Wednesday, March 31, 2010

And now for something completely different…….!

Ever want to distill your own whisky or whiskey at home? I think a lot of us have thought about it and many of us have a family heritage of uncles, grandfathers, etc. that actually did produce some fine shine back in the hills of various states in the South mostly. For now home distilling remains illegal in the United States and even in Canada but there are actually web sites (that we are not affiliated with in any way) that will sell you all the stuff you need to distill at home. Not being fond of striped clothing and metal bars I for one will pass on the illegal stuff however there is a perfectly legal alternative that I would like to suggest to you now.
There are a few sites you can Google that sell small oak casks and you can purchase them already charred or even toasted or plain. They seem to come in most any size you could want from 1 liter up to 16 liter and one site has them in gallons from one gallon up to 5 as best as I can remember. They are not cheap and will run you from around $100 to $300 depending on the size and there will be some shipping charges as you might imagine. We are dedicated whisky (ey) drinkers though are we not??? So a few hundred bucks could be worth it for this project and you can budget it over time and not have to buy everything in one day.
Alright so you first secure a nice little oaken cask and remember to please follow the directions that come with it to the letter. You must use the charred one for whisky the toasted is for wine and toasted or plain will not give you the aging results you seek! There is a process you must do involving filling it with hot water for several days to get the wood to seal properly. Once it is sealed then you can continue the project but don’t wait too long between the sealing and the introduction of spirits as you don’t want the cask to dry out.
Now for part 2! Go to your favorite liquor store and see what kinds of whisky (ey)’s they have that are “Cask Strength!” Which means they were removed straight from the large cask at the distillery without having any water added and the ones I have seen run about 118 proof or so. Procure enough bottles to fill your home cask and take them home and open the cask and pour the luscious liquid into the cask and reseal. Watch it carefully for leaks the first couple of days and be sure to secure the tap or spigot so that it is wired or secured in the closed position as you don’t want to come home from work and find your treasure covering the kitchen floor and your dogs and cats badly in need of a trip the pet version of the Betty Ford center.
So why do this? Well as I’m pretty sure you know, whisky (ey) stops aging once it is removed from the cask at the distillery. Yes you may have had that bottle of 12 year old scotch in your closet for 20 years but no unfortunately that does not make it a 32 year old scotch only the time maturing in the cask adds to the age and flavor of a whisky (ey) it just doesn’t work like some wines that get better in the bottle. You now have a way around this challenge. Note the age of the cask strength whisky (ey) when you empty the bottles into your home cask and then BING like magic the wonderful aging process begins again. Every day you keep your treasure in your home oaken charred cask is one more day it ages!!! Aint that great!!! So let’s say you find a 10 year old cask strength and put it in your home cask. Every year it just gets better and better and you can still be drinking it along the way. For a while you are drinking 10 year old then before you know it its 11, 12, 13, and right on up to as long as you can stand to have it in your home without consuming it. That is why I suggest at least a 2 gallon cask so you can drink up a gallon over the years and leave a gallon for that 20, 25, or even 30 year old goal.
One choice for this could be Macallan’s cask strength which last time I bought a bottle ran me about $47. There are many others to choose from so have fun doing this and it’s a great conversation piece for when you are entertaining friends or having the poker buds over for an evening of cards. Just don’t be too generous and end up with a nice empty cask after just a few months….that would not be so much fun…well maybe…!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

2007 Moscato Allegro, wine review - The Wine Muse

Today I will be reviewing one of my all time favorite "dessert wines". I find that typically people either love or hate dessert wines. The haters typically cite them being way too sweet to pallet. Martin & Weyrich 2007 Moscato Allegro falls into the category of dessert wine, but definitely holds its own with its crisp pleasant taste. It is refreshing with a nice finish and there is a hint of sweetness, but it isn't overpowering or syrupy like many of its contenders. Reasonably priced, between 10 and 17 dollars for a 750ml bottle, it is a contender for most appealing dessert wine for the masses.

This wine has a nice light traditional Moscato d'Asti color. HEAVY pear and a little apple scent. NOTES: Orange blossoms, honeyed apricots, peaches, pears, citrus, pink grapefruit. This wine finishes with a semi-sparkling finish (fizzy light).

This wine is produced in the style of northern Italy’s muscat. A deliciously fresh and fruit wine from the Muscat Canelli grape. Muscato is California's premier Muscat Canelli based wine and is fermented in extreme cold temperature's creating a light, sweet wine perfect for appetizers, light desserts or by itself.

All in all a nice wine for a nice price, would appeal to a large variety of pallet's, a good into wine into the "dessert wine" category for the picky wine drinker.
Red Stag Bourbon

