this Canadian Rye so on spotting a bottle I just had to try it.

Oh dear.

Soft ,sweet, hardly any spice. A very smooth easy drinking bourbon style of whiskey.

Not what I was expecting at all from this 43% rye. What I experienced bore no resemblance to the reviews I read before or after – so I just don’t know.

To counteract my disappointment I went for a Knob Creek Rye.

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The full on rich dry peppery spice bowled me over after my previous drink. In fact it was almost overwhelming after the soft sweetness of Lot 40 as my palate struggled to come to terms with that lovely rye punch I crave in this full on 50% whiskey.

If anything – I think the Knob Creek Small Batch Bourbon – with it’s initial rich vanilla & caramel notes flowing through to a lovely balanced rye spice – came out tops for the 4 whiskeys I tried out up in the clouds of New York’s rooftop bars!

Sláinte.

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June 2017 Whisk(e)y Warrior Award

In a break from my normal posts, this blog has come about through a transatlantic alliance of the shared love of whiskey in both Ireland and America. I hand you over to the Whisk(e)ySmiths.

Welcome to the Whisk(e)y Warrior Award!

My name is Zac Smith and my wife LeAnne and I created the Whisk(e)y Warrior Award (WWA) to help make the whiskey community even tighter and more close knit. So many of you are making wonderful contributions to the world of whiskey and not asking for anything in return. We want to deliver a big thank you from all of us in the whiskey community.

On the first of every month, someone is awarded the prodigious title of Whisk(e)y Warrior. A question and answer interview is conducted with the valiant warrior, and then distributed to the world in a special Whisk(e)y Warrior Release.

What’s a Whisk(e)y Warrior?

A Whisk(e)y Warrior is someone who is passionate about whiskey. They devote their evenings and weekends to being active in the whiskey community. They’re the first person you think of when you hear “whiskey enthusiast.” They’re also the first one you turn to when you need recommendations, reviews, or have questions.

Would you like to say thank you to the Whisk(e)y Warriors in your life? Then click this link, Whisk(e)y Warrior Award, and nominate them! Further instructions and details are on the nomination page. Thank you for helping your whiskey community come closer together.

And now, we proudly present your Whisk(e)y Warrior.

She produces a nonstop supply of whiskey-food creations that will shatter your concept of delicious with a five-finger sucker punch of flavor. She’s a hardworking cohost of The Bourbon Daily podcast five days a week. She might barely break five feet tall, but she’s breaking stereotypes of what women can do and be. She is…

Chrissy Martin, Whisk(e)y Warrior!

Chrissy Martin June 2017 WW

Interview

Zac: Chrissy congratulations on winning the Whisk(e)y Warrior Award. You’re the first woman to win this title and that’s awesome! LeAnne and I hope, as this award continues, that there’ll be a long list of women Whisk(e)y Warriors. Before we get into all the whiskey specific questions, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Chrissy: I am a very proud Jersey girl currently living in Kansas. It’s kind of crazy to say still to this day. Never once did I think I’d grow up and be like, “I’m going to go live in Kansas!” But you know, I’m very proud of where I come from. I grew up in an Italian family. It’s very important to me the values of family and how food and drink revolves around our everyday life. And so that’s the core of what I am. My family and food. That’s the gist of it. I like to cook. I like to feed people. I will bring you into the home and let you drink some bourbon, and probably fill you up with some bread and pasta and whatever else I can.

Zac: Ok that brings a question to mind. In a typical Italian family, wine is very important. So at what point did Bourbon enter the scene?

Chrissy: Bourbon didn’t enter the scene for me [until later], because like everything revolved around a lot of wine, from what I remember as a kid. I remember some Bourbon, but growing up on the East coast in an Italian family, it was very much more wine heavy. So for me not until my twenties. I would go out and have drinks and stuff. And the bar tenders that I knew would be like, “Make it pink, make it sweet, and they’ll drink it.” And I couldn’t. I hated it. I hated the way I felt afterwards and I wanted something that just by itself tasted pretty good. And so my husband, who was my boyfriend at the time, introduced me to Makers. That was it from that point on. It was all Bourbon all the time and nothing else.

Zac: So at what point did you decide you wanted to be more than just a passive whiskey drinker? What motivated you to launch your website and become a whiskey sommelier?

