Monday, April 1, 2013

Boring whiskey is boring.

It has been quite some time since I have written. It is not that I haven't been enjoying my whiskey, but more that I am not a true writer..I'm not someone that can write under any circumstances. I have a formula you see, where the flow of writing overtakes me. The lights must be dimmed with a lone candle lit. A raging fire will do as well. I must have a glass of whiskey ready to sip, and the bottle ready to refill my glass. I must have the Amy Winehouse station playing on Pandora, for you see I tend to sway back and forth to the rhythm of the music...dancing in my seat, enjoying both my whiskey and the expression of writing.

The last thing I need is privacy, because I am pretty sure I look insane while I write.

Today, I decided to buy a notoriously light bourbon. All the bourbons that I have decorating my shelf are complex, serious and are as heavy as a man hitting middle age contemplating his life choices. I wanted a whiskey that was light, but sweet. Something fun and playful and not so burdened with weight, because isn't life full of that anyways? Life is all about contrast and balance, and today this whiskey girl needed the soft hug of a whiskey that wasn't brash or harsh, but rather gentle and warm.

Basil Hayden's 8 Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 80 proof:

This is the lightest bourbon I think I have ever had. The color is this beautiful honey tone that is pleasing to the eye, but as I swirl my glass I notice that there is hardly any cling to the glass. That is troublesome to me. That cling that you see when you swirl is the oil from the wood that the grain alcohol has drawn out of the barrel, and where the whiskey gets its complex flavor..where is gets it character. Without that depth, a whiskey will be like that dumb beautiful girl. Easy on the eyes, but when it comes personality she is dumb as a fucking rock.

The nose on Basil Hayden is really boring. Some slight vanilla, just a touch of cinnamon.  Because its only 80 proof this is a bourbon I would recommend for those thinking about trying bourbon neat for the first time. It is really approachable, and the flavor is quite nice and mellow. The finish begins and ends in your mouth, there is no long, warm finish down your throat and into your belly. And that is one of the reasons I wouldn't necessarily seek this bourbon out. I love feeling the experience of whiskey throughout my body. I love feeling my tummy glow with warmth after a jigger of Redbreast 15 year. It extends my enjoyment thoroughly. And when that isn't part of the equation..well, the experience of having the whiskey is anti climatic at best.

The flavor notes of this whiskey are very pleasant however. Honey, vanilla, brown sugar. All the yummy highlights that one would want. These flavors however don't extend far enough for me however, and I am left feeling like an unsatisfied lover.

So, would I recommend this whiskey? If you haven't been an avid whiskey drinker and are looking for a good place to start, then yes, I think you would LOVE this whiskey. Its friendly and pleasant. However, once you start drinking on a regular basis and want something that is more bold...well, it will be time to move on something a bit more distinct. Like Whistle Pig. Oh how I fucking love Whistle Pig.

And while I wouldn't seek this bourbon out, I can see how this would the whiskey one could enjoy on a summer evening, with single piece of ice to open it up. It is light, pleasant and not complicated. At all. And sometimes, that can be what a girl needs..and opportunity for an uncomplicated enjoyment of something pleasurable.

Until next time, drink what gives you pleasure, whatever that may be.

Cheers!
Jenn


Sunday, March 3, 2013

A bourbon puts me in my place..for just a moment

Last week, in celebration of my birthday I sauntered down to BevMo to treat myself to a bottle of Booker's Bourbon. At $55 a bottle this had been on my list but I was waiting for a special occasion. And folks, I am just the special occasion I was looking for.

Upon checking out the young lad ringing me up asks me if this is a gift for my husband. I scoff, no sweetheart, my husband hates bourbon..and thats alright, no one is perfect. We exchange banter on our favorite brands and he assures me that I am going to LOVE Booker's. I imagine as I drive home that this is the bottle that I won't share but hoard greedily for quiet moments of reflection.

Upon my arrival home I quickly grab a glass and give myself a healthy pour. The color is GORGEOUS. A deep and rich amber, it is thick like syrup. I swirl and the bourbon is slow and sticky like molasses, clinging to the glass and reluctantly joining the pool at the bottom.

I smile, sniff and sip.

OH GOD IT BURNS!!!!

I shiver uncontrollably from head to toe. This is an overpowering sensation. There is a tiny note with the bottle that they recommend this neat. I am no quitter, so I wait a few minutes to let the thick vaporous scent dissipate a bit. I sip again. My body is overtaken by shivers again. I get goose bumps.

