Book Review: Tasting Whiskey For Dummies

coverAt $6 and a scant 25 pages in length — and not even an official “Dummies” title —  it’s difficult to give this one a full-throated endorsement, especially after just reading Heather Greene’s excellent guide on the same subject matter. Jake Olson does indeed cover the basics of whiskey tasting, with a very direct, almost dry, writing style. Brief entries on the history of whiskey, the process by which it is made, and the different types available make up the majority of the book. A few basic recipes for essential cocktails are offered. That’s really about it, folks. I believe the Wikipedia entry on whiskey is more expansive and informative. And free of charge.

The challenge was not to power through Olson’s primitive report, but to take this pamphlet as a legitimate body of work. Much more content could have been offered, and it certainly would have helped to have a decent copy editor; if only because it’s spelled “Johnnie” and not “Jonny” Walker. Sometimes it’s better not to self-publish. Sometimes it’s better to just leave things on a hard drive to send as a Word document to friends. This would be one of those times.

$6 / F / [BUY IT HERE?]

Drinkhacker Reads – 01.20.2015 – 100 Cases of Bud Light On The Wall

Rabobank issues their quarterly report with predictions for the global spirits market in 2015. In short: demand for spirits in Europe is moderate, and Scotch is on an export decline, leading Diageo to defer plans to expand production; China’s thirst for luxury items is being quenched, while U.S. and India are showing healthy growth. You can read the whole thing here. [Rabobank]

In other whiskey news, Richard Thomas at Whiskey Reviewer tackles bourbon’s five biggest myths, the Drinks Report covers new packaging innovations for 2015, robbers walked away with over $100,000 in rare whiskeys in Montreal, Travel and Leisure magazine lists its favorite whiskey bars in America, and JR Revelry (review forthcoming) becomes the first bourbon on the market owned by a Latino businessman.

A new report from the USDA finds that craft brewers can use up to four times as much barley per barrel of beer than their mega-conglomerate counterparts. Totally unrelated but still kind of cool: German firefighters have built a life-sized fire engine from over 4,700 beer crates.[Mother Jones]

And finally today, a new mobile app has the capability to deliver up to 100 cases of Bud Light to your doorstep within an hour. Forgoing the question of why someone would want 100 cases is the question of why on earth this app was developed in the first place. [Bustle]

Book Review: Whisk(e)y Distilled: A Populist Guide to the Water of Life

Heathe GreeneThe first time I heard the Ramones, I was barely into my teens, and was immediately captivated by their simple, straightforward sound and mutant lyrics. It was punk, and something anyone could do if they knew three guitar chords, a basic beat and cultivated enough attitude. The group’s first four albums would lead me down a tunnel into the wild and wonderful world of punk rock that would become a staple of my teenage years. It was immediate, accessible and led to spending hours in my bedroom learning chords and playing along to dubbed cassettes of endless songs on a half busted Sony Walkman.

My point is that everyone has to start somewhere, and Heather Greene’s Whiskey Distilled is the perfect first book for newcomers to acquire. Quite simply: In the last two years of reading and reviewing books about spirits, I do believe this is might be the most accessible and informative introductory guide I’ve come across.

Versatile enough to welcome everyone with easy to follow language and great anecdotes, Greene leaves no stone unturned in covering the basics. But she also takes the reader through advanced concepts such as chemistry and flavor profiles, distinctions between the various whiskies of the world, necessary hardware for cocktail construction, suggested food pairings, and so much more. She takes time to explain, rather than assume or boast about drinking the rarest whiskies in the world, and her writing style brings a warmth and inclusion often missing from books similar in scope.

This is an outstanding, essential guide for anyone getting his or her feet wet on the big whiskey wave, and is worthy of space on anyone’s bookshelf. Plus on top of all of this? Greene gets kudos from actor/woodsmith/sage Nick Offerman on the jacket sleeve. And if it’s good enough for Ron Swanson, it’s good enough for you.

A+ / $19 / [BUY IT HERE]

Drinkhacker Reads – 01.14.2015 – Pappy and Beer Lawsuits; DISCUS Disses

Members of a family-run liquor store in Northern Kentucky are currently in court pitted against one another. At stake is an estimated $234,000 worth of rare bourbon allegedly taken without authorization. The troubled Cork ‘N Bottle could benefit greatly from the sale of the stock, as the store has been in dire financial straits as of late. We’ll see how this plays out in Federal court. [BizJournals]

Another day, another beer lawsuit: this time we see Lagunitas Brewing taking Sierra Nevada to court over the design of its IPA label. We’re not sure if this one is going to hold up in court for Lagunitas. The fonts aren’t exactly similar, nor are the colors, background, text or really not much else. [Inside Scoop SF]

Geoff Kleinman posts a rather interesting op-ed of DISCUS, the distilled spirits council’s governing body, and its lack of watchdog tenacity over the industry as of late. Well argued and written, its definitely a must read for anyone who enjoys the “inside baseball” aspect of the spirits world. [DrinkSpirits]

In science news, researchers have found that working more than 48 hours a week increases the risk of alcohol abuse, learned that alcohol is essential for relaxation, and have tested a new hormone therapy to curb the desire for alcohol consumption.

