Ol’ Major Smokey Bacon Bourbon Review

bacon-bourbon-ol-major-slide-1-1391x653My first thought, before I even saw the bottle, was that this was gimmicky. It’s the whole “oh bacon is awesome, great with everything, blah blah.”

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy bacon. I don’t go crazy when I smell it but my wood of choice when smoking anything (ribs, chicken, brisket) is usually hickory… because, well, it’s fantastic.

So when a company emailed me about a “bacon infused bourbon” my first thought was — GIMMICK. But, I was intrigued. I’d never buy this if I saw it in a store. But, if I saw a little airplane sized bottle, I would get it just to try it.

So I receive the bottle and take a look. It’s nicely done, with a screw top and a woody label, and I crack it open. I sneak a sniff of the bottle and I’m surprised because it’s not in-your-face BACON. It’s the sweetness of the hickory with that richness you get when you chew on the meaty part of bacon. I get sweet rich porky flavor, a shade of that, that’s what really comes out when I give it a good sniff.

I pour myself a dram and sniff it from a Glencairn. Right before I get into it, I think that this might not be meant to be enjoyed neat. It’s only 35% abv and the bacon flavors makes me think it’s like a liqueur. Or something that needs to be put into a drink, like those stories of bacon infused bourbons making fantastic cocktails.

After writing this, I just realized I was at a bar someplace (one of those fancy cocktail places where the bartenders are all in suits with vests) when I had a drink that had a slice of bacon in it! I’m pretty sure it a Bacon Manhattan and it was absolutely delicious. The bacon wasn’t super strong in the drink itself but having the hard slice of bacon to chew on really sold it as a delicious cocktail.

But before I get the thought fully through my head, I take a whiff. I get the smokiness of hickory smoke, not the iodiny medicinal islay smoke, and it’s unmistakably bacon. As for the look, it’s a little cloudy. I take a sip… and it’s way too sweet. Almost “yuck” level sweet. It’s almost so sweet that the bacon doesn’t come through.

My thoughts go back to it being used in a cocktail and I go online to look them up. It might not surprised you know that there are about a million different cocktails that are made with bacon infused bourbon – which is exactly what this is!

Most “bacon-infused bourbon” recipes are pretty simple… take a 750ml bottle of bourbon, pour out a quarter cup, and then pour in a quarter cup of bacon grease. Mix and wait a week. Put in freezer, strain out the fat. Boom – bacon infused bourbon. I’m not sure how Ol’ Major Smokey Bacon Bourbon is made but I doubt it’s as crude as that recipe! (the recipe actually sounds awful)

I didn’t want to go the traditional route of a tasting note since I wasn’t enjoying this neat, but I will tell you that here’s a recipe I tried and it turned out pretty good. I went with my brother-in-law’s Old Fashioned recipe (it helps that I had everything on hand) and used the bacon bourbon instead of the rye whiskey.

It was pretty good! The bacon flavor wasn’t overpowering, there was a subtle richness to it that isn’t usually there. I think the orange peel and the bitters help balance it out. Next time I try this I want to fry up a piece of bacon and stick it in, just to see if it helps.

I like the idea. I like the idea of this more than I like the idea of pouring grease into a bottle of bourbon… and my cocktail experiment turned out pretty good!

Posted in Bourbon | 2 Comments

Glen Garioch 1797 Founder’s Reserve Tasting Notes

glen-garioch-founders-reserveThe Highland region is massive. It’s basically all of northern Scotland with a little chunk removed, named Speyside, and is home to many well known distilleries like Glengoyne, Glenmorangie, Edradour, Dalmore, Macallan, Oban… the list goes on and on. Funny enough, it doesn’t actually include Highland Park, which is located in Orkney which is part of the Northern Isles.

Glen Garioch, pronounced Glen Geery, was founded in 1797 and is located near Aberdeenshire – famous for producing the best barley in Scotland. It would make sense that a distillery call it home! If you’re into trivia, it is the easternmost distillery. The distillery has had a wild ride, having been shut down and restarted a few times, most recently closed temporarily between 1995-1997, but is now in full production after renovation in 2009.

I’ve never been there before but they’re one of several distilleries that allow you to bottle your own at the visitor’s center, always a nice little treat.

Glen Garioch is currently operated by Morrison Bowmore Distillers, which is owned by Suntory.

But enough about the background, you’re not here for a history lesson.

