In Defense of the Double Old Fashioned Glass

ravenscroft-crystal-taylor-fashioned-glassesRead enough whisky blogs, or any articles where they talk about glassware and spirits you drink neat, and you’ll notice that most experts don’t recommend the iconic Old Fashioned glass.

When you’re enjoying something neat, most recommend scotch glasses that taper at the mouth.

The advantage of the taper is that it concentrates the aromas. When you stick your snozz into that baby, you’re get a straight shot of everything good and great about scotch piped directly into your brain. In the beginning, this will be a lot. Too much. Like turning on a flood light the second you wake up.

Eventually, as you ease into it, you’ll begin to enjoy it more. Sometimes you’ll need a few drops of water but eventually it’ll open up. You’ll start to detect various scents like caramel, dry and fresh fruit, vanilla, citrus peel, … the list goes on. That’s the beauty of the tapered mouth – it directs those scents right to your brain.

The disadvantage? Good luck making a cocktail in one!

The walls of a Reidel seem too too thin and delicate for ice, let alone mixing. A Glencairn’s tapered mouth makes getting anything other than the spirit inside a challenge. And it also looks… wrong. I can’t imagine a slice of fruit sitting on the edge of a Copita nosing glass.

That’s why you always need a few classic Old Fashioned glasses in your bar.

They don’t taper. They aren’t delicate. They’re workhorses.

The walls are vertical because they’re designed to hold an Old Fashioned cocktail (hence the name). The walls are also thicker, so you can muddle in the glass if you need to, and more accepting of ice cubes, especially massive ones.

So, the next time you’re thinking about glassware (as I know we all do), give the Old Fashioned some love, even if you’re enjoying it neat. :)

Posted in Barware | 3 Comments

My Brother-in-Law’s Old Fashioned Cocktail Recipe

My brother-in-law loves an Old-Fashioned cocktail.

Ever since seeing its resurgence in popularity on Mad Men, he’s been mixing them whenever we get together and he’s turned me into a convert. It’s got

The best part about his recipe is that he uses Canadian Club, as Don Draper does in the show, and despite the affordable selection, the drink comes out delicious. Other times he’s made it with Bulleit or another rye whiskey and each time it’s been great.

Here’s the recipe he uses:

Old Fashioned

  • Sugar cube
  • 2 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • water
  • 2 oz. of a rye whiskey
  • 2 slivers of orange peel

He puts the sugar cube in the glass and puts a few dashes of bitters and a small splash of water. Add in the orange peels and muddle it with a wooden muddler. Swirl the mixture along the walls of the glass. Drop in an ice cube or two and then pours in the whiskey.

There are other variations of the recipe but that’s the basic gist. Some suggest topping it off with soda water though he’s never done it. Others say you can use bourbon instead of rye whiskey (lots of bourbon has rye in it so this makes sense).

You can play with the different components, adding more or less bitters or adding different citrus (lemon is a common one), but the basic idea is still the same. You have a sweet (sugar cube) and bitter drink that’s accentuated by the rye whiskey.

Garnish with a cherry if you’re feeling particular fancy. :)

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Presbyterian Revenge Cocktail Recipe

Presbyterian-RevengeMost of the time I drink scotch, I do it neat. Very rarely do I add ice, but when I do it’s often because it’s a cocktail. I’m a sucker for a nice, balanced, fruit-inspired cocktail.

I discovered this one, called Presbyterian Revenge, and it looks delicious. I like the citrus of the lemon juice and grapefruit bitters, though I’m curious about Cynar. I’d never heard of Cynar before but it’s an Italian bitter liqueur made from a bunch of herbs and plants, the most prominent is artichoke.

The recipe calls for Black Grouse, which I like enough to enjoy neat but makes for an affordable blended scotch to mix with, and the smokiness works.

Presbyterian Revenge

Created by John McCarthy of Bathtub Gin:

  • 1.5 oz. The Black Grouse
  • .75 oz. Cynar
  • .25 oz. Lemon Juice
  • .25 oz. Simple Syrup
  • 1 Dash Grapefruit Bitters

Directions: Shake and strain into a rocks glass with ice. Top with a splash of soda, garnish with a grapefruit twist.

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Elijah Craig 12 YO Bourbon Tasting Notes Review

Credit: patruby83

Credit: patruby83

Big day!

A few weeks ago, I mentioned I wanted to get into some bourbon whiskey and you guys sent in some fantastic suggestions. Until recently, my experience was limited to the stuff available by the 1.75L in plastic jugs (which barely qualifies as whiskey in the first place!)… but armed with suggestions from you connoisseurs, I picked up a bottle of Elijah Craig 12.

