It was Randy/Raz’s birthday, so I baked him a cake, and of course there was whisky in it. I know Orangire paires well with chocolate, so I set out to make a cake with the same flavor profile. It came out rather pretty, and very tasty, so I thought I’d share the process, since the results were devoured.
LA Scotch Club – ClubMez Dalmore tasting and paired dinner at the Far Bar
Well that was a mouthful, and so was the evening. I’ve always liked Dalmore, but it never made a distinct impression on me until now – and now I even know why. Through conversation I learned Dalmore chill-filters and uses coloring additives. I find the later more disturbing that the former – but it does explain the uniformity of color across the six drams offered.
And for the taste – while chill filtering can remove some of the particles and oils that can add distinction to a dram, I learned every bottle of Dalmore has been in at least two barrels, American oak, then sherry. I think this tradition is what leads to the sameness of flavor throughout expressions . . . but I’m getting ahead of myself.
No, not that kind of Tripple-X. From the L.A. Scotch Club website: (The specific meeting page is now archived) Scotch is traditionally distilled twice while Irish whisky three times. By tradition, an “X” is used designate each time a spirit has been distilled. Scotch would normally be XX, but on the occasions when it is distilled three times, you get a XXX expression. Only one distillery in Scotland regularly distills three times, Auchentoshan.
This evening’s tasting included several offerings from Auchentoshan, a Benriach and an Octomore Trestarig (pronounced “trace-arak”) Futures bottle that was limited to investors of Bruichladdich. Continue reading
A few weeks ago I went to a whiskey tasting to promote Single Cask Nation, a club that makes bottles available from a distiller’s single cask negotiated by Mr. Hatton. It is a brilliant concept for the whisky connoisseur collector; and if someone wants to really impress me for any gift-giving occasion, I’d love a membership; but right now it is out of my price range. The clubs offerings are all cask strength, and all have a researched history, which I’ll link to with each post.
The tasting itself was nicely run, and the host venue, Blu Jam Cafe in Sherman Oaks, provided several light diner options and cold water. We sat out on the back patio, which presented a few challenges for a tasting that I will get into later. It also is the reason I don’t have pictures: I relied on my cell phone, that does not have a flash, and as the light quickly faded I realized I was not going to be able to capture any quality images.
Since he has a relationship with the distillers and is such a lover of whisky, Joshua had a great story to go with each offering. He quickly built a rapport with the attendees and the evening passed all too soon. If you have an opportunity to attend one of these tastings, I highly recommend it.
If you, however, you might want to bring your own glasses. Only one was provided for each of us – so not only was some whisky wasted as those who didn’t want to finish their (measured) pours were forced to pour it in a waste container, but we were on our own for cleaning the glass between drams. I was the only one being so diligent as to rinse, wipe, then rinse again to remove any lint, and leave the glass up-side-down to let the water drain out.
Also, on the “needs improvement” list, there were no palette cleansers and since time was a factor, we moved rather quickly through the drams, not leaving much time for blooming or color appreciation between pours.
Bank Note – Blended scotch, 5-years old
I had some time to kill the first full day after Passover (A Jewish holiday where one abstains from bread and grains for 8 days) and decided to sup at a pizza joint. I was seated near the bar and could hear the training of the new tender. My eyes started to wander across the whiskey selections and I came across the following bottle:
Something about the label had me transfixed, and I walked up to take a closer look. You see, though the bottle was with other whiskies, I couldn’t tell if what kind of liquor this was. Once I got the bartender’s attention and asked, he told me it was their standard “well” whiskey and that since it was Happy Hour, the dram was far more than reasonably priced. How could I refuse? He was also kind enough to let me snap a picture of the full label after he poured a generous dram, neat.
Once I had the dram in my hand, it was love at first sight. No, really, the color of this blend was so warm and inviting I was both eager and hesitant to drink it. I’d call it amber, but it doesn’t do it justice.
Like a mix of honey and candlelight, but with a level of clarity I don’t think I’ve seen before. (I really hope that is the natural color and not because of an additive, but I’m not sure how to find out.)
