Categories
Whiskey

Good Bourbon You Can Afford (and Actually Find)

glass of bourbon whiskey

We’ve all heard of the great bourbons that exist somewhere, even if we’ve never seen or tasted them. Pappy Van Winkle, George T. Stagg, Parker’s Heritage, and A.H. Hirsch Reserve are just a few. The problem is you’ll never see them on the shelves of your local liquor store. And if by some miracle you did actually find them, you probably wouldn’t want to pay the price tag.

But fear not! Despite everything you might have heard or read about bourbon shortages, strict allocations, and skyrocketing prices, there are still plenty of top-quality whiskeys that can be found without too much trouble and won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

These aren’t bargain bourbons, per se. They’re reasonably priced, but aren’t the cheapest, and they generally come from a slightly higher spot on the quality scale.

If you’re more interested in getting good booze for cheap, I’d recommend trying bourbons such as Very Old Barton, Benchmark, Evan Williams Black, Old Grand Dad, and Jim Beam Black. Each of them can usually be had for under $20. They might not be as good as these, but I think you’ll find them quite acceptable.

On the other hand, if you want to drink some really fine whiskey, here are some suggestions that I enjoy.

 eagle rare bourbon whiskey Eagle Rare 10 Year Old Bourbon ($30-$40)

Made by Buffalo Trace, this still has an age statement and remains a fine bourbon no matter the price. This is made with a “low-rye” mashbill and is an excellent balance of sweet and spice.

makers mark bourbon whiskey Maker’s Mark Bourbon ($25-$30)

A wheated bourbon — just like Pappy! — that you can always find and always enjoy. Maker’s is a shining example of Kentucky distilling excellence on proud display. There are few spirits in the world that reflect such a high level of craftsmanship as this. (The cask-strength version is a more expensive, but even better.)

 1792 small batch kentucky straight bourbon whiskey 1792 Small Batch Bourbon ($25-$35)

This brand, from Sazerac’s Barton distillery, seemed to fly under the radar for a long time. But with the new variations they’ve been producing (full proof, sweet wheat, etc.), it’s suddenly become a hot brand. You probably won’t be able to find those other labels. But that’s okay because the regular expression is very good, too.

 weller bourbon whiskey W.L. Weller Special Reserve Bourbon ($30-$40)

You’re unlikely to find the 12-year-old Weller for a reasonable price, but the Special Reserve (90 proof) and Antique (107 proof) can often be found, especially the former. Weller is one of the original wheated bourbons and if you’re craving Van Winkle, this is probably the next best thing.

knob creek bourbon whiskey Knob Creek Small Batch Bourbon ($30-$35)

Another old standby from Beam, this is a high quality whiskey at a good price. With nine years in wood and a full 100 proof, Knob Creek packs a wallop, both in alcohol and flavor. If people say there are no good, affordable bourbons around, hand them a bottle of this and see if you can’t change their mind.

evan williams single barrel bourbon whiskey  Evan Williams Single Barrel Bourbon ($25-$35)

One of the best ongoing releases in the bourbon world, these annual single-barrel picks from Heaven Hill never disappoint.

four roses small batch bourbon whiskey  Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon ($30-$35)

Despite not producing a whiskey with a Pappy-level cult following, Four Roses is one of the most popular distilleries with bourbon conniseurs. The reason is no surprise: they made damn good bourbon.

 henry mckenna single barrel bourbon whiskey  Henry McKenna Single Barrel ($30-$40)

This is probably the least well-known bourbon on this list, but it’s also one of the best. A single-barrel, bottled-in-bond whiskey from Heaven Hill for around $35? Yes, please!

There you have it. Good whiskey at good prices, and any halfway decent liquor store should have several of them on the shelf. So drink up! The good folks of Kentucky are hard at work making more.

Categories
Recipes

Cocktail Recipe: Strawberry Whiskey Smash

The Whiskey Smash, resurrected and tweaked many years ago at the Rainbow Room by Dale DeGroff, is one of the best summertime bourbon drinks. Cold and refreshing, the mix of tart citrus and sweet mint/fruit makes for a delicious balance with the whiskey. (And it’s also, in my opinion, a better drink than the far more popular Mint Julep. It’s certainly a more complex one.)

