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It was Randy/Raz’s birthday, so I baked him a cake, and of course there was whisky in it.  I know Orangire paires well with chocolate, so I set out to make a cake with the same flavor profile. It came out rather pretty, and very tasty, so I thought I’d share the process, since the results were devoured.

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday!

What I used:ingredients

  • Duncan Heinz white cake mix
  • Orange Juice
  • Eggs
  • Canola oil
  • Compass Box Orangire scotch
  • Orange extract
  • Mini semi-sweet morsels
  • Food Coloring

What I did

Yes, they do make orange cake mix, but I knew it would have imitation flavors, and possible taste like baby aspirin, so I used juice to kick up the orangeyness of the cake.

I replaced the cup of water the mix calls for with a 50/50 mix of orange juice and Orangire, but when I tasted the batter there wasn’t quite enough orange flavor, so I added another ounce/shot of whisky and a few drops of orange extract. Once the cake batter with the right consisteincy, I poured in a handful of mini morsels and gave it a light stir before getting out the bunt pan.

With the pan well-greased, I poured the batter in. I finished it with another handful of chips, and used a spatula to even out the batter and distribute the chips. Then it was bake time.

I found it took about five minutes longer than the box claimed to get it cooked through and be a nice golden brown. I turned it out carefully on a waxpaper-covered cooling rack and put in the ‘fridge to cool. I also found the extra liquid, and the acid of the OJ gave the cake a very high rise, resulting in a little “bubble” of cake on what would be the bottom.

Cake2

   Cake3

Icing and Glaze

I boiled about a cup of orange juice with an equal amount of icing sugar, a pat of butter and two marshmallows to make an orange glaze. I also melted some chocolate chips with shortening in a ziplock back to make a chocolate icing. I waited until the last possible minute before glazing and icing the cake, but it was still warm, so the orange soaked in a bit more than I wanted.

HalfCake

What I will do when I make this again

  • Replace the orange juice with a concentrate.
  • Leave out one or two egg whites to reduce the amount of leavening.
  • Glaze with just a juice-free, less sugar, Orangire and (unflavored) whiskey reduction so it’s not as sweet.
NoCake

All gone!

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LA Scotch Club – ClubMez Dalmore tasting and paired dinner at the Far Bar

EventFlyerWell that was a mouthful, and so was the evening.  I’ve always liked Dalmore, but it never made a distinct impression on me until now – and now I even know why. Through conversation I learned Dalmore chill-filters and uses coloring additives. I find the later more disturbing that the former – but it does explain the uniformity of color across the six drams offered.

And for the taste – while chill filtering can remove some of the particles and oils that can add distinction to a dram, I learned every bottle of Dalmore has been  in at least two barrels, American oak, then sherry.  I think this tradition is what leads to the sameness of flavor throughout expressions … but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The setup:

TheLineUp

The plan was to introduce each dram, taste it straight then try the offered food pairing. With one ounce pours, this will require some restraint, and since the food was set-up as a buffet, a little more exercise than I’d planned – but it worked out okay.

I’m of two minds on the provided mat; while I like having reference material, I don’t like being told what one should perceive on the nose and or palette. I like to judge a taste completely blind so I don’t look the flavors mentioned in the descriptions as I make my notes.

Dram the first – 12 year http://ift.tt/1tEEcZr
Matured for an initial nine years in American white oak ex-bourbon casks before being carefully divided. One half continues its maturation in bourbon barrels, the other half is transferred to 30 year old Matusalem oloroso sherry casks. Complex, yet balanced, The Dalmore 12 year old is the epitome of the Dalmore house style.

12WithSoupA nice medium gold, and a mild nose of citrus honey and wood. The taste is soft, with a little burn that is a slightly disturbing counterpoint to almost floral tones.  There is a whisper of citrus, but it’s gone as soon as you perceive it. It wants to be complex, but it’s just not there, the few different notes are disparate and when the get close they are more likely to combat one another instead of layering harmoniously.

This was served with a Beef Cocino, and the fatty broth and rich flavors brought out the honey notes and otherwise complemented the dram nicely.

This was a nice start, but I found it a short and simple dram, gone almost before you are finished tasting it.

Second Offering – 15 year http://ift.tt/1rmUT9T
“Twelve years maturing in American white oak ex-bourbon casks, then a three year finish in three different sherry woods – Amoroso, Apostoles and Matusalem oloroso. A robust, yet elegant spirit.”

15WithBeef This is a deeper gold, with thick legs. The nose is still sweet, with notes of apples, oranges and honey in the background – odd that for all that wood it’s finished in; I don’t pick up any of it on the nose. It is softer than the 12, more fruit than wood, but I lose the sweetness I liked in the 12 and on the nose of this one. Overall more harmonious that the 12, but not my favorite.

This was paired with a “aussie pie” which is a beef pasty – this dram wants something lighter, with more layers of flavors, maybe a chicken Florentine, or stuffed fish.

