A wonderful whiskies centered weekend

This past weekend I had the pleasure of volunteering to help bottle over at Big Bottom Whiskey in Hillsboro, Or.  In just about 2 hours time, 6 of us had 58 cases of bourbon bottles stickered, filled, corked, capped, and boxed. Not too shabby, considering two of us had zero prior experience. Ted, the owner and all around great guy, placed me at the corking station while Jean held down the ‘capsule’ station placing the shrink-wrap tops on the bottles after I corked them. I won’t lie, manually corking bourbon bottles takes a toll on your hands. The whole crew really rocked it: Ted’s wife Taylor took the heat shrink station, Aaron took the filling station while Ted prepped the bottles for filling and Liz ran double duty placing the stickers and helping Taylor load the bottles into the cases. For such a small crew, I have to say we were efficient and effective in knocking out nearly a full palette’s worth of whiskey!

The day was productive and it was great to be able to help a small local business and local whiskey guy. Supporting the community of producers is important to me as there aren’t many people focused on whiskey and without support no one in the community can grow. But beyond lending my support to what Big Bottom is doing, it was really just fun to spend a few hours with people who are truly passionate about the industry, have decided opinions, and love talking shop. Being able to spend time talking about whiskies, comparing notes, learning about the business side of things, and just learning more about whiskies in general was truly the highlight for me.

Even better was the fact that Ted asked me to return at a later date for some more in depth tastings than the two we got to after our work was done on Saturday. We had some small tastes of the 3 yr bourbon which we had just bottled up, as well as the 2 yr port finish which had been on the wood for 7 months… spectacular! (I’m telling you again, if you can find the port finish buy it all, and then buy it again when the next batch comes out! You won’t be disappointed.) I am really looking forward to seeing what this next port finish batch produces. If the 7 month taste was any indication, it will be even more subtle yet complex than the first batch Big Bottom bottled up. Good stuff is on the horizon!

I even got some good advice from Ted which I was able to immediately implement when I returned home on Saturday…. but we’ll get to that in a moment.

It seems that every blog thus far in which I have spoken of Big Bottom Whiskey also includes mention of Woodinville Whiskey Co. and I can’t help but find that amusing if not wholly coincidental. This case is no different, as Sunday I put their “Age your own whiskey” kit to (hopefully) use. Well, maybe that is a slight misdirection, as I really started the process the prior Thursday….

I picked up my kit Thursday afternoon from Downtown Lake Oswego Liquor (at that time they had 3 other kits in addition to the one I purchased) and brought it home with the idea that I’d get around to it over the weekend.  (I am sure you can see where this is going. 😉 )  I dug into the instructions, figuring I’d at least learn what I needed to do to get the most from this kit. Silly me, I should have known… I’d have to swell the cask to seal any cracks and make it liquid tight before I could add the distillate to begin aging. Thankfully I started reading in advance, as this swelling process takes 2-4 days! So, I started the initial steps by filling the cask with water, as directed, and waited…

While I waited, I took a longer gander at the kit, which includes not only the cask and two 750ml bottles of White Dog, but 2 tulip style nosing/tasting glasses, and of course a funnel to fill the cask. Since the cask is only about 2 liters large, the funnel is rather small in order to easily fill it. Imagine the same sized funnel you’d use to fill a flask and you’ve got the right idea here. The kit is actually really well put together and the included instructions are very well written; clear, concise, easy to understand explaining some of the “whys” not just the “whats”.

Now, I did say I got some great advice from Ted. As we worked our way through the bottling on Saturday I’d mentioned I picked up this kit earlier in the week and had the cask swelling presently. This is when he hit me with a question I hadn’t thought of: “How long are you going to let the cask rest after dumping the water and before filling it with whiskey?”

Oh…. um. Well I hadn’t really thought of letting it rest as I didn’t want to run the risk of the cask drying and re-introducing leaks. And here is where Ted’s advice came in to play: “Let it rest/dry for 24 hours, otherwise you’re going to introduce too much water into the whiskey.” You know it seems perfectly obvious now, but I hadn’t even thought of that until he’d mentioned it. And with our Oregon humidity, I don’t really run any risk of the cask over-drying in 24 hours.

So, once we’d finished bottling and returned home, I dumped the water from the cask noting there had been no leaks past the first five minutes after I’d filled it (and kept it filled for the next two days). And then I just let it rest until Sunday.

That was a very long 24 hours. Perhaps I’m not the best person to try his (novelty) hand at aging whiskies after all… Sunday came, and I popped open the two bottles of White Dog. Luckily I was thinking while pouring and stopped after the first bottle so I could have a quick taste of the unaged spirit I was about to play with.