Here is a variation with strawberries from Benny Hurwitz, bartender at Jack Rose Dining Saloon in D.C. This is an easily modifiable cocktail, so you can change up the ingredients based on what you have, as long as you stick to the same basic concept and proportions. And, as always, use a good bourbon.

Strawberry Whiskey Smash

Strawberry Whiskey Smash

Adapted from a recipe by Benny Hurwitz of the Jack Rose Saloon in Washington, D.C, after Dale DeGroff.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 oz. Bourbon Whiskey
  • 3/4 oz. Simple Syrup (1:1)
  • 1/2 Lemon (cut into 3 wedges)
  • 2-3 Strawberries (depending on size)
  • 5 Mint Leaves

Instructions

  1. Muddle the strawberries, lemon and mint with the simple syrup in the bottom of a shaker. Add the whiskey and shake with ice. Fine strain into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a mint sprig and strawberry.
  2. For a stronger drink, you can increase the amount of bourbon to 2 oz.
https://professorcocktail.com/2017/07/20/cocktail-recipe-strawberry-whiskey-smash/

Original recipe courtesy of WTOP.

Categories
Whiskey

New Whiskey: Hirsch 8 Year Old High Rye Bourbon

Here’s a press release from Anchor Distilling that I thought might be of interest to whiskey fans. They’re releasing a blend of high-rye bourbons from MGP under the Hirsch label. You might ask: do we need another MGP whiskey on the market? To which I say: the more the merrier. Especially when it’s a bourbon and not a rye.

hirsch high rye bourbon whiskey

***

The story of American whiskey is not complete without mention of A.H. Hirsch and A.H. Hirsch Reserve 16 Year Old, widely considered the best American bourbon ever produced – even inspiring revered whiskey expert Chuck Cowdery to write the book, The Best Bourbon You’ll Never Taste. The True Story of A. H. Hirsch Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Distilled in the Spring of 1974 (Made and Bottled in Kentucky; May 2, 2012). Today, Anchor Distilling Company seeks to keep the legend alive through a range of sourced whiskies inspired by the Hirsch heritage. Following the sold-out introduction in 2016 of the Hirsch Small Batch Reserve Straight Bourbon, of which F. Paul Pacult, Spirit Journal, said, “I’d give it a solid Four Stars,” Anchor now introduces Hirsch Small Batch 8 Year Old High Rye Straight Bourbon Whiskey (46% ABV; $52 SRP).

A.H. Hirsch was an investment banker that invested in the Schaefferstown Distillery in the decades leading up to its shutdown in 1989 in an effort to keep it operational. The distillery was a historic landmark for American whiskey in operation for more than two centuries, and while it would eventually close, his contribution would ultimately result in the legendary A.H. Hirsch Reserve 16 Year Old.

The newly released Hirsch Small Batch 8 Year Old High Rye Straight Bourbon Whiskey marries together two mash bills – one with 21% rye and another with 36% rye, resulting in a high rye content that adds spiced character while balancing the sweet notes of corn sourced from Indiana and Ohio. The oak barrels are a #4 char around the base and a #2 char at the head; the whiskey is barreled at 60% ABV.

“This is a whiskey that is punching far above its weight,” says Morgan Robbat, Vice President of Marketing at Anchor Distilling. “With a high rye content that makes it ideal for American whiskey fans as well as craft cocktail enthusiasts, this 8 Year Old expression over delivers on quality – as you’d expect given the Hirsch heritage.”

Hirsch Small Batch 8 Year Old High Rye Straight Bourbon Whiskey is distilled in Lawrenceburg, IN. For more information, visit AnchorDistilling.com or email info@anchorsf.com.

Categories
Taste Test

White Rum and Vodka — Can You Tell the Difference?

rum vodka taste test

I was intrigued by a recent discussion on Facebook about a tasting that some folks did in which, among other things, white rums were compared to vodka. Note that this was not the purpose of the tasting, nor was it designed to produce definitive results. But it did produce a lot of discussion, along with a lot of strong opinions. (Go figure.)

