Monday, January 21, 2019

Blackbirds & Hound Dogs

There’s only two kinds of people in the world - Beatles people and Elvis people. Now Beatles people can like Elvis and Elvis people can like Beatles, but nobody likes them both equally. Somewhere, you have to make a choice, and that choice tells you who you are.
-Mia Wallace
So, are you barley or are you corn? Oh sure, there is that rye fellow, but sticking with our metaphor above, rye is more akin to the Ramones - a dedicated and strong, but smaller following. My whiskey journey started with Scotch, but that relationship got off to a rocky start and to tell that tale, we have to rewind the clock back to my teenage years.

Save the final six or so years of his life, my father drank Scotch, specifically blended Scotch, throughout the entirety of his adult life. He, like many from his generation, drank for the physiological effect of the spirit rather than the intricacy, nuance, and enjoyment of the spirit. As such, his number one priority when shopping for Scotch was price - he often procured the most obscure brand that came in the largest plastic jug possible. Think Clan MacScotchy's Ancestral Jug O'Malt. Growing up, he occasionally let me take a small sip from his ice-laden tumbler and I was often left wondering why in the world anyone would consume such a foul tasting concoction. To be fair, much like my childhood disdain of sauerkraut, I am sure part of my bafflement was due to an inexperienced palate rather than the blend's provenance, but a seed that would sprout decades later was sown back then.

When I came of legal drinking age, Scotch, and for that matter the entirety of whiskey, never registered on my radar. Back then the precursor to today's craft beer - Pete's Wicked and Sam Adams - reigned supreme. Distilled spirits were consumed in mostly schnapps and liqueur form, think Goldschläger, Kahlúa, and of course the cornerstone of post-adolescent debauchery, Jägermeister. The first crack in the wall of mediocrity that surrounded my hooch shelf came from one of my true loves in this life - cooking shows. Now I am not talking about today's iteration of cooking shows, the ones hosted by former sitcom stars or social media influencers that have never stepped foot in a professional kitchen. No no, I am talking about PBS old school, actually teach you technique and theory type of shows - Julia Child and Jacques Pépin, Martin Yan, Graham Kerr, Jeff Smith, Justin Wilson, and the point of this rant, my beloved Rick Bayless.

Back in the early 2000s, Rick Bayless created and hosted a show - Mexico: One Plate at a Time - where he toured and taught the audience all the marvelous culinary offerings from the various regions in his adopted home of Mexico. One episode took Mr. Bayless to Tequila Herradura - the distillery in Mexico, owned by Brown-Foreman, that produces Herradura tequila. Now at this point in my life, my then-girlfriend (but future bride) and I thought we knew all there was to know about margaritas - Cuervo Gold and that large jug of fluorescent-green Margaritaville margarita mixer - one part to three, shaken with and served on ice. This assured confidence in maragarita mastery was rocked to its core as I watched this particular episode and Rick Bayless, standing next to the distillery's fermenters, proclaimed '...but they're making the good stuff here.'

Good stuff.... just what did he mean by that?! Rick proceeded to explain how tequila is made, how the hearts of blue agave plants are cooked, preferably in fired kilns vs steam-heated kilns, then pressed and the resulting juice is used as the basis of fermentation which in turn is distilled. He highlighted how not all tequilas are created equal, that there are bottles legally labeled as tequila yet only contain 51% blue agave distillate and 49% who-knows-what (typically sugar and water added during distillation). He concluded the episode with a plea - regardless of what brand you choose, when shopping for a tequila, scour the label for those magical words - 100% de Agave - to ensure you are buying a true, pure tequila containing only distillate from the agave plant.

Armed with my newfound knowledge, I immediately bolted to the liquor store, searched out a reposado Herradura and returned home to mix two separate margaritas - identical in every regard save the tequila - Cuervo Gold in one, the Good Stuff in the other. I presented each to my better half, she sipped one then the other and instantly pointed to the one containing the Herradura: 'this one, not even close '. Intrigued, I tasted and came to the same conclusion, it was astonishing how the quality of the Herradura was instantly perceptible even when mixed with the faux neon-green mixer. This of course led to a second trip out - if a premium spirit could so noticeably lift a garbage mixer, imagine what would happen if we paired it with a homemade mixer made from fresh limes and scratch-made simple syrup, and sure, why not a splash of Grand Marnier. The result was ... illuminating. Like that chap in Plato's cave, my reality expanded that day as I was freed from the shackles of ingredient ignorance.

Many years after my tequila awaking, I began to think more and more about my father's drink of choice. What if a similar knowledge-based phenomenon could be found in the whiskey aisle as had been found in the tequila aisle. The answer, as you probably could have predicted, was a resounding yes, which brings me back to the start of this post - barley or corn. While I am only a little over a decade into my whiskey exploration, no matter where or how far I stray, I always find myself returning to barley. Barley whiskey is capable of an elegance, oftentimes delivering a transcendental experience that corn whiskey has yet to replicate for me.

When I think barley whiskey, I typically mean Scotch, but that is not an exclusive delimiter - Ireland, Japan, and the United States have all produced barley whiskeys that caused my toes to curl and my eyes to relax into that contemplative stare into nothingness; nuance, intricacy, progression of aroma and taste - barley whiskey when done 'right' can be a symphony for the senses. None of this is to say that aged corn whiskey, which by and large for me is a bourbon whiskey, is not capable of delivering an enjoyably memorable experience. It's just that bourbon delivers an entirely different experience for me, but I personally feel this is wholly by design.

Due to the legal requirement of exclusive maturation in a new charred oak container, bourbon never fails to deliver a sledgehammer of flavor that can linger for some time. The side effect of this legal requirement is that bourbon tends to deliver a common sensory experience - vanilla, caramel, brown sugar, oak, baking spices. Bourbon producers do have some leeway - yeast selection, proportion of grains, distillation and barreling variation, barrel char levels, where and how those barrels are stored for maturation, also how those barrels are blended before bottling are but just a few legally allowed variances afforded. These variances can introduce fruit, peanut, savory and/or sweet herbs, but the power of a brand new charred oak barrel cannot be understated; it's influence on the distillate is profound. Scotch producers on the other hand are only legally required to use oak containers with no stipulation on whether they are new or not. As a result, Scotch producers have tremendous leeway, using and reusing barrels that once contained not just whiskey, but other spirits such as rum or brandy or even non-distilled alcohols like wine and beer for the maturation of their whiskeys. This huge diversity of legally allowed barrels for maturation empowers a Scotch producer to layer a near-infinite variety of flavor subtlety when producing their final product.

