These Are The Drinks You’ve Been Looking For!

bobrow_2016Certainly by the end of the year I’ve become a bit jaded on what I consider to be trends for the following year.  Everyone wants to know what the “next best thing” is… Or what it’s going to be tomorrow, next week or in the coming months.

It is here that I want to start my list of what I think, as a taste-maker- will be hot in the coming months. I’ll give a list with some explanation- just in case.

Last September I was fortunate to attend the Moscow (Russia) Bar Show.  It was enlightening, amazing and educational.  I gave a master class on rum and traveled to the other side of the globe to find a country that for all intents and purposes is just like ours- except they speak Russian.  They love us- we’d never know that from our press though. The Russians are passionate about American Whiskey.

Want to know where all the Bourbon Whiskey is?  Russia.  So, I’ll start my list in Moscow.

• Authenticity, Nostalgia, Simplicity.  I was sent to the Moscow Bar Show by Mezan Rum.  You would think that Russians would be preoccupied with vodka.  Not so, they demand authenticity and that “Jerry Thomas” approach to history.  Fine aged rum plays directly into this chess game.  Rum that hasn’t been colorized, chill-filtered nor any added sugar, or saccharine allowed.  Mezan fulfills this purpose and takes you further into the plethora of flavors that speak clearly to the métier of the rum distiller.  Get some!  I prefer the Jamaican version. There is a certain funk in each sip.  Powerful stuff in a Planter’s Punch or even in a Rum-Manhattan.  Make sure you use a Vermouth like Atsby, or Uncouth- even Carpano… But use the white one.  The red is too sweet for these perfumed rums.

• Whiskey from actual distilleries!  What a concept- is it me, or are there more made-up names than usual on the store shelves?  I actually had a friend ask me about a Bourbon the other day from a distillery that has never existed outside of a Madison Avenue advertising agency desk.  The label appeared to be hand attached and the closure had the look of a cork stuck in the top of a bottle of Moonshine.  There may have been leather involved.  All it said to me was, stay far away.
Authenticity in Bourbon takes guts these days.  But should you find a true craft distillery- then by all means buy their stuff.  They deserve your support.  The big guys are ok, but cut out the fake-craft labeling.  It’s confusing to the consumer!  My favorites going forward, Barrell Bourbon, Few Spirits, Catoctin Creek, Hudson…  They are my favorites for a reason.  They speak the language of history.

• Scotch from Scotland and other places – Ok, so they call them smoked whiskies when they are from other places.  I don’t want to raise the ire of Scotch drinkers.  Pardon me. Amongst my favorites going forward- Virginia Highland Malt Whisky- yes Virginia, they distill absolutely gorgeous whisky in Virginia. I’ve been making Bee’s Knees with Old St. Andrews Scotch Whisky- lightly aromatic of cut grass and toasted peat. Not overpowering with smoke, but to my palate, just enough.  And that bottle!  Looks like a golf ball.  Brenne from France continues to please and going forward I would say that any releases from this marvelous producer will challenge even the most snobbish of the Whisky drinkers.   I had some beautiful Scotch Whisky in Russia that dated back to the mid 1960’s… If you can find any of these, save your pennies… They are worth every cent.

• Rhum Agricole.  Certainly you should be drinking Rhum Agricole…  Don’t just put a bottle on your bar and forget about it.  I continue to wax poetic about the mysterious flavors that appear and disappear in each sip of Rhum Agricole.  One of my favorite ways to drink this perfumed slice of Rhum history (yes they use an extra h in Rhum in the French West Indies) is with a chunk of lime (with the skin on) and a couple splashes of Cane Sugar Syrup… This is so simple!  Anyone can choose their own demise by making this drink as strong or as weak as they desire.  Thank you to Ed Hamilton for teaching me what I needed to know in the first place.

