I created this original recipe for Art in the Age out of Philadelphia. My friend Steven Grasse is the lead protagonist of this Public Relations, Marketing, Advertising and Brand Re-invigoration firm. It’s hard to put a finger on what they do best. I just like what they do!
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Philadelphia – August 30, 2011
Bid Farewell to Summer with The Last Pirate Ship
Make a Cocktail with Art in the Age’s Rhuby
Art in the Age’s Root and Snap liqueurs created quite the buzz. Now, the collective is causing another stir with its much-anticipated spirit Rhuby, made of rhubarb, pink peppercorn, petitgrain, and other organic ingredients, based on a Revolutionary era recipe.
According to legend, Benjamin Franklin and botanist John Bartram tinkered with brewing rhubarb tea back in 1771. The boozy variation is now on shelves, just in time for a late-summer libation created by modern-day mixologist Warren Bobrow.
The Last Pirate Ship
2 oz. Rhuby
1 oz. fresh lime juice
Fleur de sel
1 sprig of thyme
1. Combine ice, Rhuby, and lime juice in a cocktail shaker.
2. Toast strawberries in a cast iron pan.
3. Muddle strawberries and add to cocktail shaker.
4. Shake and strain into a rocks glass, sprinkle with fleur de sel, and garnish with a thyme sprig.
There is an easy going congeniality in Charleston, South Carolina.
I lived in Charleston during the 1980’s, started a fresh pasta business, attended Johnson/Wales- cooked and bartended at the Primrose House and Tavern- then left after Hurricane Hugo crashed the party.
I never returned. There were many ghosts that I had to deal with intermixed with feelings about the this town, like no other that I’ve ever lived. My dreams of Charleston from the past have haunted me for years.
It’s that kind of place.
From the dripping Spanish Moss to the whisper soft voices of the way people speak down in Charleston, I’ve felt like it was a part of me for longer than I can imagine.
I drove non-stop from Morristown to Charleston. Food and fuel the only real stops.
This gracious lady of the New South, is as elegant as ever. She has been recreated with pleasure as her first name.
All ravages of Hurricane Hugo have been erased like the rapid progression of the Kudzu vine across the Low Country landscape. Erasing the past in a swath of green.
I discovered a city that had grown up, yet still retains her “village by the sea” appeal and candor.
There is serious food here now and serious drink.
The chefs are filled with a passion for local, fresh, terroir and the brilliant flavor of the ocean. There is something about the nature of the pluff mud, tidal flats that makes the water alive with possibilities.
In a former life I lived in Portland, Maine. Portland was similar in my imagination to Charleston from a perspective of friendly to really great seafood. It’s just freezing there! Too cold for me!
Oysters in South Carolina taste like no where else in the world. They are just about ravishing with a crisp glass of Rum! While in Charleston I was fortunate to snag a mini-bottle of Striped Pig Rum. This is the real thing. I would drink it with a splash of Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water and a slice of Meyer Lemon. Maybe a splash of Sweet Iced Tea- but that would cover up the sublime freshness of Striped Pig. This rum is redolent with the flavor of the place. It’s creamy-has a lovely finish of cane juice to heat to spice. I’m tasting it straight from the mini-bottle. No mixer but air.
This is fabulous Rum. I simply cannot wait to enjoy another cocktail with Todd Weiss, the owner of the Striped Pig distillery. The Gin Joint was, as you said… World class. There’s just something about cocktails down here. Maybe it’s the air, soft and laced with salt.
2 Shots of Striped Pig to a shaker filled 1/2 with ice
1/2 Shot Tenneyson Absinthe
4 Tablespoons of Royal Rose Simple Syrup of Autumn Plum
1 Medicine Dropper full of the Figgy Pudding
Shake and strain into a tall glass with some ice made from Coconut water
Charleston is a place of all kinds of possibilities. They embrace their history and catapult into the future. It’s like a living museum.
The Belmont Lounge is located on a part of King Street that one would not venture to in the 1980’s. Visually I remember a mostly bombed out area, nearly void of soul and life.