Last age statement, the 18 year old http://ift.tt/1rmUT9U
Matured initially for 14 years in American white oak ex-bourbon casks, the whisky is then transferred to 30 year old Matusalem oloroso sherry wood for a further four years. Bottled at 43% alcohol by volume, The Dalmore 18 year old offers a provocative and intense taste experience with an enduring aftertaste of cinnamon and nutmeg.

As I was holding each up to the light, I noticed colors all seem to blend together – this is when my friend mentioned Dalmore’s use of colorings. Makes sense – look at the lineup side-by-side:

Dalmore Lineup

from Dalmore’s own site

I don’t think you can get that kind of tonal uniformity without creating it. I’m sure using the similar barrels in all expressions helps, but still, I’d be curious what these look like straight out of the barrel, or rather barrels.18WithDuck

The nose is like oatmeal, a little nut and spice mixed with the grain, there may be wood in the background, but I’m not picking up much.

This is the first layered flavor I’ve had tonight, unfortunately the second layer is burn. This starts of soft and sweet – a little dried fruit, and little vanilla . . and then your mouth is full of moonshine for a moment.  Once that passes you get a beautiful finish of spice and nutshells that linger in the mouth like chicory coffee.  Food – a duck empanada was offered – suppresses that fiery middle layer and turns this into something I can drink all night.

 

The Reserved Dram – Cigar Malt Reserve – http://ift.tt/1rmUVOV
The Dalmore Cigar Malt Reserve benefits from a judicious selection of aged stocks drawn from casks of three types: American white oak ex-bourbon casks, 30 year old Matusalem oloroso sherry butts and premier cru Cabernet Sauvignon wine barriques.
Bottled at 44% alcohol by volume, the body, structure and character of this extraordinary expression is the perfect complement to a fine cigar.

This was in place of the Grand Reserve on the mat – so I got my blind tasting since I hadn’t touched the handout beyond taking this picture:

Cigar malt

This is a darker gold than the others, almost a mahogany. The nose promised me notes of caramel, chocolate and peaches. And the taste is just what I like: smoky without smoke, fruity without sweetness, caramel notes lingering on the mouth,  a rich and smooth melody that hums a while after finishing the taste.

CigarWithLambCurse the Los Angeles legislation, but now that it was mentioned to go with a cigar, I want one. It’s funny, I got quite a bit of burn from the 43% 18-year, but this, at 44%, had almost none.

The roasted lamb is very nice, but it’s not the right thing for this dram – I’d save this for dessert – something sweet and equally rich.

 

Hail to the King – King Alexander IIIhttp://ift.tt/1tEEcZJ
Crafted to honour the act of saving Scotland’s King in 1263, this expression unites six specially selected casks housing spirit of perfect maturity. Whiskies matured in ex-bourbon casks, Matusalem oloroso sherry wood, Madeira barrels, Marsala casks, port pipes and Cabernet Sauvignon wine barriques are brought together in perfect harmony. Each cask gives its own flavour notes, delivering a unique complex single malt whisky revered by connoisseurs.

This was the crown jewel of the night, two people at my table said they were here just for this dram, and hinted that one can not get it in the states.  The expression spends time in six different woods . . this should be a soft and complex expression …

KingAlex

Or not.  The color seems flat and next to the others – I’m not sure what bottle they used for the promotional image – maybe it’s the full bottle, or the black background – but in this glass it looked pale. The nose has the similar sweetness as the others at the core, but highlighted by grass and grain with whispers of berries and cream.

The taste is almost not there. I took a moment to clear my palette and start again with the nose, but the taste is very faint . . soft and gentle, very easy to drink straight, but not very complicated.  It reminds me of an Irish with the soft green notes. It’s a fine dram, but I don’t think I’d pay $300 for the bottle. Pass the Cigar Malt back here, please.King Alex

Oh yes, it was paired with a very good éclair, iced in chocolate and filled with pastry cream; a delicious end to the dinner, but far too rich for this soft, whispery expression.

 

 

I ended the evening talking whiskey and barrel-aged beers with the host, and pouring myself another dram of the Cigar Malt .  . really, this was the standout dram. I may have to invest in a bottle and get together with some smokers and see if and how it enhances that experience.

Any takers? ;>

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No, not that kind of Tripple-X. From the L.A. Scotch Club website: (The specific meeting page is now archived) Scotch is traditionally distilled twice while Irish whisky three times. By tradition, an “X” is used designate each time a spirit has been distilled. Scotch would normally be XX, but on the occasions when it is distilled three times, you get a XXX expression. Only one distillery in Scotland regularly distills three times, Auchentoshan.

LA Scotch Club Malt Poutin' Night - archived

This evening’s tasting included several offerings from Auchentoshan, a Benriach and an Octomore Trestarig (pronounced “trace-arak”) Futures bottle that was limited to investors of Bruichladdich. 

Image from the distiller website

Auchentoshan 12

First DramWe started with the 12-year-old Auchentoshan. Bringing the measured dram to my nose, I noticed the strong alcohol scent and had my doubts about opening a tasting with this dram. It was a bit sharp to taste, but there was a nutty sweetness at the back of the palette with little hints of maple and vanilla that get stronger as the dram breathes. Bu the third taste, I was quite happy with the flavors.