Quick history lesson for those curious about Elijah Craig – according to Wikipedia, Elijah Craig was a reverend and Baptist preacher who as born in Virginia, a part of it that would later become Kentucky, sometime in the early to mid-1700′s. It is believed he started aging corn liquor in charred oak casks, thus creating bourbon, though everyone will surely argue over this until the end of time. I just like that a reverend and Baptist preacher is credit with this at all!

First impressions? It’s good. Sweet, very sweet, but tasty.

You see, I bring a bit of scotch whisky history baggage with me when I drink bourbon. Bourbon is sweet because of all the corn in the mash bill and so it’s something new for me.

Sweet is by no means bad (unless you hate sweets… then you’re on your own!), it’s just different.

The abv is high, 47% alcohol by volume (94 proof), and that’s another trend I see with bourbon. Most are higher than your Scotch standards of 40% and 43%. Not quite “cask strength” in the 60s but a shade higher.

I was able to find a Elijah Craig 12 YO at my local store for about $30, which puts it in the same price range as a Glenlivet or Glenmorangie (but more alcohol!). That makes sense, as it’s aged 12 years old, but you can find younger bourbons for much much less (for example, Bulleit Bourbon is only $22 for 750ml). Another pattern I see is that bourbon is often cheaper, which makes sense because Scotch has to be imported.

Onto the notes, and remember that these are from a Scotch drinker not used to the sweetness:

  • Color: Dark amber
  • Nose: Sweet, some raisin, honey, vanilla
  • Palate: Sweet (told you!), honey, toffee, caramel, little spice for distinction
  • Finish: Warm (47% abv!), not super long but leaves a nice shadow

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Interesting side note, after enjoying some Elijah Craig, I immediately had some Basil Hayden in order to compare the two. Basil Hayden wasn’t as sweet, which was nice, but it goes to show you it’s all a matter of reference.

What are your thoughts on Elijah Craig?

Posted in Bourbon | Tagged , | 2 Comments

What does triple distilled mean and does it matter?

auchentonshan-triple-distillationAuchentoshan bills itself (the Long Version explanation is absolutely fascinating) as the only triple distilled single malt scotch. It’s one of those phrases that gets used in marketing and I never really knew what impact it had on whisky.

The bigger question is… does it matter? That is debatable.

Let’s first talk about what triple distillation is and what it might mean, then follow that up with a look at whether or not it makes for a better whisky.

What is triple distilled?

If we remember back to the steps in making whisky, we know that distillation is the step that happens after fermantation but before maturation in the barrel. What you’re getting out of the distillation process is mostly alcohol, often called new make whisky. It’s clear, mostly alcohol, and most Scotch whisky is only distilled twice. (interestingly enough, most Irish pot still whiskey is distilled three times)

Every time you distill, you increase the alcohol by volume because you are taking the products of one still and putting it into a second one. For the exactly process, Whisky Science has a great writeup of triple distillation as well as some history.

Is it better?

The more you distill, the more heavy components are left behind. So it’s believed that triple distilled whiskies are “lighter” because that third distillation removes more of the heavier components. The heavier components are like oils and proteins which contribute to body, mouthfeel, while the lighter ones are like esters that contribute to the aroma and scent.

Finally, maybe there’s a reason Auchentoshan is one of the only single malts that uses triple distillation. Maybe it doesn’t matter enough for the others to do it. While it makes for a fine distinction, it’s a differentiator, but I doubt you’d say they make the absolute “best whisky in the world.”

In the 2013 SF Spirits Competition, Auchentoshan Three Wood Single Malt Scotch won a Double Gold while their classic won a silver. So they win awards but they hardly run the table.

There’s also the issue of cost and time versus quality. You can’t argue that distilling a third time takes more time and has to cost more, there’s no getting around it. If it made for a better whisky, you might see premium brands doing it and touting it on their branding… but they don’t.

That said, triple distilled isn’t bad either. Just another wrinkle to add to an already complex spirit… which makes it all the more fun!

Posted in Reference | 3 Comments

Jura 10yo Origin Tasting Notes

jura-10-originJura!

Apparently there is a Swiss company named Jura and they make coffee machines.

Today, we’re not talking about that Jura, we’re talking about Jura Whisky on the isle of Jura. Specifically, the 10 Year Old Origin. (we’ve looked at Jura Superstitution and Jura Prophecy before if you’re looking for tasting notes for those)

The 10YO Jura is called Origin because it is the whisky that “signifies the rebuilding… and rebirth of the Jura distillery.” It wasn’t the first Jura I experienced but it’s certainly one that gives you a good sense of what Jura is all about. Bottled at 40% abv, Jura Origin is aged for 10 years in former Bourbon oak casks and has one several awards in recent memory. (the 10 did not capture any awards the SF World Spirits Competition but two others did)

  • Color: Amber
  • Nose: Malts, cereals, nice oakiness, it has a little caramel sweetness to it with vanilla
  • Palate: Nice body, fruity, vanilla and honeysuckle, some fudge
  • Finish: Medium and it dries out a bit with some spice (though not spicy)

In reading some other tasting notes, like at Master of Malt, they note peat but I couldn’t find any. It could be that my palate isn’t refined enough to notice or it’s so subtle that I can’t get it, either way don’t get into it expecting an Islay – it’s not (even though they’re close neighbors).

