Saturday, September 01, 2012

In life, we have to make choices

Some choices are hard, some are easy, and some are really hard. I would say having to choose the one bottle of whisky to bring home from an overseas trip falls in the medium hard category. On the one hand there was the Swedish whisky from Mackmyra. On the other was the new Laphroaig PX cask. Either one would have been a good choice, which is in my opinion a rare occasion these days in travel retail. I ended up going with the Laphroaig and it turned out to be a very good choice indeed.

Essentially the PX is the Triple Wood with the final maturation in a Pedro Ximenez cask. Bottle at 48% AVB, the color is influenced by the sherry wood, but not overly so. The color is a deep golden, with some copper notes. The nose has the unmistakable sea air and iodine one associates with Laphroaig, while also betraying some of the sweet notes from a sherry aged scotch. Without water, the dram is quite drinkable, though it is a smoldering fire going down the throat. The sweetness is almost too much, reminding me a bit of the Bowmore 15 year old.  But Bowmore doesn't come close to having this camp fire, seaweed and iodine. There is also some sweet biscuit in there, along with an incredibly long finish that lingers and lingers.

With water the fire mellows quite a bit and takes on almost a Glenmorangie-like syrupy-ness. It is almost like grape jelly. The fruit notes come forward more, reminding me of caramel bread pudding and toffee pudding. This is an unusual dram coming from Laphroaig and perhaps a die-hard fan will turn his nose up to it, but I say live a little and enjoy this one.  It doesn't always have to be full-on fire and brimstone! ( I just wish I had ignored my wife and bought both bottles!)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Mm, mm good!

Tonight I made Mario Batalli's Italian meatloaf (spinach, carrots, cheese and prosciutto rolled in the center of a beef-pork mix). To accompany it, Leslie picked out the 2007 Barboursville Cabernet Franc reserve. Wow! This wine has reached its peak, with powerful fruity notes like raspberry and blackberry, mixed with some cedar notes.  The tannins are rounded and soft, but not merlot like. It really hit the spot with its long, succulent finish.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Canadian Whisky? Yes, Canadian Whisky!

The weather continues to pummel us here in the DC area, but we have been graced with a slight reprieve this Sunday with slightly milder temperatures (only the high 80s!) and less humidity.  Which means I can actually pour a dram and really bask in its aromas and flavors, rather than throwing some ice in a glass and enjoying a cool drink.

Mark Gillespie interviewed Andrew Mackay of Crown Royal earlier this summer (episode 375, available here) about his newest edition of Crown Royal Extra Rare, which is the second edition of this blend of rare and old whiskies.  For those who have an image of Canadian whiskies as light, clean, and, well, mostly made for mixing cheaply with whatever will get it down your throat, this XR (as it's called) is the furthest thing from that.  Turns out my local retailer doesn't have the new XR yet, but he did have a few bottles of the first edition, made with some of the last whiskies to be distilled at the old Waterloo Distillery.  And at about $80 a bottle, it hardly makes this an outrageous indulgence (compared to a bottle of Macallan 18 year old, for instance, that retails for $140 and up).

The whisky itself comes in a luxury display box, complete with royal red coloring and gold letters.  The bottle is presented in a drawstring red bag with the Crown Royal crown stitched on the front.  The bottle is rather elegant (though not fine crystal, naturally), sitting in a bed of gold-colored cloth.  It's actually quite a display for the money, though I don't tend to be one to care all that much for what the box looks like (just give me the darn whisky!).

Now to the whisky (finally!).  It has a pleasing copper color that is one of the first hints (if the packaging wasn't enough hint already) that this whisky is not your father's Seagrams or Canadian Club (no offense to those fine daily drams).  The nose at first is a bit closed, though it unmistakably betrays itself as a Canadian whisky and not something else.  It has that slightly antiseptic, medicinal smell as well as some twiggyness, or green leaves.  Bottled at 40% abv, this is not a blow-your-head-off whisky.  I dug my nose right into the glass and nary a prickle came back.  The first sip is oily and fulsome, ever so slightly spicy, but predominantly smooth, rich and pleasing.  It is not a rich whisky, nor is it a light-weight.

