5 Scotch Whiskies for Celebrating Burns Night

January 25th is Burns Night: a yearly celebration of the life and words of Scottish poet Robert Burns. Traditionally it is celebrated with a supper full of haggis, speeches, the occasional bagpipe, and of course, Scotch. While any Scotch will work, here’s a look at five whiskies you can use to toast the birthday of Robert Burns, drawing inspiration from his own words.

The golden Hours on angel wings
Flew o’er me and my Dearie;
For dear to me as light and life
Was my sweet Highland Mary.

Royal Brackla 12 Year Old

The majority of this distillery’s production ends up in the Dewars line of blends. For much of the time single malts were hard to come by and expensive through independent bottlers. Thankfully this was released as part of The Last Great Malts series. A lovely and accessible, golden-hued highland malt. Notes of poached orchard fruits and soft, sweet, malted chocolate lead into a finish of heather honey and gentle spice. An incredibly accessible and complex whiskey, a great choice for everyone at the table.

Gie me ae spark o’ Nature’s fire,
That’s a’ the learning I desire.

Kilchoman Impex Cask Evolution 01/2016

The youngest distillery on the beloved island of Islay is also the first new one since 1881. Part of the Impex Cask Evolution series, this release was aged in an Oloroso Sherry hogshead which gives the whiskey a wonderfully red hue. At only 5 years old, this whiskey uses its youth as an advantage. It is big and bold with smokey citrus at the forefront. A little bit of water will bring out some more fruit and spice flavors, but this one really is at its best when left big and fiery.

I’ll toast you in my hindmost gillie,
Tho’ owre the sea!

Old Pulteney 17 Years Old

Searching for the perfect dram to toast those who have moved away? This malt is richly lush and dense. Oak and butterscotch lead the way and then open up to some light brown spice and almond. The finish seems to stick around forever with the slightest touch of caramel, brine, and a very faint but present smokiness. The perfect dram for a wistful toast along the seaside.

Wi’ tippenny, we fear nae evil;
Wi’ usquabae, we’ll face the devil!

Compass Box The Peat Monster

If you are going to steel yourself to face the devil, you may as well have a monster at your side. John Glaser’s Compass Box turns out so many coveted and fantastic limited releases that sometimes it’s easy to forget just how good the standard line is. The Peat Monster is a near perfect showing of balanced complexity. Earthy smoke and brine lead the charge with touches of savory herbs and a slightly medicinal, oaky touch. The finish brings in a lingering sweetness which has become a bit of a Compass Box trademark. A cacophony of flavors which somehow meld together in a bold and extremely drinkable manner.

Lay the proud usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty’s in every blow—
Let us do or die!

Bunnahabhain 25 Years Old

Whether in moments on revolution or celebration, sometimes it is important to remove all caution and just go. The Bunnahabhain Distillery produces one of the milder single malts on Islay. While they forgo some of the intensity of their neighbors, they excel in balance. First impression of this beauty is all leather and spice. Tannic cinnamon and clove mingle with a hint of fig and other stewed fruits. The finish is tremendously long.  So long in fact, you will be discovering new and lingering flavors well into an encore performance of Auld Lang Syne.

6 Recipes for National Irish Coffee Day 2017

Tillamore Dew Irish Coffee

Why doesn’t National Irish Coffee Day (January 25) coincide with Saint Patrick’s Day? That’s because Irish coffee originated in San Francisco, not Ireland.

Want to try your hand at this classic cocktail? You can go with the traditional recipe or try out some yummy variations we’ve dug up for you, such as the Chocolate Irish Coffee which tastes like a mocha dream. Of course we tried them all out first! Consider all of these Drinkhacker approved!

Tullamore D.E.W. Irish Coffee
1 ½ parts Tullamore D.E.W. original Irish whiskey
1 ½ parts strong brewed coffee
½ parts white sugar
lightly whipped heavy cream
ground cinnamon or nutmeg

Pre-heat a clear-stemmed glass with very hot water. Add the sugar and brewed coffee and stir well. Once the sugar has melted, stir in the Irish whiskey. Gently whip the heavy cream by shaking it in a protein shaker with a blender ball—you want a still somewhat loose, not stiff, consistency. Pour the cream over the back of a hot teaspoon to top the drink (and prevent the cream from penetrating the top of the drink). Finally, garnish with grated nutmeg or cinnamon for a spicy finish.

