Wednesday, June 29, 2011

(Review) Bulleit Rye Whiskey 90 proof

Mystique: 1-10 points
Score: 7 New, No ads I've seen, two extra points for their bourbon's reputation

Color: 1-10 points
Score: 8 nice, amber with a hint of orange

Scent: 1-10 points
Score: 9 vanilla, oak, deep

Initial impression: 1-10 points
Score: 8 looks great, neat bottle, smells great

Mouthfeel: 1-10 points
Score: 9 slick and oily with a tingle

Taste: 1-10 x 4 points
Score: 36 smokey, peppery on the front, flowery on the back

Raw Score: 77 points

Bonus: Value 1-10 points
Score: 8 good price point 21.95 a fifth

Total Score: 85 points

I realized as we get closer to July 4th that even though I must have 8 different bottles of Rye Whiskey in my liquor cabinet I haven't posted about a single one. It's my favorite whiskey with a long American traditon. Unfortunately unless you live on the East Coast you've probably never seen it until recently. Fortunately it's enjoying it's own rebirth and revolution. Thanks to this, there are several good American Ryes with nationwide distribution now availible.

Why does rye go with July 4th? Because until prohibition it was the America's whiskey. Enjoyed and produced in the colonies. When you ordered a whiskey while debating life liberty and the pursuit of happiness you got a glass of rye. American Rye is produced using a majority of rye grain in the mash. By law it has to be 51% rye. This makes a whiskey that's peppery yet smooth. Like bourbon it's aged in charred oak barrels. Straight Rye is aged at least 2 yrs. During and after prohibiton American Rye became confused with Canadian Rye whiskey which was referred to as just Rye Whiskey and the name became forever muddled and confusing. Canadian Rye Whiskey can be 90% corn and only 10% rye and has a completely different flavor profile than it's American counterpart. I'll touch on a true Canadian Rye in another review. American Rye Whiskey is further broken down into 2 styles. The Pennsylvanian style, which is more dry and peppery and the Maryland Style whis is just a little sweeter and less peppery. Luckily of the surviving brands there was 1 example of each, Old Overlholt (Pennsylvania) and Pikesville Rye (Maryland) so you could still see the difference.

Now getting back to Bulleit Rye, it's the first example of an American Rye whiskey that's right in the middle of the two styles that I have tried. Of the new offerings in rye, they seem to lean one way or the other, but Bulleit nailed it right down the center. It's got some peppery burn in the beginning and a sweeter finish in the end. This is why I recommend that if you're new to rye, try this one first. It's a tasty and even introduction. Straight out of glass it's got a slow burn like the idea of the American Revolution. Like the colonists it's got that charred oaky ruggedness, but somehow seems a little green at the same time. It's rough pepper and fiesty yet somehow refined and smooth by the time it hits your stomach. If you add ice or a little water it opens up a bit of sophistication. Plum and flowers are hiding in that glass. At it's 90 proof bottling it allows more hints of flavor and complexity without the distiller having to water it down to the standard 80. Bulleit is well crafted, smooth and tasty, a fine exapmle of American Rye Whiskey. Try it in a classic cocktail that originally called for rye like The Sazarec, The Manhattan, or even the Mint Julep. As rye got more scarce and the American palate craved the sweeter bourbon these cocktails had their main ingredient replaced. They're very good with bourbon, but different with rye. No other spirit gives the flavor of America like rye. It's bold and brash while complex, crafted and a little naive all at the same time. Try a glass of history while celebrating our nations birth and think of how the spirit in your glass tastes a bit like freedom.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

(Review) The Kracken, Black Spiced Rum 94 proof

Mystique: 1-10 points
Score: 10 new, big ad campaign, cool, mysterious

Color: 1-10 points
Score: 10 black as night, as advertised, squid ink

Scent: 1-10 points
Score: 9 mixed spices, vanilla, pepper

Initial impression: 1-10 points
Score: 9 looks great hope its not a letdown

Mouthfeel: 1-10 points
Score: 9 slick and oily as expected

Taste: 1-10 x 4 points
Score: 36 Caramel, molasses, big pepper burn but goes away quick

Raw Score: 83 points

Bonus: Value 1-10 points
Score: 8 good price point 19.95 a fifth

Total Score: 91 points

Like the cryptozoological monster from the deep, The Kracken broke the surface with a lot of noise and a unique look. With a 2 jug-handled bottle and a pirate map like label It looks different, but is it up to snuff? A true black rum, dark with a mysterious exotic flavor? That's what the huge marketing campaign for this new product promised. Did they deliver? Absolutely. The Kracken is on par with Gosling's Black Seal and Cruzan Black Strap. It's a real Navy Rum. Black as it's namesake's ink with a flavor that's big molasses, caramel and spices. The pepper taste is strong, but disappears into the briny deep leaving an oily slick. It doesn't quite have the flavor depth of the competition, but it's bolder up front and doesn't disappear in a mixed drink. It's great as a flavor addition to other rums in a variety of cocktails, Like adding just a tiny bit of chili pepper to spice up a meal. It's future may not be in standing on it's own, but as one of those mixers you can't do without. Either they made this rum while thinking of the name or the name came first and they tried to embody it in rum, either way it's spot on, and a welcome addition to my collection of Black Rums. It gives us a little more choice in this small niche. Hunt The Kracken!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

(Cocktail Recipe) The Gimlet

As I was preparing my Singapore Sling yesterday I realized the number of ingredients required may be more that some of you have in your liquor cabinet. Today I give you another classic cocktail to beat the heat. One with less ingredients and more simplicity, The Gimlet. This cocktail gets it's name from: Gimlet-a hand tool used to drill small holes. That sounds appropriate to me. While the cocktail is artistically simple in taste like many other classic cocktails there is no Highlander. There can't be only one. It's recipe is debated and even the types of ingredients are argued about across the internet, by cocktail drinkers and in books. The simple recipe is:

Combine in a shaker.

