I was recently lucky enough to attend a tasting of a few new types of whiskey at Party Source. One of the nice features of the Party Source tasting classes is that in addition to educational aspect, there is the opportunity to try something new and this was a great varied tasting:
Dry Fly Wheat Whiskey (70.95) – Dry fly is a Washington distillery that is using 100% wheat aged for 2 years in a new charred barrel. This has a nice baked bread nose with straw finishing with a hint of mint and sweet. A whiskey that is 100% wheat is rare, and this long finishing whiskey is a great example of what can be done slightly differently using local ingredients.
Maker’s Mark 46 (33.99) – The “second great idea” from Maker’s Mark has an addition of toasted French oak into the final aging process. This makes a spicier version of the traditional Maker’s Mark that gives it a flavor that is closer to a Rye whiskey using wood instead of the grain to give the new flavors. A nice way to show what effect different types of wood or aging can have on a whiskey.
Party Source Buffalo Trace “Wheat on Rye” (59.99) – A collaboration between Party Source and the Buffalo Trace experimental team taking a traditional bourbon and performing a secondary aging in a used Rye barrel. This adds a spicy flavor while not overpowering the traditional softness of the wheat bourbon. The base was a barrel similar to Old Weller before the Rye aging and it did a really nice job of connecting the two different flavors into a single whiskey.
Rick Wasmund’s Kegs o’ Bourbon (Not Available) – The first of two different types of smoked bourbons. Rick smoked the grain over a nice soft wood combination (apple, cherry). This adds another level of flavor and was brought straight from the barrel to the tasting. I think this one needs a little more time to settle down and presented slightly confused on the flavors. I’d recommend it for anyone who wants to try a sweeter, fruitier whiskey.
MB Rowland Black Dog Corn Whiskey (31.99) and MB Rowland Black Dog Bourbon (Not Available) – The Black Dog is made using a “dark fire” the corn in our miniature tobacco barn, giving the product a smoky, sweet flavor. The bourbon version is then aged in the charred oak. this produces a bourbon that has distinct characteristics that are usually found in scotch. I thought this was a really interesting change and has potential for a lot of really nice applications.
Four Roses Small Batch Barrel Strength (74.99) – This is the new product replacing the Marriage line. The Marriage was limited to a combination of two of the Four Roses recipes and this allows for more options in the creation of the yearly release. This one was a nice traditional bourbon that was a great end to the tasting. A combination of 3 different recipes aged between 10 and 15 years makes this a very nice spicy bourbon. I will miss the story behind the Marriage, but this is a worthy successor.
Michelle got a press release recently that tickled her fancy. It espoused the features of Wild Turkey bourbon and had the tagline, “It’s just isn’t Thanksgiving without the Turkey.” This made her laugh so much that she agreed to have a sample of Wild Turkey 101 sent our way ahead of the holiday.
The overall flavor has slightly more alcohol than most bourbons which are usually reduced to 80 to 90 proof with the addition of water at the distillery. The extra kick on the finish is one of the most noticeable differences.
I tried this on the rocks to help lower the alcohol levels and bring forward some of the other bourbon characteristics. The flavor has a touch less sweetness than other bourbons with an orange peel flavor. The oak is present on the initial flavor with vanilla and adds caramel in the middle. With the ice about halfway melted into the glass, the finish switches to a nice rye note. Overall it is a nice straight forward bourbon that has an extra kick on the finish. I’d recommend this with a touch of water or ice. I’m not sure how this would perform in a mixed drink as the amounts would need to be adjusted to keep the flavors aligned.
According to the press release, Wild Turkey is the perfect alternative to bringing wine to your Turkey Day table. “Wild Turkey Bourbon’s high proof and robust flavor make it the perfect digestif, an excellent accompaniment to a full stomach and good conversation. Your oenophile friends will enjoy the strong notes of vanilla, caramel and spice along with the cool, full-bodied finish. Plus it pairs great with pie and ice cream.”