Chrissy: You know it probably started about four and a half years ago. Especially with my husband’s job we’ve moved around so much. And for me I wanted something, that whether it was a passion project or whatever it could turn out to be, I wanted something that I could take with me and actually have a little piece everywhere I went. That’s really what started it. Because I wanted something of my own. Of course along the way I started collecting Bourbon and I was going a little bit more hard core into Bourbon events. I would travel to Kentucky all the time and go to Bourbon festivals, Bourbon dinners, meet with the master distillers and from that point I just got hooked. How welcoming the community itself was and that right there blossomed everything. And I was like, “What more can I do with this?” Then I found the whiskey school and tons of opportunities come from there.

Zac: I have to say, what you are doing with food and Bourbon is phenomenal. If people want to know about food and Bourbon, then you are the resource to go to.

Chrissy: Aw thank you. It’s one of those things I get a lot of mixed reviews about it. Especially when I first started people thought I was absolutely nuts. A lot of questions were like, “Are you really going to take a bottle of Pappy’s twenty-three and cook with it?” Yeah, one hundred percent! As long as it works with whatever recipe I’m going with. It’s just like if you were to cook with wine. That’s what I learned from growing up with my Gram. You cook with what you drink and you don’t vary from that. If you want to cook Chicken Marsala, then you go and buy Marsala wine. It’s just as simple as that. People just think about the fact that the alcohol is going to cook out, and not remembering or thinking about the flavor that it has a chance to leave behind.

Zac: Speaking of your Gram, do you have a specific memory that you cherish from being with your grandmother?

Chrissy: Gosh, there’s so many. The one that I remember [is that] we would sing together a lot. She would have me use the back porch and that was my stage. I would sing On the Good Ship Lollipop and that is one that I remember. I had to have been about two or three years old so that’s one of my earliest memories. It’s one of my favorites.

Zac: Do you remember how old you were the first time you cooked a full dinner by yourself?

Chrissy: I would say I was probably about nine years old.

Zac: Wow that’s awesome.

Chrissy: My other two sisters didn’t get as much as what I got with Gram, [but] that’s because I wanted to be in the kitchen with her. We would watch Julia Child together and would mimic her. You’d have an old crooner in the background because we’d listen to Rosemary Clooney and Frank Sinatra. So like, when I am in the kitchen and I’m creating a recipe for the blog or if I’ve got people coming over, that’s the kind of stuff I put on to get myself in the right mindset. The sounds and the smells are all connected to your memory and it’s just the best feeling to bring those all back.

Zac: Thanks for sharing those personal memories with us. Now looking to the future, what are some things you hope to accomplish in regard to whiskey?

Chrissy: I’m loving to see how involved women are becoming more and more in the whiskey and Bourbon business. So for me, I hope that I can help. My goal is to continue doing what I’m doing – cooking, working with The Bourbon Daily, and writing – but also to help open doors so that it’s ok for females to come in and feel ok about being serious about whiskey. It’s not just a guy’s drink anymore.

Zac: I agree and I hope you get to help open those doors. What’s the biggest thing you’d like to see change in the whiskey industry?

Chrissy: I would love to see more women master distillers and more women coming forward and changing the game. I love seeing how more and more men are becoming more accepting. There’s much more acceptance for women now than there ever has been and I love it. I love seeing it and I would love to continue to see more of that.

Zac: I’d love to see more of that too. This probably doesn’t need asked but, are you Team Scotch or Team Bourbon?

Chrissy: Team Bourbon.

Zac: I figured. So what’s something you appreciate about Team Scotch?

Chrissy: I really appreciate the nuances of Scotch. The depth of which Scotch has, you know kind of like Bourbon.

Zac: Very good. So where can we find you and your content?

Chrissy: On Instagram I’m @alildabofbourbon, and my blog is alildabofbourbon.com.

Zac: Chrissy, from everyone in the whiskey community, thank you for all the contributions you’ve made! We eagerly look forward to seeing what the future holds for you and we hope you continue to open doors for women in whiskey.

End of interview

We’d like to give a HUGE thank you to the Whiskey Nut for running the Whisk(e)y Warrior Award this month. If you enjoyed the interview and would like to see more, please let the Whiskey Nut know!