How’s Glen Garioch’s Founder’s Reserve? This 48% abv spirit was made to celebrate the 200 year anniversary. Matured in bourbon and sherry casks.

Tasting Notes

  • Nose: Very subtle scents, took me a minute to pick them out. There’s some vanilla, caramel and a bit of apple or some other kind of fresh fruit on the nose.
  • Palate: It packs a punch, owing to the 48% abv, but you get a creaminess and vanilla coming through, a very slight hint of apple but not sweet at all.
  • Finish: Medium finish, soft, vanilla, dries out

I remember linking up this tasting note for Glen Garioch 15yo (not what this tasting note is about, but same distiller) from a while back… different strokes for different folks. πŸ™‚

A tasty dram, a nice high ABV that still has subtle flavors. It really opens up with water, which I needed because of its higher ABV, and the vanilla and caramels shine.

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How to “Refine” Your Palate

Ever read the tasting notes to a whisky, try it, and realize you don't taste or smell ANY of it? You're not alone, you just need to work on your palate. :)Ever read tasting notes and think: “I am not getting any of those flavors…” ?

Here are Glenlivet 12 Tasting Notes from Master of Malt:

  • Nose: Sweet creamy vanilla, honey, pineapple, vanilla, pressed apples and a little cinnamon.
  • Palate: Apple cores, fresh and fruity trifle and creamy citrus.
  • Finish: Long and delicious, almonds and apple.

The first time I tasted Glenlivet 12, I didn’t get any of that.

My first thought? “My palate must not be refined enough.” (That and, “wow it’s spicy at the end, or is that alcohol burn?”)

When I first started enjoying whisky, that’s how I felt. “I don’t know anything, maybe I should read these notes as a guide or something.”

But it’s not that your or my palate isn’t refined enough, it’s that we aren’t experienced enough. We haven’t drank enough whisky!

Whisky is an Orchestra

Enjoying whisky is a lot like listening to an orchestra. You can enjoy it as the sum of its parts. You can enjoy it for its individual instruments. If you’ve never heard a violin on its own, you won’t be able to listen for it in an orchestra. Someone could tell you the first chair violinist is absolutely phenomenal but until you’ve heard a violin, you’d have no idea.

For instruments, it’s easy – fire up Youtube and you can hear a violin. You can hear how it differs from a viola and a cello.

Now go back to the orchestra, can you tell the violin from the cello from the viola? It’s a little harder now that you have all the other instruments going at once.

That illustrates the struggle with tasting notes and whisky. And you can’t download, as easily, the flavors of pressed apples, cinnamon, apple cores (vs. apples!) and trifle (what???).

The only real solution is to find those flavors and scents and experience them.

When whisky tasters, especially the seasoned veterans, talk about certain scents and notes, they’re talking about a very specific note. For orange peel, they’re usually talking about that bitter citrus note you get when you scrape the peel of an orange with your fingernail. That’s very specific. It’s not the pith, it’s not how the oil itself, but the intersection of the bitterness of the outer skin PLUS the oils.

What’s the difference between toffee and caramel? As someone who doesn’t eat the candies that often, it’s a subtle difference. Toffee is sugar and butter. Caramel is sugar and cream or milk… sometimes with butter too. The subtle difference is the creaminess of milk. Good luck buddy.

The short answer is drink more scotch. πŸ™‚

Remember, it’s about enjoyment…

In end, it’s about enjoyment.

Some “expert” might say that he or she gets this note or that. Hint of lilac, avocadoes, and an unripe grapefruit! Whatever. It’s about enjoying it.

For some, the fun is in discovery. I’ll take a sip from a glass, taste one thing and five minutes later, taste something completely different. Part of that is the alcohol evaporating in the glass, part of that is just my palate acclimating, and part of it is that you can only focus on one instrument in an orchestra. If you tune into the violin, it’s hard to hear the flute at the same time.

Have fun and don’t take it seriously! (says the guy who tasted Big Red chewing gum in Four Roses Single Barrel!)

Posted in Tasting | 2 Comments

5 Tasty St. Patrick Day Cocktails

St. Patrick's Day is a day of jubilation and celebration, here are five tasty cocktails made with Irish Whiskey and inspired by the celebration!When I’m sitting at home by myself or with a few friends, my drink of choice is a whisky of some kind, neat.

