The Drinkhacker Bookshelf 2013-2014

Lately we’ve been churning out book reviews at a rather brisk pace, so we thought it would make sense to compile a list pretty much everything we’ve read over the last two years. Titles are linked to our reviews, and purchase links to Amazon are also supplied when available (note: prices may vary between formats and editions).

Recipes
Shake, Stir, Pour by Katie Loeb A/$16 [Buy]
Craft Cocktails At Home by Kevin Liu A/$9 [Buy]
Cocktails: The Bartender’s Bible by Simon Difford A-/$34 [Buy]
Ice Cream Happy Hour by Valerie Lum A-/$11 [Buy]
Liquid Vacation by P Moss A-/$28 [Buy]
The New Old Bar by Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh  A-/$14  [Buy]
Extreme Brewing by Sam Calagione A-/$16 [Buy]
The Best Craft Cocktails by Jeremy LeBlanc and Christine Dionese A-/$15 [Buy]
Market Fresh Mixology by Bridget Albert and Mary Barranco B+/$14 [Buy]
The Home Distiller’s Workbook by Jeff King B+/$9 [Buy]
Poptails: 60 Boozy Treats Served on a Stick by Erin Nichols B+/$12 [Buy]
Savory Cocktails by Greg Henry B+/$12 [Buy]
The Old Fashioned: An Essential Guide by Albert Schmid B+/$10 [Buy]
Alt Whiskeys by Darek Bell B+/$30 [Buy]
The Best Shots You’ve Never Tried by Andrew Bohrer B+/$6 [Buy]
The Big Book of Martinis For Moms by Rose Maura Lorre and Mavis Lamb B/$10 [Buy]
Dr. Cocktail by Alex Ott  B-/$13 [Buy]
The Architecture of the Cocktail by Amy Zavatto C/$12 [Buy]
The Signature Series by EGO unrated/$22 [Buy?]

Historical/Reference
Whiskey Women by Fred Minnick A/$17 [Buy]
Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey: An American Heritage by Mike Veach A/$19 [Buy]
The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart A-/$16 [Buy]
Uncorking The Past by Dr. Patrick E. McGovern A-/$16 [Buy]
Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World Complete Wine Course  by Kevin Zraly A-/$30 [Buy]
Bitter Brew: The Rise and Fall of Anheuser-Busch by William Knoedelseder A-/$13 [Buy]
Drinkology Wine: A Guide To The Grape by James Waller A-/$4 (used) [Buy]
Vodka Distilled by Tony Abou-Ganim A-/$23 [Buy]
The Kentucky Mint Julep by Joe Nickell B+/$12 [Buy]
Beam Straight Up by Fred Noe B+/$16 [Buy]
The Curious World of Wine by Richard Vine  B/ $15  [Buy]
The New York Times Book Of Wine edited by Howard Goldberg B/$17 [Buy]
A First Course In Wine by Dan Amatuzzi B-/$19 [Buy]

Rating Guides/List Books
Drinking Japan by Chris Bunting A/$19  [Buy]
The World’s Best Whiskies: 750 Essential Drams From Tennessee To Tokyo by Dominc Roskrow A-/$26 [Buy]
The Smart Guide To Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Elizabeth Riley Bell  B+/$14 [Buy]
Destination Cocktails by James Teitelbaum B+/$14 [Buy]
The 40 Minute Irish Whiskey Guide by 27Press B/$3 [Buy]
Wine: A Tasting Guide by Marnie Old  B/$20 [Buy]
Bordeaux by Oz Clark B-/$23 [Buy]

Review: Captain Morgan White Rum

captain morgan white 223x300 Review: Captain Morgan White RumOK, on one hand, Captain Morgan has no business making a white rum. What, someone’s going to go to a bar and ask for a “Captain Morgan White and Coke”? Come on.

On the other hand, why not? Captain Morgan is one of the biggest rum brands on the planet, so why not have the biggest building block of the rum world as part of the stable?

Whether it’s a good idea or not I’ll leave to the market to decide. Here’s how it stands on its own.

