Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Holidays

The holidays are here again. Weren't they just here a couple of months ago? No? Well ok time is moving a lot faster the older I get so I guess it just seems like that. So what are you drinking for the holidays this year? Anything special? I found a bottle of 42 year old scotch of an off brand that I never heard of for sale for about $169.00 or so and I have been wrestling with myself whether to buy it or not. As you may know the usual price for scotch over 40 years is closer to $10,000.00 than $200.00. I am left with the logic of the situation. Either it is a very poor bottle of scotch that others have tasted and no one will buy due to its undrinkability or its cheap because no one ever heard of that brand perhaps a private label put out by an independent bottler. So one either gets an outstanding bottle of scotch for a great price OR one gets a really lousy bottle of scotch in which case the price is way too high. Decisions, decisions, decisions. Of course there is no other way for me to ever get a 42 year old bottle of scotch except to take this type of risk. Right now this moment I am leaning toward taking the risk. Ordering perhaps a day or two before Christmas and taking delivery between Christmas and New Years.
Moving on to the next topic now. We seem to be awash in a sea of spirits these days. While I think that is a very good thing it is almost overwhelming. In the last 20 years we went from having only 1 or 2 choices for a single malt scotch in a bar or eating establishment to having 30,40, or more choices. Liquor stores the size of supermarkets have sprung up around the nation stocking a wonderful selection of whisky, wine, beer and other spirits. It used to be I could not find a pint of Guinness for sale anywhere and thank the all mighty now I can get a pint in many locations within a few miles of my home. When I was a kid all we had were the usual American beers to choose from, Bud, Miller, Pabst, and maybe a few regionals like Coors, Fall City, Berger, Rolling Rock, or Lone Star. Now we have hundreds of micro breweries making world class beers and they are plentiful and available. Wine has exploded! Once upon a time all one could get was California wine and maybe some French wine. Today the worlds wine supply is literally at your beck and call. You can find wine from dozens of countries and most of it is all very good. At least in this respect, Life is much better now than it was just 20-30 years ago. Your choices are almost unlimited and those putting out poor products cannot compete with the tidal wave of excellent beer, wine and whisky that surrounds us.
If you were searching for something to be thankful for, there is a good starting place. So like Scrooge, enjoy being visited by three spirits tonight. But you don’t have to wait for the clock to strike one to enjoy your first spirit. Maybe 5 PM? And you don’t have to fear the last one, just maybe stop at 3. Enjoy. All the best to all of you.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tasting Ideas

From time to time I have a whisky tasting at my home pub "The Drunken Duck". The Duck is a small bar that resides where my home office used to be, it is a much better use of space....
I wanted to share with you a few short ideas for your own tasting. For me it seems to go better with about 6-8 people, a few more or less is ok, but too many people may dilute the experience.
First I have found some excellent You Tube videos by Gerry Tosh that in a few short minutes tells your guests how to taste whisky. This educates your friends and helps you not to come off as a snob or know it all. So watch one or two quick videos on how to taste scotch. Tasting whisky is a very different thing than tasting wine so its worth a few minutes of everyone's time. Second have at least a few good quality nosing glasses on hand. It’s just not fun to taste good whisky out of a plastic glass so please use real glass. It is important to know your audience when conducting a tasting. If everyone is really interested in learning about whisky then you are in for a wonderful evening of fun for everyone. If you have some folks that aren’t that interested in learning but just want to drink, then by all means hook them up with a generous dram of whisky so they can enjoy the evening as well. Remember not everyone wants to spend time learning about whisky some just want to drink it. Third, have a good supply of crackers and nuts on hand as they make excellent pallet cleansers between different samples of whisky. I recommend the water crackers or other upscale crackers without much extra flavorings. Mixed nuts seem to be best received - regular not dry roasted. But whatever your tastes are should work as well. Anything more than crackers and nuts may make a good tasting impossible. No cheese or meat, or anything greasy until after your tasting is done. Fourth, do the tasting for about an hour or less and then just allow folks to pour a good dram of the whisky that most appealed to them. Then you can bring out the cheese and meat and other goodies to munch on. Fifth and finally one added feature you can offer is a mystery whisky. Choose a whisky and at some point in the evening pour a dram for all your participants. Each person tastes the whisky and then tries to guess what it is. For example, your mystery whisky might be a rye, or sour mash, or Canadian or Japanese or whatever you think might make the game interesting. Then offer a bar towel or glassware, or miniature bottle of whisky as a prize should anyone guess correctly. Have fun and remember to have other drinks available for non-whisky drinkers as the good Lord did not bless us all equally when it comes to the love of whisky.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Black Grouse

If you have had the pleasure of trying The Famous Grouse, you will know why it is considered the favorite blended scotch of the entire UK. Some Royal Air Force Chaps and some Brittish Aerospace folks were sequestered in the blockhouse on Complex 17 with me at Cape Canaveral back in the 1990's for a couple of Delta Rocket launches - it was their payload. We were on fire watch in the wee hours of the morning and the conversation turned to scotch. Imagine that! lol. Well they told me that The Famous Grouse was the #1 day-in-day-out-go-to blended scotch in the UK and that there were two reasons for that. 1. is that it tastes very good! and 2. is that it is reasonably priced so most folks can afford it. I have bought many bottles of it over the last 16 years or so and it is very good indeed. If memory serves it contains both the highly praised Highland Park and The Macallan in the blend. Most great single malt houses sell quite a bit of their product to blend houses in order to keep the cash flow going while they wait for their liquid gold to mature into its glorious state.

