Platte Valley Moonshine, neigh, 100% Straight Corn Whiskey

A dark night, deep in the Virginia woods.  Thick old growth trees rustle in a crisp evening breeze.  There’s a crackle from the wood fire a shining red glow hot under the copper.  Penetrating the hollow is just a thin sliver of moonbeam. This, perhaps, is what you picture when you think of moonshine.  If that’s what you’re a goddamn poet, and a tad bit quixotic.  That’s not exactly what moonshine means nowadays.  Nowadays moonshine is a TV show, a Hollywood movie, and a multi-million dollar spirits company that has a lot of leeway, a bit of redneck cache and a mythology for a sales pitch.  Sure, some people are still making raw booze and dodging a tax.  Most of these people are making easy money on a moment.  But nothing I can say is going to burst that bubble.

The thing about the moonshine you’ll go buy in the average liquor store—whether they call it moonshine or more appropriately “white whiskey,” is that essentially you’re paying for an unfinished product.  Some moonshine products are basically corn vodka that’s had a couple less runs on the still.  Some are just the unaged version of our favorite whiskies, that you’re more than likely paying more for.  Either way, that’s a genius business model.  Hell, the moonshine of old was white lightning, hot, high proof and unfiltered liquor. Today’s moonshines are largely watered to 80 proof for the soft palate public. Basically, it’s an easy to make product that you could spend more time and money making into something else, but that fetches more when you don’t.  No wonder so many people are jumping to make one.  You don’t have to meet the strict definitions you do with bourbon, Tennessee whiskey, etc., you just have to make a slightly less than neutral spirit, that doesn’t taste like crap.  You have to turn grain sugary water into tasty booze.  Maybe that’s harder than it sounds, but it’s a lot easier than waiting 4+ years to have your liquor age, and very possibly come out like crap.  The funny thing is, there are a few people within this booming segment, who are deciding to put a bit more effort into their product, and I’m not referring to those who bottle it with fruit or spice—I’m talking about those who age something that is, more often than not, unaged.  Platte Valley Moonshine is doing just that.

Platte Valley Moonshine, unlike most of its competitors, spends 3 years in a barrel before being filled into its very distinct, pretty old school, ceramic jug.  Slap XXX’s on that thing, or maybe just one, it’s only 80 proof.  Interestingly enough, all this extra effort, and damned good packaging, doesn’t come at a higher cost.  In fact, Platte Valley’s product set me back a cool $16, while any of the Midnight Moon types will run $20+ to come in a standard mason jar.  To be fair, you’ll probably keep the packaging in either case.  All this extra effort means Platte Valley also earns the right to slap another title on their logo, straight corn whiskey.  See, by definition straight corn whiskey has to be at least 80% corn and 2 years in a barrel—which the 100% corn 3 year old Platte Valley easily meets.  In fact, I’d say that sets it ahead above all those moonshines with no age or real legal definition (aside from being illegal, which they aren’t…)  But rather than continuing to sit here on my pedestal pontificating and turning my nose down on your beloved plebian (*ack* overpriced, overhyped  *gahrumf*) moonshine, I believe it is time I have a drink.

Platte Valley

Platte valley pours a light lemongrass yellow, barely noticeable in some light—more or less the color your doctor told you your piss should be.  Bud Light yellow, that’s the Crayola name.  The nose is very light, with a fair share of sweet corn, and a bit of a lactose or condensed milk note.  After all those years of bourbon sniffing it’s somehow foreign to me that corn based liquor actually smell like corn.  A light sip reveals this to be very gentle stuff, sweet with a bit of an almost agave note and a based something like kettle corn, which makes for quite easy drinking, if not mental taxing to interpret. The finish hangs on a bit longer than you’d expect for something with such soft flavors to begin with, and almost takes on a slightly darker hue—not quite caramel, but something close.  There’s basically no burn (to my admittedly fire-tempered constitution,) college girls rejoice.

