1792 Small Batch – A casual review

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After a beer-related review, I figured I’d try a whiskey related review, but before I can do that, I need to plug my novel: Wine Bottles and Broomsticks. It’s an excellent summer read.

For this blog, I perused the liquor store shelves for a solid like 3 minutes. There are a lot of mid-shelf options to have a look at. I picked this one after turning a bottle purporting to be bourbon whiskey round to find, in small text, the words: Aged at least 6 months. Now, I’m not an expert, but I’m pretty damn sure 3 years is like the minimum, and I do have a bit of familarity with what whiskey tastes like if it hasn’t been properly aged.

Today, I’m reviewing 1792 Small Batch – this is just one of several types of 1792 you can get. This bottle didn’t have any such BS about only aged a bit more than 6 months sitting on the label, so I picked it up. Plus, I’ve never tried it before. There are a ton of reviews on this bourbon, and they’re all pretty good. Now, I’m not a sommelier for whiskey or anything, so my palette isn’t as developed as folks reviewing on those sites.

The bourbon described: It’s made by the Barton distillery in Bardstown, KY, which is owned by the Sazerac Company. This one rings in at 46.85% ABV. It is a Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. It’s dark amber and comes in a really spiffy looking bottle.

My initial reaction to this is not super-duper positive. At $32.99 in my local liquor store, it’s not anything remotely top shelf and totally worth the dollars.

The nose on this one is rich, lots of sweetness, I’d call it caramel. If you’re looking for it, you’ll also find some pretty striking orange notes along with the spice from the rye. The vanilla is subtle but present.

As usual, I tried this one neat first. It’s smooth going in with lots of caramel. There is also plenty of spice coming in from the rye. The thing I didn’t care for was the very long finish that is almost too punchy. I’d almost call it harsh and screamed of spice which almost washes out the sweetness. When I put this on ice, it opened up the rye like a can of really pissed off wasps. I’d describe the flavor as almost ashy and just not very pleasant.

My final call on this one: It’s an alright whiskey. To be fair, I didn’t try this one mixed. However, I’m dubious about how it might go in a Manhattan or Whiskey sour. When added to ice, it didn’t do a lot of great things to the flavor. That said, I haven’t ruled it out as workable, especially as an alternative to a straight rye a Manhattan. I would absolutely not do this one on the rocks, but neat is just fine – my final assessment is that this is not my favorite, but for the price, I don’t feel as though I’ve been taken to the cleaners.

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Proper Twelve Irish Whisky Review

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Happy St. Patricks’ day!

According to 23-and-me, I’m about as Irish as a Polack who’s consumed a 5th of Irish whiskey and a pound of Soda bread. However, my wife is more Irish than I am Polish, so we celebrate. Like most Americans, that means corn-beef and cabbage, soda bread, whiskey, and Guinness. As such, it seemed like a totally perfect day to avoid work (I’m supposed to be working on an analysis for social indicators in Prince William Sound, AK – or something, I need to read the investigation plan again. Basically, I’m still pulling data together.)

IN ANY CASE – seeing as how it’s St. Patricks day and I was going to get some anyhow, I decided to review an Irish whiskey. AND NOT because I wanted to start drinking at 4. Which I did. The first thought that occurred to me was to do a review of Jameson cask mates. Those are weird, good, and always worth the money. However, since most everyone is probably already drinking Jameson, I thought I’d show some love to something I’d never tried before.

I went with Proper Twelve. It’s about the same price as a bottle of Jameson and claims to be rich and smooth with hints of Vanilla, Honey & Toasted Wood. Which I’d say is a fair description, mostly.

The nose is a little on the harsh side with a pretty astringent quality fresh out of the bottle but calms down once it’s been open for a minute or two. After it calms down, there is only the very slightest hint of vanilla with lots of honey, even more, toasted oak, and something like pear (reminds me of Jameson Limited Reserve 18, actually).

This one has a full mouth-feel and a bite to match the initially harsh nose. However, it’s not a strong bite, just a bit of spice and alcohol. In spite of having very strong flavors of honey, along with toasted wood and that weird pear-like quality, this one is on the dry side for an Irish whiskey, which I’m finding to be really nice, actually. The finish is when all the sweetness comes through, making for a pretty drinkable product. It’s like getting a burst of sweet in the back of your mouth. As the bottle suggests, it is rich and reasonably smooth, though not quite as smooth as something like Jameson.

As with every time I try something new, I try it neat first, then add an ice-cube to see what that does. Don’t do it with this one. Nothing nice happens to the flavor. It opens the wrong flavors. The bitter tannins of the grain and wood came straight through the otherwise pleasant honey/pear thing it’s got going on. While the bitter tannins are absolutely present in the flavor (even neat), they hide behind whatever else is going on. Super not true once you toss some ice in there.

