Big Bottom Whiskey Port finish comparison, batches 1 and 2

You may recall this post a while back where I discovered Big Bottom Whiskey and subsequently fell in love with their port cask finish. So much that I had bought two bottles of it, when I normally would only by one of any single whisk(e)y.

In talking with Ted, the owner, he indicated that the bottles I had tasted and those which I purchased were of batch one and that batch two had been quietly sitting around and would likely be ready sometime in late August. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get over to the warehouse when he was bottling up batch two due to a horribly conflicting schedule that week, but I did get out to my local purveyor when they called to tell me it would be in stock the next day. Again, I picked up two bottles…

And here’s where I was actually a bit smart: I had retained 1/4 of a bottle of the first batch with the specific intent of doing my own side-by-side tasting with batch two.

Right off the bat, before even opening the bottles, there’s a noticeable difference: Batch one was aged two years, batch two was aged 3.  While the distillate is from the same producer, they are aged for different times and finished in port casks at differing lengths of time as well. But really, that’s all irrelevant until you can actually taste it, right? Or at least until you can read my tasting notes below, after which I’ll likely wax on about more of the differences….

 

Big Bottom Whiskey, aged 2 years, port cask finish- Batch One

  • Nose: Heavy caramel followed by fruitiness of the port. Surprisingly no oak on the nose at all.
  • Flavor: Caramel oak, then the fruit of the port. Deep richness to the palate, and shows off the port finishing.
  • Finish: Just a hint of chocolate on the back, balanced with the tannins of the oak and fruit.
  • Viscosity: 3
  • Boldness: 4
  • Length of Story: 4
  • Personal Taste: B+
  • Extraneous Notes: The colour on this first batch is a deeper red hue showing the influence of the port cask. I gave this a B+ as it finishes a bit more harshly than a whiskey like this should. I’d expect the port cask finishing to have reduced any lingering harshness to non-existence.  Still, quite tasty, so high marks are deserved.

 

Big Bottom Whiskey, aged 3 years, port cask finish- Batch Two

  • Nose: This noses hotter than the first batch, with immediate fruit forward, followed by the sweetness of caramel. Overall a mild nose once past the initial heat.
  • Flavor: Chewier with a mouthfeel reminiscent of nougat. Heavier oak with a deeper more complex caramel note. Light port touch with the fruity sweetness peeking out in the middle.
  • Finish: Oak tannins then mild char and caramel in the front while a hint of port maintains the background through the length of the finish. The port cask finish on this one has seemingly married all the flavours into a deeper complexity and balance.
  • Viscosity: 4
  • Boldness: 4
  • Length of Story: 4
  • Personal Taste: A-
  • Extraneous Notes: The colour of this one, oddly enough, was a more orange-ish hue, still rich, but lacking that deep red from batch one.  Batch two received an A- here because it doesn’t finish as clean as I’d like. There was a lingering mild bitterness and dryness from the tannins when I had wanted a bit more fruitiness on the end. A wetter finish would have landed this dram at a solid A/A+.

So there you have it, a side by side comparison of batches one and two. I’d actually left some in each glass for Jean to enjoy when she got home (I tasted late afternoon when she was still at work, but I’d quit for the day).  But I was a bit cruel about it, as I removed the bottles from the table and made her do a ‘blind’ taste to see if she could pick out which was which.  Because batch one’s visual cue would typically indicate ‘older’ and that batch one tasted more of port, she incorrectly chose that as the newer release and noted it was her preferred of the two.  Understandably so, since darker colouring tends to make people think ‘older’ and the fruit forwardness of the port finish in batch one lends to her sweeter palate preferences.  And I nearly did the same thing too, until I had some of batch two and found my palate was much happier with the balance found there and less of the sweetness of batch one. But this is why there are so many whiskies out there: for every dram, there is a palate that will love it and one that will hate it, and others everywhere in between. Luckily both Jean and I found batches one and two to be equally enjoyable as good drinking whiskies (even if my more technical attempts at notes show less equality).

To wrap this up: Batch one is likely going to be difficult to find at this point, but batch two just hit the local shelves in Portland, Oregon and will likely be making its way out to a liquor store near you soon! Go pick up a bottle or two, you won’t be disappointed in the newer release. And maybe, if you can stave off temptation long enough, you can do a side-by-side with batch three, assuming Ted will be doing one…. Here’s to hoping!


Week 16 update- Age your own whiskey

Week 16 came and passed without an update on the whiskey sitting in the barrel I got as part of Woodinville’s “Age your own whiskey” kit. But can you blame me? I mean, there’s been a lot going on with the 3DC, especially as we ramp up into our annual tasting at “Great Western War” (the SCA event in Bakersfield, Ca.).