For the price, around $43 locally, it’s a relatively good value for an entry level Scotch that has personality, albeit not a very strong one.

Posted in Tasting Notes | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Knappogue Castle & Clontarf Irish Whiskey Tasting Notes

Castle Brands - Irish Whiskey BrandsIt’s only a couple weeks until St. Patrick’s Day and Castle Brands send me a sampling of their lineup. Castle Brands makes a line of single malt irish whiskey, which is essentially “Scotch whisky” made in Ireland. They use malted barley, Irish spring water, and no peat.

The expressions I had a chance to sample were part of the Castle Brands lineup:

  • Celtic Honey Liqueur
  • Clontarf 1014
  • Knappogue Castle – 12 YO
  • Knappogue Castle – 14 YO
  • Knappogue Castle – 16 YO Twin Wood

Celtic Honey

celtic-honeyCeltic Honey is billed as a liqueur with a 30% abv and a pale amber color. They take Irish whiskey (they don’t say what they use) and add to it Irish honey and botanicals, the end result is a sweet honeyed liqueur that has some hints of spice to it.

It’s very light in body with the honey and vanilla really shining through. The nose is sweet, so very sweet, and there’s little finish.

I had a little sip neat and it cannot be consumed neat (nor is it supposed to, it is a liqueur so I only have myself to blame). I wanted to try it neat so I could write intelligently about it and what I can say is that it lacked the heat of a whiskey, even at 30%, and the sweetness was very strong. My reaction is best described as surprise, as you would if you drank 7-Up or Sprite thinking it was club soda.

It reminds me a lot of my first reaction to Macallan Amber Liqueur, which was Macallan infused with Maple syrup. That too was too sweet but a clever idea, but sadly discontinued.

Clontarf 1014

clontarfClontarf 1014 refers to the Battle of Clontarf, which took placed on April 23, 1014 – a historic day in Ireland. Triple distilled and aged in bourbon barrels, Clontarf is a 40% abv amber blended Irish Whiskey that doesn’t really stand out in any particular way — except it’s extremely affordable.

It’s a light amber color with an equally light body, some sweetness and maltiness. Finish is short with a hint of citrus.

Very easy to drink and it makes me feel like it would do well in a cocktail as it adds just a bit of sweetness but not too much, like a Manhattan. I don’t drink a lot of cocktails at home, it’s just a little too much work :).

Knappogue Castle Single Malts

knappogue-castleThe Knappogue Castle expressions are all single malt Irish whiskeys, named after Knappogue Castle. Knappogue is a 15th century castle in County Clare, Ireland.

The Knappogue Castle 12 YO is a light gold, 40% abv, and fruit forward. Apples and bananas give you a one two punch of crisp and calming, with some maltiness and cereals, plus an overall sweetness and lightness that makes it very easy to drink. Medium finish and warm, a hint of spice at the end. Available for $48 at my local Total Wine liquor store (it’s the only Knappogue available nearby actually).

The Knappogue Castle 14 YO Twin Wood is a limited edition release at 46% abv with only 2,000 bottles produced (fun fact sheet). They spend 14+ years in bourbon casks and then finished in Oloroso Sherry casks. Not chill filtered and no coloring added, which is evident in its light yellow color.

It’s fruity and sweet, much like the 12 YO, but has a little more depth and body. I really enjoy the marriage of the citrus with light honeyed vanilla sweetness. The spices at the end really tie it all together as a nice dram.

The Knappogue Castle 16 YO Twin Wood is bottled at 40% abv (4500 bottles made) and has a slightly darker reddish color compared to the 14 YO. Much like 14 YO, it spends most of its life in a bourbon barrel then aged the last 9 months in Sharry casks. Side by side, it’s a lot like the 14 YO in character, but overall it just seems more mellow and refined. You get all of the citrus, honey, malt, but it’s all married together nicely.

Irish to the Core Contest

If you’re interested, they’re running a contest that includes a grand prize trip to Ireland for 5 days (plus $500 spending money), plus some other cash prizes. That contest ends March 23rd.

If available, I’d go to the store to buy either of the Twin Woods. Clontarf makes for a great whisky to mix cocktails with but I prefer to enjoy my whisky neat. Celtic Honey, to be honest, I just wouldn’t know what to do with it.

