Oh Taste & See: Henry McKenna Sour Mash Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Fact: Henry McKenna is not a top shelf bourbon. It sells for about $18 for a one liter bottle (750mL bottles are hard to find and come in around $15), and it doesn't even get its own website (or Wikipedia entry!), settling for a short blurb on Heaven Hill's corporate site. Judging just by the bottle though, Henry McKenna is intriguing, and given its price it seemed worth trying when I picked up a bottle a while back. My bottle has been almost emptied after much use as a mixer for whiskey sours, Manhattans and bourbon & cokes, so it seems like a straight tasting is in order before it's all gone.


Courtesy of Maker's Mark - The Bluegrass Breeze

Back home in Kentucky they've been celebrating bourbon heritage month for the past few weeks, and it just so happens to coincide nicely with the World Equestrian Games that are being contested through October 10th in Lexington. In honor of these events dozens of distillers, restaurants, and bars in Kentucky and nationwide have created signature cocktails based on America's official native spirit - bourbon.

One of the best of these cocktails that I have come across so far is The Bluegrass Breeze - a cocktail being billed as the signature cocktail of the World Equestrian Games by Maker's Mark. It's just a slight variation on a simple classic - bourbon and ginger ale - with the addition of a bit of curacao adding a new and refreshing twist. The basic recipe is below and you can read more about the drink on kypost.com.

Bluegrass Breeze
Signature Cocktail of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2010
1.5 ounces Maker’s Mark Bourbon
3 ounces Ginger Ale
0.5 ounces DeKuyper Orange Curacao
1 orange slice
In a rocks glass filled with ice, pour in Maker’s Mark Bourbon and DeKuyper Orange Curacao and top off with ginger ale. Squeeze orange and drop in glass.


Oh Taste & See: Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey

Irish whiskey is very popular among my circle of friends, and in Philadelphia in general. I would say the most common whiskey I hear people ordering around town is Jameson, with Bushmills also getting plenty of love.

While it's definitely popular, I have always found the lack of choice among Irish whiskeys to be a bit boring. At any given bar you're lucky to find three or four different brands of Irish whiskey, even if they stock dozens of Scotch or Bourbons labels. This lack of variety is largely due to the fact that Ireland today boasts only a few distilleries, with most owned by two large conglomerates. You can read a bit more about the history of Irish whiskey in this post, but today's tasting is about a slightly less common, and delightful whiskey called Kilbeggan produced by the "distant third place" distiller of the Irish whiskey world - Cooley. Cooley is cool because it's the only major Irish whiskey maker that is still independently owned by Irishmen.


Day Late but Not a Penny Short

Did you miss your Saturday Night Whiskey Song? Well sometimes a good song is worth the wait. Here's one that's just perfect for late on a Sunday evening. The song may not be about whiskey, but the band's name is The Whiskey Rebellion, so you can't beat that!


Delicious Drink Alert - Guayabita del Pinar Dulce

This post is not about whiskey, but it is about one of the most delicious beverages I have ever tried. It's something I brought back from my recent trip to the Caribbean and just opened up for a taste this evening. The drink is called La Occidental Guayabita del Pinar Dulce and it's a sweet, cane liquor (like some rums) with flavorings from the guayabita (literally 'little guava') fruit of western Cuba. This drink has been produced commercially since 1892 but hasn't spread far beyond its home town.

I had not been able to find much information on Guayabita del Pinar before opening it, but from the little I'd read I was expecting more of an herbal-infused flavor halfway between gin and rum. Boy did it throw me for a loop when I twisted off the cap to find one of the sweetest, most candy-like flavors I've ever encountered. I'm not a big fan of super-sweet drinks, but something about this one is very nice. It's smooth and creamy and nutty and fruity all at the same time and all in perfect proportion. It's like a tootsie roll, some almonds, and a jolly rancher (grape?) got mashed together and then any sourness or bitterness was sucked out leaving only sweet, fruity, nutty, chocolaty smoothness. It is so smooth in fact that I might not guess it had any alcohol based on a quick taste, much less 30%. Sorry to gush, but this stuff is unique and very good, try to get your hands on a bottle!

I enjoyed my first glass of Guayabita del Pinar over a bit of ice while reading up on the product's history here. Turns finding detailed information about it in English is tough, but if you speak Spanish you can learn a thing or two on the back of the bottle or on a few Spanish language sites around the web. One thing that is clear in any language is that Guayabita del Pinar is a tough product to find anywhere outside of the region where it's produced - a beautiful region I might add as you can see in the photo below. So I'm going to have to nurse this one bottle to make it last as long as possible. If you know of anyone headed to Cuba tell them to max out their liquor quota on Guayabita del Pinar - decent rum can be bought anywhere, but this unique tipple is worth the hassle of finding it and bringing it home. There's also a dry version of Guayabita del Pinar out there and I'd love to hear from anyone who has tried that. Given that sweetness is by far the dominant characteristic of what I'm drinking I can't imagine how a dry version could maintain any of the same flavors, but who knows. Cheers!

p.s. There's some sort of object in the bottom of my bottle. It looks like a prune with a stem, but I assume it's a guayabita. In a few months when all the juice is gone I'll have a taste of the little guava.


