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Enjoying Scotch Whisky and a few other things

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WhiskyFest NYC 2013, Noteable Scots and “first fill” love

Well, it has been some time since I posted. Life mostly gets in the way and due to the American Football (NFL) season I tend to get very distracted. So I have attended only one event, electing to not go to a couple of more due to time and the fact that many of these events really do not bring anything new or exciting to someone who has had more than a few tastings of every major scotch whisky. Most scotch whisky distillers are enjoying record sales, new markets in India, China, and of course the Americas keep on drinking. Blended whisky is still king and that’s fine, I just tend to stick to single malts and love to see new expressions that many of them keep churning out. I do think that a few distillers are trying harder to keep coming up with something unique but unfortunately their products mostly hit very limited markets and aren’t very affordable for an everyday drinker.

So WhiskyFest NYC was the first WhiskyFest event I have attended. I went to the general event as time and money prohibited from attending all the “extra” classes. I think it’s rather amusing that you must pay a lot of money to sample and hear people go on about their products when they need you, the consumer, to be excited enough to buy them and spread the word. But anyhow, there is a market for everything and their show seems to work for them, however, they tried to do a multi-day event this year and I don’t think it met their expectations. They did put out a comment saying something to the effect that they were disappointed that they did not have enough new and unique whisky available at the event. I agree.

The highlight of my three-hour “taste-a-thon” was meeting Jim McEwan. He is a legend and rightly so. What I didn’t know was how personable and caring he is. He was extremely friendly and entertaining. He shared with me his time as Master Blender at Bowmore and his amazing resurrection of Bruichladdich. He is what I so love about Islay, in a word, pure. The work he did at Bowmore is evident in their excellent aged whisky on the market today. The work that he has done at Bruichladdich is nothing short of brilliant in my opinion. If you are looking for a brand to dig into, and enjoy the peaty single malt whisky from Islay, dig in. The range is varied and offers something for everyone. You can go from the Laddie Ten up to the Octomore range. I am in love with the Octomore line, I think it is one of the most well done expressions that can only be a result of years of experience.

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It’s hard to get a clear picture at a whisky event.

The Nose, Richard Patterson was also in the house! I have met Richard a couple of times and spent some time enjoying his gregariousness and had a few drams while he entertained a few patrons. He is pure fun! It was also great catching up with David Blackmore, Global Brand Ambassador for Ardbeg & Glenmorangie. He does an excellent job and is a very kind soul. I ribbed him about not having anything “special” but I was more than willing to have a pour of Uigedail, possibly my favorite of the Ardbeg line.

The only spirit of the night that I was looking forward to tasting was the Bowmore Devil’s Cask. I had been told about this whisky while I was at Bowmore this past spring and actually tasted one cask that I was told would be very telling about the Devil’s Cask. It is a product of first filled sherry casks and the age statement is a 10 years aged whisky. DO NOT make the mistake at looking at the age statement, but look closely at the “first” filled sherry cask. Much like the most excellent Tempest (Dorus Mor in the U.S. due to trademark issues) this is a very small batch high quality product that is nothing short of extraordinary. If you get the chance, or have the means, acquire it.20131203-233421.jpg

Well I didn’t mean for this to go on so long but I’ve been silent for a few months. During this time, I’ve really focused on just enjoying the various Bowmore and Ardbeg products that are a staple in my house. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by the new Balvenie 12 year single barrel “First Fill” product that came out this year. I intend on writing about it soon and intend on comparing it with the single barrel 15. One thing about this year pertaining to the marketing of “first fill” products. There IS something different about these products, it is a noticeable difference and I do hope this is a trend.

Cheers!

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P.S. if you did not know, Jim McEwan has made a Gin. It is one of the best I have ever tasted, no joke!

Fathers Day Scotch Whisky

This is a public service announcement for Americans. Many will go out and buy dear old dad a bottle of whisky this weekend to thank him for the years of pain and suffering you have put him through. The only problem is you have no idea what to buy him. You think he likes Scotch whisky?

