“There’s no place like home… There’s no place like home…”

I spend a lot of time reading about whiskeys in an effort to determine what I want to add to my collection.   As is often the case with many whiskey enthusiasts, much of my collection originates from what is arguably the motherland of whiskey, The Blue Grass State of Kentucky.  However, as I continue to skip down the “yellow brick road” of craft whiskey, I’ve had the fortune to discover some fantastic products from other states like Vermont, Utah, Alaska, Tennessee, Oregon and Michigan, just to name a few.  However, just as little Dorothy Gale discovered in the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz, sometimes “There’s no place like home”.

Home for me is in Ohio, perhaps best known for its politics, The Ohio State Buckeyes, one reasonably good pro football team and one pro football team that continually disappoints its fans.  Oh yeah, and then there’s that basketball player named LeBron.  What you may not know, however, is that there are couple of small distilleries in Columbus, OH, that are producing some really good spirits.   Specifically, Middlewest Spirits the makers of the OYO brand and Watershed Distillery.  Check out the links above for a full description their product lines, but today I’d like to talk about two little gems that I added to my collection this past weekend.  Watershed’s Bourbon and  OYO’ s Pumpernickel Rye.

Watershed Distillery
 is the brainchild of  Greg Lehman and Dave Rigo, whos company name pays homage to the “Watershed Moments” that shape an individual’s life.   I recall visiting their facility a little

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Crisp and Clean

over 4 years ago, shortly after they opened their doors.  At the time, it was a very small operation located in a very unassuming industrial suite.   After listening to the historical schpeel, we tasted their vodka, gin and bourbon.  To be perfectly honest, the most impressive part of the visit was the logoed glasses that are still a mainstay in my home bar.

 

In recent weeks, I’ve had my own Watershed moment as my curiosity got the best of me and I decided to give Watershed Bourbon another try.  Mr. Wizard,  I’m glad I did.   Age has been good to this easy to drink spirit.   Bottled at 94 proof, the nose is crisp and clean with a mild oakiness and perhaps a hint of citrus.  The taste is equally crisp and enjoyable with minimal burn.

My Take:  Don’t be fooled by the unassuming label that may remind you of the “generic” product craze of the 90s.   This is a very good bourbon worthy of a place in your collection.   At a $40 price point, it is great as a mixer but also quite nice neat.   Whether you’re new to whiskeys or a real enthusiast, I think you’ll have your own Watershed moment when you try it!

OYO Dark Pumpernickel Rye Whiskey is the latest product from Co-founders

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Warm Rich Color

Brady Konya and Ryan Lang of Middlewest Spirits.   Middlewest has been in business since 2008 and producing product since 2010.   As is typical with newer distilleries, their initial products were young and in need of age and refinement.   Today, however, they make some of my favorite whiskeys (i.e. Olroso Wheat and Michelone Reserve Bourbon); and now I’m adding OYO Dark Pumpernickel Rye to the list.

 

With a complex yet soothing nose, this rye product makes me dream of warm sweet comfort foods.   When you try this, take some extra time to let the nose take you on this midwestern journey.   Inspect its long slow legs and when you can no longer wait, take a sip.   No, you’re not in Kansas anymore.  This is a full-bodied rye that will keep your interest all the way to the Emerald City.

My Take:  This product was just released at the end of 2015, so it can be a little tough to find, but if you see it on the shelf, grab it!  At $55, drink it neat or over ice, although it would probably mix quite well in a cocktail.  Aged at least 3 years, it is mature enough to hold it’s own against any other rye that I’ve tried.   Although I think any whiskey drinker would enjoy this, those of you with a deep appreciation for rye’s will really treasure this jewel.

Until next time, Drink Passionately!

 

 

M.I.A.

Just a quick note to let you know that I haven’t fallen off the face of the planet.   I’ve actually been quite busy on a basement remodel project of our entertainment space.   As usual, my wife comes up with the ideas and I just make it happen.   In a nutshell, I’ve created a pallet wall behind our bar with shadow boxes made from wine crates, added a little lighting and a decorative fireplace unit and voila!   The next step is to finish painting the walls and new trim, replace the flooring and today, install a new projection unit and screen (105″) in the theater area (yay!). I’ll share more pics next week as the room starts to take shape.    It’s going to be a great entertainment space that we’re finally able to reclaim since our youngest child is off to college.

Of course, even though I’ve been busy with construction, I’ve still had some time to indulge in some sinful activities.  Here’s a brief rundown on what I’ve been drinking as well as initial thoughts.   I’ll give a review of most of these spirits at a later date:

  1. Watershed Bourbon – Much improved over original product.   Good neat or as a mixer.  I’ll purchase a bottle.
  2. Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Rye – Very nice!  Good flavors with a nice warmth.  Drink it neat.   I bought a bottle while in Illinois.
  3. High West A Midwinters Nights Dram – Excellent!  Excellent!  My mother-in-law shipped me a bottle from Utah.   This immediately moved to my Top 5 list.  Neat only!
  4. Hochstadter’s Straight Rye Whiskey – Hmmm… Not for me.  Surprising since I really like their Lock Stock & Barrel product.

