Thursday, July 26, 2012

US National Scotch Whisky Day 2012

It's tomorrow (it's every year on 27-July...please make a note of it!).

Today, some colleagues and I had reason to drink most of what remained of my bottle of Bruichladdich 12-year-old Second Edition. So, as it turns out, I celebrated a bit early. :-)

As with most pre-2012 Bruichladdich's, this expression is no longer available (it was a limited edition, as were most of their expressions before 2012).

I can recommend it (if you can find it). My buddies loved it. This whisky is remarkably dark in color for a whisky aged exclusively in ex-Bourbon barrels. It is quite smooth...and fruitier than you'd expect from Bourbon wood.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Congratulations to Bruichladdich!

The transaction is now imminent...Bruichladdich Distillery Company is to become part of Rémy Cointreau. I imagine that Bruichladdich will retain a fair bit of independence, simply because Rémy has no extant spirits properties in the Scotch space.

People know I'm a big fan, not just of Bruichladdich's products but of the way they are made - it's about being local, and being built of, by and for Islay. Great job getting the distillery back to life, and now you'll have the resources to take it to the next level (and the one after that!). Good job...well done, you!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Bruichladdich - Fiercely Independent No More?

It has been announced (this past Monday), in accordance with French commercial regulations, that Bruichladdich is in talks to be acquired by Rémy Cointreau. I am very disappointed and yet happy at the same time. This sounds like a great fit for Rémy, as they have no whisk(e)y in their spirits portfolio.

I always loved Bruichladdich's products, and their swagger and "do whatever the hell we feel like" and "they're our stills and we'll use them as we damned well please" attitudes (note: not exact quotes). I hope that Bruichladdich's new corporate overlords deliver the financial stability so the distillery can last for centuries, and will refrain from interfering in what has made Bruichladdich special these last 10 years.

I'm drinking a shot of 3D3 in celebration of their good fortune! Slàinte mhòr!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Craft Beer Is Better!

As a quick follow-up to my post of earlier today, I found out about a craft beer event in San Jose coming up 2 weeks from yesterday: The Summer KraftBrew Beer Fest in San Jose, CA. It's happening from noon until 8:00 p.m. 21-July-2012, on Post Street (between First and Market Streets).

This is the second year in a row that this event has occurred, and it's bigger this year. They expect perhaps 5000 visitors: One reason might be that admission (which includes a souvenir glass) is only $5 (beer and food are extra, of course!). I'm going to try to make it down there. I'll take Caltrain to San Jose Diridon station then light rail to the event. No driving necessary!

There is a special "Zythophile pass" for $50 that includes lots of goodies. BTW, zythophile (pronounced zeeth-o-file) is Greek for beer lover.

Beer Is Good!

Sorry for a non-whisk(e)y post, but this is timely and what can I say, whisk(e)y and beer are related.

I was having dinner yesterday at my favorite Mexican restaurant in Mountain View, CA (Fiesta Del Mar, Too). My wife was seated facing the street. Knowing that I like beer, my wife figured I'd be interested in a new store called "Jane's Beer Store." (Note: The store is open now, even though its site is still not saying that.)

Well, I wasn't 100% sure about the store (though that name is certainly, um, unambiguous!) so I had to investigate. It's everything the name promises. If you are in the area, go there NOW. To quote Jane's web site:
Jane's Beer Store is a locally owned specialty beer store located in downtown Mountain View. The store offers a wide selection of artisanal craft beers, from smaller local, domestic and international breweries. Beers are sold by the bottle, as well as in larger quantity packs including kegs. Tasty root beers and hard ciders are also featured along with handmade and unique beer accessories, such as cards, bottle openers and coasters.

I found their prices to be very reasonable and the selection to be excellent. I managed to find a beer that I have never had before, and Jane told me a story that made me know that she knows her stuff. I got this Belgian ale from Anderson Valley Brewing Company (and I thought it was a steal at $7.99 for a 22 oz. bottle...and since it's 9.0% ABV) -- Brother David's Double Abbey Style Ale:


I happen to love that brewery ever since I accidentally drove past it (and stopped for a visit -- really nice people) on a road trip in 2010. I used to get kegs of their beer for my last job whenever that beer was available at BevMo (usually the Boont Amber Ale). I have never seen this ale, though, and it was a perfect choice for me because I am really enjoying Belgian-style ales lately. I will update this after I try it.

