Category Archives: Beverages

Now here’s to you.

Willett Straight Rye Whiskey, Jury Duty
From Wefty’s First Post

Ten thousand nine hundred fifty eight. The the number of days you, my brother, have been alive. For those keeping track, that’s thirty years. When you started this blog, you set out to create a tribute to things that get better with time. And on this day, I wish I could be in Portland Oregon celebrating it with you.

To celebrate, Wefty will be drinking Willet’s Family Estate Straight Rye Whiskey. A 95% rye 5% barley, this high-rye aged 4 years by Kentucky Bourbon Distillery is among my favorites, and hopefully will be among his soon. With a vanilla nose, complex palate and long spiced finish, it’s a fine example of Rye Whiskey. And I hope that my brother enjoys it tonight– I will have to sip a bit alongside you on this side of the country. Perhaps it will take the sting off being summoned for Jury Duty.

So to my brother. To paraphrase Harper Lee, it’s not idealism to believe in the integrity of our courts and in the jury system– that is no ideal to me, it is a living, working reality. A court is no better than each person sitting on a jury.  A court is only as sound as its jury, and a jury is only as sound as the people who make it up. So my advice to my brother: Drink more Willet, show up drunk, and turn the courthouse into a party.

Cheers,
Mash

PS: It’s not much yet… But Wefty + Mash may soon adopt a trademark.  In honor of Wefty’s birthday, Here’s a rough sketch of the most current version.

Colonel E.H. Taylor Barrel Proof– Not a Review.

I haven’t posted in a while. A few weeks ago, I got a call from the ABC store: They had drawn my name in their rare-whiskey lottery, the prize for which this time was the opportunity to purchase a bottle of E.H. Taylor Barrel Proof. If ever there was a call saying “get your ass back to blogging,” there it was.

After researching a bit about it, I went to the store to purchase it. Being my lucky day, they also had a bottle of Sazerac I reviewed last. While both are excellent, I felt that the E.H. Taylor needed a more thorough review before I could share it. In fact, I still haven’t had a chance to write it. This is just an announcement: Right now, it is available over at Caskers, and it is absolutely worth the ~$70 price tag.

If you see this for a reasonable price, my recommendation is buy it– It never stays around long.

-Mash

White Sangria: For Parties or Romantic Evenings

My girlfriend and I threw a party yesterday. We made way too much of everything, and have quite a bit of leftovers. But so far, this drink has held up and is still drinking well now. This was a big hit, and we are glad to have leftovers that hold up!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Cognac (110 mL)
  • 1/2 cup Peach Schnapps (110 mL)
  • 1 Mango
  • 2 Oranges
  • 1/4 cup Sugar (55 mL)
  • 2-750 mL White Wine
  • Gingerale or Soda, up to 1 L according to taste.

To make this Sangria, I started with a half cup of Cognac and a half cup of Peach Schnapps. I added one mango, skinned and cubed, as well as two oranges sliced thin. After adding a quarter cup of sugar, we stuck it in the fridge for an hour, and then added two bottles of cheap, dry white wine. Immediately before the party, we added about 750mL gingerale, and blackberries.

Light, fruity and sweet, this refreshing drink is sure to please. But it certainly isn’t the only great Sangria recipe out there. If you have one to share, we’d love to hear it!

-Mash

Eagle Rare 10 Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon

There’s nothing like a nice drink after a long Saturday. My girlfriend and I recently purchased a house, and while she is at the beach I have been assembling new toys like a Lawn Mower, and installing blinds. I also went into work, so it has been a long day. Unwinding with a glass of Eagle Rare really hits the spot.

I can’t possibly write a review of this fine bourbon without acknowledging the giant who made it possible: Elmer T. Lee. Lee began working at the George T. Stagg Distillery in 1949 after serving the Air Force during World War II, and rose through the ranks to become the plant manager in 1969. In 1984, he introduced Blanton’s to the world, the first Single Barrel Bourbon in history. He continued to advise the distillery, which was renamed years later to Buffalo Trace. He passed away last week. If not for his innovations, single barrel bourbons like this might never have become popular as they are today.

Buffalo Trace is a great distillery. Owned by Sazerac, they churn out products including everything from Ancient Age to Blanton’s. They are also the producers of the highly sought after Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve. Eagle Rare is one of their more commonly available offerings.