I first saw Red Stag the other day as I was doing my kid in a candy store impersonation wandering the isles of one of my local liquor stores. I had never heard of it nor had I ever seen Red Stag before this week. It is made by Jim Beam, one of the venerable Bourbon houses with a good reputation that goes back in history a long way. The label caught my eye and well I just had to try it.
Now usually I like my whisky (ey) straight or at most with a splash of water and on 95 degree Florida days in the summer, yeah with some ice. I don’t care for flavored vodkas but do enjoy a good vodka martini. I don’t even put lemon in my tea. So straight and undiluted is the way I enjoy my alcohol. Then Red Stag came along and caught my eye. Red Stag is black cherry flavored and I honestly had never heard of flavored Bourbon before. There may be several of them but this was the first time I had come across one. So I cracked open the bottle and gave it a whiff and you guessed it, I could actually smell black cherry (surprise!). So I took a swig and yep there it was, lots of black cherry flavor right there in this bottle of Bourbon. It left a nice after taste in the back of the throat not unlike drinking a black cherry cola but with the pleasant Bourbon taste right there riding shot gun on the whole experience.
I guess the thought is (and this is just my guess) that the Beam marketing department thought that a lot of folks like Bourbon and Coke and a lot of folks like black cherry Coke so Red Stag would make the perfect mixer for those of us who enjoy that sort of thing.
Well, it does taste pretty good. The combo is really nice and I think this is a winner for the Bourbon and Coke crowd. It may not appeal to the straight whiskey drinkers but I got to tell you that it actually was enjoyable so if you are of a mind to try something different every once in a while this could be a nice diversion from your normal whiskey.
I think it would be great at parties and I am fairly sure that there are some ladies out there who would enjoy this black cherry taste in their Bourbon and yeah some men too.
There are hundreds of brands out there and that just proves that we all like different things or else there would only be one brand so if nothing else buy a miniature 50ml bottle and give Red Stag a try. I will most likely buy it again one day soon and yeah I might even have a Bourbon and black cherry Coke once in a while…..maybe….but it does have a nice flavor to it. Try it and let me know what you think.

The Whiskey Warrior

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The mystery of tannins revealed - The Wine Muse

Take a bite of the skin of the grape, and chew it for a minute. Taste that puckery, bitter taste? What you are tasting fellow wine drinkers, are the tannins in the grape skin. Tannins are also found in the stems and seeds of the grape. These types of tannins are the least preferred type of tannin by wine drinkers and sometimes referred to as “the bad tannin”. Tannins are more noticeable in red wine, because it is macerated (soaked with skins and seeds) and sometimes fermented while in contact with the skins and seeds to extract the color from the skins.

Tannins are found in a lot of plants, like tea. They also have been used to aide in tanning animal skin. (uhm disgusting) But the type of tannins we care about are in the grape. But there is another type of tannin found in wine (these are referred to sometimes as the “good” tannins) are called “Hydrolyzable tannins”. Hydrolyzable tannins are extracted from the barrel of the wood. As your wine ages in it’s bottle, the “good” tannins will eventually go away. The “bad” tannins will be just as prominent in your wine, regardless of how long it ages.

Modern winemakers try to minimize the taste of the amount of the “bad” tannins by gently crushing the grapes while extracting their juice to avoid crushing the seeds. Tannins also play an important role in preventing oxidation of the wine. Un-aged wines with high tannin content can be less palatable than wines with a lower level of tannins

You probably have heard red wine is good for your heart? That is because of the, you guessed it, tannins. Tannins, in the form of proanthocyanidins (a class of flavinols) have been shown to have a positive effect of vascular health. The study showed that tannins suppressed production of the peptide responsible for hardening arteries.

So what does “mouthfeel” mean, anyways? Well I am glad you asked. Remember that puckery feeling when you bit into that grape skin? When you bite into the skin (or sip the wine) the tannins constrict your tongue and (this is kind of gross) the mucous membranes of your mouth. This cause the “furring” of the mouth, or puckering of the gums, a sensation very similar to what happens when you drink tea (which also has tannins) that has been steeped to long.. But the good news is, that all this “gross” talk creates the impression of a full-bodied liquid. Which for a wine, is a desirable effect.

There you have it, now you are an expert on tannins. Go out and get your mouthfeel on.....

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Irish Pub field trip in Titusville – The Wine Muse

Flaskandcask ventured on our first ever field trip last weekend to the Irish Pub in Titusville, Florida. The staff was warm and welcoming and the pub definitely had a flare of a “true Irish pub”. I was pleasantly surprised to see their extensive menu featuring traditional Irish food like corned beef and cabbage or shepherd's pie. But we weren’t there for the food this time, but the drink! While the Whisky warrior was sipping on his bourbon, I partook of the fermented grape! Although the staff first told me they had a great New Zealand wine on hand, which peeked my interest, then they came back and informed me they were out due to the overzealous winos from the previous weeks St Patty’s day festival, but that didn’t deter the wine muse from her quest for good tasting wine! My first glass of wine was a Benziger Chardonnay (From the vendors site: This Sangiacomo Vineyard Chardonnay is a rich, luscious wine with a lovely mouth feel. In this vintage, there are bright tropical flavors of pineapple, pear, and peach with a slight hint of vanilla from oak barrel aging.) While I am not sure what “a lovely mouth feel exactly entails”, this wine was average. It didn’t make my mouth feel lovely, but it wasn’t the worst chard I have ever tasted either. The oak-y taste wasn’t super prominent (and those of you that have read my very vocal feelings about oaky chards before, KNOW where I am coming from) If I had to rate this on a scale of 1-10 (1 being vinegar and 10 being the best wine I have ever had, which to date is probably the Startree, unoaked chard, based on the sheer amount of bottles I have consumed over the past year) I would probably rate this a 5. Mediocre at best. Nothing I would ever seek out and intentionally order, but I wouldn’t turn my nose at it if it was served to me.