Have no fear, just because the weeks have come and gone does not mean I missed taking a sample of the distillate. I did indeed take notes, and even pictures to provide you all an update as to how the baby whiskey is maturing in the 1.7 liter oak barrel. The first round of tasting notes after weeks 1, 2, and 3 can be found here if you missed them, or just want to come up to speed for comparison. The initial setup, etc. can be found here.

 

Woodinville White dog, Aged 16 weeks in new American Oak.
(Casked on May 30th, 2011. Sampled Sept. 11th, 2011)

  • Nose: All alcohol. Expected for a 130 proof distillate. Caramel follows the initial shock, the if you can push through, there is a distinct corn mash of the original distillate.
  • Flavor: Chewier mouthfeel than prior tastes. No longer think and watery, but now shows great body and an oiliness expected from a proper bourbon/whiskey. The pallate is still very distillate heavy, but is showing more promise with a far heavier caramel body, though it is followed by a disappointing bitterness.
  • Finish: Caramel, with an increasing bitterness with every taste. Like a vegetable with all the sugars removed.
  • Viscosity: 4
  • Boldness: 4
  • Length of Story: 2
  • Personal taste: C
  • Extraneous notes: Dramatically different from earlier tastes, but still not ‘good’. Needs more time on the oak to mute or remove the bitter after notes. Looking to revisit in late November or December.

 

Overall, I’m not exactly disappointed, but not overly pleased either. I am hopeful that more time on the oak will help it mellow out further and become something worthwhile. Otherwise, I’ll have to admit defeat, bottle it up, and move on to a different distillate to see how a second round fairs.  That, of course, means finding a better raw distillate to work with, with means testing some cask ready samples from various distillers. Oh the pains I go to for this hobby 😉

 


PDX Whisky tasting event, Sept. 16, 2011

Last Friday eve was another great PDX Whisky event. If you are local to Portland, Oregon and are interested in learning about whiskies, I will heartily urge you to follow PDXWhisky on Facebook, where Ian sends out the event notices (while you’re there, don’t forget to ‘Like’ the 3DC page too!). Really, come join us! The ‘events’ are informal, casual, and comfortable for all levels of enthusiast and are some of the best ways to try out whiskies you may not have access to otherwise.

This past event was no different and provided for some great laughs over the course of the evening. I won’t bore you with the comedy bits, you’ll just have to attend next time to enjoy the funny! As for the tasting notes, we enjoyed 4 bottles over the night in the order they appear below:

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Auchentoshan Three Wood

  • Nose: Brilliantly balanced caramel with subtle smoke and an unpretentious oakiness.
  • Flavor: Peat on the front, into oak (of course) and a hint of iodine.
  • Finish: Nice soft caramel, light peat and oddly harsh after clearing the palate with water.
  • Viscosity: 4
  • Boldness: 3
  • Length of Story: 4
  • Personal Taste: A
  • Extraneous notes: Palate was off due to having recently finished baklava for desert.

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Highland Park 15 All American Oak

  • Nose: Nicely balance smoke. Rich but bright, hint of vanilla and orange.
  • Flavor: Oak first, light and watery/thin. Evocative of a Christmas chocolate orange.
  • Finish: a tad hot then trailing oak into a hint of spice.
  • Viscosity: 3
  • Boldness: 4
  • Length of Story: 3
  • Personal Taste: B

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Douglas Laing Double Barrel (Highland Park and Bowmore, no additional details given on the bottle)

  • Nose: BBQ consiting of cumin and vinegar, red spice, heated rubber.
  • Flavor: simplistic smoke and brine. Very distinct and separate.
  • Finish: iodine and then smoke, second taste brings out a bit of surprise chocolate.
  • Viscosity: 2
  • Boldness: 3
  • Length of Story: 3
  • Personal Taste: D (*C)
  • Extraneous notes: *improved the second go around. Odd bottle, however, as the double barrel concept seems to cause the two to compete with each other rather than blend into a single different dram. Surprised at how it improved with another taste, but not enough to really be enjoyable beyond a technical tasting.

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Bowmore 20 year (A.D. Rattray bottling)

  • Nose: heavy iodine followed by smoke
  • Flavor: peat forward into brine and the suggestions of a wafting of spice
  • Finish: stays briny into a balanced smoky oakyness, but relatively light on tannins.
  • Viscosity: 4
  • Boldness: 5
  • Length of Story: 4
  • Personal Taste: C+
  • Extraneous notes: This seemed to be the top of the 4 for the night, though not for me. Not to my taste even though I can appreciate the complexities of the 20yr in comparison to the 30yr and even younger. A good dram to be sure, just not for me.

