Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy- What To Do When The Power Goes Off

Hurricanes and storms in general are serious business.  Many people were hurt and some killed in the storm known as Sandy as it slammed into New Jersey on the evening of October 29, 2012.  Our heartfelt sympathies and prayers go out to all those affected by this terrible storm.  This is an actual picture of Sandy 24 hours before landfall.
On a lighter note, it is a bit of a mystery to us folks living in hurricane alley (Florida and the Gulf of Mexico region) why when a level 1 hurricane hits the North East it is the storm of the century, mass destruction, and Biblical horror.  Here we barely prepare for a level 1 at all.  Oh we drag the stuff out of the yard that might blow into the windows and buy a little extra ice and water and duct tape and such but unless its category 3, 4, or 5 most of us don’t get too upset about it.  Those folks who live right on the ocean need to leave of course but my home is a good 17 miles from the ocean inland and the grade school 500 yards from my home is a designated hurricane shelter so we just stay put. 
I have seen several online articles dealing with “what to do when the power goes out”, “how long will your food last without power?”, and “How long is your food safe to eat?”.  Some of this is good information for folks that don’t know anything about it but really it is just simply not that hard.
Before a storm buy as many bags of ice as you have storage room for them.  We keep 5 in our big freezer year round and rotate them in and out using them up for parties (and whisky on a hot day) and such.   When the power goes out you put a bag in the refrigerator, at least one in each freezer, and maybe fill up your cooler/ice chest.  Be sure to put  the one in the fridge in a pan to catch the melting water or you will have a big mess later. 
Your ice chest should be stocked with your favorite drinks, beer, wine, and drinks for the kids anyway.  You can even throw some snacks in there and that way you don’t have to open the refrigerator every time you want a drink which keeps the stuff in there good much longer.   Get your supplies early, keep what you need all year long if possible and avoid long lines and angry people fighting over the last bag of ice or jug of water at your local stores.  It happens.  For one hurricane I walked into our Wal-Mart to get some extra water the day before the storm hit and people were actually fist fighting in the isles over the water.  The store manager was trying to play referee and was throwing people out of the store for fighting.   I just turned around and left and went one block down the street to the drug store that had hundreds of bottles of water for sale and almost no one in the store.  Think, don’t panic.  Fill up your bathtubs with water and any big jugs and even buckets, as you may need flushing water for your toilets.
Here is what my wife and I do when the power goes out.  I get a glass of Highland Park 18 year old Scotch, she gets a dirty dry vodka Martini on the rocks with 3 Spanish queen olives, and we get a book or magazine, flashlight if needed, we light the battery powered fluorescent lamp and we set in our love seat with individual recliners and kick back.  Between us is a small 10” D cell powered fan that is placed on a TV tray so it will blow on both of us.  We turn on a battery powered radio to get latest storm news. 
It’s really not that hard to be comfortable and safe in a lower level hurricane.  We have a generator but we have to wait until the rain stops to use it safely and that gets the fridge and freezer back on line and a light or two and a large fan and the TV going.  So follow the direction of your local officials, prepare ahead of time with ice, drinks, water, and a good stock of your favorite whiskies and beer and just ride it out.  Get away from the ocean, get to a safe place, listen to and follow instructions from emergency officials and be safe.  Stuff can be replaced, people can’t. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Highland Park 21 and 25, Pure Joy

