Archives for posts with tag: Scotch

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The folks over at Whisky Advocate  (formerly Malt Advocateknow their way around the world’s greatest beverage. Once a year, they give out awards to recognize some of the best bottles available to the public and, in an effort to help spread their message, I try to recap it for you in a few easy links.

So, without further ado, here are the best whiskies in the world according to Whisky Advocate’s editor, John Hansell, who wins my award for Smartest Career Choice:

Yet another great list but I have to admit that I’m disappointed by some of the selections. I love whiskies of any stripe but single malt Scotch is, hands down, my absolute favorite. In the past decade or so, single malt Scotch has become increasingly popular and distillers have met the challenge by increasing the volume and variety of production. This list certainly shows off what are the probably the finest Scotches in Scotland, however, my problem with it is that I’ll never know for sure!

Of the five Scotches listed, exactly zero are priced below $100/bottle. Only one comes in under $300/bottle and it’s the lone blend of the group. One bottle, it should be worth noting, is worth more than my car. To put that in perspective, I’ve got something like 20 bottles at home that run the gamut in terms of flavor and price and only one routinely sells for over $100… and it was a gift! Furthermore, it would be incredibly difficult to find any of the winners in even the best specialty shops in the US.

There are so many affordable Scotches out there that are truly outstanding and affordable; it’s just a shame that none of them made the list. That said, maybe there is something to be said for simply picking the best of the best without worrying about affordability or availability.

What do you think? Did any of your favorites fail to make the list but are still worth a mention? Let me know in the comments!

[Whisky Advocate]

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I love whisky but John Hansell, pictured above, of the fantastic Whisky Advocate Blog (formerly WhatDoesJohnKnow.com) loooves whisky. Every year, the folks over at Whisky Advocate (formerly Malt Advocate) give out awards to the whiskies that they believe were truly exceptional. Here’s a quick link to last year’s winners and below are this year’s winners along with links to the articles where you can learn more about them about them:

If you like whisky, I highly recommend checking out this blog. It’s impossible for most of us to taste all the whiskies that come out each year, so it’s great to have a guy like Mr. Hansell doing the “dirty” work for us. He makes the world of whisky accessible, informative and fun and he tries to keep in mind the budget of regular folks while he’s doing it. As you can see from the prices, many of these whiskies are very competitively priced**. 

Of the winners, I’ve only had the Redbreast Irish whiskey, which is great, although I’ve had other expressions from most of these distilleries. Now, I just have to figure out which one to try first. I’m leaning toward the Compass Box or the Bruichladdich, although I’m sure that all of these are amazing in their own way!

**Keep in mind that a $90 whisky is equivalent to a $25-$30 bottle of wine when you think about the amount of servings per bottle. A $25-$30 bottle of wine isn’t cheap but it’s a fair purchase to justify once in a while. Same with whisky, only you get to multiply the price by three or four.

Check out Esquire for more!

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If you like whiskey and trying new things, have I got a recommendation for you. Whippersnapper, by Random Spirits, is a 79% corn mash whiskey that smells like nothing I've ever come across and tastes like a whiskey much older than it is. Despite it being produced mainly from corn, the aging process precludes this Oregonian whiskey from being considered a bourbon. What's the aging process, you ask? Well, I'm glad you did!

Aging takes place in a variety of barrels, including used French coopered pinot noir barrels, new American coopered whiskey barrels, and used American whiskey barrels. The whippersnapper is aged for between six months and two years, with an average time of about one year.

Three different homes in less than two years? This whiskey is like the army brat of American spirits! What you get from such an involved process is an absolutely wonderful and unique flavor profile. If you can find a bottle of this good, good stuff, I highly recommend picking it up. It's not easy to find but at the time of this post, it was available at K&L.

Thanks to Tyler for buying this bottle for Adam and to Adam for sharing it with his friends! And congrats to Adam on his upcoming nuptials!

