If you don’t hang out on social media you may have missed the rapid spread of Hopwater. The short is that Hopwater is a hop, and flavor, infused tonic water.
Before any new readers ask when Round 1 was it was over 2 years ago, so you didn’t miss anything recent. Not too much has changed in the world of beer apps since then. Well, Untappd has become the dominant force in the beer app universe. A few other beer apps have come, and gone, yet Untappd has remained supreme.
What else has changed is that I’ve gone from swearing off wine and rarely drinking spirits to enjoying both more often and becoming a more well-rounded imbiber. In my endless urge for capturing data to help me remember things, combined with having that data available in my pocket, I present the best apps I’ve found for both whiskey and wine!
Tasting Whiskey: An Insider’s Guide to the Unique Pleasures of the World’s Finest Spirits is a new book from longtime whiskey and beer writer Lew Bryson. I follow Lew on Twitter and saw him pitch the book there. After deciding to spend 2015 learning about whiskey and bourbon I saw Amazon’s description of the book, below, and decided this was a great place to start learning.
Whiskey lovers will devour this fresh and comprehensive guide to everything there is to know about the world’s whiskeys, including Scotch and bourbon as well as Tennessee, Irish, Japanese, and Canadian whiskeys. You’ll learn about the types of whiskey and the distilling traditions of the regions where they are made, how to serve and taste whiskeys to best appreciate and savor them, how to collect and age whiskey for great results, and much more. There are even recipes for cocktails and suggestions for food pairings. This is the guide no whiskey drinker will want to be without!
Many times I have praised Cincinnati’s proximity to the heart of bourbon country, but never was I more thankful for it than last February when I was able to attend the Bourbon Classic. I learned more about bourbon history and the current bourbon industry in that weekend than I had in the previous year. This year it is back and looks to be just as good as 2014. Once again Fred Minnick is MCing the Bourbon Masters Session and this year Jim Rutledge of Four Roses will be joining the line up. He was the one distiller I was very disappointed not to meet last year. The Bourbon University has some great classes lined up, including a very timely class on bourbon collecting. Here is the press release but for now all you need to know is this is the best bourbon opportunity you have within such an easy drive. And keep in mind that WhiskeyFest in Chicago is already sold out. Hope to see you there.
Bourbon & Culinary Weekend Returns to Louisville in February
Third Annual Bourbon Classic Focuses on World-Class Culinary and Bartending Talent
Louisville, KY (February 2, 2015) –Bourbon Classic 2015, the third annual Bourbon-culinary experience will take place in Louisville at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts next weekend, February 20 – 21, 2015. The event attracts Bourbon enthusiasts and culinary adventurists from across the country. A complete cross-section of the Bourbon industry will attend: Bourbon distilling legends, writers, chefs, bartenders, connoisseurs, and casual enthusiasts.
This year, Bourbon Classic will kick off with an exclusive pre-event reception, Bourbon Classic Taste, on Tuesday, February 17th. Chef Ed Lee and Julian Van Winkle will participate in this progressive tasting experience hosted at Copper & Kings American Brandy. Kentucky Proud-inspired food, Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Four Roses Bourbon, Copper & Kings Brandy, Copper & Kings Absinthe, Van Winkle Special Reserve (12 year), Van Winkle Family Reserve (15 year), Van Winkle Family Reserve (20 year), and 1,000 Stories Barrel Finished Wine will be available. A limited number of tickets to this Kentucky Proud supported reception are available to the general public.