Tomorrow night it’s Steak and Stogie night at Woodland Cigar.  This time we’ll be enjoying cigars from Olivia and General Cigar, and of course Whiskey.  Always a fun time.   I’ll talk about that sinful event next time.

Till then, Drink Passionately!

Cold Weather, Strange Pairing and Lots of Fun!

This past weekend I accompanied my wife on one of her business trips, and finally, I have an opportunity to reflect on some of the nice times that we had.  Our journey took us to St. Charles20160117_071820_HDR, Illinois, one of a string of cute historical cities just northwest of Chicago, resting along the banks of the Fox River.   Although rich in the history of the American Indians and early white settlers, St. Charles is perhaps most recently known for the Hotel Baker, the place where Jenny McCarthy and Donnie Wahlberg stayed on their wedding night in 2014.   That’s also the place that we called home-base for a couple of nights.20160117_072819

 

 

 

 

 

My wife asked me to join her on this trip so that she could show me some of the cool restaurants, bars and such.  So of course, I always have a passion for that type of adventure.  After taking a quick trip down the road, we stopped in the beautiful town of Geneva for dinner and drinks.   Before dinner on our first night, we just couldn’t resist a stop at All Chocolate Kitchen where their 20160116_171948speciality was, of course, Chocolate.   The passion of the famed chef Alain Roby, who has catered many star-studded events including Jenny and Donnie’s reception (I feel so close to them now),  his cafe is anchored by a 23′ tall, 1200 pound, 20160116_172150tree constructed from a variety of chocolates and decorated with blown sugar wildlife ornaments.   Although the display cases were full of amazing chocolates, candies and sorbets, which we just had to sa20160116_172043mple; it was almost impossible to take your eyes off of the numerous life-sized statues.  The Guinness world record Truffle ($3000), the 51′ tape measure representing the length of the Guinness World Record candy cane, and many other passion-filled confections.  In my book, All Chocolate Kitchen is a must see if you ever find yourself in or near Geneva.

After a little truffle appetizer, it was time for dinner at a quaint restaurant called The Patton House.   Built inside a restored home, the ambiance of the restaurant was warm and inviting.   The bar was moderately stocked, and the bartenders were quite welcoming.  My pre-dinner drink was a Knob Creek Rye (neat).   Knob is a warmer, spicier rye and not one I typically gravitate to, but I was looking for something with a little punch to help me through the 2-degree weather outside.

20160116_171614The food was awesome with a wide variety of American dishes.   Surprisingly, they had a very nice Jambalaya and the Siracha Brussel Sprouts were “to die for”.   Lots of other goodies too, another highly recommended stop.

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On day two, our primary focus was to check out a bar called barrel&rye.   If you guessed that from the name, this is a whiskey bar, you’re right!    We started off the afternoon with a Cedar-Smoked Manhattan, which was a pretty typical rye Manhattan poured into a glass that had been freshly smoked with a charred cedar plank.  The little smokey flair totally changed the mood of the drink into something quite stimulating to 20160117_121841_HDRthe senses.   Pair that with a plate of cheese curds and my bride and I were “Singing Dixie in the Land of Lincoln”.    So we ate, drank, and I tried sips of whiskies that were new to us.   Most zeppelin-bend-whiskeyintriguing, perhaps, was Zeppelin Bend, an American Straight Malt Whiskey distilled by the New Holland Brewing Co.    Being and old Led Zeppelin fan I couldn’t resist trying it and now I can say that I did.   In short, it was OK but at $70 per bottle, I don’t have a passion for it.

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My final drink of the afternoon was Chicago’s own, FEW Rye Whiskey, another brand that was new to my pallet.   FEW was a nice looking pour and very leggy in nature.   Admittedly a little young, it held it’s own pretty well for a 4yr aged product.   The nose was crisp and clean, definitely exhibiting its rye mash bill with an underlying hint of straw and other grains.   It reminded me of a young Crown Royal Harvest Rye (2016 World Whisky of the Year – Jim Murray’s annual whisky bible) which may say a lot.   For me, give it a few more years of agi20160117_124510_HDRng and I might visit this passion often, but at its current age, I’ll be using it primarily as a mixer.