 

Dram the 2ndAuchentoshan 3-wood

This is a bit more complex, with a dark caramel, wine barrel (sherry) scent skirted with cherry and touches of vanilla. It’s a little peppery on the tongue, but nice wood notes and long notes of sweetness. A bloom with drops of water opens up the nose, but doesn’t do much for the taste. This is not a new dram to me, but it one I enjoy quite a bit.

 

Auchentoshan un chill-filtered

Oh this is lovely. I remember this nose from Auchentoshan 10 year, a whisper of floral, and a flavor profile parallel to white wine. The mouth feel rolls around between being creamy and almost effervescent. The flavors and texture makes me want herbed chicken or risotto instead of this cheese pizza.

Auchentoshan Un-ChillfilteredSignatory Vintage Un Chillfiltered

  A drop of water brings the notes of hard candy
to the foreground without totally muting the other notes mentioned before.

 I think this would mix well,
or even be good over ice.

 

 

Bottle image is from the distillery

BenRiach 12, in the bottle and the glass

This one made me nervous – Benriach can be heavy with peat, but I was happily surprised, it’s nice for a brand that can go very peaty. Malty and a little syrup in the nose, with greener notes around the edges. Hits like the speyside it is, which is a bit jarring after the light lowlands, but not the roughest I’ve had by far.

pronounced "trace-a-rak"Octomore TrestarigBruichladdich Futures

This is a futures bottle, available to investors at Bruichladdich and this one is about five years old. The first scent is plastic, but there is fruit behind it, a promise of a better taste ahead. Going back the nose gets better, and different each time. This is another dram that gets better as it sits in the air a few moments.
The flavor is remarkable; light and soft, with fruit and grain in equal measure but without a hint of breakfast cereal. I could drink it all night. The mouth feel lingers with a creaminess that almost forces you to savor the dram slowly.

 

Auchentoshan 36

 This is the crown jewel of the night, the bottle that was put in the oak in 1966.

Distilled in 1966

Wow… all sweetness and wood on the nose, you can tell it’s been in bourbon casks. The taste is a good match with the nose, and not as quiet as I’d expect from something that has spent over 30 years in the wood. There is malted vanilla in the middle, quietly humming along with the woody almost caramel notes.  It’s a cask strength, so there is a burn, at the front and back of the palette… but water turns down that fire. This is kind of everything I like about lowalnds.

Auchentoshan 36

It is a delicious dram, and this is a remarkable experience, but I don’t know that if I’d pay over 1k for it. (Yes, that’s what is cost to procure.) I just didn’t find it that distinctive. I think I can find a similar profile in something half it’s age, and possibly, price.

The full line up

The full line up

As a casual, self-supported tasting it was a good time with good people and tasty drams, but; and you knew there would be one, I might arrange things a bit differently next time.

First, I’d offer a palette cleanser. Plain crackers, bread, black coffee, even some lemon slices to add to the water would help refresh the olfactory after three or four drams.

Arrange the drams so you start with something to open the senses (Classic or 3-wood) then move to the lightest offerings (Octomore Trestarig, Auchentoshan un chill-filtered.) Now that everyone is awake, but not burned out, bring out the special or rare offering, the 36-year-old in this case.  I’d cleanse the pallet here before moving to the other Auchentoshan offerings, the 12-year and 3-wood.  Lastly close with the peated Benraich.

Also, though I know time is of the essence, I would allow just a bit more time between offerings. I know by the time I had gotten a picture and analyzed the visuals and maybe the nose, the hose was starting to describe (and sometimes pass around) the next dram.  I wanted to spend a little more time with each offering; perhaps I’ll bring multiple glasses next time, but a few more minutes might have helped the appreciation.

All in all, the LA Scotch club puts on a good tasting; the people and the offerings are top class. I can’t wait for the next one.

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Southern California Whiskey Club
Single Cask Nation tasting with Joshua Hatton

A few weeks ago I went to a whiskey tasting to promote Single Cask Nation, a club that makes bottles available from a distiller’s single cask negotiated by Mr. Hatton.  It is a brilliant concept for the whisky connoisseur collector; and if someone wants to really impress me for any gift-giving occasion, I’d love a membership; but right now it is out of my price range.  The clubs offerings are all cask strength, and all have a researched history, which I’ll link to with each post.

The tasting itself was nicely run, and the host venue, Blu Jam Cafe in Sherman Oaks, provided several light diner options and cold water. We sat out on the back patio, which presented a few challenges for a tasting that I will get into later. It also is the reason I don’t have pictures: I relied on my cell phone, that does not have a flash, and as the light quickly faded I realized I was not going to be able to capture any quality images.

Since he has a relationship with the distillers and is such a lover of whisky, Joshua had a great story to go with each offering. He quickly built a rapport with the attendees and the evening passed all too soon. If you have an opportunity to attend one of these tastings, I highly recommend it.

