08.19.18 | Swizzle Time with ANGOSTURA

Other Booze I Dig

Today we are talking swizzled drinks, because if you’re anything like me, your only recollection of the swizzling method of mixology is the sound of swoosh swoosh swoosh swoosh as the stick moves through pebbled ice before a cocktail lands in your hand.

At first glance when watching the creation of a swizzle, (which is a tiki style drink,) it might seem a bit rudimentary as just another process to mix a drink. However, that funky looking little stick with its protruding arms on the end is doing much more than one might think! A swizzle stick can be used to stir still drinks or take the fizz out of sparkling ones, while simultaneously circulating crushed ice for the perfect degree of dilution. The traditional swizzle stick is crafted from the wood of the Quararibea turbinata tree, which also provides the stick with a distinct maple scent that emboldens flavor within swizzled cocktails.

The process of making a swizzled cocktail begins by placing all your cocktail ingredients into a highball glass filling it half way with pebbled (crushed) ice. Then, holding the shaft of the swizzle stick between the palms of your hands you move them back and forth, thus rotating the stick within the glass (think of the motion you would use to start a fire using the old stick and friction method). Top off the cocktail with more pebbled ice and dashes of either ANGOSTURA aromatic bitters or orange bitters, and you have yourselves a swizzled cocktail my friends!

Given the fact that swizzles are typically tiki in nature and The House of ANGOSTURA, based in tropical Trinidad and Tobago, has been blending bitters for more than 190 years and producing fine rums for 130 years, mastering the art of aging and blending, the two are a match made in cocktail heaven!

Simply put, ANGOSTURA aromatic and orange bitters are the essential ingredients to bring signature swizzled drinks to life given the balance and versatility of aromatic bitters and the complex blend of tropical oranges and spices of orange bitters.

For my own swizzle journey, I was invited to work in partnership with The House of ANGOSTURA during its Swizzle Royale bartender competition here in Denver, Colorado at Adrift Tiki Bar. The competition pitted some of Colorado’s finest mixers and shakers against one another to showcase their swizzle skills. The evening began with presentations of each bartenders’ own unique swizzle creation. After narrowing down the four best swizzles, the winning bartenders were challenged to face each other in a speed round. The speed round allotted five minutes, in which the bartenders made six drinks, showing off three separate swizzle recipes. As you can imagine this round was a frenzy of cocktail making! After the second round, two finalists were selected to develop swizzles using a mystery box of ingredients!

The Swizzle Royale event was an amazing experience that truly showcased a variety of drinks utilizing both ANGOSTURA rums and bitters and incorporating the swizzle stick to elevate a cocktail.

*Side note* because I had to know for my own OCD sanity, as legend has it, ANGOSTURA aromatic bitters’ too-big label came into being when the Siegert brothers divided tasks – one brother was responsible for labeling, and the other was responsible for bottle sourcing. The two miscommunicated, resulting in a mistakenly oversized label that to
this day remains the brand’s signature. So yes, they know their label isn’t the right size and us anal OCD people just need to get over it!

Now that I have told you all about ANGOSTURA and swizzles, I am sure that you are feeling a bit thirsty and ready to swizzle up a storm, so here is a mainstay of the swizzle cocktail world courtesy of ANGOSTURA!

“Queen’s Park Swizzle”

2 oz ANGOSTURA 7 Year Old Rum

1 oz Demerara simple syrup

1 oz fresh lime juice

12-14 mint leaves

6-8 dashes ANGOSTURA aromatic bitters

Build in a highball glass; muddle mint leaves in lime juice and simple syrup then fill glass with dry crushed ice. Pour rum over crushed ice and swizzle well until glass is ice-cold and frosted. Pack glass with more crushed ice and top with ANGOSTURA aromatic bitters.

Easy peasy, right? Well if you’re feeling like a swizzle master, it’s time to show what you’ve got by entering ANGOSTURA’s #SwizzleContest. Running through the end of August, create and share your own swizzle for a chance to win a trip to the Austin City Limits Music Festival this October. Your master creation will be shown off and served at the ANGOSTURA VIP setup during the festival, and lets be honest, you’ll get some pretty sweet bragging rights among your friends and on the ‘gram.

Happy swizzling my friends!

06.19.18 | Longrow 9 Year Single Cask – Sauternes Cask

Scotch Whisky

This is the sort of review I love, a review of a whisky from my favorite distillery, Springbank. Why do I love these reviews? Well my friends, Springbank just rolls out fucking bangers time after time, so I know I’m most likely in for an absolute treat. None of their whiskies sniff 40% abv (call me out on this I’m wrong) and damnit, I respect the hell out of that. There are three lines that all come from the Springbank Distillery in Campbeltown, Scotland: Springbank, Hazelburn, and Longrow.

We are talking Longrow today, which is their peated line of single malts. Their Longrow sees the bulk of their wine cask outturns such as their Red releases that all find their lives spent in red wine casks, along with a chardonnay single cask, and the whisky of the hour today, Sauternes Cask.