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Overall, I stick by the recommendation I came to the tasting with: The Auchentoshan Three Wood is a solid, relatively inexpensive dram which drinks far above its price point. You’d be best served to have a bottle in your house and at the ready for any whisky drinker. While not the top of the night, it was my personal favourite and was unanimously enjoyed by all at the table.


Part the 2 – Freakin’ Frog’s… Raz’ Las Vegas vacation with a slant towards whiskies

In continuation from Part One here

Stop 4: Freakin’ Frog’s. Nestled in a strip mall a couple miles off the strip and just across the street from UNLV, almost hidden, is a little bar. A very special little bar to be sure.

Friday night, Ginger wasn’t feeling all that great and wasn’t of a mind to explore and was considering a nap so I struck out on my own. I walked right up to the front of the Trop and hopped in a cab and asked him to take me to Freakin’ Frog’s on Maryland Blvd. He had no idea where it was. I said the major cross streets were Tropicana and Maryland and if he’d start off I’d pull the addy from the web. He dropped me off in this dingy little strip mall (after passing the place up and having to make an illegal U-ie to get me there) and (despite feeling a bit uncomfortable on the inside) I girded up my loins and put on a smiling mask to the tatted up bouncer and full of 3DC confidence walked on into the bar. It was soul music night and the place was about 3/4 full locals as the show was just getting started I slipped in pretty well unnoticed. This place was definitely a toss back to the 70’s. I noted a set of stairs that (very non fung sui) lead straight up to what looked like an office / store room excepting the fact that there was this old set of theater line poles and a dingy padded rope hung between them barring access to them. The bar itself might as well have been a biker bar, save the clientele was a fairly well mixed set of locals. The bar staff looked pretty tough too, though most seemed on the other side of questionable decisions one might make in one’s youth. I slid down tot he end of the bar by the stairs and asked if there was any way I might be allowed a peak at the Whisky Attic. The barman said I’d need to talk to Adam about that but he didn’t think they were taking anyone up there tonight. He said he’d ask though. He went out and talked to a guy clearing tables and generally being the kind of active engaged manager I can appreciate. He returned and said if I’d wait, Adam would take me up in 10 minutes or so after the room was set for the show.

About half way through the first song. Adam walked on over and said “let’s go”, dropped the rope at the bottom of the stairs and we climbed on up. The room at the top of the stairs was about 15′ X 40′ with a table and chairs to the left and a bar about sectioning off about a third of the room to the right. On the far wall and all the walls beyond the bar were oak shelves. On these shelves were bottle after bottle of different expressions. 750 or so Adam told me and he indicated he had another 300 hundred or so in the office he’d not yet been able to shelf. I asked if I could take pics and he said I could, though in hind sight I think I only took 3 pics in total, so awe struck was I by the selection all around me. He invited me back behind the bar to get a better look at it all as we talked about the 3DC and what his goals were for this collection. I’m not going to go into all that we spoke of, you’ll just need to go talk to the man himself to get all the details.

After looking about and reeling from the realization that I was amongst several hundred drams I’ve never had, I noted a selection from the same distiller / bottler from India and he said he had a special on those, a flight of them for $100. I think I said, “let’s do it”. He then said he intended to change the way I tasted whiskies. Adam, you see, is a professor over at UNLV as his day job and has spent a significant amount of time thinking about the subject. His rationale is that the reason we look, smell, then taste harkens back to our caveman days when we were just trying to suss out whether or not what we were about to ingest was poisonous and that the fact that we acknowledge that he was not intending on killing me and that mankind has thousands of years evolving since those times that perhaps there may be a better way to go about such things. I encourage each of you reading this and that have even a passing interest in whiskies to go and meet and learn from this man on your own or in groups as your druthers dictate, but do so. I don’t expect to be able to do justice to describing his method of tasting, but I will say it works better for me than the 3 or 4 methods I’ve used to date. That and I intend to be using as my primary technique going forward. If you hit me up in person, I might be able to show you, but I don’t have the words to put it to paper so you’ll have to be content with this much.

The flight was 6 bottles from Amrut and we’re all pretty darn spectacular. (I’ve found out that since March some of these drams have started making their way onto American shelves.) I’d heard so many bad things about Indian Whiskey that admittedly my expectations were pretty low, but there was no need for that. 2 were cask strength and 1 of those and 1 other were peated as well. Not a bad dram in the bunch.

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For the details of the Whisky Attic:
4700 S. Maryland Pkwy
Las Vegas, NV 89117
By reservation only, call 702-217-6794 to speak with Adam B Carmer and make an appointment.