If you, however, you might want to bring your own glasses.  Only one was provided for each of us – so not only was some whisky wasted as those who didn’t want to finish their (measured) pours were forced to pour it in a waste container, but we were on our own for cleaning the glass between drams.  I was the only one being so diligent as to rinse, wipe, then rinse again to remove any lint, and leave the glass up-side-down to let the water drain out.

Also, on the “needs improvement” list, there were no palette cleansers and since time was a factor, we moved rather quickly through the drams, not leaving much time for blooming or color appreciation between pours.

  • Glen Moray 12Glen Moray 12 Bourbon CaskThis cask bottling, distilled in June of 2000, spent 12 years maturing in a first fill ex-bourbon barrel.  It was bottled at cask strength in August of 2012 at 56.1% ABV.  Cask #797 yielded 148 bottles (a surprisingly low number but we bought the whole cask and didn’t share it with anyone…  Well, except our Nation members!).
    I found wood to be very dominant at first nose, but them it gave way to malt with a little vanilla and spice . . maybe ginger … I couldn’t tell.The mouth feel was smooth, but a bit of a burn. Once the burn wore off, or I became accustomed to it, I could easily taste the malt and peaches, almost like a fruit cocktail lingering on the palette.
    A bit of water brings the fruit more forward on the nose and gives a much sweeter palette.
  • Arran 12Arran 12 Pino NoirThis cask bottling, distilled in September 1999, spent eight years aging in first fill ex-bourbon before maturing for an additional four years in ex-pinot noir.  It was bottled at cask strength in June of 2012 at 54.8% ABV.  Cask #6 yielded 277 bottles.
    Joshua calls this his “Kooky Bear” whisky referring to the flavor profiles.  I’d call it complex, because there is a variation, and the flavors move as you chew on the dram – but none of the notes are overly sophisticated.
    On the nose I was reminded strongly of French toast; notes of bread, sugar, cream and vanilla. As that faded I picked up distinct tones of red wine.  I was surprised, I’ve never gotten that impression from a non-grape spirit before, so I checked the card … yep, finished in Pino-Noir.
    Passing my lips, the dram is light and soft like champagne, and just a little sticky sweet. The flavors of fruit, spice, and malt move slowly and linger along the palette finishing with notes of chocolate covered cherries.  Again, very reminiscent of the wine that inhabited the cask before the spirit moved in.
    A little water turns down the volume and shortens the experience,  but  does give a sweeter tone to the entire piece. When the glass was empty I was left wanting a double and a cigar at the end of a long day.
  • Dalmore 12
    Dalmore 12 Sherry Finished

    My Favorite

    This cask bottling, distilled in June 2000, spent twelve years aging in first a refill bourbon hogshead before maturing for an additional ten months in a Pedro Ximenez sherry hogshead.  It was bottled at cask strength inApril of 2013 at 46.1% ABV which is surprisingly at natural cask strength!  Cask #6951 yielded only 238 bottles.
    First I should say this was by far my favorite and if anyone was to take my gift membership request seriously, this is the bottle I’d most want. I almost didn’t want to interrupt this one to take notes, but I knew I wouldn’t remember my first impressions if I didn’t, and even then my notes are minimal as I didn’t want to tear myself away from the dram.
    The nose is sweet, like breakfast syrup and butter, reminding me of McCallan’s Amber Liquor. It was dark and quick to form legs in the glass, and the taste was a perfect match for the nose.  The buttery mouth feel yielded to sweet notes of maple, brown sugar and rum. Though it was a short impression, it was very powerful, and I wondered what it would taste like cold.  I also wanted to pair it with salted caramel, or vanilla ice cream.

  • BenRiach 17BenRiach 17, Peated, Bourbon CaskThis cask bottling, distilled in June 1995, spent seventeen years maturing in a second fill ex-bourbon barrel.  It was bottled at cask strength in July of 2012 at 53.2% ABV.  Cask #2522 yielded 225 bottles.
    Hello Peat! Fair disclosure, I’m not that fond of overly pleated whiskies, and after the evening of soft and sweet drams, this one was shocking if not jarring. To quote an old cartoon, “No, sir, I didn’t like it.”
    The nose took me three tries to get close enough to really let it fill my olfactory. Sadly I was rewarded with scents of medicine and dirt. Maybe the taste will make it better; not much. There are whispers of heather and other floral notes and a lingering sense of honey, but still the tone of dirt runs through the middle. Maybe water …
    Oh dear lord … . the dirt has given way to adhesive, almost like bandages and it finishes like milk and peppers. This is just not my thing, and I’m not getting anything positive out of this one. Bring the Dalmore back, please.
  • Laphroag 6Laphroaig 6, Bourbon CaskThis cask bottling, distilled in November 2006, was matured in a refill bourbon hogshead.  It was bottled at cask strength in April 2013 at 57.8% ABV.  Cask #119 yielded 269 bottles.
    After the roller-coaster that was the last two, I was surprised to find a nice mild green nose on the Laphroag, with a little smoke on the back end.  But the more I went back to it, the stronger the smoke became.  Unlike the smoke-fest that our (3DC) standard Laphroag 10 is, this one is quite complex, and low enough on smoke that the sweeter notes of brown sugar and honey can peek through, even if just for a moment.  The finish gets hotter the longer you let it roll on your palette, like barbecue or peppers.
    A little water brings out a buttery nature and clarifies the front end, but the increased volume on the smoke and pepper on the back end is not quite worth it.
  • Kilchoman 4Kilchoman 4, Bourbon CaskThis cask bottling, distilled in November 2007, was matured in a first fill ex-bourbon barrel.  It was bottled at cask strength in July 2012 at 58.4% ABV.  Cask #378/07 yielded 245 bottles.
    The host called this “Breakfast Whisky” as he told us about a winter’s morning in New England, shoveling his car out of the drive fortified by this dram. But more than that, this tasting was spoiled by a varmint just outside our courtyard – before I could lift the glass to my lips, the air was full of skunk. So I shall do my best under these circumstances.
    The nose is quiet but eventually notes of cinnamon toast come through. I pulled a round mouth feel and was trying to pick out the notes when we were somewhat overcome by the varmint mentioned above. It finished warm with smoky notes and maybe a bit of pepper.