I get this question a lot, so what is Sauternes wine? Sauternes is from the Sauternais region of Bordeaux and is a sweet dessert white wine that develops its sweet and complex profile from a funky little thing called Noble Rot. I know what you are thinking and yes, its a fungus. I am no scientist, so all I know is that its a fungus that makes heaven in a glass. However, due to the complexity of getting that Noble Rot just right and the grapes having to raisinate the yields of Sauternes are not huge. I’m not sure if that is why you don’t see a lot of Sauternes cask finished whiskies, but my guess is that the casks carry a bit higher of a price premium than your reds and fortified wines.

Sauternes wine itself is incredibly delicious and complex so I would recommend to anyone that is curious about it to just grab a bottle for yourself and experience all the flavors it possesses. Better yet though, Sauternes casks work absolute magic with peated scotches (I highly recommend the Kilchoman Sauternes Cask for all my peat lovers out there). The sweetness and complexity of fruit take a good peated scotch to an entirely different level, so with that let’s just get after this review of the Longrow 9 Year Single Cask – Sauternes Cask!

The dirty details:

  • 9 Year – distilled in November 2007
  • 58% abv
  • First Fill Sauternes Cask
  • 252 bottles
  • $120 price tag

Color: In the glass, the whiskey is a light amber color. Really good looking development from the cask. Nice and oily as I would expect and has long sexy legs that go for miles.

Nose: The nose opens with a nice maltiness and sweet cereal. A lot of Sauternes cask influence shows its face with a nice inherent sweetness – sugar cane and candied grapes. The sweetness calms and the peat enters in subtly like a slowly burning fire on a coast side. Moist and peppery with some wet grass funk.

Palate: This bad boy starts out with some super barnyard funk. Lots of wet earth begins on the palate that opens into some really interesting charred citrus. The sugar is still present and intertwines with the peat and barrel to create a flavor similar to charred sugar atop a creme brulee and a toasted marshmallow. A light breeze of saline coastal spray provides that additional underlying layer of the ocean.

Finish: The sweetness of the palate keeps running on the finish. The smoke continues to dwindle into a perfumey floral smoldering fire. The richness of the finish is strong with notes of marzipan, sweet red apples, and ladyfingers. A dry aromatic tobacco coats the back of the throat and there were lingering coastal flavors of oysters with sweet shaved ice atop them.

Well, this Longrow 9 Year Single Cask was fan-fucking-tastic. The Sauternes cask provides an incredibly rich and sweet finish that just excels with the light smoke and coastal notes of this Campbeltown banger. There are a ton of complexities that are working in complete tandem with one another. Prepare your palate for a roller coaster of flavor as the different flavor layers will come and go as you drink it. The Longrow 9 Year Single Cask is a whisky that’ll reward you with something new every time you sit down with it. Approach with an open mind and a ready palate. I mean this in an absolutely not snobby way, but this isn’t no beginner single malt, no training wheels here. Happy flavor hunting my friends!

Score: 9/10

This bottle was purchased by me and as always, the words and opinions are all my own

05.24.2018 | The Block Distilling Co

Distilleries

Spring Gin

If you’ve ever been to the RiNo Art District of Denver then what you probably saw are the bones and structures of Denver past, but within those bones you will find the passion and visions of Denver future. Restaurants, art galleries, stores, bars, breweries, cideries, wineries, and most importantly…. a distillery. The RiNo Art District is art itself with passionate individuals showcasing their trades in all mediums. What was it always missing though? A distillery, of course!

The void was filled over two years ago when Michelle Flake, Kraig Weaver, and Kameron Weaver took over the old Block building to chase their dream of distilling. The Weaver brothers are both graduates from the Colorado School of Mines where they both received engineering degrees. During my visit to the Block, Kraig explained how home brewing was a popular past-time among their peers during their college years, but their vision was always in the cocktail and distilling scene. After graduating they both went off into their respective careers until the distiller’s life came hollering at the two of them and they decided to take the plunge. The Block Distilling Co released their first distillates for sale, vodka and gin, this past November of 2017 and opened their tasting room to the public in December of 2017 and they show no sign of slowing down!

Recently Kraig invited me to come check out the distillery and talk distillate to learn more about how the Block is combining science and creativity to produce some seriously incredible products.

Being in downtown Denver space is of course limited, so when you first enter the tasting room you will witness their first feat of engineering aptitude and ask yourself, “how the hell is there a distillery in this building?” The tasting room is a high ceiling large industrial room with a black accented bar in the corner against the white walls of the building. The room is filled with communal bars and beautiful furniture. Fun fact, the furniture is all made by Kraig who is an extremely talented fabricator. With outdoor seating and an inside-outside open concept this is a bar that I highly recommend hitting up for some gin and tonics this summer, a place I could easily kill an entire afternoon hanging out at.

