Saturday Night Whiskey Song VIII

This one's a bit of a downer, but Brad Paisley is one of my favorite singers and songwriters, and paired with Alison Krauss he's even better. The video for this song is like a depressing little five minute movie...hope you enjoy it!


Whiskey Movie: On the Irish Whiskey Trail

Netflix can be a dangerous thing - thanks to their modern technology and endless library of titles I spend untold hours watching movies that I never would have known existed in pre-Netflix days. On the Irish Whiskey Trail fits this description. I found it on Netflix while browsing through the documentary category, and added it to my queue on a whim. Turns out On the Irish Whiskey Trail is more like a commercial for Irish Whiskey disguised as an hour-and-a-half long travel documentary. If it wasn't for the fact that the film ends with a visit to independent distiller Cooley and a nod to up-and-coming craft distillers I would assume that On the Irish Whiskey Trail was bankrolled by Irish Distillers - part of spirits giant Pernod Ricard and the owner of the three largest Irish whiskey brands.


Saturday Night Whiskey Song VII

This weekend's whiskey song was originally written in 1927 by Bertolt Brecht for a German opera. The version recorded by the Doors is a little bit more up my alley though, so that's the version of Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar) I present to you here. Enjoy!


Would You Drink Speed Whiskey from Cleveland?

I came across this article that highlights one of the ways in which the traditional boundaries of whiskey-making are being pushed by modern technology. Tom Lix is a 58 year old serial entrepreneur whose latest venture is a Cleveland, Ohio based company that aims to make high-quality whiskey while reducing the amount of time that the whiskey must spend aging in barrels. Lix claims his process makes six month aged whiskeys that taste like six year aged whiskeys, quite a feat that could revolutionize the economics of the whiskey business if it ever catches on.

The article doesn't go into his process too much, but apparently it involves using smaller-than-standard barrels, a fairly common practice among small-scale and start-up distillers, as well as controlling temperatures and pressures in order to help the whiskey age more quickly. I assume there's more to the process than simply storing a small barrel of spirits in a temperature controlled room, as Nix has a patent pending for his process and has received $25,000 in start-up funding from a Cleveland small-business incubator. He has also received a helping hand from a Kentucky bourbon-maker who supplied unaged white dog whiskey for Nix to use in testing his aging process, saving him the need to distill his own raw product.

Cutting down the time needed to make high quality whiskey would certainly have it's advantages, allowing distillers to bring new products to market more quickly and reducing the costs associated with storing and insuring aging whiskey for years. On the flip side, adding new technology to whiskey production takes away some of the traditional, artisanal nature of the product. What could be less traditional than speed-aged whiskey from Cleveland? Although that does have a very modern, American ring to it.


King of New York Taking on Scotland

Is there anything Donald Trump won't try? The real estate mogul, TV host, casino magnate, and all around one-man-mega-brand has now announced plans to create a high-end brand of Scotch to pair with his under-development golf resort in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. The whisky will be produced under contract by an existing distiller, most likely one of the 40 or so operating in the Grampian region of Scotland around the proposed golf resort.

Given that The Donald is involved, expect this whisky to be a big deal - at least in terms of marketing and promotion. He has high hopes for his Trump International Golf Links Scotland including one day hosting the British Open which was contested over the past weekend at St. Andrews' Old Course. That means his golf course will have to be a serious competitor indeed, so we can assume that the Scotch will strive to be equally world class.

I'm sure we'll all be waiting anxiously for Trump's whiskey - planned to hit the market in 2012 - but for now you can get your toupee'd tipple in the form of  Trump Vodka which has been around since 2006 at $35.00 per bottle and shows that a true salesman really can sell just about anything be it million dollar condos, ugly neckties, or overpriced booze.


Update - Old Crofter Scotch

A few weeks ago I wrote a review of Old Crofter Blended Scotch which you can read here. When I wrote that review I thought that the Old Crofter label had been discontinued because I couldn't find any up-to-date information on it online, nor was it listed in the online catalog of the store where I purchased my bottle over a year ago.

