On Sunday the wife and I took our daughter to Newport, R.I. Naturally, we had to make a stop at a distillery — in this case, Newport Distilling Co., home of Thomas Tew rum. It’s one of a half-dozen craft startups making rum along the New England coast, many of them exclusively, like Newport.
Unlike the rest, Newport is an outgrowth of the Coastal Extreme Brewing Co. This is not an insignificant fact: as Brent Ryan, the president and CEO, told me, being attached to a beer operation offers a ready supply of hardy brewer’s yeast, which helps shape the rum’s robust flavor profile. Continue reading “Where In the World Is Woodford?” »
The summer issue of Whisky Advocate has a great article on brewer-distillers – that is, breweries that have branched into distilling: Rogue, Anchor, Ranger Creek and New Holland, to name a few. It’s not a new trend, but in the last few years there have been some pretty cool innovations to come from the marriage of beer and whiskey-making expertise. Continue reading “Beer Barrel Bourbon” »
There are a lot of good places in New York to find great deals on whiskey, American or otherwise. But no store comes close to the price and selection of BQE Wine and Liquors, located, appropriately enough, in the shadow of the BQE in East Williamsburg.
We went there yesterday to round out our review lineup, and found almost everything we wanted, not to mention a lot of things we hadn’t expected to find – for example, not just Old Williamsburg (the only officially kosher bourbon), but Old Williamsburg 101 *. A lot of their whiskeys are on sale at any one time, and they have a substantial volume discount. Michael, the whiskey expert on staff, keeps abreast of the latest releases, and knows what’s hot: he not only had several bottles of Heaven Hill’s new Larceny expression, but he had more or less the full range of High West.
The store isn’t anything fancy, and it’s not close to a subway stop. But if you’re looking for the Toys “r” Us of whiskey, it’s worth the trek. Clay Risen
We’ve been slowing down on the whiskey tastings, 1) because we all scheduled our holidays around Labor Day, and 2) we ran through everything we had. Not to fear: we’re headed out for a field trip this weekend. Plus we’ve got some interesting rare and craft expressions in the wings.
This week we did just one whiskey, Jefferson’s Presidential Select 18 Year Old. This is one of the last whiskeys aged in Stitzel-Weller barrels, and if there’s anyone who doubts the wondrous qualities of those casks, go find yourself a bottle of old Jeff right away.
Put simply, Jefferson’s Presidential Select 18 Year Old is a joy from start to finish. The next day I found myself not just thinking about it, but remembering it in detail – it was that level of sensory experience. The nose was everything a super-aged bourbon should have: vanilla, anise, maple sugar, orange peel, stewed fruit. Some wood, but not too much, and nothing unpleasantly oaky. The palate? Spicier than I’d expected, but also quite viscous and silky and dry on the finish. A lot of cinnamon, but also nougat and, interestingly, strawberry (or maybe not: this is, after all, a wheated bourbon).
For anyone looking for Pappy or Stagg but coming up short, this is a great alternative. I’d put it head to head with either. And it gets extra points for still being available and, for the moment, relatively inexpensive. Clay Risen
Yesterday I noted that New Zealand, contrary to a slapdash Business Insider article, is not a whiskey “region” on par with Japan. I stand by that, as most anyone would. But I also don’t want to denigrate New Zealand’s promising, emerging distilleries. As an article on the Whisky Magazine website notes today,
Two rare whiskies from the New Zealand Whisky Collection won gold medals at the Mid West Whisky Olympics in Michigan, outperforming some of the world’s most revered whiskies from Scotland, Ireland and Canada.
The 10-year-old Dunedin DoubleWood was crowned World’s Best Blended Whisky. Silver went to Canada’s Crown Royal and bronze to Jamesons of Ireland.
And the 21 year old South Island Single Malt whisky was named World’s Best Single Malt in the same competition, beating the Silver Cross from Michigan’s Journeyman Distillery and Scotland’s Glenlivet 15 year old French Oak Reserve.
The “Mid West Whisky Olympics” is not exactly as prestigious as its athletic namesake, so take this for what it’s worth. But clearly New Zealand whisky exists, and people seem to like it. Clay Risen
Writing about whiskey is easy, because so many people do it so badly. Case in point: this listicle from Business Insider, misleadingly titled “20 Facts That Will Make You Sound Like A Whiskey Expert.” In fact, repeating most of these “facts” will make you sound like an idiot, or at least someone who gets his facts from listicles.
Take, almost at random, this little-known fact:
Depending on whom you ask, there are between 5 and 7 different main regions where whiskey is distilled.
The five regional whiskeys always included are: Scotch Whisky, Irish Whiskey, Kentucky (Bourbon), Canadian Whiskey, and Tennessee Whiskey. The disputed two regional whiskeys are Japanese and New Zealand. Continue reading “Why Oh Why Can’t We Have Better Listicles?” »
I’ve been away for the last week, mostly in and around Boston. While there I stopped by Bully Boy Distillers, a startup in South Boston. The distillery is owned and operated by Dave and Will Willis, Massachusetts natives who cut their teeth making hard cider and apple brandy on their family farm.
The pair started with the whites – vodka, new-make whiskey and rum – but are getting ready to release an aged rum and a bourbon. For both, they’re using full-size oak barrels, new barrels for the bourbon and a combination of Four Roses and wine barrels for the rum (the used bourbon barrels impart the bulk of the flavor, while the wine barrels give it a dark, rich color). They’ve also been aging both for two years, a significant commitment, and risk, for a new distillery.
I was particularly interested in the rum; I’ve noticed a sharp uptick in rum distilling in New England, an interesting development given the region’s long-dormant, once-dominant rum industry. And I’d never been up close and personal with rum distilling before, able to smell the molasses and the beer and distillate coming right off the still. (Undistilled rum-beer is a heady whiff, I can report, though I didn’t go so far as to taste it.) Unlike some other local distillers, Bully Boy uses blackstrap molasses, which is the thick residue left behind after refiners have removed as much sugar as possible – though there’s still a lot of the sweet stuff left behind. This is also different from a lot of the small batch, premium rums coming out of the Caribbean these days, which use cane juice to make rum agricole.
I later tried Bully Boy’s white rum in a mojito, which I rather inexpertly made at home. Controlling for my poor skills as a barman, it was a wonderful liquor, with a surprising set of high floral and grassy notes. Bully Boy rum is only available in Massachusetts and Rhode Island right now, but of you’re in the area, at around $23 a bottle it’s worth checking out. Clay Risen