This should not be construed as a criticism of bourbon however. Bourbon's heavily regulated definition limits what producers can do to change up the experience and this is, in my opinion, a good thing - it defines the genre to such a degree that consumers have a legitimate indication of what the bottle they are considering purchasing will in fact deliver. With Scotch, there is a bit of a leap of faith as the consumer generally doesn't know the specific proportion of barrels used during maturation nor how 'fresh' or 'tired' those barrels are.

Rest assured, just like a lot of Beatles fans, I adore Elvis; there are many bourbons that bring genuine joy and amazement into my life. In fact, it was a bottle of Wild Turkey 101 that was my sole spirit companion during the electricity-free eight days that followed Hurricane Irma after she scooted past our homestead. Bourbon also tends to be what I reach for on a weekend afternoon as I prepare the coming week's dinners and lunches. Many a lazy late afternoon has been spent sitting on the pool deck or in our tiki room contemplating life as I gently twirl a pour of bourbon. Bourbon will always be represented on my whiskey shelf, but for those sublime moments in life - completion of a great meal, an engaging conversation, unwinding after a challenging day, or that rainy afternoon where you catch up on your neglected reading list - those tend to be the province of Scotch for me.

My emotional support Turkey during Irma's aftermath, taken a few days beforehand

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

A Year In The Making

Twelve. Twelve months in a year, twelve whiskey parcels shipped out, the first of which was twelve years old. Twelve. Twelve teaser posts, many containing clues to that month's offering. Twelve reveals, and in a great coincidence of symmetry, just a splash over twelve two-ounce pours in a 750 ml whiskey bottle. That last nugget is significant because unbeknownst to the group, there was a silent member of the group - an empty bottle (I call him Mac) of the first month's offering - which received a two-ounce pour of each of the whiskeys sent out (since March featured two different whiskeys, one ounce of each was added). Diligently collected and patiently completed with its final resident, Johnnie Walker Green Label, the bottle shall now sit in a quiet corner of the whiskey cabinet to mingle and relax.


I have no clue how the blend will taste, but I look forward to finding out and sharing with my fellow malt mates and bourbon buddies as our paths cross in 2019.

So, how exactly did we spend our time in 2018's whiskey extravaganza? There are many ways to quantify the year, and those who know me, know that I love me some analytics and data. Let's start at the top - in total we sampled thirteen different whiskeys (March contained not one, but two Irish Single Pot Still Whiskeys) from a combined eight different whiskey classifications:
  1. Three Single Malt Scotch Whiskies
    1. Deanston 12 Year
    2. Caol Ila
    3. Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban
  2. Two Straight Bourbon Whiskeys
    1. Evan Williams Single Barrel
    2. Wild Turkey Rare Breed
  3. Two Irish Single Pot Still Whiskeys
    1. Greenspot
    2. Red Breast 12 Year
  4. Two Finished Bourbon Whiskeys
    1. Woodford Reserve Double Oaked
    2. Maker's 46
  5. One Japanese Blended Malt Whisky
    1. Nikka Pure Malt (Black Label)
  6. One Straight Rye Whiskey
    1. Pikesville
  7. One Tennessee Whiskey
    1. Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Barrel Proof
  8. One Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
    1. Johnnie Walker Green Label
Age estimated for Greenspot, Woodford, Maker's, Jack Daniel's, and Wild Turkey (click to expand)

A graphical representation of the spreadsheet (click to expand)

2018 Whiskey Superlatives
Most Expensive - Red Breast 12 year - $69.99. They say high tide raises all boats and brother, whiskey's popularity is definitely a rising tide at the moment. I am not sure the historical pricing of Irish whiskey, but I am betting a decade ago Irish whiskey producers merely dreamed of commanding a price premium equal or greater than their Scottish counterparts. That being said Red Breast 12 was very well received by the group and nearly unanimously swept the A/B comparison to Greenspot, so the quality is in the bottle. It is a shame it is still offered at 40%, but Red Breast 12 year can be found in cask strength form, non-chill filtered to boot, typically for ~$90.00 and I can say first-hand the extra twenty dollars is easily justified for the step up if you enjoyed standard Red Breast.

Least Expensive - Evan Williams Single Barrel - $24.99. Since I began my bourbon exploration, I have always had, and always will have, a bottle of this whiskey on my shelf. Heaven Hill deserves a standing ovation for offering a whiskey, typically eight years old, that smells, tastes, and finishes like a quintessential bourbon - vanilla, oak, caramel, baking spices, some smoke - it's all there and the only criticism is its amiably low proof, but its proportionally low price helps sooth that criticism.

Highest Proof - Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Barrel Proof - 66.1% ABV. A bit like bringing a bazooka to a pellet-gun fight, one could within reason disqualify this Jack as being an anomalous wild-point, but alas the king has earned and deserves this crown. Astonishingly, despite being two-thirds ethanol, this Tennessee Whiskey is plausibly enjoyable neat but water has always improved the experience of this deliciously different whiskey for me.

Lowest Proof - (tie) Red Breast 12 and Greenspot - 40% ABV. Perhaps in a bout of national conformity, both of our Irish entrants come in at the legal minimum to still be called a whiskey. I, along with many Irish Single Pot Still whiskey fans have long wished for a modest bump in ABV for these standard offerings, even 3-percent would do wonders in my opinion.

Oldest - Johnnie Walker Green Label - 15 years. To be fair, we had six non-age-stated whiskeys that *could* be older than 15-years but that is a bit like saying your mortgage bank *could* forgive your note out of the goodness of their miserly heart. Still, as I stated in the reveal, it is awesome that Johnnie Walker has maintained the 15-year age statement and kept the price in the $60 neighborhood - a benevolent gift to malt maniacs in today's harsh reality of vanishing age statements and younger and younger offerings.

Youngest - Unknown! As stated above, six of the thirteen whiskeys sampled contained no age statement whatsoever, so we can only speculate here. My speculation, and it is no more than that, is that Maker's 46 would tie the age-stated Pikesville Rye at six years old.