The bar did not have a tulip glass, so it was served in an angled old fashioned. Not a bad glass, but without a lower bulb, it was hard to swirl the dram and not spill a drop. I settled for a slow rotation and was almost hypnotized as the sheet broke into legs led by heavy drops, indicating a greater-than-average viscosity.
Falling in love with the aesthetics, I was ready to start the olfactory experience. Bringing my nose over the glass wood smoke is the first impression, but it is light and tempered with soft brine; like a campfire put out with ocean water. The overall bouquet is mild, and though lingering, even with my nose in the glass, scent seems a little muted, as if I’m trying to find something just out of reach by scent.
I almost don’t want to write the next paragraph, about the actual taste. I so wanted the flavor to match the visuals and nose; but I found it falling short.
– Here is where I must give a small warning to the reader – at this tasting I had a bit of a burn in my mouth from my morning coffee. I’m afraid this colored my actual tasting of this dram. (Meaning I’ll have to have it again when my lips and mouth are at their best, no?) —
There was just a little more burn than I wanted, and the flavors, though not bad, just didn’t live up to the complexity of the nose. There was still a distinct smokiness, and a salty feel around the mouth, and even notes of citrus threatening to break through, but nothing really stood out or lingered for very long. Overall I was left with not much more than wood and burn on my palette.
I tried to warm the dram, but the glass made that impossible, so I bloomed it with a few drops of water, hoping to quiet the heavier wood notes and bring up the hints of citrus and smoke – but it had the opposite effect. The nose went almost dead, and the flavors just all muddled together into a generic whiskey taste. I can’t imagine using this in a cocktail if it loses so much character just with a little water.
Overall, I don’t think I’ll be buying the bottle. I wish I knew more about the process, and the distiller to hint at how there can be such disparity between sight, smell and taste – and I’m hoping this impression is due to poor tools. Stay tuned for the epilogue after I taste this again, (at Happy Hour, or course.)
I’ll admit, when I first heard there was a new French whiskey on the market, I was skeptical. I’d had a French whiskey previously, and to say it was a challenge to my palate would be overly kind. But, the chatter around this newcomer to the industry had me cautiously optimistic, especially since it was brought to market by a person I now consider a friend, even though we’ve never met in person.
I met Allison Patel on twitter, as happens nowadays. We exchanged pleasantries via her @whiskygirls account and the @3drunkencelts accounts on twitter and G+, as well as through my own individual accounts as I retweeted her from time to time when I wasn’t logged in as the 3DC. True to the power of social media, I was able to watch from a far as she worked in New York to launch her newest endeavor: Brenne French Single Malt Whisky
Imagine how cool it is to get in on the ground floor of a product coming to market like hers, watching it grown and starting to hear more and more people talk about it. Every little success she shared was a huge win and brings a smile and hope for the future. But alas, for the past 6+ months since its launch in October, I’d not procured a bottle of my own to taste. I’m sure you could imagine my shame in having to admit that point to Allison and then immediately rectifying such an issue.
I am happy to say now, I did in fact obtain a bottle last week and have had some time to sit with it and take down some tasting notes. As with every bottle we taste and review on the 3DC blog, we have not been paid nor received freebies in exchange for reviews, so what you get are indeed my own opinions without bias, as much as I can possibly muster. I’ve also integrated my wife Jean’s notes as well since we tasted simultaneously and talked through it together.
Distiller/Bottler: Brenne French Single Malt Whisky Finished in Cognac Barrels
- Bottling notes: 40% abv, no age statement. Aged in new Limousin oak barrels, then finished in Cognac barrels.
- Nose: Immediate apricot coming from the cognac finish with a hint of green apple which quickly relents to malted milk balls and softer notes of chocolate and cream.
- Flavour: On the palate I got a heavy creamy mouth-feel which continued the malted milk ball notes and shifted to a milk duds note as the caramel from the barrels came in later. Almost reminiscent of a cream soda at points.
- Finish: Continues with the caramel notes and into a lingering heat of alcohol with a balance of malted barley and a green raw chocolate note.
- Viscosity: 4
- Boldness: 3
- Length of story: 2
- Personal Taste: B+
- Extraneous Notes: A solid B+ score for personal taste here. I think that some more age may help reduce that lingering green note I get on the end, which would move this from a wonderful dram, to an exceptional A score. I was surprised by the depth of creamy chocolate notes, as I wasn’t expecting that richness from a cognac finish. Once my mind embraces the richness, I found it to be sweet enough for my preference, well balanced without being over powering or cloying.