Back to the Music...

After a few Saturdays without posting a new 'whiskey song' I'm pulling out a classic. George Jones singing Tennessee Whiskey with David Allan Coe at 1985's FarmAid concert. It doesn't get much more country than this song, so throw on your boots, pour yourself a Jack Daniels on the rocks and get ready to two-step.


A "Fair and Balanced" Overview of the White Dog Phenomenon

If you follow my blog you know that I'm interested in the newly popular un-aged whiskies that seem to be popping up everywhere. Whether you call it legal moonshine, white lightening, or white dog, there's no denying that legit micro-distillers, and even a few of the big boys like Buffalo Trace, are butting their way into a market once dominated by woodsmen in bib overalls.

I found this article from Fox News to be perhaps the most glaring sign yet that un-aged whiskey has indeed hit the mainstream. If Fox News is reviewing four different white dog whiskeys on their website it has definitely come out of the woods and into the modern world. All four of the whiskeys they review sound pretty drinkable, although I haven't tried any of them personally, so I'd love to hear from any of you who have.


Oh Taste & See: Forty Creek Barrel Select Whisky

For the first tasting from my 'purchased on my vacation' series I've decided to pop open the bottle of Forty Creek Barrel Select Canadian whisky that I picked up at the duty free shop in Niagara Falls. I had read good things about Forty Creek distillery, and it was high on my "To Taste" list. So when I saw a one liter bottle for just $25 (Canadian!) at it looked like as good way as any to convert my Canadian cash to something with real value.

Forty Creek Barrel Select is a small batch whisky distilled in Grimsby, Ontario on the south shore of Lake Ontario. It's crafted by John K. Hall, the man behind Kittling Ridge Estate Wines & Spirits. Forty Creek is unique among Canadian blended whiskies in that Mr. Hall distills and ages each of its component grains (corn, rye, and malted barley) separately and blends them to taste after aging. He also uses a variety of barrels, including those formerly used to age sherry, to impart a full range of flavors to his final product.

Color: Forty Creek is a very nice looking whisky in the glass with a rich, burnt-orange color.

Nose: The aroma from Forty Creek is initially boozy and astringent, but with a dash of water and some time to open up hints of vanilla, rye, and oak start to show up, although it still doesn't have an overly strong nose.

Flavor: Given the weak aroma, I began to worry that Forty Creek's flavor would disappoint. I needn't have worried as it packs plenty of taste and is one of the richer blended whiskies I've had. The initial taste is a spicy kick from the rye. On top of this I found notes of sweetness - caramel and honey - along with a nice vanilla and oak flavor. Overall it's a full bodied and extremely smooth whisky.

Finish: The finish with Forty Creek isn't overly long - it is clean and smooth with some lingering notes of vanilla and honey. The spicy kick stays on the tip of your tongue for a while too - just enough to remind you that the smooth drink you're sipping is a full 80 proof.

Overall Forty Creek is a solid whisky, and has a lot more character than I'm used to finding in Canadian blends. It goes down smooth, has enough complexity to make it an interesting sipper, and its flavor is very unique. In fact, if I didn't know what I was drinking I would have had a very hard time pinning it down as a Canadian whisky and probably would have guessed it was a nice Irish whiskey. I guess the tag on the bottle-neck touting it's #1 ranking among Canadian Whiskies (according to Whisky Magazine's Michael Jackson) might just be spot on. Eh?


Thrift Store Score!

Taking myself too seriously is one of my favorite pastimes. Therefore I can't help amassing a needlessly large collection of glassware. Browsing through cassette tapes and old polo shirts today at a thrift store I stumbled upon these winners:

A pair of Crown Royal rocks glasses with '2000' printed on them. I guess I need to find a vintage bottle of crown to match these things. Is it obvious from this one that glassware photography is beyond my abilities as a photographer?

This Glenfiddich snifter looked cloudy and yellow in the thrift shop but after a quick scrub it's as good as new.

Not whiskey related, but these little Sam Adams tumblers will be great for sharing a bottle of beer with a friend, or serving up little mixed drinks...or milk...or OJ...

All in all a VERY successful trip to the thrift store considering I got all this glassware, plus two Willie Nelson cassette tapes for only $5.02!