The More You Know - UPS Quirks - Approximately half of each month's samples were sent to their respective recipients via UPS (the others were hand-delivered by yours truly). Due to various legal and/or regulatory reasons, there is no parcel carrier that will accept distilled spirits from an unlicensed sender. I chose UPS over the United States Post Office because I felt it better to violate a corporation's policy rather than the Federal Government's policy. Regardless, of the 48 parcels sent through the year, all but two had silky-smooth journeys. The trials and tribulations of the troublesome two each revealed interesting UPS behaviors. The first - it does not matter what name/address you affix to a box, UPS will only deliver the parcel to the name and address listed on the shipping label they affix to the box (UPS did not notice one recipient's change of address and instead used the incumbent address in their system on the shipping label). The second - a parcel that is hilariously misrouted and given a Mr. Toad's tour of the United States will ultimately find its way to its recipient without any intervention from the sender. As an added bonus, UPS will proactively refund the shipping cost as their system is built to automatically detect such routing errors and make good on them, both logistically and financially. Well played UPS, well played.

Favorite Whiskey - Many of them! Okay, a cop-out here, but variety is indeed the spice of life. Re-reading the Group Impressions from each month, it seems to me that Johnnie Walker Green Label, Red Breast 12 Year, Taketsuru Pure Malt, and Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban were the most sweeping in terms of positive consensus among group members. Each a barley whiskey, coincidence? Most interesting indeed. Even more interesting to me is that there was not a single whiskey that was panned by the consensus. The closest was one taster's loathing of Caol Ila, but given how polarizing peated malt whiskey can be, it would be a statistical anomaly if we did not have at least one dissenter in Caol Ila's tasting. This adds to what I have long suspected - that there are very few 'bad' whiskeys out there. Just as Napoleon (the pig, not the angry short dude Bill & Ted kidnapped) said - all whiskeys are equal, but some whiskeys are more equal than others. Or something like that.

So where do we go from here...
A final hearty thank you to all who played along through 2018. I had a hoot and a half with the whole experience and as an added bonus, procuring all the whiskeys kept me in the good graces of the various frequent shopper programs of my local merchants. I do not plan to retire this blog, at least not yet. My hope is to continue to use this space as a journal for my whiskey raves and rants, likes and dislikes, and whatever verbally meandering hooch-based inspirations strike my fancy. There will be more group tastings, though not monthly, and most likely done in smaller, targeted groups. There might even be a jump to rums and tequilas, as well as entries scribed by special guests, but we can't put rules on these things at this juncture.

Lastly, maybe one day the delightful person at the UPS Store that personally marshaled each and every whiskey parcel sent during the twelve consecutive months will stumble upon this blog and realize that I really wasn't making my own hot sauces, infused oils, and spice extracts to send to friends for their impressions. I suspect they are procedurally obligated to ask 'and what are you sending? ' each and every time for insurance or regulatory reasons. Almost certainly they suspected something was afoot within a few months as the same dude showed up on the first Wednesday of each month, always with identical boxes, with identical dimensions, going to identical and unchanging recipients. Still, they never batted an eye when my replies became ever more exotic. Hmm, perhaps we have stumbled upon our first special guest for 2019, I wonder if they like whisk ... err rosemary-habanero infused vanilla extract.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Month 12 - Johnnie Walker Green Label


Johnnie Walker Green Label
Classification: Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
Country: Scotland
Region: Multiple Regions (Speyside, Highland, Lowland, Islay and the Scottish Islands)
Mash Bill: 100% Malted Barley
Strength: 43.0% ABV (86.0° Proof)
Color: Artificially Colored
Filtration: Chill Filtered
Maturation: 15 Years in both American and European Oak
Price: $59.99 (Total Wine)

Overview

And so it comes to this, our twelfth whisky sample of the year and specifically ounce numbers 45 through 48 of this grand experiment. The first thing I did when devising this concept was to list and assign potential whiskeys to send - each month had to feature an appropriate and meaningful selection, but I did not want to repeat styles on consecutive months. There were revisions, tweaks, and changes to many of the months, yet the original selections for the first month and the last month remained unchanged throughout the editorial process. I wanted to open with an approachable and affordable Single Malt Scotch whose production quality was a notch above most of its price-point rivals. Similarly, I wanted to conclude with a whisky that is maniacally engineered to be reliably enjoyable to a wide spectrum of whiskey fans.

Jack Daniel's, Jim Beam, and Johnnie Walker - this has to be the holy trinity in regard to whiskey brand recognition. Imagine walking into a random watering hole and asking the barkeep simply for 'a whiskey'; it is said that in America it will be a coin-toss as to whether you receive a pour of Jack or Jim, but in the rest of the world, there is a high probability the bartender would pour you a Johnnie Walker.

Just as with Jack and Jim, there really was a Johnnie, well John Walker at least. Born in 1805, John Walker started his professional life as a grocery merchant but quickly shifted his focus to selling spirits. An odd choice for a man who chose not to consume alcohol personally. In his day, blended whiskey was far and away the most common presentation of Scotch Whisky and as such, John Walker produced a number of customer-specific blends of both malt and grain whiskies using just his name written on the bottle as he had no label of his own. In his day, the law forbade blending malt whiskey with grain whiskey - you could blend malts together, you could blend different grain whiskies together, but you were forbidden from blending a malt and a grain whiskey; quite a different story today, but we'll get to that in just a bit.

While John Walker had comfortable success in his life, it was his son and grandson that really skyrocketed the Walker whisky blending business. In 1860, John's son Alexander debuted two design details that are synonymous with Johnnie Walker to this day - its square bottle design (allowing more bottles to fit on a shelf) and its slanted label, precisely 24-degrees upward, left to right (allowing larger and more visible text). So iconic are these two design elements that a bottle of Johnny Walker is immediately distinguishable from all other products that it might happen to share a shelf with. In addition to cementing Johnnie Walker's brand identity, Johnnie Walker went on a distillery purchasing spree to ensure an ample and diverse supply of whisky from which they would produce their blends. You see, to a whiskey blender, consistency is paramount - they strive to ensure a bottle of blended whiskey purchased today tastes identical to a bottle of the same blended whiskey produced a year ago or even ten years ago. Because whiskey varies not only year to year, but barrel to barrel, the only way a whiskey blender can ensure consistency is to produce blends containing as many individual whiskeys as practically possible.

