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Liquid Pleasures Beyond Wine: Whiskey Around The World

March 10, 2015 7 comments

During 2011 I wrote a number of posts for the project called The Art Of Life Magazine – of course talking about my favorite subject, wine. The project was closed and  even the web site is down, but as I still like the posts I wrote, I decided to re-post them in this blog. Also, in that project, posts were grouped into the mini-series, such as “Best Hidden Secrets” and “Forgotten Vines”. The post I’m offering to you today was from the mini-series called “Liquid Pleasures Beyond Wine”, and the subject of this post is Whiskey. Well, it is almost an original – I had to make a few small edits.

Also note that the series was written for a slightly different audience – I hope none of my readers will take offense in the fact that sometimes I’m stating the obvious…

In the previous post about Whiskey, we focused solely on Scotch, a malt Whisky produced in Scotland. The whole world of Whiskey (see, we are even changing the spelling from whisky to whiskey to accommodate the change) is much larger, with various kinds of whiskey coming the from different places all over the globe.

CoonemaraLet’s take a look at those places. We can and should start from Ireland – a close neighbor of the Scotland. Despite the “geographical closeness”, Irish Whiskeys are typically very different in style from the Scotch – to be more precise, they are much lighter. There are a few factors which define the lighter taste of the Irish Whiskeys. First, they are usually triple-distilled, versus double distillation process used in production of the Scotch. The next factor is reduced use of a peat smoke (actually, it is practically not used with some exceptions, such as Connemara, which is nicely peated). Lastly, many Irish whiskeys are made from the mix of grains as opposed to the malted barley used in Scotch production, which also leads to the lighter tasting final product.

JamesonIrish Whiskeys are probably the oldest distilled spirit produced in Europe – at least based on information in Wikipedia, with the first notices going back to the 12th century. While there are only four acting distilleries in Ireland, one of those four, Old Bushmills Distillery claims to be the oldest officially recognized distillery in the world, tracing its history to 1608 (hence the name of one of their Whiskies, 1608). Each one of the four distilleries produces a substantial number of different lines of whiskey, so there is a good variety of the Irish Whiskeys available in the stores today. Some of the best known examples of Irish Whiskey include Jameson, Bushmills, 1608, Tullamore Dew – but of course there are lots more.

Let’s move to the United States, where a number of different whiskeys had being made for centuries. Some of the most popular kinds include Bourbon, a whiskey made out of the corn mash (mash should contain at least 51% of corn), and Rye Whiskey, which is, of course, made out of rye. As any other whiskey, American whiskey undergo a process of fermentation of the mash, distillation (usually single), and oak barrel aging. Sometimes a special filtration process is used in order to remove impurities and have softer tasting final product. Jack Daniels is probably one of the most famous examples of Bourbon, along with many others:

Some of the examples of the Rye whiskies include Old Rip Van Winkle, Whistle Pig and many others:

Whistle Pig Straight Rye

History of Bourbon and Rye Whiskey accounts for a few hundred years and includes interesting chapters such as Prohibition (you can read more about different kinds of American Whiskey here). What I have to mention is that today we are literally are living through the Whiskey revolution in the US – in addition to all the “traditionalists” in Tennessee and Kentucky, amazing Rye, Bourbon and Malts are produced in New York, Oregon, Texas, Utah, North Carolina, Colorado – and these are only some of those I’m aware of, I’m sure there are lots of others. It will make it for a very long post if I will start naming all those Whiskeys, so let me just give you a few examples in the pictures:

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In addition to US, a number of other countries should be mentioned here as the world-class Whiskey producers (I would be curious to know if you would be able to guess what those are, so pause your reading for a moment). To answer my own trivia question, here are some of them – Japan, Taiwan and India (surprised?).

In all of those countries, blended and single malt whiskeys are made in the best tradition of Scotch Whisky. Whiskeys from those countries are quite rare and hard to find, but definitely worth seeking. One of the most famous Japanese Whiskeys is called Yamazaki and it is made as 12 and 18 years old single malts, using copper pot stills very similar to those used in Scotland. Another Japanese whiskey which is somewhat available in US is Hibiki, which is a blended 12 years old (there is also Hibiki 18, but it is even harder to find). Both Yamazaki, Hibiki and many others are owned by Suntory, a Japanese conglomerate.

Then there is Amrut, which produces whiskey in India, again using the Scotch methodology – with very good results. Amrut produces a number of single malt and blended whiskeys – for more information and tasting notes you can read this blog post.

With this we are finishing our exploration of the world of Whiskeys – and remember that paper exercise can not replace an actual experience which a good whiskey can bring. If you never had whiskey before, you need to resolve to try it now. For those who already knows the beauty of the Whiskey spirit – pour some of your favorite in the glass and cheers!

Indifferent, Okay and Spectacular

November 10, 2013 7 comments

Over the last few days, I had a few of the “accidental tastings”, which I would like to share with you. Oh yes, and if you are wondering about the title of this post – read on.