The next wine I tried was Rosemont Shiraz. (Winemaker Notes Richly textured with well defined, ripe blackberry fruit flavors, soft generous tannins on the mid-palate and a long, rich finish. Try with lamb, pasta, antipasto, osso bucco)
First off, I love this wine. I actually could taste a hint of blackberry in the wine. (and I never taste any notes, hardly EVER, so this was amazing). It was smooth and didn’t have a harsh aftertaste that I hate about so many reds. Ok, lets be honest, the bottle was cool too. I am a sucker for the art on the bottle, a cool shaped bottle or a creative name. The tannins, I am sure, were quite generous. (What are tannins, you ask? Tannins are polyphenolic compounds that bind to and precipitate proteins. And if you don’t understand this term still after reading this description, tune in for my next article: "What are tannins and why are they generous"??) I would rate this wine a 7 on a scale of 1-10. I would probably seek it out in a bar or if I happened to see the cool bottle at the wine shop, I would grab a bottle. Try it! Tell me what you think!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Your personal favorites, wine or whiskey? Share with us!

My favorite wines, many, so many. My preferences seem to go in waves. I don't discriminate. I love white, red, sweet, dry, sparkling, oaked, a glass or in a cask, in a train or on a plane...special occasions or a glass with dinner. Currently, I like Cupcake Chardonnay and of course, my favorite un-oaked chardonnay, Startree.

I have two bottles waiting for me to try. One is called "Mad HouseWife", you have to love the name. The other is called "Fat Bastard". You see, I have a very technical and refined way of picking wines most of the time. One is, by the artwork on the bottle. Yep, very technical. The other is, by the name. Is it creative? Imaginative? Cool? Actually, more refined wine drinkers may poo-poo this method, but I have to say, I have gotten to try many great wines! (and many craptastic ones as well).

How do you choose your next wine to try? Do you go solely by rating? So you ask the bartender? Do you read Wine magazine? Tell me!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Field Trip!!!!

Our first 18 articles have been written and published in F&C blog. As you might expect many of those articles have been banging around in our heads for a long time so in effect the easy articles are done and now we have to actually think, well maybe not think but drink some more in order to have more to report on. Friday night the 19th of March the staff of Flask and Cask; The Wine Muse, The Whisky Warrior, and our technical guy who for now we will call Greymatter all met up at the Irish Pub in Titusville Florida to sample a couple of items we had never tried before so we can report on it to you. The staff of the Irish Pub was very friendly and helpful and our patty melt and nachos were very good. I also highly recommend their fish and chips and of course they have a full bar, varied menu, and way upstairs is there martini bar. Now the higher priced stuff is on the top shelf behind the bar to the right of center so you can take a good hard look and choose something extra nice up on the shelf if you are so inclined.

I chose Knob Creek Bourbon for my first selection of the evening. Knob Creek is 9 years old and 100 proof. I was presented a double shot by the server and I looked at the color, a nice bourbon brown and a darker shade more so than the 4 year old bourbons owing that deeper, richer color to more time in the barrel I would imagine. The aroma was pure Bourbon and no I did not smell apricots or pears or hazelnuts or shoe polish, I simply smelled very good Bourbon and that is a great aroma unto itself. Sorry but I just will never get all these subtle flavors people attribute to spirits. I then drank the Bourbon and it went down fairly smooth I would rate it for that first drink an 8 out of 10 for smoothness but hang on, the second drink was much smoother 9.5 out of 10. Remember I once tried 47 year old scotch and nothing will ever be that smooth so 9.5 is about as high as I can possibly rate any sample. The taste was, yes you guessed it, like good Bourbon is supposed to taste with a little after taste that was quite pleasant that started on the roof of my mouth and then moved on down and that was an unusual sensation but then I was tasting this for you and not guzzling it for me. It was very pleasant and I do recommend Knob Creek for those of you wanting to try something a little more up the Bourbon ladder. (While I was enjoying this Bourbon “The Wine Muse” was trying out Benziger and Rosemont Shiraz wines but you can read her article shortly)

My next selection was Eagle Rare Single Barrel Bourbon. I have read other peoples reviews of this Bourbon who tout things such as oily and lanolin flavor but nope, I did not taste that at all. I found Eagle Rare and Knob Creek to be amazingly close in quality and in taste. The Eagle Rare is a 10 year old so it has one more year in the barrel and may have been just a tick smoother because of that but it was a very drinkable Bourbon. I did not get any aftertaste from the Eagle Rare but the one I got from Knob Creek was a good thing not a negative. I think if you have both of these bourbons in your bar at home you will spend long hours of quiet enjoyment with either one of these outstanding Bourbons.

The Whiskey Warrior

Thursday, March 18, 2010

One old favorite or a lot of variety?

One old favorite or a lot of variety?

