Sunday, 26 April 2015

Bourbon and BBQ

This Saturday was what I can only describe as a beautiful day. The sun was shining, Hull City got a much needed win and I attended my first whisky event. As the sun presents itself more the last traces of snow disappear from the ground and it becomes easier to enjoy the great outdoors. Hull City facing a difficult relegation battle beat Crystal Palace and if they can maintain that form they may avoid the drop. As I announced last post I would be attending my first whisky event, a bourbon and BBQ.

The event presented 17 whiskies (16 bourbons and 1 Tennessee whisky). It also showcased the barbecue sauce of several local eateries. David Michiels of Willow Park in Calgary was on hand to answer any questions that participants had. Of the 17 bottles on offer I tried 9 of the bourbons, as I was already well acquainted with the other selections. Here are the tasting notes for my favourites:

Michter's Small Batch:

This was the first sample I tried and overwhelmingly my favourite. I bought a bottle before I had even finished the sample. It was that good.

Nose: Floral, citrus, menthol, honey, pine and cotton candy.
Palate: Cherry, tobacco, maple and pepper.
Finish: Smooth and long.

Eagle Rare 10 Year Old:

Nose: Pine, wintergreen, ozone, wood and blood orange
Palate: cinnamon (not hot), nuts, molasses,
Finish: a slightly bitter edge smooths out and this becomes quite pleasant and very long.

Buck 8 Year Old:

I found this one to be unique and so the tasting notes are equally so.

Nose: How I would imagine the Gingerbread mans saddle would smell after a mad dash through a cedar forest.
Palate: A marshmallow that has been skewered on a cedar stick roasted over a cedar fire, then served on a tortilla with a touch of hot tamale sauce.
Finish: smooth, long and tasty.

Blanton's Special Green Label:

Nose: Honey comb, wood, vanilla, baking spices, orange rind
Palate: Full mouth feel delivers notes of peaches, charred wood, coal, chillies and red licorice.
Finish: Smooth long and wonderful.

Although the tasting in itself was a wonderful opportunity to try some new products, one of the most exciting things for me was the announcement that this was the first in a series of tastings. I have long looked at tasting events that are occurring in other parts of the country and dreamt of being able to travel to them. Now I realize I don't have to go far at all, and I like that.  


Monday, 13 April 2015

Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky

In my last post I had stated that April is Bourbon month and alluded to some sort of reveal. So it was not some sort of ruse (clever or otherwise) nor empty words that I forgot. I just didn't want to state something without confirmation of its existence. I had heard rumour that a whisky festival of sorts was set to take place here in Whitehorse. The festival was announced later last week, although not in any massive way. What I know is that the event is to take place on April 25 and is to be specific to bourbon whisky. Actually the event is a bourbon and barbecue tasting event. It is likely not going to be as big as: Spirit of Toronto, Whisky live, the Victoria whisky festival or any of the other big ones that take place all over the world. After all, we are only a town of about 23,000. It is however going to be very exciting for me and several other locals. Besides the fact that there will be several new products available at the local store, this is set to be my first whisky show. I have been to several wine and beer festivals, but never a whisky event. Hence April is bourbon month.

To celebrate this news I will taste the Buffalo Trace - Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky, and pair it with Lynyrd Skynyrd's Gold and Platinum.

Buffalo Trace is well known for their experimental whiskies, and have won many awards. They produce several whiskies under various brands, including the Blanton's that I tasted in my last post. According to the label Buffalo Trace is one of the oldest distilleries in North America.

I have been a big fan of Lynyrd Skynyrd since my early teens. They are a great combination of country, blues and good old rock and roll. Southern Rock at it's finest. They were also a fairly large band. In their peak they had at least seven members, including three guitarists. This gave them a very full sound. I am hoping this full sound will compliment the whisky well.

Nose: bright, sweet and tart honeyed orange on first pass. Then there is red licorice and an oily nuttiness aroma as well as some creamy vanilla. Every whiff brings new characteristics. I start to get chocolate and cherries.