The next award will be released July 1st. We’ll see you then, and remember to nominate your favorite Whisk(e)y Warriors by clicking here!

– Zac Smith

 

Sláinte

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John L Sullivan – The New Silent Whisky?

There has been a lot of hot air expended over a bottle of whiskey recently by the name of John L Sullivan.

John L Sullivan is a sourced whiskey brand. They – like many other sourced brands – get their whiskey from a reputable Irish whiskey distillery. They can then proceed to promote, brand, distribute and blend this whiskey in any way they see fit.

Just as many other companies do.

The particular expression that everyone is getting hot under the collar about is one where they have mixed the Irish whiskey with an American bourbon – also sourced from a reputable distillery in the USA – to create a hybrid type of blend.

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Exhibit A c/oJohnLWhiskey.com

This hybrid whiskey has garnished rave reviews in some regions here.

And an outpouring of scorn in others.

A facebook thread in Ireland castigates this whiskey as ‘fake’ & ‘pseudo’. It likens the whiskey to the ‘gutrot’ produced by gangsters during prohibitions times which allegedly brought the Irish whiskey industry to it’s knees.

I just don’t buy that narrative.

I congratulate John L Sullivan for coming up with a new & exciting product that can offer an innovative new taste experience to customers – as well as opening up a new revenue stream for Irish whiskey.

The Irish whiskey industry has a long proud history and culture.

But part of that culture is resisting new means and methods of  making whiskey.

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Truths About Whisky c/oTeelings

In 1878 a book was published denouncing the new form of whisky being made by an invention called the Coffey Still.

That new whisky was called ‘silent whisky’ and we now know it as  grain whiskey.

Nowadays that ‘silent whisky’ is the main constituent in blended whiskey – which is the very backbone of the modern global whiskey industry making up to 90% of all sales worldwide.

Sections of the Scottish whisky industry took to this new product in the 1840’s to create market leading brands that are still popular today.

It took at least another 100 years for the Irish whiskey industry to fully engage with the new methods. None of the 4 large Dublin whiskey distilleries who commissioned the book exist today

What if this new hybrid whiskey becomes the next ‘silent whisky’ in terms of future sales?

Is the Irish whiskey industry of today going to inflict the first cut in it’s demise as it did in the past?

And as the old song goes, The First Cut Is The Deepest.

Or is this new style of whiskey going to be embraced?

Being a new style means there will be labelling issues, regulatory red-tape and legal gremlins to sort out.

Hopefully that is in process.

Whiskey is fluid.

It has constantly flowed, changing and evolving throughout it’s long existence.

History is not kind on those who wish to stop that flow.

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My thanks to The Whiskey Jug for the header image.

 

 

 

Kings County Distillery, Brooklyn

Last week Birmingham.

This week Brooklyn.

I had to squeeze a few days of work inbetween these 2 trips as well and it felt a bit like I was living out the old Beastie Boys classic;

At Whisky Birmingham I chanced upon Kings County Distillery‘s UK importer Amathus & tried some their Peated Bourbon release.

At Brooklyn I booked myself into one of Kings County Distillery tours in the grand old Paymaster Building inside the historic Brooklyn Navy Yard. Located only a short walk from either the York St subway or the iconic Brooklyn Bridge itself – it’s easily accessible for anyone staying in New York.

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Paymasters & distillery entrance c/othewhiskeynut

Dave – our tour guide on the day – entertainingly took us through a potted history of whiskey distillation in Brooklyn taking in topics such as civil war, taxes, legal & illegal production, alcohol consumption, Irish immigration, prohibition as well as many other related – or not – subjects & then tied the whole lot up together with the founding of Kings County Distilling itself in 2010.

I’ll repeat that year again.

2010.

Because that makes Kings County Distillery the 1st legal whiskey distillery in New York City since prohibition.

History has long tentacles.

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Bubbling mash c/othewhiskeynut

We were shown the whole whiskey making process from the mashing of the grains in open fermenters,

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Copper still c/othewhiskeynut

To the distillation in copper pot stills,

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Whiskey maturing c/othewhiskeynut

To the maturation of the spirit in virgin american oak casks in the upstairs warehouse.

