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Review – Glenfiddich Cask of Dreams

Posted by Reese On March - 5 - 2012

Cask of DreamsLooking back across my adult life, I can’t think of a time that I’ve been to my mom and stepdad’s house and there hasn’t been the option of good Scotch only a request away.  It’s definitely Ken’s favorite sipping beverage and he always has a small selection of really good bottles on hand to share.  And, share he does.  Seemed only appropriate that when I asked for a bottle of Scotch a few Christmases back it should be Ken that picked it out for me.  His choice was a bottle of Glenfiddich 12 and it’s a bottle I cherish and enjoy still.

Earlier this month I got an email announcing a special, limited bottling of Glenfiddich, the Cask of Dreams.  The idea really struck a chord for me and I knew I wanted to sample it, if at all possible.  And, luckily, I did.  The Cask of Dreams is a blend of Glenfiddich whiskies the youngest of which is 14 years old.  What differentiates this blend though is that it was then placed in a very special set of 11 new American oak barrels and finished for 3 months.  What made these barrels truly special is their story.  The Glenfiddich team took the barrels across the US and asked people to commit their dreams and signatures to the barrels themselves.  When the barrels returned to Scotland for filling their were thousands of signatures and dreams written upon them.

Cask of Dreams - Signed Cask

The resulting whiskey is reddish caramel color.  The nose has touches of vanilla, but the real star is aromas of dried stone fruits, specifically cherries and apricots which reminded me strongly of fruitcake.  I know that’s not a good thing in a lot of minds, but trust me, it’s a really good thing here.  The flavor follows the aroma to a tee with this one.  Subtle sweetness, fruitcake and warmth.  With a tiny touch of water I found the flavor profile smoothed even further with more spice notes coming through.  This whisky is definitely near the top of my list.  The combination of fruit and spice notes with a touch of sweetness really makes for a fantastic dram.

Seems fitting that Glenfiddich would choose this whisky to represent their 125th anniversary.  There are certainly a lot of dreams that have gone into the Glenfiddich story leading to this point.  Well done.  There will be 3,500 bottles released in total starting in February of 2012 for a reasonable price of $99 per bottle.  You definitely could do much worse than picking up a bottle for yourself or a fellow Scotch lover.  I loved it enough, I bought myself a bottle for my collection.  You can bet I’ll be sharing it with Ken.

† 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 – Basil Hayden’s and Knob Creek Bourbons

Posted by Reese On February - 22 - 2012

There is one iconic cocktail that is truly my constant fall back.  It’s simple to the point of almost being silly, but in that same breath it’s deep, complex and nuanced.  If you haven’t guessed already, I’m talking about the Old Fashioned.  It’s the drink I crave when I want simplicity with depth, the drink I make when I travel and the one I make for people new to bourbon.  Seemed only natural that I’d mix it up when I received samples of Basil Hayden’s and Knob Creek small batch bourbons.  But before I tell you how they were, let’s talk about the bourbons themselves.

Old Fashioned

You’ll see two terms tossed around with regard to bourbons; single barrel and small batch.  Single barrel is just that, bourbon bottled from a single barrel, unblended.  The problem you run into with single barrel bourbon is that, even with careful sampling, there is variation from bottle to bottle.  Some people really enjoy this.  They know the general flavor they’re going to get, but each bottle brings a small surprise in flavor.  The folks at Jim Beam don’t like this variability, so they opt for small batch bourbon instead.

Small batch bourbons are blends of a small number of barrels to create the flavor profile desired.  There are a lot of benefits to this method, which Beam has put to good use.  First, you can smooth out the variability from batch to batch.  Since you’re blending barrels you can better tweak the exact flavor profile you’re after.  Second, you can create a small host of labels from the same basic stock of aged bourbon.  In the case of Beam you end up with Basil Hayden’s, Knob Creek, Baker’s and Booker’s.  All of these expressions are the product of the same aging stock blended in different ratios to produce different flavor profiles.

