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Spiced Apple Toddy

Posted by Reese On February - 23 - 2015

Winter finally arrived here in Colorado to the tune of 12-16″ of snow at my house.  And that doesn’t even begin to compare to what the Northeast has seen.  But, you know what that means, friends?  It’s time for hot drinks, with booze.  I went for a hike in the snow yesterday and I definitely needing the warming strength of a toddy when I got home.

A traditional Hot Toddy is simply spirits, hot water, some spices and a bit of sweetness.  I wanted to stay semi-traditional but combine the classic toddy with hot mulled cider.  My thought process was a little fragmented starting with apple juice (duh) and brewed black tea, maybe some spices… But that led to a stroke of genius (can I call myself a genius?).  Chai concentrate, specifically Bhakti Chai concentrate.  Bhakti is highly spiced, full of ginger spiciness and already sweetened.  Add a touch of water to bring the sweetness down and the Spiced Apple Toddy was born.

But, hold your horses.  We need to talk liquor for a moment.  Surprising, I know.  Like I say in the Hot Toddy post, you have to go with a brown liquor.  There is something inherently warming about a barrel aged spirit.  For me, the only real option is whiskey.  Or in this case, whisky.  Whisky’s flavor profile of vanilla, oak, caramel and spices just works too perfectly and it has a certain gravitas.  I mean, you never hear of an old timer pulling out his flask of bubble gum vodka.

For this cocktail, I reached for George Dickel No. 12.  It has a bold but smooth character that gives it the spine to stand up to the bold flavors of the chai and sweetness of the juice.  Plus, that boldness isn’t harsh which lets it blend into the cocktail in a truly harmonious way.  Pro tip time.  Keep the pour of whisky a bit light.  Lets you hydrate, warms you up AND makes is way easier when you want a second…or ninth.

Spiced Apple Toddy

Spiced Apple Toddy
3 oz Apple Juice
3 oz Bhakti Chai Concentrate
2 oz Water
1 1/4 oz George Dickel No. 12 Tennessee Whisky
Orange Twist
Slice of Apple
1) Combine the chai, apple juice and water and heat to nearly boiling
2) Mix in the whisky
3) Garnish with an apple slice and an orange twist

Final thoughts.  You can (and should) switch up the chai, juice and whisky for whatever your personal favorites are.  But if you haven’t had Bhakti Chai, you really need to.  The same goes for the water, tweak that amount to whatever fits your palate.  This cocktail, like any, is meant to make you (or your guests) happy.  So do what works for you.


† The product reviewed here was provided to me as a free sample. If you’re wondering what that means check out my sample policy.

Review – Michter’s Whiskey

Posted by Reese On February - 18 - 2015

When I first started experimenting with cocktails with Cocktail Hacker Emeritus, Aaron, I knew very little about spirits at all.  I had a scant few bottles that I would consider favorites and a slightly larger few that were my house choices for cocktails.  I distinctly remember one of the times I was hanging out with Aaron we make a special trip to Denver in search of Michter’s American Whiskey.  Aaron had a more developed taste for whiskey at the time and had been trying different bottles.  He’d settled on Michter’s as his favorite (for the time at least) and he was woefully out.  I went along happily (any trip to a liquor store is a good one) and ended up with a bottle on my shelf as well.  This story, albeit rambling and a little pointless, came rushing back to my head when sample bottles of Michter’s came through my door.  And, I can now say with conviction and considerable experience that Aaron was on to something those years ago.  This stuff is damn good.

Michter's US*1 Lineup

Michter’s US*1 Bourbon (45.7% ABV) – The striking amber/brown color catches your eye and draws you in.  Despite the higher than average proof, the aroma bears little to no raw alcohol smell.  Instead, it speaks of caramel, vanilla and the smoothness of the whiskey.  The flavor, as you might expect, follows suit.  The flavor is rich and full with hints of caramel, vanilla and butterscotch.  Fruit and slight notes of oak and smoke play throughout as well.  The finish is long and mellow with a distinct sweetness.

Michter’s US*1 American Whiskey (41.7% ABV) – The amber color speaks simply to the nature of this whiskey; powerful and complex.  The aroma of the American Whiskey is more forward than the Bourbon with more fruity qualities and the caramel and vanilla you’d expect.  The flavor too is more fruity (dried/candied fruits) but interestingly less sweet (likely from the second fill on the barrels).  This spirit seems more purely whiskey to me.  You can taste the grain notes and there is a sub-channel of rye spiciness and holiday spices running throughout.  The medium length finish is lightly dry with the vanilla and holiday spices floating along through the end.  Only as the flavor fades did I pick up the gentle oaky notes of the barrel.