So I was wandering through the Walgreens Liquor store on Garden Street In Titusville Florida and saw a whole case of something called The Black Grouse marked way down low from about 33$ a bottle to 17.99$ a bottle so being of Scottish decent I can no refuse a bargain laddie. I bought it and tried a bit and while it touts its peatyness on the box I found the level of smokeyness quite acceptable. Remember I dont relish scotch that tastes like an ashtray of smoke but I do appreciate the hints of peat in some world class scotch. I had rememberd that other fine drinks such as Bushmills have a hierarchy where Bushmills is the bottom of their ladder and Black Bush is up a notch, followed by their single malts (which are wonderful). So I thought this might actually be better than The regular Famous Grouse. I cannot say it is better but it is very good. Its more like a different flavor than something better or worse. Like buying some vanilla and some chocolate ice cream not one better or worse than the other.

So if you see it, please do give it a go.

The Drunken Duck Canadian Draft will be ready to drink by Sunday, the first batch was a pretty good ale but with a dab of bitterness which I quickly ignored and drank it anyway, its 3/4 gone. The Drunken Duck Octoberfest goes in the bottles Saturday and will be ready in about 2 weeks.

Thats all for now have to start teaching my management class in a couple of minutes.

I sincerely wish you much enjoyment in your hobby of drink just take care, no driving, and don't over do it.

The Whisky Warrior

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

And now the fun begins

Just a couple of days left at my job as I am one of thousands being laid off at the end of the Space Shuttle Program. Im taking my retirment and only working a little here and there. I have turned my home office into my own Irish Pub .....The Drunken Duck is its name. I have all the nominal things one would see in an Irish Pub, Irish music, lighted beer signs, photos from Ireland, a bar, a table, four bar stools, lots of alcohol of all kinds, snacks, bar towels, coasters, and all the trimmings. It has been fun making it and I will keep adding on to it for years to come.

I made my first 2 gallons of beer last Saturday or at least I started it on its 30 day journey to enjoyment. Got the kit and the whole nine yards and will be making all kinds over the next several months. Going to get a wine making kit as well and get that kicked off. So life is good and I am very happy to finally get out of working full time after 40 years of doing so. I would say I will make whisky too but that would be illegal so I wont do that.

I do want to report that I have now tried Highland Park 18 year and I must say that I agree with the experts that it is indeed the finest whisky in the world and perhaps the finest spirit of any kind in the world. It runs just shy of $100 a bottle but is absolutely delightful. Please look up Gerry Tosh's You-Tube video on this variety as he can explain it all to you in his usualy delightful way. In short, the experts tried a panel of 3500 whiskies and proclaimed the HP 18 the very best in the world. Apparently it is unique in that when one takes a drink of it ....it first numbs the edges of your tongue and then dries out your mouth a few seconds later only to be followed by your mouth watering 2-3 seconds after that. No other spirit in the world is reported to be able to do that. The taste is outstanding and well if you are ever going to spend that much on a bottle of whisky make sure this is your choice and you will not be dissapointed. It is wonderful. Angels will sing, pipes will play, and long dead Kings of Scotland and Ireland will rise up and march through your living room as you enjoy its glorious flavor. It is good. I advised one of my adult college students about its charms and she and her husband tried it and loved it as well. Thats it for now, enjoy every minute of your life, be safe, and much happiness.