Posted in Tasting Notes | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Johnnie Walker Gold Label Discontinued Too

Credit: crazyoctopus

Credit: crazyoctopus

Johnnie Walker Green Label was not the only execution in the JW lineup.

Apparently, and I’m admittedly a little slow to the news, Gold Label has been discontinued as well.

From a Johnnie Walker representative:

Unfortunately, Johnnie Walker Gold Label is no longer in production. However, we recommend Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve as an alternative whisky. As they are from the same family, they both carry a distinctively honeyed aroma from the single malt distillery, Clynelish.

Because Clynelish is one of the Master Blenders’ favorite distilleries, he has chosen to highlight this distillery character even more in Gold Label Reserve. Gold Label Reserve has a full, rounded taste, its’ sweet vanilla tones balanced with a fruity aroma, with hints of cedar and smoke. The whisky gives a smooth, warm and creamy lingering finish.

We apologize for any displeasure the decision to discontinue Johnnie Walker Gold Label may cause you, and sincerely hope that you will find Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve to be a suitable alternative.

There is, however, something to replace Gold Label – it’s called Gold Label Reserve. You see, Gold Label carried with it the 18 year old age statement. Gold Label Reserve drops the age statement but not the price. Removing the age statement gives Johnnie Walker some flexibility in blending, so it’s not a surprise (plus the industry is moving towards dropping age statements as a general trend).

If you’re a fan of Gold Label and want to know how Gold Label Reserve compares, here’s a good side by side review of the two by Drink Spirits.

And for what it’s worth, Johnnie Walker released a Platinum Label in 2013 that carries the 18 year age statement.

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Why is bourbon so sweet?

Credit: guzzphoto

Credit: guzzphoto

One unmistakable difference between bourbon whiskey and scotch whisky is the sweetness. You can come up with a variety of flavor profiles for any scotch whisky and “sweet” is unlikely to be one of them.

Floral and fruity are likely to be more accurate descriptors than sweet, especially when talking about anything finished in port pipes or another dessert wine.

But one sip of bourbon and the first thing that jumps to mind is its sweetness.

Bourbon is sweet. So very sweet.

When you think about how both bourbon and scotch are made, the processes are very similar. There are some big differences but you ferment the mash, you distill, then you age.

So why is bourbon so sweet?

It’s all about the corn mash. The stuff those geniuses ferment.

Bourbon’s mashbill is made of at least 51% corn, often far more (closer to 70% as an average). Four Roses has two mashbills, one with 60% corn and one with 75% corn. There are various high-rye, low-rye, wheat and whatever else mashbills but all share one characteristic – at least 51% corn.

Scotch, on the other hand, uses mostly or all barley in its mash and the glucose content of corn is much higher. That glucose is what gives bourbon its easily recognizable sweetness.

51%+ corn in the mash is why bourbon is so sweet.

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Enter to Win a Set of Glencairn Crystal Whiskey Tasting Glasses

glencairn-giveawayWho doesn’t love a giveaway?

I’ve had the pleasure of running a blog about my favorite hobby, scotch, for many years (first post was December 2008) and I’ve never run a giveaway. Stunning, right?

Well, today that ends.

For the next two weeks, we’re going to run a giveaway with a fantastic prize – a Set of 2 Glencairn Crystal Whiskey Tasting Glass!

I have several of these and they’re based off the design of glasses in whisky tasting labs.

The glass is sturdy with a heavy glass base that keeps it balanced in your hand. It’s impossible to tip over, because of where the weight is distributed, and the tulip shape directs the lovely aromas of whisky right into your nose.

Of the various whisky glasses, these are my favorite.

How to Enter

First, and this is optional, marvel at the beauty of the Glencairn. :)

Only two steps for your official entry to win the finest in whiskey enjoyment vessels.

1. Sign up for our email newsletter

I send you hand written emails about the enjoyment of the Scotch and other fine spirits, but mostly whisky.

  

Aweber may be down now, if you are having problems, shoot me an email!

2. Use this Rafflecopter widget to gain entries

You must do one of these to gain an entry.

There are several ways to gain entries – liking us on Facebook (the only “required” entry Some have emailed me to say you don’t use Facebook, so I removed the requirement), leaving a comment on this post (Answer: What is your favorite whisk(e)y?), following @scotchaddict, and tweeting about the giveaway. You can only do each entry once, except for tweeting, which you can do every single day.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends March 7th, 2014. US entrants only please. Void where prohibited. If you have a question, please email me.

Beards and sunglasses not included. :)

Congratulations Mike F!

Mike F - Winner!

Posted in General | 51 Comments