Getting to enjoy Highland Park 21 and 25 both in the same evening was a wonderful experience.  No, I really cannot afford a full bottle of either one (between $150 and $200 for the 21 and $250 to $300 for the 25) but we did manage to get a mini of each to sample.  My daughter bought both of these on her recent trip to Scotland and we shared the tasting last weekend.  We started with the 21 and followed Highland Park’s Global Brand Ambassador, Gerry Tosh’s recommendation for observing tears and legs and nosing.  We agreed that the aroma of orange peel and toffee were there for us but as smelling whisky is not our long suit we were eager to get on with the drinking.  We both enjoyed it and both reported a sharp bite on the tip of the tongue that lasted a few seconds.  The taste was pleasant enough and enjoyable with that trademark little wisp of  peat smoke at the end of the finish.  It started strong and then mellowed out from there.   I guess a good comparison might be the very first drop on an old fashioned roller coaster like the Beast at King’s Island in Cincinnati Ohio, the first drop is a heart stopper then you really enjoy the rest of the ride and it is quite thrilling all the way to the end.  That, to me, best describes the tasting of the Highland Park 21. 
Now on to the 25 to sample its wares!  Apparently there are several varieties of both the 21 and 25 and our sample was just a little over 107 Proof.  Other proofs were bottled and distributed and various online liquor stores carry these assorted “flavors”. 
Even the little box that the 25 came in had a full color picture on it compared to the 21 which was in black and white.  The color was very nice and as one might expect a bit darker than the 21 but as Gerry Tosh says, color really means nothing.  The legs and tears were almost exactly like those we found in the 21.  Thus ended the similarities.  This nosing of the 25 was unusual for us in that we actually did pick up whiffs of chocolate (as in 90% cacao chocolate) just like when you first open up a big bar of semi-sweet chocolate and you get that blast of chocolate smell that hits you.  Not as strong in the whisky of course but it really seems to be there.  I say that because usually I cannot smell anything but whisky with the occasional bit of spun sugar and of course sherry aroma from those whiskies aged in sherry casks.  This one was different. We both really enjoyed the taste and once again a thousand pipers played as a host of angels sang praises to the distiller’s art.  I’m sure one or two dead Scottish Kings rose up and marched about a bit in harmonious celebration with us but no I did not really see them, just sensed they were there smiling ear to ear.   The 25 was absolutely wonderful and makes me sad that I am not financially well off enough to buy a case of it (or a bottle for that matter).  But at least I (we) got to taste it once and that was sheer pleasure.  My daughter said that even though Dalwhinnie was her favorite, she believed she had finally found a new favorite scotch in the Highland Park 25.   Regrettably she is no better off financially than I am so we will have to start a savings account for a future purchase of a full bottle of the Highland Park 25.  We liked the 21 but loved the 25.  Eventually we would like to try the Highland Park 30 and that is next on the agenda.
Whatever you drink please enjoy yourself and savor every moment this life has to give. 
The Whisky Warrior.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Single Malt For 007 Please!!!

The scotch whisky business is booming and sales seem to be increasing every year.
In fact it is not only scotch, but all “brown liquors” that are thriving here in the early part of the 21st century.  Bourbon, Irish, Japanese, Canadian, and many other types of whisky are gaining popularity with younger and older drinkers.  I think that if Ian Fleming wrote the James Bond series of books today he would have 007 drinking Highland Park, or Macallan  25 or 30 and going on about that he wants it “neat no water, no ice, just two ingredients -  glass and scotch please!”  That then would have been the catch phrase from all those movies instead of “Martini, dry, shaken not stirred!”  It is indeed a much different world we live in today than the 1960’s when Bond was born.  Whisky is once again King, long live the King and long live Scotland. 
There has been a quiet revolution going on for the past several years as around the world people have been developing a taste for good scotch whisky.   Diageo the company that owns such brands as Moet et Chandon, Guinness, Crown Royal, and Johnny Walker, have announced that they are doing a major expansion of their Glen Ord distillery in Ross-Shire.  This is part of their 5 year plan to invest over 1 Billion pounds into scotch whisky production.  They plan on expanding 13 of their current 28 distilleries in Scotland and will build one brand new distillery as well. 
William Grant and Son’s have now reached the point where they have exceeded over 1 billion pounds in turnover per year for the first time ever.  That’s a lot of whisky flowing over the rim of the glass and into whisky fans all over the world!
Chivas Brothers announced they will build a new distillery and are reopening the Glen Keith distillery in Speyside next year.  Rumors abound that they may try to buy the Beam brands of Kentucky Bourbon but their CEO has said that is not happening any time soon. 
As proof that scotch has become more and more popular all over the world, China consumed over 100 Million pounds sterling worth of scotch last year. 
The Whisky Warrior