“Eleanor”

Behind a large glass wall the entire distillery is in plane sight for all to see, we wasted no time and went straight into the action. Once in the distillery portion of the Block Kraig introduced us to their gleaming copper hybrid still, “Eleanor.” Kraig explained to us the different processes used to make their different distillates from vodka, to gin, to good ol american whiskey! One interesting note from his rundown was how they make their vodka so damn tasty. The traditional process of making vodka is that once the neutral grain spirit is made it is then filtered through charcoal, which is going to strain out all the goods that provide flavor and leave you with the creamy flavorless distillate we all associate vodka with. However, at the Block they are doing no such filtration, because they want you to taste the high-quality grains they are putting into every vodka they make, so what you’re left with is a full-bodied grain forward vodka that is damn good, and that is coming from me, who does not really like vodka. Kraig then took us through their fermentation process showing us both the open and closed fermentation tanks that each serve different purposes for different distillates. The quick and dirty, is that your open fermentation tanks are going to be used for your whiskies, because you want all the stuff floating around in the air to interact with your yeast and impart various flavors into your whiskey! One thing you wont notice is a grain mill inside the distillery, but its there, the Block just craft-fully and thoughtfully hid the beast from view, at the Block all their grain is milled in house and comes from small local farms and malters. The use of space really is incredible and clearly thought up by two engineers.

As is the best part of any tour we then checked out the barrel room. It may be a small room for now (they have plans for expansion), but what is inside is what matters! The Block team isn’t following the status quo with their barrel program either. Rather than using the standard new american oak casks that the majority of the industry is using they instead are barreling with American white oak casks from Canton Cooperage from Kentucky. There are two primary differences in the barrels being used. Firstly, the barrels have been air seasoned for 36 months rather than the typical 12 months, which imparts a higher amount of complexity due to the increase of natural tannins in the wood. Secondly, the heads on the casks are toasted rather than charred, which allows for much more of the natural wood flavors to come through in the whiskey.

I’m sure y’all are wondering what all they have aging in the small back room of the distillery, so here we go:

  • 4-grain whiskey made using wheat, oat, rye, and barley that will be aged a minimum of two years
  • Bourbon whiskey made using yellow corn, blue corn, red corn, millet, and barley that will be aged a minimum of two years
  • Winter gin which is their barrel aged Autumn gin that will have been in barrel for about a year

You’re going to have to wait some time for the whiskies and Winter gin to be ready, but what I can tell you is that the wait is absolutely going to be worth it. During a subsequent visit with Jabin, founder of Licensed to Distill, Kraig uncorked a cask of the 4-grain whiskey and Winter gin for us to sample. The 4-grain has only been on wood for a handful of months, but already the flavor development and complexity of the whiskey is astounding. I would gladly take a bottle of how it is now, but I know its going to be something truly special after the full maturation period. You’ll read about my love of the Autumn gin shortly, but just know that the barrel effect it takes on to make the Winter gin takes it to an entirely new realm. You’ll have to battle me to be first in line for all these eventual releases!

Keeper of the Barrels

Beyond all the aforementioned spirits that the Block is distilling up they also are making brandy from pears, peaches, and grapes from Palisade, Colorado. For those of you not from Colorado, Palisade produces some of the highest quality and succulent fruits that you will ever try! Again, no quality is being left out of their distillates.

After our tour was done Kraig took us to the bar to sample the vodka and their Autumn gin. A brief rundown on the gin is that they produce four varietals of gins: Summer, Spring, Autumn, and Winter. The Summer, Spring, and Autumn gins are all made with different botanic mixtures that use various varietals that impart flavors of their namesake season, while the Winter gin is their Autumn gin that is barrel-aged. The Autumn gin may just be the best gin I’ve ever had… with over a dozen different botanic components it has warm spices of cinnamon, cardamom, and anise. The gin was a full body and smooth expression that changes flavor profiles the entire time from the first nosing to the finish. It was simply incredible. And as mentioned earlier the vodka is a grain forward profile with lots of freshly cut greens and dried grains. No mixing required for this vodka to be enjoyed!

If you know me, you know we had to crush some cocktails… pictured are the “G&T” made with Autumn Gin, tonic syrup, and soda water and the “Tea Time” made with Autumn Gin, black walnut bitters, chamomile tea, maple syrup, and lemon juice. Both filed under things I love. The Block team are no one-trick ponies that just know how to distill, they also have one of the better distillery bar programs that I have been to. Just keeps getting better, right?

“Tea Time”

“G&T”

Gin and Gin

At the Block no shortcuts are being taken, no quality is being given up for the sake of product, no distillate is being shipped in as a “stop-gap” as all product is produced in house for your enjoyment (patience is a virtue when it comes to whiskey), from the grain they begin with all they way down to their super slick bottles the Block is doing it the right way. How do I know? Taste any of their product and you’ll find out these facts for yourself.

If you ever find yourself in RiNo be sure to pay a visit to the Block Distilling Co and see for yourself how this amazing group of people are combining a love of science with the art of distilling to create truly exceptional spirits!