Five-times distilled (or so they say) in St. Croix, Captain Morgan White is a perfectly well-made white rum, if a bit short of spectacular. The nose is harmless, with notes of lemon and chili pepper and with touches of rubber and fuel, both typical of younger white rums. The body features classic vanilla caramel notes along with brown sugar, and the finish is quite lemony, ending with a bit more of those fuel notes.

Again, nothing shocking here, but it’s perfectly respectable as a mixer… just like the regular Captain Morgan, for that matter.

80 proof.

B+ / $16 / captainmorganusa.com

Drinkhacker Reads – 04.23.2014 – “Oh No!” Edition

So remember on Monday how we linked to an article reporting on a powdered alcohol drink product? Well it turns out that the gun was significantly jumped in its approval. Backpedaling faster than Lance Armstrong, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) issued a statement saying that they weren’t sure how or why the product was approved, but it was all a big mistake. Chuck Cowdery writes that these oversights are happening a bit more frequently than normal, arguing for tighter observation and restriction, while FindLaw discusses some of the possible reasons why the product was rescinded its approval. Lehrman Beverage Law also has some fine discussion with the creators of the Palcohol and what’s potentially next. Or maybe this is just what happens when you put a taxation agency in charge of approving things that people drink. Hmmm…

The Chicago Daily Herald reports that the European Commission has approved Suntory’s acquisition of Beam, and has slated the closing of the deal for April 30. In other Suntory news, The Spirits Business reports this morning that the company has launched a new campaign with gorgeous miniature ice sculptures using cutting edge carving technology. [Daily Herald]

Meanwhile in beer world, there’s a bit of trouble brewing (no pun intended) with a new piece of legislation being proposed by the FDA that could send the price of beer up. Not a good thing to hear when so many microbreweries are just starting to thrive. [Time]

Wine Searcher is reporting that a British wine merchant is facing a hefty $25 million lawsuit after allegations were made that it was selling bottles of wine dating back to 1787. The most expensive wine sale ever could potentially also turn into one of the biggest lawsuits ever involving wine. [Wine Searcher]

Finally today, Page Six isn’t exactly the most reliable source of spirits/drinks information, but this bit was kind of awesome. Modern Family star Ty Burrell has opened a beer bar in Salt Lake City. Instead of lending his name/endorsement to another product to clog the celebrity shelf, Beer Bar (love the simplicity of the name) will serve 150 beers paired with an array of house-made bratwursts, local breads, and Belgian fries. [Page Six]

Review: Hammer & Son Old English Gin

old english gin 442x1200 Review: Hammer & Son Old English Gin

Henrik Hammer, M.D., brings us Old English Gin, thankfully out of England proper. Distilled in a pot still from English wheat, the gin is said to be based on a recipe dating from 1793. In fact, Hammer is attempting to recreate gin so old that I would have expected it to be called Olde English Gin, or even Ye Olde English Gin. Even the bottle design and presentation are intended to be historically inspired, if not quite accurate.

I can’t comment on how Olde this gin is, but I can tell you how it tastes. Verily:

There’s plenty of juniper on the nose here, and the gin is indeed classically built with subtle layers of citrus and touches of mushroom. On the palate, juniper again hits first and hits hard, with fresh lemon underneath. That earthiness is again present, more chalky and forest floor-like than mushroom, but all of the aforementioned are present and accounted for. The finish is sharp and sweet at the same time, offering gin’s classic “pins and needles” character as it goes down clean.

A solid product, it’s good as a martini constituent or as a component of various tall drinks.

88 proof. Bottled with a wax-covered, driven cork, so bring your own stopper.

A- / $40 / oldenglishgin.com

We Will Sell No Wine… Before It’s Been Doctored

That was the working headline of the killer story that I wrote for this month’s issue of Wired magazine. It’s all about how most cheap (and, ahem, some decidedly not-so-cheap) wines are made nowadays, thanks to the magic of technology and modern chemistry. You’ll never gulp down the “house red” the same way again.

Book Review: Market-Fresh Mixology

93284100704510L 225x300 Book Review: Market Fresh MixologyIf you’re ready to turn beets and honeydews into potent potables, have I got a book for you. Now in its second edition, Bridget Albert and Mary Barranco’s Market-Fresh Mixology (first published in 2008) take a seasonal approach to cocktailcrafting. Broken down into the four seasons, the duo emphasizes freshness in everything you’ll be whipping up.