There was much chatting, and I went back to the Kilchoman after the air cleared, but after 6 drams, I wasn’t able to pull more out of it.  Then I had another dram of the Dalmore to end the evening with my favorite.  I have to say the 2nd  taste wasn’t as remarkable, but I think I can blame a dying palette and lingering skunk more than the whisky itself.

SoCal Whiskey Club

Should I come up with a budget for a subscription, and a bottle or two throughout the year, I think I will be joining the Single Cask Nation.

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IMG_6531I’l admit, when I first heard there was a new French whiskey on the market, I was skeptical. I’d had a French whiskey previously, and to say it was a challenge to my palate would be overly kind. But, the chatter around this newcomer to the industry had me cautiously optimistic, especially since it was brought to market by a person I now consider a friend, even though we’ve never met.

I met Allison Patel on twitter, as happens nowadays. We exchanged pleasantries via her @whiskygirls account and the @3drunkencelts accounts on twitter and G+, as well as through my own individual accounts as I retweeted her from time to time when I wasn’t logged in as the 3DC. True to the power of social media,  I was able to watch from a far as she worked in New York to launch her newest endeavor: Brenne, French Single Malt Whisky

Imagine how cool it is to get in on the ground floor of a product coming to market like hers, watching it grown and starting to hear more and more people talk about it. Every little success she shared was a huge win and brings a smile and hope for the future. But alas, for the past 6+ months since its launch in October, I’d not procured a bottle of my own to taste. I’m sure you could imagine my shame in having to admit that point to Allison and then immediately rectifying such an issue.

I am happy to say now, I did in fact obtain a bottle last week and have had some time to sit with it and take down some tasting notes. As with every bottle we taste and review on the 3DC blog, we have not been paid nor received freebies in exchange for reviews, so what you get are indeed my own opinions without bias, as much as I can possibly muster. I’ve also integrated my wife Jean’s notes as well since we tasted simultaneously and talked through it together.

.
Distiller/Bottler: Brenne French Single Malt Whisky Finished in Cognac Barrels

  • Bottling notes: 40% abv, no age statement. Aged in new Limousin oak barrels, then finished in Cognac barrels.
  • Nose: Immediate apricot coming from the cognac finish with a hint of green apple which quickly relents to malted milk balls and softer notes of chocolate  and cream.
  • Flavour: On the palate I got a heavy creamy mouth-feel which continued the malted milk ball notes and shifted to a milk duds note as the caramel from the barrels came in later. Almost reminiscent of a cream soda at points.
  • Finish: Continues with the caramel notes and into a lingering heat of alcohol with a balance of malted barley and a green raw chocolate note.
  • Viscosity: 4
  • Boldness: 3
  • Length of story: 2
  • Personal Taste: B+
  • Extraneous Notes: A solid B+ score for personal taste here. I think that some more age may help reduce that lingering green note I get on the end, which would move this from a wonderful dram, to an exceptional A score. I was surprised by the depth of creamy chocolate notes, as I wasn’t expecting that richness from a cognac finish. Once my mind embraces the richness, I found it to be sweet enough for my preference, well balanced without being over powering or cloying.

So, yes, thankfully Brenne didn’t disappoint, and happily broke my preconceived notion of a French whiskey; it is indeed a truly enjoyable dram. Since it is rather new, I’m fairly certain most of you have not yet had opportunity to taste this dram. Now that I’ve finally picked up a bottle, I’m even more disappointed in myself for waiting so long; I should have bough a bottle back in October…

So don’t be like me… take this as your personal invitation to flood Allison with orders, as you do not want to miss this bottle. If you do wait, you’ll be kicking yourself like I am, and wondering why you prevented yourself from so much enjoyment.

IMG_6532

Click for larger views

IMG_6537

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Prologue

As with all good things Irish, this will start with a story of how I came to be tasting this dram on St. Patrick’s Day this year.