Tasting notes: Woodinville Barreling strength (110 proof) White Dog

Nose: Mild caramel sweetness. Heavier vegetation sweetness. Retains the smell of the mash even after distillation.

Palate: Heavy vegetation sweetness. Slight bitterness of the corn/rye mash comes through. Surprisingly heavy note of Anise.

Finish: Almost floral in tone. Light and clean, but very hot at 110 proof.

The cask itself holds about 2.5 bottles (750ml each), so there was a little ‘head room’ in the cask when I was done filling it. I replaced the bung, and set the cask in my pantry, atop my wine fridge where it sits just waiting. I do expect to lose some ‘angels share’, possibly a tad more due to not a complete fill of the cask. All told I figure I’ll likely get one full 750ml bottle, and a second 500ml fill from the two bottles I added to the cask.

And now the waiting really begins. Luckily for me, the smaller cask size actually accelerates the aging process due to larger surface area contact with the wood. The small 2 liter cask size roughly translates into an aging factor of 53 times faster than a normal sized cask. Because of this, the cask should begin imparting flavour and nose qualities within the first week of aging. Each week nearly acting like a relative year in a larger cask by my estimation. So, as you’d expect, I’ll be having a small taste every week and writing down my notes to contrast from the beginning distillate to the present week. I’m not sure when I’ll stop and rebottle, but I figure it will likely be after 3 weeks of no discernible change in flavour. That may come early in the process, or possibly months to a year from now, we shall see.

This is turning into quite a fun experiment, where I can really taste how the oak changes a whiskey from week to week… I’m really looking forward to this coming weekend when I get that first taste on oak and can report back my tasting notes to show what changes have occurred…

Until then, sláinte mhaith

-Seamus/ Jason


Need help buying a whisky lover a Christmas gift?

Yes, this is a re-run of content from 2007, but it still holds true today. It happens every year around this time, we are all asked about our suggestions for good whiskies as gifts. To that end, we’ve written up some suggestions at the links below.

Take a gander at our previous two posts on Christmas gifting for the whiskies aficionado:

Of course these are just suggestions…. we welcome you to register, login, and comment with your own suggestions as we move closer into the season of gifts and parties alike!


Three Sheets investigates Kiwi whiskies

Zane goes to New Zealand and samples some locally distilled and bottled whiskies: http://www.fancast.com/tv/Three-Sheets/96540/1339974453/Kiwi-Scotch-Whisky/videos

Some interesting tidbits include an historic recreation of a copper home still (Oh, if only the 3DC can setup our own!). It is a short 3 minute clip, but fun none-the-less.

The full 24 minute episode (original air date 7/20/09)can be found here: http://www.fancast.com/tv/Three-Sheets/96540/1194652684/New-Zealand/videos

-Seamus/Jason


The 3 Drunken Celts Tasting Notebook!

OK… So we’ve made some rather lofty claims on our web site. Chief amongst these is “The 3 Drunken Celts are set to change all that you know about whiskies…” Well here’s the start of that:

The 3 Drunken Celts Whiskey Tasting Notebook!

sample page

You’ve seen us using them at Whiskies of the World in San Francisco, and other tasting events we attend, now get your own so you won’t forget what you’ve tasted and more importantly, what you thought of the taste! Simply said, these are essentially blank notebooks designed to guide tasters through their own note-taking while tasting various whiskies. The notebooks include free-text sections as well as basic rating scales to capture your own reactions to the whiskies you are tasting.

There is more information about this new offering below… I’ve a personal beef with tasting notes and ratings as are currently done by the whiskey world at large; eg: Would I like a given “98” rated whiskey? Would it be good on a hot summer afternoon? Is it thick and warm or thin and refreshing? Is it complex or curt in its story? The “98” really doesn’t mean anything to you unless you were the one who tasted the dram or at least know what scores in each of the individual categories the reviewer has used that then where added up to the 98. I’m pretty sure we, the 3DC, can do a damn site better than that. I find that some whiskies that rate highly I don’t like while others that do not rate so highly, by the experts at least, are rather enjoyable and visa versa on both these statements.On the most rudimentary level what I’d like to know about a bottle of whiskey I’ve never had is how thick the dram is, how strong the taste is, how long the story is. I find that I prefer a stronger, thicker dram in the winter and a lighter more complex one in the summer so knowing the viscosity, boldness and length of story goes a long way towards picking out a dram I’m not familiar with. Additionally, these are categories that can be reviewed with far less subjectively. We’ll use a 1-5 scale. For example, if it drinks like a 10W40 motor oil, as far as viscosity is concerned, you’d give it a 5 and if it was thin as water you’d give it a 1. The same scale will be used for Boldness and length of story.