Cheers

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A recipe for you to try at home using their Autumn Gin:

“Autumn in Portugal”

  • 2 ounces Autumn Gin
  • 1 ounce East India Solera Sherry
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon simple syrup
  • 3 dashes Bittermens Xocolatl Mole bitters
  • 1 egg white

Wet shake all ingredients over ice for 30 seconds. Strain out ice and dry shake vigorously for 60 seconds. Double strain into a coupe glass and garnish with whole start anise. Enjoy!

“Autumn in Portugal”

Autumn Gin

05.02.18 | Highland Park Single Cask reviews: Nor’Easter, Helluland, and Gotham City

Scotch Whisky

Before kicking off this review, for full clarity, these samples were graciously provided by Forte Mare (@thefortemare) and Highland Park (@HighlandParkWhiskey). The whisky isn’t mine, but as always, the words and opinions are all me! Also, I always want to stress that I am not here to influence you one way or the other. Look at me as some sort of spiritual guide that can provide a semi-professional opinion!

With that out of the way, let’s do it to it! 


Today we are talking the exclusive Highland Park Single Cask bottles. For a quick lesson on single casks, for those of you that may not know, a single cask whisky is whisky that has been taken from one individual cask and bottled. There is no blending of casks here, so what you see is what you get. There is no guessing game to the cask proportions, age, true color, and so on and so forth. Single cask whisky, to me, is the absolute cream of the crop. When bottled at cask strength and non-chill filtered you are getting whisky in its absolute purist form, the way it should be presented and drank. Now I know it isn’t economically feasible for all whisky to be presented as such, so when you do find a single cask whisky, well, it is truly something special.

The Highland Park single cask program is going through a bit of a resurgence right now and is truly a labor of love for the Highland Park crew. Each of the casks is hand-selected by Gordon Motion, Highland Park’s Master Whisky Maker, and is quite exclusive. From what I have heard there are only ~15 casks for the entire United States and a handful of others for the International market. Assuming that the International market gets an equal amount of casks at around 525 bottles per cask then we are talking maybe 16,000 bottles total… for the entire PLANET EARTH.

Side note: Don’t quote me on that number as honestly, it was an uneducated guess.

The point is, these are fairly exclusive bottles that are equally in high demand! Does the whisky match-up to its exclusiveness? We will find out in a moment…

A quick background on our favorite Viking distillery, Highland Park was founded in 1798 and holds the title of the furthest North distillery in Scotland. Highland Park is also one of the few distilleries that malt some of its own barley themselves and is known for their lovely, light, and aromatic smoke profile with their whiskies. However, Highland Park peat is much different than the Islay peat as their’s has a lot of Scottish heather in it, which gives it that more subtle floral smoke. I always recommend them as a gateway drug for those that are interested in diving into the world of peat before jumping right into the Lagavulins, Ardbegs, etc. etc. For myself, some Highland Park whiskies can come off as almost too light for my big bold masochist self, but when they turn up the abv even slightly, man their whiskies f****** rule. With that said, let’s get to the reviews!

All three of these whiskies are cask strength, no color added, and non-chill filtered


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Cask #3246: Nor’Easter

Northeast Exclusive

Age: 15 year

ABV: 56.9%

Cask: Refill Sherry Butt

Bottles: 546 bottles @ $225

Color: Golden Amber

Nose: A light smoke of burning heather. Honey and damp hay –  a little sweet, a little funky, a little smokey. On the back end is a medicinal saline sprayed oak.

Palate: Sweet custard tarts, dried florals and a spoonful of raw honey, and earthy grains

Finish: The finish is incredibly creamy, a sweet cream like flavor. Tart and bitter with some nice exotic spices and more florals.

Grade: 6/10

Overall: If I didn’t know any better I would think that this had spent its time in an ex-bourbon cask, and admittedly, I kind of wish that was the case. The sherry cask just feels a bit spent, which made the whisky come off in a weird middle ground. Kind of sherry, kind of oaky, and kind of not my cup of tea.


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Cask #6313: Helluland

Total Wine Exclusive

Age: 13 year

ABV: 61.3%

Cask: Refill Sherry Puncheon

Bottles: 510 bottles @ $200

Color: Burnished orange.

Nose: The nose begins with sweet red cinnamon candies. Once you get through a brief burst of alcohol there is a fairly predominant smoke on the nose. Dried strawberries with some fresh coastal greenery. The whisky was a bit intense on the nose at first but opens up exclusively, total Highland Park on the nose.

Palate: Tart cherry jam and shortbread cookies dusted with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. A very lovely perfumey smoke from burning driftwood, with a nice coastal feel. Not overly oily, and just a very lively palate.

Finish: The finish is f****** splendid. Big juicy red fruits mulling w/ balanced baking spices. Incredibly smooth given its abv, and leaves you with a long lingering pour of sherry.

Grade: 9/10

Overall: I love this Helluland. This is “shut up and take my money” whisky right here. This is a whisky in the sweet spot! It has a lot of lively flavors going on but on the backbone a balanced sherry. Just layers on layers of beautiful Orkney flavors!