Monday, October 22, 2012

Treats for Halloween for the whisky fan

Halloween is just around the corner and I feel like I have already gotten my treats for the year.  My daughter and her family just returned from a couple of weeks exploring parts of England, Wales, and lower Scotland and they brought me some really cool mini’s to enjoy.  I have never had the privilege of sampling any of these before so I look forward to the adventure.  The first is Bowmore, a great whisky from the Isle of Islay.  Islay malts are famous for their full bodied peaty taste so if you are one who really enjoys a smoky whisky then this may be a great choice for you.
Next is Highland Park 21, something I have never even seen for sale at any of my local liquor stores.  I have enjoyed the Highland Park 18, which so far is my absolute favorite, but I am sure the 21 holds some great surprises in store.  Then the Highland Park 25 comes next.  At a retail price of around $400.00 for a fifth I doubt I will ever have the great pleasure of owning a bottle but this mini will at least let me get to know it a bit and enjoy a taste of what I can only suppose is a wondrous treat. 
Finally a really cool gift set of the Welsh Whisky Penderyn with two mini’s and a very nice nosing glass inscribed with the Whisky’s logo.(Same as in the picture).  I have longed to try the Welsh Whisky for many years now as it is yet another choice that is not provided at any of the local liquor stores in my area.  You would think with Kennedy Space Center right across the Indian River that alone would provide a ready consumer group for better whiskies than it actually does.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some really nice choices in my area now compared to just 10 years ago.  For a while the local ABC liquor store (a chain store in Florida) did not carry any single malt scotch at all.  Today they have at least 20 different ones to choose from and some fine upper scale bourbons and Irish Whiskies as well. 
So I have not tried any of my new treats yet, I am saving them for when friends or family are over so we can enjoy them together, hopefully in the near future.
Now if I can just put 200+$ together for a bottle of Highland Park “Thor” ……where is that piggybank anyway?
The Whisky Warrior

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Early bird plans for whisky festival

Just saw this article from the Stirling (Scotland) Observer.  Thought I would pass it on to you all.  Note the website at the bottom of the article.  Please visit the site and go to the festival if you can.  I know it would be a glorious time and you can tour the wonderful historic Stirling Castle and see the real battle field where William Wallace defeated the English at the Battle of Stirling.  A really cool place to be.  Have a dram for me.  The Stirling Observer is the author of the text below not me.  I am just reprinting it in hopes someone will see it and go to enjoy the festival. 
(Article Courtesy of the Stirling Observer)
Organizers of the inaugural Spirit of Stirling Whisky Festival, held earlier this year at the city’s Albert Halls, have announced that the event will return by popular demand in 2013.Plans are already under way to host the second edition of the drinks industry showcase at the Dumbarton Road venue on May 11 next year.  The festival is organized by local businessmen Cameron McCann and Iain McMenemy.  Mr. McCann said: “We are delighted to be able to bring the festival back to Stirling in 2013..
“Tickets sold out in advance of the last festival and we have already received numerous requests for advance tickets for the 2013 event.  The Drymen-based businessman continued: “We launched a limited-edition commemorative whisky to celebrate the success of the first festival this year. This was a limited run of 156 hand-numbered bottles of a specially-labeled Spirit of Stirling whisky.
“There are only around two dozen of those bottles left, which can be purchased through our website, but we will be launching another exclusive, hand-numbered, whisky to celebrate the 2013 festival.”
The festival’s website can be viewed at www.spiritofstirlingwhiskyfestival.co.uk.
The Whisky Warrior

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Great Time To Be A Whisky Fan!

