Bourbon Made In Ohio? You Betcha

Source: Tom'
Source: Tom’

Sitting on my desk is a tumbler of bourbon. Its deep amber color shines out through the dewy glass. Tom’s Foolery is its whimsical name. It is 90 proof (45% alcohol by volume), and tastes of corn, apple, vanilla and barrel char. It is a little fiery, despite being being aged 3 years. A new whiskey from Kentucky, you may wonder? Nope, this bourbon is from Chagrin Falls—Ohio.

It is a common misperception that bourbon “by law” can only be made in Kentucky. As this bottle shows, bourbon can be made anywhere in America. Federal regulations declare: “the word ‘bourbon’ shall not be used to describe any whisky or whisky-based distilled spirits not produced in the United States.” These same regulations require bourbon to be made from a recipe that uses not less than 51% corn as fermentables, and that the whiskey be aged in barrels made from new oak. That is all.

Kentucky, for certain, has a good claim as the birthplace of bourbon. As whiskey expert, Chuck Cowdery notes in “Bourbon Straight: The Uncut and Unfiltered Story of American Whiskey,” The state was shipping its whiskeys down the Mississippi River to New Orleans 200 years ago. “Bourbon,” as best we can guess, is a monicker that folks back then used to refer to the hooch coming from the great swath of Kentucky that was then part of Bourbon County.

Today, most bourbon comes from Kentucky. Jim Beam alone is filling a half-million barrels per year. But Indiana long has which produced an ocean of whiskey, and new bourbon-makers are popping up everywhere. More than 20 states have bourbon distilleries, according to data from the American Distilling Institute. Ohio alone has a half dozen small bourbon-makers.

These new makers of bourbon frequently break from the common mold. Tom’s Foolery is aged first in new oak barrels (per the federal regulations), then finished in casks that formerly held applejack, the potent apple-based booze. Grass Widow (91 Proof/45.5% ABV) is distilled in Indiana, then spends its last aging days in barrels that once held Madeira, a fortified red wine. The effect is a very un-bourbon bourbon. Grass Widow has a corn sweetness, but also is fruity and a bit herbal tasting. Missouri’s Pinkney’s Bend Distillery offers bourbons aged in stout beer and port wine barrels.

All of which means that I should not feel bad that this bottle —and glass– of Tom’s Foolery is nearly empty. There are many more new bourbons to try.


Mezcal, Micro-distilling, and Economics

Del Maguey TobalaDana Goodyear has a marvelous, lengthy piece in the April 4, 2016 copy of the New Yorker on Mezcal.

Tequila has gotten a lot of limelight in recent years, but Goodyear reminds readers that tequila is but one of the many types of mezcal. And whereas tequila is mostly produced by hulking distilleries, mezcal mostly is made by micro-distilleries utilizing old-fashioned and unusual techniques.

Not to pat ourselves on the back, but…. 15 years ago called attention to the wonders of mezcal when we posted reviews of Del Maguey mezcals. Back then, mezcal still was commonly viewed in America as the crappy half-cousin of tequila.

Anyhoo, Goodyear’s article is a peach, and you can read it at


Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day Right with Irish Drinks Old and New

Photo: Knockheen Hills
Photo: Knockeen Hills

Some years ago, I lived in New York and had two friends recently arrived from Ireland. Neither of them thought well of America’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities. Considering the tsunami of green garb and schlock, Siobhan asked bemusedly, “What does any of this have to do with Ireland?” Dermot was less generous. “If I see another f****** shamrock, I’m going to kill someone.” Neither wanted anything to do with the raucous Manhattan parade or hordes of sodden boys and girls with clovers painted on their cheeks.

That does not, however, mean one should hide inside and pretend it is not March 17. It is what it is, and one should embrace this spring-heralding holiday.

To this end, there are some very basic don’t and do’s for having a decent St. Patrick’s Day. Don’t affect an Irish accent. Don’t say “lassie” or, god forbid, “Begorrah.” Suppress the temptation to put on an emerald green plastic derby, or hang a cardboard cut-out Leprechaun on your wall or window. And, perhaps most critically of all, don’t get stupid drunk. It’s embarrassing. Continue reading “Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day Right with Irish Drinks Old and New”


Exploring the Whiskey World at WhiskyLIVE USA

Heaven Hill bourbons at WhiskyLiveUSA. Photography by Kevin R. Kosar.
Heaven Hill bourbons at WhiskyLIVE USA. Photography by Kevin R. Kosar.