From there, more traditional tasting notes regarding descriptive verbiage of the nose, flavor and finish can come into play when deciding between drams I already know to be appropriate to my mood’s general requirements at the time. I should be noted that the evaluations, 1-5, in the categories above are not indicative of quality or approval. A 1 is no better than a 5, just an empirical take on the dram’s properties. This is what makes our system drastically different from the status quo as well as makes the future database a much more useful tool.

The last category, and notably the least important, is an indication of how much we liked the dram based on own personal taste with an A-F scale. This is simply intended to be a reference or reminder of our overall impression of the dram as time passes and also a means for others to get to know our individual preferences while reviewing the database. For example, Seamus really likes the Balvenie 21, and so does Fergus, so Fergus looking over Seamus’ favorable review of the Edradour 10 cask strength would lend Fergus to think he may well want to try it too. Simple huh?

To this end we have introduced a 3DC tasting notepad on our Café Press shop page.

We are also, in time, going to be able to start logging these tasting notes onto our web site for others to reference. The idea here is that you can try things that others have tried and get to know each other’s tastes and preferences. Once you get to know the others preferences you may be inclined to try something you’d not normally have tried simply because someone with similar tastes as your own rated it favorably regardless of what the late M. Jackson or J. Murray has said about the dram. Not that they don’t know their business. As Fergus and Seamus will tell you, I’ve nothing but the highest admiration for Jim but his tastes have developed far beyond my own and his sophistication of pallet is also well out of my current personal reach. He has highly rated things I don’t care for and has panned some of my favorite drams as well so as much as I like the man, I can’t rely on his ratings to determine whether or not I’m going to like what’s in the bottle in front of me. I just know if Jim liked it.

I urge you to give our little experiment in changing the whiskey world a try. We’ve put a PDF copy of one of the pages up in the downloads page if you’d like to “try before you buy”.

Please let us know what you think and feel free to post a version of your tasting notes to the list for a while so we can see what you think of the drams you are trying.

Yis, Raz/Randy


Eoin’s Ode to Friar John Cor

With a nod to the Bard:

This day is called the Reverence of Friar John:
He that outlives this day, and comes drunk home,
Will stumble a-tiptoe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Friar John.
He that shall see this day and drink t’old age,
Will yearly on the vigil toast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Friar John’s Reverence Revel”:
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars
And say “These wounds I had on Friar John’s day.”
Drunk men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember with advantages
What drinks he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Raz the Reaver, Seamus and Fergus,
Fair Siobhan and Sean, Odran and Gulliver,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remembered.
This story shall the good Celts teach their sons;
And Jon John shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered;
We few, we inebriated happy few, we band of drunken brothers;
For he today that sheds his whiskey with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in Ireland now abed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That drank with us upon Friar John’s Reverence Revel day.


Eoin



Ever wondered how the 3DC came into being?

Well wonder no more… now you can read up on the 3DC at the Caid Wiki:

http://wiki.caid-commons.org/index.php/3_Drunken_Celts

An excerpt:

What’s in a Name?

Much discussion went on around the naming of this group. The logic of the three founding members went something like this: “We all have Celtic based personas so there should be some reference to that. There are three of us so that needs to be in there too. Some reference to drinking and the like should be in there as well.” Pretty simple really. It only seems complicated now that the membership roles have grown well beyond 100 so the logic, or lack there of, goes something like this: “We don’t want to keep changing the name do we? Nope” There you go. It should be noted that the 3DC never really were “3”. Without the indulgence and kind assistance of Siobhan and Magraig (Seamus’ and Raz’ kind ladies) none of this would have come to pass.


kill da bottle tasting (or something completely random)

Raz – Hmmm, Whisky Sugar cookies are good. I’m starting with the Edradour series we are here to kill and proceeding on to the Edradour 16 for good measure. No tasting notes here sorry but it’s good to see so much good stuff on the table just on the fly.

Meliko – Going through the Edradour series was very interesting; they’re all quite different.  Least fave was the port, most fave was the burgundy, with the chardonnay and sauterne also both relatively pleasant.  The 12 year had the most readable story: sweet and caramel to the nose, initially mellow then gently smoky on the tongue. 

Fergus– The 14 year Balvenie is sweeter than the 12 and is improved when you try a rum before tasting the 14. Trying it with a 72% dark chocolate does not seem to improve the taste and if you try  it with chocolate the whiskey seems to avoid the areas the chocolate cover. The Balvenie 12 signature being better than the 12 double wood has the opposite  effect from the 14 balvenie  the whiskey is improved by the chocolate and the whiskey layers itself onto the chocolate flavor. 

Raz – The flaming heart (Compass Box) is like being bum rushed by a dorm full of exchange student co-ed fetishists. 