Michter’s US*1 Straight Rye (42.4% ABV) – Honey brown in color with fruit and spice throughout the aroma.  There is an interesting tangy note to the nose which hints at the complex flavor to come.  There are, of course, the spiciness and holiday spice qualities that you want in a great rye plus deep fruit flavors that remind me of sherry finished scotch.  There are also the expected vanilla and caramel, but with more depth and complexity.  The flavor is truly full and rich extending into a long, complex and smooth finish.

Through all three of these whiskies, you can taste the lower proof that the whiskey enters the barrel (103 proof).  It gives the finished product more depth and sweetness since less water is added to bring the spirits down to their bottle proof.  Now, granted, I’m a giant rye nerd, but I really enjoyed Michter’s Straight Rye.  For me it has a complexity and depth that a lot of ryes on the market right now don’t bring to the table.  That said, all three of these whiskies are great.  It was almost a little hard to review them.  I wanted to keep the secret to myself and protect the bottles I might be able to find. :)

PS – The Old Fashioned I made with Michter’s US*1 American Whiskey was perfect in its simplicity.  Amazing how little fooling around great spirits need to make great cocktails.


† The product reviewed here was provided to me as a free sample. If you’re wondering what that means check out my sample policy.

Review – Seven Stills of SF – Whipnose Whiskey

Posted by Reese On January - 29 - 2015

Whipnose WhiskeyI drink sample a lot of whiskey and enjoy every last drop.  In all of those samplings there are aromas, flavors and general experiences that run throughout.  Vanilla, caramel, spices, oak, whiskeyness if you will.  So, when a new whiskey comes through my door I expect those basics in varying quantities and qualities.  Whipnose Whiskey from Seven Stills of San Francisco turned that whole expectation on its head.  The description of how this whiskey was created is best left to the Seven Stills distillers.

Whipnose is the first in Seven Stills’ Collaboration Series.  For this project we partnered with Pacific Brewing Laboratory, located in San Francisco.  We started by distilling each of Pac Brew Lab’s beers to see if we could make a unique whiskey, and as soon as we tasted the whiskey made from their double IPA we were blown away.  Shortly after we brewed 60 barrels of Whipnose IPA, and distilled it into 165 gallons of whiskey, and aged it in new American Oak Barrels.

The name “Whipnose” aptly describes the whip of hop aroma this whiskey opens up with.  The taste is rich malt, dark dried fruits (plums, prunes), light vanilla, toasted oak, and finishes with a smooth, lingering maple syrup.

That whip of hop aroma they mention is absolutely true.  It blew me away as well.  I would never have expected the hop aroma and flavor to carry through to the whiskey so directly, but it’s there with conviction.

The aroma hits you first with hops – citrusy, floral, exactly what you’d expect.  Then you get classic whiskey aromas of vanilla, caramel and notes of dried fruits in the background.  The flavor is unlike any whiskey I’ve tasted.  In my notes I wrote “quizzical look” and if you picture a dog turning it’s head to the side, you’ll know exactly what I looked like.  There is fruitiness like crazy in Whipnose, both citrus notes from the hops and dried fruits (cherry, prune).  You get the standard whiskeyness of vanilla, caramel and oak as well, but the fruit is the star.  The floral aspect of the hops is there as well, but more of a background player.  Finally, the finish is light and slightly sweet with a very pleasant hint of bitterness from the hops.

This is a whiskey I would slow sip and enjoy the complexity as it warms in your hand.  But my brain wouldn’t let it go at that, I had to try it in a Boulevardier.  I went with 2:1:1; Whipnose, Sweet Vermouth and Campari and it was a stroke of genius.  The resulting cocktail retained the floral aroma of the hops and the citrus and bitter qualities of the Campari teamed up with the same in the Whipnose.  The complex herbal qualities of the vermouth round it all out.  If it’s possible to mourn the passing of a cocktail, I certainly did when my glass went dry on this one.

On the very large plus side, a second release is in the works.  Hopefully soon!


† The product reviewed here was provided to me as a free sample. If you’re wondering what that means check out my sample policy.

Review – SIA Scotch Whisky

Posted by Reese On January - 12 - 2015

SIA Blended Scotch WhiskyI think we can all agree that whiskey is definitely an acquired taste.  For some of us, myself near the head of the line, that acquisition process is very quick and soon turns into a full blown love affair.  For others, they never get it.  I’d dare say, some folks are likely baffled by why people drink whiskey at all.  Carin Luna-Ostaseski, founder of SIA Scotch Whisky was firmly in the “I’m not sure I get this” camp when she first sampled Scotch with friends.  Thankfully she had a determined friend who quizzed her on her favorite cocktails, wines and foods.  Armed with this new knowledge, he was able to guide Carin to whiskies that she truly enjoyed.  This realization that whiskey has many facets, began her journey to bring to market a new Scotch whisky tuned for the palate of her target audience, whisky virgins and enthusiasts alike with a modern palate.  Finally, to bring her dream to reality, she appealed to the masses on Kickstarter and their funding told her she was on the right track.  And now it’s here.