Friday, February 20 – Bourbon Classic Cocktail Challenge:
- MC Jared Schubert, winner of the 2013 Bourbon Classic Cocktail Challenge, will guide attendees through the event featuring contemporary and classic cocktails and small plates prepared by teams of chefs and master bartenders representing distilleries. Cocktails and pairings will be judged by an expert panel including Hannah Hayes, Southern Living, Joy Perrine, Jack’s Lounge, and Chef Albert Schmid, Sullivan University. Participating teams are as follows:
Barton 1792 Distillery
Beth Burrows, Down One Bourbon Bar
Chef Newman Miller, Harrison-Smith House, Bardstown, KY
Marie Zahn, St. Charles Exchange
Chef Levon Wallace, Proof on Main
Buffalo Trace Distillery
Jason Cobbler, Harvest
Chef Coby Ming, Harvest
Four Roses Bourbon
Isaac Fox, Volare
Chef Josh Moore, Volare
Heaven Hill Distilleries
Gary Gruver, Southern Wine & Spirits
Chef David Danielson, Churchill Downs
Sean Thibodeaux, 8-UP Elevated Drinkery & Kitchen
Chef Todd Rushing, 8-UP Elevated Drinkery & Kitchen
Hannah Kandle, Old Seelbach Bar
Chef Patrick Roney, Seelbach Oakroom
Amber Yates, Feast
Chef Ryan Rogers, Feast
Jacquelyn Zykan, Doc Crow’s
Chef Jonathan Schwartz, Doc Crow’s
Saturday, February 21 – Ultimate Bourbon Experience:
- Bourbon Masters Session
Mark Coffman, Alltech Brewing & Distilling Company
Wes Henderson, Angel’s Envy
Ken Pierce, Barton 1792 Distillery
Fred Noe, Jim Beam
Harlen Wheatley, Buffalo Trace Distillery
Jim Rutledge, Four Roses Bourbon
Denny Potter, Heaven Hill Distilleries
Nicole Austin, King’s County Distillery
Willie Pratt, Michter’s
Jimmy Russell, Wild Turkey
Author Fred Minnick will MC this session sponsored by the Urban Bourbon Trail.
- The “Bourbon Classic University,” exploring focused learning sessions like Country Ham & Bourbon, The Life of the Barrel, Essential Bourbon Cocktails Past and Present, Straight Up Storytellers, Bourbon & Cheese Pairings, The Art of the Glass, Entertaining with North American Whiskey, Bourbon Collections, Bourbon Flavor Profiles, and Bourbon Icons. Sets of five sessions will be offered and attendees will have the opportunity to choose which sessions to join.
- The Bourbon Marketplace offering exhibits and displays featuring Bourbon tastings, book signings, food tastings, and culinary and Bourbon-related products.
- Bourbon Culinary Tastings prepared by Coby Ming, Harvest, Sean Ward, Ward 426, Levon Wallace, Proof on Main, and Ouita Michel, Holly Hill Inn.
Some of the bourbon industry’s most well-known brands are sponsoring the event. The Urban Bourbon Trail is the welcoming sponsor of this event joining Buffalo Trace Distillery, Four Roses Bourbon, Michter’s, Alltech Brewing & Distilling Co., Barton 1792 Distillery, Bulleit Bourbon, Heaven Hill Distilleries, Jim Beam, Woodford Reserve, 1,000 Stories Barrel Finished Wine, Blanton’s Bourbon, Wild Turkey, Bingham Greenbaum Doll, LLP, Old Forester, Angel’s Envy, Corsair Distillery, Jefferson’s, Kings County Distillery, Copper & Kings American Brandy, and Willett Distillery. Media sponsors include The Bourbon Reviewand Louisville Public Media.
The Bourbon Classic was co-founded by Tony Butler of FSA Management Group, an established event planning and marketing firm based in Louisville, and Justin Thompson, Seth Thompson, and Bob Eidson of The Bourbon Review.
With the start of December we are officially well into my favorite season of all: bourbon season. Bourbon lovers continue to be spoilt for choice when it comes to trying new bourbons. Every time I go to the liquor store there is a new and exciting bottle to try, and those are just a smattering of the new bottles hitting the market very week. It is getting to be a real challenge trying to keep up with it all, but still I soldier on somehow. Recently Local Choice Spirits out of South Carolina were kind enough to send me their bourbon and their black cherry flavored bourbon to try for Queen City Drinks.