Traditional Irish Coffee
1 cup heavy cream
3 tbsp Irish Cream liqueur
1/2 cup Irish whiskey
4 tbsp brown sugar
4 cups strong hot coffee

With an electric mixer, whip cream and Irish cream together until stiff. Set aside.

Into each of four large coffee mugs, add 2 tablespoons whiskey, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, and 1 cup coffee. Top with a very generous layer of the Irish cream whipped cream. (Almost a third of the cup should be taken up by the whipped cream.)

To Make Irish Cream Whipped Cream
In a mixer bowl, add heavy cream, a splash of Irish cream, Whip until light and fluffy. In a mug, add strong coffee, 2-3 tablespoons whiskey, and a tablespoon of brown sugar.

Mint Irish Coffee
(from the Dutch Kills bar)
2 tbsp Demerara or turbinado sugar
3 oz. Irish whiskey
4 oz. freshly made espresso
4 oz. water
3 oz. heavy cream
2 fresh mint leaves for garnish

Place 4 teaspoons of the sugar, the whiskey, espresso, and water in a small saucepan and stir to combine. Set over low heat and stir occasionally until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is hot but not boiling, about 5 minutes.

Place the remaining 2 teaspoons sugar and the cream in a medium bowl and whisk until the cream thickens and the sugar has dissolved, about 2 minutes. Transfer the hot coffee mixture to two 8-ounce heatproof glasses or mugs, top with a heaping spoonful of the whipped cream, and garnish with the mint leaves. Serve immediately.

Chocolate Irish Coffee
2 oz. heavy creamChocolate Irish Coffee
1 1/2 oz. chocolate syrup, divided
2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 oz. Irish whiskey
6 oz. hot coffee

In a medium bowl, whisk cream vigorously until it begins to thicken. Cream should be thick, but still pourable. Whisk in 1/2 ounce chocolate syrup until completely combined. Set aside. In an Irish coffee glass, combine remaining chocolate syrup, sugar, whiskey, and hot coffee. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Top with a 3/4″ collar of chocolate whipped cream.

Maple Irish Coffee
2 oz. heavy cream
1 oz. maple syrup, divided
1 1/2 oz. Irish whisky
6 oz. hot coffee

In a medium bowl, whisk cream vigorously until it begins to thicken. Cream should be thick, but still pourable. Whisk in 1/4 ounce of the maple syrup. Set aside.

In a coffee glass, combine remaining maple syrup, whiskey and hot coffee. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Top with a ¾ inch collar of thickened whipped cream. Serve immediately.

Irish Coffee with Grand Marnier
4 oz. coffee
2 oz. Irish whiskey
1 oz. Grand Marnier
1 Demerara sugar cube

Mix all ingredients. Top with unsweetened whipped cream.
Note: Substitute hazelnut liqueur or amaretto for another variation.

Review: Nomad Outland Whisky

“Born in Scotland and raised in Jerez, Spain.” So says the tagline on Nomad Outland Whisky, and it’s not just a euphemism for the typical sherry cask finishing: Nomad is a blend of of some 30-plus five to eight year old malt and grain whiskies from Scotland that are aged for three years in their homeland, then physically shipped to Jerez, Spain, where they spend at least another year in old Pedro Ximenez casks.

As blends go, you won’t find much like it — and if you’re a hardcore sherried whisky fan you’ll want to snap up a bottle to experience.

Nutty on the nose, Nomad offers heavy overtones of maple syrup, vanilla, and orange peel that wash over the drinker. On the palate, the body plays up that sticky-sweetness with notes of blackberry jam, molasses, and sticky toffee. Heavy notes of oxidized Madeira wine (or aged sherry) endure on the finish. If you’re getting the impression this is a sweet and sherry-forward whisky, then at least I’m doing my job halfway decently, but the truth is Nomad isn’t so much sherry-forward as it is sherry-laser-focused, as if it’s actually a blend of aged sherry and Scotch, with the focus bent more toward the former.

Sherry-heavy whisky isn’t unusual in the world of Scotch, but Nomad is something else entirely. Raised in Jerez, Spain? You better believe it.

82.6 proof.