The moonshine and white whiskey market shows no signs of slacking, at least in 2015, and probably not while camo, country music and Nascar continue to present a significant consumer sector.  While I’ll admit, for the most part, I’m rather dismissive of this market as a whole, I think that Platte Valley is on the right track here.  For $16 you can have a few drinks, that have even met a barrel, and get to keep a cool ceramic jug afterwords. My advice, I think Platte Valley would do better off to ditch the moonshine label and keep it what it is, straight corn whiskey, which is a market I would like to see some growth and development in.  With the right amount of interest, and some solid effort, I could see there being some real breakout “straight corn whiskey” in our future.

Corner Creek Reserve Bourbon

Well, my readers, I must begin by apologize.  I’ve gone dark, slightly.  Not really, but my frequency dipped.  Anyways, that being out of the way, let me give you a little glimpse of your narrator, author—vice-roy, perhaps.  I have a little bit of a process on these articles.  Usually it starts by getting a bottle of hooch.  You probably could have guessed that.  If it’s a good bottle, I’ll stretch it out a bit; start out nights with a single pour.  I start to think on it, find the tastes, get an angle, if I can.  In this case, I have no angle really, but we’ll let that slide.  Once I’ve gotten down to a good bottle, usually I’ll leave that last couple drinks un-drunk.  Basically, I’ll grapple with the base impulses which are always at war within me.  The one that wants to do something creative, that wants to let my mind breath, if just for a couple meaningless paragraphs or a quick solo—and the lazy son of a bitch who just wants to lay back in his chair watching the X-Files for the 15th time and take the edge off with a light buzz.  Usually that lazy bastard wins, because, well, life is goddamn exhausting.  Occasionally the ambitious dude escapes, grabs up that last few pours—puts the bottle in front of him and starts to think.

He tries to rework that angle that ran across his mind on the way to work one day.  He looks at the website of his subject, tries to get the feel for how they present themselves, and tries to get their vibe.  Often, I’ll look at other reviews, amateur and otherwise—see if they’re just bullshitting notes or if maybe they caught something I hadn’t noticed.  A little bit of research, fact-checking, plagiarism.  That kind of shit.  Well, this has been my process tonight. In my research, I’ve found something quite interesting.  There are a lot of people who don’t have much to say about Corner Creek.  Some people have negative things to say.  Now, granted, maybe some of these people are snobs, who treat Blanton’s as their daily drink and occasionally do filthy things with bottles of Pappy Van Winkle.  Wretched perverts.  But then again, a lot of these people seem to be normal bourbon enthusiasts, and more to the point, they’re pulling the exact same notes out of this that I do— and they ain’t diggin’ it.  Before I go into it further, let me give you the rundown, the notes.

Starting on the nose, as any drunkard worth their slug is wont to do, we find Corner Creek is almost self-contradicting, with something like cola on leather underneath being overpowered by a light floral chamomile bouquet with warm vanilla and just a touch of dry oak.  It’s quite a lovely nose, unusual but inviting, and something I would consider splashing in my beard before a date.  If I had what could respectably be called a beard.  I’m trying, goddammit.  The first taste, too, is rather unusual.  While the flavor profile—light vanilla on the entry, a touch of rye, spice, some warm caramel and a nice crisp orange oil near the end—is not unusual itself, there is something unusual, which seems to be a sticking point in each review.  This bourbon is quite dry, almost like the mouthfeel of an old cabernet.  It’s quite unusual, and among the forum folks, quite controversial—but then again, I like cabernet.   The finish, upon which I can agree with some of my fellow tasters is a bit short, is not unpleasant, leaving you with a touch vanilla on a slightly dry palate that seems to ask for a splash more…

Corner creek

With the right Instagram edits it looks even drier!

So, for the most part, many of us tasters find a similar thing with this bottle.  But how do these tasting notes translate into a person’s feeling on the bourbon?  In the case of Corner Creek, quite greatly.  Some reviewers were offering to give their bottles away, some saying they didn’t understand it, but they liked it.  Quite a few people considered it undistinguished, but yet others seemed to find the dry notes distinctly and unwelcomingly out of style?  To be honest, I usually don’t put much stock in the other reviews when I do my “research,” but I found the controversy here quite interesting, and since I clearly have no other angle to this (un)creative ejaculation, I wanted to put in my two centavos down on this $26 argument.