Over on BourbonBlog.com, they’ve come up with some fun recipes for Wild Turkey Thanksgiving-themed cocktails, including this one:
1.5 oz Wild Turkey 101
2 oz apple cider
1 tbs cranberry jelly
1 sprig fresh sage
1 sprig fresh thyme
Since 2009, Wild Turkey Bourbon has been part of the Campari group of liquor beverages and is mostly distributed in the US, Australia and Japan. They can be found on their fan page on Facebook as well as Twitter.
Happy Turkey Day!
For this post we again welcome Jay Erisman, our favorite instructor from The Party Source EQ Center and quite the wine and spirits expert. This is actually part 2 of a 2-part Mexican adventure he took in 2007 (part 1).
Tequila country did not prepare me for the Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal producers in Oaxaca. Del Maguey mastermind Ron Cooper took me on a four day tour of Oaxaca. From village markets where we feasted on things like pit roasted goat (and—bonus!—the blood of the goat, cooked in the stomach with mint, swear I’m not making this up), to cutting edge restaurants in Oaxaca City, I was immersed in the most vibrant, colorful culture I’ve ever experienced.
I was acquainted with the traditional production methods used by such Mezcal masters as Paciano Cruz Nolasco of San Luis del Rio.
To actually see these distilleries operate with technology that was virtually pre-industrial was totally amazing. The techniques are positively pre-industrial, such as roasting the maguey in an earthen pit of smoldering wood and hot rocks for up to three weeks, and crushing the cooked plants with a mule-powered stone. Señor Nolasco harvests maguey plants (a relative of the blue agave used for Tequila) from very high hills, in his very high village, at the end of a very bad road. (Paciano is a Mezcal maker, a palenquero, but this generous, forward-thinking man is training his daughter to become a palenquera, possibly the first female Mezcal distiller.) The term “rustic” does not do justice to his distillery, hugging the dusty banks of the rio amidst a cluster of banana trees, vines and lizards. His Mezcal might offer the single most complex aroma of any spirit I sell, a kaleidoscope of smoky earth, pineapple fruits and mountain herbs, citrus leaves and rinds, black and white pepper and more. Nosing a glass of San Luis is like approaching the event horizon of a black hole; inevitably, it pulls you in, and you’re done for.
In the village of Minero, Florencio Sarmiento uses two stills made of clay and bamboo from a unique design of ancient Chinese origin.
Florencio’s distillery is also the only one I saw that used electricity, with a small pump circulating cold water to the internal condenser bowls in his far-out stills. The resulting Mezcal cuts across the palate like a lightsaber, with a breathtaking citrus intensity.
Like El Tesoro, all Del Maguey Mezcals are 100% natural with no added flavors or chemicals used in production/ On top of that, these Mezcals possess full organic certification. Having been there, I can better appreciate where the potent, smoky flavor of these Mezcals comes from. If they are drop for drop the most intensely flavored spirits in The Party Source, surely that reflects the rugged land—and the hand of the maker—from which they spring.
– Jay Erisman
Photos © Jay Erisman 2007-2010
View part 1 of the Mexican adventure – Tequila.
For this post we welcome Jay Erisman, our favorite instructor from The Party Source EQ Center and quite the wine and spirits expert. This is actually part 1 of a 2-party Mexican adventure (part 2 appears tomorrow).
My 2007 tour of Mexico will last forever as one of the great cultural experiences of my life, filled with warm and friendly people, fantastic food and a colorful aesthetic sensibility everywhere we turned. But for sure the highlights of the trip were the distilleries. From finding the flat-out Best Tequila Distillery to mind-bending tours of four single village Mezcal producers, I found the state of this Mexican art to be perhaps the most traditional of all the spirits in the world.
Shortly after meeting Carlos Camarena*, I decided he is a really cool guy. The passion he holds for his ultra-traditional El Tesoro 100% Agave Tequila comes burning off him like the steam that fires his old-fashioned agave ovens. Working the La Alteña distillery in his father Don Felipe’s footsteps, Carlos does things with Tequila that other distillers would consider insane.
Carlos’ estate-grown blue agave plants are the ripest in the industry, covered with brown spots like a banana.
The workers laboriously trim by hand the part of the male plant that creates bitter flavors in the finished product. (Hmm. Bitter male parts. There’s a joke in there somewhere.)