So, yes, thankfully Brenne didn’t disappoint, and happily broke my preconceived notion of a French whiskey; it is indeed a truly enjoyable dram. Since it is rather new, I’m fairly certain most of you have not yet had opportunity to taste this dram. Now that I’ve finally picked up a bottle, I’m even more disappointed in myself for waiting so long; I should have bought a bottle back in October…
Don’t be like me: take this as your personal invitation to flood Allison with orders, as you do not want to miss this bottle. If you do wait, you’ll be kicking yourself like I am, and wondering why you prevented yourself from so much enjoyment.
Click for larger views
As with all good things Irish, this will start with a story of how I came to be tasting this dram on St. Patrick’s Day this year.
I figured St. Patrick’s Day would be a perfect occasion to sample a nice Irish Whiskey and do a write up on my findings; but when I checked the liquor cabinet, and the auxiliary cabinet where I store the tall bottles, and the display shelf for the pretty ones (well you get the idea) I couldn’t find a single bottle of Irish Whiskey. Nine bottles of Scotch, one from Taiwan, one American bourbon; but nothing from the Emerald Isle.
Tuesday night Raz and I went to a local saloon (Johnny’s in Huntington Beach, CA) for a nightcap and had a rather surprising experience. As we usually do at Johnny’s, we ordered drams of something new – or at least something from bottles we didn’t recognize. (Johnny’s is rather dark, and though they have a remarkable whiskey collection, the staff is not always knowledgeable of same.) What we ended up with were two very drinkable drams on quite different ends of the price spectrum.
NOTE – There won’t be too much talk of visuals because there is more light coming from the TV screens than from any interior lighting.
When I asked the bartender about the bottle, he said something about a “cask” and I thought it might be a quarter cask. It wasn’t until I had my first sip that I walked around and studied it that I saw it was a Bruchladdich. At about $100 a bottle, I should not have been surprised how pleasant the taste was – but I’m getting ahead of myself.
The dram looked pale, but looks can be deceiving. Once it got even close to my nose the sweetness was very dominant, hints of vanilla, notes of the oak, and a promise of iodine, but I found the predominant aroma to be sweet cream.
The promise was kept on the palette too, the creaminess counterpointed with iodine all surrounded with vanilla and oak. While the iodine was too much for Raz, we both agreed this dram was right up my alley. The flavor was full and round, with the wood and vanilla notes turning around the yin and yang of iodine and cream. I’ve had Bruchladdich before, but I haven’t been this impressed with it in the past. I’m guessing the age and bourbon cask gave this dram the sweetness and richness that I can not wait to try again.
Sadly there was no water to bloom with, and the Old Fashion glass was too thick to really get it warm enough with my hands.
I initially passed on the Highland Chief based on name alone – it was obviously a blend, and sounded like a cheap one too. I also have no great fondness for the cheaper Highland scotches, so I passed. Raz decided to take the chance, and we are both very glad he did.
So impressed with his reaction, I begged for a sip and found a surprisingly satisfying dram. A smooth veil of smoke covered a mild spice and citrus flavor that lasted just as long as the whisky was on the tongue. It was simple and short, but such a nice taste that I’ll be adding this bargain basement bottle (as low as $10, never over $20) to my shelf soon.
Tradition dictates that sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving the 3DC publishes a list of non-whiskey gifts for the whiskey enthusiast. This year I hit the search engines to find some obvious, and some new treasures to possibly delight the whiskey lover on your “nice” list. (If they are on your “naughty” list, get them some Whiskey Stones.)
The indented text is from the merchants, while the standard text is my own editorial input.
Whiskey: The Definitive World Guide
By Michael Jackson (No, not that Michael Jackson.)
From grain to glass, “Whiskey” tells you everything and anything you’ll ever want to know about whiskey, from storing and serving whiskey, whiskey cocktails, to pairing whiskey with food. Whether interested in the story behind aromas and flavors, what makes certain distilleries unique or how weather and environment influence taste–this is the most fascinating illustrated examination of whiskey on the market.
