Monday, March 6, 2017

Infinity Bottle

I started my own infinity bottle. These are also known as heritage bottles, or fractional share bottles. The idea is to create a whiskey that is entirely unique to you, one that will change over time, something that could potentially last generations, passed down as a family heirloom. I started mine by adding one ounce of each of the twenty-five bourbons listed below. I intend to let it sit and muddle together for week before having a first taste. This initial batch will start at 104.3 proof. Each time I take a pour from the bottle, I'll refill it with something new. 

1792 Full Proof
Bookers 2016–05 Off Your Rocker
Buffalo Trace
Bulleit Bourbon
Colonel E.H. Taylor Small Batch BiB
Eagle Rare
Elijah Craig Small Batch
Elmer T. Lee
Evan Williams 2007 SiB
Evan Williams BiB
Fighting Cock
Heaven Hill BiB
Knob Creek SiB
Maker's Mark Cask Strength
Noah's Mill
Old Ezra Rare Old
Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style
Old Grand-Dad 114
Rebel Yell 10 SiB Barrel # 4744361
Rock Hill Farms SiB
Smooth Ambler Old Scout SiB
Stagg Jr. Batch 7
Very Old Barton BiB
Wild Turkey 101

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Bringing Out The Best

I once brought a bottle of Weller Special Reserve to Thanksgiving dinner, talked whiskey with an eighty-something-year-old guy who proceeded to get drunk and hit on a seventy-something-year-old woman. An instant classic. That's the beauty of bringing your own bourbon. Whiskey has a way of bringing out the best in people.

This past weekend I was the recipient of someone else's generosity. We were skiing in Vermont. One of my son's classmates was at the mountain with his dad so we invited them to ski with us on Friday and to have dinner with us that night. He brought a bottle of WhistlePig Boss Hog, Third Edition, The Independent, a limited release, cask-strength, fourteen-year-old rye whiskey finished in scotch hogshead barrels. The bottle is gorgeous, with a black label and a solid pewter pig topper. He knew I liked whiskey and brought it along for me to taste. A super nice gesture for sure. And it was spectacular! The color, the smell, the taste. All equally enjoyable. We talked whiskey and kids and ate pasta with smoked meatballs and garlic bread. We washed it down with Noah's Mill and Old Weller Antique.

The next day we skied together again, watched the kids sled down the mountain, and sipped on Booker's and Knob Creek. On the last day, we came in for lunch and I noticed his bottle of Boss Hog sitting on our kitchen counter. He said he wanted me to have it for our gracious hospitality, and because he knew I would enjoy it more than he would. I was speechless but able to at least say thank you and that it was extremely generous of him to do that. Like I said, whiskey has a way of bringing out the best in people.

That night I enjoyed a flight of Vermont's finest: a Silo whiskey, a single-barrel, cask-strength, ten-year WhistlePig, and finished with the Boss Hog. Each sip, a reflection of the weekend. My favorite activities, skiing and whiskey, shared with friends.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Master Blender

Many craft distillers buy aged whiskey from other producers and then blend them to create new, unique products. High West Distillery is known for their art of blending. One of their products called "Double Rye!" blends a 2-year-old high-rye whiskey with a 16-year-old more typical rye mash bill. Another one called "Bourye" is a combination of bourbon (the "Bou" in the name) and rye.

Wild Turkey released a product called Forgiven. The story goes that the distilling crew accidentally dumped rye into a vat of bourbon. Master Distiller Eddie Russell loved the combination and all was "forgiven."

Last night I decided to play the role of Master Blender. I pulled two Jim Beam products from my shelves, Booker's 2016-05 Off Your Rocker (129.7 proof) and Old Grand-Dad bottled-in-bond (100 proof), and poured equal portions of each into a rocks glass. I let it rest for 10-15 minutes, giving it a swirl every now and then to get the liquid all mingled together. My sweet spot for proof is between 100-114, and the proof of this blend came in at 114.85. The result was quite delicious and kept getting more tasty with each sip. Next time I'm going to let it sit a little longer. 

Since Booker's runs about $60 a bottle and OGD runs about $20, the blend would be around $40 a bottle. I'm thinking this blend could stand toe-to-toe with anything at that price point.

I'm excited to give this another try, perhaps using two Heaven Hill products, like Elijah Craig Barrel Proof (136 proof) and Heaven Hill bottled-in-bond (100 proof) for a combined 118 proof, or two Buffalo Trace products, like Stagg Jr. (130 proof) and Eagle Rare (90 proof) for a combined 110 proof.

What other hobby is this much fun?!?

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Talking to Strangers

There are two groups of people who are generally overly-friendly. The first group are those coming out of a coffee shop after their first cup, or sip, of coffee. Say anything you want to them and you will most likely get a big smile and a nice reply. "Hey, I heard a comet will hit the planet tomorrow and destroy us all." "Yes, isn't it wonderful!" The second group is anyone who loves bourbon. They love drinking it. They love sharing it. They love talking about it.

When I first got into bourbon, I was standing in a liquor store staring at the bottles on the shelf trying to figure out what to buy next. A guy walks right up to the shelf and grabs a bottle of Buffalo Trace, which really had not caught my eye and I knew nothing about it. I said, "Excuse me, if you don't mind me asking, why did you choose that bottle?" He told me it was his favorite, that it was a great bourbon for a great price. He mentioned a few other things which I can't recall but what stuck with me was how open he was to share his thoughts with a stranger. I grabbed myself a bottle that day.