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Cask #63297: Gotham City

New York Exclusive

Age: 15 year

ABV: 59.6%

Cask: Refill Sherry Butt

Bottles: 588 bottles @ $225

Color: Cognac Amber

Nose: Charred wood smoldering, smoked meats. One of the more smoke forward Highland Parks that I have had, but its a really nice dark charred smoke. Sherry steeped plums and cherries.

Palate: A burnt sugar topping, almond brittle, and sherry soaked oak. On the back end were spiced plums and fruit cake with a touch of marzipan.

Finish: Long and distinguished, and sherry dominant. A decadent dessert like finish. Black forest cake topped with whisky soaked cherries with a side of rich dark chocolate.

Grade: 8/10

Overall: The Gotham City was the most eloquent of the three. The dram is a distinguished sherry cask that carries a rich dark smoke through the finish while having a very dessert-like profile. This is a late night with a cigar in hand whisky right here!


All in all, I was very impressed by the single casks that I was able to try from Highland Park. In a world of increasing NAS 40% abv whisky, these are the ones that I get real excited over! The folks over at Highland Park just know how to make terrific whisky and when you have the opportunity to have it straight from the cask such as this you are able to taste truly how good they are at what they do. The layers of rich and complex flavors that they each possess is really quite impressive. The heather smoke is more pronounced, the cask derived flavors are more juicy and distinct, and the experience from start to finish is memorable. I for one am all on board for this single cask program and am very interested to see what other casks they decide to roll out!

Plus, as with any single cask, once these are gone they are gone forever. The whisky from these casks will never be reproduced. To me, that is pretty damn special and is what gives these exceptional single casks that certain bit of added allure!

04.27.18 | That Boutique-y Whisky Company Macduff 18 Batch 3

Scotch Whisky

Well, the fun is over, our European excursion is over and damnit, it sucks…

Luckily though I brought back a backpacking pack worth of delicious whisky to alleviate the sadness, so let’s get right back into the swing of things!

To start off the fun I bring you a special bottling from the private bottler That Boutique-y Whisky Company. This particular bottle is a Macduff 18 and is their 3rd batch from the distillery. Now Macduff is a lesser-known Highland distillery and is one of the “new” kids on the block. By new I mean they didn’t roll out their first barrel until 1960. The Macduff distillates have spent most of their life being used for blended single malts by Bacardi and now go into blends offered by John Dewars & Son, so don’t feel silly that you haven’t had their whisky, to know your knowledge. Plus to make it even more confusing the distillery doesn’t release their whisky under the name Macduff, but rather under the name The Deveron. Why do they do that? Honestly, I have no clue whatsoever, so if you do know feel free to drop me a message!

This bottle is both my first That Boutique-y Whisky Company bottle and my first Macduff. After having tried this single malt a few times it makes me bummed knowing that it is primarily used in blends because it is a mighty fine whisky!

I don’t have a ton of detail on the whisky itself other than:

  • 18 year
  • 48.6% abv
  • £52.95 price (per That Boutique-y Whisky Company)
  • AND, my best guess is probably a second-fill, maybe even third-fill, sherry cask

Color: In the glass, the Macduff is a faint gold color and not viscous at all, thin and runny legs. Pretty plain jane.

Nose: The nose has quite a subdued sweet profile. While nosing this bad boy I was finding sugary malt and dried hay, not so much barnyardy, just farmy? I don’t know if that makes sense at all, but hell, it made sense in my head. Macerated red fruits slowly convert to a slightly tart berry jam. Super easy on the nose, but don’t be fooled by the nose…

-Brief Interlude-

Palate: This is why you shouldn’t be fooled by the nose. On the palate, the whisky is much darker and complex. Out with the sweet, in with the savory! The first tastes I found were a handful of dark chocolate covered almonds and an un-sweetened chocolate cake. As it works around the mouth I found peppercorns, szechuan pepper (I’ll explain this one in a moment), and drying leather. Now, why szechuan pepper? The reason is that there really isn’t the flavor of a spicy pepper, but rather the experience of a pepper. A fairly noticeable tingle on the tongue and itch from the pepper. This Macduff really has an interesting savory aspect to the palate.

Finish: Let’s bring this review home! The finish was peanut brittle accompanied by a dry shortbread cookie. Really sucks the moisture out of the mouth. A slight pinch of aromatic tobacco takes you into a medium length finish that has red fruits and a bit of cayenne spice to it. Can feel it in the throat this one. NOT IN A BAD WAY.

For myself, this has been one of the more interesting drams I have had this year. There is something very perplexing about this Macduff 18. When you’re tasting it on its face, I kept on just thinking to myself, “okay, its just another middle of the pack second-fill sherry cask single malt scotch,” but its so much more than that. This whisky is like that person at work you know that is about as plain as a piece of white bread, but then you encounter them outside of the office and that effer has a full sleeve tattoo and is pulling out of a dingy dive bar on a motorcycle. Does that make sense? If not, what I am trying to say is that there is a ton of interesting flavors going on with this whisky and the nose isn’t going to show its cards on any of them. I’m giving this bottle an 8/10. Peep the homepage for an explanation of the newly introduced grading rubric.