Congrats to the folks over at Buffalo Trace, whose visitor center welcomed a record 123,331 visitors in 2014, a 26 percent increase over 2013. Since the end of 2009, the distillery has enjoyed a 145 per cent growth in visitors. Kudos also to Allison Widdecombe of Denver, who won the 2015 edition of 2015 Woodford Reserve’s Manhattan Experience competition. Her winning recipe? We’ve got it right here:

Proven Perfect
2 oz. Woodford Reserve
.5 oz. Oolong Tea-Infused Ruby Port
.5 oz. Cardamom-Infused Amèr Nouvelle
.5 bar spoon of Fernet Branca

Combine ingredients over ice in mixing glass and stir. Strain them into a cocktail glass, and garnish with an expressed lemon twist.

And finally today, we received an email from a Marriott Hotel rep asking us to promote its Renaissance Hotels #BarBrag Cocktail Challenge. Simply enter your cocktail at the contest site and be entered to win. Three finalists will be selected and flown to Washington, D.C. for an in-person competition on Friday, February 13th. Good luck! [Bar Brag]

Drinkhacker Reads – 01.12.2015 – Contaminated, Aged and Deceptive Beer Monday

Time magazine publishes an article about 5 beers that are largely considered or were once imported that are now brewed in the United States. Amusingly, Fox News publishes an article on the same topic on the same day. Total coincidence, we’re sure. [Time]

The Napa Valley Register gives its predictions on what will be trending in the world of wine this year. It looks as if mixers, sparkling, and sweetness are making a comeback, which no doubt will please Messrs. Bartles and Jaymes. [Napa Valley Register]

Whisky Advocate reports that Crown Royal is entering the single barrel market, a first for the Canadian brand. Crown Royal Single Barrel Whisky comes in at a sturdy 51.5% ABV and a price tag of about $55. The first 500+ barrels have been already issued, each of which are exclusive to a particular retailer — and only in Texas. Our review will be up in short order. [Whisky Advocate]

Like most people, the staff here at Drinkhacker tend to other jobs throughout the day unrelated to our love of all things spirited and yeasty. However, there are a select few souls whose job is to sit around all day and drink bourbon. CNBC takes a closer look at one of them, Brown-Forman’s Master Distiller-in-training, Marianne Barnes. [CNBC]

In other beer news, over 70 people have been confirmed dead and over 100 hospitalized after drinking contaminated beer in Mozambique this weekend, with rumors of foul play and poisoning coming out. Police believe that crocodile bile was the contaminate.  [The Guardian]

And finally today, NPR takes a look into the trend and recent demand for aged beers. Not sure how big of a trend this will become, but if the demand for aged bourbon/scotch is any indication, don’t be surprised if it keeps rising. [NPR]

Recipe: National Hot Toddy Day, 2015

With the majority of the nation under a bit of a cold spell (as I type this the wind chill in my town just hit a cool and breezy -21 degrees Fahrenheit), we thought it best to revisit one of the best winter drinks around: the hot toddy. A classic drink for these bone-chilling days, the Hot Toddy is best consumed next to the warmest fireplace and under the softest blanket you can find. National Hot Toddy day is technically January 11, but for those of us living on conditions befitting an ice planet, it could very well be any day until April.

The Classic Hot Toddy
1 1/2 oz brandy, whiskey, or rum (note: depending on my mood, I’ll opt for either Bulleit, Eagle Rare. or Old Forester as the main event here)
1 tablespoon honey
Juice from 1/2 lemon
8 oz hot water
1 tea bag
1 pinch of fresh ground nutmeg (optional)

Add honey to the bottom of your mug or glass and spread it around. Add the spirit of your choice and lemon juice. Pour hot water and tea bag into glass and stir. Repeat as often as necessary. 