I tried it once or twice shortly thereafter and only remember thinking that it was "just okay." It sat on my shelf for about six months and last week I tried it again. Wow, what a difference six months can make! Either my palate developed a liking to it or the bourbon got better in the bottle, which I heard can happen, something about oxidation.

I'm looking forward to sipping it again soon and, hopefully, confirming that my palate likes Buffalo Trace a lot.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

My Bourbon Bunker

My whiskey collection currently stands at 193 bottles, including 47 duplicates. I know these figures precisely because a couple weeks ago I counted and logged them all in a spreadsheet, listing the name, proof, age, quantity, price and date purchased. It took a few hours but, hey, that's what hobbies are for and it was an eye-opening experience. I learned several things from this exercise:

1. I may need a separate insurance policy just for the whiskey ;)

2. I like bourbon!!! Almost 80 percent is bourbon followed by 10 percent rye. The remaining 10 percent is substantially American whiskey, with a handful of bottles from Ireland, Scotland and Canada. My goal is to have the best selection of bourbon in a two-hour radius #bourbongoals

3. While about two-thirds of the bottles remain unopened, I intend to sample and share every bottle. I'm not collecting them to sit on a shelf like a trophy or to resell for a profit although I could be convinced to trade for something I don't have.

4. I will not pay above retail for a bottle. I did that once. In Kentucky. I really wanted a bottle of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof. I'd never seen it on any shelf. Then when I saw it, I got too excited, and dropped $117 for a bottle! Of course I found it for $75 a day later. And then for $60 a week later. So I pass on all bottles above retail now on the principal of it. A couple months ago I was offered a BTAC Thomas Handy for $150. It retails for $90. I passed. Same for Weller 12. Retail is $35. I passed at $60. There are a lot of great bourbons out there at reasonable prices and I have more than enough already. At some point I hope to come across a few of the harder to find ones, but I'm not going to be part of the bourbon crowd that chases those secondary prices up.

5. The one emotion I have not been able to conquer is FOMO. Fear Of Missing Out. I buy many bourbons before I ever try them or I'll buy a backup, or a backup to the backup. Insurance so I don't run out. Or miss out. Old Grand-Dad 114 is rumored to be discontinued. I bought five. Once they're gone, they're gone. I found Weller Antique 107 for the first time in a random store while driving through New York. I bought seven. There's no telling when I'll ever see that one again. Same goes for the only time I saw Elmer T. Lee. I bought four and only because there were only four left on the shelf. They're all delicious bourbons. And since bourbon doesn't go bad, what's the harm in bunkering a few extras? At worse, they will make great party gifts. Who brings wine to someone's house anymore? It's bourbon, baby. BYOB. Bring your own bourbon.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Allure of Whiskey

It took me until the 25th anniversary year of my 21st birthday to discover that I love whiskey. While it saddens me some to think that it took so long, I'm happy that I found it now without having to wait another 25 years.

Until I started drinking and collecting bourbon, rye and other American whiskeys, I had not even considered how convenient a bottle of whiskey was. Beer requires refrigeration. Whiskey does not. Some wine doesn't either, but unless you plan to drink an entire bottle in one sitting, the spoil clock starts ticking. Not so with whiskey. It doesn't go bad. Vodka neat? Not unless you're Russian. Gin? I drink mine in a martini with vermouth and blue cheese stuffed olives. A delicious cocktail for sure, but one that requires extra ingredients to be on hand. All you need for whiskey is a glass and, in a pinch, one is not even required.

I like hearing the backstories of each whiskey, where it comes from, who the master distiller is, how it got from the grain to the barrel to the bottle to my glass.

I like having many bottles open at the same time, an extensive personal whiskey menu, and having the option, depending on my mood, to pluck a bottle from my shelves and have a pour or two.

I like listening to podcasts, watching YouTube videos, and reading blogs and books focused on the bourbon industry.

I like hunting for new bottles, especially when traveling to/through other states that carry products that my home state does not.

I like the color, the smell, the taste, and that warming sensation. 

But most of all I enjoy sharing all of this with friends. It has been said that food tastes a little better in the company of great friends. The same is certainly true with whiskey. I look forward to pairing my whiskey enthusiasm with great friends in 2017. Salute!

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Sunday, January 1, 2017

Ski. Whiskey. Repeat.

I spent the week between Christmas and the New Year with my wife and kids at Okemo Mountain in Vermont settling into our new ski home-away-from-home. After closing and unpacking, my first order of business was to outfit the apres ski station with local spirits: vodka, gin and, of course, whiskey.

The skiing was fantastic especially after Mother Nature dumped a foot of fresh powder on the mountain. The whiskey was also outstanding, a couple of bourbons from Smugglers' Notch Distillery and Mad River Distillers, a whiskey from Silo Distillery and, my favorite, a rye cask strength WhistlePig store pick from Singleton's General Store. There's a saying around town that "if Singleton's doesn't have it, you don't need it." They have a little bit of everything, including delicious smoked meats, local coffee, cheeses and preserves, and a very nice selection of whiskey. There's a sign above the entrance to Singleton's that reads: WHISKEY*GUNS*AMMO. It's become my new favorite store.

Each day we skied. Each night I sipped on Vermont's finest whiskey in front of a warm fire. It never got old. I love skiing. I love Vermont. I love whiskey. Repeat.