Today, Johnnie Walker is owned and produced by drinks giant Diageo. No entity on Earth produces more whisky than Diageo. In Scotland alone, Digeo operates twenty-eight distilleries whose combined annual yield is approximately one-third of all Scotch whisky produced. It is with the bounty from this stable of distilleries that Johnnie Walker produces its blends. Note that Johnnie Walker produces only Scotch whisky blends which legally are classified into three possible categories:
  1. Blended Malt Scotch Whisky - a blend of two or more single malt Scotch whiskies from different distilleries.
  2. Blended Grain Scotch Whisky - a blend of two or more single grain Scotch whiskies from different distilleries.
  3. Blended Scotch Whisky - a blend of one or more single malt Scotch whiskies with one or more single grain Scotch whiskies.
Of Johnnie Walker's seven core blends, six are Blended Scotch Whiskies (#3 above) and only one, Month Twelve's Green Label, is a Blended Malt Scotch Whisky (#1 above). To me this is a huge distinction because it is only a blended malt that contains only single malt scotch whisky. The other two categories contain single malt and/or single grain, think things like vodka. This means that Johnnie Walker's most expensive core offering - the fabled Blue Label - contains single malt and non-malt Scotch whiskies. For the price of a single bottle of Blue Label, you could buy three bottles of Green Label and have three bottles containing exclusively Single Malt Scotch Whisky. That is a no-brainer to me.

First introduced in 1997, Green Label became immediately popular among single malt fans despite coming from a brand that some single malt devotees chide for being more marketing than substance. Temporarily discontinued in 2012 to make room for Gold and Platinum Labels, Diageo happily brought Green Label back in 2016. Johnnie Walker lists four specific single malts that represent the key components (using their marketing-speak) of Green Label - Talisker (The Power), Linkwood (The Finesse), Craggenmore (The Heart), and as sampled in Month Four, Caol Ila (The Mystery). All four distilleries are unsurprisingly owned by Diageo, but the reality of Green Label is that it is almost certainly comprised of far more malts from additional distilleries. Because all of Johnnie Walker's blending recipes are trade secrets, we can only speculate, but it is almost certain that well over a dozen different single malts are used in Green Label. Some even speculate that over two dozen single malts are used in Green Label which is certainly plausible given Diageo's prolific Scottish portfolio. Regardless of the actual blend recipe, we can state with complete certainty that not only is Green Label only made with Single Malt Scotch Whisky, but that the youngest drop of whisky in the bottle is at least 15-years old; a remarkable attribute given recent trends where whiskies are being released younger or without any age statement whatsoever.

To me whiskey production's two phases are the perfect marriage between science and art. The first phase, distillation, is pure science, pure chemical engineering. The second phase, maturation, is pure art as no two barrels of whiskey will mature identically. A blender must pick the appropriate barrels in the appropriate proportions whose combination will result in the desired taste profile. A good blender can often perform miracles by reliably producing a product that is notably better than the sum of its parts. Blending can just as easily mask imperfect whiskey as it can elevate delightful whiskey. It does boggle the mind to think of the task at hand for the blenders of Johnnie Walker - mixing together dozens of single malts whose end-result will be near identical through the years.

Lastly, I'll conclude with a few thoughts on whiskey blending at home. Consumers can, and should, dabble in whiskey blending at home. Do you have a bottle of ho-hum whiskey? Don't toss it away, try blending it to a higher plateau. Experiment by adding a portion of a favorite whiskey, or a dominate whiskey and, after allowing a few days for the blend to marry, see if it improves the experience. Personally, I have had luck in adding just a few drops of a peated single malt like Laphroaig to a lackluster whiskey; it is amazing how the peat complexity really lifts the overall enjoyment of the mediocre whiskey. Some home blenders approach blending with stedfast discipline, documenting each blending experiment while others are far more casual and fancy-free. There is no right or wrong approach, only experimentation and a loyalty to one's palate. If it tastes great to you, that is all that matters. Blend on my fine malt mates and bourbon buddies.

Tasting Notes



Group Impressions

Well well well, Month Twelve was fascinating indeed; the first month that saw universal enjoyment and desire to purchase the whisky sampled. Since everyone, save myself, tasted this blind, one must give a tremendous pat on the back to the blenders at Johnnie Walker as they bottled a blend that resonated quite positively with everyone in the group without any confirmation or brand bias. Further kudos must be given to both the blenders and the group as everyone picked up on at least one of the blend's official attributes denoted in Johnnie Walker's tasting notes. One of the coolest aspects of Green Label to me personally is how the blend captures so many hallmark single malt notes. You have honey and fruit sweetness from the Highlands and Speyside, grass and salt from the Lowlands, and of course the unmistakable peat from Islay and the Islands regions. Intermingled is a delightful whisper of aromatic woods that most likely comes from the mix of bourbon and sherry barrels used for maturation of the respective malts.

Fitting that our final month had the strongest consensus among the group as to the offering's many qualities and few shortcomings. Everyone picked up on the offering's modest proof, interesting mix of flavors, smoothness, and yes, it's shorter than desired finish. Very well done to all and a hearty thank you for playing along this past year. Rather than say goodbye, let's say until next time because who knows what 2019 will have in store.

Apollo
Our sample this month looked pretty standard upon visual inspection. It had a light brown color, and after swirling it in the glass, the legs started to drip like normal. However, they seemed to stick there on the side of the glass and never really disappeared. That was a little unusual in my experience. Although, it's possible that I just don't often let it sit long enough to notice that!

The smell didn't strike me with anything strong but I did notice a slight smell of peat.

Once I tasted it though, it was clear that this was something nice. It was very smooth. It didn't have much alcohol burn at all. No immediate flavors jumped out at me except for just a general sweetness. But after swallowing it, I was hit with a wonderful peaty flavor. It was like magic. I couldn't taste the peat at all until after it was gone. I've had very peaty scotches before, but never one that was so stealthy. It was a great flavor and a really nice surprise. Based on the peat flavor and the smoothness, I'm expecting this one to be a scotch in the 80 proof range.

So, as you can probably tell, I really liked this one. It was smooth drinking, very flavorful, and that flavor presented itself in an extremely interesting way. I can't wait to find out what it was!

Jonathan Quayle Higgins
Appearance
Light copper with a bit of the infamous e-150 glow of artificial coloring. Normally I loathe when producers artificially color their whiskies, but I have read that caramel coloring is used in blended whiskies for a practical purpose as it helps the multiple whiskies blend and marry in a blend. The truth is, every blended whiskey I have seen has been artificially colored, so it is unfair to ding Johnnie Walker for this if it is standard operating procedure for blenders.

Nose
Barley sugar, grass notes, fresh grass, not dried grass. Definite peat smoke, gentle, certainly not a pure Islay malt, but very reminiscent of the delightful Caol Ila. After a few moments in the glass, more fruit emerges for me, particularly peaches. There is a wood note here, not a charred wood, more of a aromatic wood. Gentle alcohol on the nose, far from fierce, but enough to know this is indeed a distilled spirit. This is a very inviting nose, a nice balance of smoke, fruit, and aromatics.