My Take:  The St. Charles/Geneva has a lot to offer the foodies and Spirits enthusiasts, so I’ll be back.   As far as FEW, it’s another of the many good craft whiskeys originating in the midwest.  At $55/bottle, it seems a little pricey when I can get a bottle of the award winning Crown Royal Harvest Rye for >$40.   For me, it doesn’t stand on its own, but I wouldn’t hesitate to mix with it.   For those reasons, I would put a bottle of Few Rye on my shelf as a novelty mixer.   It would also be fun to take to a party since it would be a new experience more most people.

Until next time, Drink Passionately!

The Wookie Strikes Back

Thankfully, the hype over the new Star Wars Episode is almost over, so I decided to make a cocktail deserving of this blockbuster event.  To get things started, I instructed my BB-8 to go on a recon mission to scan the liquor cabinet.  Upon return, BB-8 projected an image which created such a tremor in the force, even this young Jedi could not resist.20160114_173646

What should I concoct from this mixture of rare spirits?  Perhaps something brown in color, a touch of sweetness,  but enough kick to fuel the Millenium Falcon.  So I consulted the Jedi council and received some wise advice to modify the traditional Old Fashioned recipe and create something a little more substantial, which I coined THE WOOKIE!  Using the power of the force, I mixed, spritzed and iced this beast to form a cocktail that would put hair on a Wookies chest.

For those who are looking for a tasty grog, that will get you to your destination at light speed, try this recipe, and “May The Force be With You”!

The Wookie:

  • 2 oz Bulleit Rye
  • 1 oz Stagg Jr
  • 4 Shakes Black Walnut Bitters
  • 3 Shakes Molasses Bitters
  • Orange Peel Spritz and Garnish

Mix liquid ingredients in cocktail shaker.  Shake, then pour over ice.  Spritz with orange peel, insert peel as garnish and give a little stir.

Note:  I like pouring mix over cocktail rocks so there is no dilution

 

The Spirits Define the Man…

 

Brrrr….. Three degrees (Fahrenheit) outside so I’m staying inside as much as possible today.   While I was watching the morning news and the debate over Obama’s SotU speech, my mind thankfully strayed away to a question that I began to ponder: ‘Does the spirits that a person drinks reflect that individuals personality‘?

I don’t doubt that there is some validity to this question. Sure, I enjoy the mainstream spirits from Wild Turkey, Beam, Heaven Hill, Patron, and the like; however, I feel that the spirits that better represent my personal character are not always seen at the local bar.  Here are some of my go-to, less-mainstream spirits that I regularly enjoy at home.

OYO Michelone Reserve Bourbon             OYO Oloroso Wheat Whiskey

Whistlepig Old World Whiskey                  Parker Heritage 7 Promise of Hope Bourbon

Noah’s Mill Bourbon                                      Johnny Drum Bourbon

High West Double Rye Whiskey                 Defiant American Single Malt Whisky

Ardbeg Islay Single Malt Whisky                Tamdhu Speyside Single Malt Whisky

Cava de Oro Extra Anejo Tequilla                Tears of Llorona Extra Anejo Tequila

So that’s who I am.   Now I’d like to hear from you.   What spirits reflect your character?  20160113_110728

 

Born in a Barn? No Foolin’!

20151121_133135[1]It’s 20 degrees outside, and the forecast is for up to 4 inches of snow tomorrow.  So as I typically the case in my evening routine, I went to my liquor cabinet for a little warmer-upper.   After a little pondering, I decided to commemorate this cold snap by picking something from Ohio’s own snow belt; you guessed it, Cleveland’s own Tom’s Foolery Rye Whiskey.

The distillation methods used by the folks at Tom’s Foolery are really quite interesting, using a grain to bottle approach that even includes the grinding of their grains.   But the real question is whether this whiskey provided the warmth that I was wanting?

Let’s check it out:

Visually, Tom’s Foolery Rye was packaged in a nice looking bottle with a 20160112_092916wax wrapped cork stopper.  The spirit itself although appearing rather thin in texture did leave some lingering legs on the glass.  With a color that was a soothing toasted golden brown, it created a mental image of a warm summers day as opposed to that of a cold winters evening.  But enough with the daydreaming, it was time to take a sip.

Hmmm, I have to say, the nose was somewhere between complex and unusual.  The nose led with a strong astringent, perhaps citrusy quality with a trailing sweetness that made me go hmmmm?

At first taste, I felt a tingle all throughout my mouth, once again rather unusual.  Finally, a  warmth settled into the back of my throat(there it is).  A mild harshness of ethanol was present, most likely a result of the youth of the product as well as the mash bill (70% rye – 30% malt) content.   I anticipated that the mouthfeel would settle down, but it never really did.  Yet, after each sip, I would be left with a sweet taste in my mouth and sometimes followed by an earthiness of an almost mushrooms-like quality.  Hmmmmm.

So I decided to try something a little out of the ordinary for me; I plopped in a sliver of an ice cube.   Sure enough, most of the burn and astringency went away.  Additionally, a hint of cinnamon and malt started to become present.  Ah ha!