My pronouncement on this: It’s good, I’d buy again – drink neat. I don’t see this one mixing well, and it really doesn’t go well on ice (maybe granite rocks would be good though.)

Another reason to buy this one is that they donate to first responders for every bottle sold. While this is likely to benefit those blokes in Dublin, it’s still a worthy cause.

Cheers!

Black-in-the-box Whiskey

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I’m pretty familiar with Black-Box wine. I might even say I’m something of a connoisseur. However, I’d never heard of Black-Box Whiskey before tonight. If it weren’t for a colleague giving me the heads-up, I’d still be ignorant. It’s been on the market in some places for nearly a year (based on a brief google search and cursory review of result descriptions.  In any case, within 20 minutes of catching wind of such a gloriously incongruous whiskey situation, I’d arranged for a box to be brought home. How could I not?

First, some stats:

  • Price: $31
  • Size: 1.75L
  • Alcohol content: 80pf
  • Aged: 6yrs

This is a generic american style whiskey. It’s a drier whiskey reminiscent of a bourbon, but without the strong sour-mash thing coming through, but it’s absolutely not like an Irish whiskey with their much sweeter qualities. It’s no-doubt a sour mash/corn situation, but it’s not a bourbon. Really, it’s more like a boutique or small-distiller american whiskey.

My first impression is that the nose is all spice, and the tiniest hint of caramel. It almost smelled like the bottle of 1971 Seagram’s Canadian whisky I came into ownership of last year. While I wasn’t sure what to expect with the first sip of black box, I’d rather expected it to have a lot in common with barrel-aged gasoline. This is one of those cases where I was pleasantly surprised. This stuff isn’t bad. Smooth enough to be taken neat, even. However, it’s a bit bland. Not that the spicy notes that call up thoughts of cinnamon aren’t strong, it’s just that overall, there’s not a lot going on. It’s not boring or tasteless though, just unremarkable. Fortunately, an ice cube improved the situation.

With a single ice cube rattling around my glass, the flavor really opened up. That apparent single-note of spice gave some ground to the vanilla and caramels that were somewhat hidden without. Mouth-feel also improved. It didn’t seem so thin on the lips, making it smoother and enhancing the caramel.

I paid just over $31 for this 1.75L box, which puts it at something like $13.30/750mL.  Alaska pricing and taxes aside, this is on-par with the cost of most bottom-shelf whisky, but it’s a much easier thing to drink.

My final word here is that black box is generally retaining expectations in crossing over from the boxed-wine realm. It’s good, drinkable, and solid value. While it’s somewhat unmemorable, I’d buy it again.

My rating comes in at a: ‘drink on the rocks’.

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Rising Creek – Bourbon Whiskey Review

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Lookey-loo! I finally got round to doing an actual bourbon review! And only a week late. So, just real quick, to make sure we’re all up to speed. What is Bourbon? To start, the mash (the fermentables in water) must be 51% corn. The rest of the grain is usually a mix of barley and rye. The other thing is that it’s got to be aged in new charred oak barrels – and quite frankly it’s not any sort of whisky unless it’s been aged on oak. Interestingly Bourbon does NOT have to be made in Kentucky, that’s just Kentucky straight bourbon, which has it’s own special marketing designations. Normally, when these are fermented (and this is generally true for the bulk of large modern distilling operations) a sour-mash is used to ferment the mash. In Beer, you’d mash by steeping the grains in water at a temperature of about 150F. Provided you have enough barley (natural source of amylase), the starches in your mash will convert to sugars that can be fermented. In a sour-mash, everything is just dumped into a fermentation vessel of some sort and allowed to slowly convert the starches to sugars and ferment at the same time. Lactic acid builds up in the process giving a distinct sour taste that comes through so strongly in american whiskeys & bourbons.

In any case, that’s enough about bourbon as a thing. On to reviewing this specific whisky. First off, it is smooth like a Canadian whisky, but without all of the heavy caramel flavors you usually get in one of those. Normally, Bourbons tend to be a bit more rough around the edges.

The nose here reminds me of apple, but it also smells ‘raw’, as if it’s just been brought out of the still and into the cup. It’s sort of hard to describe, but it’s like the grain flavor has been reduced into it’s essential grainy bits and fed to you. The flavor is kinda bland actually. A hint of caramel, a hint of oak, or toffee, a bit of something nutty and some spice, but that’s sort of it. The finish is not super long and a wee bit spicy. Really, it’s about as smooth as the taste itself. If I’m being honest, this bourbon reminded me of what would happen if an Irish Whiskey knocked up it’s Canadian Whiskey girlfriend.