My take on Corner Creek?  Distinct, and refreshingly so.  What makes Corner Creek so interesting to me, is that somehow it fits the mold of an almost quintessential bourbon in the flavors you find on the nose, in the taste, even on the finish—and yet, that touch of dryness to the wood has made a beautiful nose, and a highly controversial, and, in my opinion, interesting, flavor profile.  So while many reviewers out there found this to be flawed as an undistinct and dry bourbon, I find that in being dry it has a unique, and enjoyable distinctness.  Corner Creek may be just another band playing an old song, but there does seem to be a bit of a new twang to their sound.

Bushmills 10 Year Old Single Malt

I have had a remarkably productive weekend, for me.  Yesterday I worked my second job for 8 hours, which means that I read a Nabokov book. After that I went out and replaced my phone, which had been broken for several months, and had a nice dinner with family.  Then I came home and enjoyed some fine beverages and Netflix programming while setting up said phone.  Today I woke up at the crack of 11, went out for breakfast with the family, and cleaned my bedroom top to bottom.  I then drank some beer, made some banana bread, took a hot bath and beat the Indianapolis Colts 45 to 7.  Wait, was that not me?  Well without that it looks like I just kicked back, ate too much and took care of a few things.  Well bollocks, I’ve earned a reward for all that anyways.  My reward tonight?  See title.

Let’s flash back some four or so years—a young man is turning 21.  Said young man may, and this is not an admission of guilt (you can prove nothing,) have been known to have a premature fondness for the brown spirits.  At that time, this young nameless man was in the practice of keeping on hand a bottle of bourbon, a bottle of Irish and a bottle of cognac about, finance permitting.  So, come this young man’s 21st birthday, a generous benefactor / my father’s girlfriend, gave said young man a bottle of the title spirit—Bushmills 10 year Single Malt.  It was wondrous, eye opening even, for a fella who was used to your standard Irish blends.  That bottle was a revered treat, saved only to start a special night—one that more than likely involved listening to Bob Dylan and contributing nothing to society.  I…ehhhmmm…our anonymous subject, received a different kind of education alongside his college studies.  For some reason (read: college debt) this young man never bought another bottle of that sweet nectar, and yet has continued (I’m an omnipotent 3rd person narrator) to remember it fondly.

Well, that young man still has not bought another bottle of that sweet stuff—but my dad has.  And for the sake of that young man, so innocent and lost, let me steal a dram off my old man, and pour it out in his honor.  Right down my gullet.  Without further dudes, let me imbibe of this wee borrowed dram, and catch a couple notes.

New camera is gunna step up my photogue game

New camera is gunna step up my photogue game

From the nose I find some lovely light orange oil notes, with a very complementary dose of clove and some floating vanilla notes, to really tie the room together.  Once you sip of that golden sunshine, oh lawdy lawd—soft honey washes into miles of smooth vanilla floating on streams of chocolate milk which leave, yet linger and somehow leaves you feeling as though your palette is cleansed.  It’s lovely, almost…poetic…

In County Antrim did Sir Thomas Phillipps
a stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Bush, the sacred river, ran
Through stills measureless to man,
Down to sweet whiskey.

Just one dram, and you too can rip off Samuel Taylor Coleridge! Anyways, this is truly a beautifully subtle whiskey, and a perfect introduction into the world of Irish Single Malts—one that you will be likely to remember fondly, as did our young protagonist for he on honey-dew hath fed, and drunk the milk of Paradise.

 

Baker’s Bourbon, or Why We Fight

It’s Sunday night.  If you’re anything like me, and innumerable other poor insufferable bastards your mind is now spent pouring every moment of your weekend trying to remember where the time went, what did you do, have you really spent the last 11 hours on that couch?  Then there’s that other thought, that lingering dread, that grim cloud of despair that threatens your next 5 days—a combination of the known and unknown sufferings to come.  Or maybe you like your job, in which case, bully for you—self-fulfilled prick.  At some wicked hour you’re going to be awakened by some unnatural thought.  You will roll out of bed, stagger through your morning without being able to enjoy the beauty that is your breakfast and coffee.  You will drive (in the snow, in my case) to the office complex, the job site, the sweatshop.  You’ll bleed for 40 hours as the phones ring, the shitfans spray, the meetings drone and the whip cracks.  Why, dear god why?! Why do we dedicate so much of our lives to something that we find so dreadful, even possibly loathsome?  The short answer—we need shit.