While the number of recipes is sparse (less than 40 by my count), things seem fine until winter, where produce is hardly at its best and Albert and Barranco have you making drinks with avocados and caviar (not kidding). But on the whole these concoctions are festive and fun, with plenty of inspiration to go around even if you don’t want to make the exact drink in the book. And hey, any book that serves a cocktail in a hollowed-out apple instead of a glass is OK by me.

B+ / $14 / [BUY IT AT AMAZON]

Review: Shock Top Honey Bourbon Cask Wheat Beer

Shock Top Honey Bourbon Cask Wheat bottle 80x300 Review: Shock Top Honey Bourbon Cask Wheat BeerThis new Belgian-style unfiltered wheat ale from Shock Top is brewed with honey and caramel malt, then is aged on “bourbon cask staves” (so, not in casks).

What’s wrong with that? Just about everything. The nose offers vague honey intertwined with hospital notes. The body is thin. And the palate is simply bad: Melted Bit-O-Honey candies, quinine, and mints from your grandma’s purse. Wholly unbalanced and unsatisfying, with a funky and sickly sweet aftertaste that’s difficult to get rid of.

A complete miss for the Shock, alas.

5.5% abv.

D- / $8 per six-pack / shocktopbeer.com

Original Recipe: Hot Buttered Holiday

hot buttered holiday 300x225 Original Recipe: Hot Buttered HolidayHiram Walker recently sent out to a bunch of drink writers and other industry types a package of three mystery products. The goal: Make a cocktail out of whatever you get, and see which one gets the most “likes” on the company’s Facebook page.

This turned out to be tougher than I thought. I received a bottle of Wiser’s Spiced Vanilla Whiskey, a bottle of triple sec, and a bottle of pumpkin spice flavored liqueur. What did I come up with? This festive, Thanksgiving-esque hot cocktail, adapted from my favorite hot buttered rum recipe. Not very seasonally appropriate, but what the heck else am I supposed to do with pumpkin liqueur???

But this is delicious:

Hot Buttered Holiday
for the batter (serves 10-12)
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 cups light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
pinch salt

for each cocktail
2 oz. Wiser’s Spiced Whiskey Vanilla No. 5
3/4 oz. Hiram Walker pumpkin spice liqueur
1/4 oz. Hiram Walker triple sec
boiling water

In a bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Refrigerate until almost firm. For each drink, spoon about 2 tablespoons of the butter mixture into a small mug. Pour the whiskey, pumpkin liqueur, and triple sec into the mug. Top with boiling water to fill the remainder of the mug, stir well, and serve immediately. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and a shake of ground nutmeg.

Review: Deschutes Fresh-Squeezed IPA

Deschutes Fresh Squeezed Angle 258x300 Review: Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPAThis otherwise traditional is stuffed with fresh mandarin orange character, literally to the point of overflowing, courtesy of its generous Citra and Mosaic hops dosage. (As it warms up, the fruitiness becomes even stronger… hence the name.) The finish is plenty bitter and surprisingly drying. Overall this is a fun beer, but the orange character makes it a little one-note, almost to the point of oversimplifying things.

6.4% abv.

B+ / $NA / deschutesbrewery.com

Drinkhacker Reads – 04.21.2014 – “Oh Yeah!” Edition

Remember when Kool-Aid or Tang used to be the powdered drink of choice? Now someone’s taken that idea and applied it to spirits. Simply tear open a pocket of Palcohol, add water, and voila! The Feds have given it their stamp of approval. What could possibly go wrong??? [The Verge]

And now: Beaujolais Nouveau for those who always wished to enjoy their wine in packaging shaped like a paint bucket. Tastes about the same. [ABC News]

Whiskycast gets the scoop on a new product about to hit stores: a collaborative bourbon made by four venerable micro-distilleries slated to go on sale this week at Binny’s in Chicago. In this day and age of distilleries picking fights or buying each other outright, it’s nice to see some friendly collaboration happening. [Whiskycast HD]

Meanwhile, in non-idiotic drink news: it’s been an interesting past week over in Beamworld. Beamland? Beamsville? Anyway. Beam’s chief financial officer and two other executives have announced their intention to resign within the coming months, as Beam’s largest shareholder continues to sell a large percentage of his stock to the open market. This is clearly to make way for the new Suntory executives and a smoother transition once the merger finally receives approval. In other Beam news: Fred Noe continues to be a really easygoing guy. Recently appearing in a Knob Creek television ad, the master distiller made the promise that “If you’re not completely satisfied with the big full flavor of our bourbon, just send back the unused portion and we’ll drink it for you.” It’s a nice juxtaposition against some of the baffling ads other bourbon companies have run lately.