Ok. Now if you know the brand he likes just buy that. Don’t get all fancy or try to one up your brother and get him something terribly different. Now if you are taking a stab completely in the dark you had better choose wisely. First off, dad may be too kind to grimace at the bottle of J&B if he only drinks Famous Grouse. However, I’d recommend a crowd pleaser like The Macallan or Glenfiddich (the 12 years aged or no age statement is fine, in other words the cheapest).

Want to spend less? Grants or Ballantine’s could work. I honestly would drink them.

So if your Dad is a big scotch whisky drinker, and blogs about whisky, wink, wink, nudge, Nudge! You might want to go in on a bottle of Bruichladdich Octomore. Any of them!

This has been a Scotchlife PSA. You can go back to your regular programming.

Bowmore Distillery Tour and the No.1 Vault

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For me, visiting a distillery is like a child going to Disneyland, I just cannot wait to get there. At the end of my Ultimate Adventure courtesy of Bowmore, my colleague Lucas and I were treated to a grand tour led by none other than Eddie MacAffer, the Distillery (and legendary) manager. If you have done a distillery tour, or several, you know the progression, malted barley, drying floor, washbacks, and then stills. It’s a great lesson if you are passionate about whisky as I am. This tour was more like a back stage pass though. Not only did I turn the malt on the malting floor, I got to go into the fire pit underneath the drying floor, drink from the #2 Washback and then drink the new spirit from the whole process (if I didn’t know, I thought I’d been drinking a light gin). Eddie went through great pains at each station to explain the significance of each part of the process. He is a dear man and passionate about making his whisky and that is enough for me.

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So during the process I found that I’m not meant for the malting floor (too aggressive) but I did seem eager enough to prompt Eddie to let me drink from the #2 Washback. I have to say, one may be hesitant to drink something that doesn’t look all that attractive, but, when else would I be given the opportunity!? It wasn’t bad really, basically an unfinished beer but not something you’d want to taste all the time.

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The distillery itself is polished and clean, well-organized, and run by people who move with a purpose. I like that. I also like Eddie’s candor about the whole process. He doesn’t hide anything, doesn’t dodge any question, and wants to make sure you understand everything.

What came at the end of the manufacturing process really had me excited. We approached the famed No. 1 Vaults and all I could think is how long I have waited to see behind this door. The No.1 Vault is the oldest holding area for aging casks on Islay, and for that matter almost all of Scotland. There is a rich history in this vault, it was originally part of the distillery and I’m afraid I’ve forgotten the details and history of the vault, I do apologize.

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Walking into this area is walking into the area where the most valuable and cherished whisky lies maturing. It is from this vault the most valuable and desired Bowmore products age. It is here where Eddie educated us on their operations, and then, he opened a cask. Not just any cask, but a 13 yr aged cask. It was a bourbon cask from America. I will keep some of the secrets to whence it came from in America. Eddie extracted the whisky and poured it into a tulip glass. We passed it around, nosed and drank. It was simply marvelous. But then it got better.

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Sitting next to the bourbon cask was a sherry butt that had been resting for 18 years. We drank, we swooned. Just a simply amazing product.

I wondered around the No.1 vault and marveled at the numerous resting casks that were producing some of the most desired whisky in the world. I secretly wondered, if I just hide, would they notice?

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So like most things in life, the tour had to come to an end. The experience was amazing though! I do hope to visit No.1 again, and maybe this time, I will hide.

Cheers!

Whisky News Flash: Win a Trip to Scotland to Visit the Glen Garioch Distillery

Whisky News Flash: Win a Trip to Scotland to Visit the Glen Garioch Distillery.

Bowmore’s Ultimate Outdoor Adventure winner!

Is ME! Technically there are two winners and I somehow found favor by the Whisky gods! I’ve been keeping this under my hat for months now but next week I will literally be going on the trip of a lifetime.

It was a dreary December morning when I woke up to an email from Morrison Bowmore to congratulate me, it was a bit surreal. I’m a firm believer in the adage of “too good to be true” and it has taken me awhile to accept this amazing gift.

I will be putting out as much data as possible about this trip in this blog in a couple of weeks. There will likely be extensive photography, including a lot of nature shots.