Kings County Distillery have chosen to go down a a fairly traditional route in that they produce a predominately high corn mash bill bourbon with only a small amount of barely from Scotland.

The use of small casks allows a shorter maturation period – generally less than 2 years – before it is deemed suitable for release. Some larger casks have also been laid down for future expressions & I couldn’t help noticing the ‘rye’ mark on some casks indicating a welcome addition to the current range at some date.

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The future is rye? c/othewhiskeynut

Tasting the actual product of all this hard work and silent development in the wood is obviously the highlight of any tour.

Kings County Distillery treated us to 4 expressions from their current range.

Starting with the Moonshine release at 40%.

The nose was the classic oily & slightly rotten fruit smell I associate with an unaged spirit. The taste followed through as expected with no real surprises. A perfectly fine & smooth example of this style of spirit which is often released by new distilleries as a showcase and money maker whilst the real bourbon or whiskey slowly matures.

The Bourbon release came next.

At 45% ABV this high corn bourbon with added barely, aged for 2 summers, gave a classic caramel sweet bourbon nose & taste together with a little bite. Another perfectly fine example of it’s style which hasn’t gone unnoticed by discerning drinkers as well as whiskey judges by the the amount of awards won.

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Tasting time! c/othewhiskeynut

The Winter Spice Whiskey at 40% had me a little confused. It’s basically the standard bourbon release above infused with a mix of baking spices normally associated with Xmas – cinnamon, nutmeg & cloves along with others – but yet it doesn’t have that sweet honey mix of many a liqueur nor can it be a whiskey with the non conventional additives. There is a market for this type of flavoured whiskey however. I couldn’t say it would be my cup of tea though.

A choice of Chocolate Whiskey or Peated Bourbon was offered for the last sample.

It should be obvious which one I went for.

I found the Peated Bourbon the most interesting and satisfying expression at Kings County Distilling.

At 45% the addition of peated barley from Scotland gave a welcome waft of smoke to the sweet bourbon caramel which raised the resultant spirit to a more entertaining yet vaguely familiar flavour profile.

Of the 3 Brooklyn distilleries I visited, Kings County Distilling seem to be the most established outfit producing a fairly traditional style of bourbon which is gaining many admirers. They also do a cracking distillery tour which certainly engages you with the whole whiskey making process.

I can’t say they set my palate alight – but I do wish them  future success –  they are a welcome addition to the whiskey distilling world.

One thing is for sure – I eagerly await any future rye expression they intend to produce from the casks I spotted on the maturation floor!

Slàinte.

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Walled City Brewery & Hudson Baby Bourbon

A suggestion to head North for a few days was eagerly taken up for the chance to explore some new scenery, some new dining adventures and above all else – some new whiskeys.

Derry sits astride the majestic Foyle River which we crossed by the relatively new Peace Bridge heading for Walled City Brewery which sits on the historic Ebrington Square.

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Derry at night c/othewhiskeynut

The former army barracks & parade ground are now a growing tourist attraction building on the new found harmony in Northern Ireland after years of conflict.

Building 70, a former Pay Office, is now home to Walled City Brewery, combining a craft brewery with a restaurant & bar – this was our destination for the evening.

Opened in May 2015 by master brewer James Huey and his wife Louise, James brought his years of experience working with Guinness to branch out on his own – and he also runs a Homebrew Academy too!

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‘Kicks’ @ Walled City Brewery c/othewhiskeynut

Very attractively furnished with a bottled motif wall, historical beer map, beer bottle chandeliers & a comfy dining area along with a well stocked bar – Walled City Brewery certainly made us feel at home.

A large hanging chalk board proudly proclaims about 10 beers available on tap. Some are Walled City’s own – with others from White Hag in Sligo & Kinnegar in nearby Donegal.

I went for ‘Kicks’ a Walled City pilsner named after Derry’s finest group – The Undertones.

This flavoursome tipple perfectly accompanied a trio of Pintxos for starters followed by a juicy lamb burger for mains.

There were plenty of other beers to try. Walled City offer a tasting tray to sample a few which is always a great way to familiarise yourself with a range of styles and flavours.

The whiskey menu also impressed.