What the hell?? I'm the Whiskey Girl dammit! Does this bourbon not know who its dealing with. I grab some water and give my glass the slightest douse. Shiver. Another douse. Shiver, shiver, shiver. I sit back, feeling oddly defeated. I am a woman that prides herself on drinking her whiskey neat, and I have to say I have gotten a lot of practice in. Even if I don't care for the whiskey I can still tolerate it. This Bookers was something different all together. This bourbon is unfiltered, straight from the cask into the bottle and aged for 6-8 years. And apparently that makes it a bit strong in its presentation.

I put my glass down, feeling like I had somehow lost an argument or something along those lines. And if you know me, I don't take to losing arguments kindly.Shamefully, I put the bottle away and skulk off to bed, defeated.

Fast forward to last night. We were invited over for dinner to our friends house and our friend Colleen had informed me that they had a collection of Scotch and Ryes for tasting...and immediately I thought, I want someone else to try this bourbon! So this bastard bottle made its way with us through the winding hills of Belmont.

I brought out the bottle and Matt decided to use cooling whiskey cubes in the bourbon right away and announced quickly how incredible it was. What. the. hell. I tried a sip and oh my god it was amazing.

Then I put together that the cold of the cubes was restricting the expression of the whiskey making it so much approachable. That introduction of cold made all the difference in the world and I don't know why I didn't think of that at home. And once I could drink it...the complexity of flavors is unreal.

The nose is sweet, smelling of sugared oranges and toffee. The weight is heavy on the tongue, sticky like melted sugar. It clings to the edges of your mouth, slow in its descend. The fire is vanilla and pepper laden, hitting you in the back of the throat, slowly gliding down and dissipating before it hits your belly. After, that sensation lasts for a bit, with a fading tingle on the back part of your tongue. Unbeliavably enjoyable. So much so that we finished half the bottle.

This will be one of my special bottles for sure. I also received my first Irish whiskey as a birthday gift...AMAZING. And after trying Scotch this weekend, Lagavulin to be specific, I can for sure say that I am not a fan. But thats another review all together.

Until next time friends, cheers!
Jenn

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Small time equals big love tonight.

Tonight is a night of comparisons, big versus little, well-known versus the obscure.

I had several..yes, several friends email me the story about Maker's Mark. If you haven't heard, Maker's Mark has received a lot of press for announcing that they would be adding water to their beloved blend. Say what you want about Maker's, a lot of people love it. Apparently what has happened is that so many people have been buying it is that the company is caught between a rock and a hard place. They have an aging process to respect, but a huge deficit in what they have to sell. They need to make what they have stretch way further and the most reasonable solution is to add water. According to their press release: "not even their tasters could taste the difference". That gives me pause because lowering of an alochol content would be obvious..but whatever. Now, my first response to this news was that "Who cares?".

Here is why I really don't give a shit. Who ever drinks Maker's neat?? I mean, I love Maker's..but its not the whiskey you take home to meet Mother. You drink it mixed, in the back of bar..where no one can see..in the shadows. Its what you use to make a batch of whiskey sours for a group of friends, not what you roll out to celebrate something special or mourn something significant.  This is what happens with a label that is massivly produced and gaining in popularity. Its a numbers game people.

But then there is the opposite of Maker's. A whiskey that is locally produced and made is small quantities. A whiskey, that at this point, would never be touched or doused with water by its makers because it is a sipping whiskey through and through.

This evening I received as a gift a small bottle of Goldrun Rye California Whiskey made in Belmont, CA.  And I have to say there is something to be said for small batches. Wow.

Looking to their website:


"Goldrun ™ Rye
375ml, 45% ABV

Goldrun Rye is our flagship rye whiskey from 100% Organic White North Dakota Rye. Unlike other industrial rye whiskeys, Goldrun Rye is produced like an Eau De Vie: mashed, fermented and distilled twice in small batches in a unique way that enables us to retain rich yet floral aromas of the rye grain.   The process is expensive, complex and painstakingly slow.  We age the Rye in new charred white Minnesota oak barrels half the size of traditional barrels. This is a Rye unlike any other Rye you ever had – and we were told it is a benchmark for what true American Ryes ought to be.   Every release is a single barrel release."

The first thing I noticed is that I swirled the amber colored nectar in my glass is the viscosity was so low. It did not cling to my glass. Around the upper edges it seems as if there was a small layer of water. Up front the smell was subtle and unobtrusive. Light, light, light. Almost floral, it is almost as light as slight breeze through an open window at night..pleasant and reaffirming of your presence in that moment.

You take a sip, it really light on the tongue and palate. As the liquid makes its way into your mouth there is hardly any fire..until it hits the back of your mouth. Bright cinnamon flash that emanates heat around your gums and lips. And as quickly as it appears it is gone. Vanilla, oak, the sweet taste of subtle grain. It is light, but powerful in all the right places. What I liked so much is that its not as smooth as other Rye's I have encountered. That may at first seem derogatory but I am woman who likes her whiskey like her men, bold and with something to say.

