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Sep 14

Mad Men Mondays: Johnnie Walker Red

It's time for our latest installment of Mad Men Monday. Last night on everyone's favorite retro television show, Betty had the baby. Back then, the guys stayed in the waiting room the whole time. I have to admit, I'm surprised Don even stayed and didn't head to the office until he officially had a son.

However, he did wait and in the process, he met Dennis, a prison guard. If it wasn't obvious from the uniform, accent, and whiskey, I think they were trying to drive home a point that Don and Dennis were in slightly different social classes. And yes, I saw it reflected in the whiskey. Dennis brought a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red.

Johnnie Walker is a blended scotch whiskey that has been around since 1865, when it was Walker's Old Highland. Johnnie Walker Red Label, as we know it today, was introduced in 1909. If you're not familiar with your whiskey, Johnnie Walker comes in different levels (and prices) that are denoted by the label.

About a year ago, Kevin and I were invited to a Johnnie Walker dinner at Boi Na Braza. While I didn't enjoy the restaurant, I did enjoy the whiskey. We got to taste through the entire portfolio, including the Blue.

The label spectrum is as follows, per Wikipedia. They get more expensive as you head towards Johnnie Walker Blue.

  • Red Label — a blend of around 35 grain and malt whiskies. It is intended for making mixed drinks. 80 proof. 40% ABV. According to William Manchester this was the favorite Scotch of Winston Churchill, who mixed it with soda. (Currently retails around $22)
  • Black Label — a blend of about 40 whiskies, each aged at least 12 years. 80 proof. 40% ABV
  • Green Label — a vatted malt that is a blend of about 15 individual single malts, the signature malts being Talisker, Cragganmore, Linkwood, and Caol Ila – Aged 15 years. 86 proof. 43% ABV. Previously sold under the name 'Pure Malt'.
  • Gold Label — a blend of over 15 single malts, including the
    very rare Clynelish malt. It was derived from Alexander II's blending
    notes for a whiskey to commemorate Johnnie Walker's centenary. His
    original efforts were thwarted by a shortage of these malts following
    World War I. Gold Label is commonly bottled at 15 or 18 years. 80
    proof. 40% ABV.
  • Blue Label — Johnnie Walker's premium blend. Every bottle is
    serial numbered and sold in a silk-lined box, accompanied by a
    certificate of authenticity. There is no age declaration for Blue
    Label. 80 proof.
    (Currently retails around $200)

So Dennis brought the working man's Johnnie Walker. Don, never one to turn away a drink, didn't seem to mind. The Red Label is quite popular for mixing with Coca-Cola and they are even being offered together in a limited edition can. At our Boi na Braza dinner, we drink the Red Label on the rocks, with a splash of guarana soda, with our salad course.
The soda sweetened the scotch but there was still a nice light peat
flavor on the finish once the sweet faded.

Based on Johnnie Walker press materials, more than 33 million bottles of Johnnie Walker were purchased in 2004 and Johnnie Walker Black Label seems to be the most popular, with approximately 43 glasses of Johnnie Walker Black Label enjoyed by consumers each second. We occasionally have Black Label in our house, as Kevin sometimes purchases it as an "everyday scotch." 

Overall, great episode and great product placement for Johnnie Walker.

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Posted by Michelle at 12:18 pm in Mad Men Monday, Pop Culture, Scotch & Whiskey, Television | Permalink | Comments (4)
Aug 26

Bring Home a Barrel and Age Your Own Whiskey

A friend of ours beckoned us to The Party Source on Saturday with the lure of a special whiskey tasting in the aisle. He was right.

In the middle of the aisle was Rick Wasmund of Virginia's Copper Fox Distillery. Rick was offering samples of his Single Malt Whiskey, Rye Whiskey, barrel tastes of these, as well as the spirits (pre-barrel) samples. For a man with two whiskeys sold retail, he sure had a lot to offer. I've never been a fan of single malt, but I do love a nice rye.

The thing that caught my eye was the Distiller's Art Series (or as I call it, the Age Your Own Whiskey Kit). This kit comes with a small barrel and two bottles of the spirit. It retails for around $100, but was on sale for $89.99 on Saturday. Yeah, we bought one.

We got it home and dived in. The first step is to just fill the barrel with water and make sure it doesn't have any leaks. Once that is established (or you let the barrel slats expand with hot water to remove leaks), you can get started. It's easy, of course. You just pour the two bottles of spirits (rye, in our case) into the bung hole on top of the barrel. Firmly insert the bung and you're off. Within 4-7 months, you've got whiskey you aged your self.

It sounds silly, but I'm rather looking forward to the process. The barrel has a spigot. Every month of so, we can check in and try a sample. We'll be able to see just how much the barrel affects both the color and the flavor. The barrel is made from 100% American white oak without glue, nails, or paraffin wax. You can add ingredients to your whiskey if you want (at Wasmund's they're fond of apple wood chips), but we thought we'd play it straight the first time through. The bottle is reusable and the spirits are available at Party Source for when you start to get experimental.