Tasting Notes
Proof– 90, although not stated on bottle.
Aroma– Alcohol, Oak, and Honey.
Color– Light Amber.
Taste and Finish– One thing to keep in mind with Single Barrel Bourbons is that the taste may change substantially from one bottle to the next. Wefty also has a bottle of Eagle Rare 10 he will be reviewing, and I look forward to see how our bottles and tastes differ.

Neat, there is an Oaky burn and not much else to start. A bit of sour oak on the finish. As I continue to sip, it opens up more with of a honey note, but the burn doesn’t seem to go away. Now, to drop a ball of ice into the glass. Sourness grows, honey fades with the first sip. The burn subsides, but a solid bite remains. After some more ice melts, the sour oak turns to sweet oak, and ultimately leaves a finish of red berries. The fruity finish when the bourbon was fairly diluted caught me by surprise, and was quite pleasant. I find myself wanting to pour myself another glass, but I also intend to write another review tonight.

Verdict

Neat, it has a decent bite that is not overpowered by burn. This is a good whiskey to drink neat. Throwing some ice into it, this bottle gave a very interesting oak progression, from sour oak to sweet oak to sweet oak with a fruit finish. Very enjoyable, very tasty.  For the price point, I wouldn’t feel bad about mixing Eagle Rare with a soda, coke, or gingerale, although another less expensive one may fit the bill better. And at a decently high 90 proof, it should hold up against sodas pretty well.

In terms of strong-mixed drinks,  I thought I would try a a new cocktail. Three blackberries muddled in equal parts Lemonade and Bourbon. This drink brought out the sourness of the oak, while the whiskey really masked the sweetness of the berries and lemonade. While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this specific cocktail, I am thoroughly impressed with the potential to use Eagle Rare as a mixer for a strong drink like a Whiskey Sour or Julep.

Overall: Eagle Rare 10 is a solid bourbon worth having in any collection. It would also be interesting to compare several bottles side by side, as the single-barrel approach can produce a fair amount of variation. Things as simple as the positioning of the barrel in the barrel house can affect the final flavor, as minute temperature differences over 10 years can result in a very different result. But overall, I am quite impressed with Eagle Rare 10, and consider it to be a good buy for any bourbon fan.

For a second opinion, I recommend reading Josh Zollweg’s reviw.

Cheers,
-Mash

PS- If you can’t find it locally, it is available from at least one online retailer.

Never drink alone, but remember: Pets only count as company when your partner is out of town!

Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection: Four Wood

A very generous friend gifted me this special bottle from one of my favorite distilleries, Woodford Reserve around Christmas time last year. It comes in a very nice decanter, and is a beautiful bottle that is a part of Woodford’s Master’s Collection: An annual experiment that plays around with one of the 5 flavor sources: grain, water, fermentation, distillation, and maturation.


Made in Versailles, Kentucky at their own distillery, bottles of Woodford Reserve come in a few varieties. From their standard bottle, to the Double Oaked variant, to the Master’s Collection. Their mash bill consists of 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% barley, and appears to be the same for all their labels. The variation in style comes from how they treat the bourbon after initial aging. And for Four Wood, that experiment involves a second aging process in special barrels.

The Four Wood gets its name from the four types of wood used: Like all bourbon, the whiskey is initially aged in charred oak barrels. Four Wood proceeds to be aged in a second maturation barrel. I believe that there are three barrel types: Port barrels, Sherry barrels, and Maple barrels, that are then mixed together before bottling. Woodford Reserve carefully adjusted the ratios so that no single flavor dominates the flavor.

The Master’s Collection is always a small production, and as such they charge a premium for it: around $100 for a bottle.

Tasting Notes
Proof– 94.4
Appearance– Dark like Coke Syrup, much darker than Woodford Reserve’s standard label.
Aroma– Warmth, cinnamon, and some maple meat with a bouquet of fruit. A very nice aroma.
Taste– The shit hits the fan when sipping this stuff neat. Four Wood has an intense burn that dehydrates your mouth, although a hint of tannins (possibly from the Port barrel?) nicely finishes the sensation. The second aging barrels seem to overpower any oak, leaving only a hint of sour oak that I consider Woodford Reserve’s trademark flavor. This is not pleasant to drink, although it is not entirely objectionable. Adding an Ice Ball, the burn initially intensifies as a small amount of water is added to the stuff. I find this very interesting. Dark vanilla notes are also present, but both these flavors fade as more of the ice melts. Interestingly, after a fair bit of ice melts, Four Wood reminds me very much of Blanton’s Single Barrel. At this point, it has a smoky start that transitions nicely into a fruitiness that is challenging to pinpoint, followed by a nutty finish. This is the way I would recommend drinking Four Wood: With ice, and allowing time for the ice to melt.
Finish– Neat, nothing but burn. With ice, nuttiness that is fairly pleasant.