Palate:  There is a smoky quality to this whisky. Notes of vanilla and clove grow while that oily nut character reveals itself as well.I even get the slightest hint of mint.

Finish: Although fairly long and quite smooth going down it leaves a brief fire on the tongue after the fist sip. This cools off on subsequent tastes. Flavours that remain are the licorice and that nuttiness.  

Overall a really decent bourbon. I look forward to trying more of this distillery's products. With this particular bourbon I find that it can pack a punch if the sip is too big, and this works well with the music. When the softer, slower songs play the sips are smaller. The harder rocking songs allowed for bigger sips. This was added fun for "Free bird" as the song starts out slower and then gets rocking.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Blanton's Original Single Barrel Bourbon

For reasons that will become apparent in the coming weeks April is bourbon month. Spring has sprung or if you live in the Yukon like I do it's still springing. Although bourbon is something I often associate with summer, barbecues and the occasional dusty duel at high noon, I can easily associate it with spring as my personal interest in the spirit is blooming. There are so many fantastic bourbons out there that I find myself wanting to learn and experience more and more. For this tasting I will try one of my personal favourites - Blanton's Original Single Barrel Bourbon. I will pair this whiskey with Tom Petty's Full Moon Fever.    

Blanton's claims to be the first Single Barrel whiskey and comes in a really nice looking bottle with a cool stopper. It is produce at the Buffalo Trace Distillery, selected from barrels matured in the middle of warehouse 'H', where apparently Colonel Blanton's preferred stock came from.

I chose Tom Petty for musical accompaniment not because he is awesome (which he is) but because I couldn't think of a more American rocker. I felt that that was important. Tom Petty has written an incredible amount of great songs. Songs that I often don't think of for years yet when I throw the album on I find that I still remember all of the lyrics and can't help but sing along. Full Moon Fever is an entire album of those songs. I will stop singing just long enough to complete this tasting.

Nose:   I get cherries then some mint, a bit of red licorice, oak and vanilla. I also detect some spicy notes and a touch of smoke. As I nose this whisky I giggle to myself as I try to picture some cowboy in a saloon sniffing his bourbon.

Palate: The mouth feel is amazing. There is a creaminess about it. I get notes of vanilla, chocolate and nuts with warm caramel. There are also some really nice spices that develop.

Finish: The finish is really smooth and long. The spices carry on while a juicy sweetness makes its presence known.

As I said at the beginning, this is one of my favorites. Blanton's is absolutely delicious, and that nose just keeps you going back for more. It of course works perfectly with the album. The music drifts to the back of my thoughts and back to the front at varying moments which lets the whiskey shine at alternating moments. In essence the two shared the stage that is my senses well.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Alberta Springs 10 Year Old Canadian Rye Whisky

Alberta Springs 10 Year Old Canadian Rye whisky is made by Alberta Distillers, the same people who make the famous Alberta Premium and of course the Alberta Premium Dark Horse that featured in my last post. I don't know much about them, as the web has limited information but I can say that they are a huge seller up here in the Yukon. The bottle says that the whisky is aged in oak casks blended and then re-casked.

For musical pairing I felt this classic Canadian whisky was crying out for some dusty country music. I have chosen Gillian Welch's album Soul Journey. Gillian's voice emotes perfectly both the loneliness and romance that are expressed in her stories. I find listening to her music like looking at old sepia photographs of the turn of the 20th century. The look of sadness that is often found in the eyes of the subjects depicts a hard and miserable life, yet there is sometimes a glimmer of hope or love there too. I can't help but be filled with feelings of curiosity about what is causing the glimmer and soon enough that is all that I can see... I'm not sure if that will make sense to anyone other than me, but at least I know what I mean (I think).  

Nose: Butter, vanilla and baking spices. The nose is soft and creamy.

Palate: I notice a woody quality right away. There is also loads of sweetness that blends with some spice notes and a touch of leather.