I’m going to really try my best to avoid a rant (rampage) against crass consumerism here; for the sake of your already tormented minds and for the sake of space.  Also, it doesn’t contribute to my point.  The point is, that we work, because we need to make a living.  Maybe some of us legitimately hate our jobs, maybe some of us love them, me, I find it far more tolerable while doing it than warrants my present dread.  I do it though, admitted, because I need to.  I do it because every two weeks a bunch of numbers show up on this website saying I can pay people money that I owe them for that piece of paper I paid way too much for.  That website also says I can eat stuff, and drink some nice booze.  If you couldn’t tell I’m rather fond of booze.  Which brings me to my next point: sometimes there are, emphasis on sometimes, little unexpected perks that make your work go from something you bleed at for 40 hours per week, to a part of your life.  There are times when there’s a reward, be that intrinsic or otherwise, that make Sunday night’s dread perhaps seem a bit unfounded.  When you’re able to make a little impact in someone’s life, when there’s leftover pizza up for grabs in the breakroom, or when you go that extra mile for someone and they go out of their way to thank you.  These are nice moments. Small joys, surely, but without them the shitfan keeps humming endlessly.

Where am I going with all this?  Did the title not give it away? One of those small joys happened for me over the holidays, when my team at work went out for a nice dinner and exchange of gifts.  Many of the gifts were alcoholic (ahh, numbing the stress), my boss kindly bought me a bottle of Baker’s bourbon.  Working with people that you enjoy the company of is quite nice in and of itself.  When they give you good bourbon?  Small joy.  To the point, what of the bourbon?

Baker’s bourbon is a Beam brand project, one of their premier line, running at 107 proof after spending 7 years on oak absorbing, let me tell you, some lovely flavors.  Perhaps that’s an understatement.  You see, the first whiff of Baker’s is warm, round, almost thick and chewy, if your nostrils can detect that.  There are luscious notes of caramel, honey, and an almost cedar like woodiness with some dark and rich spice notes.  I’m pretty sure this would for some manly cologne.  Ah, and to taste this.  Rich chewy molasses cookies are the predominant flavor with a bit of allspice, a touch of dark fruit and a hint of vanilla—the best way I can describe this is simply lustrous. The finish reveals that vanilla that had but hiding just beneath the surface and sinks softly down warming, melting away the tension, the fear that goddamn grim menace of tomorrow.

What it is all for?  It’s for those small joys, that leftover pizza, for those people who make work tolerable, and that special bottle every other Friday that lets you stop the droning, stop the bleeding—lets you reap your just rewards.

Happy New Year and a Touch of Tullamore Dew

“Let grasses grow and waters flow
In a free and easy way,
But give me enough of the rare old stuff
That’s made near Galway Bay,
Come gangers all from Donegal,
Sligo and Leitrim too,
Oh, we’ll give the slip and we’ll take a sip
Of the rare old Mountain Dew”