You would not want to walk there during the day and at night, well, I never did.
I lived on Charlotte Street and spent Hurricane Hugo in a kitchen house at #29. It was the most frightening thing I’ve ever experienced.
Now upper King Street is buzzing with activity. I must admit that the first time I ventured above Calhoun Street, I was a bit concerned for safety. No more. The Charleston PD don’t just drive the streets, they walk them, bike them and make sure the area is very well observed. I’m impressed.
I wandered in off the street to find a cocktail lounge worthy of New York or even Barcelona. The groove was apparent in the lighting and the screening of “The Big Sleep” in glorious Black and White on the wall. The lighting, low and sensuous- the music not overwhelming. People spend more time talking than using their smart phones. They interact with the extremely congenial bar staff who genuinely have the knack and gift of gab. There is an Italian machine meant for slicing Salumi and a very high quality espresso machine for turning out perfect Irish coffee, topped by a thick mantle of cream. The bartenders are shorn in crisp white shirts with skinny ties. A bright red B for Belmont graces the bottom the tie.
Even the cocktail napkins are emblazoned with the B. Nice touch. I wanted one, but thought it better to ask first. (I didn’t take one)
The salumi is brilliant, the cured pork redolent of fat and smoke, a perfect panini of melted tomato and mozzerella cheese delights! Too much food! Pickled vegetables abound, was that pickled okra? I really must be showing my Yankee inclinations now!
Yes, judging by the bar, I felt right at home.
I met Joey Ryan at the bar. He has an easy-going style and friendly demeanor that is instructional and kind.
He invented a cocktail known as the Off-Duty Bartender. My friend Federico Cuco down in Argentina would be proud of this drink because of the use of Cynar.
I’m reproduced it here with my complements:
Absinthe Rinse (add Absinthe to a glass with ice and water, then pour out.. preferably into my mouth)
2 oz 100 proof Rye I prefer Rittenhouse
3/4 oz Cynar
3/4 oz Fernet Branca
3/4 Punt e Mes
Stir ingredients in mixing glass while rocks glass is chilling with Absinthe rinse.
Strain ingredients in chilled glass after discarding ice. add large rock, and top with orange bitters.
The Belmont Lounge
511 King Street
Charleston, SC 29403
Joey, Hat’s off to you and the Belmont. I could spend much time in your care.
Yesterday I was contemplating Pimms Cup. The addition of lemonade is particularly inviting. I added to the mix by the inclusion of Absinthe. Somehow the very mention of Absinthe makes me think of two places. New Orleans and Charleston. Two very European cities firmly grounded in the United States.
Woolworth’s Lunch Counter Surprise
Sweet Ice Tea
Freshly made seltzer
Add 2 Shots of Pimms to the fresh Lemonade and Sweet Iced Tea
Add 1 Shot of Lucid Absinthe
Top with freshly drawn seltzer
Garnish with a home cured cherry (essential!)
Swing on the porch swing to make the pain go away
Pluff Mud Cocktail
Snap (USDA Certified Ginger Snap Liquor)
Knob Creek Single Barrel Bourbon
Bitter End Mexican Mole’ Bitters
Make a nice cup of Hot Chocolate
Add 2 Shots of Snap
Add 1 Shot of Knob Creek
Add 3 drops of the Bitter End Bitters
Makes two rather lovely cocktails perfect for a cool night or dessert
Sullivan’s Island Smash
2 Shots of Striped Pig White Rum
1 Shot Cane Syrup
1 Shot Freshly squeezed orange juice
4 ozs. Coconut water (sweetened)
Coconut Water Ice
To a cocktail shaker, fill 1/3 with regular ice
Add Coconut Water
Shake and strain into small rocks glasses with Coconut Water ice cubes
Smash the Coconut Water cubes in a towel for maximum extraction of flavor!
Garnish with fresh mint and freshly scraped nutmeg- ESSENTIAL!!!