Verdict
Neat: 2 Barrel out of 5. While complex and multi toned  this whisky simply has too much bite to be pleasant to drink neat. It’s almost as if the dehydrating elements and the burn are competing to see which of them can make the whiskey more unpleasant. And while I can’t say which of them win, I do think that they accomplish their mission. The burn is also surprising: At only 94.4 proof, I wouldn’t expect it. But the complexity saves it from a lower score.
Rocks: 4 barrels out of 5. This is where the whiskey shines. With enough ice melting, the subtle tones of nut and vanilla begin to show, and the complexity of this bourbon truly begins to shine. The time it takes this whiskey to open up is worth the while, and would make it a great whiskey for sipping with others if you want to slow things down. I like that. I would drink this at a Poker Night.
Weak Mixed Drinks: 2 barrels out of 5. I think that this would stand up extremely well against Cola or Gingerale. But at the price, I’m not willing to try it– And I have to withhold the 5th barrel.
Strong Mixed Drinks: 2 barrels out of 5. This may be good for a Mint Julep or a Traditional Old Fashioned. I can’t get a feel for it in a manhattan, although it may be worth trying with Dry Vermouth instead. Cutting up the power of this bourbon with a lighter aperitif is an experiment I intend to try. The complexity may truly shine here.

Overall: 2.5 barrels out of 5. I love Woodford Reserve, but I think that this experiment that started with their Kentucky Straight Bourbon took a good thing and diminished it. Despite a nice aroma, Four Wood is not pleasant to drink neat, although becomes pleasant when unlocked with some water and chilled by melting ice. It’s strong flavors may stand out strongly against a mixer like gingerale or coke, but at $100 a bottle, I wouldn’t consider trying it. Four Wood may be worth trying in a Mint Julep, as its strong flavors may benefit from the smoothing effect of simple syrup, and the mint may help the drink overall.

The Master’s Collection experiments, however, are absolutely worth keeping an eye on. While this experiment may not have gotten the best reviews, it is in interesting experiment that shows off some unexplored possibilities when it comes to finishing barrels. And previous experiments have turned up very different results. The 2011 release was two half bottles of differently aged ryes, and has generally been very well reviewed. And there is no telling what the 2013 release may be.

I’ll be enjoying this bottle as an experimental bourbon, and on the rocks when I want to drink something slow. And the beautiful decanter will, undoubtedly, stick around in my collection quite some time– Perhaps as a vessel for my own Bourbon experiments.

-Mash

Willet Pot Still Reserve Straight Kentucky Bourbon

This is the first in a series of Whiskey Tasting posts I plan to put up in the next two months or so. I selected this Bourbon to start with because it is a strong representation of how wonderful Bourbon can be.

On our way back from the beach in South Carolina a few weeks ago, my girlfriend and I stopped in Charleston. After grabbing a delicious lunch at Slightly North of Broad, we walked around and I looked up the nearest liquor store. You see, there are many differences between North and South Carolina. North Carolina has a history of being a slightly more liberal state with more progressive policies and restrictions on things like Fireworks and Liquor, while South Carolina is more staunchly conservative but has less restrictions in this area. As a result, liquor is cheaper.

I found a store, called them up, and an older women’s voice answered. “Are you open?” I asked. “What do you think?” she responded. Laughing, I said we would be over in a few minutes.

I was looking for Willet’s Single Barrel Rye, as I greatly enjoy it in the Manhattan Project. They didn’t have it, but I did find this bottle of Willet’s Pot Still Reserve. Intrigued, I checked the North Carolina ABC Website, and verified that this whiskey is not available in my home state. So I picked it up (along with a bottle of Buffalo Trace’s Rare Eagle Single Barrel 10 year), paid, and brought it home with me. And I am glad that I did.

A Few Words on Willet Distilling Company
Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, or Willet Distilling Company as they are also known, is a bit of a misnomer. The company hasn’t actually sold anything they distilled themselves in quite some time, using other distilleries to make their product and bottling it themselves. That changed in 2012 when they reopened their distilling processes, but they are remaining true to whiskey production tradition: Aging barrels naturally. As such, the contents of this bottle were made by another company.