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John Hansell (pictured above) is the head honcho over at Malt Advocate and What Does John Know? is his very accessible, very well-written blog about what’s going on in the world of whisk(e)y. I’m a big fan of the blog and my favorite feature of the year–the Malt Advocate Whisky Awards–just finished up. It’s a great blog and I really recommend reading it on an ongoing basis but for those of you interested in cutting to the chase and getting to the winners, here are the links:

My favorite thing about the awards is that these are generally pretty affordable whiskies that are available for purchase in the US**. Although Mr. Hansell has no problem writing about the whiskies that will never make it to America or that cost as much as a private island, he’s wise to eliminate those whiskies from contention in the awards. 

Of the winners, the only one I’ve tried is the Eagle Rare 17-year-old bourbon, which was recommended to me by a bartender at Bigfoot West. That bourbon, that bar and that bartender are all awesome, although I didn’t catch the bartender’s name. As for the rest of the winners, I’ve not gotten the chance to try them but I can’t wait to change that!

**Keep in mind that a $90 whisky is equivalent to a $25-$30 bottle of wine when you think about the amount of servings per bottle. A $25-$30 bottle of wine isn’t cheap but it’s a fair purchase to justify once in a while. Same with whisky, only you get to multiply the price by three or four.

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This morning, Josh said, “If you dont get these, I will lose respect for your whiskey drinking abilities.” Then, we realized that these glasses don’t appear to be available for purchase just yet. Even if they were, though, it begs the question, “what is a good whisky glass?” 

The Kacper Hamilton glass pictured above is pretty baller. Actually, it’s really baller, but I’m not sure it’s a good whisky glass. The addition of the hole was meant to “create a more engaging experience when drinking whiskey,” according to the designers. I don’t know about that but I do know that if you’re on your fourth pour, that hole isn’t going to help you out unless your goal is to spill all over the table. Still, these glasses are pretty cool looking and I’m sure that they’re no worse than your run-of-the-mill snifter in terms of enjoying the Scotch.

I’m no expert (I’m just a dude who likes Scotch a lot) but, for me, there is no better Scotch glass than the classic Glencairn glass. It’s durable, it’s nice-looking, it’s affordable and it does a great job presenting the Scotch for nosing. I have some Riedel glasses at my house and I really like them, however, they are extremely fragile and they chip around the rim in the dishwasher without fail. If you’ve never been yelled at for leaving a glass out, only to find that the person doing the yelling ended up chipping your favorite glass in the dishwasher, it’s a confusing feeling. You want to get mad back but you know that that will just remind the person of your slovenly habit of leaving glasses lying around.

Like I said, go with the Glencairns. Even if those holey glasses are available for purchase, they just don’t look dishwasher safe to me.   

[Gizmodo via Josh Tauber]

  

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And by “hard,” I mean “hard liquor,” of course. What did you think I meant?

I’m not sure exactly why Ron Jeremy thinks that people are interested in drinking a liquid with his face on it, but here it is, Ron de Jeremy Rum! “Ron” does means “rum” in Spanish, so, maybe the wordplay was just too good to pass up. I’ve seen worse marketing ideas.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons I’m not big on rum; I feel like this kind of nonsense wouldn’t fly in Scotland. But if the show Entourage can launch an actual tequila, Puff Daddy (excuse me, “Diddy Dirty Money”) and Jay-Z can have competing brands of vodka and Ron Jeremy can put his mustachioed mug on a bottle of rum, then I’ll just stick to Scotch, a-thank you very much! No offense to “The Hedgehog,” of course, I just don’t want him anywhere near my mouth. [Uncrate]
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For as much as I appreciate a good dram of Scotch, there are dudes who put me to shame. 

Example: Sir Ernest Shackleton (pictured above).

Nowadays, in order to be knighted, you just have to play James Bond or Gandalf in a couple of movies. Back in the day, you had to trek to the center of Antartica or to the top of Mount Everest. Those guys were real knights and, much as I would expect, they were lovers of Scotch.

I present to you, The Story of Sir Ernest Shackleton and the Crates of Scotch!