Finnegan 8 Year

Finnegan 8 Year

I figured St. Patrick’s Day would be a perfect occasion to sample a nice Irish Whiskey and do a write up on my findings; but when I checked the liquor cabinet, and the auxiliary cabinet where I store the tall bottles, and the display shelf for the pretty ones (well you get the idea) I couldn’t find a single bottle of Irish Whiskey. Nine bottles of Scotch, one from Taiwan, one American bourbon; but nothing from the Emerald Isle.

I sought recommendations, and was leaning toward Irish Manor when the work week got incredibly busy – it happened that I went shopping ON St. Patrick’s day. There is both a Total Wine and a BevMo near my house, and since their spirit selection is pretty equal, I headed out on the main road resolved to stop at whichever I saw first. It was Total Wine.

Along the back wall they had a whole bookshelf dedicated to Irish Whiskey, but as I looked closer I was a bit disappointed, easily 1/3 of the options were sold out, and another third were well out of my “munitions grade” price range.  Half of what was available and affordable was varieties of Jamison and Bushmills – not that there is anything wrong with that, but I wanted something a little less popular, maybe something I hadn’t tried before.  After all that narrowing, I had four or so to choose from.

Four brands, (some had more than one expression) none of which I’ve tasted before, and all with similarly glowing recommendations on the shelf label. I analyzed each one, trying to make a choice, then trying to set a parameter on which to base my choice. Finally I had a bottle in my hand., Finnegan’s 8, but not the single cask. Honestly, I chose Finnegan’s because of the song (which I twisted for the title up there.)  And on my way to the register, I saw the big St. Patrick’s Day end-cap, full of Irish beers and whiskey.  I sighed, but decided to keep what I’ve already spent too much time choosing.

The Dram

Finnegan Eight Year

Finnegan Eight Year

This is a honey-coloured whiskey, and is takes a few moments for legs to form. When you swirl it the first time it wants to sheet before legs start to slide down the glass.

The sweetness is not limited to it’s color, as the nose is full of light citrus and caramel candies. There are hints of vanilla and wood, so I am reminded of walking into an old fashioned sweet shop with penny-candy in old barrels.

On the palette it speaks softly; whispering the sweet promise that started at the nose.  The caramel is strongest, trying to dampen loud alcohol notes that betray this dram’s youth. It is not unpleasant, but just a little more raw than I’d prefer. The vanilla is there too, with other earthy notes of wood, grass, and citrus. Though quiet, these flavors linger and even minutes later I still have the sensation of a whisky-filled caramel candy that was long in its wrapper on my palette. And even after that fades, the citrus lingers, coaxing another sip.

Overall, I’m very happy with this dram, and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to those who like a little sweetness in their Irish Whiskey.  And I’m very curious to see if there are older expressions from this distillery.

Epilogue

I think I know how The Knot is made.

You see, I happened to leave the wee-ist of portions in my tasting glass overnight, and what I came back to was a sticky sweet candy-like syrup.  I imagine if I re-hydrated that with a high-proof flavorless spirit, I would have The Knot. No honey, or other flavorings added.

http://bit.ly/10P0F9C from

Tuesday night Raz and I went to a local saloon (Johnny’s in Huntington Beach, CA) for a nightcap and had a rather surprising experience.  As we usually do at Johnny’s, we ordered drams of something new – or at least something from bottles we didn’t recognize. (Johnny’s is rather dark, and though they have a remarkable whiskey collection, the staff is not always knowledgeable of same.)  What we ended up with were two very drinkable drams on quite different ends of the price spectrum.

NOTE -  There won’t be too much talk of visuals because there is more light coming from the TV screens than from any interior lighting.

B16BCCadillac
When I asked the bartender about the bottle, he said something about a “cask” and I thought it might be a quarter cask. It wasn’t until I had my first sip that I walked around and studied it that I saw it was a Bruchladdich. At about $100 a bottle, I should not have been surprised how pleasant the taste was – but I’m getting ahead of myself.
The dram looked pale, but looks can be deceiving. Once it got even close to my nose the sweetness was very dominant, hints of vanilla, notes of the oak, and a promise of iodine, but I found the predominant aroma to be sweet cream.
The promise was kept on the palette too, the creaminess counterpointed with iodine all surrounded with vanilla and oak.  While the iodine was too much for Raz, we both agreed this dram was right up my alley. The flavor was full and round, with the wood and vanilla notes turning around the yin and yang of iodine and cream.  I’ve had Bruchladdich before, but I haven’t been this impressed with it in the past.  I’m guessing the age and bourbon cask gave this dram the sweetness and richness that I can not wait to try again.
Sadly there was no water to bloom with, and the Old Fashion glass was too thick to really get it warm enough with my hands.

HondaHighlandChief
I initially passed on the Highland Chief based on name alone – it was obviously a blend, and sounded like a cheap one too.  I also have no great fondness for the cheaper Highland scotches, so I passed.  Raz decided to take the chance, and we are both very glad he did.
So impressed with his reaction, I begged for a sip and found a surprisingly satisfying dram.  A smooth veil of smoke covered a mild spice and citrus flavor that lasted just as long as the whisky was on the tongue.  It was simple and short, but such a nice taste that I’ll be adding this bargain basement bottle (as low as $10, never over $20) to my shelf soon.

http://bit.ly/XM3B0N from

Tradition dictates that sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving the 3DC publishes a list of non-whiskey gifts for the whiskey enthusiast.  This year I hit the search engines to find some obvious, and some new treasures to possibly delight the whiskey lover on your “nice” list. (If they are on your “naughty” list, get them some Whiskey Stones.)