So I decided to test myself. Could I tell the difference between dry white rum and vodka? I assumed I could — but you never know.

I took five spirits — two vodka and three white rums — and tasted them blind against each other. I tried to first identify if the spirit was rum or vodka. I then tried to identify which brand it was.

All five were tasted out of the same type of glass, same temperature, same conditions, etc., with two rounds after a pause between.

The five spirits were:

  1. Stolichnaya Vodka
  2. Grey Goose Vodka
  3. Cana Brava Rum
  4. Bacardi Maestro de Ron
  5. Flor de Cana 4-Year-Old Extra Dry Rum

On the first round, I tried to identify them by aroma alone. (Remember, these were all randomized, so I didn’t know which was which. I’m rearranging the results so that they’re easier to follow.)

Aroma Results:

  1. Vodka (Actual: Vodka)
  2. Vodka (Actual: Vodka)
  3. Rum (Actual: Rum)
  4. Rum (Actual: Rum)
  5. Rum (Actual: Rum)

So based on smell alone, I correctly identified the rums and vodkas for what they were.

I then tasted them. My results, including my pick for the brand and any notes I made, are below.

Tasting Results:

  1. Vodka. Stoli. “A little vanilla. This is definitely vodka, though, so I wonder if they’ve doctored it.” (Actual: Stolichnaya Vodka)
  2. Vodka. Grey Goose. “This could almost be a really dry rum like Bacardi. But it’s vodka.” (Actual: Grey Goose Vodka)
  3. Rum. Cana Brava. “Definitely rum. Can taste some age. Good stuff” (Actual: Cana Brava Rum)
  4. Rum. Flor de Cana.  “Taste some vanilla, but not a lot else.” (Actual: Bacardi Rum)
  5. Rum. Bacardi. “Mellow and pleasant with brown sugar. Tastes good.” (Actual: Flor de Cana)

I was correct on both vodka brands. I was also correct on Cana Brava Rum, which doesn’t surprise me. It definitely tastes like rum and has a nice flavor. I was correct that #4 and #5 were rum, but mixed up the brands. Writing it up now, I’m surprised, given that I should have realized that the more flavorful rum was Flor de Cana and not Bacardi. But #5 smelled like Bacardi to me, so that really influenced my pick.

To summarize: it wasn’t especially difficult to tell the difference between these two vodkas and these three white rums. The smell alone tipped me off.

Judging by taste, I preferred the Grey Goose to the Stolichnaya (although Stoli is my usual brand). For the white rums, both Cana Brava and Flor de Cana were excellent. The Bacardi Maestro de Ron wasn’t quite as good, but it was still okay.

A few notes… I didn’t have regular Bacardi Silver to taste or else I’d have picked that. The results might have been different. I was going to throw Cruzan Light Rum in there, but it has a slight straw color that I thought would have given it away. I deliberately didn’t pick any rums made in a different style (for example, Jamaican rum, rhum agricole) as I thought that would make it too easy.

If you’d like to participate in the discussion, join us on Facebook.

Categories
Recipes

Cocktail Recipe: The Apple Claus

A charming seasonal cocktail, containing two of my favorite cold-weather flavors: bourbon and apples.

The Apple Claus

The Apple Claus

Adapted from a recipe by Laura Moore at The Epicurean Hotel Edge rooftop bar.