This particular distillery has "Friday Night Flights" with tastings every last Friday of the month. I will definitely be checking that out.

Until next time my friends, cheers!
Jenn



Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Whiskey girl down..I repeat, whiskey girl down.

The tale of a girl who didn't respect the power of whiskey.

Part One:

Last night I attended a whiskey knowledge class in San Francisco at a fantastic speakeasy themed bar called Bourbon and Branch. If you don't know of this establishment, please check it out. But don't tell them I sent you, because they probably wouldn't let you in. 

Allow me to explain.

Yesterday was an exciting day. My amazing friend Carmelita was coming into town to attend this class with me. My other amazing friend Anjanette was meeting up with us before the class for a drink. I was super excited to see my girls, the energy in the city is so vivacious, and I was had heels on. I got a little carried away. I had three whiskey drinks before the class.

Thats right. Three.

A Sazerac, a Basil Hayden neat, and a whiskey sour made with Bulleit Bourbon. What was I thinking?


Fast forward. We leave the restaurant to make our way to BB, and you know what, I'm feeling fine. Walking, talking...the whole nine yards. Get into the bar, which again is amazing. The hostess walks us to a private bar room in the back and there is a wall of spirits behind the bar that is nothing short of gorgeous, the light hitting the bottles making them glint like jewels.

As the instructor walked us through how to make an old fashioned, I felt a little bit tipsy. After I consumed said old-fashioned it was game on. I would not stop asking questions. And my fellow whiskey enthusiasts did not appreciate my inquisitive nature. And then this dialog took place:

Jenn: "Lita, I have to go to sleep. We gotta go"

Lita: "Are you serious? Its only 9:15! Suck it up, drink some water."

A few minutes later, as told by Lita, the room got really quiet and everyone started looking around. Your truly was asleep at her table, face on the wood totally in la-la land.

Damn. My whiskey prowess was lacking last night for sure. Basically the lesson here my friends is that you definitely do not show up to a whiskey tasting already with three whiskeys under your belt. Bad idea folks. Bad. Idea.

When I awoke this morning, curled up in a ball on Lita's couch still donning my sweater dress from the nights adventures my skin and breath was hot from the nights whiskey. A bottle of water never tasted soooooo good.

Part two:

But all was not lost. I learned to make an amazing old fashioned:

1 sugar cube
2 oz of whiskey (we used Knob Creek, I would probably use Makers Mark)
3 healthy sprinklings of aromatic bitters
lemon zest
Ice

1. In a glass put the sugar cube and the bitters. Muddle them together.
2. Put ice in glass
3. Add whiskey and stir
4. Twist the lemon zest over the glass

This drink was awesome! Now, this was the drink that put me over the edge, but I will forgive that transgression. The bitters smell a lot like jager and at first I didn't think I would enjoy having this in my drink. However, it adds such a great layer to the flavor and compliments the sharpness of the whiskey. The lemon zest was a fabulous touch as well, making the upfront aroma fresh and light. This is a heavy on the palate drink, you really feel the weight of this on your tongue. The finish is quite sugary in texture but not overly sweet.

So, my whiskey adventure continues. Hopefully I will stay awake for the next chapter.

Cheers,
Jennifer

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Absinthe and whiskey..a match made in heaven.

Tonight, I made my way home through the misty mountains of Santa Cruz..weary. After a long and trying day all I could think was about my sofa, a fire and sleep. With another long day ahead of me tomorrow I didn't even think whiskey was on my agenda for the night.

I had forgotten that earlier that day my husband had informed me that he had researched how to make a Sazerac and he was picking up some absinthe at BevMo to make me one. So when I received a text of "eta?",  I assumed nothing. But when I entered my home, cheeks chilled from the cold..I made my way back to the warm kitchen where my husband was working away to ease me of the burden of my day.

A Sazaerac, if you are unfamiliar, is a whiskey drink. Surprised? It includes an icy chilled glass washed out with absinthe, with a combination of whiskey (rye), simple syrup, bitters and a twist of lemon.

It is downright DELICIOUS. You get a faint hint of the absinthe, peppery and sharp. The rye whiskey (Bulleit Rye) is smooth and soft in comparison, you get a hint of sweet and sour from the lemon and sugar. The finish is short and to the point. No need for a song and dance, this drink doesn't mess around. It is strong, it is bold..it will f*ck you up. And after my day it is just what I needed.


Drink with caution, but enjoy. Until next times my dears, Cheers!
Jenn

Monday, January 28, 2013

Rye I oughta!!