Adding water opens up the spice from the rye quite a bit.  There's more play going on here.  The honey notes fight back after a few seconds, followed by saltwater taffy and rose petals.  Or maybe a lighter flower.  The mouthfeel is little changed from before, except for some additional spice at the back of the throat and, strangely enough, a little bit of burn going down that wasn't there when served neat.  I get some tannic quality there, similar to your mouth after a good rinse of mouthwash.  Tingly, dry, and mouthwatering.  Hmm, some toffee or something like it has come in with another sip.  A very well-crafted whisky that certainly makes me realize the potential of Canadian whiskies.

Thursday, June 07, 2012


Irish whiskey often tends towards the light and floral, perhaps because of the triple distilling (which is not universal in Irish whiskey, but close to it), but when it comes to Redbreast's 12 year old single pot still whiskey, the opposite is true. This one is a rough and ready whiskey closer to some of the island and Islay single malts I love so dearly. I think Redbreast is closer in style to Glenfarclas, but with just a little more punch and not as much honeysuckle sweetness. It makes me think this must be closer to the whiskies of the early 20th century. Full of character and long on the tongue, Redbreast is unapologetic, declaring its presence. So say it once and say it loud, "I'm Irish and I'm proud!" (with apologies to the commitments).

Monday, May 28, 2012


Tried Ciril Hitz's recipe for brioche this time. He adds lemon zest, which gives a nice citrusy smell, but I find it doesn't make for a meager amount of butter. Peter Reinhart would probably call this "poor man's" brioche. All is not lost, however, because brioche makes excellent French toast.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Elijah Craig

It's Memorial Day weekend, so of course I am drinking the most American of drinks: bourbon. Elijah Craig's 12 year old is my choice for the evening. It weighs in at 47% alcohol by volume, but it doesn't overpower you with the alcohol. The color is a dull copper, or perhaps a light caramel. The nose is quintessentially sweet corn, barely any nose tickle despite its undiluted power from the bottle. There is also some vanilla, but not too much, despite the amount of time this spent in a barrel in hot weather. The taste is full and sweet, almost like bubble gum. I would expect more woody favors given the age, but I don't detect it. This is a finely balanced bourbon, and worth drinking as is. I have had it with some water and it is more subdued, but still excellent.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Port Charlotte's An Turas Mor

It's been a while since I last posted. There are many reason for that (some good, some not so good), including my campaign to lose weight by, among other things, drinking less frequently during the week (with varying degrees of success). Anyway, enough of all that, because I have a backlog of spirits to update you about, starting with this peaked whisky from Bruichladdich, which is bottled under the Port Charlotte moniker. The bottle is interesting because it has a milky haze to its straw-gold color, which probably indicates it is not chill-filtered. The nose has some of the signature smoke and campfire. I have tried some Port Charlotte from independent bottlers at full cask strength that have much stronger nose to them, but this official distillery bottle comes in at 46% alcohol by volume, which probably accounts for the softer nose.

The nose continues with spice and chili pepper, rounded out with a slight floral honey. I think I get a little tiny bit of plastic or test-tube, but that could simply be my mind playing tricks on me. Unadulterated, the taste is spicy with some tannic, nut-like qualities. The finish is fiery and long. A very pleasant drink without water, though. One could leave it alone as is.

With water, the whisky calms down a bit more and the grainy, biscuity-ness comes out (reminds me of the Glengoyne 17 year old, actually, but that may be because I recently finished off a bottle of that). Otherwise I get spring flowers and not much else. The nose has become muted, even with just a smudge of water. The taste is less fiery now, more rounded, but still quite spicy on the finish and definitely long-lasting. All-in-all, an accomplished whisky, but I think a cask-strength bottling is your better bet if you can find one.