Well, it’s not actually made near Galway Bay, rather Country Cork—but that’s aside from the point. It’s not made in Tullamore either… But we’ll forgive that as tonight’s review is one of the classic, ubiquitous Irish Whiskies, Tullamore Dew.  On the political scale of things Tullamore Dew is known as a classic Catholic whiskey, proper Republican as it were, but let us not linger on the conflicts that divide us, but rather the ties that bind.  These, my friends, are whiskey and song—and these happen to be two of Ireland’s finest exports. Why do I raise the subject?  You didn’t think I would get to it, did you: New Year’s.  Yes, I’m a tad late.  As they say I got proper knackered on the eve of the New Year, and I didn’t write you all.  Don’t pretend you care.  Well, if any holiday is about liquor and song it’s New Year’s Eve with its champagne and “Auld Lang Syne.” Well I had a bit of that meself, the sing along to the old Scotch tune.  I’ll be honest and say I drank far more than whiskey—beer, Akavitt, champagne, whiskey, more whiskey, a sidecar…some water.  I spent the evening with my dad and his buddies and my sister, they sang karaoke, I hacked my phlegmatic lungs in for a song or two, but as 2015 rolled in I found myself atuned to the likes of the Pogues and the Clancy Brothers, and the juice of the barley.  Perhaps the booze inside me was resonating as that frequency.  Right, well, happy New Year and Merry Christmas your arse, I pray god it’s our last. That’s a lyric, I don’t mean that. Maybe I do, anyways here’s the review, which is probably why you’re reading.

Nose:  A light wisp of alcohol, some light green apple notes and an ever so slight hint of vanilla.

Palette:  Very light, with an almost chardonnay like buttery note, faint vanilla and some grain notes

Finish: Like a light buttered white bread with slight hint of lingering citrus…I think?

So what do I have to say about Tullamore Dew?  Well it ain’t no Rare Auld Mountain Dew, it’s on every liquor store shelf for about $20.  And at that price it’s brawling with the other big names of the Irish as a daily drinker, as your shot and a pint, as a quick tipple.  It’s not exceptional, but I highly doubt it’s supposed to be.  It’s a competitive easy drinker, a singer’s lubricant, and another kind drink to bring us all together in the New Year…until the goddamn meddling tee-totalers start more wars and silence the singers, bleeding bastards.  To sum up this mediocre review:

“And all I’ve done for want of wit, to memory now I cannot recall.
So fill me to the parting glass. Goodnight and joy be with you all.”

Mandolins, menorahs and my dear departed Irish Nana.  Seemed appropriate.

Mandolins, menorahs and my dear departed Irish Nana. Seemed appropriate.

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.

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.

Single Shot, Bam!—Jameson Black Barrel

The newest member (I’m pretty sure) to Jameson’s diverse line of Irish whiskies.  I have previously noted the role of the Irish in introducing me to the wonderful world of whiskey, and I’ll admit to quaffing my fair share of their main spirit, which is perhaps America’s best known Irish.  But I’m not reviewing that.  I’m reviewing the Black Barrel, Jameson’s more rebellious and slightly more expensive next step up the ladder.  I say next step up because there are so many products in their line that I have really lost track. Anyways, what distinguishes the black barrel is its considerable age jump over your standard Jame-O to 12 years, and the time that it spends its hibernation time splitting time between a bourbon barrel and a sherry barrel…like a somewhat damaged child of divorce.  That got dark (pun intended.)  So yeah, full disclosure, this is a single shot review, because dear ol’ dad and I drank the rest.  In the spirit of the single shot review, and in the furtherance of ending my sober rambling, down the hatch!

Jameo

Nose: Sweet, with vanilla, cherries, a bit of must, partly from the barley I suspect.  Maybe some spice too.

Taste:  The entry is very soft with some light vanilla and some nice round fruity notes, maybe that cherry I smelt, I suspect, and maybe something a bit lighter…apple? Pear? The flavor fades out clean with a bit of grainy grassiness before leaving just the slightest tad of oak on the tongue.

Final thoughts? A worthwhile jump from the $23 standard to the $35 Black barrel.  It’s delicate, infinitely quaffable, and while it has a level of complexity it’s very approachable, both in flavor and price; which I think is the point.  If you’re used to thinking of Irish Whiskey as a shot, perhaps this could be a nice next step on the ladder to appreciation for you.

Author’s note: I don’t actually down drinks for the single shot series—I’m a liar and a phony, and kind of need to take a few sips to get my thoughts straight. 