SIA Scotch Whisky (from the Scotch Gaelic word six) shows itself as a light honey/amber color.  The aroma is awash with hints of dried fruit, fruitcake and sherry with herbal/medicinal notes floating in the background.  The flavor brings a subtle sweetness of caramel, vanilla and a hint of fruit.  There is a bare hint of smoke and medicinal peat that lets you know you’re drinking a Scotch whisky.  The finish is long and light with hints of toasted cereal grains and honey.

This is definitely a lighter whisky and I can certainly see where it would appeal to whisky virgins.  SIA doesn’t punch you with peat, smoke or aggressive flavors.  But, I can see the appeal for whisky enthusiasts as well.  You get nuances of a lot of Scotch whisky regions but the whole remains harmonious.  I can definitely see myself reaching for a dram of SIA when I’m looking for something lighter that still brings an interesting flavor spectrum.


† The product reviewed here was provided to me as a free sample. If you’re wondering what that means check out my sample policy.

Review – Dickel Barrel Program Tennessee Whisky

Posted by Reese On December - 9 - 2014

As previously mentioned, I was selected to be part of the Dickel Dozen blogger program.  A few weeks back they sent a bottle of Dickel Barrel Program Tennessee Whisky my way along with some challenges.  I’ve been responding to their challenges (more on that later) and, more importantly, drinking the whisky and making some great cocktails.  So, let’s get to the important stuff!

Handmade the Hard Way

The color of this whisky begins offering hints to its boldness before you even uncork the bottle.  The rich cedar/mahogany color speaks to the barrel aging and charcoal mellowing.  The aroma is complex with notes of vanilla and fruitcake (think spice, fruit and caramel) and subtle hints of oak and corn coming through.  Given that Tennessee Whisky and Bourbon are both corn based it seems logical that you’d get some corn coming through.  But I can’t say that I’ve noticed it much in other whiskies.  I really enjoyed its presence here.  That corn aroma brought me back to what and where this whisky comes from.

The flavor is bold.  This is not a whisky for whiskey newbies or folks who are only so-so on it.  On the other hand, that’s a great thing for people who love whisky.  Like this guy.  The flavor brings more of the vanilla, caramel and fruitcake flavors to the front with the oak and corn sticking around, but in a supporting role.  Despite the boldness, this whisky remains smooth and rich.  There is light spiciness from the rye (8% of the mash bill) which works really well with the deep fruit flavors.  The finish on this whisky is long, with a pleasant warmth in your throat and reminders of the fruitiness floating around for quite a while.

I could drink glass after glass of the Dickel Barrel Program Whisky neat but, hey, I make cocktails.  So how does it stand up to three of my favorite classics?  Like a champ!

 

Dickel Manhattan

Dickel Barrel Program Manhattan – The bold character of the whisky carries through and stands up to the rich flavors of the sweet vermouth (I used Punt e Mes) and the result is a very rich, full bodied cocktail.  I found that this Manhattan could be one that you sip slowly over the course of a relaxing night or … it might disappear quicker than expected.  But therein lies the perfect balance. *

 

Dickel Whisky Sour

Dickel Barrel Program Whisky Sour – Oh man, this drink reminded me why I like the classic whiskey sour so much.  The cocktail is smooth, crisp, refreshing and alarmingly easy to drink.  Definitely make sure you’re including the egg white and use a touch less sugar.  The complexity of the Dickel pairs really well with the sourness of the lemon and the egg white smooths it all out.

 

Dickel Old Fashioned

Dickel Barrel Program Old Fashioned – My notes sum it up perfectly, “Bold but smooth”.  This is another one where I’d cut down on the sugar you typically use.  The inherent sweetness of the whisky come make up for the decreased sugar.  I found 2 tsp of simple syrup was a bit too sweet for me, but a touch more Dickel sorted that out.  The subtle smokiness of this whisky really came out in the Old Fashioned and worked great with the orange.  As with the others, this is a cocktail I can (and have) envisioned myself enjoying much more quickly than planned.

 

I’m finding after these few weeks of sampling that Dickel Barrel Program Whisky has an abnormally short life span when in my house.  Could be the altitude, but I’m guessing not.  Cheers, friends.  May there be whisky in your glass and love in your heart.

 

* It should be noted that I actually stopped writing at this point to have another Dickel Manhattan. :)


† The product reviewed here was provided to me as a free sample. If you’re wondering what that means check out my sample policy.