A lot of people I know have one favorite beverage and whether that is a wine, beer, whisky or other alcoholic drink, they pretty much order the same thing every time. I just can’t do that. To me that practice is just too limiting and I need a bit of variety in my drinking life from time to time.
For example when my wife and I were newly weds we drank a lot of sauternes and sometimes a Chablis. Wine seems to go in fads to me and while we drank a lot of those for a while one day they became very difficult to find and something called a White Grenache and White Zinfandel came on the scene. The story as I remember it about White Grenache is that someone came up with it and sold a ton of it only to find that they had neglected to copy right the name and the next year most wine companies had a White Grenache and the original sort of went by the wayside. Not that it mattered as White Zinfandel seems to have taken that market niche and held on to it quite well challenged only by the venerable Chardonnay. So today when I want a white wine I see my choices are Chardonnay, White Zinfandel, and Pinot Grigio as the main offerings. I really like the White Bordeaux and to a lesser extent the Sauvignon Blanc which I find a bit more bitter than I care for. I have stated in several posts that I just don’t taste all the foo foo things in whisky and wine that most experts and wine snobs say they do as in the pear, vanilla, almond, and other assorted flavors, but in the case of White Bordeaux I have to make a sort of an exception. Its not really a flavor I taste but more of an experience and that is when I take a big drink of a good cold glass of White Bordeaux it puts me in mind of taking a big bite of a cold crisp apple. Weird, yeah I know, but that is what it reminds me of. It doesn’t taste like an apple but it is the experience that is similar.
Reds, reds, reds! I started with Chianti probably as my first real red wine along with Italian meals and yes I like it fine. Red Zinfandel is probably my old favorite although today I love Pinot Noir as my red of choice. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and of course Red Bordeaux are all wonderful. No I don’t have a clue as to which year is best but if you know that kind of information please do post so we can all learn more about which vintages are best.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Rising Sun of Whisky

I hear tell the Japanese are making really top notch whisky these days. Only problem is I cannot buy it anywhere near my home either in bars or in liquor stores. Now it must be somewhere!!!! They are winning awards in whisky magazines and you can read all about them so why can’t I buy any? Here are some of the brands I hear are good.

Yoichi, Miyagikyo, Black Nikka, Taketsuru, Yamazaki, Hakushu, Hibiki, Hokuto, and Kaku.

It reminds me of the days not too distant past where I could not buy a pint of Guinness (25 years ago) or a single malt scotch that wasn’t Glenlivet or Glenfiddich (12 years ago). Of course today I can get a good pint many places within 25 miles of my house and 50 brands of single malts within 10 miles so things have drastically improved. I still seek the Japanese whisky because I have not tried it yet because I can’t find it! The other thing it reminds me of is when they did not sell Coors beer east of the Mississippi River. Back then in the 1970’s someone would bring back six packs of Coors and boot leg them for like $20.00 making an obscene profit. It would seem that mankind always wants what they cannot have and I am nothing if not a member of that greatly flawed human race. Perhaps more flawed than most but damn it, I want to be able to buy some Japanese Whisky and while I’m at it, some New Zealand whisky and some Welsh Whisky and any other delicious whisky that may be hiding out there gloating in its diabolical unavailability at the Space Coast of Central Florida. Yeah I’m sure that Chicago, New York, Los Angles, and several other way too big cities have shelves full of the stuff but that doesn’t really help me now does it? If you see any of this delicious stuff please comment with the name of the place where it is available, either bar or store I care not, just let me in! It’s cold out here!

I will go look for it again, perhaps the great Whisky Fairy or the Tuatha De Dannon have spirited the spirits lovingly to my local liquor store and I just missed it.

Another Whisky I cannot find in any store or bar is Glen Grant. Now at least I know the story why I can’t find it. It seems that many years ago a wise merchant from Italy came to Bonnie Scotland in search of a distiller who would give him 200 cases of scotch to take back to the then non-whisky drinking country of Italy. -------Getting a Scotsman to give you 200 cases of scotch---------for free------now that guy had to really be something else. Well he was turned down by every distillery in Scotland ----except one. Colonel Grant of the Grant Distillery did indeed give the man 200 cases of whisky which he dutifully took back to Italy and distributed it far and wide to every bar he could find. It turned out to be one of the all time smart business deals as today over 86% of all Glen Grant Whisky that is produced is sold in Italy. So the Americans never even get a shot at it unless you go to Scotland and visit the distillery. You can even visit the Japanese garden at Glen Grant and there is a bottle of good whisky waiting for you to have a dram at the end of the garden trail. Or there was in 1999 when I was there. So that brings me back to Japanese……please tell me where I can buy some Japanese Whisky.
The Whisky Warrior.
The Great White North – Canadian Whiskeys