And finally today, Fred Minnick takes on many of the rumors that have been clogging up the pipes of the internet over the past few weeks to discover the truth of what’s really going on with some of our favorite bourbons. Now if he could only work his magic and get Ancient Ancient Age back on the shelves, we’d be all set, and quite happy drinkers. [Whisky Advocate]

Review: Wines from Merryvale and Starmont, 2014 Releases

2010 Merryvale CS 100x300 Review: Wines from Merryvale and Starmont, 2014 ReleasesNew wines from Napa’s Merryvale Vineyards and its second label, Starmont. Thoughts follow.

2012 Starmont Chardonnay Carneros – Typical of California Chardonnay. Oaked, but not overly so, with a big, buttery core that leads to restrained notes of pineapple, green apples, and vanilla caramels. Better with food. B / $22

2012 Starmont Pinot Noir Carneros - Simplistic and not altogether present, this Carneros Pinot has a slightly smoky nose to it, with a tart, jammy body. The finish is on the medicinal side, with a few astringent notes. Tastes cheaper than it is. B- / $27

2010 Merryvale Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley – A big, blue-chip Cabernet. The nose is dense and at first a little closed off — tobacco and leather, berry brambles. On the palate, things are still restrained as this wine continues to develop, but for now it is showing dense blackberry, licorice, and some tar character. Long, quite tannic finish. Try in 2017. A- / $65

merryvale.com

Recipes for National Iced Coffee Day

April 21st has been designated by those who designate such things as National Iced Coffee Day. One of these days we’ll design a calendar with all of these holidays for reference (unless someone already has, in which case please point us in that direction). As an alternative to the usual Frapuccino, we present a couple of boozy recipes to try out during your next lazy weekend.

Iced Coffee 248x300 Recipes for National Iced Coffee Day Guatemalan Iced Coffee
1 1/2 oz. Zacapa Rum 23
3 1/2 oz. Guatemalan coffee
1/2 oz. Demerara sugar syrup
cream (optional)

Pour coffee into a highball glass filled with ice. Add Zacapa Rum 23 and Demerara sugar syrup and stir well. Add cream if desired.

Boozy Biscotti Iced Coffee
(by Lisa Lavery at Yummly)

For the coffee:
4 1/2 oz coarsely ground coffee (about 1 3/4 cups)
3 1/2 oz cold water

For the cocktails:
2 cups cold water
8 ounces amaretto, chilled
2 ounces Pernod, chilled
ice and milk (for serving)

Place the coffee grounds in a 2-quart pitcher, add the water, and stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and let steep at room temperature for at least 12 hours and up to 1 day. Line a fine-mesh strainer with a standard coffee filter and fit it over a medium bowl. Working in batches, slowly pour the coffee into the filter until all of the liquid has passed through the strainer (the coffee will pass through in a slow stream; don’t force it through); stop when you reach the solids at the bottom of the pitcher (don’t pour them in). Discard the grounds and the contents of the strainer.Wash and dry the pitcher. Transfer the strained coffee into the pitcher. Cover and refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 2 hours or up to 5 days.

When ready to serve, add the water, amaretto, and Pernod to the strained coffee and stir to combine. Serve over ice, passing milk on the side.

(NOTE: This has been a staple in our household for quite some time now. We’ve tried to keep it around to see how long it will last in the fridge and still remain fresh, but it doesn’t last long enough. For the coffee, last week we used Gachatha AB from George Howell, but I’m certain any coffee of reasonable pedigree will serve the job well.)

