Report from Portland

I'm back from the Great American Distillers Festival in Portland, OR, and now that I'm over my jet-lag I thought I'd start writing about it a bit. First things first, there was some good whiskey at the festival that I hadn't had a chance to taste before. So without further ado, my top five whiskies from the weekend:

1. W.H. Harrison Indiana Straight Bourbon - As a bourbon fan, I had to tip my had to this brand new bourbon out of Indiana that just hit the market and also just hit the nail on the head as far as making a delicious sippin' bourbon. The 80 proof straight bourbon was good neat, but the Governor's Reserve Barrel Proof version, with a dash of water added, was amazing at 115 proof. Lots of rye spice and being named after a U.S. President made this my favorite whiskey of the festival.


Update from Portland

After spending my first full day in Portland, Oregon I've already added it to my list of favorite cities. I mean what's not to like - great public transit, super-nice people, good coffee, great beer, and did I mention that I'm here for the Great American Distillers Festival which is held here for good reason - there's a ton of good liquor made in this town!

Yesterday I tasted my way through a tour of six (yes six) micro-distilleries that are all located within a few blocks of each other in a hip, industrial section of East Portland. In true northwestern fashion these distilleries have decided to cooperate with each other in creating Distillery Row - an ultra-local, artisan version of Kentucky's Bourbon Trail or California's various wine trails. The six distilleries are Integrity Spirits, New Deal Distillery, Deco Distilling, Highball Distillery, House Spirits, and Stone Barn Brandyworks. The people behind each distillery all have their own great stories, and the products they produce range from (very hot) hot-pepper infused vodka to an all-rye white dog whiskey. I'll write more about the individual distilleries and their products soon, but today I've got to head off to judge cocktails crafted by some of the country's best mixologists at the Portland Cocktail Invitational.

Also, on a side note, I went to a bar last night and heard a really good local band called The Low Bones. Perfect music for the end of my first day in Portland.


Great Cocktail - Marble Rye

I had a really delicious and unique cocktail last night at a local Philadelphia restaurant called Zahav. The cocktail was called the Marble Rye and I highly recommend it if you're dining at Zahav. The ingredient list and name make you think this drink will taste like liquid rye bread, but it's actually a refreshing, light spritzer of a drink with just enough whiskey kick behind it. If you want to try to make your own, the ingredients are:

1. Pumpernickel and Caraway infused Rye - you'll have to play around with making this yourself. I'd say start with a bottle of Jim Beam Rye, pour it into a large, sealable jar and drop in a handful of caraway seeds and a chunk of pumpernickel break. Let it sit in a cool, dark spot for a week or two and see what happens.
2. Celery Soda - hard to come by in most places, but not impossible - see Wikipedia.
3. I'm guessing the proportions were about 1 part infused rye to 3 parts celery soda - shaken and poured over ice with a lemon twist.

If you have any luck making this at home let me know!


Whiskey Jim Goes West

I'm headed out west for the weekend to the Great American Distillers Festival in Portland, OR. I'll be talking to distillers, tasting some of the spirits that are so hard to get your hands on here in Philadelphia, and even judging a cocktail competition so it should be one heck of a weekend. I'll post as much as I can throughout the festival and give a full report on the Portland scene as soon as I'm back.


In Pittsburgh this Weekend?

I normally feel sorry for people who spend their weekends in Pittsburgh...just kidding (sorta)! This weekend though it's the place to be for fans of rye whiskey and history. Although there's currently no rye being produced in Western PA, there is a ton of history there and this Friday and Saturday will see a series of lectures, tours, and events targeted towards those interested in the region's whiskey history. The events are timed to match the addition of West Overton, outside of Pittsburgh, to the American Whiskey Trail. The area is the site of the whiskey rebellion after all, as well as the original Old Overholt distillery.

For more info on the weekend's festivities see:


Philadelphia Distilling Company

I finally got a chance to tour a distiller that's right here in my backyard, Northeast Philly's Philadelphia Distilling Company, home of Bluecoat American Dry Gin, Penn 1681 vodka, and Vieux Carre absinthe. No they don't make whiskey, but they do make some very fine spirits and they have a beautiful Scottish-made copper pot-still that looks just slightly out-of-place in the ho-hum industrial park that Philadelphia Distilling calls home. That's more than enough for me to be interested.

I've been drinking Bluecoat Gin as long as I've been drinking gin. By that I mean it's a gin that appeals to non-gin-lovers and, in my case, eventually eases you into a taste for gin in general. It's a citrusy, crisp spirit that has become quite popular in the Philadelphia area since it was introduced in 2005. Enough about Bluecoat though, this entry is about the distillery where it's made and the highly educational tour I took on recent afternoon.


The 2011 Whisky Bible is Out!

For whisk(e)y aficionados Jim Murray's annual Whisky Bible has been indispensable since it was first published in 2003. Every year's issue includes hundreds of new whisky reviews spanning the globe and all its varied whisky styles. Jim's reviews are very well written and the book's comprehensiveness is absolutely unmatched. I would delve into a detailed description of the 2011 version of the Whisky Bible, but I don't think I could beat the write-up from the folks over at WhiskyIntelligence.com. Check out their summary of the book here or hit up Amazon to add this must-have book to your collection.

If your tastes tend more towards whiskey with the 'e' you might prefer to pick up the 2010 version while it's still on a few bookstore shelves. It lists the world's best whisky as the all-American Sazerac 18-year-old Kentucky Rye, while the latest version has Ballantine's 17 Year Old Scotch listed as number one.