• Flavored Syrups and Shrubs.  What is a shrub?  My third book, Bitters and Shrub Syrup Cocktails defines a Shrub as an acidulated beverage, historically used as a method of aiding digestion and for refreshment- as an energy drink.  In the days prior to soda, a touch of vinegar, sugar and fruit along with cool water would satisfy most thirsts.  Flavored syrups make our jobs as bartenders and mixologists much easier.  Amongst the very best that you can buy are: Royal Rose… Fruitations (I’m just blown away by their Cranberry), Pickett’s from Brooklyn (yes, that’s a place and their hot ginger syrup is world class) Shrub and Company, Shrub Drinks, Liber and Company.  All delicious and lip-smacking.  Powell & Mahoney is my go/to for Pomegranate Mixer- yes- even I use a pre-mix for some events.

• Craft Soda… With too many names to mention, but I’ll mention a couple.  Q-Drinks- they’re magnificent.  The Club Soda has a pinch of sea salt- keeps you thirsty!  I’m thrilled by some of the Root Beers that come down from Bar Harbor in Maine… I love to drink Boylan’s and Bruce Cost sodas when I want something even more authentic.  Dry Soda is just amazing stuff- the cucumber variety is crisp and refreshing.

• Hard Cider.  Possmann’s from Germany is my go/to.  This lightly sparkling cider is all apple and just the right amount of fizz and alcohol rolling in at 5% abv.  I’ve had it on tap in the New York/Metro area and if you see it, get some… immediately!  Farnum Hill from up in New England continues to charm my palate as well.  There are some Spanish Ciders that are just so assertive- Burgundy wine comes to mind.  Barnyard notes and crushed stones come into view, sip by sip, if you dare! They are just different styles from Spain.  I much prefer the German ciders, at least for my palate.

• Tequila.  I don’t know what happened to Tequila, but I’m tired of Tequila that tastes like Bourbon.  Maybe it’s because they age the distillate in used Bourbon casks?  Absolutely, this is why your Tequila tastes sweet.  It’s in the cask!  I much prefer the rare and usually a bit more expensive versions like Casa Noble- aged in French White Oak.  This is a much more expensive method, but worthwhile in my opinion.

• Mezcal… It’s mysterious like a high fever in the middle of Summer.  There’s smoke in there- lots of stuff going on in your imagination.  If you want to really challenge your palate, in a good way… Taste Mezcal.  Of course if it has a worm in the bottle, throw it out immediately.  This is not the real thing.  It was invented, yes again… by one of those ad agencies.  No one eats the darned thing!

• Gin.  Stick to what you like and I love Barr Hill from Vermont.  The Tom Cat, aged in American Oak is my preference in a snifter- for a perfectly marvelous gin and juice – use nothing more than the raw honey and grain distilled Barr Hill Gin with freshly squeezed- broiled grapefruit in a muddle.  A splash of Q-Tonic water and a couple dashes of Angostura to finish…  All good. Happy New Year!


My fourth book, Cannabis Cocktails (the first book on the topic!) is in pre-sell now: www.quartoknows.com/books/9781592337347/Cannabis-Cocktails-Mocktails-and-Tonics.html

 

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The Blackadder (Scotch you will never be able to find)

On Whiskey | March 14, 2012 by admin | 0 Comments

WARREN BOBROW is the Food and Drink Editor of the 501c3 non profit Wild Tableon Wild River Review located in Princeton, New Jersey. He attended Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans. He has published over three hundred articles on everything from cocktail mixology to restaurant reviews to travel articles. In addition to OKRA Magazine, Warren writes for Williams-Sonoma’s Blender Blog and Foodista.http://www.cocktailwhisperer.com

Imagine, if you will, a liquor company that is able to source a single barrel of whisky at a time.  In an age where liquor companies are trying to produce more and more of their product to slake the thirsts of thousands of thirsty drinkers- there is one company that is decidedly set on satisfying only a couple of hundred- it that!

Enter the Blackadder.  You many remember the BBC Television show by the same name.  If you do, you’re half way there.  The Blackadder was a dark comedy on British television and in many ways the philosophy of  this television show is evident in every sip of the Blackadder!

There is stuff in every bottle of Blackadder.  This stuff is from the inside of the casks!  Blackadder is not filtered or blended.  It is bottled at Cask Strength.

The Blackadder is a one of the most unique single malt Scotch whiskies that I’ve ever tasted. My friend Raj facilitated this tasting by sending me four hand numbered bottles.