Review: NV Monmousseau Cremant de Loire

Monmousseau Cremant 300x300 Review: NV Monmousseau Cremant de LoireWhen is Champagne not Champagne? When it’s Cremant, sparkling wine that’s made in the same style as Champagne, but elsewhere in France.

Cremant d’Alsace, from the mountainous region near Germany, is the best known Cremant-producing area, but the Loire Valley makes it too. Cremant de Loire became an official AOC in 1975, and these wines are produced in Anjou, Saumur, and Touraine. Approved grapes in the blend include Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Pineau d’Aunis, and others.

Monmousseau is focused heavily on the production of Cremant de Loire. This non-vintage Cremant de Loire is bright and tart, and just a touch sweet. Notes of lemon, green apples, and figs are prominent on the nose and on the palate. The finish is clean, not at all bready or yeasty, with a steely, fruit-focused character. Delightful. Try it as an alternative to a (similarly-priced) Prosecco.

A- / $16 / monmousseau.com

Book Review: The Best Craft Cocktails

The Best Craft Cocktails Bartending With Flair An Incredible Collection of Extraordinary Drinks Paperback L9781624140273 665x1024 194x300 Book Review: The Best Craft CocktailsThis is the kind of cocktail book that’s fun for everyone. Novices can flip through and look at the pictures (nearly every drink is shown in full color), and pros can get inspiration from the largely unique concoctions on offer.

In The Best Craft Cocktails, Jeremy LeBlanc and Christine Dionese offer 75 recipes. That’s not a lot, but the ones included are thoughtful and almost unilaterally interesting. Some are spins on the classics like the Corpse Reviver (with Cocchi Americano) or the Mojito (adds elderflower liqueur — nice idea). Others are wholly new concoctions, like the Matcha Hot & Sour, made with Thai coconut milk, chili honey syrup, cardamom, matcha tea powder, and rum. Even if you never make the thing, at least it’s fun to think about.

Now get out there and make some rhubarb syrup!

A- / $15 / [BUY IT AT AMAZON]

Review: Novo Fogo Cachaca

novo fogo Barrel Aged Bottle FB9C101 525x1076 Review: Novo Fogo Cachaca

Most cachaca is barely palatable if you don’t dump a ton of lime and sugar into it to make a caiparinha, but Novo Fogo is clearly focused on quality. Using organic ingredients, the distillery produces both a silver and a barrel-aged version of its spirits (the latter is really the best way to experience this unique sugar-based spirit from Brazil). There’s even an extra-aged version called Barrel 105 (not reviewed here), the likes of which I’ve never seen from cachaca.

Thoughts on the two main releases — and a nifty cocktail kit — follow.

Novo Fogo Silver Cachaca – Rested for one year in stainless steel before bottling. Tropical notes overlay the traditional fuel-focused cachaca nose, heavy on the pineapple, with a bit of lemon underneath. The body is more traditional, but balanced, with some lemon/lime fruit notes, mushroom, cedar box, and a finish of young alcohol notes. Nothing you’re likely to sip on straight, but totally worth pouring into a caipirinha. 80 proof. B+ / $33

Novo Fogo Barrel-Aged Cachaca – Aged two years in ex-bourbon barrels before bottling. Banana and citrus are evident on the nose, which melds the fuel notes into something more approximating the aroma of coal. The body is quite a different animal, bringing toffee and peanut butter notes to play alongside milder orange character. The finish hints at those heavier alcoholic overtones, but some chocolate touches at the end. Much like a younger, agricole-style rum. 80 proof. A- / $37

Novo Fogo Antiquado Cocktail Kit – This tiny box includes a mini of Novo Fogo’s aged cachaca, a packet of Sue Bee Clover Honey, and a tiny vial of Scrappy’s Chocolate Bitters. Mix ‘em all up and add ice and you’re done (sans the fancy garnishes on the picture). This is a great little cocktail (and one you can easily make sans the kit), the chocolate playing off the cachaca well, and the honey adding a much-needed sweetness, but of a different type. Can’t find it for sale, alas. It’d make a great stocking stuffer. A- / $NA

novofogo.com

Review: 2013 Chamisal Stainless Pinot Noir Unoaked Central Coast

Chamisal Stainless PinotNoir 81x300 Review: 2013 Chamisal Stainless Pinot Noir Unoaked Central CoastIf you ever wondered Beaujolais Nouveau would taste like if it was made in California, try this: Chamisal takes a Central Coast Pinot Noir and bottles it, completely unaged in oak.