Our plan right now is to check in every month and see how our whiskey is doing. We'll post regular updates on the blog, which you can check in the new Whiskey Watch category. In the meantime, I recommend getting over to Party Source and picking up your own kit. We can have our own whiskey aging club.

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Posted by Michelle at 10:32 am in Scotch & Whiskey, Whiskey Watch | Permalink | Comments (4)
Jun 15

Jim Beam Red Stag: Black Cherry Infused Bourbon

Back in February we announced the news that Jim Beam was releasing a black cherry-infused bourbon. My thought at the time was that they were shooting for the same crowd that enjoys flavored vodka – sort of young, hip crowd. I'm obviously not young and hip. I prefer my vodka pure and please don't mess with my bourbon.

That said, I was willing to give Jim Beam's new venture a chance. I wasn't going to judge it sight unseen or untasted. (Kevin, on the other hand, is a bourbon purist. He went into this already disliking it.)

Two weeks ago we picked up a bottle of Red Stag at Party Town, who seemed to be the first in the area to carry it. The rep had, of course, told the staff amazing things but the staff hadn't all tried it. We were left on our own.

Again – I went into this with an open mind. I don't mind the Wild Turkey American Honey, but at least Wild Turkey bills that as a liqueur. This is still bourbon.

Kevin instantly hated it. Much to my surprise, so did I. The best comparison I've got is cherry Nyquil. Bleh. It looks like bourbon, but one whiff and you smell can already smell the cough syrup. There's an aftertaste of syrup and plastic that is fairly unpleasant. I know it's supposed to be infused with natural flavors, but it sure doesn't smell/taste that way.

In an effort to be fair, we thought we'd mix it. When I travel and want a mixed drink, I go with either Beam or Jack and Coke. In theory, this would be a cherry Coke, right? While a Coke definitely improves the flavor of the bourbon, there's still the plastic aftertaste. We also tried with Sprite, much to the same effect. There's a chance this might add an interesting flavor to Bourbon Slush. My Slush recipe uses peach tea bags, and this might add a little more oomph to that, but I still worry about the aftertaste. I'm not sure how it would work with a Manhattan, but I think I've given up trying.

I really did want to like this – I love bourbon and I enjoyed the idea of extending my options. I do believe that it should be billed as a liqueur and not a bourbon, which has a strict definition. Either way, we give it a firm .


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Posted by Michelle at 9:00 am in Cocktails, Scotch & Whiskey, Spirits, Tastings | Permalink | Comments (5)
Feb 27

Jim Beam Changes Bourbon

Hi everybody! This is our opinion of the Jim Beam Red Stag Black Cherry Infused Bourbon Announcement from February. You can also read our more recent review of how it tastes.

Breaking news in the wine & spirits world today, with the reviews popping up of Jim Beam’s Red Stag.

Wild Turkey American Honey started a trend that really needs to
stop. Now adding whiskey and honey to tea when I have a cold is a long
standing family tradition to help strengthen your immune system, so we do reach for the American Honey – with tea – when we’re sick.

Image from: The Bourbon Blog

With the announcement of Red Stag, a black cherry flavor infused bourbon, Jim Beam has done something that really should not have been done. I let cans of Beam and Cola slide. I even turned a blind eye to cans of Beam and Ginger Ale as some people prefer to mix their drinks. In fact, if Beam Distillers had decided to can the Black Cherry directly into the cola they might have had a product targeted at consumers who would want to drink something like this.

Sadly, Jim Beam makes some very nice bourbon drinks, Booker’s and Basil Hayden both jump to mind. This marketing ploy needs to stop before we have as many different flavored bourbons as we do vodkas.

My friend Jeff made the following simple 5 year plan for Jim Beam to regain the trust of bourbon drinkers:

Step 1: Discontinue this line.
Step 2: Apologize to loyal bourbon drinkers
Step 3: Don’t do anything this dumb for 5 more years.

If you disagree with Beam’s direction on this, please contact Jim Beam on their website here: http://jimbeam.com/contactus.aspx

– Kevin

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Posted by Kevin at 4:18 pm in Beer-Guy.net, News, Scotch & Whiskey | Permalink | Comments (1)
Nov 14

Whiskey Clubs

"I would not join any club that would have someone like me for a member." – Groucho Marx

Hello all, this should be the last week before returning to the standard Friday weekend callout in this spot, but today I’m going to highlight a few different clubs that are run to help promote distilleries. If anyone knows of any I missed, please add them in the comments and I will try and get a complete list put together. Reviews of what I have received follow after the jump, but here is the quick list.


Four RosesMellow Moments Online Sign-up form
Maker’s MarkAmbassador Sign-up form
Woodford ReserveStables Sign-up form
Wild Turkey – Rare Breed Society – Go to the website, then click on Rare Breed Society
Heavens Hill Bardstown Bourbon Society – No Online Sign-up without Secret Code?


LaphroigFriends of Laphroig
Johnny WalkerStriding Man Society
Talkisker (Diagio) – Friend of The Classic Malts

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Posted by Michelle at 9:07 am in Scotch & Whiskey | Permalink | Comments (2)

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