The Whiskey Making
Here’s what I’ve been able to figure out: After distilling, the bourbon is aged for 8-10 years. It is then diluted to 94 proof and bottled. Each bottle is hand-labeled with a bottle and barrel number.

Tasting Notes
Aroma– When I first cracked the bottle open, the first whiff was pure yeast. A second sniff gave notes of spice and pine.
Taste– Neat, this whiskey gave sweet wood and warmth, but was surprisingly light. A subtle vanilla note gained strength when an ice cube was added.
Finish– Neat, it was clean. With an ice cube, it gained more of a pine finish.

Verdict
Neat: 4 barrels out of 5. This is a really nice bourbon to drink neat: Very drinkable, yet complex and delicious. That’s a combination that is hard to achieve.
Rocks: Again, 4 barrels out of 5. Complexity changes as the ice melts. I wouldn’t recommend doing more than a few ice cubes though, as I fear the flavor may get lost. Still very nice, nothing worth dinging.
Weak Drink Mixing: 2 barrels out of 5. For the cost and subtle flavor profile, better options exist to mix with Cola or Gingerale. The subtle flavors would be lost amid the sugar and other flavors. Not recommended.
Strong Drink Mixing: 4 barrels out of 5. I would steer clear of a manhattan here: The subtle flavors will not stand up to Vermouth, although if you want to use a really nice vermouth like Antica Formula Carpano, Willet PSR may compliment it nicely. But the subtle flavors should do very nicely in a traditional Mint Julep, or a modified Old Fashioned. Peach, Ginger, and/or Blackberry may be good substitutes for Orange and Cherry, and you may want to skip the bitters entirely.

Overall: 4 out of 5. This is a really nice, light bourbon that is fairly affordable, although on my budget it will have to be a rarity. I prefer sipping it neat to the rocks, and think that it’s subtle flavor would be wasted if it were mixed with anything but water.

This is the first in a series of whiskey reviews I will be doing, so be sure to check back for more whiskey reviews! I plan to review Woodford Reserve, Willet’s Single Barrel Rye, Buffalo Trace and Eagle Rare, and a few others. This may take a while.

Cheers,
Mash

Note: Scores were revised to adhere to our new scoring system. The original score for this whiskey was 96, based on a 100 point system.

An Early Father’s Day Gift

Dads are awesome. At minimum, they give us about half of our genetic material. At best, they give us a strong upbringing that makes us who we are. And for Wefty and I, definitely the latter.

Once a year, we get the chance to honor Dad with a gift. And for us, that can be a challenge: If our dad wants something, he usually goes out and get it. So how can we get him the perfect gift? Simple. Get him something he’s not allowed to have.

You may remember the recipe for the Manhattan Project from my first post. It called for two ounces ceylon tea and thyme infused Old Overholt Rye Whiskey with one ounce Antica Formula Carpano, kept in an oak barrel, and drawn off for each use. Add bitters, shake, and garnish with Les Parissienes Cherries.
For some reason, Dad never got himself an oak barrel to use the real recipe. So he compensated with a fancier rye whisky (Willet Single Barrel), and skipped the infusing process.Turns out he never bought one because Mom didn’t think it would look nice on the counter. Looks like we got him through a loophole: How could he not use a gift from his sons?
Where to Get it
Casker’s Craft Spirit Club  put these up in their Father’s Day shop. This was my first experience ordering from Casker’s, and they made it easy to do. We had to change the engraving after submitting the order, but I see from our Dad’s photos that they handled our email followup properly. And Dad has been impressed with the barrel, so we expect it is pretty nice. The next time I go home, I hope to inspect it more closely.
Considerations for buying an Aging Barrel
Barrels like this one have to be cured before use. For this one, the instructions recommend filling it up with water, and topping it off daily until the barrel no longer loses water after 24 hours. At that point, the wood has soaked up enough liquid for use, and is ready for spirits or wine to be added. Dad will be filling this one up with about 133 cL Thyme and Ceylon infused Wild Turkey Rye, and 67 cL Antica Formula Carpano. With about 2 Liters of content total, that’s about enough for 15 standard Manhattans.  Depending on your own use, you may prefer a larger or smaller barrel.

These barrels will absorb and exchange flavors with whatever is put in them, so we expect it will get better with more use!

So, what are your plans for Father’s Day? Any awesome gift ideas?

-Mash