WhiskyLIVE USA, the fabulous salute to a marvelous drink, rolled into Washington, DC this past week. A month previous, WhiskyLIVE USA was in New York, and come June it will land in Louisville, Kentucky. The event was spawned by the U.K.’s Whisky magazine, which hosts WhiskyLIVE tastings around the world.

What is this booze bash? Well, it’s simple: you bought a ticket, and for three and half hours you got to amble about the cavernous Grand Hyatt with glass in hand soaking up the manifold marvels of our Whiskey World.

And what a big world it is. There were Scotch and Canadian whiskies, and American and Irish whiskeys. Japanese whisky, which is a lot like Scotch, was present, as were various craft distillers, like Wasmund’s of Virginia. In short, if it is brown, high-proof, made from grain, and barrel-aged—it was there. Altogether, there were 200 different whiskeys and whiskies to sample, including rare oldies like Glenfarclas 25-Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky and Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon, which is a whopping 109 proof.

Continue reading “Exploring the Whiskey World at WhiskyLIVE USA”


The Resurgence of Irish Whiskey

*** NO REPRODUCTION FEE *** DUBLIN : 9/06/2015 : Pictured are brothers Jack and Stephen Teeling at the official opening of the new Teeling Whiskey Distillery and visitor centre in The Liberties, Dublin 8. The €10 million distillery is the first new distillery in Dublin in over 125 years and the only fully operational distillery in the city. As well the distillery, there is a state-of-the-art visitor centre, which will host whiskey tasting tours, a café, a bar, a private event space for hire and a gift shop. Founded by Jack Teeling in 2012, the Teeling Whiskey Company (TWC) was set up to revive his family-old trademark of Irish whiskey and bring distilling back to Dublin. TWC is run by Jack together with his brother Stephen and the opening of this new distillery means that they have complete control of all aspects of their whiskey production, from grain to bottle. The distillery will be open to the public from Saturday, June 13th, 9.30am - 5.30pm. For more, visit Picture Conor McCabe Photography. MEDIA CONTACT : Sarah Doyle, notorious PSG E: M:+353 879530551
Source: Teeling Whiskey

Midway through 2015, something remarkable happened in Dublin—a whiskey distillery opened. The city, which is world renowned for its bibacity, had been without an operating distillery since the 1970s. Teeling distillery’s arrival in the city’s ancient Newmarket Square was greeted warmly, not least for the droves of spending tourists it has lured.

For much of the 20th century, Irish whiskey was a dead man walking. Jameson’s pleasant, fruity whiskey was known worldwide, as was Belfast’s more grainy Bushmills. But few other brands found their way off the Emerald Isle, and only a handful of whiskey distilleries were in operation. Scotch whisky and American bourbon were held in far higher esteem most places.

It was quite a fall-off from the glory days. In the late 1800s, Ireland was the world’s biggest whiskey-maker, churning out even more alcohol than Scotland. Dublin alone had a few dozen whiskey distilleries, such as John Power and Son’s massive John’s Lane distillery. It belched forth 900,000 gallons of liquor per year, employed 275 men and had its own fire-suppression crew. (Alcohol and its vapors are very flammable.) Back then, Irish whiskey was highly regarded, and it was served as far away as San Francisco, where wharf bars put it in coffee.

Irish whiskey’s terrible fall began before the fin de siècle. Scottish distillers proved to be tough competition. Many of them replaced or supplemented their pot stills (which look like gourds) with more efficient and productive column stills. A whiskey glut ensued, and prices plummeted. Liquor firms in both nations went bankrupt. Continue reading “The Resurgence of Irish Whiskey”


Blue Label Vodka



Blue Label Vodka comes to America via a Houston company.

You can read a bit more about this spirit at

As anyone who knows much about vodka can tell you, Poland tends to make superb vodkas. (See our other Polish vodka reviews here.)

We demolished this liter of vodka in a little over a month. It was delicious served neat from the freezer—thickly viscous and slightly sweet.

Well done. (Rating: Very Good)