When I’m out with friends, at a restaurant, or at a party – my whisky is usually in a cocktail. I think the atmosphere of fun and friends lends itself to a fun and friendly cocktail. Whisky neat seems a little more reserved and serious, not fitting the environment. (there’s also the safety aspect, with a cocktail I can better regulate my consumption… it’s easy to sip whisky too fast and then who drives?)

So, as we near St. Patrick’s Day… my friends at Teeling (I wrote up tasting notes for their Single Grain a while back) sent along some ideas for tasty cocktails I should try as we celebrate the Apostle of Ireland.

We have five on the menu and what is intruiging about each is that they offer something different for each aficionado.

Not Ready For the Holidays to End? Hot Buttered Whiskey

  • 1.5oz (50ml)Teeling Small Batch
  • 4oz (120ml) Hot water
  • 1 Tbsp spiced butter mix (recipe below)
  • Aerated double cream with orange zest.
  • Ground Nutmeg (as garnish)

Spiced butter mix
Hot-Buttered-CoffeeePut Β½lb (230grm)softened unsalted butter, Β½lb(230grm) muscavado sugar, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground Nutmeg, 1 tsp ground all spice, and ΒΌtsp ground clove into food processor and blend it into a paste. Enough for 10-12 portions of Hot Buttered Whiskey.

Preparation: Use a heated heat-proof glass, add hot water and 1 Tbsp of spiced butter mix and stir until dissolved. Add whiskey and a layer of aerated cream. Garnish with ground nutmeg.

The Teeling Small Batch works well in this because it’s rum cask finished, so this is like a Hot Buttered Rum but with whiskey.

For a Pick Me Up Mid-Party? Irish Coffee

Irish Coffee

  • 1.5oz (40ml)Teeling Small Batch
  • 1.5oz (40ml) Rich Double Espresso
  • 0.75oz (20ml) Demerara sugar syrup
  • 3.5oz 100ml Hot water (Not Boiling)
  • Organic Fresh Cream infused with orange zest, lightly aerated
  • Sprinkling of freshly grated nutmeg

Irish coffee is pretty simple to prepare, just mix the first four ingredients together and then top with some fresh cream and garnish with a sprinkle of nutmeg, fresh if you have it.

Love Your Sours? Try a Liberties Sours

Liberties Sours

  • 1.5oz (40ml) Teeling Small Batch
  • 0.75oz (20ml) Draught Guinness
  • 0.75oz (20ml) Lapsang Souchon Tea Syrup (recipe below)
  • 0.34oz (10ml) Fresh Lime Juice
  • 0.75oz (20ml) Egg White
  • 3 dashes Angostura Bitter
  • 1 dash Chocolate bitters

Lapsang Souchon tea syrup
In a pot, put a Liter of water, 2.2 lb (1 kg) of Demerara sugar, and 1.76 oz. (50g) loose Lapsang Souchong tea. Bring to a simmer and infuse for 4-5 minutes and all sugars are dissolved. Strain out tea leaves.

Preparation: Once you’ve made the syrup, the rest is pretty easy. Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake for 10-12 seconds. Strain off the ice and dry shake without ice for 10 seconds. Garnish with butters.

Feeling Feisty? Redleg Rebellion

The Redleg Rebellion

  • 1.00 oz. (30ml) Teeling Small Batch
  • 0.75 oz. (20ml) Clement Creole Shrub
  • 0.34oz (10ml) Taylors Velvet Falernum
  • 0.75 oz. (20ml) Lime Juice
  • 0.75 oz. (20ml) Pineapple Syrup

Preparation: Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass with crushed ice. Garnish with a pineapple slice, mint sprig and cherry.

Sound familiar? This is a Mai-tai, but with whisky. πŸ™‚

A Party Punch: The Tipperary


  • 50ml Teeling Single Grain
  • 20ml Sweet Vermouth (Carpano Antica, Dolin or similar)
  • 10ml Green Chartreuse
  • 2 dash Peychauds bitters

Add all ingredients into a glass with ice and stir until mixed. Garnish with a lemon peel. Drink with gusto. πŸ™‚

Enjoy this St. Patrick’s Day, however you do it, and let me know what you did! πŸ™‚

Posted in Cocktails | 3 Comments

Are Whiskey Clubs Worth It?

Do you ever buy a bottle of something, have one dram, and realize you absolutely hate it? It’s happened to me before. Twice.

To be fair, the price was worth taking a flyer on it. $30 for 750ml of 18 year old? Sure, why not.