From the Beam site, Basil Hayden’s, bottled at a standard 80 proof has the highest rye portion giving it a spicy, peppery quality.  Knob Creek keeps a relatively high rye portion but bumps the proof up to 100 and the length of aging by a year.  The product of these tweaks is fruitier, rich and lightly sweet.   Baker’s keeps the higher proof at 107 but drops the aging to 7 years.  The result is nutty with vanilla notes and a silky body.  Finally, Booker’s is the bourbon created to reflect the bourbons of the past.  Bottled at whatever the blended proof turns out to be (121 to 127 proof), no water is added and no filtration is done.  The finished product has a lot more barrel character.  But that’s what the producers have to say, how about we talk about what I think.

Basil Hayden’s

Dark straw/light honey in color.  Light and sweet with delicate vanilla flavors, this bourbon is tremendously smooth with a very long finish laced with vanilla.  Definitely an amazing sipping bourbon.

In an Old Fashioned the smoothness of this bourbon really shines.  The vanilla and spice character of the rye comes through nicely.  This is the sort of Old Fashioned that will sneak up on you with a hammer.  They go down very very quickly and easily.




Knob Creek

Amber honey color with distinct notes of vanilla in the aroma.  This bourbon is spicier and slightly hot with more spice (think Christmas) character.  The finish is crisp, clean and short.  Another great sipper if you like bourbons with rye character.

In an Old Fashioned my initial thoughts sum it up nicely, “So tasty”.  The bourbon shines through with spice notes and a bit of that characteristic rye fire.  This is a complex, slow sipping Old Fashioned to be sure.




It’s always easy for me to see why I like a simple Old Fashioned when I have bourbons like these to mix them with.  The character of the spirit is preserved while adding complexity and depth at the same time.  You truly can’t go wrong.  And, I have to say, I’m really excited to try one with some Booker’s.  I’ll keep you posted.

† 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 – Angel’s Envy Bourbon

Posted by Reese On January - 17 - 2012

Angel's Envy BourbonOpening my sample package of Angel’s Envy Bourbon brought a question to mind.  What do angels envy?  I’m not talking Hell’s Angels, Charlie’s Angels or even Archangels, I’m talking the angel’s share angels.  Every barrel of spirits loses volume over its years of aging.  That loss is called the angel’s share.  So, here’s where the question gets harder.  If the angels get a share of EVERY bourbon aging what would be left for them to envy at all?  The answer, I decided, was much easier than I expected.  The angels envy what’s left in the barrels.

In the case of Angel’s Envy Bourbon they have a lot to be envious about.  Lincoln Henderson, Master Distiller for Louisville Distilling Company and former Master Distiller for Brown-Forman, starts with Kentucky straight bourbon aged 4-6 years in American white oak barrels.  From there the spirit is transferred to port casks for a final 3-6 month aging.  Lincoln then personally samples each batch prior to bottling to make sure each one meets the Angel’s Envy standard.

The result of all this hard work is a tremendous bourbon.  The color is darker amber with a slight rosiness, no doubt a result of the port cask aging.  The aroma is clean with vanilla and hints of the port coming through very lightly.  There is a tantalizing complexity in the aroma that makes you want to start sipping right away.  The flavor definitely lives up to the aroma.  Flavors of vanilla, Christmas spices (you know the ones), and a deep fruitiness run throughout.  There is a lot of depth of flavor here and you get to enjoy it for a while.  The finish is nice and long with the vanilla wrapping up the experience.

My explanation of what angels envy may be a load of bull but I can tell you one thing for sure.  I envy the man who has the full bottle of Angel’s Envy.  I miss mine already.

† 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 – The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Bartending

Posted by Reese On December - 26 - 2011

Today’s post is from my girlfriend and Cocktail Hacktress in training, Elisabeth.  She was excited to tackle this book as it’s a good intro to bartending and cocktail making in general.

Let’s face it– Reese is far from an amateur when it comes to mixing drinks.  So when “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Bartending, Second Edition” was delivered to his house, it got passed to me.  I have learned a few things about cocktails over the past few months dating The Hacker, but took the time to refine my skills a little with some hands-on time.