Covering all 4 styles of Irish whiskey – Blended, Single Grain, Single Malt & Single Pot Still – from Glendalough, Teeling, Derry’s own Quiet Man – who are planning to build a distillery on Ebrington Square –  Echlinville and a couple of Spot whiskeys – they certainly tempted me. But a trio of American bourbons – not all of which I’d tried before – caught my eye.

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A tasty trio of bourbon c/othewhiskeynut

Sadly a tasting flight of whiskey wasn’t on the menu – as yet – so I chose the Hudson Baby Bourbon for afters.

At 46% this 100% corn bourbon from a craft distillery in upstate New York gave a rich sweet nose with a full bodied mouthfeel. It packed a lovely heat on the palate finishing with a gentle spice & warm finish. If only all bourbons were as good as this!

Feeling fully sated & gently merry we recrossed the Peace Bridge in the growing winds admiring the starry lights of Derry which is attractively built on gently rolling hills.

I’m certainly looking forward to the growth of Walled City Brewery & the nearby Quiet Man Distillery.

My first impressions of Hudson Whiskey were also positive – I will definitely check them out on my next encounter.

Slàinte.

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Whisky Live Melbourne 2016

By fortuitous chance – and a little rearranging of travel plans – my trip to Oz coincided with Whisky Live Melbourne.

I couldn’t let such an opportunity pass by so booked my ticket online even before the flight plans had been finalised!

Held in the fine looking St Kilda Town Hall – I arrived early to find a queue of fellow whisky fans eagerly awaiting the delights inside. Having previously attended a similar show in Dublin last year I made sure I was well hydrated and fed before the event.

My original plan to sample as much Australian whisky as I could had to be revised as browsing the pre-show website it became clear not many Aussie distilleries were attending. They didn’t need to! Their limited releases usually sold out very quickly leaving little stock leftover for sampling at shows.

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Paul at Pilgrim c/othewhiskeynut

The only representative of the new crop of Aussie distilleries happened to be Melbourne’s own Starward whisky where I reacquainted myself with Paul Slater who had so eloquently guided me through their portfolio during his Starward Talk &Taste evening at Pilgrim Bar the night before.

The lovely Apera and Wine Cask releases were on display at Whisky Live – but Paul had something under the table new to me – New World Projects X .

The contrast between your minds perception of what a clear spirit should be like – and want you actually experience on tasting – is certainly an interesting experience. It’s definitely whisky – if a little more oily and sweet than the Solera release on which a 3rd distillation has removed the colour to obtain Project X.

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Project X c/othewhiskeynut

In a similar vein, Glendalough – one of 3 Irish stands at the show – had their Sherry Cask Irish Poitin which I tried in an almost mirror effect to Starward. In this case the unaged spirit has rested for a short while in sherry casks to give a lovely rich brown colour to the liquid which upon tasting gave a sweetness to the rather young spirit in the bottle. I found both these expressions a rather novel approach which would certainly be a talking point if offered to guests from the drinks cabinet!

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Glendalough Poitin collection c/othewhiskeynut

Leaving Australia behind, India was the next nearest whisky producing country to exhibit with Paul John Distilleries being the sole representative.

I’d read lots of rave reviews about their whisky so eagerly accepted an invitation to be guided through the range by an enthusiastic ambassador who passionately informed me of the manufacturing process as well as the greedy angels in Goa which result in the wonderfully rich fruity & very tasty single malts before me.

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Go on! Try a Goan whisky! c/othewhiskeynut

After 4 of these fine malts were tried I found it hard to pick a favourite between the Bold Edition at 46% or the stunning Select Cask Peated at 58%!  Both we’re delicious and deserve all the praise they have attracted.

Following on from my 4th of July blog I thought I’d further explore the American contribution to whiskey by starting with 2 distilleries new to me.

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Appalachian Gap in Melbourne c/othewhiskeynut

Appalachian Gap Snowfall is an unaged Vermont spirit made with a corn,barley and rye mash. The sweet corn influence took the edge off the 54% ABV together with a pleasant rye spice which I liked and a slightly oily mouthfeel. Their Kaffekask 44% release whereby the whisky is filtered through coffee beans in a Lincoln County Process style certainly brought a coffee kick to the table but was too sweet for my tastes. I declined the Kaffekask Liqueur.