B / $45 / gonzalezbyass.com  [BUY IT NOW FROM MASTER OF MALT]

Recipe: Homemade Orange Simple Syrup and Candied Oranges

Candied Oranges

When cooking, there is seldom a need to throw out leftover food items. The motto of the day is: Let nothing be wasted. Wort leftover from a homebrew session can be mixed with honey and boiled down into a nice glaze to use when cooking ham and pineapple. The same goes for making desserts. Today we’re going to show you how to make candied orange slices, which results in “leftover” orange flavored simple syrup. Imagine how impressed your guests and family will be when they get a sweet treat and a corresponding cocktail!

The base recipe for candied oranges comes from Tastemade. Lemons, tangerines, mandarin oranges, or grapefruit can also be used.

Candied Oranges
1-2 navel oranges (if the fruit you use isn’t seedless, take care that the seeds are carefully removed)
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup granulated sugar
4 oz. dark chocolate chips or 1/4 cup cocoa powder

First wash the oranges with a soft bristled brush. A toothbrush works, but it’s better to use a vegetable brush. The reason is to remove any wax residue on the skins. Next cut off both ends of each orange; then slice the rest into 1/4-inch thick slices.

The original recipe says to use a wide pot; however, a large deep skillet works nicely. Add the water and sugar into the skillet. Bring it to a boil while stirring constantly, to completely dissolve the sugar. Once it comes to a boil, lay out the orange slices so they do not overlap. Continue the boil for 15 minutes and then lower the heat to medium-low. Gently flip the orange slices over (tongs are recommended) and let them simmer for an additional 20-25 minutes. They are ready when the peels are translucent and the sugar water has thickened into a syrup.

Place a wire rack over a lined baking sheet. Gently transfer the candied slices to the rack to cool. Keep the remaining syrup for your cocktails. If it is too thick, simply add small amounts of water until it reached the desired consistency.

Once the candied oranges have cooled, dip them in melted dark chocolate or dust them with powdered cocoa. Chill until ready to use.

And here’s a great way to use your orange syrup…

Whiskey Plush CocktailWhiskey Plush Cocktail Recipe
From 1001 Cocktails
1 oz. whiskey
1 oz. Irish cream
1/2 oz. orange simple syrup
4 oz. heavy cream
4 dashes Campari
nutmeg

Pour all ingredients except nutmeg into a shaker and add ice. Shake well and strain into a chilled wine glass. Garnish with grated nutmeg, and serve.

This cocktail is sweet and creamy, with the texture of a milkshake. The nutmeg is a must, as it permeates the nose, preparing the tongue for the orange cream to follow.

Review: Sonoma County Distilling Cherrywood Rye (2016) and Black Truffle Rye

We looked at a few of the products of budding craft distiller Sonoma County Distilling Co. in 2015, and now we’re back with some fresh coverage, including a look at the second batch of SCDC’s Cherrywood Rye and a first encounter with a limited-edition rye flavored with… wait for it… truffles.

Thoughts on both whiskeys follow.

Sonoma County Distilling Co. Cherrywood Rye Whiskey (2016) – Our second look at this whiskey. Distilled from unmalted Canadian rye, unmalted Canadian wheat, and cherrywood-smoked malted barley from Wyoming. Double distilled in alembic pot stills and aged for one year in new, charred American oak. Designed to mimic the flavors of a Manhattan cocktail exclusively from the impact of the grain. My tasting notes are considerably different than last year’s edition. Heavily wood-forward on the nose, it’s got tons of youth, but also an ample focus on fresh grain, but also perfumed at times with floral notes. Cherry is hinted at aromatically, but it really hits its stride on the palate, where a burst of fruit hits the tongue before the wood component again muscles its way back to the fore. This wood character hangs around for some time, along with some light mushroom and forest floor notes that mingle with modest vanilla and caramel at times. As for the “Manhattan in a whiskey” mission? Well, it’s not quite accomplished… at least, not after just one year in barrel. Give it a few more years and let’s talk again. 95.6 proof. Reviewed: Batch #2. B- / $55

