“Fire In The Hole”

Whiskey, good whiskey, is a thing to be savored by the senses.  It’s not just the product that draws me toward a good whiskey, but it’s also the passion, bottled within each sinful solution, frozen in time by the master distiller.

I can’t help but shake my head in remorse every time I see people shoot whiskey.  Although I haven’t forgotten my younger days when I too would order a celebratory round of whiskey for my friends, then, with shot glasses held high, clink them together and down the brown liquor as if I were trying to extinguish a fire in my belly.  In reality, the fire was just about to begin with a blaze of 90 proof fury.  Starting in my mouth then gushing down my throat, thoroughly coating it with what felt like molten steel.  But with eyes pressed shut and face scrunched, we’d shake our heads and let out the manly cry of “Fire In The Hole”  Sound familiar?

I don’t miss the shooter era; but the question is, what has prompted my change in perspective?   Is it my age, an (arguably) raised level of maturity, or simply a more refined pallet?  Perhaps, but I honestly think the major contributing factors come in the form of appreciation, admiration and respect?  Part of being a self-proclaimed whiskey enthusiast involves lots of research.  One of the many rewards of this research has been an understanding of the passion that people in the industry have towards their craft.   The biggest draw for me is an appreciation of the respect for the traditions handed down through the many generations of whiskey makers.   With that in mind, I thought I would share my technique for enjoying a whiskey.

This morning’s tasting is High West Distillery’s “Yippee Ki-Yay”, a blended straight rye whiskey finished in wine barrels.  So put on your Stetson and alligator boots and let’s get to it!

20160324_150813_HDR

The Bottle:  You can learn a lot from a bottle.  In particular, I look for information about proof, origin, age, finish,distillation, bottling and blending.  Aside from these product basics, I always enjoy when a label contains historical statements.  For example: Did you know that the High West Distillery is the only ski-in gastro distillery in the US?  If you ever find yourself in Park City, UT, the High West Distillery is a must see.

The Glass:  Being somewhat of a traditionalist, my vessel of choice is “The Glencairn”.  I find that it is the perfect instrument to evaluate all of the nuances of a fine whiskey. 20160324_151115_HDR Ideal for the swirl then giving you a great platform to assess the nose of the spirit.

Color:  I love the many shades of whiskey.   Its color is determined by many factors such as mash bill content, barrel type and age, just to name a few.   I like to hold my Glencairn up to the light and let my eyes absorb the wonderful colors of this sinful spirit.   As you view the golden-brown hues projecting through the glass, try to reflect on the process and traditions transported in this beautiful nectar.

Legs:  Most notably a trait used to evaluate wines, legs are also p20160324_151222_HDRresent in whiskey.  Although the length of the legs does not necessarily related to the taste of the whiskey, I find that the quality of the legs does have a correlation to the texture of the spirit.   Thin legs indicate that the whiskey will be lighter and crisper where shorter/thicker legs will relate to a creamier texture.  All I know is that I like to look at them.

Nose:  It’s time to give the glass a good swirl, then hold your nostrils over the glass and sniff lightly.  I like to sniff for about three seconds, move the glass away from my nose for 2 seconds, repeating this process 3 or 4 times, or until I have a good sense for the nose.  I find that shorter sniffs allow you to assess the real character of the spirit without being overwhelmed by residual ethanol that hovers atop the pour.

The Sip:  This is what I’ve been waiting for:   My first sip is small as I work the spirit throughout my mouth, using a motion like an old man chewing without his dentures.   Now slowly I breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth.  I call this first step Priming as my goal is to wake up my taste buds so that they can better accept the flavors in sip #2.

Sip #2 is where the real flavors hit my pallet.   I repeat the previous process with a slightly greater volume if whiskey.   As I swallow, I make note of any burn, and in particular where the burn settles in.   Next, I inhale through my nose and exhale through my mouth slowly enough to where when I inhale through my nose the next time I can smell the flavors from the whiskey that linger in my mouth (It’s like doing the old breath test before a big date).  That’s it; Wash, Rinse, Repeat…Yum!