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Dry Fly dispensing! c/othewhiskeynut

Dry Fly Distilling from Washington State had a slightly more traditional selection using 100% wheat mash offerings at both 40% & 60% cask strength as well as a Port Finish at 43%. The combination of vanilla sweetness together with a slightly harsh finish didn’t endear them to me but the Triticale Whiskey I found much more appealing. Triticale is a hybrid grain derived from wheat and rye varieties and Dry Fly claims to be the first using this type of grain in a whiskey. The sweetness was still there but softened by a smoothness and slight spicy rye finish.

Woodford Reserve had a stall – but I found nothing of note.

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A pair of Jacks c/othewhiskeynut

Jack Daniels were next door with 5 releases for the Australian market. Not being a fan of Old No.7 I went straight for the No.27 Gold. At 40% this expression took me by surprise. The lovely pronounced spicy finish had me hooked. Even better than the Gentleman Jack release which I’m partial to. The Jack representative on the stall reliably informed me the double mellowing through 10 foot of sugar maple as well as additional barrel finishes provided the flavour boost. In this instance Sinatra didn’t sing for me!

Having called in at Glendalough I thought I’d better say hello to both Hyde and Tipperary.

Hyde had 3 offerings which I have tried before and enjoyed very much.

Tipperary meanwhile had eluded me with their Rising release so I gave it a go. Oh dear! Far too sweet for my liking.

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Tipperary Boutique Distillery at Whisky Live Melbourne c/othewhiskeynut

My last port of call before turning to the largest contingent of the show – Scottish whisky – was to Sigrun, an Australian importer of Scandinavian malts. Mackmyra & Box from Sweden, Floki from Iceland and Teerenpeli from Finland were in attendance.

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Floki Young Malt c/othewhiskeynut

Sheep dung is used to dry the 100% Icelandic barley Floki is made with. It’s an unaged offering at 47% which gave a characteristic oily mouthfeel together with a slightly off-putting sour note for me. Pity – as I really enjoyed my visit to Rekyavik a few years ago. Maybe further ageing will mature it to my tastes.

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Teerenpeli Rasi c/othewhiskeynut

Teerenpeli Rasi appealed to me instantly with it’s lovely well balanced light smooth taste. I must try out more of these Scandinavian expressions!

My remaining time at the show – along with staying hydrated from the water coolers placed handily around the hall and partaking in some tasty snacks from the centrally placed canteen buffet – consisted of Scotch.

I challenged my peat tolerance by going for the peat monster that is Octmore 7.1. Wow! Peat then spice and an explosion of flavour. Now I get it.

I ventured into NAS territory with Ardmore Legacy, Talisker Skye, Jura Superstition and Laphroig Quarter Cask. Only the Jura I found disappointing with it’s over sweetness.

A trio of Finlaggan expressions from an unnamed Islay distillery – or even distilleries – were all very engaging with the cask strength coming out tops.

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Finlaggan Whisky c/othewhiskeynut

The Glenrothes  rep impressed me very much by keeping a large audience enthralled with his sales patter as he went through a series of releases AND topping up all the glasses at the same time. By this point in the evening I couldn’t quiet keep up with him and my tasting notes were becoming illegible! Suffice to say the one that stood out for me – Glenrothes Vintage 1992 2nd Release had the most balanced nose complemented by a complex cacophony of taste – happened to be one of the priciest.

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Glenrothes in action c/othewhiskeynut

Despite there being a large shop at the back where eager whisky geeks could purchase rare or hard to find expressions – I simply immersed myself in the wonderful opportunity Whisky Live events provide in sampling a wide variety of styles, strengths and regions of whisky production throughout the world. Conversations soon flow as to the merits of NAS vs Age Statements, Bourbon vs Whisky, to chill filter or not and even to add water or not.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Whisky Live Melbourne.

If ever a Whisky Live event comes your way – make a beeline for it.

You won’t be disappointed.

Oh! Don’t over do it.

The combination of drinking plenty of water inbetween samples as well as topping up with a lovely goat curry from the wittily named iCurry restaurant on St Kilda Road afterwards ensured I woke up relatively bright and cheery to face yet another day of adventure in Melbourne.

Slainte

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The Aussie Whisky Scene – Curious brands for the local market!