The Macduff 18 from That Boutique-y Whisky Company is the pour I want to drink to close out the night after having conquered the town with the crew, to cleanse my palate of the cigars I had been smoking and whatever debauchery I may have gotten into.

For clarity, disclosure, and trust – this is my bottle that I purchased.

04.03.18 | Sugarlands Distilling Company Roaming Man Tennessee Straight Rye Whiskey 4th Edition

American Whiskey

You know what they always say, you want what you can’t have. That has been my feeling when it comes to the Roaming Man Tennessee Straight Rye Whiskey since it is a distillery only release, but here I am finally making it happen (thank you Sugarland!).

Now, this is a whiskey that really doesn’t need me to vouch for it. The Roaming Man has been clearing up the awards circuit since it first hit the whiskey scene. Born in Gatlinburg, Tennessee by a bunch of passionate funky “moonshine” making folks, the 4th edition took home six gold medals in 2017 and sold out in… wait for it… 30 minutes! Those are the sort of results that speak for themselves but don’t give tasting notes, so here I am!

I’ve said it once and I will continue to say over and over, that clarity is so important in the whiskey industry. Sugarland may be the clearest distiller I have ever seen. When you get your bottle of Roaming Man the label is going to give you everything from the mash bill, to the staves used, to the barrel treatment, to the evaporation and get this, even comes with a chromatogram chart. This is the science lover and chemists dream whiskey! While tasting the Roaming Man I actually had a really terrific time referencing back to the chart to see what congeners and/or compounds were creating the flavors I was experiencing.

Now for the dirty details about, of which, Sugarland tells them all:

  • Abv 60.9%
  • 51% Rye 45% Corn 4% Malted Barley
  • Barrel Type: American White Oak
  • Staves: 6 Months Air Dried
  • Treatment: #3 and #4 Char
  • Barrel Size: 25 Gallons
  • Avg Evaporation: 21%

AND, this isn’t even all the info I could give you on it!

Color: Now the whiskey itself is a nice crystal clear orange copper with some lovely cask strength crystal legs in the glass.

Nose: The heat is there, but not as much as I was expecting. Working past the slight ethanol the whiskey opens into a spice apple cider, lots of apple on the nose. There are HUGE floral spices, lots of sweet sugars (molasses?), and freshly cut hay. Really carries the nose of everything I want and love in a rye whiskey.

Palate: Alright alright alright, here comes that cask strength heat… BUT it still isn’t there… curious. The palate is nice and decadent. Vanilla bean crème brûlée with that nice burnt sugar top that just cracks wide open to the huge flavors. The apple is calmer on the palate and instead is more of banana bread, with sweet grains.

Finish: This finish reintroduces the terrific big rye florals and spices, but brings with it this time a spoonful of honey, the lingering flavor is a lovely dried oak that takes you into a short finish. On the finish, I still found hardly any heat. I don’t know how, but Sugarland really tamed the cask strength abv of the Roaming Man leaving you with an incredibly smooth and sippable rye whiskey!

The Roaming Man Tennessee Straight Rye Whiskey is the big bold (young) rye the world deserves and needs in the oftentimes bleak state of affairs. The whiskey is a no-nonsense, no gimmicks, full clarity, damn good rye whiskey. In the glass, it drinks far beyond its age (thanks to the smaller barrels) and is so full of balanced flavors.

The Roaming Man Tennessee Straight Rye Whiskey will have you dreaming of summer nights sitting on the tailgate of an old pickup truck in the backwoods of Tennessee!

Now to figure out how to get a full bottle of the 5th edition, pre-sale is launching Wednesday, April 18th, back to Colorado… we always want what we can’t have… but if you’re lucky enough to be nearby the distillery. Go get a bottle and thank me later!

Cheers!

The words and opinions are all mine, but the sample was provided to me by Sugarland Distilling Company.

03.04.18 | Turn the Volume to 11 | PM Spirits Mic Drop Straight Bourbon Whiskey

American Whiskey

Little did I know that I was already so spiritually connected to PM Spirits than when I began doing research on them in preparation for this review. PM Spirits was founded by Nicolas Palazzi who grew up in France and understandably got himself into the Cognac industry before launching PM Spirits. Nicolas has now turned PM Spirits into a premier curator of and promoter of artisanal spirits that exude quality. From Cognac and Armagnac to Mezcal and eau de vie, they are all top notch labels that PM Spirits carries. We have ourselves some of their Armagnac and Mezcal. Once I realized that they were turning out their own Bourbon from barrels they picked I knew I was 100% going to be in for a treat. Now the Mic Drop Straight Bourbon Whiskey was a New York release only, so it took some sourcing, but was eventually able to get my hands on a bottling of it!