Local Choice Spirits is based out of Daniel Island, South Carolina and was founded in 2011 and operates under a “pour it forward” philosophy. In addition to striving to produce quality spirits they also donate $2 per bottle sold back to the local community where it is sold. Also, they do produce their whiskey, which is not always the case with a craft distillery. Without getting too much into the business behind craft whiskey, a micro-producer will have a choice between sourcing their whiskey from a larger producer and selling it as their own while getting started or else produce small batches right away and sell a younger whiskey. Making your own whiskey is both more difficult and more expensive than sourcing, and you have the constant pressure to get your product to the shelves quickly to make back that cost. Some micro-producers try to do with with smaller barrels or finding ways to agitate barrels for quicker aging. Local Choice apparently uses a trademarked system called TerrePURE® which uses sound waves to “rapidly transforms ordinary distilled spirits into mature tasting, incredibly smooth, ultra-premium spirits in a quick and efficient manner.” That is a pretty bold claim right there, so let’s see how the bourbon holds up.
Local Choice Bourbon
The bourbon has a fresh and citrus nose, with little of the carmel sweetness that is often associated with bourbon. The initial taste has a subtle sweetness. Mostly I pick up corn, pine, and a hint of pepper. It is a very fresh taste but not quite enough flavor. It is a young bourbon but I will give it to them that it is very smooth for the age. The burn is short and flares in the nostrils. There is a bit of an after taste but it doesn’t linger. Over all it is far from the worst young, micro-produced bourbon I have had. And it is much better than Cleveland but that is a very low bar to clear. This tastes like it is a solid distillate that could be pretty decent if it ever gets a chance to age properly, so that means that there is a good chance that this TerrePure processes made a positive difference. There is no way that a bourbon lover would mistake this for a matured bourbon though. I added a splash of water and it helped bring out a bit more of the sweetness and actually made it a bit more complex. I tried it with ice as well but that stripped way too much of the taste away. Overall I can honestly say that I liked this bourbon more than I thought I would given their high-tech fast aging technique but I still think the bottom line comes back to that old saying about how you can’t rush Mother Nature.
Local Choice Black Cherry Flavored Bourbon
The cherry is unmistakable in the nose but it doesn’t smell like it is blending quiet right with the whiskey smell. The first sip is actually very pleasant. This tastes like it has a gentle infusion of cherry rather than an artificial flavor that was added. Unfortunately after the first sip comes a sour aftertaste that lingers on the tongue most unpleasantly and this disqualifies it from sipping for me. Mixing it with some ginger beer helped immensely but I could still taste the aftertaste. Not sure if that was from my earlier sipping or if the ginger beer just failed to completely cover the taste. Very disappointing because I actually enjoy a good infused bourbon when it is done well.
Right now these spirits are only available in South and North Carolina but they are looking to expand into Kentucky soon so keep an eye out. I would love to learn more about this TerrePURE process and to try some of their vodka that they make with it. Based on the bourbon, I would guess that it would have an even more dramatic effect on an un-aged product and is probably better suited to vodkas and gins than to whiskey.
At its simplest, a Bloody Mary is vodka and tomato juice served over ice in a highball glass, but it is rarely simple. Bloody Marys are one of the most varied and complex cocktails out there. Ranging from the two base ingredients to a complex menagerie of spices and garnishes, from not hot at all to so spicy it takes your breath away. The drinks have become associated with hair of the dog for being a good hangover cure. That’s not true as only water, rest, and electrolytes will help hangovers, but the following Bloody Marys will definitely get you up and running again.
Continue reading “6 Of The Best Bloody Marys in Cincinnati”
It is hard enough keeping up with new breweries, distilleries, and bars opening in Cincinnati. Trying to keep a handle on what is going on in Dayton seems like just a little too much to ask these days. Luckily, I have a couple of friends in the area who invite me up when things get interesting.
Calamity Dawn and Dorian Bridges are the geeky bar-tending duo behind Calamity Labs. Together they roam the Eastern United States bringing booze, informative panels, and killer room parties to steampunk, comic, gaming and various other conventions, as well as doing private events. I got to know them during my misspent years with the steampunks. Calamity was one of our first guests on The Charlie Tonic Hour and created our official cocktail. I have followed the development of Calamity Labs as they have gone from doing panels at regional shows to leading presentations at DragonCon and competing and placing in The Bourbon Social Cocktail Competition. On Tuesday they hosted a test run of the latest panel that they will be presenting at shows this spring, Mixology 320: Mixology in Motion and they were kind enough to invite Charlie and I up to participate.
