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Oh Taste & See: 1729 Ridgemont Reserve Bourbon

I mentioned in my recent post about the Philadelphia Whiskey Festival that 1792 Ridgemont Reserve has recently made my list of favorite bourbons. I'm not ready to say exactly where on my list it falls, but I encourage you to try a glass and decide for yourself how it stacks up on your list of favorites. 1792 Ridgemont Reserve takes its name from the year in which Kentucky became a state (the 15th state if you're counting). It's an eight year old small batch bourbon bottled in Bardstown by Barton Distilling Company (a division of Sazerac), and designated the "Official Toasting Bourbon of the Kentucky Bourbon Festival." Given that Christmas and New Years are coming up I think a 'toasting bourbon', whatever you think that means, is a great thing to have on hand.

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Cooking with Whiskey: Mint Julep Pork Chops

Over the weekend I did a fall clean out of my tiny little garden. While most of the plants died or went dormant weeks ago, I was still able to harvest a few peppers, and a whole bunch of mint. The mint was still thriving to the point of growing out of cracks in my planters, so I decided to pull it all up and start over next spring. But what to do with a pile of fresh-from-the-garden mint? Play around in the kitchen what else.

By pure luck I hit on a pretty tasty dish on my first try. You'll need the following ingredients:

1/3 cup of fresh mint leaves, de-stemmed and rinsed.
3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
1 egg
2 oz. of bourbon (I used the last of my Henry McKenna - I'm sure anything better would be...better)
2 tbsp of dark brown sugar
3-4 thick pork loin chops

1. Put everything except the pork chops in a food processor and blend it together until you have a nice creamy mixture.
2. Soak the pork chops in this marinade for at least 2 hours - a longer marinade can't hurt if you have time.
3. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
4. Transfer the pork chops to a baking dish and brush a light coating of the marinade on both sides of the chops.
5. Bake for 25-30 minutes and serve.

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The 2010 Philadelphia Whiskey Festival

Last night I attended the seventh annual Philadelphia Whiskey Festival put on by Philadelphia Magazine. This was the first time I'd attended this event, and my first surprise was the crowd - apparently Philadelphia has a lot of whiskey drinkers and they have no problem coming out on a Wednesday evening. After waiting in line for half an hour to get to the check-in table I finally got a wrist band and made my way into the crowded Ballroom at the Ben - a lovely venue for sippin' whiskey.

Philadelphia's Whiskey Festival isn't all about whiskey - there are also plenty of vodkas, rums, and even a few gins and liqueurs available for tasting. I tried a couple amazing rums (Mount Gay 1703 Old Cask and Ron Zacapa stand out) and a disgusting (to me) local phenomenon known as Root, but I mostly stuck to the whiskey (and some whisky) of which there was plenty.

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Whiskey Book Review: The Art of Distilling Whiskey and Other Spirits

The Art of Distilling Whiskey and Other Spirits is a must read for anyone interested in the production process, history, or future of fine spirits. It's edited by Bill Owens and Alan Dikty, two of the biggest names in the distilling industry (and the craft-brewing industry to boot). Given the vast knowledge that Owens and Dikty bring to the table, you're bound to learn something from this book even if you're already well-versed in the world fine spirits.

My favorite thing about this book is that serves three purposes at the same time. First it's a beautiful coffee-table book with dozens of beautiful photos showing the various bottles, stills, and people that make up the world of artisan distilling. It's worth having around just for the photos, but wait there's more! The Art of Distilling Whiskey is also an informative and entertaining introduction to how distilled spirits are made, and the differences between the various categories of spirits. If you're looking for a comprehensive but digestible book to bring you up to speed on the world of spirits this one is perfect. Finally, this book is a great reference volume. It contains a wide-ranging bibliography of further reading on the topic of distilling, a distiller's glossary, and a comprehensive international directory of distilleries that focuses on small craft producers.

In summary, this is a book that you'll go back to time and again as you have questions about what you're drinking, who made it, and how it got to be so darn tasty. For the moment it's also the most up-to-date book in its category and contains few of the omissions and errors that I've found in similar books from just a few years ago. It is hard to write comprehensively about the constantly-changing world of spirits, but after reading through The Art of Distilling Whiskey I can see why it has become a classic only a year after first being published. I look forward to reading more of Bill Owens' books and reporting back on them here.

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Oh Taste & See: Whisky MAG'5

I bought a bottle of Whisky Mag'5 earlier this summer while on vacation, mostly because I couldn't figure out exactly what it was. Also it was inexpensive enough to take a chance on, but I learned the lesson that sometimes taking chances on cheap whisky doesn't work out and you end up wishing you had bought more rum instead.

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List of Philly's Top 50 Bars Includes Some Whiskey Joints

Interior of Pub on Passyunk East
The website Foobooz.com just released its 2010 list of Philadelphia's top 50 bars as selected by a "who’s-who of Philadelphia’s drinking scene." I was glad to see both of the bars that I've reviewed for this blog on the list - Royal Tavern at #10 and Village Whiskey at #14, and several of my other favorite haunts also made the list including my go-to spot, Pub on Passyunk East aka POPE at #4. Bars on the list with notable whiskey selections include Southwark (#3), Chick's Cafe (#9), Oyster House (#22), and Devil's Den (#43), all of which I will eventually get around to reviewing for this blog.

In addition to the list there's also a great map of all 50 bars that makes it a piece of cake to plan a good bar crawl in the City of Brotherly Love. If you're into history, you might find it interesting to compare this year's top 50 to the 2009 version - there are plenty of newcomers, but also a good helping of the classics that should be on the top 50 list for decades to come.

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Amazing Website About the History of American Whiskey

Remember when the internet first came out and you could sit for hours in front of your computer clicking from page to page reading about topics that you'd always been interested in...or those you never even knew existed? You didn't need fancy videos or flash presentations, just well-written text and a few photos. Well, if you like whiskey and American history get ready to spend some old-fashioned internet time clicking around this website:


It's a labor of love put together by a husband and wife team who seem to have an endless capacity for researching and retelling the stories of American whiskey. Happy surfing.

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Best of the Rest from Portland

I already gave you the run down on the top five whiskeys that I tasted in Portland, but I also tasted a lot of other craft spirits that at least deserve a mention. So, in no particular order, the best of the rest:

Dos Maderas P.X. Rum - Although not necessarily a 'craft spirit' this rum, imported by Kindred Spirits, certainly is unique and deserves to be tasted by anyone who enjoys good rums or good sherry as it has characteristics of both. It begins life as molasses-based rum from Barbados and Guyana, spends five years in American oak, followed by five years in Spain. The first three of those last five years are spent in Palo Cortado sherry casks, while the final two years are in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks. After all that Dos Maderas P.X. ends up as a syrupy, complex rum, perfect for sipping neat or pouring over a bit of vanilla ice cream.

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God Bless Texas

In my last post I mentioned that I had a chance to try Baby Blue Corn Whiskey from Waco Texas' Balcones Distillery. It was a very nice unaged whiskey made from blue corn. Now comes news of another exciting product out of Texas, this one a more traditional two year old bourbon being released in very small batches.

The limited release makes a quick Texas road trip quite tempting as cold weather rolls in here in the mid-Atlantic. The bourbon is known as Garrison Brothers Texas Bourbon Whiskey and is being produced in Hye, TX about 50 miles west of Austin. If you get a chance to try any I'd love to hear how their first vintage shapes up.