Two Bulleits in the Chamber…

Tonight a have a double shot for you, or perhaps a double barrel…double action? Double tap?  Either firearm based pun? Reason for the pun, tonight I’m going at two Bulleits, their bourbon and rye.  I suspect these products need no introduction, based equal parts on their stand out branding, their mid-range price, and their quality Bulleit has—over just 15 years—become a behind the bar staple.  You probably recognize it, the bold molded glass stating alternately “Bulleit Bourbon: Frontier Whiskey,” or “Bulleit Rye: American Whiskey.”  That bold, old west bottle, striped with a simple striped label stands out to even a whiskey novice.  The story behind the Bulleit brand, so it comes from founder Tom Bulleit begins in about 1830 with his grandfather Augustus Bulleit, who brewed for about 30 years, until his death.  On reviving the Bulleit whiskey tradition Tom switched over to a bourbon style whiskey going from Augustus’ 2/3rd rye, 1/3rd corn formula to about 2/3rd corn, 1/3rd rye.  The final product is bottled at 90 proof.  In its short 15 years Bulleit had been bought up twice, first by Seagram’s, second by liquor giant Diageo, with whom they’ve grown into a massive success and expanded their line to include tonight’s rye and the sadly out of my range Bulleit 10 year bourbon.  The rye, by the way is a 95% rye, 5% barley mash produced alongside many other rye brands in Lawrenceburg, Indiana.  That’s enough background, I’m thirsty.

Bulleit

 First off I’m going to go to the bourbon, knowing from experience that the rye would heavily influence my palate.  First entry into the nose is a rather powerful experience, full of vanilla, cinnamon and oak—with something in the back that reminds me of apple cider that you left in the fridge too long in the hope it would get a little hard.  The first taste is rich and chewy with caramel, vanilla, smooth oak, with just a bit of smoke—leaving with that lovely rye cinnamon that carries through on the finish with just the right amount of 90 proof burn. 

And now that my palate and my brain are fully lubricated, let’s get to the rye!  First off, the smell—glory be, I love the smell of rye whiskey…not in the morning, I want to keep my job.  But damn this smells fine the rye spice coming across full of cinnamon, brown sugar, cloves…quite frankly it smells like pie.  Delicious, boozy pie.  Certainly the nose on this doesn’t lie, with that rye cinnamon heavily in the forefront, but balanced off with a lovely sweetness that seems to be coming from a heath bar like combination of toffee and soft cocoa.  The finish rounds out with something almost reminiscent of honeyed spearmint and a bit of dry oak.  Overall this rye is very pleasing, and my favorite of the two.  Also worth noting is that in a face-off between these contenders and last week’s Cleveland whiskey the Rye came out the clear winner—and Ian, Ben and I came out rather drunk.

 While there are certainly many factors that have played into the rapid success of Bulleit bourbon in recent years, particularly given the explosion in the popularity of whiskey in general, it’s certain that it’s not hype making Bulleit popular.  The reasonable price and consistent quality ensure that while you may come for the looks, you stay for the whole package—just like any love in life.

Quick Shot: Blanton’s Single Barrel

This one is a solid gold bullet from the hip.  I’m a tad anxious almost, to think that I’ve got one shot at a big one.  Could be a head shot, could be a miss.  Anyways, Blanton’s is one of the big boys, one of those usually out of my price range.  Luckily for me a compadre bought me a nice drinks by the dram set, which held as it’s crown jewel dum-dum-dum Blanton’s.  This is a gunslinger with a big reputation. In the words of Breaker Morant, “Shoot straight, you bastards–and don’t make a mess of it.”

 

Nose: Goddamn phenomenal.  It’s lushly warm, sweet vanilla, spice, reminiscent of baked apple.  Delicious. 

Taste: Do I dare? Pow! Shit, he got me.  Miles of spice upfront, cinnamon rye goodness and, what’s that?  Cherry that borders on the safe side of medicinal and citrus.  This isn’t bourbon, this is an old fashioned.  No wait, it’s wonder-bourbon…

Finish:  …and it fades into smooth, sweet molasses with some oak, vanilla, and something reminiscent of an old tawny port. 

Blanton's

You’ve heard the legends of this bourbon, you’ve seen it’s horse sculptured cap.  Well, it’s the potential triple crown winner the underground claims it to be.  A gunslinger who could hold his own with Doc Holliday. You want a good bourbon tonight? Here’s your huckleberry.