The event was hosted by Stillwrights Spirits at their Flat Rock Distillery in Fairborn, Ohio. Stillwrights has only been on the market for the past four months but Calamity Labs became fans right away. I was thrilled to be able to combine a trip to see friends and experience a fun night with learning about a new distillery that I didn’t even know existed. Stillwrights primarily makes flavored moonshine but they have a straight moonshine, bourbon and rum as well. One interesting thing about this distillery is that the owners were in the machine business before starting the distillery and were actually able to fabricate their own still. In addition to the traditional moonshine flavors I was excited to try some of the more tropical flavors they had like Margarita and Key Lime Pie. You can do a tour and tasting there on Saturdays for $10 so if you are in the Dayton area I encourage you to stop by and check them out.
The panel itself was a lot of fun. After a brief intro about the distillery and the basics of cocktail making, three audience members were chosen to go up to our mixing stations and were given twenty minutes to create an original cocktail recipe. I was able to compete and decided to play it safe by mixing ginger beer and grapefruit bitters with the Stillwrights Peach Cobbler Moonshine. Unfortunately for me, Calamity Labs rewards boldness and innovation, plus I over did it with the ginger beer a bit so I did not win. I did however, have a wonderful time. I think everyone learned a lot about the subtle art of cocktail creating. Along the way we were able to try a skill that was out of our comfort zone, and I got to see several good friends that I hadn’t seen in a long time.
If you want to learn more about Stillwrights or Calamity Labs they both have Facebook pages you can follow and you will find Calamity Labs at a variety of conventions in the coming year. You can hear more about the panel and our interview with the owner of Stillwrights on Episode 151 of The Charlie Tonic Hour.
I have written in the past about the boom in craft distilling and how heartbreaking it can be when the cute little distillery with the beautiful bottle that you just paid $50 for turns out to be putting out less than impressive product. So it was with excitement but also a little cynicism that I opened my box of samples from Few Spirits in Evanston, IL. The samples included three different gins, a bourbon, and a rye whiskey. My first thought on seeing the whiskeys was to wonder where they were sourcing from. When I read the informational materials and learned that Few ferments, distills, and bottles all of its products from scratch in their distillery I had to reevaluate my expectations. Turns out that the Few Spirits blew those expectations out of the water. Charlie and I tried the three gins included in the sampler, Few American Gin, Barrel Gin, and Standard Issue Gin on Episode 137 of The Charlie Tonic Hour and I can tell you that it was one of the most enthusiastic drink segments of the show’s history. Here are the details of the three gins.
Few American Gin: First the basics. It’s made with a bourbon mash of 70% corn, 20% wheat, and 10% malted barley and flavored with 11 botanicals including juniper, bitter orange, lemon peel and fresh vanilla and weighs in at a modest 80 proof. The nose is sweet, heavy on the corn but I can smell mint and vanilla as well. It is smooth with a gentle burn on the finish. The juniper isn’t overpowering but it is not as citrus heavy as other American-style gins I have tried. There is almost a hoppy quality to the flavor but it is nicely balanced by the sweeter notes. The vanilla is surprisingly easy to pick out. When I watered it down I felt that the flavors got too diluted but I think this would make a lovely gin and tonic. Retails for $39.99.
Few Barrel Gin: The info materials state that the Barrel Gin is made with a more neutral base spirit which I am interpreting as having fewer botanicals than their American or Standard Issue gin. Then they age the gin in a mix of new American Oak and used bourbon and rye barrels. The Barrel Gin is 93 proof. Barrel aged gins have been popping up all over the place lately. I can see how some people might think that they are a bit gimmicky I have to admit that I kind of love them. They just taste like nothing else out there. Few Barrel Gin has a lot more body and spice than other bourbon barrel gins I have tried. I think using a blend of different barrels was a very good choice. The predominant flavors are mint and a sweet cinnamon with notes of vanilla. The only problem with barrel gins that I have found is that they really don’t work in cocktails for me. Few recommends making a “Ginhattan” with it but I am skeptical. So far I have stuck with sipping it. Retails for $49.99.