Sonoma County Distilling Co. Black Truffle Rye – This is something else, Somona County’s 100% rye infused with French black perigord truffles. The nose doesn’t give a lot of truffly hints, coming across with a raciness that borders on astringency. Give it some air and you catch notes of evergreen and cedar cigar box — not quite the mushroomy truffle, but headed in that direction. On the palate, a massively different experience awaits, offering a surprisingly gentle woodiness that is tempered by brown sugar, and nutmeg-heavy baking spice. As it develops on the tongue, the whiskey seems to change, evolving on the fly to reveal layers and layers of flavor — cut flowers, rhubarb, dried raspberry, and an insidious earthiness that, in the end, must be where the truffle finds its footing. This is a whiskey that’s almost impossible to digest and dissect in just one sitting. Give it time in glass, and ample time on your shelf, as you explore its many mysteries. 100 proof. A- / $75 (375ml)

sonomacountydistilling.com

Review: Virginia Distillery Cider Barrel Matured Virginia Highland Malt Whisky

If Virginia Distillery Co.’s flagship product — a Scottish single malt imported to the U.S. and finished in Virginia Port wine casks — wasn’t wacky enough for you, now comes its first line extension, which sees that first product finished not in Port barrels but instead in locally-sourced cider barrels (specifically barrels from Potter’s Craft Cider). It’s the first release in Virginia’s new Commonwealth Collection, which will see additional oddball finishes being applied to its releases in the months to come.

As with the original release, this is an enchanting whisky that merits some serious study. The nose has a classic single malt structure with gentle granary notes, honey, and some florals, but it’s tempered with a slight citrus character — or at least, more of a citrus character than you’d expect from a traditional single malt. There’s an undercurrent of funk — hard to describe but perhaps driven by the cider barrels — that is at once unusual and appealing.

Rich and malty, the nose leads into a moderate but compelling body that grows in power as you let it aerate. Here the apple influence is a bit clearer, melding with the malt to showcase notes of lemon, grasses, a bit of honey, and more cereal. Again, that slight funk on the finish offers a little something extra — a touch of chocolate, a rush of acidity, and some bitterness, all notes that serve to enhance the experience by taking things in an unexpected direction.

92 proof.

A- / $55 / vadistillery.com

Review: Booker’s Bourbon “Off Your Rocker” 2016-05 and “Noe Hard Times” 2016-06

In December of 2016, Beam Suntory informed the public that enjoying a bottle of Booker’s batches in 2017 will come affixed with a price increase of an additional $40 over suggested retail, resulting in a $99 price tag. The explanation included the customary press release rhetoric of supply/demand and a reduction in release schedule from six to four times per year. The news was not met well with everyone, from consumers and critics all the way up to distributors and store buyers. Beam Suntory’s not so subtle attempt to elevate Booker’s unto the ranks of Pappy van Winkle backfired and flopped, and the company backed off weeks later. Given the recent fanfare surrounding the brand, it seemed an appropriate time as any to test drive the final two batches of 2016.

Booker’s Batch 2016-05 “Off Your Rocker” – A most appropriate nickname for this expression. This is very much a “Noe holds barred” bottle, deceptively powerful for only being 6 1/2 years old. The near-65% abv is quite evident right from the nose with a nice blend of charred oak and the signature combination of vanilla and tobacco that was customarily present in the pre-nickname Booker’s era. The alcohol refuses to sit back unless you add a bit of water to the mix, which brings out dark chocolate, pepper, and a little bit of cherry. The finish is long and strong, with more black cherry and vanilla that eventually eases up over time to provide a mild relief. A big and boisterous affair, much like the bourbon’s namesake himself, if legend is to be believed. 129.7 proof. $60 / A-

Booker’s Batch 2016-06 “Noe Hard Times” – Taking the volume down from Off Your Rocker’s 11 to about 8 1/2, “Noe Hard Times” (a tribute to Noe’s highschool football nickname) has plenty of vanilla dancing about on the nose, but it’s a tad lighter on the oak and alcohol notes when contrasted against other releases in the class of 2016. A bit of toffee, burnt brown sugar and a lovely medium length finish of dark cherry and vanilla. 127.8 proof. $60 / B+

This is not the last we will see of Beam Suntory’s strategic moves regarding Booker’s. Price increases are still slated to happen gradually and will reach the higher tier price points by late 2017/early 2018. If Booker’s is your brand, it may be best to stock up now. These two would be suitable places to start.

Bookersbourbon.com

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