Special extra bit of news from Jane: The David in the name of this beer is David Keene from the Toronado pub (a beer mecca in San Francisco). If you have never been to the Toronado, you must go. Also, Jane tells me that Anderson Valley Brewing makes a Triple. The Triple is dedicated to David, and David is pictured on the labels of both the Double and Triple.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Ardbeg -- Going Where No Scotch Whisky Has Gone Before

In their own words:

In short, Ardbeg has placed some Scotch to age in microgravity, and identical samples are aging here on Earth. Actually, it's not really Scotch; it's some molecules that are part of Scotch, in particular some that interact strongly with the oak in which Scotch ages, and it is this interaction which is the subject of the experiment.

The photo above is from the interior of Beltramo's in Menlo Park, CA. You may well be wondering: How did I know that this poster was in the store? There was a rather conspicuous vehicle parked out front. You don't see a Scotch-themed missile every day. Apparently, it's been driving around the Bay Area for a few days now.

Here are the pictures:

Oh, I almost forgot -- as if the Ardbeg missile wasn't attention-getting enough, there was a hottie in a spacesuit, too.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

And Then There Were Five

So, today was the inaugural World Whisky Day, set to commemorate Michael Jackson's birthday. No, not *that* Michael Jackson...the one that wrote extensively about beer and whisky.

I had to personalize this event somehow (and, really, I never need an excuse to buy whisky), so I looked at my whisky collection and realized that I had single-malt Scotch whisky from four out of the five regions: Campbeltown, Highland, Islay and Speyside, but I didn't have any Lowland single-malts. I never noticed this omission before, and today seemed like a great excuse to complete my set. :-)

I stumbled upon the entry for Littlemill on my old blog in a search for Lowland distilleries. I chose this particular expression because it is unique and no one is making any more of it: A fairly rare 21-year-old private bottling was available near me at K&L Wines in Redwood City, CA. It was distilled in 1990 and bottled in 2011 at cask strength (57.1% ABV) under their private "faultline" label.

Lowland malts are unusual for Scotch whisky in that they are typically triple-distilled (in other regions, double distillation is used). Sadly, many of the Lowland distilleries have not fared well over the last 50 years. For the record, I could have gone with AuchentoshanBladnoch or Glenkinchie if I had wanted something from a still-operational Lowland distillery; sadly, those three are the last of them.

How did I ever hear of Littlemill? My friend Joshua is an expert in Littlemill and I'm embarrassed to say that, before tonight, I had never had the pleasure. I find it to be a very subtle whisky for one so strong. The light citrus and spice notes are blended such that nothing really is disproportionate. The color is very pale, indicative of its aging in ex-Bourbon casks. You really have to concentrate to pull out pepper (I can't tell if it's black or white), and the undertones of vanilla and caramel from the ex-Bourbon casks are present, but muted, which surprised me for a whisky that is this old. I would have expected the oak to have taken the front seat by now.

I also picked this expression of Littlemill because the dates resonated with me. The distillery ceased operating around the time I moved to the Bay Area. Also, this expression was distilled the same year I was married. Here are pictures of the front and back of the bottle:


If you want, you can get a bottle from K&L. They have locations in California and they may be able to ship to you. I recommend it!

Finally, to Michael Jackson, I raise a glass in your honor and thank you for the fine writing you did to popularize beer and whisky. I wish I could have met you.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Should You Open That Bottle?

I have heard people say that whisky never ages once you open the bottle (unlike wine, which must be consumed within a couple days, though you can extend that a bit with a fancy decanting system). I was at a whisky bar a couple years ago and the owner had a really expensive bottle that he didn't want to open. He said he wanted to sell the whole bottle -- all at once.

My initial reaction was that this was silly. How much alcohol could escape the bottle for the few seconds that it's open? But as usual, I wasn't seeing the big picture, and was thinking about whisky as if the only important chemical was alcohol. That's so superficial -- besides, isn't alcohol flavorless and odorless? Clearly you drink whisky for the flavors and smells, not the alcohol. Well speaking for myself, that's what *I* do! :-)

This is a weird situation -- on the one hand I'm hearing that whisky doesn't age after it's opened (though everyone agrees that it must be stored vertically!), and on the other hand I'm hearing that whisky "deteriorates" with age. So...which is it? Maybe they aren't talking about alcohol at all!

Over the years I have paid attention as I have opened various bottles. When I brought home my first bottle of Port Charlotte 5, even just opening the can filled the room with powerful, angry smells of peat smoke. Awesome! But those smells were very ephemeral. Today, the smells are still there, but have been greatly diminished.

These most volatile chemicals, that can evaporate at room temperature, fight their way out of the bottle at the earliest opportunity.