In this story, Sir Ernest Shackleton (badass), decided one day that he wanted to go on walkabout in Antarctica because the weather in England had gotten too warm for his taste. Since he was so awesome, nobody challenged him. He grabbed a few trees, some nails and some tar and he built a ship. He named it Endurance because he had so much of it that he thought his ship could use some of his spillover endurance, and he sailed for Antartica from England with his crew. The ship went pretty slowly, so Shackleton got out and into the ocean, grabbed the stern and proceeded to kick as hard as he could. About four hours later, they were in Antarctica.

Shackleton decided that he wanted to go to the South Pole, since he was still warm and that was the coldest place he could think of. His crew, knowing that that was a nearly impossible feat, was frightened but said nothing. As scary as freezing to death in an unforgiving landscape sounded, making Shackleton angry sounded even worse. So, they all got out and started skiing south. Shackleton, believing that skiing was for Nordic sissies, decided to walk. 

About 100 miles short of the South Pole, Shackleton got really bored. "There's no stuff here. Where's all the stuff?" he was heard to have said. So, being infuriated at the continent, Shackleton sat down, invented a cell phone and called Scotland for some booze.

"Hello, Scotland?" he said, "this is Shackleton and I'm thirsty. Send some Scotch."

Normally, Scotland doesn't deliver outside of Great Britain but this was Shackleton calling, so they made an exception. They built the biggest catapult on record, loaded it with crates of Scotch and launched it into Earth's orbit. It fell down somewhere in Antarctica. Everyone in Scotland high-fived. 

Shackleton, having a superhuman sense of hearing, heard the thud back in the direction of the boat. "Gentlemen," he bellowed, "Scotch just landed. We're turning back!"

"But Sir! We're only 100 miles from…" started one of the crew members. He never finished. Shackleton backhanded him across the face, sending him flying in the direction of the thud and out of sight. The rest of the crew followed Shackleton hastily as he lumbered away from the pole and toward the Scotch.

When Shackleton reached the Scotch, he looked down in disgust. "Ugh, Mackinlay? That's not my style!" So, he picked up the dude that had been backhanded a paragraph ago, got back into the boat with his crew and went back to England so that he could order the Scotch that he liked, leaving the Mackinlay stranded in the ice. The Scotch stayed there until 2010 when it was unearthed by Kiwis.

This is a true story, pretty much. If you want to read a less interesting version, read this

Fun fact, the reason that Shackleton didn't like Mackinlay Scotch was because he had been drinking pure gasoline (petrol) his whole life thinking it was Scotch. Therefore, traditional Scotch seemed too light by his standards. Also, this is even more amazing because the production automobile was still a brand new concept, so it's crazy that Shackleton was ever even accidentally served gasoline. [USA Today]

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Apparently, if you forcibly add oxygen to your alcoholic beverage, it lessens the likelihood of getting a hangover. Of course, it also makes your drink taste terrible and prevents you from getting particularly drunk, assuming that that might be the reason you’re drinking in the first place. Personally, I’ll stick to Scotch but for those of you who think these scientists are on to something, enjoy!

Oh, also, apparently, drinking less is a good way to prevent a hangover as well. But what’s the fun in that? [Gizmodo]

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I was in New York this past weekend for the purpose of taking a Google test. I’m not sure how much I’m allowed to talk about that, plus it’s not very interesting, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Anyway, whenever you travel to New York, it’s important to choose your restaurants and bars with care. There are so many great places that you don’t want to waste a single meal with a less-than-phenomenal selection. I had two dinners in New York and they were at two amazing places: the Spotted Pig and Otto. The former is a New York institution and served me one of the best burgers I’ve ever had. The latter is one of global restaurateur and chef extraordinaire, Mario Batali’s places and the appetizers, entree and dessert were all just terrific; I don’t even know which part I enjoyed most!

What’s amazing, though, is that my best experience wasn’t at either of these places! That title goes to Momofuku Ssäm, where my buddy, John, his brother, Michael, and I went for drinks and a late night snack after dinner. Our waiter was a nice, young gentleman of Korean descent by the name of Don Lee and he seemed to be the most knowledgeable waiter I had ever had. For example, I asked him why they had several drinks called “Old Fashioned” despite the fact that they weren’t bourbon or whiskey-based drinks. Don proceeded to explain the entire etymological history of the term “Old Fashioned” and it blew my mind as well as answered my question perfectly. The three of us each ordered different Old Fashioneds right away. The second surprise that Don had up his sleeve was that he was not only our waiter but our bartender to boot! We watched him work and it was immediately obvious that he knew what he was doing.