The Whisky Warrior

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

My heart is broken

Well, my heart is broken. Recently I have become a huge fan of Highland Park Whisky. I had enjoyed the 10 and 12 year versions several times over the last 15 years or so and finally got my hands what is being called the best whisky in the world, the Highland Park 18. I drank about 1/3 of it so far and it truly is remarkable and well I just love it.
So I heard about a week long bootcamp that Highland Park does at its distillery in the Orkney Islands. A full week of learning everything there is to learn ( or most of it) about whisky and whisky making. I wrote to them and asked how I could attend one of the bootcamps and the heart crushing answer came back that it is only for employees and distributors. They were very nice about it and most polite when they told me for sure. Ok I get it but they told me its not open to the general public. I am sorry but I am not the general public. I defy anyone to tell me they love Highland Park Whisky more than I do. I sing its praises whenever anyone will stop long enough to listen to me. I drink it, I enjoy it, and I truly love it. So my heart is broken. I told my wife of 40 years the other night that if Highland Park would agree to take me on as a non-paid employee and just provide me with some place to sleep and shower and such and a bit of food and water, I would gladly go live out the rest of my life helping to make this wonderful drink. I would happily clean the toilets and take out the trash and do it all for free just to be near this wonderful spirit. The wife would be more than welcome to come for visits of course. And I'm the general public?
As celebrity folks go, I would not walk across the street to watch a show or get an autograph from any of what passes for famous people these days. Lady Gaga or Charlie Sheen or Mick Jagger I can do without. The one exception is Gerry Tosh from Highland Park. If I won some contest and said that they would arrange dinner and and evening of conversation with anyone in the world my choice would be Gerry Tosh. He is straight forward, honest, and has a great passion for good whisky and of course Highland Park. And I'm the general public??? No Im not upset or angry or anything stupid like that but I am so very dissapointed that I cannot do the bootcamp at Highland Park. I love Highland Park and will continue to sing its praises and will have to be satisfied with the distillery tour next time I am in Scotland. But I am NOT the general public. Long live Highland Park! The finest spirit in the world.
The Whisky Warrior.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Keep the chocolate and fruit out of my booze!

I really don't have any problem with what anyone drinks from the most foo foo drink in the world to rot gut whisky or anything in between. So I am only speaking for what I like and how I like it which no matter what anyone says, unless one is doing an academic paper on alcochol what you like is all you really have to go on. Yes I have tried all the Baileyesque types of chocolaty liquors and yeah they taste ok but its just not for me. Years ago we got on a grasshopper jag which if I remember correctly was vodka, creme de menthe, and real cream. We drank those for a few months and then we over did it one night and painted the backyard green. I have never been able to drink that again. Getting sick on any alcohol usually has the effect that one never wants to drink that particular type of booze again. Once in high school someone said that one can get really drunk drinking gatoraid and gin so being stupid teenagers we did that and got deathly ill. Still can't drink gin today although I have not tried it in many years so maybe I could. Still get shivers just walking by a Juniper tree gaackkk!
After years of drinking practice I developed a passion for straight booze or nearly straight. Vodka martini with a few drops of dry vermouth on the rocks with at least 3 big Spanish Queen Olivies is a favorite of mine. Most any good whisky (ey) with a spash of spring water or straight and in the Florida 95 degree summer heat...on the rocks. I will admit to liking a frozen run runner, Zombie, or Margurita on occasion. In fact there was a bar in Terre Haute Indiana called Meg's Beach Comber (go figure)... that had the best Zombies in the world served in an atmosphere of fish nets, ceramic crabs, lobsters, star fish and all bathed in black light and I used to love to go there. When in Rome...as the old saying goes...so yeah if someone were to invite me over and had a rum runner night planned I would partake.
In general though I dont put soda, juice, milk, cream, or sports drinks in my booze. For me it just ruins it. Adding ice is a matter of taste and I believe climate. Sure if you are in chilly Scotland or Ireland there is no need to put ice in your drink as most of the year its going to be cold right out of the bottle. In the more tropical climates drinking whisky straight might be a problem in 100 degree heat (with notable exceptions for really excellent whisky (ey)for sure).
So here is my philosophy: If its good quality booze like a good single malt, or bourbon or vodka or Taquila, try it straight first. If that is too overpowering for your tastes, then add a bit of spring water. If still too potent try a little ice and you can even let the ice melt for a few minutes before really digging in. If after that you still dont like it just go get a beer or a glass of wine.
Yeah millions like bourbon and coke or vodka and orange juice etc. but its just not for me.
Dont think you like straight booze? Let me relate a true story to you. My wife and I went camping at a camp ground near our home back when my oldest daughter was just a baby. Two old men were about to get in a fight in the next camping spot over how to pitch their tent. Some other campers and myself came to their rescue and helped them set it up and then the other campers invited us to their tent for a drink. They were making what they called left handed screwdrivers which were orange juice and rum instead of the usual vodka for a regular screw driver. All night long I had to listen to my wife tell me how good her drinks were and how much she loved those drinks and how I did not know how to make good drinks. She went on and on about how I made drinks too strong and this guy really knew how to make a drink. I raised the white flag finally and said "Ok I will go watch him make the drinks." So I walked back around to the back of their station wagon to see how he was making these drinks on the tailgate. Well.....he was filling a glass with rum and adding just enough orange juice to change the color from clear to sort of orangeish. 95% rum and 5% OJ! I laughed and laughed and brought her the drink. She had been loving the taste of straight rum without knowing it. We got hammered and she had a headache the next morning when I had the pleasure of telling her how he was making the drinks. I never got accused of making drinks that were too strong again. Enjoy!
Ahh the good old days.