It is a wonderful time to be a fan of whisky (ey).   Distillers are working overtime to provide their customers with new offerings, flavors, blends, versions, and types of whisky.  Just 15-20 years ago in America (at least the bars and eating establishments I visited across the country) one could get Glenfiddich or Glenlivet when one asked for single malt scotch.  While I have enjoyed both of them at various times in my life (and still love the Glenlivet 21) the selection that is available here in 2012 is nothing short of astounding!  The different productions include sherry, port, Madera, rum, sauterne, peat, oak, bourbon, champagne, and Lord knows how many other wonderful choices.  It really is like being a grown up kid in an adults only candy store.  Options include several double or triple wood offerings where the spirit rests in   (for example) oak for 5 years, sherry casks for 5 years and then Madera or port for a final 5 years.  These complex flavors are just delightful and give fans so many wonderful choices that it almost can make your head spin.  It is kind of like going to the county fair and finding out they have 100 different fun rides all set up and waiting for you to try.  Thank you distillers!  Your hard work is greatly appreciated.  I have heard recently that even the venerable Johnny Walker is coming out with a gold and platinum version to go with black, red, green and blue.  Yes all these versions are designed to sell more whisky and gain more market share…..but who cares, the consumer has never had so many amazing choices.  Prices for old and rare bottles of whisky are going for ever higher prices with each passing year.  Countries around the world are working hard to produce their own versions of whiskies and some like the Japanese have succeeded in producing some delicious products.  I know that whisky is not for everyone and many will never like it much less enjoy it (like my dear wife for example) but each year more and more people are enjoying the wide diversity of whisky that is now available to all of us.  Have you noticed more people are smiling these days?  I think I understand why.
Here is hoping you find your new favorite soon.  Please try a few of these great new whiskies and let me know which ones you love.  Happy sipping.
The Whisky Warrior

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What Makes One Scotch Taste Different From Another?

What makes one scotch taste different from another?  All scotches use only barley so why does one scotch taste different from another?  As you might suspect there are many reasons.  Some of them are:  1. How many times is the spirit distilled?  2.  What type of cask is the spirit aged in?  3.  How many years has the spirit been allowed to age?  4.  How good was the water used in the distillation process?  5.  How was the barley dried (peat with lots of smoke, some smoke, no smoke, gas heat, other)?  6.  How good was the master distiller at their task of choosing and mixing the casks that will make the run?    Let us look at these items one at a time.  1: First how many times was the spirit distilled?  In each distilling the first alcohol to come down the pipe is not the ethyl alcohol that we are looking for.  The first little bit contains other alcohols that can and will give you a terrible headache.  So the distiller discards the first bit to come out of the still.  The remainder of the run is then mostly ethyl alcohol.  In each distilling a little more of the bad alcohols are eliminated and after three distillings we should find that our spirit is almost entirely the ethyl alcohol that we seek.  So look for a whisky that is distilled more than once if possible.  The bottom shelf stuff is mostly distilled only one time so it is cheaper to produce and is much more likely to give you a terrible headache than is the middle or top shelf selections.   2;&3:  Scotch usually starts its aging process in used oak barrels from bourbon distilleries in America although brand new oak barrels could be used.  Then after a few years the whisky can(or not) be transferred to other used barrels from sherry, port, sauterne, rum, or champagne producers and as you can imagine each different selection will impart a different taste to the final product.  Some distillers even employ a third type of barrel.  This might go like 6 years in oak barrels then 6 years in sherry barrels and finally 6 years in port barrels.  This method gives a lot of different and new flavors to a distiller’s product and has proven quite popular with the consuming public.  Remember these barrels are aged in Scotland and each summer the barrels get warm and the wood opens up allowing some of the spirit to flow into the wood.  This is followed by the colder winter when the barrels close up in the colder conditions forcing the whisky out of the wood and back into the barrel.  The more years this is repeated the more of the whisky that gets to be flavored by the wood.  There are scientists experimenting today (see Popular Science Magazine) with using pressure techniques to force the spirit into and out of the wood to make a whisky in just a few weeks  that (supposedly) is the equivalent of that same spirit spending 15 or 20 years resting in a cask.  If that technique is ever widely accepted, (and works as well as they say) then one might see excellent whisky produced in a few months instead of years.  We shall see.  4.  This one is just common sense.  If you use good clean pure water your whisky cannot help but taste better than if you had used nasty dirty water.  So we want a whisky that uses really good water not only in the distilling process but also in the bottling process because we must remember that water is always added to all whisky when it is bottled except for cask strength versions.  Glenfiddich advertises that they are the only distillery in Scotland to actually bottle their whisky on site although Balvinie is right next door to Glenfiddich (Speyside area) and they use the Glenfiddich bottling facility.  All others are trucked to the big cities in big tankers that look like gasoline tankers with no markings.   5.  This one too is fairly obvious.  If you use barley that was malted (heated) over peat fires that allow all the smoke to caress the grain then the whisky will taste smokier than if one uses barley that is malted over a non-peat fire or a peat fire that allows most of the smoke to go elsewhere.  This is just your own preference and somewhere on the bottle it should tell you if the whisky you are about to buy is smoky in nature or not.  I don’t care for a lot of smoke but a small bit is nice.  Highland Park has just the right amount for me but most of the Islay Whiskies are a bit too strong smoke wise for my preference. So just try several brands and choose the smoke level that is right for your tastes.  6.  The master distiller has a big say in what their product tastes like and in how consistently it is produced.  Even though scotch from one malting is called a single malt scotch, many barrels can be made out of one malting.  The master distiller and blender then has to take small samples from each cask and mix and match them until they come up with the combination that best fits their brand and their high standards of production.  Usually if a distiller produces a good single malt and a barrel is found wanting during the testing by the Master distiller/blender then that barrel that did not measure up will be sold off to a different distiller who specializes in blended whisky.  Once the lab work has been done and the barrels have been selected to be combined all the barrels from that batch are emptied into a mixing vat and after the mixing is done the batch can be loaded onto trucks and shipped to the bottler.  The only thing that remains then is to label it, box it, and ship it to your favorite store so you can make your purchase and begin to enjoy the fruits of their labors.  These are some of the things that make one scotch taste different from another one.  I hope you enjoy your favorite dram soon,
The Whiskey Warrior.