2oz GIN (Dry, Plymouth or Old Tom)
2oz Rose's Lime Juice (Rose's is specified)
1 TSP powdered sugar or simple syrup

Shake thouroughly and pour into an old fashioned glass. Garnish with a lime round.

That's it. Simple, right? Not so fast. For classical cocktail argument there's debate about the lime juice. Use Rose's or Fresh. Which Gin? Dry, Plymouth or the sweeter Old Tom. Top with club soda? If you do that you have made a different drink, The Gin Rickey. For new fangled recipe tinkerers, there's substitute Vodka for the Gin, add mint, or add cucumber or other vegtable or fruit. The list goes on. Connor and Kurgan will fight indefinitely. As a spectator to the epic battle I can say that as far as I'm concerned the above recipe IS the Gimlet. If you alter the recipe to something you like better please call it something else, the (whatever you add) Gimlet. If you alter it so far that your drink doesn't capture the spirit of the Gimlet then make up a new name. This is a simple cocktail. It's flavor is balanced and refreshing. It dosen't need complication. I do encourage you to try the original Gimlet to get the jist of the drink, but please alter away to make it something you like. I like my drinks more sour, so I'll add less sugar and more lime, Laura prefers sweeter drinks so she'll add a dash of Cherry Heering or fresh cherries. Try it, then make it your own, but try and guage when and if you lose the spirit of the flavor of the the original. Whatever you come up with based on this cocktail It will be a great way to beat the heat.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

(Cocktail Recipe) The Singapore Sling

In honor of the current 98 degree temperature here I think we'll need a refreshing cocktail. A classic tropical drink should fit the bill nicely. How about a refreshing Singapore Sling. A slightly different tropical drink based with gin that has a complex flavor and doesn't just taste like the fruit juice they used as a mixer. This drink was invented at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon. It has some mystery about it, as it's original recipe is up for debate. The currently accepted and far superior recipe is as follows:

1.5oz Gin
.5oz Cherry Heering
.25oz Cointreau
.5oz Benedictine
.5oz Lime Juice
2.0oz Pineapple Juice
Dash of Angostura Bitters
Few Dashes Grenadine

Shake with Ice and pour straight up or over ice and top with club soda. Garnish with a flag.

Using this recipe it's really not a classic sling anymore, but it's refreshing and it's flavor is complex enough to make you think of an exotic location like Singapore.

A little history and the opportunity to watch master bartender Chris McMillian in this video that's part of a series presented by the City of New Orleans. New Orleans Best Cocktail

Friday, June 3, 2011

(Review) Ezra Brooks Straight Kentucky Bourbon 90 proof

Mystique: 1-10 points
Score: 8
been around a while

Color: 1-10 points
Score: 9
dark amber, red tinge

Scent: 1-10 points
Score: 10
oakey, smoke, vanilla, floral

Initial Impression: 1-10 points
Score: 9

Mouthfeel: 1-10 points
Score: 8
slight oily

Taste: 1-10 x 4 points
Score: 36
little burn, pepper, vanilla, wood short aftertaste

Raw total Score: 80 points

Bonus: Value: 1-10 points
Score: 10
dollar more than Evan Williams and its better

Total Score: 90 points

Part of this endeavor was to get us trying new things and after assessing my bourbon consumption I realized I was stuck in a rut. I don't have unlimited funds and when I buy something new my money usually goes to whatever shiny bottle of Rye Whiskey I haven't tried yet. I have not tried many of the high end Bourbons and with the sort of renaissance that it's enjoying there are plenty. I decided to find a really decent one in the middle, a best bang for the buck. Could another mid price bourbon dethrone Evan Williams as my old stand by? I'd been aware of Ezra Brooks as my grandfather had a bottle of Old Ezra behind his bar that came in its own coffin. A little wooden box with a bottle in it. I remember looking looking at it when I was a kid and thinking why would you want to drink something that comes in its own coffin. I saw my grandfather drinking it one day and asked him. He said it wasn't a coffin, it was a treasure chest. He was right, but I was never able to find that particular treasure again after I became of legal drinking age. Lucky for me, I spotted regular Ezra Brooks bourbon hidden among all those black labeled square bottles on the shelf. Once again, note to bourbon makers GET SOME NEW BOTTLES AND LABEL DESIGNS. I wasn't sure what to think. It's was priced right and was new to me. That made it perfect to try. The color was very good, just a little red tinge to the amber and when I poured it in the glass I was surprised to smell all those different aromas out of such a reasonably priced bottle. Sipped neat I experienced a smooth, peppery burn with a vanilla and woody flavor that didn't stick around too long. Very pleasant for such a reasonable price. My bourbon of choice is Wild Turkey which is a little on the peppery side so this was similar in experience and suited to my taste. I tried it on the rocks, in an old fashioned and a mint julep. It was great. I think the higher proofing really brings out that extra flavor and adds a contrast between the flavors and the burn. I found out Ezra Brooks Bourbon is made for the owner by the Evan Williams people and that it might even start from the same mash ball. How the rest of it's birth differs I am not sure and was unable to find out. I am assuming it's aged a little longer to obtain the higher proofing. This was a great find for me. I like it a bit better than Evan Williams for everyday use and have made it my new house Bourbon at home. If you like Wild Turkey or Evan Williams I think you'll like this. At a very reasonable price I can safely say this is a best bang for the buck