Known for their inherent light and smooth taste the Canadian whiskeys are popular around the world. Crown Royal, Seagram’s VO, Black Velvet, Canadian Club, Canadian Mist, Gibson’s Finest, Hirsch Canadian and Lord Calvert are among the best known of the Canadians.
Canada had a big advantage historically over the U.S. in that they never had to go through prohibition days. I just remember enjoying Canadian Club, Canadian Mist, and Lord Calvert as a young man and although I hate to admit it…..yes I did mix it with Coke-a-Cola on occasion. One of the rumors going around in those days was that the reason that Canadian Mist cost less than Canadian Club is that Canadian Club was bottled in Canada and Canadian Mist was shipped to the U.S. in bulk and bottled here in the U.S. I don’t’ know if any of that was true or not but mostly due to a chronic lack of money we usually drank the Canadian Mist as it was actually cheaper than the Canadian Club at least it was back then. For several years that was my drink of choice. I rarely order Canadian Whiskey today and there is only one reason for that.
The reason is simply that there are so many scotches and bourbons out there waiting to be taken for a spin that I just haven’t thought about ordering any Canadian. Until now, that is. Just writing this has me wanting to try some again so I guess I will have to stop by the old liquor store and pick up a bottle soon.
I lived in a small town in Indiana for a few years in the 70’s and there was an older man who frequented the tavern there in the little town. I was talking to the old man’s son one day (who was about my age) and he told me his dad had drunk a case of beer and a fifth of Seagram’s VO every day of his life for the last 37 years. He claimed that by only drinking the “good stuff” was he still alive. Now I don’t recommend drinking a case or a bottle of any whiskey (y) every day for 37 years but I actually observed this fellow doing that. I know that he did have an alcohol associated liver disease and it was probably a miracle that he was still alive at that point in time. I could only think that……well…..yeah I could probably drink a fifth of whiskey (y) a day but only for one day because I would probably be sick as a goose for the next 3 days. In short, I could not do it no way, no how. I always said my stomach would totally prevent me from becoming an alcoholic. I don’t have a problem with one or two or even three drinks in an evening but a bottle a day… way. So…..don’t do that, it will kill you sooner or later. It is however a testament to Seagram’s VO that everyone in that little town considered it by far and away “the good stuff.” Please post a comment on your likes or dislikes of Canadian Whiskey and any recommendations of a good one we should all try. Aristotle once said “All things in moderation” and that was good advice thousands of years ago and it remains so today. Enjoy your Whiskey (y) and wine and other spirits but never hurt yourself or anyone else.
The Whiskey Warrior

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tempranillo - I don't taste no leather in that there wine...

"Tempranillo is a variety of black grape widely grown to make full-bodied red wines in its native Spain. It is the main grape used in Rioja, and is often referred to as Spain's "noble grape". Its name is the diminutive of the Spanish temprano ("early") a reference to the fact that it ripens several weeks earlier than most Spanish red grapes. In the last 100 years it has been planted in South America, USA, South Africa, Australia, and Canada.

Tempranillo wines can be consumed young, but the most expensive ones are aged for several years in oak barrels. The wines are ruby red in color, with aromas and flavors of berries, plum, tobacco, vanilla, leather and herb." (respectfully swiped from Wikipedia

I was first introduced to Tempranillo late last year. My first sip came from Torremoron Tempranillo Ribera del Duero 2006. It was smooth and although aged in Oak barrels, didnt seem to have a lot of that oaky taste I hate. Also, not a hint of leather in sight, or smell rather. I digress.

I did a little research and found this tempranillo that sounds more like a bad punch line to an even worse joke "El Pison Tempranillo Rioja 2006", and a big OUCH for that price.

If you are looking for something a little different, try a Tempranillo.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Talkin' bout Bourbon

Talkin’ bout Bourbon

What is Bourbon anyway? To be called Bourbon the spirit must be at least 51% corn derived. It must be no less than 80 proof and be no less than 2 years old. In addition it must be matured in charred new oak barrels. 99% of Bourbons come from Kentucky but there is no law or regulation that states where Bourbon must come from. The taste of a particular Bourbon is varied from its brethren by changing the combination of other grains and by working with different yeast strains. Ok enough with the academic stuff.

I have discussed some of the lower end Bourbons in another article here on the blog but now I want to concentrate on the higher end. Some names you may have tried are Booker’s, Knob Creek, Basil Hayden’s, Elijah Craig Single Barrel, Ezra Brooks, and Evan Williams. I have tried Elijah and Ezra and Evan’s and they are my Bourbon buds when I am in the mood for Bourbon. I find the single barrel bourbons very smooth and tasty no matter what brand I have tried so far. Usually these have some age to them, 10, 12, 16, or 18 year old and the time married to the charcoaled oak really smoothes them right out making for a really pleasurable drink. While there are Bourbon snobs out there just as there are with any drink, I am not one and while I enjoy the single barrels and the higher end I still enjoy many of the lower end products as well. To me if it tastes good then drink it, if it doesn’t taste good use it for car part cleaner or charcoal lighter fluid but don’t drink it. It is all about what you like and what you enjoy.
A year or so ago my friend was down from Alabama for a visit and I broke out the Evan Williams and he balked. “I can’t do Bourbon” he said. I said that it had been many years since he had any so please just give it a shot. He did and was amazed at how good and how enjoyable it was. We sampled the rest of my Bourbon stock that week and while he is pretty much into Crown Royal these days he did enjoy the trip down Bourbon lane we took that Super Bowl weekend.
Ever hear of Bourbon and Branch Water? You might have heard that order in old Western movies or from Colonel Potter on the old MASH Television show. It was the classic order from a southern gentleman when sending for his afternoon drink from the veranda. So what is Branch Water anyway? I must admit that when I was watching some of those old movies as a kid I just figured that people someway cut open branches on some weird trees and water came out which was captured and sent up to the house for the gentleman of the home to use with his Bourbon. Well like so many times in my life I was wrong again. Now I know that Branch Water simply means good clean fresh water from a spring or brook. The branch they were referring to was the branch of the creek not the branch of a tree. So if you go into a bar and order Bourbon and Branch Water you may get a blank stare in return. If you do then just ask for Bourbon and spring water and that should get you what you are after. You can also buy straight 100% corn liquor and I actually kind of like that too. It is simple and clean tasting and of course it is not Bourbon but nonetheless it is also worth a try with several brands to choose from. So go out and pick your favorite Bourbon or one you would like to try and taste away or get several bottles and invite your friends over for a Bourbon tasting. You can have everyone bring their favorite and everyone try all the different ones. It is suggested you serve only nuts and crackers during the tasting portion of the evening as they will help cleanse the pallet between the samplings. Save the cheese and meat for after the tasting is complete as the oils and fats might alter the tastes of the spirits. You only have to have 5 to 10 different Bourbons for a very successful tasting you need not put a 3rd mortgage on the homestead to do this. It is a good idea to include some low end product as well as high end so your guests can really get a feel for the differences in age, single barrel or batch method, and the quality of each spirit. Hopefully they will find one among the many that they like and can enjoy in greater quantity at a later date. Don’t forget to have non-alcoholic products available for your guests who either don’t drink or are the designated drivers for the evening. Lots of couples we know include one drinker and one non-drinker but they usually both come to these events.
Enjoy and remember always it’s not how much you can drink it is how much you can drink without getting drunk…..and never drive drunk. Designated drivers or cabs are the best.
The Whiskey Warrior