Water/Ice:  I’m a “neat” guy, so I rarely cut my whiskey with water or ice.  But there have been occasions where a whiskey has been so harsh that a few drops of water or chips of ice were required to tame it down.   I should probably use this trick more often, at least for evaluation purposes, as water can have a huge effect on the character of the whiskey.   But again, I’m a purist.

So that’s how I taste a whiskey.  Aside from the technique that I’ve shared, my best advice is to take your time.   There’s no rush.  Each whiskey has a story to tell; one of time, trust, passion and tradition.  By taking a moment to enjoy each sip, you allow the whiskey to pass along its story.  One that I’m sure you will enjoy.

Until next time, Drink Passionately!

 

 

Advertisements

Sorry but – MmmmWowPow!

So let me first start with an apology.   In my last post, I promised to talk about my personal whiskey tasting technique, but little did I know that I would stumble upon a cigar that would blow my socks off!!!   Sorry, but I just can’t wait to talk about it.

I’ve been hanging out lately at a new local cigar shop called Stogies, in Powell, Oh.  Hassan and Mike, the proprietors of Stogies have established a comfortable place to hang out, watch TV and20160311_074943_HDR of course, have a cigar.   Props to the folks at Stogies for quickly ramping up their inventory and offering one of the broadest selections of cigars in central Ohio.

During my Wednesday visit, I was in the mood to try something new, so after 15mins of looking, feeling and smelling their wonderful selection, I decided to go with the Ashton Aged Maduro.   MmmmWowPow!  Boy, I didn’t expect that…  This was hands down one of the best cigars that I’ve smoked in a long time.   Right out of the wrapper I was impressed with the flawless construction of this stick.  As I slid the cigar under my nose, the exquisite Maduro fermentation offered a comforting earthiness; Mmmm.     At 6″ x 50 (Toro), the cigar had a great hand feel.  Substantial, yet soft enough in the binder to allow for a comfortable, confident hold.

Now it was time for the lighting.   Wow, it was smooth and flavorful right from the first puff.  Leather, cocoa, earthy flavors abound.  Perfect burn with just the right amount of smoke, for nearly 2 hours this cigar kept me longing for the next puff.  Pow!

My Take:  This medium-bodied, full flavored cigar can be enjoyed by anyone.  It was an awesome flavor bomb, smooth on the retrohale and didn’t leave my head spinning as I left the shop.  There were a couple of subtle flavor changes in the second half, but it never strayed far from it’s Maduro origin.   My pairing for this smoke was black coffee, but I can’t wait to try another one with a nice Zaya or Sherry Cask Finished Whiskey.

At a price of $13.25, most new smokers may pass by the humidor bin, but if you’re wanting to experience something really special, grab one.   In short, I loved it!

Until next time, Smoke Passionately!

 

Whiskey for my men, Beer for my horses…

Although the lyrics to the TK and Willie 2002 hit “Whiskey For My Men, Beer For My Horses” don’t really follow the motif of this post, the song title does accurately reflect my disposition when choosing an adult beverage.   Confused?  Let me provide a brief history.

As with many people, my introduction to the world of alcohol was in a 12oz can.  Fast forward through the ugly details of my journey from high school to middle age life, it was in my late 40’s that I started gaining an appreciation for craft beer,  particularly, IPAs.  Stone, Southern Tier, CBC, Avery, just to name a few, were all regular residents in my beer fridge.  At that point in my life, the IPA was my adult beverage of choice.  What I didn’t realize, at the time, was that these hopped-up drinks were contributing to an increasing amount of inflammation in my body.  By age 56, I was on my second tier of arthritis meds and headed toward the third which was a point of no return.