Taste
As with the nose, barley sugar leads the way here. Mild smoke and finally a fruit sweetness near the end of the sip. There is alcohol here, I would grade it as mild, not sharp, not even prickly, but present. Adding water is interesting, I feel after water this whisky becomes a bit spicier. I can’t say I have experienced increased spiciness as a result of adding a few drops of water with any other whisky.

Finish
Short if I am honest, medium-short if I am being generous. Smoke is most prevalent with the aromatic wood from the nose reappearing and lingering throughout. Just as with the taste, the addition of water brings more spice out on the finish. I just wish the finish was longer...

Overall
My previous bottle of Green Label had a screw top and a intricate plastic pour diffuser in the neck. I didn’t mind either, but the most recent bottles purchased have returned to an empty neck and a cork topper. Also, the most recent bottles have a lovely thick slab of tapered glass found at the bottle’s base, I gotta admit, it looks posh and fantastic.

Bottle aesthetics aside, Green Label is a thoroughly enjoyable whisky. I know some fans of Scotch whisky immediately dismiss Johnnie Walker the same way some fans of Bourbon dismiss Jack Daniel’s, but that is a bit unfair in my opinion. Not only is there nothing wrong with Green Label, I think there is a lot of enjoyment and satisfaction to be found in its pours. I do wish it was offered at a higher proof, even 3% more ABV would be a significant boost. The finish is in my opinion the weakest aspect to the experience as it is far too short. That ABV bump would help this I suspect. The nose and taste are both quite enjoyable - some fruit, some peat, some aromatic wood, a very nice all around experience. Price-wise, of course I would love a lower price, but in reality I can’t knock its $60 asking price given its 15-year age statement. These days, the $60 price-point typically nets you a 12-year single malt, so given the 15-year age statement combined with the luxury tax commanded by the Johnnie Walker label, $60 is not too shabby. This is a malt that has always been on my shelf and I find myself pouring Green Label whenever I just want to relax with an enjoyable, familiar pour.

Zeus
Appearance
Pale gold color. Legs are easily apparent.

Smell
Woody/smoky scent initially. Smells like a scotch, but not an overpowering one as the wood scent was subtle.  A little sweetness comes through in the scent for me. Cherry popped up on further sniffs.

Taste
Very light bite to it, somewhat mellow. There is that cherry again, tasting it this time. Not much wood taste to it, but it's there in the back. The cherry taste degraded quickly after further sips, might of been me consciously trying to pull that flavor out of it.

Finish
Nice smooth finish. The wood/smoke comes through came out better here.

General Thoughts
At first I was thinking this is a scotch. A very fine scotch.  It's so we'll balanced started to think this might be a Japanese whiskey. I compared it to a couple of Japanese whiskey's I had, a Yamazaki 12 year and Suntory Toki. The Toki was closer, but I think the sample tasted better.  fter the comparison I'm still on the fence, might be a Scotch or a Japanese whiskey, which a slight leaning to the Japanese whiskey. Great whiskey regardless, this would be one I would seek out and buy.

Admiral Hawkes
This month’s treat is a pleasant Scotch, with a nice golden/amber color, a nose that says scotch, but without the sting of alcohol that the hotter ones deliver. I could not quite find the words to describe the aroma.. almost a little corn, which is weird unless it was aged in a bourbon barrel.

I had the first taste neat as always. I liked it and found it drinkable. I want to say I tasted smoke and fire, but it was not overtly peaty, not sure how they pull that off. Nor was it hot, as my first sniff anticipated. The aftertaste, and I mean a good minute after a nice sip, had some sweetness to it. I was pleased, but somewhat baffled, because I still could not find words.

Two weeks later, I poured the remainder in a glass with intent to add a few drops of water.  I didn’t... neat again, and much the same result.  This time the aftertaste went int the direction of orchard fruit and a hint of vanilla. This was a good dram, delivering a smooth and not overpowering experience. I usually like to make guesses, but instead I will await the reveal and be surprised regardless.

Happy Holidays to all!

Carol Baldwin
Appearance
Golden yellow. When sipping I noticed several well formed legs.

Smell
Like a scotch! Ok, to elaborate, slightly peaty and grassy with some wood. A bit of resin and alcohol warmth.

Taste
It's a flavor explosion on the tongue. It's at first peaty and grassy; resinous. It mellows into a softly woody taste with well balanced alcohol heat and hints of tobacco.

Finish
Slightly bitter and warm.

General Thoughts
I really like this well balanced whiskey. A lot of flavor and it's a pleasure to sip neat. A fitting finish to end 2018!

Waldo Norris
Had a great night, cold outside, raining, and just a touch of feeling like winter (for Florida), so what better way to warm my insides with a nice glass of whiskey.

Appearance is a golden amber color

Aroma smelled of spices, tea and peppermint, with perhaps just a tad of vanilla.

The taste was smooth and fresh, which develop into a gentle bite, which had a dry, clean and brief finish.

Just to come clean, I had my first glass of this on a night that was a normal Florida in Winter kind of night. I did enjoy it on the first night, neat as a whistle. I rather enjoyed just sipping on this, as I wasn't looking for a heavy liquor that night. I would say this is an 80 proof whiskey, which on that particular night was perfect.

Tonight when I tried this glass, I did add a drop of water and allowed the drink to open a little more to see what more I could get from the nose. It did smell about the same as the first night, although I thought I could pick up more of the Vanilla on the second night. I'm not sure I liked adding the water as much (albeit, my cooler shoved a little more in the glass than i wanted), but it almost took away from some of the first night flavor that I was picking up on.

This to me seems like a drinkable whiskey, probably American. I'll venture a guess that is may be something from the Jim Beam distillery.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Favorite Pours of 2018 - Part Three: Jefferson's Ocean Voyage 14

Life my friends is a matter of perspective. Imagine if we selected two near-identical barrels, taste wise, of 6 to 7 year old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey and then rolled one of those barrels back into the warehouse, but rolled the other into a steel shipping container that itself was placed on a cargo ship that proceeded to take to the high seas for the next six months. During its journey, the barrel would cross the equator four times, pass through the Panama Canal at least once, and visit over thirty different ports of call. The question is, once our seafaring barrel returned home, would it still taste 'near-identical' to its warehouse-bound sibling as it had before departing?