The indented text is from the merchants, while the standard text is my own editorial input.

WhiskeyMichaelJacksonWhiskey: The Definitive World Guide
By Michael Jackson (No, not that Michael Jackson.)
~$30.00

http://bit.ly/XM3D8R

http://amzn.to/XM3D8V

From grain to glass, “Whiskey” tells you everything and anything you’ll ever want to know about whiskey, from storing and serving whiskey, whiskey cocktails, to pairing whiskey with food. Whether interested in the story behind aromas and flavors, what makes certain distilleries unique or how weather and environment influence taste–this is the most fascinating illustrated examination of whiskey on the market.

It’s always nice to have something to read while you sip your favorite dram.  And while there is no end to whisky-related books on the market, this “definitive guide” should have something any whisky-lover could enjoy.

Whisky Advocate (formerly Malt Advocate) Magazine

WhiskyAdvocate

http://bit.ly/Zk2Kuu
1 year – $18.00

Whisky Advocate magazine is America’s leading whisky publication. It’s a premier source for whisky information, education and entertainment for whisky enthusiasts. Whisky Advocate also sponsors WhiskyFest™, the country’s largest and most respected whisky tasting events.

Since the magazine’s inception more than 20 years ago, Whisky Advocate influence reaches an increasing audience of enthusiasts, press and trade from around the world.

Our contributors are the most knowledgeable whisky writers and they stay on top of trends, new products and breaking news.

A bit pricy for a quarterly, but so full of the latest and greatest information on our favorite spirit that it is worth every penny.  Also it is available digitally for those that don’t want the paper.

Butlers Jameson Irish Whiskey Truffles
http://bit.ly/Zk2KuvJamesonTruffles
$11.00 +S&H

These mouthwatering truffles combine the wonderful taste of Butlers Irish Chocolate with the distinctive flavor of Jameson Irish Whiskey. In 1932, Ms. Marion Bailey Butler set to making delicious and original handcrafted chocolates from her kitchen in Dublin, Ireland. People loved Butlers because of its delicious and original recipes – many of which have been handed down through the years. Butlers has received many awards for both its chocolates as well as attractive packaging.

Nothing says “I love you” to a member of 3DC like Irish Whiskey *and* chocolate! And if there happened to be one or two of these boxes under this author’s proverbial tree, she would feel loved indeed.

Bushmills Whiskey Marmalade
 Maramladehttp://bit.ly/Zk2Kuy
< $10 (Depending on specials, could be only $7 + S&H)

Try our Bushmills Irish Whiskey Marmalade. A traditional medium cut orange rind with a kick of Bushmills Irish Whiskey. The secret spices give it the most distinctive of flavors. The old Bushmills Distillery in Ireland, is devoted to the production of the finest quality Irish whiskey. Whiskey making at Bushmills draws on centuries-old distilling history, including the first license to distill whiskey.

A gift basket with home-made Irish soda bread, Scotch shortbread, English Muffins, and this marmalade would be fantastic, no?

GlencarinGlencairn 3 Piece Whiskey Glasses and Book Bundled Gift Set
http://amzn.to/XM3Dpi
$35.00 The perfect gift for the whiskey lover in your life, this gift set includes two Glencairn crystal whiskey tasting glasses and Helen Arthur’s The Single Malt Whisky Companion hardcover book.

Combining the knowledge and expertise of some of the whiskey world’s leading innovators, the unique and stylish shape of the Glencairn glass has been crafted with eminent care to enhance the enjoyment of single malts and aged blends.

The Single Malt Whisky Companion provides information on every major Scottish distillery and their single malts as well as the premier whiskeys from Ireland and Japan.. Covering 500 years of Scottish tradition associated with this unique beverage, this is the essential guide to enjoying the finest premier single malts available.

Either one would be a great gift on its own, but combined they are almost irresistible. And with two glasses, it begs the receiver to share a dram with the giver!

Little Whizzer Liquor DispenseLIttelWhizzer

~ $20

Inspired by Brussels’ famous Mannekin Pis (“little man piss”) fountain statue, the Little Whizzer liquor dispenser will provide your guests with a funny (and slightly disturbing ) drinking experience. “A kid peeing whisky into a tumbler is funny no matter where you live.”

Never Forget The Funny!

 

Jameson Swag

If you put “Jameson” into an Amazon.com search, you can find all kinds of things:

JamesonTowelSocks:  http://amzn.to/XM3DWv

             $9.99

 

 

Shirts:

 JamesonShirt1 http://amzn.to/Zk2KuH $27.99 – $29.99
 JamesonShirt2 http://amzn.to/XM3EcL $19.99 – $25.00
 JamesonShirt3 http://amzn.to/Zk2Imt $42.99
There are many more, but you can do your own search of Amazon’s inventory.