Friday, July 6, 2012

I was gratified to see a nice article in The Whisky Advocate” magazine that talked about how it is ok to put water or even ice in your whisky, especially when you live in a really hot climate like Florida.  I have been saying that for years and it’s always nice to find someone to agree with one’s thoughts and particularly great when an expert is in agreement.  Best thing that has happened to me in over a month.   It is a great magazine by the way and I really love it.  I also got a Michael Jackson book on Whisky (the spirit expert not the pop star) and it is quite wonderful as well.  Unfortunately Mr. Jackson died in 2007 he was the leading expert in spirits in the world. 

Also read that the Glenn Keith distillery is reopening, its parent company makes Chevis Regal and their sales are up so they figured it would be cheaper to restart that distillery than to build a new one and they are probably right.  The article did not really state that they would make Glen Keith again but I hope so, it is a nice middle of the road scotch that I have enjoyed often back in the 1990’s.  Glenn Keith has a nice oaky flavor and good clean taste. 

I was also glad to see that in the rating section of the magazine they had really nice things to say about Dalwhinnie which is my youngest daughter’s favorite (yes she is over 21).  I like it as well but don’t buy it that often.  There are just so many offerings now that it really is like being a kid in a candy store. 

Highland Park’s new Thor offering will be available in the United States unlike some of their other previous new products.  That is good news and I long to try it but first I have to find it and then I have to find the money to buy it but I am sure I will get it eventually.  Still looking to taste my first Japanese whisky and now I just found out (thanks to The Whisky Advocate) that The Australian Island of Tasmania has several new (new to me anyway) distilleries that are coming of age. 

So whisky is experiencing the kind of explosion of availability that wine has gone through over the last 20 years.  Many countries are making new and wonderful whisky (ey) and master distillers are laboring in their labs creating new and amazing versions of their finest offerings.  It is truly a wonderful time to be alive if you like whisky.  Hundreds of choices, all types of price ranges, and plenty of flavor options depending on your particular likes and dislikes.  Hooray for whisky and bless all the men and women who work so hard to bring us new and delicious offerings on a regular basis. 