Jean  – I concur with Fergus’ opinions on the Rumwood with the chocolate.  The Rumwood on it’s own is complex, but adding water eliminates the complexity and makes it flat.  I really enjoyed the Balvenie Signature with the chocolate – very smooth and buttery. Overheard: ‘Oh, dude – uh, oi’   

G – The Balvenie signature 12 starts without the bite of so many others. It rolls smoothly through the mouth and departs with a gentle kiss; a definite favorite. The add of the dark chocolate broadens the flavor. With this start, sampling the nose of the Edradours was all that I could contribute to that particular effort. A sip of the Dos Maderas (yes, rum) was a great post-food flavor. The additional ‘sweet’ made for a good dessert, so the sip fit very well. And the Welsh Penderyn seems to simply be a glass of water that happened to be in the room when some poor sot opened a Laphroaig.  


An Absinthe Review from Jean/Siobhan

Seamus suggested that I write up a review of the three different types of absinthe that we have had the pleasure of trying thus far. This subject came up as we were discussing our most recent purchase from the local liquor emporium of a locally distilled absinthe. Since I seem to have such strong opinions on the subject (Opinionated? Moi?), it was suggested that I share my experience with the 3DC at large.

The first that we tried was Lucid, which we purchased online from DrinkUp NY. Incidentally, they probably sent us the bottle in error since they really shouldn’t be sending spirits to Or.; but I digress… this is one of the first true absinthes to be produced after the US ban was lifted, so how could I say no?

There was a fair amount of experimentation on Seamus’ part. What is the proper amount of water? Sugar or no sugar? You definitely shouldn’t drink this stuff straight – I imagine it would taste something like battery acid. Seamus settled on a 3:1 ratio of water to absinthe, over one sugar cube. The predominant flavor of the Lucid is strong anise. I normally do not like anise (at all), but there was enough herbal character in the bottle of Lucid to keep it interesting.

After about 10 minutes of sipping, WHAM! Suddenly my vision was extremely clear, and I felt alert. There was no gradual progression, it was just THERE. Not an unpleasant feeling by any stretch, but very unusual if you aren’t used to it. There were no negative after effects, and no standard feeling of intoxication, just a little buzz. I think that bottle of Lucid lasted us two weeks, tops.

The second that we attempted was an absinthe distilled in Switzerland named Kubler. After my positive experience with Lucid, I had high expectations. Sadly, I was disappointed. The anise flavor was harsh, and there was no discernible wormwood content to speak of, so I ended up with a nasty taste in my mouth and drunk to boot. I have not had any since the first taste, but Seamus has been picking at it a little, since he is partial to anise in any form. I think we still have at least 1/3 of the bottle left.

The third is a bottle that I was going to keep my eye open for, because it is distilled in good ol’ Portland, OR. Seamus and I went to the local liquor store in a strip mall by the house to pick up some gin and bourbon/scotch for mixing.

{tangent} OMG, this liquor store has the most amazing selection of scotch that I’ve seen in a little podunk liquor store. I almost fell over. And the prices! Did I mention there’s no sales tax?{/tangent}

They had FIVE different kinds of absinthe, including the Lucid. And a few bottles of the local version – Trillium.

Of course we had to grab a bottle. After my previous experience, I was careful not to expect too much. But I was not disappointed this time. The taste was pleasant and more nuanced without being too overpowering. The “effect” was definitely there, but more subtle than the Lucid – I realized I was holding the Aran sweater I was knitting close to my face because I could see every little fiber of the wool. All in all, a very nice bottle.

If I were to compare all the bottles, and toss in a wine analogy, it would go something like this:

  • Lucid     = a bold, punch-you-in-the-face Syrah.
  • Trillium = a complex Pinot Noir. (Support the local economies!!!)
  • Kubler   = like going on a date, drinking some Mad-dog 20/20, expecting to get laid, and just coming home drunk and disappointed.

-Jean/Siobhan


Prop 317, who’s in?

I’m in…

The fine folks over at Guinness have come up with another “BRILLIANT!” marketing stunt. According to their official brew master (he was interviewed on KROQ’s morning show Friday last) they are getting 1,000,000 electronic signatures together by the 17th to present to the US congress petitioning to have St. Pat’s day made an official holiday. Well, anyone who’s dealt with a governmental employee lately knows they all could use a good booze day off. Hell, the rest of us could use an official day for “chosen family” to share a dram or five together.

I’ve signed on, if you’d like to as well the addy is: http://www.proposition317.com/. Seems like an effort right down our alley so to speak, so it looks like the 3DC is officially throwing our inconsiderable weight behind this one. Power to the people! Right?

-Raz