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Un-oaked Chardonnay: The Chardonnay haters Chardonnay - by the Wine Muse

Okay all you Chardonnay haters, listen up! I know you. You sit down to dinner and the waiter asks you what type of wine you would like and you reply :”anything but chardonnay”. Heck, not only do I know you, I was you! That is, until I tried the delectable Startree Chardonnay (un-oaked). It was like a beautiful symphony on my tongue, no bitter after taste, light and even my amateur taste buds could detect several crisp and clean notes.

So, what is an un-oaked Chardonnay exactly? Well, typically, chardonnay is fermented, then aged in Oak barrels. That is what gives a traditional Chardonnay “that heavier bitter flavor” (at least for us Chardonnay haters) Un-oaked Chardonnay is fermented, then aged in stainless steel, old barrels or glass-lined containers. The Un-oaked Chardonnay has a straightforward, light, refreshing taste that appeals to even the most persnickety wine drinker.

To really get a feel for the difference, one should buy an un-oaked chardonnay and a traditional chardonnay and taste them side by side for comparison.

So check it out and let me know what you think!

Wine Muse.
Irish Whiskey

You probably have a favorite Irish whiskey and I like several. In Ireland they call it Uisce Bretha which is Irish Gaelic for “water of life” (slightly different spelling from the Scottish Gaelic but same meaning) . Standard Irish whiskey is a blend of malted and grain whiskey. My first encounter with Irish was probably in Irish coffee and usually that was either Bushmills or Jameson. Bushmills is distilled in Northern Ireland at the world’s oldest distillery (1608) and Jameson in the Republic of Ireland. Each distillery produces a variety of labels. Bushmills produces regular Bushmills, Black Bush, and Bushmills Single Malts in 10, 16, and 21 year varieties. Each costs a bit more that the last and each tastes a bit better (to me) than the last one. Visit the Bushmills website to get details on what goes in to each delicious bottle. I drank the regular Bushmills for years and left it only when I found the Black Bush. Being fickle again I left the Black Bush for the single malt 10 and finally the single malt 16. I regret deeply that I have yet to try the 21 but I am as certain as I am that the sun will rise tomorrow that the 21 is outstanding and I look forward to my first go at it. My experience with the 16 allows me to suggest that you will probably love it as much as I do. If money is a bit tight then the 10 is still a great drink.
In most of the pubs I have been in around Ireland I have also seen a lot of Paddy’s, John Powers, and Tullamore Dew. Also you may find Midleton which is a really fine sipping Irish that I have had the privilege of sampling at a friend’s home in Galway, it is outstanding. In fact we drank our first couple of drinks of Midleton and then my host switched us to Paddy’s stating that once you have had a couple your taste buds are numb and we cannot enjoy it so we will now switch to the daily stuff. I once hand-carried a bottle of Tullamore Dew on the plane (back when you could still do that) all the way back to Florida only to find it sitting grandly on the shelf of my local liquor store a week later. So a word about bringing Whisky (ey) home from your trip to Scotland, Ireland, England, etc. That is, unless it is something rare or you just feel like you have to pick up some duty free, don’t. Before the late 1990’s it was worthwhile to bring home the good stuff but today you can pretty much get everything near your home without worrying about breaking bottles or having someone abscond with your bottles from your luggage.
You will find a large variety of Irish whiskey today and many pleasant surprises to delight the palate in each distillery’s product line. I was very happy to see the single malts come out a few years back and the Irish craftsmen have really done a fine job with sherry, port and Madeira casks rotating the whiskey in and out of various ones to create a glorious and most delightful experience for the imbiber.
I hope you all enjoy trying various Irish whiskies and that you chime in to this blog to let us know your favorites and how you choose to enjoy it. Recipes are also welcome for both cocktails and foods that can be made with whiskey. Happy St. Paddy’s day to all
The Whiskey Warrior

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Red or white wine with beef or fish?

Red or white wine with beef or fish?

