Gift Pack Season, Give ’em the Bird and an Aging Kit

Happy Christmas, ya bastards.  I may as well be honest; I have a reputation as a bit of a scrooge.  That’s an under exaggeration, I’m an atheistic anti-capitalist with a tendency towards Seasonal Affective Disorder and a cynical heart. There is, however, one thing I embrace about this season:  gift packs.  Tis the season where buying a bottle of booze means getting a little bit more than a solid buzz and an excuse to hate mornings. Glasses and shakers, muddlers and nips—this is the glory of the season.  This year I feel I have found an extraordinary gift pack, and a gift that keeps on giving—the Wild Turkey cocktail aging set.  This year’s Wild Turkey gift pack, 101 mind you, includes a Wild Turkey embossed mason jar and a piece of charred spiral oak.  At the same price as a bottle of Wild Turkey.  Which also happened to be on sale for $20.  Ho, ho, ho-ly hell yes.

The oak aging concept is something that has been pretty hip for a while now—with mini-barrels on sale for aging white whiskey and bars serving barrel aged cocktail off the barrel, the movement has more legs than a Czech supermodel or a good scotch.  Though there is a chunk of hype involved, yes, but there is also a lot of benefit to aging a cocktail all wrapped in one lovely package, to mix and meld and smooth over the edges with a consistent dusting of smoky oaky goodness.  With this in mind, Wild Turkey have done isn’t anything new.  There are plenty of brands out there selling you decanters or plain old bottles with a spiral or honeycombed stick of charred oak.  The primary word there?  Sellinggggg.  You can buy a bottle with a charred oak stick as a “cocktail aging kit,” that’s $35.  You can buy a bottle of Wild Turkey for $20 and they give you that shit.  Merry Christma-hanna-let’s-get-ripped-akah.

Given my complete absence of holiday spirit it should come as no surprise that my interest in gift sets is purely selfish, and therefore it should be clear by now that I bought this set for myself.  I may be more for myself, because I’m not giving anybody gifts.  Ba-humbug. Anyways, in the world of infinite opportunities, known as mixology, I decided to use this lovely little perk of mine to make a twist on an old favorite—based on the materials I already had at hand.  I went with a twist on one of the oldest, some argue oldest, American cocktails: Le Sazerac.  The twist here is that instead of Rye I used the materials God and the New Hampshire State Liquor Commission gave me, Wild Turkey.  Now it is worth noting that this lil’ kit hold 500ml of fluid fire, which means scaling up your standard Sazerac Recipe significantly.  To make mine I briefly looked over a few interpretations of the standard recipe, thought about doing some math, then rapidly ignored it all and drank some of the other 250ml of Turkey.  I then put something together that may or may not resemble the following recipe.

Ye Big ol’ Sazerac

  • 2 oz Absinthe (La Muse Verte is what I had on hand)
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 10 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters (the traditional)
  • 10-15 dashes Embitterment Aromatic Bitters (the one upper)
  • 10-15 dashes Embitterment Orange Bitter (at this point, what the hell)
  • 1 Lemon’s rind, careful to avoid the pith
  • 1 oak spiral
  • About 400+ ml Wild Turkey to the top

Let settle 2 weeks or so.

Sazer-that!

Sazer-that!

There probably should have been more science to it, but I like to go by feel and I’m definitely feeling what I made there…I decided to serve this little monster over a single ice cube. The result? Hail Santa (Satan?)!  There is indeed a wonderful alchemy that occurs when all of these ingredients merge into one, spending weeks together in the bar top equivalent of Stalag Luft III with a little bit of oak to mellow it all together.  Perhaps I went a bit above and beyond the call of absinthe wash, as exemplified by the louche this concoction takes on when chilled, but the ingredients played off oh so well together, with the star of the show being the garnish.  That’s right, the garnish—the tinsel on the tree—the lovely lemon shined after 2 weeks giving off the beauty of her essential oils and soaking in the wonder of the Wild Turkey.  The bitters come through wonderfully as well, warm, sweet and mellow.  A damned good cocktail…though perhaps not perfect—but therein lies the beauty.