If you were worried that you might never get your hands on a bottle of this tasty but inexpensive blend you can stop fretting. I made a trip to Total Wine & More in Claymont, Delaware today and they had a whole shelf of Old Crofter in both 750 mL and 1.75 L bottles. It even had a "Staff Favorite" tag saying that it was Vince's favorite Scotch. It's still selling for $12.99, and I guess it's just one of those labels that doesn't do any advertising or maintain any kind of online presence. So much for my bottle being a bargain-basement collectible.


Saturday Night Whiskey Song VI

My series of Saturday Night Whiskey Songs is leaning heavily towards country and blues-rock music, which is totally fine with me since I'm a big fan of both. However, I'd love to represent some other genres of music, so if you have suggestions just send them my way.

For today though, a nice sad, slow country ballad that doubles as a fine piece of product placement for a Johnnie Walker Red, a product that really doesn't need anymore advertising since it's already among the most universally popular Scotches on the market. In any case, here's Lee Ann Womack's Last Call.


Oh Taste & See: McKenzie Bourbon

As promised in last week's post about my visit to Finger Lakes Distilling, I'm finally getting around to a proper tasting of their McKenzie Bourbon Whiskey. Based on my tasting at the distillery and one glass that I've had since, I have to say that my initial impression of this bourbon is very good. I'm especially surprised at its complexity given that fact that it's aged for only 18 months, barely enough time for the spirit to experience the full four season temperature cycle that is so important working the oak flavor into bourbon.

To offset the short aging period Finger Lakes Distilling uses 10 gallon oak barrels that ensure much more wood-to-whiskey contact than standard 53 gallon bourbon barrels, which is why the distiller claims McKenzie tastes more like a five-year-old bourbon than a mere 18 month old. After tasting it I wouldn't fault them if they pushed things a little further and claimed that it drinks like a 6 or 8 year old - it's certainly on par with widely available 8 year olds such as Jim Beam Black and Basil Hayden.


Australian Whiskey Innovators

I've been reading up on the Australian whisky scene, and I've found it to be quite interesting so far. In particular, I was interested to read about Wood Aged Holdings a distiller that offers a whisky investment scheme allowing individuals to invest in whiskies while they are being aged. This ingenious idea provides a unique alternative investment for whisky aficionados, as well as helping the distillery to raise the money needed up front before embarking on the long, expensive process of distilling and aging whisky.

I've read about similar schemes in Scotland, but this one seems to be very well put-together, and I think it makes more sense in Australia where there is a lot more risk in aging whisky for 15 years. This risk comes from the fact that it's hard to predict what the market for high-end Australian whiskies will like be that far down the road - there simply isn't as much historical market data to base projections on as there is in Scotland - although Wood Aged Holdings is betting the only direction for Australian whisky sales to go is up. They back up this belief by agreeing to buy back the whisky from investors, at a premium, after it is aged. Allowing individual investors to fund the distillation and aging not only spreads the financial risk, but also gives some indication of how much demand there will be once the product is ready, since we can assume that most of those investing in whisky now will be consumers of 'their' product 15 years down the road.

Another sign of the bright future of Australian whisky comes from the island of Tasmania off Australia's southeastern coast. Most familiar to Americans as the home of the cartoon character Taz (at right, obviously after drinking a bit too much Tasmanian hooch), Tasmania is also home to six whisky distilleries and counting. According to this article, some Tasmanian distillers think it's only a matter of time before their whiskies rise to the top of the whisky world alongside the best products of Scotland. Apparently Tasmania has the perfect climate and conditions for making whisky, and at one time in the 1800's was home to 16 distilleries, so the tradition is there as well.