So: Should you forgo opening a bottle? In my opinion: NO! Personally, I think that's the best part! I view the life of the product as a continuum, where the highly volatile components gradually step aside and make room for the middle and lower notes that can't be appreciated when the top notes are dominant.

Besides, if you don't open the bottle you have wasted your money, and the product is trapped in there and you can't ever take the journey of enjoying the product as it evolves. Note that I didn't say "ages." Aging only happens in barrels....

Back to the point re: alcohol being flavorless. It is and it isn't. Many of the chemical components of the best flavors around are alcohol-soluble. It's no surprise that they "ride along" with the alcohol when we drink whisky. Why do you think you can pick up everything from hazelnuts to orange peel to cinnamon oil, tobacco, caramel, "Christmas cake" and leather (and peat reek!) in Scotch? Heck, you might even smell freshly cut grass, which may not be tasty despite being evocative. Those chemicals are really there. Many of them are more volatile than alcohol, which means that they boil at a lower temperature. In short: If you open the bottle, they evaporate at room temperature and escape. Poof.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Why Blogger?

Bye-bye WordPress...
Simple: Google+ integration. Even though I have used for years, I found WordPress' lack of Google+ integration to be very frustrating.

I need a blogging platform that has a social component that is tightly integrated. If I am to succeed as a blogger, it will be because I find a way to connect with my audience which will never happen unless I make it easy for people to share what I write. When I write. :-) WordPress has a great community, but not well aligned with my interests.

Here on Blogger, I can easily use Google+ -- my preferred social network -- to build my audience (as I have time). If you like what you read here, please share it with your social circles and even give me a +1 -- if you think I deserve it.

Hello, Blogger!
As soon as I finish tweaking my DNS, this is the new home of If you already knew that URL, you might not notice any change other than a new appearance.

I'm not going to delete (it's been alive for 3+ years, after all), but all new Whisky2.0 content will be here, on Blogger.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Dreams Come True

Today I was privileged to sample the Glenfiddich Cask of Dreams. I have been so blessed and have had so many dreams come true that I feel guilty writing about them. Yet, tonight was another dream come true -- because I was one of the first people to taste the Cask of Dreams whisky from Glenfiddich, which was aged in one of the casks that people were invited to sign last year, in San Francisco.

First the facts:

The liquid was carefully hand-selected to fill the eleven casks from a variety of Glenfiddich Scotch that was already 14 to 16 years old. The eleven Casks of Dreams (made of uncharred new American oak) were filled with the liquid and sampled every 3-4 weeks for about 3 months...until Brian Kinsman (master blender for William Grant & Sons) deemed it was ready. Then it was bottled and 3500 of those bottles are already for sale in the US. The bottle strength is 48.8% ABV (just under cask strength).
Note: Uncharred oak is rarely used to age Single-Malt Scotch Whisky because the effect of the wood is so strong that it can be overwhelming in a short time. Due to the strength of the wood effect, you see that Mr. Kinsman had to be careful to not overdo the aging.
This is a US-only expression, celebrating the Glenfiddich fans that wrote their dreams on the eleven casks.  You probably want to know the answer to the obvious burning question: How much for a limited edition US-only commemorative bottling? About $100 - if you can find it, grab it. It's awesome. It's selling like hotcakes, so don't wait. You'll regret it.

Now to prove it's real:

The sample I had was unlike any other Glenfiddich I have ever had, including Snow Phoenix. The nose opens up nicely with a little water. You get ripe fruits -- like apricots and peaches -- and you'd think that this had been aged somewhat in ex-Sherry casks, but I am assured that the whisky was aged in 100% uncharred American oak. I also perceived cinnamon and pepper and the finish has hints of tobacco and leather. The nose has hints of walnuts and hazelnuts and there is a pronounced absense of strong vanillins (vanilla, caramel that you might expect in a "typical" Speyside whisky). In my opinion, the Cask of Dreams beats the 15-year-old expression that is otherwise my favorite from Glenfiddich's standard lineup. I tasted the 15 side-by-side with the Cask of Dreams to have a valid point of comparison. You know, for science. :-)

Good news: Glenfiddich is doing a 2012 Cask of Dreams and so you might find this year's casks in a town near you in the coming months. Follow @GlenfiddichMB on Twitter and he'll likely update you on the progress of the casks. New cities this year are Phoenix and Las Vegas, but I don't know the whole list.

BTW, mad props to Brian, our friendly bartender at Fifth Floor Restaurant in the Hotel Palomar off Union Square in San Francisco. Also, it was great to have a chance meeting with Rick Dobbs of the Cocktail Gogo blog who is @martinigroove on Twitter.