It’s always nice to have something to read while you sip your favorite dram. And while there is no end to whisky-related books on the market, this “definitive guide” should have something any whisky-lover could enjoy.
Whisky Advocate (formerly Malt Advocate) Magazine
1 year – $18.00
Whisky Advocate magazine is America’s leading whisky publication. It’s a premier source for whisky information, education and entertainment for whisky enthusiasts. Whisky Advocate also sponsors WhiskyFest™, the country’s largest and most respected whisky tasting events.
Since the magazine’s inception more than 20 years ago, Whisky Advocate influence reaches an increasing audience of enthusiasts, press and trade from around the world.
Our contributors are the most knowledgeable whisky writers and they stay on top of trends, new products and breaking news.
A bit pricy for a quarterly, but so full of the latest and greatest information on our favorite spirit that it is worth every penny. Also it is available digitally for those that don’t want the paper.
Butlers Jameson Irish Whiskey Truffles
These mouthwatering truffles combine the wonderful taste of Butlers Irish Chocolate with the distinctive flavor of Jameson Irish Whiskey. In 1932, Ms. Marion Bailey Butler set to making delicious and original handcrafted chocolates from her kitchen in Dublin, Ireland. People loved Butlers because of its delicious and original recipes – many of which have been handed down through the years. Butlers has received many awards for both its chocolates as well as attractive packaging.
Nothing says “I love you” to a member of 3DC like Irish Whiskey *and* chocolate! And if there happened to be one or two of these boxes under this author’s proverbial tree, she would feel loved indeed.
Bushmills Whiskey Marmalade
< $10 (Depending on specials, could be only $7 + S&H)
Try our Bushmills Irish Whiskey Marmalade. A traditional medium cut orange rind with a kick of Bushmills Irish Whiskey. The secret spices give it the most distinctive of flavors. The old Bushmills Distillery in Ireland, is devoted to the production of the finest quality Irish whiskey. Whiskey making at Bushmills draws on centuries-old distilling history, including the first license to distill whiskey.
A gift basket with home-made Irish soda bread, Scotch shortbread, English Muffins, and this marmalade would be fantastic, no?
Glencairn 3 Piece Whiskey Glasses and Book Bundled Gift Set
$35.00 The perfect gift for the whiskey lover in your life, this gift set includes two Glencairn crystal whiskey tasting glasses and Helen Arthur’s The Single Malt Whisky Companion hardcover book.
Combining the knowledge and expertise of some of the whiskey world’s leading innovators, the unique and stylish shape of the Glencairn glass has been crafted with eminent care to enhance the enjoyment of single malts and aged blends.
The Single Malt Whisky Companion provides information on every major Scottish distillery and their single malts as well as the premier whiskeys from Ireland and Japan.. Covering 500 years of Scottish tradition associated with this unique beverage, this is the essential guide to enjoying the finest premier single malts available.
Either one would be a great gift on its own, but combined they are almost irresistible. And with two glasses, it begs the receiver to share a dram with the giver!
Little Whizzer Liquor Dispense
Inspired by Brussels’ famous Mannekin Pis (“little man piss”) fountain statue, the Little Whizzer liquor dispenser will provide your guests with a funny (and slightly disturbing ) drinking experience. “A kid peeing whisky into a tumbler is funny no matter where you live.”
Never Forget The Funny!
If you put “Jameson” into an Amazon.com search, you can find all kinds of things:
|http://www.amazon.com/Jameson-Whiskey-Triple-Distilled-Graphic/dp/B007UPIY56/ref=pd_sim_sbs_misc_3||$27.99 – $29.99|
|http://www.amazon.com/Malham-Jameson-Whiskey-T-Shirt/dp/B007BEWAAG/ref=pd_sim_sbs_a_1||$19.99 – $25.00|
|There are many more, but you can do your own search of Amazon’s inventory.|
They have Jack Daniels too, and many other breweries.