1.      Lochranza Distillery- 2011- Raw Cask- label reads that it contains its natural Cask Sediments as well as all the natural oils and fats.  Mmmm, that’s what I like to hear.  The Lochranza  is bottled at 104.8 proof.  At the bottom of the informative label it reads Sherry Puncheon.  I suppose this means that the Scotch was aced (finished) in used sherry casks.  Bottle 82 of 548, Bottled 14th of October 1996

2.      Mannochmore Distillery-1999-Raw Cask- label reads that is also contains its natural Cask Sediments as well as the natural Oils and Fats.  Label reads Speyside malt whisky- one of only 304 bottles drawn at Cask Strength from a single oak cask no.5400 bottled by Blackadder in November 2011. 121.2 Proof 12 years old

3.      Blair Athol Distillery- 1999- 1st September 1999.  Reads: This Highland malt whisky is one of only 462 bottles drawn at Cask Strength from a SINGLE REFILL SHERRY BUTT, marked bottle 66 out of 462. 114.6 proof 12 years old

4.      Blackadder Smoking Islay- The Spirit of Legend-11 year old Islay Malt Scotch Whisky Raw Cask- 118.8 proof- Distilled 12th April 2000, bottled August 2011.

All the whiskies read that they are bottled from carefully selected casks.  They do not chill filter or otherwise filter their whiskies through small filter pads to remove sediment.  No two casks of Whisky are ever exactly alike because of the type of oak used and the conditions under which it is stored.

Like fine wines, these naturally bottled whiskies may throw a little sediment.  Now we’re talking!

I love wines with stuff in them.  Why not whisky?  Why not!?

Tasting Notes:  I did all the tastings in front of a blazing wood fire after eating a rib steak sandwich with Swiss cheese and grainy French mustard on Pechter’s Rye bread.  I used a tiny bit of spring water to open up the Whiskies. No ice.  A Maine tumbled granite sea-stone (frozen overnight) provided a bit of chill- to cellar temp.  Truth is this tasting is highly un-scientific.  You will never read scores from me.  I find them incongruous.

1.      Lochranza Distillery- I’ve woken up in a honey bee nest.  My skin is covered in honey and the bees are giving me little tiny nips with their stingers. Not enough to hurt, just enough to know they are there.  Pure smoke lingers on the periphery. It’s the beekeeper- smoking out the bees.  It tastes of peat and smoke-honey and dark stone fruits. Luscious stuff- the finish just goes on and on.

2.      Smoking Islay- the fire in the fireplace is giving off that tell-tale smoky scent of wet wood.  There is the scent of wet-dog and wet clothing and wet leather.  Spanish leather at that.  What does Spanish leather taste like? Come off your horse in the pouring rain, the last thing you remember before you bury your face in the mud is licking your saddle on the way down.  That’s what Spanish leather tastes like.  Candy sugar on the tongue and deep inside my throat gives way to sweet honey and freshly cut grasses.  There is some citrus in there too. Almost a wine like nose- if the wine was a very well aged Muscadet that is.  I love this stuff.

3.      Blair Athol Distillery- There is wind blowing through my hair- tinged salt water and more wildflower honey, a farmhouse comes into view and there is a fire in the chimney- yet the residents are not aware of the pending disaster.  Approaching the house I realize there is no fire in the chimney, it is coming from a peat fire in the backyard.  But no matter- there is fire and salt and smoke.  Honey gummy bears on the tongue with little bursts of sweet rock candy in the finish.  This is awfully sophisticated.  Thick perhaps. Creamy.

4.      Mannochmore- What can I say about perfection.  With a splash of cool spring water I am transported to a foreign country without grasp of the language.  This Speyside whisky is frightening in its depth and grip. I taste more honey and salt- smoke and smoked salmon- yes Scottish smoked salmon in the finish.  Salty. Salty Salty. Golden honey in color- there is stuff in the bottle. Scotch is not usually my go-to on spirits but with bottles of whisky as sensual and delicious as these in my cabinet, the frosty winter winds may blow- causing me no immediate harm.   Thank you Raj for being so generous with gifts of perhaps the best whisky you can find.