My Take:  Although Tom’s Foolery is a relatively new operation, it utilizes some wonderful old-school techniques that speak to the passion of it’s owners, Tom, and Lianne Herbruck.  It’s obvious that Tom’s Foolery Rye Whiskey lacks the age that brings the fantastic character and definition to a whiskey, but I still found it to be very drinkable, and without a doubt, mix worthy.    At around $35 per bottle, it’s worth having one or two in my collection, in support of this passionate micro-distillery.   I look forward to keeping a close eye on the Tom’s Foolery products as they continue to age.

Drink Passionately!

Tom’s Foolery began as a hobby: a barn, a still, and a family with passion for quality and tradition.   Today, we make all our products the same way, by hand, just one-barrel-at-a-time.   Tom’s Foolery is a traditional American distillery where we make great products from scratch and share the experience with friends. “

Legs That Go On Forever

As Winter finally sets in, here in Ohio, after one of the warmest Decembers on record.  Unfortunately,  our ability to have that outdoor evening cigar and whiskey pairing become very limited.  So we’re forced to find comfortable venues for our pairing of sins.  However, even though last night my pairing process was a little disrupted, I was quite pleased with the result.

I started the evening with a visit to a local tobacconists, Stogies of Powell, (more about them on a later post) where I picked up one of my “go-to” cigars.  The Nat Sherman Timeless 652T.

This cigar is touted as Medium-Bodied and Medium Strength, which to me equates to an easy smoke, rich in flavor and a moderate to light amount of nicotine (buzz).    This Nicaraguan Puro (Wrapper, Binder, and Fillers are from Nicaraguan seed) is a great cigar for any occasion where you want a satisfying but not overpowering smoke.

NSherman-652So here’s how it smoked for me:

The box cut was very comfortable in the hand, and the torpedo head gave me plenty of space to make a cut for the most pleasurable draw.  The construction was flawless allowing for a nice even burn with no re-lights or trimming required.

Initial Nose: Smooth and moderately rich

Upon Lighting: Pepper and light spice for the first few puffs

1st 3rd: Smooths right out with almost a creamy smoothness.

2nd 3rd: Slight earthiness lends to a very satisfying experience

Final 3rd: Took it down to the nub.   Remained as smooth as the it was from the start even though I was burning my fingers.

Who should smoke this: The avid cigar smoker typically respects this cigar, yet it’s mild enough that even a novice would enjoy it.

Tonights Pairing:  As earlier stated, tonight’s pairing process was a little disrupted, and since I was soon to meet my wife at a nearby pub for dinner and drinks, I decided to respect my sobriety and pair the cigar with a black coffee,  To some this pairing might sound a bit strange.  If so, I highly recommend you try it.   If not, you understand that a cigar paired with black coffee is quite complementary.  But with fingers scorched from attempting to suck every last bit if goodness out the cigar, it was time to move to the next venue, Prohibition Gastro Lounge where I discovered the 2015 Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Straight Rye Whiskey.

As I often do with bartenders that I trust, I said to Hans (my main man at Prohibition), “give me a whiskey that you think is one of the best.”  Without hesitation, he grabbed a bottle of Thomas H. Handy from the top 20160106_172312shelf.  After a lengthy sniff, swirl, and a first sip, all I could say was “WOW – where have you been all my life”?   This limited edition whiskey honors Thomas H. Handy, the proprietor of the Sazarac House in New Orleans, who in the late 1800’s modified the traditional Sazerac cocktail by replacing the cognac with rye whiskey thus creating the first world famous rye cocktail (see recipe below).

This 126.9 proof gem is surprisingly light on the nose, offering slightly sweet yet spicy taste.   At this proof, it, of course, has warmth, however, the warmth just lingered at the back of my throat and never progressed from there.      Then after about 15 20160106_174702minutes of sipping, the glass was illuminated by the bar lights exposing Legs That Go On Forever.   Something more significant in the world of cognac or wines, these legs don’t effect the drinkability of the whiskey, but boy they looked sexy!

My Take:  The award winning 2015 Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Straight Rye Whiskey is a must try for those who really appreciate a great rye whiskey.  Novice whiskey drinkers should probably steer clear and save your money until your tastes adjust to the nature of high-proof whiskey, rye’s in particular.  College students, I know you like to feel “grown-up” but stick to Natty Light.  This is not a shooter and deserves the care and patience in drinking that Buffalo Trace put into its distillation.  I’ll, without a doubt, visit this wonderful whiskey again.

Until next time, Pair Sinfully!

The Sazerac Cocktail

Ingredients
2 Old Fashioned glasses
Ice cubes & cold water
2 oz. Rye whiskey
3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
1 sugar cube or 1 tsp superfine sugar
Splash of absinthe or Herbsaint
Lemon twist