And we have come to the end of my lunch hour, and thus the end of this list. I hope you are inspired to share your love of whiskey with those whom you share your life. And seriously, someone tell my husband about those chocolates! ;>
This past weekend (well, black Friday, technically) I was able to help out over at Big Bottom Whiskey again and bottle up three different single cask runs of their Zinfandel Finish Bourbon warehouse series to complement the more widely available blend. I’m quite privileged to be friends with the owner, Ted, and more so to get some sneak peaks into the business and what’s to come.
I’ve know about the warehouse series zin bottlings for a while now and even had some small samples when I stopped in a while back as Ted was prepping the blend. Now that the warehouse series are bottled and I had some time to sit at home and really run through a decent side-by-side tasting, I figured I give you all the run down of what I think.
Following are the notes of the three warehouse series single cask bottlings as well as the commercially available blend (Note that I had a clean palate prior to sitting down to taste, cleared with both a small cup of black coffee followed by water prior to and after each glass.):
- Bottling: Amy’s Vineyard cask, finished 6 months.
- Nose: Red licorice, currants, cardamom, and a citric whiff of orange and cranberry
- Flavour: Fruit and oak tannins up front, followed by some white pepper and a return of red licorice
- Finish: Light vanilla combined with the fullness of red fruit, almost jammy, then balanced quickly by the rye spice and dry finish.
- Viscocity: 4
- Boldness: 4
- Length of Story: 3
- Personal Taste: B
- Extraneous Notes: Complex and subtle notes from the zin barrel come through, as well as the zinfandel itself. Heavier on the rye notes as well.
- Bottling: RedwoodValley cask, finished 6 months.
- Nose: More red licorice and berries with a heavier oakiness.Orange as well, works into a cinnamon finish on the nose.
- Flavour: Dry tannins roll into the oakiness of a heavy zinfandel with muted rye spice notes.
- Finish: As the zin fades, the rye spice returns forward and finally balanced with the sweetness of cinnamon Christmas candies.
- Viscocity: 3
- Boldness: 3
- Length of Story: 3
- Personal Taste: B
- Extraneous Notes: The explicit barrel notes really come through with this bottling.
- Bottling: Ancient Vineyard cask, finished 6 months.
- Nose: Pepper and red fruit indicative of a good zinfandel. More red licorice with a slight toastiness that presents the entire dram quite big on the nose.
- Flavour: Round sweetness and charred oak. Big fruit gives way to coffee and char, then moves right into a rye spice.
- Finish: As the coffee and char fade, the ry spice and fruit comes back to linger with a distinct but mild alcohol burn.
- Viscocity: 4
- Boldness: 3
- Length of Story: 4
- Personal Taste: A
- Extraneous Notes: Big and complex. Much more of the French oak. A great marriage of zin and bourbon here.
- Bottling: Zinfandel Finish, blend of four different zin casks. Same winery, but different vineyards.
- Nose: Cardamom and red licorice, with orange, cinnamon, and very light oak.
- Flavour: Berries and oak tannins move into a complex mix of char, toast, and a melange of spices including rye, cinnamon, cardamom, and white pepper.
- Finish: The spice moves back to the sweetness of berries with a slight chocolate espresso note that lingers at the end.
- Viscocity: 3
- Boldness: 3
- Length of Story: 4
- Personal Taste: A
- Extraneous Notes: This dram is surprisingly greater than the sum of its parts. The blend exemplifies how critical barrel choice and blending percentages can be. The blend results in a dram that is entirely new but still maintains the best qualities of the included casks.
All in all, I am amazingly pleased with how the entire vertical series turned out. While I enjoy the final blend the most of all four bottlings, I actually enjoy it more as a direct result of being able to compare it with the single casks that went into it. Of the single cask bottlings, I do have to side with the complexity of the Ancient Vineyard cask as it reminds me so much of the high quality and BIG California Zinfandels my palate grew up with; the rye spice in the bourbon being the perfect complement to the pepper in a good zin. The finished blend is a wine and bourbon lover’s dream come true.
The good news for you all local to the Portland area, the warehouse series should be on sale this coming weekend exclusively at the Big Bottom Tasting Room in Hillsboro, Oregon. For the rest of you all, you may be out of luck, unless you can find an on-line retailer (connected to one of these distributors) to special order and ship you some of the Zin Finish Blend… unless you’re lucky enough to happen upon some in your local store