Few Standard-Issue Gin: This gin is 114 proof. I mention that first because the high-proof is a big part of what defines this style of gin, which is often referred to as navy strength gin. The story behind this is that when British sailors received their daily ration of gin it had to have enough alcohol so that the gunpowder could still ignite if the gin was accidentally spilled on it. Along with the higher alcohol content a navy gin would have been drier than American gins. To balance this dryness Few added a hefty dose of fennel to balance it out. The result is a gin that will put hairs on your chest but is also surprisingly reminiscent of those candies you get at an Indian restaurant. Surprisingly smooth for the proof, the juniper flavors come on strong and there is a bitterness you can feel on the tongue rather than taste, but the finish leaves a strong impression of licorice. With water the burn was greatly diminished and the softer flavors came out more. I think this would be a great cocktail gin, perhaps with a gimlet. Retails for $39.99.
Right now Few Spirits are not available in stores in Ohio and Kentucky but you can order them online. Next time I am in Chicago I will make a point of visiting the distiller and picking up a few bottles.
If you haven’t figured out what to get your Dad for father’s day yet it is not too late for you snag a great present and become his favorite child. The secret is bourbon. Here are a few special version bottles that are sure to make your old man proud this Sunday and are still readily available in most liquor stores. And don’t forget that June 14th is National Bourbon Day so you have two reasons to celebrate this weekend.
Woodford Reserve Double Oaked: Woodford Reserve takes their finished bourbon and ages it again in a different barrel, this one twice as charred as the standard bourbon barrel. The result is a very smooth and creamy bourbon with just an edge of bite. I ordered this bourbon at a hotel bar and was seriously tempted to lick the glass when it was finished.
Maker’s 46: Maker’s Mark fans tend to be very loyal to their brand and unlikely to be swayed by gimmicks or flavoring. To make their special bottle they take the standard aged Maker’s Mark and then age them again inside barrels containing seared French oak staves. The idea is to create bolder, more complex flavors while eliminating the bitterness that usually comes with whiskeys that are aged longer. The Maker’s Mark fans I know seem to have embraced it and I can honestly say that I like it better than standard Maker’s. The 46 is complex with a sweet front and a strong finish.
Knob Creek Single Barrel: If your dad likes the bold flavor of Jim Beam’s pre-prohibition style small batch bourbon, you can make it a day with only an extra $10 and get him the single barrel. This is a big bourbon with a big finish, which you would expect at 120 proof. As much as I hate the cliché, this is a pretty manly bourbon. Give it to your dad to take along for a weekend in a cabin or sipping in the man cave.
Wild Turkey Rare Breed: If your dad will appreciate the pure flavor of a barrel proof bourbon but could do without as much burn this might be the bottle for you. Wild Turkey is already known for distilling at a lower proof so that they can bottle with less water. In their Rare Breed, they combine 6, 8 and 12 years old barrels but don’t add water so they all come out at barrel strength, in this case, a relatively modest 108.2 proof. It is a great value and despite Wild Turkey’s reputation as a rough and ready whiskey, it is surprisingly complex and smooth.
New Riff Ranger Program: Of course I can’t ignore fathers who are eager to support Cincinnati’s newest distillery and to get some pretty cool perks at the same time. For $60 your can buy your dad a membership to New Riff’s Ranger Program. Four years from now he will receive a hand bottled and personalized single barrel bourbon. In the meantime Rangers will receive a 10% discount on all non-alcoholic gift shop items, advance opportunity to purchase New Riff’s limited and rare releases, an insider newsletter, and exclusive invitations to bottling parties, including the bottling of his very own Ranger Bottle. For the dad that knows that good things come to those who wait.