For a red wine this is completely unheard of. I can probably count on one hand the number of unoaked reds I’ve had in my life.

And here’s why: Pretty much all red wines need the help of wood to reach their potential. Kudos to Chamisal for attempting to showcase the pure essence of the grape, but those aren’t always enticing qualities.

Here, Chamisal shows off the huge strawberry and raspberry fruit notes in the grape, but it’s tempered by bramble and wet earth notes, an unripeness that’s almost sour at times. But most of all, the body’s just not there. The wine is on the thin side, with a sharp finish that ultimately turns a little watery. Without the soothing vanilla punch that time in oak barrels brings, this comes off like a curious and incredibly instructive experiment but not something I’d want to serve at dinner.

C+ / $24 / chamisalvineyards.com

Review: Magic Hat Dream Machine IPL

Dream Machine 12 oz bottle 87x300 Review: Magic Hat Dream Machine IPLFor this hybrid, Magic Hat mixes up the style of an IPA with an amber lager. Good call, and this mash-up works well. The body is round and full, the hallmarks of a big autumn lager. The modestly bitter finish is loaded with bracing hop character, though it’s far from overpowering.

Dream Machine works both ways — as a punched-up lager and as a dialed-back IPA — great for when you find yourself somewhere in the middle ground.

5.7% abv.

A- / $NA / magichat.net

The Drinkhacker Shopping List – 04.18.2014

It’s been a while, but here’s a recap of the best (and worst) of the reviews we’ve featured this month on the site. Compared to the relatively slim pickings last month, this month has been quite full with a wide variety of spirits to satisfy every taste. Don’t miss the special bottling of that 21 year old Springbank. Happy shopping!

TheList041814 525x1179 The Drinkhacker Shopping List   04.18.2014

Review: Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Bourbon Round Twelve

Round 12 of Buffalo Trace’s “Single Oak Project” experiment has arrived, meaning there are just four more iterations of the grandest experiment in whiskeydom to go before it’s all over.

Previous rounds can be found here:

Round One (including all the basics of the approach to this series)
Round Two
Round Three
Round Four
Round Five
Round Six
Round Seven
Round Eight
Round Nine
Round Ten
Round Eleven

This round focuses on tree cut (two barrels are made from each tree — one from the top, and one from the bottom). This round looks at wood grain as well, as grain will vary from one tree to the next. As always, recipe (rye vs. wheat) is also varied through this batch. Barrels are paired, so barrels 15 and 16 have the same recipe and aging regimen — but are made from the top and bottom of the same tree.

Does tree cut matter? Here’s what Buffalo Trace says:

Many bourbon fans have asked why, or if, tree cut matters. Master Distiller Harlan Wheatley has this to say on the topic, “From top to bottom, the tree chemistry is quite different.  The chemicals most affected by the tree structure are oak lignins and tannins.  Oak lignins are composed of two building blocks, vanillin and syringaldehyde.  Generally there is a higher composition of oak lignins in the bottom part of the tree which in turn delivers more vanilla.  Tannins are generally higher in concentration in the top section of the tree versus the bottom; however, they also vary from inside out.  The outer heartwood is generally higher in tannin concentration.”

Variables remaining the same are char level (#4), warehouse type (concrete ricks), stave seasoning (12 months), and entry proof (125).

Overall, this was a mixed-to-good batch of whiskeys, with #80 standing as my (slight) favorite of the bunch. Looking back at the SOP so far: #82 has the lead among all the whiskeys released to date, based on online reviews. (I gave it a B+ and called it “fun.”) As for the top vs. bottom question, the whiskeys aged in barrels made from the bottom half of the tree got higher marks in 3 of 6 pairs here. The top barrel scored higher once. Two rounds were ties. But in most cases, my scores were similar between the two barrels. Interpret as you’d like.

Thoughts on round 12 follow.

