Jason’s “Age your own” experiment results

You may recall last year I picked up Woodinville’s White dog aging kit to test test run as a novelty experiment. My apologies for the delay, but I now have the results from the experiment which ran from May 2011 until late December 2011 (my notes got buried on my desk).

Woodinville’s White dog bourbon mash was barreled at 110 proof on May 22, 2011. I tasted at various times, frequently at first, then tapering off later, but averaging about a taste every 6 weeks. On December 27th, 2011 I determined that no more time would benefit the whiskey and bottled it up. Following are the tasting notes I took down on Dec 27th after 7 months of aging:

 

  • Nose: Heavy on the mash notes still. Corn followed by the expected mild caramel notes imparted from wood aging. Balanced sweetness as I have come to expect from bourbons.
  • Flavour: Immediate oak and hard tannins, followed by caramel and a jarring shift into the corn mash. Heat all the way through with a trail of bitterness.
  • Finish: Fades from the distinct mash notes into caramel again, finally ending on a bitterness either remaining from the early raw/vegetative mash or imparted directly from the barrel itself.
  • Viscosity: 3
  • Boldness: 3
  • Length of story: 2
  • Personal taste: C-
  • Extraneous notes: Not a whiskey I will enjoy drinking straight. Even after 7 months in the barrel, the bitterness on the finish still stuck around and makes this dram less than enjoyable. I have noted, however, that as an aged spirit, it mixes quite well with cola for a surprisingly delightful cocktail. A solid B grade if used to mix.

 

After being relatively disappointed with the results, I dove in to some ideas for a second use of the barrel. My third use will be for barrel aging cocktails, likely Manhattans, but I still needed a second run distillate. Luckily, I happened upon House Spirits’ White dog whiskey bottled only at 100 proof, but made with 100% malted barley, ah, just what I was looking for…

But that’s a story for another day.

 

 


Order your kit, and get ready for the first 3DC Virtual Tasting!

Today we solidified the details for our very own virtual tasting. Here’s the break down:

Date & Time: January 28th, 2012 at 7pm PST  (Facebook Event Listing)

Location: Virtual! Hosted by the 3 Drunken Celt’s Google Plus (G+) page Hangout-on-Air

Drams: 

  • Amrut Single Malt
  • Singleton 12 Year Single Malt
  • Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban
  • Suntory 12 Year Yamzaki

How can you taste-along? We have worked closely with Forrest Cokely over at Hi-Time Wine Cellars to build a mini tasting kit comprised of 50ml minis of the drams noted above. You can order this custom built kit, for only $23.99 here: http://www.hitimewine.net/product.php?productid=68133&cat=268&page=1

Some logistic points of note: 

  • We are limited to 40 of the Amrut Single Malt, which will limit the number of kits available.
  • Google Hangout-on-Air is limited to 9 participants via web-cam, all others can watch via live feeds.
  • Some people are already planning “in person” type meet-ups to expand the number of live video participants. There is to be one in Orange County, CA and another up in Santa Barbara, CA. Anyone out East want to set up a meet up point?
  • If enough interest is shown for regional in-person meet-ups, full bottles could be substituted for the mini-kits to ensure everyone is able to taste. This would be the responsibility of each local organizer to handle.
  • Of course you don’t have to drink… with this setup you can just join and watch if you don’t want to order a kit or don’t even drink… in any case it should be an interesting night!

Once you order and receive your kit, hold tight, January 28th will be he before you know it!

In preparation for the tasting, you may want to join Google Plus and circle the 3 Drunken Celts page so you can see and join the Hangout. While there, you may also want to familiarize yourself with the hangout feature (who knows, we may host smaller unannounced test tastings leading up to the day) so you’ll be ready to go and join in on January 28th as we sample each dram and share our notes virtually, North to South, East to West, and across the globe!


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 😉

 


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


A TOAST event… a non-official 3DC tasting

On Friday, I had opportunity to attend TOAST, The Oregon Artisan Spirit Tasting event held in the Tiffany Center’s Crystal Ballroom in Portland. Joining me was my good friend Corey, whom also shares a taste for whiskies like myself, as well as gins and tequilas and beer.