It seems that most Australian whisky is currently sold in Australia and nearby Asian countries. I haven't seen any Australian whiskies in the U.S., and I don't have plans to travel down under anytime soon, but if you hear of any being sold in the states let me know, I'd love to have a taste to see what all the fuss is about.


Saturday Night Whiskey Song V

Elton John sang that Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting which I couldn't agree with more, but Saturday nights are also great for drinking a bit of whiskey and singing along to some of the great songs that have been written about whiskey over the years. So, every Saturday afternoon check back here for a fresh whiskey-related song to get your Saturday night started off on the right foot.

Last weekend's whiskey song was one made famous by George Thorogood, so I thought that for this weekend I'd post a song written and performed by Mr. Bad-to-the-Bone himself. Plenty of good drinking songs to choose from from George & The Destroyers, but I chose I Drink Along because it has some great whiskey references in it - definitely the only song I know of that name drops Old Granddad! Cheers!


Finger Lakes Distilling

Over the 4th of July weekend I had the chance to relax in New York state's Finger Lakes region, catching some fish, catching some rays, and even touring a new micro-distillery on the shore of Lake Seneca. The finger lakes area is well-known for its vineyards and wineries, of which it has over 100, and while a few vineyards and orchards distill fruit-based spirits in the region, Finger Lakes Distilling, which opened in 2008, is the area's first stand-alone distillery.

Finger Lakes Distilling (FLD) is currently producing a wide range of products from their bestselling Seneca Drums Gin to various grappas, cordials, and whiskies. FLD offers a taste of any three spirits for $2 which seems to be the going rate for tastings at most Finger Lakes wineries as well. If you go with a friend you can each try three and share, meaning you can each have a sip of six different drinks for $4! On top of that, the cost of the tasting applies towards any bottles you purchase which is nice since FLD's bottled spirits are priced towards the premium end of the scale, as most craft distilled products are.


Building A Home Bar on a Budget - Part 2 of ???

When building your home bar always keep in mind that it's yours, so make it to your liking! If you don't like my advice please don't take it, I just want to help you think through the very fun project of establishing your home bar!

After much anticipation, I present to you the second post in my series on how to build a home bar on a budget. This post will cover what I consider to be the best part of building your home bar - shopping for booze! Yes, I like this even better than drinking the booze which comes in a close second. As discussed in my previous post, setting a budget is an important first step to building your home bar, so I'll break this lesson down into four parts - the basics that apply across the board, as well as sample shopping lists for three different budget levels.


Saturday Night Whiskey Song IV

Elton John sang that Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting which I couldn't agree with more, but Saturday nights are also great for drinking a bit of whiskey and singing along to some of the great songs that have been written about whiskey over the years. So, every Saturday afternoon check back here for a fresh whiskey-related song to get your Saturday night started off on the right foot.

This one is a true classic - One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer by John Lee Hooker. You might be more familiar with the George Thorogood, "House Rent Blues" version, but I thought the original was appropriate for this 4th of July weekend - nothing's more American than booze and the blues.


Bar Hopping: Village Whiskey, Philadelphia, PA

Last Friday I made my first trip to Village Whiskey - the Rittenhouse Square restaurant and bar that has received rave reviews since opening last August. Village Whiskey, the fourth Philly restaurant opened by Philadelphia's celebrity chef du jour Jose Garces, has quickly established itself as one of the best places in Philadelphia to get a hamburger. A taste of that burger will have to wait for another time since my visit to Village Whiskey was on one of the hottest days of the year so far, and I just can't think about big juicy hamburgers when the temperature is over 95 degrees at 6:00pm. A nice refreshing whiskey however was just what I needed on such an evening.

The whiskey list at Village Whiskey has received surprisingly little attention from the restaurant reviewers who have raved about the delicious burgers and unique bar snacks (think oysters, deviled eggs, and five different pickle options). The whiskey list isn't over-the-top, and there were a few brands that I hoped to see that were absent, but it is probably the most extensive whiskey list in a Philadelphia bar.