Ingredients

    Cocktail:
  • 1 1/2 oz. Four Roses Bourbon Small Batch
  • 3/4 oz. Apple Cinnamon Tea Syrup
  • 1/2 oz. Lemon Juice
  • Dash of Angostura Bitters
  • Orange Twist or Apple Slice (for garnish)
  • Apple Cinnamon Tea Syrup:
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 whole apple (minus core) cut into pieces
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 tea bags or 4 tbsp loose tea

Instructions

  1. To Make the Cocktail
  2. Shake all ingredients with ice, then strain into a chilled coupe. Top with sparkling wine (prosecco, Champagne or Apple Cider.) Garnish with an orange twist or apple slice.
  3. To Make Apple Cinnamon Tea Syrup
  4. In a saucepan, bring the water to a boil, then remove from heat. Add tea and steep for 5 minutes. When finished, remove the tea bags or strain out loose tea.
  5. Return tea to the stove and add sugar, cinnamon and apples. Bring to a low boil over medium-high heat, then simmer on low for approximately 5 minutes.
  6. Cool and strain, then pour into a sealed bottle. The syrup will easily keep in the fridge for at least 2 weeks.
https://professorcocktail.com/2016/12/16/cocktail-recipe-the-apple-claus/

Categories
Whiskey

Celebrate the Holidays with Nick Offerman and Lagavulin Whisky

lagavulin scotch whisky

Don’t be lonely or cold (or thirsty!) this holiday season. Let Nick Offerman and Lagavulin warm you up with a little whisky and a crackling yule fire. Here’s the video in all its 45-minute glory.

But that’s not all! You don’t have to settle for just one helping of Nick and Scotch. Because he’s got you covered with your New Year’s Eve countdown as well!

I don’t know about you, but I find these highly amusing. Kudos the Lagavulin and whomever produced the spots.

Categories
Whiskey

Rye Whiskey Tasting from the New York Times

The New York Times recently convened a panel of experts to taste several rye whiskies. If you’re a fan of Professor Cocktail’s, you’ll know we’re rye lovers around here. So we were interested to see the results.

The tasting panel consisted of Eric Asimov, David Wondrich, Robert Samuelson, and Florench Fabricant. I think we can rest assured that this quartet knows their whiskey very well.

The article includes a lot of interesting background on rye whiskey and what’s happening with the category these days. So I highly recommend reading it.

Here were their favorites. (They mention several others as well.)

#1: Knob Creek Straight Rye Whiskey 100 Proof (3 stars)
#2: Jim Beam Pre-Prohibition Style Rye 90 Proof (3 stars)
#3: Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select Rye 90.4 Proof (3 stars)
#4: New York Distilling Company Ragtime Rye 90.4 Proof (3 stars)
#5: Michter’s U.S. 1 Straight Rye 84.8 Proof (2.5 stars)

The only two I have tried are the Knob Creek and the Michter’s. I liked both of them, but I don’t think either would be in my top five.

rye whiskey tasting best

Categories
Whiskey

Jim Murray’s World Whisky of the Year (2017)

Whisky connoisseur Jim Murray has released the winners from his 2017 edition of the Whisky Bible. Last year’s choice was a controversial one — Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye — as was the year before that: Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013.

Murray’s selection for 2017 will no doubt raise some eyebrows as well, as he named Booker’s Rye 13 Year Old as his World Whisky of the Year.

bookers rye whiskey

 

From the press release:

A unique Kentucky rye has been crowned the planet’s finest dram by the latest edition of Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible.

Booker’s Rye 13 Years, 1 Month, 12 Days began life as an experiment by Booker Noe – grandson of Jim Beam – at the family distillery in Clermont, KY, shortly before his death in 2004.

Now it has become his remarkable legacy after landing the title of World Whisky of the Year.

Jim lavishes praise on its “brain-draining, mind-blowing” nose and finish of “amazing depth”.

And he hails it as a “staggering example of a magnificent rye, showing exactly what genius actually means. A very big, unforgettable whiskey from a very big, unforgettable man”.

Booker followed in his iconic grandfather’s footsteps by becoming master distiller at Jim Beam, but he was long-retired when he dabbled one final time.

After he passed away aged 74, son Fred kept an eye on his casks – and the result is pure liquid gold, scoring 97.5 out of 100 in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible.

The top three whiskies of the year, in Murray’s view were:

1. Booker’s Rye 13 Year Old
2. Glen Grant 18 Year Old
3. William Larue Weller Bourbon (Bot. 2015)

Here are the rest of the named winners.