Bourbon nerds tend to have one of two responses to the above scenario - 'wow, who cares, that sounds like a pure marketing gimmick to sell inferior whiskey at a premium price ' or 'wow, that sounds amazing, let's get to tasting and find out! '. See, perspective, but sending barrels of whiskey scooting around the world's oceans is precisely what Jefferson's does to hundreds of barrels of bourbon each year. Their motivation is two-fold - first to pay homage to how bourbon used to travel from Kentucky to New Orleans via flatboats on the Mississippi River, and second to explore the effects of near-constant motion/agitation that a ship at sea induces on barrels of whiskey. To date, there have been sixteen different voyages (Jefferson's website only lists fifteen, but I do have a bottle from voyage 16), most bottled at a common 45%, but some bottled at 'cask strength'.

I will admit, what drew me to this particular bottle was the neck-tag bearing the double red-with-black square maritime flags that are flown when hurricanes are nearby and approaching. I had never purchased a Jefferson's product up to that point, but reading the tag's text describing Voyage 14's journey pushed me over the speculative edge. The ship carrying Voyage 14's bourbon departed Savannah on May 31, 2017. While en-route to the Panama Canal, the ship would fly a single red-with-black square flag indicating proximity to 'only' tropical storm level weather. When the ship crossed into the Pacific to continue its journey however, she would fly the double red-with-black square flags five separate times as she darted between typhoons while servicing her Pacific Basin itinerary before crossing back through the Panama Canal to return home.

Now does any of this make a lick of difference in this bourbon's quality? That I'm afraid I cannot answer conclusively, but I don't think anyone would dispute that it makes for one heck of a story. For me, a whiskey's story does play a part in the overall experience, but I do completely understand those who feel that it's what fills the glass that is important, not what fills the advertising copy.

So what's in this glass? Well, we can say Kentucky Straight Bourbon but we cannot get more specific than that as Jefferson's doesn't actually distill a drop of their bourbon nor do they say where their older bourbons originated from. Moving past the provenance, I will offer my opinion that regardless of voyage number, each pour I have had from the Jefferson's Ocean line has tasted entirely unique from any other bourbon I have tasted, even within other Jefferson's product lines. From first smell and taste, I was instantly intrigued by these bourbons.

The nose is unlike any other straight bourbon I have ever enjoyed. Floral, candy, cotton candy, even bubble gum all come to mind. There is some spice, but the hallmark vanilla and caramel are notably muted, replaced with more of a toffee smell. Bottled at 56% ABV, the alcohol is nearly absent to the nose. The aromas continue to the palate, but the spice is far more dominant in the mouth; this has got to be a rye-based bourbon. Amazingly, the sweetness, and this is a sweet bourbon, is not the corn sweetness of most bourbons, no it is a candy sweetness, dare I say even a salted caramel or toffee. There is near-zero wood in the experience, which is staggering to me - one of the few bourbons I have experienced where this is true. While this bourbon sips far easier than its proof indicates, there is an alcohol prickle indicative of a youthful bourbon. Don't confuse prickle with harshness however, there is nothing harsh in this experience for me. The finish is medium-length to me with spice first, then more of that candy sweetness, the bubblegum impression from the nose returns for me on the finish. Like with the smell and taste, there is near-zero oak/wood on the finish.

Did the months at sea influence this bourbon's flavor? Well, given how unique every Ocean pour is to me from any other bourbon, I personally feel the answer is yes. But returning to perspective, I also fall on the 'wow, that sounds amazing ' side of the fence, so impartial I am not. I love the idea of bourbon sloshing around as a ship plods along on the open ocean and I want to believe that yes, being at sea actually does impart some maritime magic into the bourbon. I want to believe...

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.
- John Masefield

Drink up me hearties yo ho

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Favorite Pours of 2018 - Part Two: Colonel E.H. Taylor Small Batch

Whoooo boy, this was not the original introduction to this post. Once the initial draft was complete, I realized that this post ballooned far beyond what I expected as I prattled on about the man and his namesake product line before ever discussing the specific bourbon I enjoyed this year. Faced with a choice between editorial discipline or blubbering ceaselessly, I opted for a compromise - a get-to-the-point intervention where I move the portion specifically dealing with the pour up to the top and move the backstory bloat to the end for those who might be interested. So without further ado, let's get to it, hooch first, history second.

Colonel E. H. Taylor Small Batch bourbon is produced by the Buffalo Trace Distillery. Of the four regularly produced whiskeys in the Taylor product line, the Small Batch is the easiest* to find at retail. Those familiar with Buffalo Trace products immediately understand the meaning of the asterisk as virtually every product from that fabled distillery typically lingers for less than a day upon delivery to retail shelves. That being said, each year for the past three years, I have been able to purchase at least one bottle of E. H. Taylor Small Batch at retail, so there is hope.

Late last year, I had Matic ... err Robin Masters present to me four identical glasses, each containing a half-ounce of a different Buffalo Trace product. Each glass was labeled with only a single letter such that Robin knew what was in each glass, but I had no clue. After working through the lineup, I offered up my ranking as well as a guess as to what bourbon was in which glass. I ranked the samples in the following order, favorite to least-favorite: #1) E. H. Taylor Small Batch, #2) Blanton's, #3) Eagle Rare, and #4) Buffalo Trace. Embarrassingly, I did not correctly identify any of the individual samples. Going into the blind tasting, I was convinced that I would put Eagle Rare at #1 and Blanton's at #4. This goes to show why blind tasting is such a powerful tool - it forces you to experience a whiskey in a totally honest way, void of all preconception and bias.

Bottled at 50% ABV, the inviting copper color is only the beginning of this whiskey's enjoyment for me. The nose is interesting - seductively, there is more to smell here than bourbon's hallmark notes of vanilla and caramel. There is actual fruit for me, cherries come to mind, as has apricot in some tastings. Very odd because Buffalo Trace's Eagle Rare bourbon is made from the same recipe and is more or less the same age, yet in there, Jolly Rancher Green Apple jumps out at me. Incredible.

Taste-wise there is a vibrant corn/grain sweetness but with a kettle-corn twist on the sweetness. Some vanilla, light oak, and light to medium spice, particularly cinnamon. The finish is on the long side for me and improves with each successive sip. More sweetness, light spice, light wood and zero drying effect. Of the three phases of the experience, I would say taste takes the top spot with the finish slightly edging out the nose for the second step on the podium, but I am splitting hairs here, I thoroughly enjoy every aspect of this bourbon.

Restructuring intervention complete, but wait, there's more! For those interested in more Taylor goodness, feel free to peruse below, beginning with this posts's original introduction.

Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr. was quite the individual - a mayor, Kentucky state senator, successful businessman, all with notable distinction, but those achievements take a backseat to the purpose of this post because Colonel Taylor was also one heck of a whiskey man. While the topic of this post is the bourbon bearing his name, I feel it would be a great injustice to not mention at least a bullet-point summary of his whiskey contributions. In 1870 Colonel Taylor purchased a small distillery that today is known as Buffalo Trace. By all historical accounts, Colonel Taylor labored tirelessly to improve the quality of bourbon production and presentation which in turn cemented bourbon's perception as a premium spirit. In his day, bourbon's quality was often compromised by unscrupulous vendors who horrendously altered the whiskey they purchased from a distillery before selling it to individual consumers - think rampant dilution compensated with grain alcohol, turpentine, tobacco juice for color, etc. Because of this, bourbon began to gain a reputation of rot-gut garbage and Colonel Taylor, along with other distillery owners, joined forces to address this issue. Among the innovations - whiskey would be individually bottled at the distillery under brand names and sold to vendors in sealed bottles as well as the Bottled in Bond Act of 1897 that introduced a Federal Government supervised standard in spirit production, maturation, bottling, and labeling.

Colonel Taylor also changed for the better the perception of the distillery itself. He was the first to build a distillery not as an industrial plant, but as a tourist destination. His distilleries featured intricate architectural details, elaborate gardens, and ample space for visitors to explore, relax, host formal social events, or just a leisurely afternoon family picnic. The last distillery he owned, the Old Taylor Distillery on Glenn's Creek near Frankfort, Kentucky was recently purchased, restored, and back to distilling whiskey under the name Castle & Key. Happily, the new owners preserved and accurately restored much of Colonel Taylor's original vision both architecturally as well as in spirit production. To oversee spirit production, Marianne Eaves, formerly Woodford Reserve's co-master distiller, was hired as master distiller.

Now let's talk bourbon - produced by Buffalo Trace, a distillery Colonel Taylor once owned, Colonel E. H. Taylor Small Batch is sold as a non-age-stated, Bottled in Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Because it is Bottled in Bond, we know that the bourbon in the bottle is at least 4 years old and is bottled at precisely 50% ABV. Having tried numerous whiskeys that are four and five years old, upon trying E. H. Taylor Small Batch, it became blindingly obvious to me that Buffalo Trace is using much older whiskey than the legal minimum. Indeed, even Buffalo Trace's master distiller Harlen Wheatley has verbally stated in interviews that the bourbon used in the E. H. Taylor line is on average 10 to 12 years old.

Further, Buffalo Trace has also stated that E. H. Taylor Small Batch is produced using their Mash Bill #1, which is also known as their 'low rye' mash bill. Currently, Buffalo Trace has three bourbon 'recipes', each differentiated by its mash bill:

Mash bill #1, low rye (thought to be less than 10% rye), produces their E. H. Taylor, Eagle Rare, George Stagg (both antique and Jr.), their namesake Buffalo Trace, Old Charter, and Benchmark #8 bourbons.

Mash bill #2, high rye (thought to be 12 - 15% rye), produces their Elmer T. Lee, Blanton's, Hancock Reserve, and Ancient Age bourbons.

Mash bill #3, wheated (wheat in place of rye), produces their Weller and Van Winkle bourbons.

Incredibly, Buffalo Trace has offered nine different variants of whiskey within their E.H. Taylor family, yet most were limited, one-and-done type releases. Almost all releases however were produced from the mash bill #1 recipe. There are four annually produced E. H. Taylor whiskeys:

Small Batch - the most common, verbally stated that each batch consists of 20 to 40 barrels of bourbon blended and selected by their tasting panel. In my opinion the most consistent in regard to taste-profile.

Single Barrel - just as the name implies, a single barrel of bourbon that Buffalo Trace's tasting panel feels is representative of the E. H. Taylor taste profile. Personally, I have had examples of single barrel that are toe-curlingly incredible, but I have also had examples that I felt were less impressive than the Small Batch.

Barrel Proof - also as the name implies - effectively Small Batch that is bottled without dilution. The only offering in the E. H. Taylor lineup that is not Bottled in Bond as it is not bottled at precisely 50% ABV. Naively, I passed up the opportunity to purchase a bottle of this at retail over three years ago; I have yet to see another bottle in the wild.

Straight Rye - not a bourbon and as such, made from Buffalo Trace's forth whiskey recipe, their rye whiskey recipe. I have never personally sampled this, though it is the easiest of the E.H. Taylor lineup to find in retail shops.

Now we get into the exotic, one-time/limited releases in the E. H. Taylor lineup. I have personally seen only one of these in the wild, but I would love to try some, particularly the tornado survivor:

Old Fashioned Sour Mash - Buffalo Trace state that whiskey bottled under this label utilizes a sour mash process similar to one used in Taylor's day - one that allows the mash to sour naturally for days before distillation. I believe this was one of Buffalo Trace's experimental offerings and as such its production run was small and finite. I do not believe Buffalo Trace has produced this variant in some time.

Warehouse C Tornado Surviving - just as the name implies, on April 2, 2006, a tornado passed near the distillery and damaged Warehouse C (a warehouse that Taylor himself had built in 1881). It took some time for the warehouse to be repaired, in fact the warehouse went roofless and partially wall-less for an entire summer, exposing the barrels stacked inside to the elements. Upon tasting the barrels years later, Buffalo Trace felt they had something special and as such offered a very limited, very rare product. I have never personally tasted this bourbon, but have read recaps from many who have tasted this bourbon blind, and all agree that it is beyond fantastic.

Cured Oak - The barrels used to produce this variant were constructed of staves that were seasoned (aka cured) for 13 months (more than double the standard length of time) before being assembled into barrels. The bourbon was aged for an astonishing 17 years in these barrels before bottling.

Seasoned Wood - one of two E. H. Taylor bourbons not to be made from mash bill #1, this rendition featured Buffalo Trace's wheated bourbon recipe. The barrels for this release utilized staves that were immersed in an enzyme rich bath for a period of time before being kiln-dried as well as staves that were seasoned outdoors for six months and still other staves that were left outdoors for a full 12 months. Finally, all the staves were brought together to form the barrels in which this release was aged.