Finish: Very smooth, the spices seem to hang on and then are suddenly gone leaving me with notes of dusty wood.

I don't think Gillian's music is any stranger to whisky. Down to that last dusty wood note the pairing works perfectly. In fact I will be pairing her again very soon. As for the whisky I find it lacks a bit of intensity and complexity but makes up for this in its approachable warmth and simplicity.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Alberta Premium Dark Horse

Today I am picking my whisky based on the music. I have chosen Bob Marley's 1970 release African Herbsman. This is a really beautiful album that has a fluidity to it. The groove in each song seems to have a forward momentum that keeps you moving but never gets too heavy. It's just nice and mellow, perhaps even a bit thoughtful.

What whisky could we possibly savour with this delightful album? How about Alberta Premiums Dark Horse. Not necessarily because of Bob Marley but rather because of Jamaica. In particular I am thinking about The Jamaican bobsleigh team. I can't think of a time that I have cheered more for a dark horse as when the Jamaican Bobsleigh team made their debut at the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary, Alberta.

The Dark Horse is a stronger expression of the Alberta Premium rye that is aged in charred oak barrels. These charred oak barrels are I am assuming where this whisky gets its gorgeous colour. I can't think of another Canadian whisky that has this depth of colour.

Nose:  sweet vanilla, toasted raisins and some fruity notes swirl around with shades of wood and a distinct tartness.

Palate: A mellow smooth sweet splash at the beginning is like sugared molasses. Their are notes of pepper and the slightest smokiness. The mouth feel is almost creamy save for the prickly spice notes. All together it is like creamy smoked molasses with ground pepper. Delicious.

Finish: The finish is not long but very smooth. Notes of pepper and smoke linger a short time and when they fade sweet and spicy notes are left for a brief moment.

Overall I really enjoyed this whisky. It is definitely a Canadian whisky but adds different characteristics that I would not normally associate with the style. As for the pairing, I just can't imagine anything that Bob doesn't go well with.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Ardbeg Uigedail

Over the holidays we decided to get a treadmill in the house. We got a boxing day deal on a decent one with the aim of "deageing". The other day  I was running on the treadmill and during the cool down I was checking out Phish's 2014 Halloween show. I clicked on one of the songs, Your Pet Cat and was immediately blown away by the funk. So much so that I decided to keep the treadmill going, even though my workout was complete. I had to find out more.

Phish have a tradition of playing another bands album in its entirety on Halloween. This is called the "musical costume". In 2013 they did something a little different. They played their own (yet to be released) album. This past performance (2014) was different still. They composed their own instrumental music set to "Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House", a Disneyland album of sound effects and narration from the 60's. Not only do they play fantastic music but the stage set is out of this world. The whole stage is set up like a cemetery complete with dancing zombies and a haunted house as the centre piece. The band plays the set from inside the haunted house, which eventually has its roof blown off and then they are playing on top. There was so much creativity involved in this show that I had to do more than just hear the music. I got a hold of a video of the performance and tonight's whisky will be paired with not only a soundtrack but a video as well.

To stand up to the multiple stimuli I decided on the Ardbeg Uigeadail. This whisky is one of my all time favourites and I know that it has the complexity and strength to stand up to the show. It is also named after a nearby "mysterious" loch. Strong and mysterious, I think that's quite apt.

Nose: After pouring the dram I can smell the smoke before even picking up the glass. As I raise it to my nose I get notes of raisins and wine. There is pine or cedar in there, as well as a good dose of coal tar and leather.

Palate: Smoke is blended with the spiciness of a chili pepper. Notes of chocolate and red wine dance with cedar.

Finish. The finish is smooth and long. The cedar remains and there is a buzz of clove that kicks in and hangs on.

A really beautiful whisky. I can't help but love it.The whisky also works very well with the show. Although I am certain that the smokiness that lingers constantly on the palate is different from the smokiness at the show it is still very appropriate.