As a bonus, I will be stopping in on Auchentoshan in Glasgow also and I look forward to the opportunity. I wish you all could come with me but I’m going to have to pack quite a lot of outdoor gear so there may not be enough room to put you in my luggage.

Anyhow, just wanted to put it out there because many people entered this contest and a special thanks to all the bloggers who promoted the event because that is how I found out.

Cheers!

http://www.bowmore.com/news/bowmore-ultimate-adventure/

Whisky Guild River Cruise in Washington D.C. 2013

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There are certain places you expect a tasting, of any kind, to be held at. Nice hotels, private clubs, resorts, etc… The Whisky Guild hosts tastings on boats. In Washington D.C. they use a fairly large vessel that comfortably holds hundreds of people. There are two tickets, a VIP which pre-boards an hour early and then a regular attendee. The tickets include a dinner and quite a lot of whisky. The boat really does it for me honestly, I just love boats and drinking on a boat seems as natural as breathing to me. I go with the VIP because I’m always hoping something rare or special shows up from one of the distributors and being an hour ahead of the regular crowd has its benefits.

Well, I think that all boarding early this year got me was more whisky. Problem? No, well, yes, it’s not like there is a lack of whisky on this boat!
I was a little disheartened, though I knew ahead of time, that there wouldn’t be any rare whisky there. There was some very nice people there though. The Highland Park table featured very good whisky and great camaraderie. The “rock star” table for me was the one with Ewan Morgan of Diageo. Ewan is an Ambassador for Diageo North America and was a great conversationalist despite being tired from travels and two big shows that had taken him back and forth from East coast to West Coast.20130417-204333.jpg
Unfortunately this event happens after two weeks of big shows in the States and many of the distributors do not send their “A” team. I’m referring to the Brand Ambassadors who are the foremost experts on their products. Also, many notable brands just didn’t show up.
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I should say that I was surprised at the amount of American whiskies on the boat. I always thought this to be a scotch whisky event but this year I swear 30-40% of the exhibitors were there with American whiskies. I think they were rather surprised themselves, I do believe the buzz was primarily at the Scotch whisky tables. I came away with two great impressions from whisky that I have not had prior to the event. First I met the Single Cask Nation. You can check them out, I really liked their offerings and have seen much press about them as well as a blog they run.
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The star whisky of the night was from Bruichladdich. It was the Black Arts offering, aged 22 years, it was the most delicate, sophisticated and “special” dram of my evening. I had already enjoyed a bit of whisky before I’d arrived at a table that had the offering on it, and it still made a very big impression on my palate. I will be seeking this one out! It is a 22-year-old Oak aged beauty!

20130417-204458.jpgWell, I enjoyed the cruise, I just wish it could be on the weekend, this middle of the week stuff kills me! See you next year?

 

Cheers!

 

Prohibition Party at Jack Rose Dining Saloon 2012

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On December 5, 2012, hundreds of Washingtonians crowded the dark paneled walls of the best whisky bar in America, Jack Rose Dining Saloon, for a celebration of sensibility. Rare, these days are words like “sense” and “obvious” in the seat of American government these days (have you heard of the “cliff”?) but on December 5, 1933 the United States Constitution was amended with the Twenty-first Amendment also known as the Repeal of Prohibition. The repeal was of the Eighteenth Amendment which was passed due to the conventional wisdom, and considerable political and religious pressure, to ban the manufacture of whiskey in the U.S. in order to reduce crime, improve the health and mental wellness of the American citizenry, and reduce healthcare costs (that sounds familiar). What the 18th Amendment did was the exact opposite of this and to the dismay of Senator Rockefeller and all the groups who rejoiced over their victory they could not wait to “un-do” the bad law that they had created and stop the bleeding.

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So, it is only fitting that such a grand bar could throw a Prohibition party in the year 2012. Why? Because I think we need to reflect on what we have, as citizens, let government do in our lives. As altruistic as man can be, often, he/she does the wrong thing. And in the case of Government, it usually is not corrected without a revolution or take-over. Life is hard enough, to take away the few things that unites and provides enjoyment for a large segment of a society is detrimental. So raise a glass my fellow Americans and never forget!

