Some weeks back I made a decision: I would buy no new bottles of liquor for as long as possible. My reason was not anxiety about my weight or a sudden conversion to teetotalism. No, I had simply grown tired of looking at the dozens upon dozens of bottles lining the counter and cupboards of my man cave. Nearly all of which had arrived as samples sent by drinks companies and their public relations firms.
I had intended to clear them out by throwing a free booze party for friends: show up with a bag backpack, taste anything you want, and walk out. I did this once about 15 years ago in Brooklyn, and I’ll never forget hearing the clanking of bottles departing my railroad apartment and into the Brooklyn night. And what fun we had.
That was in my younger freer days, and now busy-ness kept me from arranging a sequel saturnalia. Might I pour them down the drain? That would be the most efficient solution. Dumping the product of nature and man, however, felt like vandalism—a sin of sorts.
A few months back, a friend came to town from Tennessee. His schedule was jammed as was mine, but I was eager to see him. He works in insurance and I inevitably learn a lot when he explains the various fallouts of Obamacare and Trump’s subsequent war against it.
“I have something from George Dickel to bring you for review,” he added. That was that. Logistics be damned, we were going to meet.
He came by my office and pulled from his bag a small of gold from Tullahoma—George Dickel Reserve 17-Year Old Tennessee Whisky (43.5% ABV; 87 proof). There is a whole cockamamie story about how this whisky was a happy accident; some barrels got mis-inventoried or somesuch. I love the folks at Dickel but I am not sure I buy it. That, however, is neither here nor there. This is the longest aged Tennessee whiskey to be found, and you can sip it straight with ease. The deep copper liquor offers notes of corn, white pepper, caramel, apple, and toffee. Wow.
George Dickel 17-Year is not cheap. A half-sized bottle (375 ml) runs around $75. But for the American whiskey fan, or for friends enjoying a rare meet-up, it is more than worth it.
Being a drinks writer has its perks. One never knows when a courier will arrive with an unexpected delivery. On occasion I have shrank back in horror when I opened a box to find dill pickle vodka or a similarly evil concoction. Typically, though, I receive good drinks.
This year, the District of Columbia’s weather is nearly as screwy as its politics. A few days ago I was basking on a dock in the warm sun, yanking one catfish after another from the Anacostia River’s depths. A gentle, temperate breeze blew.
Today, I look out on the sogginess left behind by the snowfall. A cutting wind from the northwest and chilly mist kept me inside most of the day.
The mercury supposedly will jump twenty degrees in the coming days. But one can be certain the warmth will prove a tease, and drizzly cool will return before the shad start coursing up the Potomac River in late March.
All of which means belly-warming whisky will remain a go-to drink in the coming weeks. (Gin and tonic season is very far off.) Here are several I have enjoyed recently.
The Glenrothes Bourbon Cask Reserve ($50): This is a very easy single malt Scotch whisky. There is no need for ice. This 80 proof malt is butter in the mouth—not that it tastes like dairy product, mind you. No, it shows barley, vanilla, and a touch of coconut aroma. Very pleasant.
Lost Distillery Auchnagie Archivist Selection ($70): The Lost Distillery series of whiskies are attempts at recreating Scotches from distilleries long gone. Auchnagie, for example, closed in 1911. This one is sweet and oozes citrus fruit and baking spices.Like the other two Lost Distillery whiskies described here, it is 92 proof and needs no ice or water. Lovely.
Lost Distillery Gerston Archivist Selection ($70): What a very different animal. Gerston is oily in the mouth and floats mild smoke and barrel aromas up the schnozz. All the action is on the tip and sides of the tongue, where salty and sour tastes are detected. Very simple and approachable.
Lost Distillery Stratheden Archivist Selection ($70): Well, this whisky is subtle devil. It offers up all sorts of gentle notes: pear, honey, apples, leather, and tobacco. Impressive, and definitely one for the more discerning quaffer.
Talisker Storm ($50):Last does not make least. On the contrary, this 91.6 proof malt is a gentler version of the famously robust Talisker 10-year. This amalgam of whiskies (aged 3 to 25 years) is full flavored, yet light on smoke. The mild orange peel aroma surprised me. For sure, this is way more intense than the Glenrothes or Lost Distillery whiskies. So the Scotch newbie should approach it with caution.
Amrut Fusion Single Malt Whisky ($70): Taste this spirit and you’d be forgiven for thinking it is some of Scotland’s finest. In fact, it is made in India. Fusion is a big, smoky drink, one that has gotten raves from whiskyheads. One gulp and the 100 proof warmth flows from lips to the navel. Whoa.
Thank goodness for whisky, which can buck me up in the evening so I feel less loath to put on my parka and take my old labrador on her walk. Although, I might probably could skip the coat after a slug of Amrut Fusion.
I grew up in Ohio, just south of the snow belt. My favorite home was a wood frame on a street without sidewalks. Drafts made their way in, and the single pane window near my bed got frost on the inside, which I like to scritch-scratch with my thumbnails. Sometimes we wore stocking caps to bed.
Which is to say that cold does not much bother me. Or, at least it didn’t when I was young. I went coatless and wore t-shirts no matter how low the Mercury went. As I have aged, I am a little less hot blooded. A little.
Chilly weather changes my appetite for drink. I’ll drink a cold lager in January, but my thirst for dark spirits is strong. The more powerful, the better. Harsh cold merits an intense spirit.
Scotch frequently fits the bill. I enjoy malts from the Lowlands to the Highlands, but my favorite whiskies tend to be the spirits made in the most weather-exposed parts of Scotland. Here are a handful of reasonable priced hearty Scotches I like, from mildest to the most beastly. All of them should be enjoyed neat, but add drops of water if you want to cut the intensity and open their flavors.Continue reading “Scotchy, Scotch: It’s cold out there”→