One of the joys about travelling to a different country (Australia in this example) is not just tasting the award winning single malts that are produced there – of which there are plenty – but also sampling some of the everyday blends, brands and bourbons not normally found in my home market of Ireland.

My musical interlude comes from a giant of Australian music – and in the context of a wedding – the response is  ….I do.

The wedding itself – our reason for travelling in the first place – took place in The Willows on St Kilda Rd. Arriving early to the venue for a pre-event drink we were politely refused entry and sent around the corner to a nearby cafe/bar. Unlike in Ireland where the wedding venue would gladly have you in before and after the event – in Australia the custom is to strictly adhere to the booked times. Que sera sera.

At the nearby Hunters Kitchen we were warmly greeted and soon furnished with a tasty snack of warm olives and bread together with a lovely wine for herself and a whisky for myself.

Now my default position would be to go for an Aussie whisky – but as there wasn’t any on offer – the next best thing I could see was a familiar brand but an expression I hadn’t come across before and isn’t generally available in Ireland.

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Canadian Club Classic 12 Year Old c/othewhiskyexchange

I’d found the standard Canadian Club a tad sweet with a soft rye spice finish. I expected a bit more punch off the 12 year old but it didn’t seem to deliver. Smoother and more complex notwithstanding – the extra years didn’t provide a knockout dram.

Back at the wedding – a lovely union between a Tullamore lad and a Melbourne lassie – the drinks flowed, speeches were made and food & festivities abounded. Again the whisky menu was rather limited but I had to try a Cougar to celebrate the coming together of two wonderful people!

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Cougar 5 c/othewhiskeynut

A fairly standard bourbon experience was enjoyed – nothing out of the ordinary here – but on talking to a few of the other guests I did think this bourbon was very much a local brand.

My suspicions proved correct the next day when I called in at the local Liquorland store for a chat with the friendly and helpful staff. Just the same way as Lidl, Aldi, Tesco and others do here in Ireland – Coles, Woolworths and others do in Australia. They order up bourbon, gin, brandy or whisky and bottle it under there own brand names. I even found an article on it here

Curiously Cougar is bottled at 37% – which is allowed under Aussie rules. Jim Beam is also at 37% whilst Jack stays at 40% – so check the ABV of your favourite brand before you buy as it may not be the same strength as back home.

I came across a few other of these home brands on my travels.

Whilst doing the Great Ocean Road a few weeks later we stayed in the lovely town of Port Campbell and enjoyed a hearty and enjoyable meal in the local hotel of the same name.

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Port Campbell Hotel c/othewhiskeynut

A whisky accompanied the meal – and another ordered at the bar for good measure. It wasn’t too bad. Just a standard Scottish blend by the name of McAllister.  Inver House Distillers seem to be the origin of this Australian brand.

McAllister
McAllister Scotch in Australia c/odanmurphys

I did spot an Irish whiskey in this segment too by the name of Finnlaigh. There shouldn’t be any surprises in reading the back of the bottle that Cooley were responsible for the distilling!  John Teeling’s Great Northern Distillery in Dundalk may soon be the new source.  I didn’t get round to sampling this expression.

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Finnlaigh on a Woolworths shelf c/othewhiskeynut

Now I wouldn’t be expecting star quality out of these brands. Many of them are price sensitive. They can often be very good value however and some have gone on to be quite highly rated in competitions so I’m quite happy to give them a trial run when I can.

Even in our last few hours on Aussie soil I still managed to come across another. We stopped off at The Savoy Tavern for a farewell bite to eat before catching the SkyBus at Southern Cross Station.

A lack of an Aussie single malt had me searching for an alternative which I found in a Jim Beam Rye. Didn’t I mention I like a rye now and then?

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Jim Beam Rye c/odanmurphys

A sweet mellow initial taste morphs into a warm spicy finish. Nothing too complex here -especially as it’s only a 37% release –  but very enjoyable nonetheless. I’m looking forward to a potential release in Ireland!

Whilst enjoying or meal – I did notice a sales rep approach the bar to try and push some whisky brand. Curiosity got the better of me and I enquired after the rep had gone what the brand was.

‘Pure Scot’ came the reply, ‘a Scottish blend made at Bladnoch for an Aussie company’.