All Photography by Warren Bobrow with Leica M8, 50mm Summicron F2
My grandfather, a Yankee like myself, truly enjoyed Bottled in Bond, 100 Proof Bourbon Whiskey. I didn’t know about his passion for Bourbon because he never drank it around me and he never ordered it in a restaurant. Usually he ordered an extra dry Dewers Rob Roy. For many years I only thought he drank Scotch whisky. What I didn’t know at the time was that his true passion was Bourbon.
My grandfather owned his own company and one of the things that people would give him at Christmas time were some very special bottles of Bourbon. These bottles remained hidden from me for many years. After he died I learned from my grandmother that there were several nice looking (from a design perspective anyway) bottles of pre-1960 Bourbon in a hidden compartment of the bar.
She went on to tell me that she was going to pour out the contents (the historic Bourbon) and turn them into flower vases, because the bottles were so pretty. I got over to her home as quickly as I could. She showed me the hidden compartment in the bar. Inside there were several bottles of Bourbon from the 1940’s to the late 1950s. These bottles of Bourbon had rested, in the dark, away from my youthful fingers since he placed them there and forgot about them.
These remaining bottles are a liquid history of the last of my grandfather’s Bourbon collection.
Photo: Warren Bobrow
Truth be told, as a “damned” Yankee, I know the true value of these ancient spirits. Not as an investment in dollars, but as a flavor-driven window into my family’s past. The bottles that I hold in my hand are a history of flavor. This is a specific type of history that could never be duplicated today, primarily because the people who crafted the contents of these historic Bourbon bottles are now long gone. The ingredients used today are similar, but the Whisky is different because each sip holds liquid ghosts belonging to the past.
Old Forester “Bottled in Bond” Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky. 100 proof. This bottle has been filled and stamped under the provisions of sections 5008 and 5243 of the Internal Revenue code.
Set into wood 1954. Bottled 1959.
A gentle, almost cedar nose gives way to candied orange peel, sweet jasmine flowers and caramelized pecan. The brooding heat burns the tongue. With a texture almost as thick as maple syrup, the freshness and liveliness of this Bourbon hasn’t changed a bit since entering the bottle over fifty years ago. Charred notes of Anson Mills stone ground grits stuck to the bottom of an ancient cast iron pan is the next thing tasted as I rolled a few precious drops around my mouth. The soft, mineral finish goes on and on, revealing itself with another slow burn as if the bottom of the glass was aflame. This Bourbon, when served with a bit of Kentucky Colonel mint from the garden, awakens ghosts from one’s grand-pappy’s generation.
Ancient Age. Date uncertain due to the loss of the tax stamp, estimated somewhere between 1945-1950. Space Age in design, this Mid-Century modern bottle is filled to just over a pint in liquid. Marked straight Bourbon Whiskey. The bottle reads: carefully distilled according to the finest old traditions. 86 proof. Marked Full Six Years old. Distilled and bottled by Ancient Age Distillery Co., Frankfort Kentucky.
Warm aromas of sweetly delineated, hand-hewn oak- remind me immediately that Bourbon Whisky is not Scotch Whiskey or Tennessee sippin’ Whisky. One reason for certain is the lack of smoke, peat and saline in the nose. Normally, I find these flavors to be overpowering. I suppose I just don’t understand Scotch. The nose of this Bourbon Whisky resembles a liquid caramel candy. A burst of fire from the nearly 90 proof alcohol makes itself known then a finish of fleur du sel and freshly cut herbs like thyme and tarragon. This Bourbon, although “only” 86 proof, acts on the palate like one almost double the potency. In fact it resembles in many ways the potency and grip of some un-cut corn whiskies I’ve tasted recently. Each slurp reveals sharply aromatic Asian spices with a razor sharp finish that exposes itself on the back of the tongue; with a nearly 2 minute long finish! This Bourbon tastes nothing like the roughness of the neither 1952 Old Forester, nor does is resemble the overly oaked “modern-style” of the 1955 Old Grand Dad. With a crumbled leaf of Kentucky Colonel spearmint this Bourbon really opens up, revealing its wood-driven flavors as a contender for a (very rare and expensive) mint julep. This Bourbon has all the stuffing for a drink made with its primary ingredient over a half-century old!