The genius that is the 2014 Wild Turkey gift pack is that it is the gift pack that keeps on giving.  Yes, perhaps you could make a cocktail to share—give, if you will—but that’s not where the pleasure stops.  This kit is reusable.  This time around I made a Sazerac.  Next time I could make a Manhattan, age it a bit longer, and maybe even impart a bit of that Sazerac.  I could then make an Old Fashioned that winds up with a hint of sweet vermouth note.  Even when that charred oak has exhausted all it has to give, you have a free mason jar emblazoned with the Wild Turkey emblem—the latest in whiskey chic.  So, though I have not gone on an all-out gift pack spree (yet,) I do declare the coolest (thus far) gift pack of the year is Wild Turkey 101’s do it yourself, drink it yourself, gift that keeps on giving, aging kit.

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Tomatin 12 Year Single Malt

I’d like to start this evening by stating that I hope all you disloyal readers had a great Thanksgiving.  I’d like to give thanks to the people of Hydro Quebec who brought power back to New Hampshire.  Because of you bastards I’ve had to work all week.  On the plus side I had a great Thanksgiving, because in spite of not having power from Wednesday to Saturday last week I have a bully good time reading, playing guitar, stoking the woodstove and drinking Wild Turkey (the only turkey I had on a powerless veggie burger’s giving.)

Now to the business at hand; drinkin’ scotch. Tonight seems as good as any for taking a Scotch geography lesson, so I’m going to brush up and pontificate.  See, my pupils, Scotch, made in…Scotland—you morons—comes from several regions around the country, each renown for certain characteristics imparted by their “terroir.” Terroir is frenchy for the effect of earth, climate and straight environmental magic that plays into booze.  The regions for Scotch can be broken down most simply as Lowland, Highland, Speyside and Island (Islay and Skye subregions.)  The islands, think Ron Swanson’s Lagavulin, are all peat smoke and sea brine.  Speyside you get a bit of light brine and crisp fruity notes alongside your classic scotch malt and vanilla.  The lowlands are known for being more representative of the grains and can be light, floral, even grassy.  The highlands, well, that’s where our palate visits tonight…*

Tomatin, the sponser of tonight’s program is a Scotch distillery established in 1897.  That’s about all I know, and I’m not going to do more research.  You have google, do your own goddamn footwork.   I’m going to be honest, if there was going to be an angle to this article, this is where I would be putting it.  Probably would have something to do with Sean Connery, Highlander, and how “there can only be one.”  I don’t have one, so I’m just going to drink this scotch and give you some notes, because highlander don’t spit no bull.

Tomatin

On the nose Tomatin 12 is full of vanilla, very round malt notes, a bit of honey, and something a bit like some tart fruit, maybe Lychee? The nose doesn’t tell the full story of what hides in my glass.  The mouth of this opens up quite well, with a fair share that honey that rolls over the palate, and a bit of pear, and a world of grain.  There is one note that hangs out a bit like musty hay that perhaps comes from the environment, perhaps from the barrel, but doesn’t detract much from a nice warm and delicate mouthfeel. Likewise that finish leaves with perhaps even more lingering ethereally over the tongue with warm vanilla, the tiniest bit of spice and a pie of chest hair.  Shit wait, that’s Connery again.  That note was something like a granny smith apple after taste, tad tart, plenty delicious.

On the whole I find Tomatin’s 12 year old single malt a quite pleasant experience, the more so because it doesn’t cost you any more than a bottle of blended Famous Grouse. While there were some notes we’ll refer to as…unique…I feel as though this Tomatin 12 year, as a “young” single malt (you’d get the Mann Act for this,) is a nice entry for the brand, and shows quite a lot of promise for the older vintages available; and at that price, you’re doing quite well for yourself.  Verdict?  In the wide world of Scotch there are bargain single malts, and there are bargain single malts worth drinking.  This is the latter.

*Disclaimer, this is probably all bullshit, I don’t generally drink much scotch, so I’m basically being a scotch racist.