It is not the wine we will be talking about today – instead, it is the other type of “liquid pleasures”. Well, actually, not even one”type”, but a few – Tequila, Scotch and Whiskey!

I have to admit, I don’t drink tequila all that often. When I do drink it, I don’t do shots (as I don’t see a point of pleasure in a quick gulp of an alcohol) – as wine, scotch or cognac, I like to sip and enjoy it slowly.

Tequila DeLeón is definitely not something to look at lightly. I would say that in the overall image presentation, starting from the bottle itself (take a look below – that top is so heavy, it can be literally used as a weapon), to the web site and all the marketing materials, Tequila DeLeón is an attempt to bring out the tequila, shall we say it, of Rémy Martin’s level, and not just any Rémy Martin, but all the way to the top – Louis XIII de Rémy Martin.

Tequila DeLeón bottle

Tequila DeLeón bottle

I had an opportunity to taste through the full line of Tequila DeLeón, starting from the tequila blanco, which is unpretentiously called Diamante, to the Louis XIII-like Leóna. Below is the complete list with the descriptions and suggested retail prices (sorry for the quality of the picture, but I hope you will be able to see enough – or go to the web site for more info):

Tequila DeLeón The Juice line

Tequila DeLeón The Juice line

Here are my notes:

DeLeón Diamante – touch of sweetness, the classic Agave notes of tequila are very muted, viscous mouthfeel.

DeLeón Riposado – nice herbal profile, had some lightness and touch of spiciness. One of my favorites.

DeLeón Añejo – mind you, this tequila is aged in the used Sauternes oak casks, and not just any Sauternes, but venerable d’Yquem. Interesting palate, but not smooth enough, some rough edges.

DeLeón Extra Añejo – very nice, excellent flavor profile, some spiciness, very good depth. Probably my favorite – which is not surprising, considering that it is compared with the Scotch in the official description.

DeLeón Leóna – this is simply overdone. It has a lot of oak. A LOT. Oak is the only thing I was able to taste.

Now, if we look at the prices, which are ranging from $125 for Diamante to $825 for Leóna, this is where Indifferent part of the post’s title comes into a play. I would gladly take Chinaco and Don Julio for the sipping tequila blanco any day (both are under $50), and I never tasted Añejo better than my favorite Tres Generaciones ( also under $50). I appreciate the art of the Tequila DeLeón, and yes, if you need to impress, go for it; meanwhile, I will have another sip of Chinaco.

So you know what left me indifferent. Now, for the Okay part, I tasted through a group of Scotches.  Here they are:

MacPhail’s Collection Highland Park 8 years old – very nice! hint of smoke, perfect balance, touch of sweetness.

MacPhail’s Collection Glan Grant 10 years old – herbal notes, smooth, nice acidity, very good.

Mortlach 15 years old – nice and simple, but somewhat one-dimensional.

Old Pulteney 21 years old – nice, very complex, interesting nose, spicy profile – excellent overall.

Glenlivet 21 years old – okay, so it is a scotch, but it doesn’t do anything for me.

The Macallan 21 years old – least interesting of all. Just boring…

Based on the notes, you can probably see why this is just “okay”. But if you like Scotch, I would definitely recommend the Highland Park 8 and Old Pulteney 21 – those are worth seeking out.

And now,  let’s talk about Spectacular. I was given to taste (blind) four different spirits, one by one, and the most I could say after each one was “wow”. They were one better than the other. Zak was looking at me patiently, waiting for me to guess what they were. The first one, I said, was a grappa. The second? Bourbon. The third? No idea – absolutely unusual profile. The fourth? May be a Rye? Then he put 4 bottles on the table, one by one. Here they are:

Catskill Distilling Company Spirit's Collection

Catskill Distilling Company Spirits Collection

When I saw what they were, I had to say “wow” one more time. All of the spirits were produced about 90 miles away from my house, in the town of Bethel, New York . It is amazing how far the local New York producers went. You probably read my rave review of Hudson Distillery – I will definitely make an effort to visit Catskill Distilling Company when I will have a chance. Here is what I tasted:

Wicked White Whiskey – this is six-grain (corn, wheat, buckwheat, rye, smoked corn, malt), un-aged whiskey. Absolutely spectacular nose and flavor – complete impression of delicate single-grape grappa with round sweet fruit and all around delicious. You have to taste it to believe it.

Most Righteous Bourbon (70% corn, 20% rye, and 10% malt) – round, clean, caramel, butterscotch, all perfectly balanced together. One of the best bourbons I ever tasted.

One and only Buckwheat (80% buckwheat, 20% small grains) – unique and different. Nose is absolutely unusual, reminiscent of sun flower oil. Viscous, roll-of-your-tongue delicious concoction. Great complexity, another drink you have to taste to believe it.

Definat Rye – a very classic Rye, with a touch of sweetness, but otherwise dry palate, some spiciness and good acidity.

All four spirits are reasonably priced ( from $19 to $38) and definitely highly recommended.

There you have it, my friends – my story of indifferent, okay and spectacular. Enjoy the rest of your weekend and cheers!

 

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