Old Forester 1952. Bottled in Bond in 1957. Freshly baked charred- corn “hoe” cakes are smeared with melted, sweet strawberry butter. The first flavors take a bit to get used to. Sweet is usually a flavor more akin to Canadian Whisky or Irish Whisky. Freshly brewed sweet iced tea reveals itself- then flavors of caramel corn and cinnamon laced red-hot candy folded into a mug of boiling hot water, Asian spices and sugar cane lurk in the background. The backbone of alcohol is a sudden wake up call to the throat. It BURNS! A glass of this Bourbon has amazing heat for spirit almost sixty years old! The 1952 taste as lively a drink in the glass as a 2002 bottle of Knob Creek Bourbon! It’s just amazing how little the alcoholic power has diminished over the past half century!
Old Grand Dad “Head of the Bourbon Family” 1955. Set into bottle 1959. Part of a more modern and new style of Bourbon Whiskey, this is a roughly hewn, heavily oaked version of the classic drink. It’s just amazing to me how much Bourbon has evolved during the late 1950’s. The soft almost billowy quality of the Bourbon is ever-present, yet the finish is much sharper, but it lingers on the tongue for several minutes. The 1959 bottling is more akin in many ways to Four Roses or Pappy Van Winkle with an almost lemon oil, citrus tinged mouth-feel. The oils from the cask rise to the surface creating an illusion of a rainbow. Each sip is laced with banana, vanilla bean, toasted corn bread, the char from well- seasoned cast iron pan and brook trout cooked in that pan with a handful of toasted hazelnuts thrown in at the finish. An Amaretto-liqueur nose predominates. The finish is like the first day of golden sunshine, streaming into the windows after a spring thunderstorm. This is serious stuff and it deserves a drop or two of branch water to release its secrets. The next flavors are like authentically seasoned Thai food served Thai spicy. Flavor before heat is the mantra of this Bourbon. A few sips signal the essential drink to take the edge off the afternoon or evening like none of your neighbors have ever imagined or enjoyed.
These bottles are a bit less than ½ full … As much as I want to share them with well- meaning friends, I know that once they’re gone, they can never be replaced.
I’ll be drinking small glasses from these bottles without any mixers from now on. Well, maybe with a few drops of some sweet, local branch water flicked over the surface to connect these liquid history lessons with the flavor driven memories of the past.
Tuaca- Dark Rum from Atlantico- Angostura Bitters, Grade B Maple Syrup and charred citrus fruits make up this week’s cocktail experience.
The inspiration for this drink came during dinner a few weeks ago at the highly regarded modern American restaurant named Serenade; located in Chatham, NJ.
They prepare a cocktail that’s similar in scope, using sweet vermouth and chopped apples named the Chatham cocktail.
I love it.
In keeping with my twisted cocktail logic, I deepened the version served at Serenade by adding Carpano Antica Formula Sweet Vermouth, Tuaca- the savory Mexican Vanilla / Citrus Liqueur, Atlantico Dark Rum, a muddle of chopped, grilled citrus fruits (tangerine, orange, grapefruit) with Grade B (Dark Amber) Maple Syrup and finally a few dashes of Angostura Bitters with a splash of Perrier.
I call this drink the Dripping Spanish Moss Cocktail in reverence to the coming week’s activities.
I’ll be traveling to Charleston, South Carolina to judge the Iron Cocktail Competition at the renowned Charleston Wine and Food Festival.
With regards to the Iron Mixologist competition I will be judging, William Grant & Sons is sponsoring this competition and the back bar will feature their entire portfolio (or most of it). Their master mixologist Charlotte Voisey will be the master of ceremonies. The competition is 3 rounds. The 4 mixologists involved are Charleston locals and were the finalists in the Official Festival Mixologist Competition in January for the Festival featuring Milagro Tequila + Hendrick’s Gin. They are:
Jon Calo of The Cocktail Club
Mick Matricciano of The Belmont (Mick won the competition in January + his cocktail will be featured at the opening night party)
Evan Powell of Fish Restaurant
The first round will have all 4 competing against one another to create a specific themed drink (decided by Charlotte). You and the other judges – Junior Merino, The Liquid Chef and Nicholas Polacchi, The Balvenie – will then narrow the finalists down to 3 who will then go to the next round to create a specific themed cocktail (decided by Charlotte). The second round will continue like the first and the 3rd will be the final two.