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #15 – The nose is spicy with hints of cherries, offering promise. Surprisingly there’s lots of marshmallow on the palate, spiced fruits, and a silky, caramel candy bar finish. A lovely and surprisingly little whiskey. A- (rye, 125 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, tight grain, concrete ricks, #4 char, top half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #16 – A big, alcohol-heavy nose disguises mint, lumberyard, and black pepper notes. The body is rich with spice, but a silky caramel character comes across to smooth out the finish. This one drinks like a much bigger, older whiskey than it is. A- (rye, 125 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, tight grain, concrete ricks, #4 char, bottom half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #47 – Ample wood on the nose, muscling out some of the sweeter notes you get on the palate: milk chocolate, caramel, some spice on the finish. B (wheat, 125 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, tight grain, concrete ricks, #4 char, top half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #48 – A big, woody bourbon, almost overpowering on the nose. The body is gentler, offering soothing lemon tea and applesauce notes. Kind of a weird combination of experiences. B (wheat, 125 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, tight grain, concrete ricks, #4 char, bottom half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #79 – Racy, with notes of fresh mint on the nose. Apple-focused on the front of the palate, with smooth caramel coming along on the finish. Lots to like, but still finding its balance. B+ (rye, 125 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, average grain, concrete ricks, #4 char, top half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #80 – Mellow, salted caramels on the nose. Really lush and dessert-like, it’s got a bittersweet chocolate edge to the finish that makes it a lovely after-dinner sipper. A (rye, 125 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, average grain, concrete ricks, #4 char, bottom half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #111 – Moderate nose, with a cocoa powder and charred wood character. On the body, fairly plain, with heavy wood notes and a lingering, almost bitter lumberyard finish. B- (wheat, 125 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, average grain, concrete ricks, #4 char, top half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #112 – Restrained nose, with a focus on wood. The body’s got classic Bourbon character: vanilla, caramel, some restrained lumberyard character. Lingering mint notes on the finish. Fine, but fairly par for a whiskey of this age. B+ (wheat, 125 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, average grain, concrete ricks, #4 char, bottom half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #143 – The nose gives off few clues about this one, a barnburner on the tongue that exudes flaming orange peel, old sherry, and more brutish, raw alcohol character. Not my favorite. C+ (rye, 125 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, coarse grain, concrete ricks, #4 char, top half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #144 – Restrained nose, with a focus on wood. The body’s got classic Bourbon character: vanilla, caramel, some restrained lumberyard character. Lingering mint notes on the finish. Fine, but fairly par for a whiskey of this age. B+ (rye, 125 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, coarse grain, concrete ricks, #4 char, bottom half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #175 – A solid effort, but a little indistinct. The nose and flavors are both muted, with mild vanilla, oaky wood, and applesauce notes, but all dialed way back. B (wheat, 125 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, coarse grain, concrete ricks, #4 char, top half of tree)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Single Oak Project Barrel #176 – Funky, almost medicinal on the nose. The body’s quite different, a mix of vanilla up front and brewed tea on the back end. Lots going on, but the nose is ultimately a bit off-putting. B- (wheat, 125 entry proof, level 12 seasoning, coarse grain, concrete ricks, #4 char, bottom half of tree)

$46 each (375ml bottle) / singleoakproject.com

Book Review: The Architecture of the Cocktail

architecture of the cocktail 2 300x300 Book Review: The Architecture of the CocktailThe Architecture of the Cocktail is a neat idea and an even neater-looking book. Using architectural blueprint-style diagrams, author Amy Zavatto and illustrator Melissa Wood take you through 75 drinks, largely classics with a few modern cocktails thrown in. But rather than include a pretty picture, each cocktail is “designed” in black and white, showing the glass, ice, and the amount of each spirit graphically. The drawing on the cover of the book (right) gives you a better sense of what this looks like.

Nifty look, but completely impractical, it turns out. Trying to use this book to actually mix a drink is an exercise in frustration, as you try to figure out whether diamond crosshatches are supposed to be rum or the the diamond crosshatches with horizontal line overlays are. (This gets super fun with the Long Island Iced Tea recipe, the inclusion of which is grounds for a whole other discussion.)

Where does that leave us, then? Pretty book, short on utility. That might fit perfectly on your bookshelf, but it’s crowded out on mine.

C / $12 / [BUY IT AT AMAZON]