Bar Towel: http://amzn.to/Zk2KKX

JamesonBar

                      $4.95
They have Jack Daniels too, and many other breweries.

Hats:

 JamesonHat1 http://amzn.to/Zk2Imv $11.99
 JamesonHat2 http://amzn.to/XM3DFK $16.99

And we have come to the end of my lunch hour, and thus the end of this list.  I hope you are inspired to share your love of whiskey with those whom you share your life.  And seriously, someone tell my husband about those chocolates!  ;>

http://bit.ly/Y5ltt4 from

img_5404This past weekend (well, black Friday, technically) I was able to help out over at Big Bottom Whiskey again and bottle up three different single cask runs of their Zinfandel Finish Bourbon warehouse series to complement the more widely available blend. I’m quite privileged to be friends with the owner, Ted, and more so to get some sneak peaks into the business and what’s to come.

I’ve know about the warehouse series zin bottlings for a while now and even had some small samples when I stopped in a while back as Ted was prepping the blend. Now that the warehouse series are bottled and I had some time to sit at home and really run through a decent side-by-side tasting, I figured I give you all the run down of what I think.

Following are the notes of the three warehouse series single cask bottlings as well as the commercially available blend (Note that I had a clean palate prior to sitting down to taste, cleared with both a small cup of black coffee followed by water prior to and after each glass.):

img_5373

  • Bottling: Amy’s Vineyard cask, finished 6 months.
  • Nose: Red licorice, currants, cardamom, and a citric whiff of orange and cranberry
  • Flavour: Fruit and oak tannins up front, followed by some white pepper and a return of red licorice
  • Finish: Light vanilla combined with the fullness of red fruit, almost jammy, then balanced quickly by the rye spice and dry finish.
  • Viscocity: 4
  • Boldness: 4
  • Length of Story: 3
  • Personal Taste: B
  • Extraneous Notes: Complex and subtle notes from the zin barrel come through, as well as the zinfandel itself. Heavier on the rye notes as well.

.

  • Bottling: RedwoodValley cask, finished 6 months.
  • Nose: More red licorice and berries with a heavier oakiness.Orange as well, works into a cinnamon finish on the nose.
  • Flavour: Dry tannins roll into the oakiness of a heavy zinfandel with muted rye spice notes.
  • Finish: As the zin fades, the rye spice returns forward and finally balanced with the sweetness of cinnamon Christmas candies.
  • Viscocity: 3
  • Boldness: 3
  • Length of Story: 3
  • Personal Taste: B
  • Extraneous Notes: The explicit barrel notes really come through with this bottling.

.

  • Bottling: Ancient Vineyard cask, finished 6 months.
  • Nose: Pepper and red fruit indicative of a good zinfandel. More red licorice with a slight toastiness that presents the entire dram quite big on the nose.
  • Flavour: Round sweetness and charred oak. Big fruit gives way to coffee and char, then moves right into a rye spice.
  • Finish: As the coffee and char fade, the ry spice and fruit comes back to linger with a distinct but mild alcohol burn.
  • Viscocity: 4
  • Boldness: 3
  • Length of Story: 4
  • Personal Taste: A
  • Extraneous Notes: Big and complex. Much more of the French oak. A great marriage of zin and bourbon here.

.

  • Bottling: Zinfandel Finish, blend of four different zin casks. Same winery, but different vineyards.
  • Nose: Cardamom and red licorice, with orange, cinnamon, and very light oak.
  • Flavour: Berries and oak tannins move into a complex mix of char, toast, and a melange of spices including rye, cinnamon, cardamom, and white pepper.
  • Finish: The spice moves back to the sweetness of berries with a slight chocolate espresso note that lingers at the end.
  • Viscocity: 3
  • Boldness: 3
  • Length of Story: 4
  • Personal Taste: A
  • Extraneous Notes: This dram is surprisingly greater than the sum of its parts. The blend exemplifies how critical barrel choice and blending percentages can be. The blend results in a dram that is entirely new but still maintains the best qualities of the included casks. 

img_5359

All in all, I am amazingly pleased with how the entire vertical series turned out. While I enjoy the final blend the most of all four bottlings, I actually enjoy it more as a direct result of being able to compare it with the single casks that went into it. Of the single cask bottlings, I do have to side with the complexity of the Ancient Vineyard cask as it reminds me so much of the high quality and BIG California Zinfandels my palate grew up with; the rye spice in the bourbon being the perfect complement to the pepper in a good zin. The finished blend is a wine and bourbon lover’s dream come true.

The good news for you all local to the Portland area, the warehouse series should be on sale this coming weekend exclusively at the Big Bottom Tasting Room in Hillsboro, Oregon.  For the rest of you all, you may be out of luck, unless you can find an on-line retailer (connected to one of these distributors) to special order and ship you some of the Zin Finish Blend… unless you’re lucky enough to happen upon some in your local store  :)

img_5364


Big Bottom Whiskey: http://bigbottomwhiskey.com/

Big Bottom Whiskey: http://bigbottomwhiskey.com/