From my experience with the Mezcals that PM Spirits carries their brand is all about a clarity and a commitment to the craft. To no surprise, the label of the Mic Drop provides a plethora of information to ensure ultimate clarity. The Mic Drop is an MGP distillate that was distilled in 2009 and bottled in 2017. The bourbon within is a blend of 20 different incredible casks that have a mashbill of 75% corn, 21% rye, and 4% barley malt. Bottled at cask strength of 56% abv, unfiltered, and natural colored there is absolutely nothing else you could need to know about this whiskey! And that is just how it should be. Plus there were a lot of terrific attentions to detail on the bottle design, from the glass stopper to the very different and intense comic book like hero adorned with a sneak and a freaking eagle. I suggest going to their website, because the inspiration for the label design is quite cheeky and I love it! I hear a lot of people poo-poo on MGP distillate when I know for a fact they’re drinking it, loving it, and they don’t even know it because there are not many labels out there committed to this sort of clarity. My advice to those people, stfu and if it tastes good who the hell cares where it came from! But I digress, let’s get onto the review.

In the glass, the Mic Drop is a light burnished orange, almost copper hue, that has legs that run parallelly down the glass. Definitely can tell its still on the somewhat younger side at 8 years of barrel time. Now at first, the nose had me concerned. As I worked my way into the nosing I definitely had to take my time as it begins fairly intense with strong notes of ethanol. Take your time, take a sip first and allow your body to acclimate because it gets good… The harsh heat quickly subsides and opens up a candy shop of sweetness. There is a basket of fresh picked red apples alongside a pot of melting butterscotch candies, while whole cloves and cinnamon sticks are ground down to a powdery form. The dessert like profile carries over to the palate as gooey caramel bites slowly melt over granny smith apples and sugar-coated plantains are brûléed. The exotic flavors continue to a holiday black tea that steeps on the taste buds, bitter and full of cinnamon, anise, and vanilla beans. Dry oak tannins briefly show their face on the finish and cause the mouth to salivate, an oily leather coats the entirety of the mouth, and hard honey candies take you along to the future.

The Mic Drop Straight Bourbon is one of the more lively and multidimensional bourbons that I have had in awhile. There is an actual story about where the name comes from, but I think the name Mic Drop comes from the fact that PM Spirits picked some kick-ass barrels that have turned the typical bourbon flavor profile up to an 11 on the audio system! If you have been looking for a bourbon that breaks the monotony of honey and oak, well this is the bourbon for you!

Cheers!

https://www.pmspirits.com/

02.16.18 | Citrus Clarity in the Smoke | Lagavulin 8 Year Limited Edition

Scotch Whisky

If you look at the current landscape of Single Malt Whisky you will see that distilleries are in a nuclear arms race to release older and older whiskies as limited releases to one-up one another. Recently I was informed of a very notable distillery aiming to release a 50-year scotch in the near future. Five. Zero. Its often times a hard thing for myself to conceptualize a whisky that is double my age, but do not for one moment get me wrong. These whiskies are exquisite, amazing, masterful, ancient, etc., etc., etc. I am not complaining one bit. However, what would you say to one of the most famous Islay distilleries deciding that for a limited edition release they would release an… 8 year? *Alongside an absolute epic bottle costing over $1,000 of course*

The Lagavulin 8 Year was released to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the distillery. Now, this seems like a milestone worthy of an old ancient cask from deep within the rick house, right? The reason for the 8 year age statement goes back to whisky writer and historian, Alfred Barnard, sampling an 8 year Lagavulin and proclaiming it to be, “…Exceptionally Fine,” so Lagavulin set out to recreate the old 8-year style and release it as a Limited Release.

The Lagavulin 8 year comes in with an abv of 48%, which I found to be a terrific direction to turn up the abv a bit for this youngin from the 43% abv of the 16-year. The whisky was aged in primarily American Oak casks. Clarity. In the glass, the Lagavulin is a lovely crystal clear chardonnay white color. The palate blossoms immediately. A fresh harvest of bright citrus – orange and tangerine zest –  fades to a swelling wave of saline ocean water misting the nose. A clean smoke of barley and fresh hay finish the scent as you go to taste the whiskey – such a lovely clean and citrus smoke on the nose. On the palate, it begins with the iodine of crisp ocean water that marries with a perfumey smoke of spices burnt over oak. The palate turns sweet as a flavor of clove and honey and sweet grains usher in the finish. The Lagavulin shows its face on the finish. The finish begins with black pepper and seasoned salt that gets the taste buds salivating. Smoldering peat is present, strong and proud. The finish is long and incredible. A layer of smoke remains with cinnamon and sweet honey coating the inside of the mouth.

Holy s***! The Lagavulin 8 year is simply incredible. Crisp, refreshing, clear Islay amazingness. The flavors with the 8 year are pronounced and work in harmony with the fresh ocean peat that is present. I love what Lagavulin did here, they said eff you to all those that just throw out NAS young whiskies and said let us show you how it’s done by rolling out an absolutely exquisite 8 year scotch.