Four Grain - essentially a one-time release, however Buffalo Trace spread the release across two consecutive years. Demand skyrocketed for this release when Jim Murray named this bourbon his 2018 World Whiskey of the Year. Just as the label indicates, this offering was made from a custom mash bill containing corn, malted barley, rye, and wheat. Aged for 12 and 13 years respectively and released in 2017 and 2018, this bourbon became one of the most sought after items of the year, particularly after the accolades started flowing.



Thursday, December 13, 2018

Favorite Pours of 2018 - Part One: The Balvenie Peat Week 14 Year

Despite Best of 2018  type monologues being a tad cliched, the urge to recap and highlight some of my favorite pours from this year is difficult to resist. As such, allow me the indulgence, and my apologies for contributing to a phenomenon that is overplayed, but at least we're talking whiskey here.

Balvenie has always been a hit-or-miss distillery for me in terms of their offerings. Their now-discontinued 15 Year Single Barrel from ex-bourbon barrels remains one of my favorite pours and constituted the first whisky I purchased in volume to 'bunker away' for the future. Sadly, the current rendition of the 15 Year Single Barrel, drawn from ex-sherry barrels, fell flat to my palate and consequently my half-full bottle was gifted to a friend who enjoyed the pour far more than I. Similarly, neither Balvenie's popular 12 Year Doublewood or 14 Year Caribbean Cask resonated with my tastes and consequently left me cautious when contemplating the purchase of an unknown Balvenie offering.

In 2017, Balvenie debuted a 14-year Peat Week release. The premise - beginning in 2002, Balvenie dedicated one week of their production schedule to producing and distilling a heavily peated malted barley. Balvenie's motivation, according to Internet scuttlebutt, was primarily to give their production team experience in producing a peated malted barley (Balvenie is one of the few Scottish distilleries that still produce, rather than purchase, their malted barley).

Two traits make the 14-year Peat Week a noteworthy offering from Balvenie: first, and most glaring, Balvenie traditionally only distills non-peated malt and second, Balvenie opted to use 100% Highland peat rather than Islay peat; geographically appropriate considering Balvenie is located in the Speyside region of the Highlands. When most folks think peated whisky, they think of Islay malts - Laphroaig, Ardbeg, Lagavulin, etc. Each of those Islay malts deliver an earthy, grassy, bog fire due to Islay's peat characteristics. Highland peat however is a totally different animal. Rather than emanating from swampy bogs adjacent to coastlines, Highland peat comes from forest-dense, rocky, mountainous terrain and as such is more mineral and dry-wood smoke.

Once distilled, the whisky is placed in American oak barrels, almost certainly ex-bourbon barrels, and left to age for fourteen years. Come bottling time, Balvenie do the whisky a great service by bottling in natural color, without chill-filtration, and at a very generous 48.3% alcohol by volume. The label found on the packaging and bottle displays the year of distillation, essentially that Peat Week's vintage if you will.

2017 saw the release of the 2002 distillation year and this year saw the release of the 2003 distillation year. When the 2002 vintage appeared on the shelf, my apprehension was overshadowed by my curiosity to try a Highland peated malt, a fairly rare style of whisky these days, from a distillery that has both excited and disappointed my palate through the years. Odd isn't it - the allure of a gamble that you know will not deliver average results, it's either going to be cheers or tears; such gambles often bring out the inner-optimist of even the most resolute of pessimists. The pour, happily, was love at first sniff and sip - campfire is most prevelant, but the smoke is very controlled. If I were to compare the 'smokiness' of other peated malts to the Balvenie, I would score Laphroaig or Ardbeg a 9 out of 10, Highland Park a 2 out of 10 and the Balvenie a 4 out of 10.

The ABV is high enough to give the whisky an impression of feistiness, but no where near harsh or rough. Unsurprisingly, the malt does fantastically well with a drop or two of water which opens up more fruit and honey notes without diminishing the peat smoke one bit.

I have been fortunate enough to purchase bottles from both the 2002 and 2003 distillation years. They are predictably similar, but not as identical as one might guess. To my tastes, the 2003 distillation year is slightly more peaty, perhaps a 5 out of 10 using the scale mentioned previously. This increased peat could be due to the barley used in the 2003 run or it could also be due to my opened 2002 bottle having oxidized over the course of the year as opposed to my freshly opened 2003 bottle. Regardless, both are darn enjoyable and recommended to any peated whisky fan. If you do happen to procure a bottle, be sure to taste the Balvenie Peat Week alongside an Islay peated whisky - I think you will be surprised at how the subtle differences between Highland and Islay peat really do stand out when experienced alongside one another.


Saturday, December 1, 2018

The Standard

Earlier this year I talked about variations of the Old Fashioned that are enjoyed in our house. Since then, I noticed I kept returning to one specific variant and thought it only fair to share. By and large, this variant is in keeping with those discussed earlier, but there is a new dancer at the disco - orange curacao.

Like many, when shopping for orange curacao, I would trundle down to the liqueur/schnapps section of the bottle shop and pluck out one of the cheaper offerings. How nonsensical that I would agonize over a cocktail's main spirits, purchasing the best examples I could, but then put near-zero effort into the support player's selection. That all changed when I was strongly urged by a friend to consider purchasing a 'proper' curacao, one actually comprised of cognac/brandy and real bitter orange peels from the curacao orange (yup, an actual fruit!). I am here to tell you malt mates and bourbon buddies, what a difference it makes - gone is the syrupy, cloyingly artificial orange imposter and in its place a graceful, smooth, authentically orange elixir. If interested, the brand used is Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao and can be found in most large liquor stores for ~$35/750 ml. Now, let's get mixing!



Ingredients
  • 1/3 ounce Dry Orange Curacao
  • 1 tablespoon Pure Maple Syrup
  • 3/4 ounce Rye Whiskey
  • 3/4 ounce 'smooth' Bourbon Whiskey (Four Roses Small Batch in this case)
  • 3/4 ounce 'feisty' Bourbon Whiskey (Evan Williams Bottled in Bond in this case)
  • 5 dashes Peychaud's Bitters

Technique
  1. Pour the curacao into your glass and give the glass a good swirl such that the curacao coats the sides of the glass. 
  2. Add the maple syrup to the glass
  3. Add each of the whiskeys
  4. Add the bitters
  5. Give everything a good stir then taste. If too sweet, add more whiskey. If too bitter, add more maple syrup. Adjust to your preferences, keeping in mind we will be adding ice next, so some dilution will occur. Personally, I prefer a more whiskey-forward taste than sweetness, but you are the king or queen of your cocktail.
  6. Add ice and stir well for ~30 seconds. If desired, remove ice.
  7. Cheers!