Scotch Whisky
Scotch Whisky of the Year: Glen Grant 18 Year Old
Single Malt of the Year (Multiple Casks): Glen Grant 18 Year Old
Single Malt of the Year (Single Cask): That Boutique-y Whisky Co Macallan 25 Year Old Batch 5
Scotch Blend of the Year: The Last Drop 1971
Scotch Grain of the Year: Whiskyjace Invergordon 24 Year Old
Scotch Vatted Malt of the Year: Compass Box Flaming Heart 2015 Edition

Single Malt Scotch
No Age Statement (Multiple Casks): Glenlivet Cipher
No Age Statement (Runner Up): Port Askaig 100 Proof
10 Years & Under (Multiple Casks): Glen Grant 10 Year Old
10 Years & Under (Single Cask): Kilchoman Guze Cask Finish
11-15 Years (Multiple Casks): Lagavulin 12 Year Old
11-15 Years (Single Cask): The Single Cask Glentauchers 2002 14 Year Old
16-21 Years (Multiple Casks): Glen Grant 18 Year Old
16-21 Years (Single Cask): Scyfion Choice Mortlach 1996 19 Year Old (Berry Bros & Rudd)
22-27 Years (Multiple Casks): Dalwhinnie 1989 25 Year Old Special Releases 2015
22-27 Years (Single Cask): The Boutique-y Co Macallan 25 Year Old Batch 5
28-34 Years (Multiple Casks): Port Ellen 1983 32 Year Old Special Releases 2015
28-34 Years (Single Cask): Cadenhead Caol Ila 31 Year Old
35-40 Years (Multiple Casks): Brora 37 Year Old Special Releases 2015
35-40 Years (Single Cask): Cadenhead Glentauchers 38 Year Old
41 Years & Over (Multiple Casks): Gordon & MacPhail Glen Grant 1952
41 Years & Over (Single Cask): Gordon & MacPhail Glen Grant 1950 65 Year Old

Blended Scotch
No Age Statement (Standard): Ballantine’s Finest
No Age Statement (Premium): Ballantine’s Limited
5-12 Years: Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 Year Old
13-18 Years: Chivas Regal 18 Year Old Ultimate Cask Collection First Fill American Oak
19 – 25 Years: Royal Salute 21 Year Old
26 – 50 Years: The Last Drop 1971

Irish Whiskey
Irish Whiskey of the Year: Redbreast 21 Year Old
Irish Pot Still Whiskey of the Year: Redbreast 21 Year Old
Irish Single Malt of the Year: Bushmills 21 Year Old
Irish Blend of the Year: Jameson
Irish Single Cask of the Year: Teeling Single White Burgundy Cask 2004

American Whiskey
Bourbon of the Year: William Larue Weller 2015 Release
Rye of the Year: Booker’s Rye 13 Year Old
US Micro Whisky of the Year: Garrison Brothers Cowboy Bourbon 2009
US Micro Whisky of the Year (Runner Up): Koval Four Grain

Bourbon
No Age Statement (Multiple Barrels): William Larue Weller 2015 Release
No Age Statement (Single Barrel): 1792 Single Barrrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon
9 Years & Under: Garrison Brothers Cowboy Bourbon 2009
10 Years & Over (Multiple Barrels): Blade & Bow 22 Year Old

Rye
No Age Statement: Thomas H Handy 2015 Release
Up to 10 Years: Pikesville 110 Proof 6 Year Old Straight Rye
11 Years & Over: Booker’s Rye 13 Year Old

Wheat
Wheat Whiskey of the Year: Bernheim Original

Canadian Whisky
Canadian Whisky of the Year: Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye

Japanese Whisky
Japanese Whisky of the Year: Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2016 Release
Single Malt of the Year (Multiple Barrels): Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2016 Release

European Whisky
European Whisky of the Year (Multiple): English Whisky Co. Chapter 14 Not Peated
European Whisky of the Year (Single): Langatun 6 year Old Pinot Noir Cask

World Whiskies
Asian Whisky of the Year: Kavalan Solist Moscatel
Southern Hemisphere Whisky of the Year: Heartwood Any Port in a Storm

Categories
Bars News

The World’s 50 Best Bars

best bars in the world

I’ll be the first to say it: any list of the “50 best” anything is necessarily arbitrary, transitory, and mutable.