The Lagavulin 8 year is a refreshing medley of fresh citrus that awakens the senses to brisk mists of fresh salty ocean water as mulling spices steep over a smoldering pit of peat. So much clarity and sharpness in the various flavor profiles present. It goes without saying that I love this whisky and at around $50 this is one single malt that should not be missed out on!

Sláinte

02.13.18 | Symphony in G Minor | Macallan 12 Year Double Cask

Scotch Whisky

Today we are talking Macallan, specifically the Macallan 12 Year Double Cask. The particular bottle that I have was gifted to my wife and me on our wedding day. Now this person knows how to gift the Whisky Accountant! No toaster for me just that good single malt scotch! The last couple weeks I have been cruising through the Macallan on those nights that I want a pleasant nightcap. The other night I realized that my bottle was just about finished and I hadn’t even taken the time to give it the proper review that the bottle deserves! The Macallan 12 Year Double Cask is a bottle that deserves the time and reflection of a proper review and tasting of it.

The Macallan 12 Year Double Cask costs around $55-$60, which in my books is not bad for a 12-year single malt scotch, and it is certainly in line with most other brand name producers out there with 12 years. The Macallan has an interesting process of taking new American oak casks and “seasoning” them with sherry. After these casks have been seasoned they are then filled all up and left to age for at least 12 years before being blended with the Macallan we all know and love that has been aged in sherried European oak casks. Now I will be the first to say that I love a good sherry bomb, but the use of the new American oak casks really does something special to this Macallan.

The scotch is a typical 43% abv and has an elegant brass color within the glass. The nose is absolutely delicious – mulled red fruits with cinnamon and clove, the freshly squeezed juice of honey crisp apples, and a decadent marriage of all the aforementioned with oak and vanilla beans. The nose is really a sign of things to come with this whisky, and from the beginning, you know that you are in for a treat. The first taste was a malted cereal that opened into ripe cherries drizzled with honey. An ever slight hint of white pepper provides a balancing spice that allows a flavor of vanilla to showcase the new American oak. The finish brings out the “Macallan sherry”. Sherry-soaked oak, a tart cranberry crumble and musty oak, notes of cinnamon linger away into a medley of sweet and tart apples – a dryness of oak leaves the mouth salivating for more.

The Macallan 12 Year Double Cask is an elegant scotch. A symphony of flavor played in G Minor brings out layers of decadent and varying flavors that play off one another – the low red fruit notes of the sherried European oak cask plays off the bright notes of the new American oak to create a changing emotion of flavors on the palate. You can taste that this is a scotch holding onto the brightness of its youth before it goes into the deep sherry notes of the Macallan’s fame.

The Macallan 12 Year Double Cask is a scotch that should be enjoyed sitting orchestra level listening to “The Four Seasons, Violin Concerto no. 2 in G minor, Summer”.

Sláinte

02.10.18 | A Scotsman on Holiday in Tenerife | Glenmorangie the Original

Scotch Whisky

To finish off the brief intro on Scotch cocktails today I will be reviewing the Glenmorangie the Original, and additionally providing a cocktail for this beautiful floral Highland!

This particular Glenmorangie is aged ten years in first and second fill ex-bourbon barrels, that Glenmorangie states to be made of designer wood from the Ozarks of Missouri… So I don’t entirely know what that means, so let’s get onto the review.

In the glass, the Glenmorangie is a Pale straw color with watery legs and has an abv of 43%. The nose is incredibly pleasant and inviting as I found ripe melons and green apples that provides quite a strong sweetness and residual sugar on the nose – not before too long the nose showed light grains and fresh florals reminding me of the scent of edible flowers. The sweetness carries through to the palate where spiced vanilla beans and juicy sweet pairs caress the palate. On the mouth, there was a medley of salted almonds that really helped with taming the sweetness just a bit to allow for a more floral spice to come through. The Glenmorangie finishes brightly with light oak tannins, honey, and a decadent banana cream pie with its sweetness and baking spices.

Overall the Glenmorangie the Original was a very light and refreshing sweet medley of fruit and just enough grains and spice to balance the sweetness. I could picture myself sipping on this poolside on a tropical island surrounded by blooming tropical plants – simply lovely!

To piggyback off of my recent post talking about peated scotch in cocktails I now want to provide a cocktail recipe that works wonderfully for the sweet florals of a Highland such as the Glenmorangie the Original:

A Scotsman on Holiday in Tenerife

2oz Glenmorangie the Original

1oz St Germain

.5oz Green Chartreuse

1oz Orange Juice

2 dashes of Angostura Bitters

Half slice of Pineapple muddled

Muddle the pineapple in a shaker then add all ingredients and shake over ice. Double strain the cocktail into a Tiki mug filled with finely crushed ice. Garnish with pineapple, orange, and lemon.

Cheers and happy Saturday!