The drinks arrived and John and Michael each had a single 2″ x 2″ super-clear ice cube in theirs; that’s generally a telltale sign that a place respects the art of mixology because the water in the cube is probably extra pure and the size means that the ice will not water down a drink as quickly. All three drinks were outstanding. Michael had to leave to go to another party but John and I stayed and order two more drinks each over the next couple of hours. Of course, we tried to talk to Don as much as possible as well. He seemed to know everything not only about mixology but also about food and restaurants in both New York and Los Angeles. He even gave me a list of places to check out when I got back to LA**. Oh, and before I forget, we each got one of the pork belly steamed bun sandwiches and they were truly outstanding. As it turns out, Momofuku is just as good at preparing food as drinks.

When we settled the bill, Don let us know that the last round was on him. No reason, he’s just the greatest! As we were leaving and aiming a chorus of thanks at Don, I added, “By the way. Not only was this phenomenal but I noticed that although you only carry four Scotches, each one is an outstanding choice. I see Asayla and Peat Monster from Compass Box (the best blender of Scotch in my opinion), Laphroaig Cask Strength (you almost never see this gem in bars) and Glenlivet 12 (a classic). I just think that’s awesome because I love Scotch and if I had to choose four to carry in my bar, these would all be finalists.” Don then asked me if I had ever tried the leading Japanese “Scotch equivalent” called Yamazaki. No sooner had I responded with “no,” and there was a dram poured in front of me. I tasted it and passed it to John so that he could try it. Not bad! We thanked Don and were about to leave before he stopped us and said, “Wait, I’ve got one more for you.”

Don reached under the bar and pulled out a drink I had never heard of called Tyrconnell Irish Whiskey. He claimed it was the only true single malt from Ireland. “Wait,” I countered, “I have a bottle of Bushmill’s 10-year single malt at my house.” For a moment, I thought I had bested the master but Don responded, “Oh yeah, well, that’s not really a single malt in the true sense.” He went on to explain that Bushmill’s used a single type of malted barely, however, the barley was taken from multiple harvests. This is sort of against the rules when labeling a whisk(e)y as a single malt. For the umpteenth time that night, Don was right. No worries though, he poured me a dram of Tyrconnell to try. It was delicious and, even though I didn’t want to, I passed the rest to John who agreed.

Let’s take a moment to recap: John and I each got five drinks over the course of the night; Don paid for three of them. Not only that but these were some of the best cocktails that I’ve ever had. In fact, my second drink was a Manhattan and it was easily the best one I’ve ever gotten and I order a Manhattan at almost every decent bar I visit (it’s my “litmus test” cocktail). By the way, if you order one and it’s served up–like a martini–don’t get your hopes up; Manhattan’s are meant to be served in a tumbler and that’s how Don prepared mine. As John and I paid Don our final compliments and made our way out the door, John said to me, “Man, I can’t wait until Don opens his own place. It will probably be even better than this one!” I agreed; Don seemed pretty young, so it was only a matter of time before he had his own restaurant.

When I got back to LA, John sent me this link, revealing that although Don did indeed seem young, he does, in fact, pretty much run the place! So, as it turns out, I won’t need to send an email to Momofuku’s management letting them know that they are the lucky employers of the greatest waiter and bartender in New York; seems like they probably already knows that!

So, if you’re ever in New York, do everything in your power to go to Momofuku Ssäm. And while you’re there, if you run into Don, do yourself a favor and get to know this guy. Some day, if there’s any justice in this world, he’s going to the biggest name in food an drink in New York. Trust me, that’s a guy you want on your side!

**The places that Don recommended in LA were: The Varnish, Seven Grand, Tar Pit and Copa D’Oro. If Don says they’re good, they are most certainly great!

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