Growing up it was common knowledge that one always had to have red wines with beef and white wines with fish. Well those were the “rules” and they were touted by waiters and those who were supposed to know such things everywhere you went. Most of us want to fit in so for years I followed the rules even though there were times I would really liked to have had white Bordeaux with my porterhouse steak, I always ordered a merlot or a cabernet. I was caught in the trap of trying not to look stupid and many people have been sucked into that bog along with me. We were ordering what we thought we should order instead of what we wanted to drink with our dinners.
Don’t do that!
I escaped the trap after attending a wine and food paring at a local French restaurant where during the meal each course was complimented with a wine selection the owner of the restaurant chose as the best match for the dish. He started out the evening by giving us a short lecture on wine and revealed the secret about reds and whites and when you should order one over the other. He told us that it all started at the end of World War II. The French had a huge backlog of red wine on hand. They also knew after having Americans in their country for a while during the war that Americans for the most part loved to eat beef. Thus the marketing effort by the French was to convince their American market (and others) that it was proper to drink red wine with beef! Absolute genius! The Americans bought it hook line and sinker. Fish on!!!!!! He also told us to please drink what you like not what you are “supposed “ to drink and enjoy life. Good advice.
For decades as we grew as a prosperous post-war nation Americans ordered red wine with beef and followed the other half of the French marketing effort ordering white wine with chicken or fish. We are nothing if not rule followers in America at least when we are trying to be sophisticated. Eventually we grew up enough to realize that one should drink whatever kind of wine they like with whatever kind of food they are eating. It’s fine to have a chardonnay with your T-bone steak and it is just as fine to have a Pinot Noir with your Halibut. The decades long very successful marketing ploy of the French is finally put to rest. Well maybe. I’m sure there are people out there who are still handcuffed by the old rules please help to free them by passing this information on.
The Whisky Warrior

Wine for the Holidays

Wine for the Holidays

Here are some ideas for a couple of wines for the holiday season.
Thanksgiving is a great time to have wine. Sometimes in the 1990’s I was listening to a talk radio show and they had a gourmet on that was suggesting wines for thanksgiving.
He suggested a Gewurztraminer as a perfect Thanksgiving wine as it really picks up the flavor of the stuffing and other holiday foods and complements them. We tried a couple of bottles that year and the guy was right on the money. It was great! While there is no spice in the wine, it does seem to pick up the flavors from your dinner and frames them with a great fresh tasting wine. Try it for your next holiday meal especially if stuffing is involved. There are many makers of Gewurztraminer both European and domestic and so far, they are all good. Just choose one in your price range and enjoy.
Beaujolais Nouveau is a fresh young red wine bottled at the very beginning of the Beaujolais season. Originally it was bottled (or in casks) and trotted out to parties and street festivals for people to try this year’s Beaujolais and get some feedback before mass bottlings of the remainder were made. Perhaps if the taste was not so good the grapes could be blended into other things and if it was good then make more Beaujolais. A lot of wine snobs will turn their noses up at this wine and that’s just too bad for them because it tastes really good. There is one problem with the nouveau though and that is it goes bad really quick. Beaujolais Nouveau is sold starting about November 17th each year and thousands of cases are shipped from France to the United States and many people have Beaujolais Nouveau parties and try out the few brands that come out each year.
If you drink it for Thanksgiving it will be wonderful and the quicker you consume it the more you will enjoy it. It will still be good for your holiday season parties and remains very drinkable through the 25th of December. New Years Eve is about the last time I can drink it as it is quickly turning to vinegar. So if you see a bottle of 2009 Beaujolais Nouveau on the shelf for sale after January 1, 2010 just say no. That is, unless you want to use it for cooking or a vinaigrette. My personal scale of drinkability for Beaujolais Nouveau is in this list. This is just from my personal experience over about 15 years or so.

November 17 to November 27
Wonderful, top of its form, delicious (10)

November 28 to December 15
Really good, quite enjoyable just a little less good than before, still worthwhile (9)

December 16 to December 25
Still good, but noticeably degraded from its November peak goodness(7)

December 26 to January 1
You have to be a big fan to stick with it this long as it is just starting to really turn South

January 2 and on
If you still have any just use it for cooking or to make salad dressing, it is no longer drinkable. (0)

Just my personal opinion and yours may differ one way or the other, just do what suits you and makes you happy.
This is why unless you are prepared to drink it up quickly or have a lot of friends to help you drink it, buying a whole case or two on November 17 is probably not a good idea, just get a few bottles. I have dumped out more than one bottle in mid January. For us about 4 or 5 bottles is enough but I do often buy a case and give bottles out as Thanksgiving presents to a few friends and relatives.
All is not lost though as if you really love Beaujolais then you can still buy Beaujolais Villages (called that because each little village has its own) and there are several brands to choose from. You don’t have to drink the Beaujolais Villages quickly it will last quite a while. I don’t love it like the Nouveau but it is very good.
Champagne for the holidays is always a good idea. Personally I like French Champagne. Is it better than American sparkling wine? Well allow me to explain.
My wife and I took a really nice 11 day trip to France in 2002 and spent a couple of days in the Champagne producing areas. So my preference is French wine in all cases, not because it may or does taste better than American wine or any other but because drinking it reminds me of our really great trip and our time together in Paris and some of the country side of France. I have no clue which is better but when given a choice I buy the French simply because of the memories and the sentiment.
So my choices for Champagne are Moet et Chandon Nectar Imperial which is sweet like Asti Spumonti but not nearly that sweet it is most enjoyable. Second is Moet et Chandon Imperial Brute, followed by Piper Heidsieck Brute, and Veuve Clicquot. Dom Perignon is good but too pricey for our pocket book. I know there are a lot of others but that is really about all I have tried that I really liked and there remain many left to try.
So please share with us what wines you like for your holiday seasons.
The Whisky Warrior.