He persists in crushing the cooked agave—which are baked three days in brick ovens—with a giant millstone (as opposed to a modern mechanical shredder).
Unlike nearly all other Tequila producers, Señor Camarena ferments his agave totally naturally, with no added chemical fermentation accelerators. He then distills the fermented juice with the agave fibers for added flavor, in pot stills so small they could fit in the back of a van.
All this obsessive attention to detail leads to the most flavorful Tequila I’ve ever had, bar none. El Tesoro has a crackling intensity, a sustain, a hang-time in the mouth that simply outclasses other Tequilas. You don’t just get stony, mineral, earthy flavors—you get a faceplant into the red highland Tequila soil. You don’t just taste green bean—you get the snap of the bean, the juice of cucumber. The difference between El Tesoro and other Tequilas is like the difference between normal and high-definition TV. The operative word is clarity.
*I’m pleased to say there is another Camarena-crafted Tequila on the market. (No, not the “Camarena” brand owned by Gallo; that’s made by Carlo’s cousin from another branch of the family.) Carlos’ brother Felipe joined forces with a Tequila ambassador Tomas Estes to create Tequila Ocho, which takes the Camarena family estate-grown agave to its logical conclusion. Ocho is a single vintage Tequila, chosen each year from only one agave field. Ocho reveals the terroir of an agave field very much like the cru system in Burgundy reveals the truth of Pinot Noir. I’ll write more about Ocho another time, but suffice to say that Felipe’s Ocho surpasses even Carlo’s El Tesoro, with the fattest, ripest, most glisteningly fresh and viscerally thrilling Tequila I’ve ever had.
– Jay Erisman
Photos © Jay Erisman 2007-2010
Want to know more about Mezcal? Tune in tomorrow morning for the conclusion of Jay’s adventure and a primer on Mezcal.
Last week, Michelle and I went to Arnold’s Bar and Grill, one of my favorite places in Cincinnati for spaghetti and meatballs, for a tasting of Jameson with Gerry Murray, the U.S. East Coast Jameson Ambassador. The atmosphere was overly social with a few great stories from Gerry to keep the tasting moving along.
We learned that all Jameson is triple pot distilled and will age in a combination of barrels that previously contained sherry or bourbon. The percentage of each as well as the age are what lend to the different flavors and colors.
Over the course of our hour long conversation, we tried 4 whiskey samples:
Jameson: 5-7 year old whiskey with 90% from bourbon barrels and 10% from sherry. A very nice toasted oak flavor with hints of orange and vanilla. Both Michelle and I enjoyed this one and surprisingly, it was Michelle’s favorite. The bourbon barrel seemed to impart a lower acidity than the other options and this was a nice smooth flavor similar to the bourbon we have at home. Gerry was coy on letting us know which distillery provided the barrels.
Jameson 12: 12 -15 year old whiskey with 75% coming from bourbon barrels. The tartness was higher on this one providing a slightly longer finish and a more abrupt mouth feel. Smokeless fuel is used to roast the barley which is one way that Irish whiskey differs from most Scotches. Overall, this one had a more present crispness.
Jameson Gold Reserve: 14 – 20 year old whiskey with an added twist. This adds in a small percentage of whiskey aged in virgin American white oak. This adds a creaminess to the initial taste while maintaining very strong honey and vanilla flavors. The end has a little bit of pepper. This was my favorite of the night.
Jameson 18: A flip of percentages from the first one: 75% 18 year old sherry aged and 25% 20 year old bourbon barrel aged. This one had a very heavy grassy flavor along side apricots and toffee. The finish was a bit much for Michelle, but I found it well rounded with the intensity of the rest of the flavors.
A few of the interesting things that I learned were that Michelle likes a whiskey that has been aged primarily in bourbon barrels without smokiness in the roasting of the grain. I think that was one of the reasons she preferred the earlier samples we tried. I enjoyed the whole range and appreciated the differences that were apparent in the different selections. Our current bar has a bottle each of Redbreast and Powers, but Jameson has earned a place as well at any of the levels.
Let me know other thoughts on Jameson or other Irish whiskeys in the comments. Here’s the rather popular “Lost Barrel” commercial for Jameson as well:
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