But I still love lists and you probably do, too.

So here is the latest list of The World’s 50 Best Bars, put together by one of the most reputable groups to do lists like this.

Read ’em over, cheer those included, lament those left off — and make a list of where you’re going to go next.

I have had the pleasure of visiting:

The Dead Rabbit, New York
Employees Only, New York
PDT, New York

I hope to add at least one more by the close of the year. So many wonderful bars to visit!

Categories
News Press Releases

Jennifer Le Nechet Named World’s #1 Bartender

Diageo World Class Bartender
Jennifer Le Nechet is crowned World Class Bartender of the Year 2016 in Miami. (PRNewsFoto/WORLD CLASS)

Jennifer Le Nechet has been crowned the world’s best bartender at the climax of the global cocktail competition WORLD CLASS Bartender of the Year 2016 in Miami.

The French bartender, usually found crafting drinks and charming customers behind the bar at Café Moderne in Paris, wowed the judges by creating a spectacular range of vibrant drinks at her Steampunk themed pop-up bar.

Nearly 10,000 bartenders from all over the world entered the competition, with 56 selected to represent their country at the Miami finals. An elite group of six made it through the final round which saw them conceive and create a pop-up bar in just 24 hours. Each challenge showcased a different skill from the bartender’s armoury: technique, personality, spirits knowledge and how well they perform under pressure.

Selecting top brands from Diageo’s Reserve portfolio including Ketel One vodka, Cîroc, Don Julio, Tanqueray No TEN, Bulleit, Zacapa rum and Johnnie Walker Blue Label Blended Scotch Whisky, the bartenders crafted classic cocktails and created their own recipes. They also went up against the clock to mix up to fourteen quintessential drinks in just 10 minutes.

Jennifer Le Nechet, the first female bartender to claim the title, said: “I’m completely blown away – it’s such an honour to take home the title of World’s Best Bartender – especially when competing against such talent from around the world. This week has inspired me to continue pushing the boundaries of flavours and to explore how all the senses can be engaged through cocktails. I can’t wait for the experience ahead!”

Le Nechet is set for a whirlwind year of adventure – she will have the chance to travel the world as a Diageo Reserve Brand Ambassador, judging competitions and making bespoke drinks in far-flung locations.

Alex Kratena, former Head Bartender of Artesian London said:

“The standard this year has been absolutely phenomenal. It’s been just so difficult to choose between these bartenders. Jennifer just nailed it in the Superstar Pool Party showing all the skills you could want in a bartender, and her pop-up bar blew us all away with its cool Steampunk theme and twist on classic cocktails with homemade emulsions, cola and organic ingredients.  These bartenders really are at the top of their game and the five runners up were worthy contenders. Not only can they pull off all the classics flawlessly, but they are developing new and exciting techniques every step of the way.”

Johanna Dalley, Global World Class Director said: “This week has been a whirlwind of creativity, flair and amazing talent –  truly raising the role of the bartender to be on a par with that of the world’s leading chefs. And that’s what WORLD CLASS is all about, inspiring people to drink better and appreciate great drinks in the same way they appreciate great food. The final six were exceptional and it was an extremely close final, however we’re delighted to name Jennifer as our winner and our first female WORLD CLASS Bartender of the Year.”

At the Awards evening, Mexico City was also revealed as the location for the WORLD CLASS Bartender of the Year Global Final 2017.

Dalley continued, “This year, WORLD CLASS will take cocktail culture to a new level in Mexico City, and there could be no better place for this, since for many years, this city been developing into one of the most vibrant capitals for food, drink and culture.”

WORLD CLASS is on a mission to inspire people to drink better and shape the future of drinking, whether at home or in the bar. If you have been inspired to drink better, visit theworldclassclub.com or the WORLD CLASS Facebook community, where you can find delicious recipes, how-to videos and get the low-down on the latest trends.