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Pure Scot c/odanmurphys

It got me thinking.

How long will it be before a sales rep comes into a bar in Ireland pushing a brand called ‘Pure Oz’ to ride the surf of the growth and quality of Australian whisky?

Judging on my experiences of tasting Aussie whisky – it may be sooner than you think.

Slainte

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Bourbons for 4th July

Seeing as it’s Independence Day in America – and by a little twist of fate Britain also recently voted for it’s ‘Independence’ regarding the Brexit split from the European Union – I thought I’d celebrate/drown my sorrows – nothing like sitting on the fence on tricky subjects –  by opening a few bottles of bourbon to try out the contents.

America is the biggest export market for Irish whiskey. In return we get the used bourbon barrels to mature yet more whiskey in – as well as easy availability of famous bourbon brands in our pubs and off-licences.

Now bourbon has a whole set of rules and regulations – like Irish Whiskey – which define how it’s made  – matured and that all important mash bill – but I’l leave The Whisky Exchange blog here to explain all that.

To get the ball rolling I’ve started with the iconic Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 from Tennesse.

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Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 c/othewhiskeynut

I did think of using a Bruce Springsteen track to accompany this blog – but given revelations from Jack Daniel’s  themselves – perhaps Donna Summer is more appropriate?

Despite Jack being one of the biggest brands out there – I must admit to not liking it.

The combination of sticky sweet notes from the corn element together with a rough finish probably from the shorter maturation period leaves my palate a little strained. I can see why it’s usually drunk as a mixer rather than my preferred option of neat.

Undeterred I moved on.

Clarke’s Old Kentucky Straight Sour Mash Bourbon is a budget brand courtesy of the supermarket chain Aldi.

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Clarke’s 1866 Bourbon c/othewhiskeynut

Surprisingly this brand warmed to me as the initial sweetness evolved into a lovely soft spiciness which pleasingly lingered on the tongue to give a long finish.

Given that Aldi sourced this bourbon from an unknown Kentucky distillery – there is no Clarke from 1866 – they’ve done a pretty fine job in my book. It’s also won some awards too – so don’t just take my word.

To be fair to other supermarket brands – and on the strength of Clarke’s Bourbon – I purchased Tesco’s budget bourbon by the name of Old Samuel.

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Old Samuel c/othewhiskeynut

Billing itself as ‘Aged Kentucky Style Blended Bourbon’ the label also declares

‘Product of the USA. Blended and bottled in the Netherlands’

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International Bourbon c/othewhiskeynut

Intrigued I checked out the bottler and uncovered Toorank – a Dutch distilling company which does a successful business importing bulk bourbon from USA – along with whiskey from Ireland and Scotland – to blend for third party customers.

My bottle has been open for sometime now and is going down fast as once again I found this an easy bourbon to consume. Not too sweet, a smooth body and pleasant finish.

My final choice was bought from a well known internet whiskey site by the name of Flavair. Knowing my palate enjoys the more robust flavours and less sweet notes normally found in rye whiskey – I took advantage of an offer on FEW Rye Whiskey.

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FEW Rye c/othewhiskeynut

Bottled at 46.5% as opposed to the 40% of the others – this expression also bills itself as ‘handcrafted and small batched’ and hails from Chicago.

An initial sweetness soon gave way to a powerful spicy rye punch and a lingering dryness on the palate. Now this is more my thing!

Given a choice – I’d always go for a rye first. All of the admittedly very limited selection I’ve tasted so far suit my palate better than even the best bourbons.

It should come as no surprise then that FEW Rye comes out tops in my Independence Day tasting session.

Jack Daniel’s  I’m afraid flunks – to use an American phrase.

Whilst in the budget bourbon category Clarke’s comes in second because of it’s soft spice followed closely behind by Old Samuel.

As regards pricing. Both Clarke’s and Old Samuel came in at 16 euro. Jack Daniel’s can be got from 25 whilst FEW starts at 70 – when you can get hold of it.

Clarke’s Bourbon wins as the best buy.

So there you go.

I thoroughly enjoyed my exploration into american bourbons.

Enjoy your 4th July – and remember – don’t drink too much.

Enjoy the tastes – flavours and good company – not the hangover.

Slainte.

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