The competition is from 4:00 – 5:00 PM on Friday, March 2, 2012 in the culinary village in Marion Square in the Palmetto Cheese Culinary Hub Tent.
If you are anywhere near Charleston, South Carolina on Friday, stop by and introduce yourself.
The Dripping Spanish Moss Cocktail– is named for the surfeit of Spanish Moss that hangs gracefully from the “live oak” trees.
Atlantico Dark Rum
Tuaca Italian Liqueur
Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth
Charred Citrus Fruits – combinations are up to you. Sear in a sizzling hot pan until crunchy, then muddled with the Angostura Bitters and Maple Syrup
Grade B (Dark Amber) Maple Syrup
In a sauté pan that is heated to smoking hot, sizzle the citrus fruits until nicely charred and crunchy
Add a couple of chunks of the seared fruits to a cocktail mixing glass
Muddle with a few splashes of Angostura Bitters to release their aroma and juice
Add 2 Tablespoons of Dark Amber Maple Syrup and muddle a bit more
Add 2 shots of the Atlantico Rum
Add ½ Shot of the Tuaca
Add a couple cubes of ice to the cocktail shaker
Shake and strain into a pre-chilled Martini glass
Garnish with a chunk of grilled citrus fruit and finish with a splash of Perrier for spark
Gin has percolated deeply into my dreams as of late. I’ve been dreaming about a perfect Gin and Tonic that I enjoyed down in Charleston, SC during the recent Wine/Food Festival. There wasn’t very much of it, Gin can be very dangerous in hot weather.
There is something about being in the humidity and saline tinged air that drives a thirst for aromatic, crisp, thirst quenching and pleasing cocktails. In the ninety- degree weather, a refreshing Gin and Tonic became more than just a sum of the parts. This Gin and Tonic was exactly what I thirsted for. The cocktail had tonic water, nothing fancy, Schweppes served in little bottles (nice touch) and the size of the cocktail, was one of those little tasting glasses, just enough to whet my whistle. I was sated quickly, enough to find out more about this very delicious Gin.
Cardinal Gin is a new brand to the market. I like to try to discover passion in my spirits writing. It’s important for me to help the craft distiller with the brainpower and passion about what it takes to launch a distillery. I can visualize their dream and though the application of the myriad of Social Media, get their name out there in ways they never thought possible.
Flavor is the major determinate. You don’t go into the spirits business to make something that tastes like someone else’s product. It’s all about individuality and American ingenuity!
Cardinal Gin for example is all about flavor. The Company is named SAS- Southern Artisanal Spirits. I like that, the name of their company is catchy and memorable. They are located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains on King’s Mountain in North Carolina.
Their ingredients are all organic- a major plus in my mind. I’ve always made an extra effort to seek out producers who use organic methods.
Sure they’ve won some awards- big ones. But a Gin shouldn’t just taste good to the judges; it should also taste good to me. And in that tent, down in Charleston, in the ninety- degree heat, a Gin and Tonic made with Cardinal Gin was as satisfying as the first time I ever tasted Gin as a boy. My sip said FLAVOR!
I suggest trying to find some. You can buy it down South and I think they will be in the Northeast before long. The packaging is really fantastic with the bright red cardinal bird etched into the glass, visible from the front- but you don’t drink the bottle. The flavor is reminiscent of cream, freshly cut flowers and toasted citrus.
I’ve tasted many Gins, but none like this one.
Gin is becoming my go/to for real flavor- I suggest trying some soon on the rocks with a chunk of blood orange or… try this cocktail (below)
A Quite Twisted Cardinal Gin Mind Liberator Cocktail (serves two)
Botanical Gin (Cardinal, Bulldog, Hendrick’s, Martin Miller)
Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur
Charred Lemonade- griddle lemons then juice into lemonade sweeten to taste with Royal Rose Syrups (your choice)
Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water
Griddle Lemon rounds until charred, juice them and strain you’ll need about 8 oz total so get to work!