I have officially gone beyond bourbons. I didn't mean to, I swear. I heard so many rumblings about this "Rye whiskey"...I just had to try it. And I have to admit, I was a bit nervous. The syrupy sweetness of bourbon I find seductive and comforting, the stickiness reminding me of all the sensualities that life has to offer. I think thats what I really love about whiskey and why I wish more women enjoyed it. I drink whiskey and I feel more womanly. It is such a sexy drink. And the thought of that sweetness being gone made me believe that I would be left with something too harsh for a delicate flower such as myself to enjoy.

When I finally got the bottle of Bulleit Rye Whiskey in my hands I held it up to the light, looking for a difference in color or viscosity. A beautiful amber color, its smooth bottle reflected the light, making the edges seem golden like a trophy. I have to say, I was rather excited to have this "outsider" amongst my ever growing, ever proud true bourbon collection. I was dying to compare this against my tried and true love: bourbon.

Grass isn't always greener folks.

Rye Whiskey is LIGHT. The thing with bourbon is that the weight on the tongue is quite pronounced. This Rye Whiskey is like a light kiss in the golden sunshine of early summer...the wind light against your cheek, your thoughts wrapped up in the moment. You kind of forget where you are for a moment. I mean, I know I am drinking whiskey, but damn, it goes down EASY. Its a little uncomplicated for my taste, however this would be downright dangerous in a Manhattan or Whiskey Sour.

The upfront notes are mild and unobtrusive.  A slight honey and caramel scent. Very pleasurable. When you take your first sip it is soooooo smooth. Not the upfront fire of spice that I am used to with Bourbons. But then...wait for it...BAM! That spice hits and lasts for about 10 seconds..then dissipates as quickly as it made its introduction.  No long, hot finish. A very self contained whiskey, although I think I might prefer the deeper flavors of the bourbon.

Not to have my bourbon bar outdone, I also got my little hands on a bottle of Four Roses: Small batch.

Fucking YUM.

I've started to enjoy the intense upfront smell of a bourbon. Four roses' in the beginning is intense. Super strong oak, vanilla and cinnamon, I could see how this would be a turn off for some. But let it breathe for a few minutes and it relaxes. It flowers, evolving...Add a  few droplets of water and swirl it becomes downright gentle.  With the high alcohol content cut down (its a 90 proof) you can really taste the strong vanilla and light oak. This, THIS is what I like in a whiskey neat. I am finding that I really prefer this to a super smooth pour.  I want to feel alive, reminded of my body and my breath fiery with spice. After I have a bourbon such as Four Roses, even if its just a strong sip,  I am reminded that I am full of vigor and ready to kick some ass.

Until next time my friends..Cheers!
Jenn






Monday, January 21, 2013

Eagle Rare? More like Eagle Awesome!

Eagle Rare 10 year, you are a tricky little bitch.

Mondays are quickly turning into my " I'm going to BevMo to buy another bottle of whiskey" day. I walk into the store and with a focused intention and purpose and make my way to the whiskey aisle. Third on the right, in case you were wondering. In that aisle there are many choices, but today I was prepared. Eagle Rare 10 year is my prize today, and even with the knowledge of what I was going to purchase the other bottles filled with golden amber liquid so caused my eyes to wander. I'm sorry Eagle Rare, but at this point I have no loyalty to you sweetheart. Four Roses Small Batch, I have my eyes on you. But for now, Eagle Rare and I have some business to attend to.

What I am finding with these bourbons that I am often surprised by the taste because the smell leads me a bit astray.  Case in point, Eagle Rare 10 Year.

This bourbon, with its dark honey color is so mild when you take an inhalation. You smell very subtle things: toasted bread, other grains...a very faint dose of almond. What is so interesting is when you take a sip things shift. The flavor becomes more forceful, like a wind blowing open a door during a storm. As soon as the liquid hits your lips its a bit fiery, but at very specific areas of your mouth. You get this little bite-y kick, starting at the roof of your mouth and ending right in the back of your throat. Your lips are tingling and spicy. I lick my lips and it intensifies...and makes it linger longer. These physical sensations last a couple of minutes and add to the enjoyment.

The flavor is strong with fruit, like currents, raisins..slightly sugary but not at all overwhelmingly sweet and not too heavy on the tongue.  The finish is strong and straight to the point. 

I wouldn't say this is an overly complicated bourbon. But I really, REALLY liked it. It surprised me. When I first poured my glass and took a sniff I wasn't expecting much but what I got exceeded my expectations. And isn't that a great lesson? Sometimes, you really can not judge things, or people on first impressions. Sometimes, just sometimes,  your perceptions can be off and if you delve a little deeper your whole perspective  can be changed.

Yep folks, I am deriving life lessons from Whiskey. You have to take wisdom where you can. Either that or I'm drunk. You be the judge.

Cheers,
Jennifer