The event was similarly structured to Whiskies of the World, so I was immediately familiar and comfortable with the atmosphere. Specifically, it was a single price entry, and the various distillers were free-pouring rather than the pour-by-ticket method employed by other events. I made an initial lap to get a feel for the offerings at each table, and begin a basic game plan. Realizing quickly that I had just begun walking around, leaving Corey in my wake, I paused to explain my intent and reasoning: I am looking for whiskies first and foremost, as well as to prioritize and make sure I got to the most interesting ones first.

There were a number of American Whiskies, bourbons, and ryes showing at this event. Enough so that I was able to focus nearly all my tastes on just the larger whiskies class and not concern myself with the gins and other liqueurs until the end. Of all the distilleries showing their wares, two really struck my interest: Woodinville Whiskey Co. and Big Bottom Whiskey.

The first of the two, Woodinville Whiskey Co. made a great initial impression on me. While their whiskies were well crafted, what made the impression was their “Age your own whiskey” kit. What a great concept! Provide some clear distillate, an oak barrel, and let the drinker manage the aging process on their own. While no one will be going into business based on the final product from the kit, it is sure to bring a new aspect to the home connoisseur, not only for what the kit will produce, but even after you’ve run the 4-5 uses for whiskey/bourbon you can likely even use the same barrel for even more experimentation with barrel aged cocktails and the like… Yes, I already have my name in for a kit once they become available.

And their whiskey? Yup, that’s darned good too… but you’d expect that from a distillery which can boast  mentorship provided by David Pickerell, master Distiller of Maker’s Mark fame. Unfortunately, I did not bring my tasting notebook and as such have only a vague recollection of the whiskies I tried here, noting only that I really enjoyed them as a newcomer to unaged whiskies, bourbons and ryes.

The other distillery to really stand out for me was Big Bottom Whiskey, based locally out of Hillsboro, Oregon. Two things struck me about this particular distillery: the whiskies and the people.

First the whiskies: Offered were two bottlings; the first a 3 year aged American Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Being new to bourbons this one struck me as rather mellow in comparison to some I’d tasted earlier the same evening, and with a rather tempered sweetness followed by some distinct tannins on the finish as I’ve come to expect. The second, however, is where the impression was really made on me:  this was a 2 year Straight bourbon whiskey Port cask finished. Now, being a Speyside and port wood finish fan, I was eager to taste a bourbon finished in a port cask, and I will tell you I was not disappointed. One would never mistake this bourbon for a scotch, but the similarities were striking to me. Again, there was a tempered sweetness which brought this drink closer to its port wood finished scotch brethren than most bourbons. While unmistakably bourbon, this one showed a complexity I’ve most typically encountered only in the Speyside port finished scotches. Of course, Big Bottom share a not-so-secret relationship with Woodinville as they also used David Pickerell as a consultant when creating Big Bottom. Hey, its a small community, and when you share, everyone wins!

You can bet I will be taking up Ted on his offer to call him around the time his next batch of port finished bourbon will be ready to taste… and maybe lend a hand in the bottling as well!

I did say two things struck me about Big Bottom Whiskey, and indeed the second was the people, though that may be a bit unfair as they don’t really come second to the whiskey, rather it seems to be equal footing. If you are reading this blog, you likely already have a good understanding of who the 3 Drunken Celts are and how, as a group, our attitude and outlook can be a tad contagious if not overwhelming to some… well the fine people at Big Bottom seem to share that zeal. Ted has the same crazy “what the heck, let’s try it” attitude which is the very same reason we love Jim McEwan of Bruichladdich. Like the 3DC, Ted doesn’t take any of this too seriously; he lets the passion and enjoyment come to the forefront of his creations.

If it is one thing I’ve learned over the past ten years, and which was highlighted in the last two tasting events I’ve attended, it is that while the whiskies are a great thing, it is the people and the passions they carry which really make this a fun, interesting, and exciting endeavor for us all. From the distillers to the critics to the connoisseurs, if you don’t have the passion and can’t find the funny, well your enjoyment of any dram is going to diminish as quickly as you can drink it… keep the passion and find the funny, and that same dram will last you far longer than the simple drink ever will.

Now, I think I need to go find some bottles so I can revisit and provide better tasting notes. I am really sad now that I didn’t bring my notebook with me… But I hadn’t expected such interesting things. Ah, yes, another lesson learned. Oh well, at least I had a good time, and I know Corey did as well since our conversation lasted the entire way home on the Max line as we compared/contrasted the various drams, and discussed the overall industry with admittedly inebriated gusto. Yes, it was indeed a good evening 😉