Add Simple Syrup like the one from Royal Rose (use your choice of flavors)
2 Shots of Botanical Gin
1 Shot Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur
1 Shot Lucid Absinthe
Fill cocktail shaker 1/3 with ice
Add liqueurs and three shakes of Angostura Bitters
Shake and double strain into low champagne glasses (coupe’)
Finish with a splash of the Perrier Sparkling Water and a home cured cherry!
Absinthe stirs the imagination. All those paintings from France in the 1800’s exemplifying the mystical aspects of this misunderstood liquor makes me want to delve deeply into measured sips. But how does Absinthe work? It does because of the mystique surrounding the clear liquid that somehow turns cloudy after dripping scant drops of water over the surface. Magic happens! Sure there are the botanical herbs, of course there is the ever-present alcohol- you cannot miss that with many varieties exceeding 120 proof!
Absinthe is powerful stuff indeed!
I love Absinthe because of the bad boy (bad girl) element. From a flavor perspective, Absinthe is every bit as delicious as botanical Gin, but it is thicker somehow. On the first taste, you can feel the creamy texture against your lips and tongue- then- coming quickly into view is the anise elements- then suddenly as if a monster awakened- the brooding depth of the alcohol. Sweet, savory, tart and herbal elements differ from brand to brand. The European varieties are known to contain certain long banned ingredients, but the American ones are no less potent. The rumor of a brand of Absinthe that may have plied Van Gogh to cut off his ear is known as the Green Fairy- good luck finding it! (No, not his ear) La Fee Verte.
This week’s cocktail is woven of Absinthe, freshly squeezed, charred grapefruit juice and a splash of Q-Tonic water. Q-Tonic water is available in nearly every Williams-Sonoma store and also in Whole Foods. It’s worth the extra expense for a hand-made product!
I’ve taken a small producer Absinthe from St. George in California- certainly available around the country- although you can use your choice of Absinthe- and added freshly squeezed grapefruit juice. I char the grapefruit segments in a cast iron pan before juicing to reveal a deeper personality and a hint of mystery!
Martin Miller – Bon viveur and maker of Martin Miller’s London Dry Gin via www.luxist.com
I’m sitting in front of the fireplace right now. Also in front of me are over 15 bottles of Artisanal Gin. My new favorite is the London Dry Gin from Martin Miller’s Gin. This is truly exotic stuff. The London Dry is in a low, squat bottle. Upon opening the handsome bottle I detect immediately the scent of cucumbers. Not just any cucumber but an especially aromatic variety. This Gin doesn’t need to be mixed- it’s got all the stuff right inside. I’m absolutely blown away by the softness of the nose- coupled with that unmistakable aroma of the cucumber. I got to thinking- when was the first time that I smelled this quality of Gin? Hendrick’s does a cucumber scented Gin that I like, very much. This Gin from Martin Miller is a very sophisticated and dare I say sensual slurp of liquid pleasure. The cucumber is right there in the foreground. You cannot miss it. I’m almost shocked by the depth of the vegetable aroma and flavor. White flowers follow up immediately- those little tobacco flowers. Then the attack of herbs and spices come quickly into view. The initial distillation happens in England. The blending occurs in Iceland with pristine glacial water as the adjunct. I’m just blown away by the finish- it goes on and on and… on .
I thought I introduce a new cocktail to Modenus this week. Gin and Citrus come to mind. Charred grapefruit juice, Maraschino Cherry liquor and a chiffonade of Thai Basil. What? Fresh herbs in a drink? Why not?
To make this cocktail you must be ready to take your palate to another place. In this case, the drink is Martini-like but not a Martini. Sure it has Vermouth, but Carpano Antica is the Sweet Vermouth (instead of dry) and there is the slightly charred grapefruit bringing up the rear.
I love working with great ingredients and you should too!