I have been blessed with a healthy body, many saying I look much younger than my age, and I wanted to stay that way!   So with the support of my wife’s passionate research, I started making some changes in my intake.   In short, low carb, high fatIMG_0412, ketogenic clean eating.  The results were dramatic, and my arthritis symptoms were diminishing.  But you say, what about the IPAs?   Well, my stock of IPAs became drinks for my horses(metaphorically-sorry friends), and I discovered something even more satisfying and passion inspiring, WHISKEY!   It’s hard to express the amount of enjoyment I’ve experienced over researching, sourcing, aging, viewing, sniffing and finally tasting some of the huge variety of distilled options available.   This hobby, borne out of a personal situation, has become a passion of mine that I enjoy sharing with my friends and fellow whiskey enthusiasts who might read this blog.

This September I turn 60, and I’m happy to say I’m totally medicine free!   Well, there is an exception, that nightly dram from a wide variety of mashbills originating from all around the world.  As my personal collection exceeds 60 varieties, I find myself obsessed to seek out that next whiskey(with or without the E), that has that little nuance that makes me want to come back again and again.  Is there an end in sight?  I hope not!

Next time I’ll talk about my personal whiskey tasting technique.

Until then, Drink Passionately!

 

Gone Hog Wild over the big reveal!

I’m giving a big HEE HAW over my newly completed fun room.   And what would a fun room be without a good space to sip whiskeys.   So what have I been working on that has kept me away from blogging?

Here’s the list:

  • new flooring
  • wall and trim paint
  • additional lighting
  • palette wall with wine crates used as shadow boxes to display spirits.
  • 106″ Projection TV
  • Cigar Humidor (in back room)
  • Granite top on bar

20160229_103020_HDR[1]

Needless to say, it’s been a lot of work, but I’m Hog Wild over how it’s turned out. So in celebration of the completion of this space, I’ve decided to treat myself to a dram of something that I don’t often take off the shelf.  I present to you: The 2014 Whistlepig Rye “The Boss Hog”.  Or as the bottler affectionately calls it “The Spirit of Mortimer”.20160302_192056_HDR[1]

Here’s what the folks at Whistlepig say about The Boss Hog:

The 2014 Boss Hog was been selected from among our oldest and most unique barrels – Bond 77. Bond 77 entered wood on April 5, 2001. As part of a quadruple barrel aging process, the Spirit of Mortimer spent nearly 14 years in a combination of new American oak, and early use bourbon barrels. Bottled at cask-strength, the Spirit of Mortimer represents our purest, most powerful, and most primordial expression of the world’s finest rye.

The Spirit of Mortimer is dedicated to Mortimer WhistlePig. Mortimer, our mascot, compatriot and friend, laid down his life in summer 2014 while defending the honor of Mauve WhistlePig, his beloved Kune Kune spouse.

The 2014 Boss Hog is Mortimer’s monument and memorial.  Mortimer’s physical monument will be the “Spirit of Mortimer,” a finely crafted Danforth pewter topper which will sit atop each Boss Hog bottle and depict Mortimer midflight, with arms stretched to the heavens. Mortimer’s spiritual monument will be the unrivaled whiskey within the bottle. Here’s to you, Mortimer

But how does it taste?

The nose is clean with distinct qualities of a traditional rye and nuances of oak, caramel, and vanilla.  However,  rye is definitely dominant in the nose.   The golden brown legs are a constant reminder that this ain’t your momma’s sippin whiskey.  Or is it?

At 119.5 proof the first sip will have you yelling out SOOOWEEEE!   This is a powerful whiskey, yet if sipped with care, the burn is minimal and just at the back of the throat. The creamy texture of the spirit leaves a wonderful honey-like after-taste in your mouth.  This is really good stuff!

My Take:  Boss Hog is a great special occasion whiskey and holds a place in my Top 5 list.   At around $200/bottle, it’s definitely not a mixer.  If you have the pallet for it, drink it neat so that you can enjoy all of the benefits that 13 years of aging presents.  It’s got some heat, so it’s not recommended for the novice whiskey drinker.   However, novice or aficionado, if you just want to say that you’ve tried something special, The Spirit of Mortimer will guide you to the promised land.

Until next time, Drink Passionately!