Marie Antoinette

Perhaps most pleasing about this book is that you don’t feel like an idiot when you read it.  Your first few chapters provide you the basics on everything you need to know to bartend like a champion.  There are brief introductions to the major types of liquor which are informative and brief.  There are a few quick recipes for basic ingredients like simple syrup, followed by a list of “must haves” for your home bar.  After a quick review of my own liquor cabinet, it became abundantly clear that I am not well stocked.  The “basics” however are fairly easy to obtain and even I can find decent vodka or white rum at the liquor store (hint: it is not the $4.99 special).  If your stash has a few more bottles than mine, there are two more extensive lists that you can use to fill out your bar, should this be your goal.  I found this section particularly useful because it will help anyone buy appropriate liquors depending on how serious they are about bartending.  If I wasn’t dating Reese (who is more than happy to fill out my stash when necessary), I would definitely stock up to cover the basics.

Finally, Reese and I perused the recipe sections.  These are grouped by liquor type (which I find to be useful with a limited bar).  All recipes I consider to be staples are covered in the book—these are the ones we all know enough about to order at a bar.  There are also some you probably don’t order, giving you many options for mixing up something delicious for friends and families.  Reese appreciates that the recipes use real juices versus something like sour mix.  Most of the classic cocktails are recipes he would mix up and are sized appropriately for his taste.

Overall, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Bartending is a good, complete intro to bartending.  If you got a cocktail shaker from Santa, you’ll definitely want to buy this book.

† 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 – Hiram Walker Gingerbread Liqueur

Posted by Reese On December - 8 - 2011

Despite my whining from last week, sometimes inspiration just strikes me.  I had pulled Hiram Walker Gingerbread Liqueur out of my collection to try when the Caramel Apple arrived.  It was one I received a year or more back and just never got around to actually trying.  And now, some good and bad news.  The good news is that this stuff is just that, good.  The bad news is that they’re not making it anymore.  But, on the bright side, you can still find it at a lot of liquor stores (my local ones have it) and online.  So, dear friends, don’t despair too much.

Okay, enough chatter, let’s talk liquor.  The color is what you’d expect, dark brown and reminiscent of gingerbread.  Big surprise, no?  The aroma is comprised mostly of molasses, spice and sweetness.  And the flavor is where Hiram Walker Gingerbread really shines.  You get the molasses notes of good gingerbread, the spices play nicely throughout and the sweetness is there but not cloying.  Well, done HW, well done.

So what do you do with it?  Well, there are lots of obvious holiday options.  Coffee.  Hot Chocolate.  Giant glass, one ice cube (for the hard days…we all have them).  The obvious aside, Elisabeth came up with a great option to both warm you up and calm you down, warm milk with gingerbread liqueur.  I’d suggest a mix of 2 oz Gingerbread Liqueur to 6 oz warm milk.  Definitely non-sucky.  For me, inspiration struck in the form of Gingerbread Eggnog.

Gingerbread Eggnog

Gingerbread Eggnog
1 1/2 oz Bourbon
1 1/2 oz Hiram Walker Gingerbread Liqueur
1 oz Whipping Cream
1 Egg
1 Dash Aromatic Bitters
1) Combine everything but the nutmeg in a shaker with ice
2) Shake until your arm nearly falls off (a good minute)
3) Strain into a glass and top with grated nutmeg

The flavor is definitely eggnog, but with a subtle gingery, spicy, molasses-y twist.  Molasses has a very distinct flavor and that comes through in the backbone of this drink.  I drank this down in about 10 minutes and wanted another one nearly immediately.  Per my preference, the sweetness is subdued, but present.  You could always add a splash (small) of simple syrup if you wanted something more akin to carton eggnog.  Oh, and like all good holiday drinks, this one packs a punch, but you’d never guess that tasting it.  If you’re looking for something new and interesting to serve at your holiday gathering this year, you definitely won’t go wrong with this one.  And, if you can’t find a bottle, swing by my house.  We’ll mix one up.

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