Here’s the thing — I didn’t buy them because they were interesting. I bought them because they had high age statements and were strangely inexpensive relative to other whiskies aged that long. You get what you pay for. πŸ™‚

I think part of the fun of whisky is the discovery process. I’ve long wanted to try more Japanese whiskies, especially since they’ve been collecting all the awards, but the price of a single bottle is too high to try something I might not like.

What if I spend $90 on a 750ml bottle of Yamazaki 12yo and discover I hate it? That’s a lot to spend to “try it out.”

Here’s where a whisky club might make sense and one that I recently learned about is called Flaviar. Flaviar sends you small samplings and private bottlings from a variety of craft and premium distilleries, giving you the opportunity to try small samples without committing to 750ml of something you don’t want to finish. That’s what they pride themselves in.

Flaviar sent me a box to help me understand what the service would be like – I opted for the Asia and Oceania Whisky package because if I was going to try something, it’ll be stuff that’s hard for me to find. I don’t need small samples of stuff I know. πŸ™‚


Nice cardboard box with the package clearly labelled, and the inside consists of the samples a little introductory card about Flaviar, plus two pamphlets.


The two pamphlets are great – one discusses how to host a tasting (they recommend one pack per three people! might not be enough!) and the other talks about each of the whiskies in the package. The tasting guide explains how you should approach tasting whisky, what aspects of the production process contribute to which flavors, etc.

The guide to the whiskies is really fun. The five samples included in this kit were:

  • Kavalan – This is the one I wanted to try, Kavalan is produced in Taiwan; it’s where my parents emigrated from to the United States.
  • Milford 10yo – New Zealander done in the Lawland style, another one I’d never heard of and wanted to try.
  • Paul John Brilliance – Indian whisky that is made with Indian barley, matured in bourbon barrels and is unpeated… most Indian whiskies are usually molasses based, this one isn’t.
  • Lark – Rum Cask Finish – They are located in Tasmania!
  • Togouchi Blended – A Japanese blended whisky

Here’s a closeup of the five I received:

Flaviar bills itself as “a club for explorers at heart,” and I think this the only way a whisky club “works.” It needs to be more about discovery and trying new things and less about getting a good deal.

If you look at Caskers Whiskey Explorer club, it starts at $159.99 quarterly and gets you three full-size bottles a quarter (so a bottle a month). Is there a theme? Not that I can tell. You pay $53.33 per bottle, which can get you a fantastic bourbon or a decent scotch. It’s hard to know and with no theme, even harder to justify getting it. I’d rather just buy the bottles myself as I go.

Flaviar isn’t cheap though. If you try to buy their Asia & Oceania Whisky kit a la carte now (it was the kit from October 2015), it’s three samples (Lark Rum Cask, Milford 10yo, and Paul John Brilliance) for $42.

The membership itself is $60 per quarter and you get one package a quarter.

The most recent one (March 2016) is called The Canadian Lot and features McGuinness Old Canada Whisky, WhistlePig Straight Rye 10yo, and Crown Royal XR. Is that worth $60? I can’t find McGuinness anywhere here, WhistlePig is a $75 bottle (so the 45ml is “worth” $4.50), and the crown is an $87 bottle (45ml = $5.22). Strictly on value, it’s not. But as a premium for discovery, that’s up to you to decide…

The tricky part here is that you really need to bring obscure whiskies in each package for it to work. I look at The Canadian Lot and I only see one unfamiliar name – McGuinness. I was far more intrigued by the Asia & Oceania Whisky box – some Australian whiskies, an Indian whiskey, and one from Taiwan I always wanted to try? Bring it on!

There are some other perks to membership which are non-obvious and… depending on how they develop, might be really interesting. Flaviar, like many places, also sells harder to find bottles and membership also gives you 3 free package shippings a quarter. This could be a good deal if they get bottles you like. For example, one deal they have now is Kilchoman Machir Bay, a release from 2014 that is about $10 cheaper than anywhere else that has it. That’s a nice benefit but it’s hard to know how useful that would be on an ongoing basis.

They also have private bottlings under their Deer, Bear & Moose label. The first one was a 20yo single malt from Tobermory and the second is a Ben Nevis 18yo. They go for about $125. Here’s a photo of their first and second private bottlings.

THIS would be interesting… since members get first crack at it. But is it interesting enough to join?

What’s your take on whisky of the month clubs?

Posted in General | 19 Comments