The Gin Twist
Makes two invigorating cocktails for whatever you desire at the end of the day.
Martin Miller’s London Dry Gin
Bitter End Thai Bitters
Seltzer water like Perrier Pink Grapefruit
Chiffonade of Thai Basil
To a cocktail shaker filled ¼ with ice add some charred grapefruit. (sear grapefruit segments in a sauté pan until nice and colored on all sides, then muddle with fresh mint and the cucumber, lime and grapefruit chunks until they release their essence about 3 minutes or so. Add to the shaker the Carpano Antica Vermouth (about a shot) Roll the Thai Basil into a cigar shape, and then slice on the bias to release the aromatic oils. Add to the shaker.
Add the Martin Miller’s Dry London Gin and the Maraschino Liqueur. ( 1 shot)
Shake and strain into a coupe’ glass and garnish with a flamed peel of orange peel. Top with a home cured cherry. Add a splash of seltzer water to finish.
Slurp away to a freezing cold and wet spring in old England.
A quick, yet highly focused tasting of the Macallan Single Malt Scotch vs. 2 offerings of Tennessee “Sipping” Whiskey
My old friend Becky once told me that she’d “rue the day” that I called Tennessee “sipping” whiskey bourbon. She said that only a “damned Yankee” would be confused enough to call Jack Daniel’s bourbon.
Tennessee “sipping” whiskey is not bourbon. The char, smoke, and charcoal filtering make Jack Daniel’s unique in the dichotomy of whiskey. There is the rub. The smoke, the char, and the power.
Macallan, on the other hand, is an extremely fine Scotch whisky. The most immediate difference between Tennessee whiskey and Scotch whisky is not that one is spelled with an e, and the other without- but the terroir, or taste of the place. Scotch just tastes different.
I recently received a bottle of Macallan whisky and set to comparing this benchmark 12 year old single malt whiskey against the very American slurp of whiskey. What I discovered is quite profound. The Tennessee whiskey is every bit as sumptuous and delicious as the kindred cousins from across the pond.
Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select
Notes of fire-toasted pecans give way to a smoky, peat-laden mid-palate. Flavors of sweet cream and sweet vanilla gelato enrobe your palate with sharper notes of scorched toffee and treacle pudding. This is a very sophisticated slurp of liquid American History. The finish goes on and on and right into the robust 94 proof finish. The price is usually about forty-five dollars and is worth every sip.
Gentleman Jack Rare Tennessee Whiskey
Lighter in color than the Single Barrel Select, this whiskey is more akin to a blended Tennessee whiskey. The high price is from a double application of the “Lincoln Country Process.” In other words, filtering the spirit through charcoal- twice for a more mellow taste. The barrels are charred and often make their way to Scotland at the end of the aging process. Like what you taste? It rests in the cask for about four years. Be prepared to fork over about twenty- five dollars for the pleasure.
Macallan Highland Single Malt Scotch Whiskey (12 year aged in Sherry Oak Casks from Jerez, Spain)
Pure lust is the first thing I taste when I drink Macallan Sherry Cask Scotch Whisky. The nose is smoke, peat and wet wool shorn from sheep accustomed to living outdoors. There is a fire burning in the fireplace in the cottage and it is a slow burning peat fire – smoldering and giving off little bursts of wet soil; charred wood; more wet wool; sweet toffee; and a lingering, charming, dried fruit finish. The Sherry nose is immediately apparent through the attack of sweet/spicy and the sophisticated elegance is long lasting in your glass. There is no doubt that this is Scotch whisky (spelled without an e) The taste of the place – oily, salty, and dripping with history – will stay on your palate for minutes, leading to hours to the eventual finish. Twelve years in the barrel only means one thing- a classic single malt passion. I wouldn’t say that I prefer the Scotch whisky to the Tennessee sipping whiskey. What I will say is that they are very similar in nose, follow, and finish. You can expect to pay about fifty dollars for the pleasure.
Which one is better? I’ll leave that to you.
I will say that the Single Barrel from Jack Daniel’s is world class in every way.
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.