Raz’ Las Vegas vacation with a slant towards whiskies: Part 1

Late last month Ginger and I took a trip to Las Vegas. I’m kind of getting over the whole gambling as entertainment thing these days, but I thought I may take advantage of the town, and the wife being occupied at the games, to explore some dram spots I have heard of in the interim as well as confirm a few that were old favorites back when the dinos walked the earth. Understand that I’ve not been to LV is quite some time, likely 7 years which is like 150 years architecturally in any other town in the world.

Stop 1: An old favorite, the Bellagio. This hotel casino has always been one of the better places on the strip to get a selection of whiskies. Not a remarkable selection, but they have more that any of the other major casinos put on the shelf and for that I recommend them. Any old whisky was not what I’d come for thought, I came for a dram of Loch Dhu (the black whisky). They’ve changed the layout of the casinos over the years and it took a while to find the little bar between the hotel lobby and the theater I have been sending people to for years to get a dram of this quiet still expression. You see back when it first was released to the US Market, Loch Dhu was very inexpensive, something like $25 if memory serves, and the bar manager liked it and bought a pallet of the stuff. Not too many years later, the distillery was bought by the French in order to get another expression and the black whisky fell out of production entirely. You could not buy a bottle today for less than $250, a nice turn if you were an investment collector. I’m not and I’m partial to this dram so I sit down and order one. The tender pulls the bottle and pours the last bit, just about a full shot, into a snifter and tosses the bottle. I then do what I’ve done every time I’ve gone and done this at the Bellagio, I ask if they will sell me a bottle. He says that they can’t do that because that was the last of it and they aren’t expected to get any more. This being the case, and me getting the last dram of the last bottle from that pallet of Loch Dhu, I tell him the story about how many 3DC over the years I’ve sent in to have a dram of this stuff and ask if I could have the bottle he tossed. Needless to say, it’s sitting in a place of honor on my shelf.

 

Stop 2: Nine Fine Irishmen at New York, New York Hotel Casino. This is a finely appointed Irish pub with the obligitory imported pub fixtures and furnishings. I was there for lunch and they were piping in a very good selection of Irish Drinking tunes. Everything from the Clancy Brothers to the Pogues so that bit was very good. The selection of whiskies was better than average and fairly competent in the Irish category. The bar had that tight confined space that usually makes a pub feel right and that you don’t generally get on the strip in Vegas, but alas, something seemed off a bit. I sat at the bar, ordered a Bushmill’s 16 and a corned beef sammy on rye. The food was tasty the dram fine but something was off in this place and I’m pretty sure I know what it was. The bar staff. Sure they were nice enough, but they didn’t seem to know how to run an Irish Pub. After gabbing with them a bit and unavoidably listening to two of them lightly bitch about their schedules, I discovered that the NY rotates the bar staff around the casino daily so they don’t really get to know each bar’s eccentricities and high points. Hell at one point they asked if I needed anything else and I said I’d have some vinegar for my fries if they had any and he responded “what kind?”. In a moment of shock and ill-composure I responded, “I’m sorry I thought for a moment I was in a pub.” He smiled and said “Malt vinegar, right.” That pretty sums up the Nine Fine Irishmen. It’s been managed into a bad place. A dedicated staff and a manager who knows what an Irish pub should be like could fix this place in a heart beat. As it is, I won’t be back unless I hear something to suggest they fix the management issues.

Stop: 3 Ri’Ra’ at Mandalay Bay Hotel Casino. Now this is a fine Irish Pub. A little plastic Paddy, but in a good way. The North wall of the main pub was a series of glass cases filled with a veritable cornucopia of whiskies. Scotch, Irish, American and more. There had to be over 150 expressions (I didn’t bother to count) and the feel of the place was outstanding. The food was great and the Knappogue 1993 was a perfect paring for my lunch. This place had a more open feel despite the main bar being a long strip that lead back into a larger hall, the ceilings were high and the decorations did not mantle over you like a vulture. There is a side room behind the bar that has a very club like feel to it and would seat around 40 comfortably. The reason I mention this is that the idea has bee floated that in coincidence with the upcoming Practicum of the Sword next year. To that end I spoke with the assistant manager, who said I should speak with Mark McElkerny (who was on vacation) on the topic but that it may be something they would be interested in hosting for us. It would likely be more costly to go this route, however it may be worth it as they could provide the food and the whiskies to our direction, leaving us with just showing up and enjoying our own event. I’d likely still want to blather on about something or another regarding the drams etc, but I’m good with that. There is fairly easy access to this location from 6 of the strip hotels via a tram as well giving people a wide choice of hotels to stay in. Something to think about. More on that later I guess.

Stop: 4 (and final) Freakin’ Frog’s Whisky Attic and Prof. Adam Carmer. Next time. This one warrants its own entry.

Read on for Part Two here