Whiskey Book Review: Mountain Spirits

Mountain Spirits: A Chronicle of Corn Whiskey from King James' Ulster Plantation to America's Appalachians and the Moonshine LifeI had been told by several people that Mountain Spirits by Joseph Earl Dabney is a must read for anyone interested in the history of American spirits. After devouring it in just a few days I must admit that it's one of the most entertaining, educational, and hard-to-put-down books I've read in a long time. Mountain Spirits' anecdotes of life in the Southern Appalachians will appeal to history buffs and Southerners, even of the non-drinking variety. If you do like a glass of corn whiskey with your history lesson then you're really in for a treat as Dabney recounts the tales of numerous moonshiners, bootleggers, whiskey runners, and revenuers. If you have trouble distinguishing between those different players in the hooch business just read the book and you'll be an expert in no time flat.


Last Minute Gifts for the Whiskey Afficianado on Your List

It's almost Christmas, but I'm sure you've probably put some of your gift buying off til the last minute. Well if you have whiskey aficionados on your gift list you're in luck because I've compiled a handy list of great gifts for whiskey-lovers. Happy Holidays!


Philadelphia Whiskey Week at Fiume

Beer week has grown into a huge to-do in Philadelphia over the past few years. Dozens and dozens of bars participate, there are endless events every night for more than a full week, and beer lovers come from all over to soak it all in. Well that all had to start somewhere, and now one bar is trying to start small and build a whiskey week for Philadelphia. Based on my visit last night I'd say they're off to a great start.

Fiume is a low profile little barroom above one of West Philadelphia's many Ethiopian restaurants - Abyssinia - at 45th and Locust. This restaurant happens to be where my wife and I had our first real date, but I had never been up to the tiny second floor whiskey bar that I kept hearing about until last night. It's very tiny actually - if you're familiar with West Philly Victorian homes you'll recognize Fiume as the bay-windowed front bedroom which is big for a bedroom, but small for a bar. It felt packed with about 20 patrons last night, but great things come in small packages. I'm sure Fiume is a great spot all year round, but for his first Whiskey Week bartender Kevin James Holland added 52 new whiskeys to his menu, giving Fiume one of the best whiskey selections in Philadelphia, especially when it comes to bourbons and ryes.

He has also made trying the numerous whiskeys on his list super easy by offering full or half servings (at half price) and by running happy hour from 6-9pm every day. While there last night I sampled a Michter's Rye and my wife had Elmer T. Lee bourbon, both of which were great, and could only be had at maybe one or two other spots in Philadelphia and nowhere at such bargain prices or from such a knowledgeable barkeep. Fiume is also offering themed flights (a 'smooth flight' for example) that allow you to taste your way through a series of whiskeys, and come complete with highly-educational commentary from Holland.

Whiskey Week at Fiume runs through Sunday December 12th so get there quick!

Read more Here and Here.


Hazelnut Rye Flip

This past weekend was the time for decorating at my house, and I decided to make the tree lighting and tinsel hanging a little more fun this year by coming up with a tasty drink to match the festive atmosphere. I think my creation hits all the right holiday flavors perfectly, especially if you're a fan of rye whiskey.

You'll Need:

  • 1 oz. Rye Whiskey - I used a classic, Old Overholt
  • 1/2 oz. Frangelico hazelnut liqueur
  • 1 egg white
  • Dash of Angostura bitters
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • Cinnamon stick for garnish
  1. Pour everything but the cinnamon stick into a large shaker filled with ice.
  2. Shake vigorously for a minute or so - you really want to froth up the egg white for a nice creamy drink.
  3. Strain it into rocks glass over a few cubes of ice - I recommend using a very fine strainer to keep out any stray chunks of nutmeg or cinnamon.
  4. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.
  5. Enjoy with Christmas carols and a warm sweater.


First Tasmanian Whisky Available in the US

A few months ago I wrote about the growth of whisky production in Australia and specifically on the island of Tasmania. Until now getting your hands on Australian-made whisky in the U.S. has been next to impossible. I tried to have a tiny sample bottle of Aussie whisky sent to me this past summer, and after a few frustrating calls with a customs officer at the Port of L.A., I gave up on jumping through all the hoops necessary to get the bottle to my shelf. I guess they sent it back to Australia, or maybe had a little happy hour at the customs office.

Well now it's easier to taste at least one Tasmanian whisky - actually three different whiskies from Lark Distillery - at least if you live near New York, Chicago, Miami, San Fran, or L.A. You can read more about the first Australian whisky being imported to the U.S. here, and as soon as I get a chance to taste some I'll report back.