Now, that I’m off of my pedestal, I’d like to talk about this Saloon called Jack Rose. At the heart of this bar is Bill Thomas, proprietor of Jack Rose Dining Saloon as well as Bourbon in Georgetown. On this night, Bill really wanted a celebration of this date and a true theme running through the night to give it a Prohibition era feel. It started with a wonderfully cooked three course meal that I wisely took my server’s advise on and chose the Prime Rib. I had a three course meal for $20 USD. You can see the picture, the Prime Rib was ridiculously huge! I told Bill, you can’t be making money on this! He smiled and said, I really don’t care. He wanted people to enjoy this day, it wasn’t just another excuse to open the doors and pour drink specials. Bill loves whiskey and enjoys the company of those who do also. So, when you can have an intimate party in a bar that has a ridiculous amount of whisk(e)y in it. Why Not!

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As usual,the meal was wonderful, the appetizers unique and special. But what came afterwards really trumped it all.

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When Bill opened the Dining Saloon there was a basement area that in most people’s minds would be a great cellar/storage area. What Bill saw was an intimate setting where whisky aficionados could sit in relative quiet away from the main crowd and truly enjoy some spirits. I joined Bill downstairs and the bar truly carries the “speakeasy” feel. The door to the bar is recessed into the wall, and slides. There is a back door, no sign on the outside, with a buzzer. You get the picture. In this area, one can assembly 40 people and it feels like you’re in a New York City bar on Saturday night, only with a Washington vibe, not a New York one. Tonight, Bill was personally pouring a few unique scotch and bourbon offerings.

20121215-090626.jpgThe room was alive and the setting was perfect. Bill had brought in some Pre-Prohibition era American whiskey that he has in his personal collection and displayed it in a case (I’ve placed a few in this post). For entertainment, two lovely young ladies provided us with a 1920’s flapper themed performance that even silenced, even mesmerized the contingent and even produced a few ghasts from the women folk. It was at that moment I knew that nowhere else in this city was anyone having this good of a time. My iPhone doesn’t do justice in the picture of one of the ladies, but trust me, it was a show.

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To finish off a near perfect night, Bill pulled out a pre-prohibition bottle of American whiskey. Though the label and history had worn off, Bill knew it was distilled somewhere between 1915 to 1930. The magic was not in its nosing or tasting, but in just knowing that  you were able to imbibe in a whiskey that old and surrounded by so much controversy. I really do thank Jack Rose for bringing attention to a historic date and doing its best to help reconnect our generations with those back then. I cannot wait til next year!

Cheers!

‘This Week’s Events Including Draper’s 125th Anniversary & Super Bowl Bash!’

‘This Week’s Events Including Draper’s 125th Anniversary & Super Bowl Bash!’.

Cookology! A foodies delight in cooking

Last night my wife and I visited the store known as Cookology which is located in Dulles Mall. This mall is located in Northern Virginia, miles from Washington-Dulles International Airport and a few miles from the Nations Capitol. At this venue you will be led by an Executive Chef with multiple years of experience. On our visit we opted for the Steak options which entailed learning how to prepare a Filet Mignon (Wagu beef) with a delicious mashed potato combination of sinful ingredients preceded by a made from scratch blue cheese dressing that is so good  you would almost forget you had a main course.

We started as a group with all the necessary fresh ingredients neatly laid out in bowls before us. Methodically and without confusion or much thought we shuffled through the professional kitchen and used the induction cookers to boil potatoes in two minutes and subsequently sear filets in just minutes also. The mixture of egg, mayo, sugar, etc…. led to a blue cheese dressing to die for! This is the first time I have ever been able to play cook in a professional kitchen and I just loved it! It makes you realize the own limitations of your kitchen at home.

In the end, we dined on our steak, potato and blue cheese wedge salad. Topped off with a Cab Sav from California of course. I hesitate to call myself a foodie. But damn it, I love good food! And this place is just the kind of place where you can gain the appreciation for how really good food comes from really good ingredients.

If you find yourself in the Northern Virginia/DC area, you need to schedule a visit to this place. You will not regret it!

Cheers!

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