On a scale of Mix to Neat. I’d actually put this as shots. (yes, below mix, it mixed plain and din’t add much to the drink). Anyhow, it was cheap, and I wouldn’t say don’t buy it, but meh, sometimes you need to take shots – like when arguing with someone politically diametrically opposed to you on Twitter. Nobody is going to win and you really just need something to bring you off the ledge of apoplectic rage.

Whisky review – Kilbeggan

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I picked up a bottle of Kilbeggan in honor of last week’s budget-meeting eve, which is sort of like Christmas eve, except on budget day, the only present I’m likely to get is enough funding to carry on through the end of the fiscal year, and if I’ve been a very good boy, a bit of carry-over that will not only help next year’s budget picture, but also give me a bit of breathing room in the deadline department. This budget-eve, I’m looking at tomorrow as a likely exercise in begging for more project work to keep everyone employed. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m writing this, before the meeting, but you’re not seeing it until later. My hope is that by having a dram of the stuff, and writing about it, I’ll be able to sleep and not keep myself up worrying about how to pay for things.

I know I promised to not get all snobby and shit about whisky, but Kilbeggan is an interesting one and deserves a bit of snobbery. At some point, I’ll wax poetic on the merits of pot-stills and stuff, but not today, what I will say right now though is that a good triple-run pot-stilled Irish Whisky is the way to go. Killbeggan boasts the oldest licensed pot still in Ireland and traditional methods, and I think that the product speaks well to the use of pot stills.

As you can probably tell from the photo, it has a pale gold color. The Nose is heavy with something like apricot accompanied by a hint of almond. There’s also a definite note of heavily toasted oak. The flavor continues that strong apricot-like fruitiness, with oak but adding a very long cinnamon-spice and honey finish. It’s got a really full mouth feel too, giving it a distinctly heavy quality compared to the last couple of whiskys I’ve tried. I think my first reaction to tasting was ‘holy crap, I just got punched in the mouth with flavor’. It’s smooth up front, but there is a distinct burn as you near the finish.

My rating on this one is: Drink neat. I’ve had it before and remember liking it, I still like it.

Hell-Cat Maggie Irish Whisky Review

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Look! Another whisky review blog – I’ve decided to try and do these about twice a month so that I don’t blow a hundred bucks a month on whisky. Since I don’t make any money at this, I can’t exactly write it off as an expense. In any case, I’m riding at 100% review rate of Irish Whiskys and I feel a bit weird about that given that the blog purports to involve bourbon. That said, this one was on sale and I’d never seen it before, so I thought I’d give it a go.

To start, this isn’t a fancy enough bottle to come in a cardboard tube that waxes poetic on the flavor profile. Rather, this one comes with the borderline alarming story:

Hell-Cat Maggie was a well-known criminal in Manhattan’s five points district and a member of the notorious Dead Rabbits gang. She was a fierce street fighter and actually filed her teeth and nails into points to better shred her opponent’s skin.

Interestingly, not only is this write-up largely accurate, it gives me all I need to know about this whisky at first glance: I will not likely be treated to a smooth, complex, yet delicate drink. It’s more likely to kick the crap out of me.

Since there isn’t any description of what I SHOULD taste, I’ll just give you my impressions. And as my palate isn’t developed much beyond “this is good” to “this is really not that great”, you can take all of this with a grain of salt.

The nose contains pear, cloves and hints of caramel. The first taste that struck me, however, was the oak. It was surprisingly strong, not woody, but certainly the dominant part of the flavor profile, bringing with it notes of caramel, spice and grain. If you put it on the rocks, the pear flavors come out much stronger. The finish is extremely long and spicy, largely owing to the high level of oily conigers that originate from the last part of the distillation process (the tails). It’s also got a healthy burn. Not quite as bad as most bourbons, but generally more than a typical Irish whisky. This one is also not particularly sweet, which is one of my usual complaints about mid-shelf Irish whiskys.

On a scale of mixer to neat, I put this one at rocks or add just the tiniest bit of water to open up the flavor profile. For the cost, probably not a go-to, but this is a good one. I’d consider buying again.

Green Spot Irish Whiskey – My first whisky review blog

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The first thing I want to say about this post is that it’s a day late because I didn’t schedule it. So, sorry about that. Not that it matters an awful lot, nobody was expecting this one anyhow, except for me.

The other day, I was sipping on some whisky or other and thinking, in that “anything’s possible” sort of way you really only get from a a runner’s high or drinking. Presumably, other drugs get you there too, but as these are the only two I’ve got any experience with (less so on the running lately), I’m going to stick with it. Anyhow, I was thinking “you know, I have this blog with bourbon in the title and the closest thing I have to a post on actual whisky has to do with a pair of bourbon glaze recipes buried somewhere back in the history.” This let me to the natural conclusion that “Hey! I should blog about whisky too! That’d be awesome!” My lovely, supportive wife raised her glass and said “here here, now shut the hell up so I can watch Buffy. And put some of whatever you’re having in my glass.”