Is older Whisky really better?

Is older Whisky really better?

Great question! I have read articles in various publications that state that after about 17 years of aging a scotch just doesn’t get much better. Well…….maybe that is true and I cannot dispute it but I can tell you a couple of experiences that I had. I was about 22 years old and had just come home with my wife and another couple from being out drinking someplace for New Years Eve. We pulled in the driveway and a neighbor from down the street was flagging us down and inviting us over to his house for a drink. Well ok, we were pretty much totally toasted but we were walking from that point on so why not. We were seated in the neighbor’s living room and after salutations and the usual small talk we were offered a glass of Ballantines scotch as a libation. We chatted a bit and then the man said “want to try something really good?” Of course I said “sure” not even beginning to fathom what treat he had in store. He walked into the kitchen and came back with a bottle of Ballantines 28 year old scotch. This was my very first experience with any scotch over 12 years old and yeah I was kind of excited about the whole experience. Man was it smooth, it went down so smooth and silky I remember saying something like “Wow, you don’t need any ice or water with this one!” I thanked him profusely and after a few minutes he said “now, we can agree this was really good right? “ (We all agreed) “Ok now this will knock your socks off!” Once again he disappeared into the kitchen and returned with yet another bottle. This one was another bottle of Ballantines, but this one had the numbers 47 on the bottle. Yes friends and neighbors it was a bottle of Ballantines 47 year old whisky. In order to be 47 years old at that time so it had to be put up in the cask around 1925 (right during prohibition? Sounds crazy I know but prohibition was only in America maybe this had been hiding in Canada?). I was just flat astounded.
It poured like silken diamonds into my glass and trickled down my throat like ribbons of pure light guilded with love. It was amazing, I had thought the 28 was the best I would ever taste and then this comes out of a kitchen and it was a whole new world opening up for me. I have never seen a bottle of 28 or 47 year old Ballantines since that day but they were both great and so much better than the 12 year old
So an expert said that whisky doesn’t get much better after 17 years but for me it was a whole lot better. Since then I have had some 25 and 30 year olds and several 18’s and to me they seem to taste better than their younger brothers but I could be wrong. So If I am wrong why do people pay thousands of dollars or pounds or Euros for 40 and 50 year old scotches? Gee it couldn’t be that they might taste really good could it?
Try it for yourself next time you are in a really good bar or pub that has a good selection and get several ages of the same scotch and see for yourself if you really do like the older ones better or not. Maybe there are some scotches that don’t get better with age maybe some get worse. I have not tried them all………………yet.
The Whisky Warrior

Monday, March 1, 2010

Tobermory and Ledaig

Article #8

Tobermory and Ledaig:

Off the Western coast of Scotland is the Island of Mull. It is a volcanic island in origin and is loaded with beautiful scenery and interesting sights. At the far end of Mull is the tiny island of Iona, home to Saint Columba’s monastery, final resting place of 40 Irish, Scottish, and Norwegian Kings, and repository for Saint Brendan’s records of his voyage to the new world in the mid 600’s. The main town on Mull is Tobermory which has a lovely harbor and houses built right up the hills surrounding the harbor which feature fantastic views of the harbor. Mull (Tobermory) is known as the officer’s mess as there are so many retired British military enjoying their post career lives there.
There is one distillery there called Ledaig pronounced (Let-chick) (means “safe harbor” in Gaelic) and they make Ledaig and Tobermory Scotch. Tobermory means “Mary’s well” and there is a holy well in the upper portion of the modern day village. It has a great waterfall that tumbles down right beside the distillery and the usual tours and samplings are offered. We stayed at a B&B in Tobermory back in 1999 and enjoyed the tour and tasting of the distillery along with a museum and various eateries and pubs in the town. Maclean castle is near the town and has a great tour for those interested in history.
I had not tried Tobermory for several years and then in 2008 I was invited to a Texas hold’em evening at a friend’s house. It is the practice of my group of card playing friends that when we are able to get together we usually bring a bottle of some kind of scotch as a gift to the host of the party. I had two bottles at home that I had just bought which were a bottle of Macallan 12 and a bottle of Tobermory 10. I decided to gift the Tobermory and my host fixed me a glass of it right after I gave it to him. Upon tasting it I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it! It was just right not too harsh, not too weak and had a great taste. I was sort of regretting that I did not gift the Macallan instead. You won’t find Tobermory at the top of anyone’s list of world’s greatest scotches but I think it is a fine scotch and well worth a try. I have seen ratings of in the 70’s for Tobermory and comments of “oily” and “not my kind of malt” but you know, I really don’t go by ratings or comments. I am sorry but I never taste almond, or pine, or nuts, or banana, or most any of the things that scotch snobs claim to taste in scotch. I do taste oak, peat, sherry, and sometimes salt, but never the “foo-foo” tastes touted by the experts. Tobermory just plain tastes good, it tastes like a good scotch should taste. It is very smooth and has a very pleasant aftertaste. I won’t rate scotches but I will say I like this one. To me, one either likes the taste of a whisky or they don’t like the taste and there are plenty of varieties out there so that we can all find the ones we like. I recommend that you try Tobermory and I hope you find it as enjoyable as I do.
The Whisky Warrior