Enjoy safely, use designated drivers when drinking out at bars and relish the journey of discovery as you travel down the malted road 

The Whisky Warrior

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Auchentoshan, a fine Lowland Scotch Whisky. Ok I admit it, after doing all the genealogy thing and finding most of my ancestors were Scot Highlanders, I had some trouble coming to grips with the idea that a really good scotch could come from the Lowlands. Well as so often been the fact over these last several decades, I was wrong. In May of 2007 I had to travel to Pittsburg with a scotch drinking co-worker and we found "The Piper" a wonderful little bar featuring 135 single malts to sample. The Penguins were playing in the playoffs that night as we slipped into the bar and sat down. As is so often the case, we were like two small boys in a candy store trying to make our selections. We must have been wide-eyed and probably drooling a bit around the edges as we sat basked in the glow of the wide screen TV’s light trying to decide which of the 135 wonderful offerings we would try first. Always wanting to try something new (new to us) we tried a couple of versions of Auchentoshan. It was startlingly good. If memory serves we tried both the classic and the 12 year versions with those two basic ingredients of whisky fans; scotch and glass :-). I recently purchased my first bottle of Auchentoshan (in Gaelic it means "the corner of the field") and I intend to consume most of it when my whisky drinking amigo from Huntsville visits later this month. The box tells us that the distillery is located between the Kilpatrick hills, Loch Lomond, and the modern cosmopolitan city of Glasgow (Hey Jimmy gi us a pint). It is matured in bourbon barrels and is renowned (so sayth the box) for its soft delicate character. I say its damn good scotch (not being one whose words end up on scotch boxes lol.) It is triple distilled then placed in good old American bourbon casks. Those that can taste such things tell us that it has vanilla, coconut aromas and is known for being a very smooth drink.

My point is simply this, don't be a scotch snob and drink only the highland malts as you may miss out on some really wonderful treats such as Auchentoshan. Oh yes that night the Penguins won and I was treated to masses of people streaming out of many bars talking and hugging one stranger after another right after the game was over. That is when I was told that some cities are sports towns that have a drinking problem whereas Pittsburg is a drinking town with a sports problem. I have been a Steelers fan myself as far back as the Franco Harris Immaculate Reception (long ago when the dinosaurs ruled the Earth and I was still reasonably thin). If you are a fan you will know of what I speak, if not then it really doesn't matter now does it? So give this Lowland treat a try and get a bottle of Auchentoshan next time you visit your local liquor store, in Florida the ABC chain stock it.


The Whisky Warrior

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Drink Whisky

Well I hope all of you are enjoying your journey into the wild wonderful world of whiskies etc.
I have been back working full time since November 14th of 2011 and this next Friday is my last day (Feb 3) for a while. I am a contract hire now having retired from my long time job last July after the mass lay off of space workers happened. So what does one do when one is out of work? One enjoys their hobbies and of course my hobby is whisky and whiskey so I am going to try some new whisky. I am really not sure what we will be trying but one of my friends and I have plans to visit a local liquor store and search for new and different interesting malts or blends to try. I am really looking forward to it.
I have noticed a trend towards new and different whiskies these days. As you may already know when the freshly distilled spirit comes out of the tap there is not a lot of taste to it so that taste must be infused into the spirit via time spent in various casks. Sherry casks give one flavor and port casks another and some distillers blend those two together for an additional treat and call the outcomes double wood or even triple wood. They are usually outstanding so please try them all. But lately I have seen a Balvenie Caribe which is put up in rum casks for a Caribbean flavor and I just saw that Grant's is using ale casks to age some of their whisky in. I think this is a new trend and a very positive one that will give whisky drinkers the world wide an even broader and more substantial pallet from which to paint one's soul. I regret I have yet to taste any of these new kids on the block but I will remedy that in the near future and provide you with a full report on each one as I am able to acquire some of the new whiskies. Should you acquire anything wonderful and wish to share it with me just comment to the blog and I will get in contact with you. :-)
I did tally up my stock of whisky (ey) the other day and I have 26 different ones. A sad tale when you realize there are many hundreds out there. :-( But 26 is better than 0 for sure.
Stock up now for St. Patrick's Day, its just 7 weeks away and it is my favorite holiday of the year with most of the rest tied for second. Enjoy and please let me know what you like to drink I would really like to know. Thanks
The Whisky Warrior