Red Hot Ruby Punch
(Courtesy of Jason Cousins, Da Claudio, NYC)

750 ml Tincup Whiskey
16 oz boiling water
8 oz PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur
8 oz ruby port wine
8 oz fresh orange juice
8 oz demerara sugar (raw)
4 large navel oranges
Seeds from 1 large pomegranate

In a spice bag:
1 tbsp allspice
1 tbsp whole cloves
1 whole cinnamon stick

Completely peel four oranges, avoiding the white pith. Add orange peels to a mixing bowl with raw sugar and muddle, grinding the sugar into the oils. (Reserve the orange fruit for juicing.) Let stand for 30 minutes while the sugar pulls the oils from the peels. Stir in 16 oz of boiling water until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove orange peels and add spice bag. Let sit while preparing the remaining ingredients. Add Tincup, PAMA liqueur, port wine, and orange juice to a 3.5 quart or larger slow cooker. Pour in the orange sugar mixture and keep warm on low heat. Ladle and serve, garnishing with a clove-studded orange disk and a cinnamon stick.

Drinkhacker Reads – 01.07.2015 – Turmoil in Tuscany and Texas

Lots of interesting stuff for your consideration today, so let’s get to it:

Trouble in Tuscany: Irate Italians plagued by wine counterfeit scandals. [USA Today]

And now for our weekly update in the wild world of Balcones: Ousted master distiller Chip Tate is now filing a defamation lawsuit against the distillery manager’s wife. And we thought this was turning into a season of Dallas before this lawsuit…. [Waco Tribune]

The Beer Bloggers conference has assembled its second annual 20 Most Influential Beer Websites list. [Beer Bloggers Conference]

Buffalo Trace delivers another ominous message: We may never catch up to meet demand. [The Spirits Business]

With a newly published study, science confirms what we already know: Binge drinking hurts your immune system. [Science Times]

With a newly published study, science finds out why women who drink white wine get depressed or upset. [Tribune]

Shanken reports that analysts believe sparkling wine will help drive industry growth in 2015. [Shanken News Daily]

CNBC investigates Taiwanese whiskey, which won the Malt Maniacs Awards in a big way this year. [CNBC]

Insider Monkey lists out the most expensive rum brands in the world. Saving you a click to the end: J. Wray & Nephew’s $54,000 bottling tops the list. [Insider Monkey]

Gizmodo takes a look behind the scenes at the science and art behind barrel making. Informative for those who are unfamiliar with the process. [Gizmodo]

The A-List – December 2014

Hello and welcome to the A-List, our tip of the cap to the stellar products we’ve received and reviewed over the last month. December certainly had its fair share of quality offerings and sent off 2014 on a high note. Plenty to choose from for a wide variety of tastes and price points.

(Rob’s note: for me, this month the inaugural offering of the Old Forester Whiskey Row series was a welcome surprise. I’ve been an OF fan for as long as I can recall, and this variation was a welcome addition to my cabinet, while it lasted.)


Drinkhacker Reads – 01.05.2015 – Great Lakes Brewing Rebrands, Gandhi Gets a Beer

We’ve heard the phrase “new year, new you” all over Twitter in the past few days, and that’s good news to hear. We can think of many people who need to take this mantra to heart. One company really going for it in ’15 is Great Lakes Brewing, which has announced a total overhaul of its packaging, and released its seasonal schedule for the entire year. [Beer Pulse]

Our nation’s capital is about to welcome in a third distillery opening within its borders. One Eight is on target to open this Saturday (January 10th), and WTOP spills the details. Elsewhere in DC, Mitch McConnell and the entire bourbon industry is still holding on to hope that the now mythical “Bourbon Summit” will eventually take place between he and President Obama. [WTOP]

New England Brewing Company is coming under fire for putting Gandhi on a beer label. The bewildering Gandhi Bot features a cyborg replicant of the famous non-violent, fasting-prone resistance leader. The company has since apologized but insists that Ganhdi’s grandkids “admired” the artwork. [BBC]

Japanese whisky legend Takeshi Taketsuru has passed away at the age of 90. The Nikka master distiller and son of distillery founder Masataka Taketsuru was credited with the much of the brand’s modern success. [The Spirits Business]

Cosmos magazine tackles the debate of whether or not wine making is an art or science. Who says it can’t be both? Haven’t most scientists over the ages felt there was beauty and grace in their work? [Cosmos]

RoyalSaluteChivas has unveiled a new look for its 21 Year Old expression. It is expected to be released in February and will arrive in three different bottle colors: sapphire, ruby and emerald. There’s also a 28 year old Aberfeldy coming out soon, and Sku digs up two new Jack Daniel’s expressions: a single barrel rye and a barrel proof version of the original recipe.  [Billionaire]