Anyhow, as I set out to write a brilliant, humorous and thoroughly engaging first post on whisky, I realized not only was that not going to happen, but you can’t actually write about whisky without being pretentious. You can’t really be both pretentious and funny because then it’s even MORE pretentious and makes you feel like it’s time to put on a polo shirt and head down to the county club. Pretension just sort of goes with the territory of talking about whisky, which is a bit odd considering that the vast majority of whisky is consumed is through two ounce shots intended to bypass the whole ‘flavor’ thing and get the drinker as pissed as possible in the shortest time possible. Alternatively, the whisky is consumed with a carrier, such as cola, to mask all but the most powerful of flavors.

What’s more, and this is a good one, we once had a “bottom shelf-bourbon” tasting at our place. It was great, everyone brought one or two bottles of something cheap, only most folks brought something more mid-shelf, which includes a lot of what I’d rate ‘drink neat.’ Someone, however, slipped in a bottle of Seagram’s-7. I decided to do the tastings blind and so when the Seagram’s came out, nobody knew it had come out and I heard all kinds of stuff about the mellow nose and hints of vanilla and caramel and how damn smooth it was. Sure it beat Ezra Brooks, and Elijah Craig, but it also beat out Old-Grandad, Four-Rose, Maker’s Mark, and even a bottle of Woodford Reserve.

Needless to say, talking about nose, flavor, and finish is about as helpful in picking a whisky as looking at the label. Unfortunately, if you don’t talk about those things, all you have left is: “It didn’t burn so much and it was pretty sweet.” That’s fine, but not helpful.

In any case, I did do all the hard work of tasting a whisky for this blog (there’s even a picture) and I do want to say something about it. I apologize if it’s pretentious.

To give some history here, I got this bottle at Christmas, a friend brought it over as a gift. I’d never heard of Green Spot before then. It’s a light gold in color with a subtle nose (that is, it doesn’t singe your nose-hairs if you get in there and give a good sniff.) My first reaction was -wow, this is smooth, a bit spicy, and only has a hint of the oily conigers in the finish that you so often get in Irish Whiskys.

In reading the back of the bottle, you’re promised a nose of orchard fruits and spice, with aromatic oils, barley, and toasted oaks. The taste is described as spicy with green apple cloves and toasted oak with a finish of lingering spices and barley.

In general, I concur with the assessment on the bottle. This is a damn fine whisky. I would say that green apple and spice are the dominant flavors here, but not in the apple & cinnamon oatmeal sort of way. If you’re looking for it, the toasted oak is proud and present, but is generally out-matched by the spice and apples. I tried this one neat and wouldn’t recommend ice rocks. I feel like the flavor profile would start to break down as it’s just this side of watered down. I bet a cask-strength would be much stronger with the flavors.

My final recommendation on this one?

On a scale of mixer to neat, I put this one at neat. I’d buy again.

First blog post

I was super proud of myself this week. My wife forced me to finish up the Recipe box a full two days early, so guess who’s getting his Saturday morning back? Instead of being a normal guy and squandering my Saturday morning sleeping or pooping or whatever it is regular guys do, I’ll be working on this blog. It’s brand new and I’m very happy with the concept.

Since this is the very firstest blog, I thought I’d give a quick intro to what it is and why the hell I’m doing it. Over the past two years, I’ve been the member of the family largely responsible for collecting the kids from school attempting to manage homework, and cooking dinner. This, as I understand it, is not an unusual thing for a guy to do. The first couple of weeks were great. I made roasted basil chicken and fried potatoes with asparagus spears. Fast forward to yesterday, I baked (burned) tater-tots and chicken nuggets, and that was the most complex meal I prepared for the week. Not all weeks are that way, but cooking every night basically sucks. My least favorite part of the day, aside from waking up before 9am, is asking the dreaded question ‘What do you want for dinner tonight?’ Or, just as bad, hearing “what do you want me to pull out for you to cook for dinner.” The second one is worse because not only do I have to cook dinner, I have to work out what I’m going to cook. In the former, at least I get a free pass on part of it.

Anyhow, to bring this around, because let’s face it I’m writing a blog post and not a novel, this blog is going to focus on the dadding efforts I put forth in keeping my wife and children fed. There may be some other sorts of crafting discussed, and last but not least,  reviews of some of my favorite alcoholic beverages, such as boxed wine and cheap whiskey. Don’t worry though, this is NOT your typical foody blog. This is a real story about a real guy who sometimes, often, boils noodles and calls it dinner.

Stay tuned folks.

-Dave