Warming Winter Whiskeys

clyde-may-old-tub-angels-envy-reducedI am a seasonal drinker. What tastes best to me in the summer swelter is not what I hoist in the chillier months. Since the cold began its bite some weeks back, I have not had a single gin drink, for example, despite it being a spirit I adore.

Mostly, my glass of late has been filled with whiskeys. Bourbon tastes especially delicious during the dark months. I picked up a handsome package of Calumet Farm Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey (86 proof), which came with two nice glasses. It proved a bit of a disappointment—the flavor was thin and not very nuanced. Who exactly makes this Bourbon is far from clear—the rear label lists “Western Spirits” and “Three Springs Bottling Company.” Google those and you don’t get much. There is no Western Spirits distillery, so maybe this bourbon was bought from Heaven Hill. (Rating: Not good)

I got much more satisfaction from Clyde May Straight Bourbon Whiskey (92 proof). May, as many of you likely know, was a famed Alabama moonshiner who operated between the 1950s and 1980s. His son Kenny took the business legal, but not before running into some troubles with the law himself. Clyde May bourbon is made by Conecuh Ridge Distillery, and is aged in heavily charred barrels. It offers an intense apricot and nutmeg notes, and costs about $40 a bottle. (Rating: Very good)

A friend brought me a bottle of Old Tub sour mash, which one has a hard time finding beyond the grounds of the Jim Beam Distillery. This bottled in Bond whiskey is good stuff—a 100 proof, 4-year old spirit that tastes of corn, vanilla, barrel char, and apple. (Rating: Very good) Why is it called “Old tub”? Bourbon historian Chuck Cowdery explains:

“In 1892, Jacob’s grandson, David M. Beam, transferred the family distillery to his sons James and Park, and his son-in-law Albert Hart. They called their company Beam & Hart but gave their distillery the name of their best-selling brand, Old Tub Bourbon. As whiskey marketers are wont to do, these newly large scale commercial distillers tried to cast themselves as old-timey. Jack Beam, an uncle to Jim, Park, and Al, called his brand (and distillery) ‘Early Times’ and used terms like ‘hand made’ and ‘old fire copper’ to suggest timeless craftsmanship. His nephews’ ‘Old Tub’ was a reference to the wooden tubs in which mash was cooked, laboriously stirred by hand. Historic Old Tub labels show the mash being stirred by a dark-skinned worker, possibly a slave. The modern version just shows the tub.”

Last year, I crowed over Angel’s Envy in the Spectator. Here I will do it again. This year they released a cask strength (124.6 proof) version of their port-barrel aged bourbon. Only 8,000 bottles came to market. It is an immense drink—on must add drop after drop of water to it to find the soft spot where the flavors release. The size of this whiskey is the product of the considerable work used to produce it. Carin Moonin explains that Angel’s Envy is “made from a mash of 72 percent corn, 18 percent rye, and 10 percent malted barley. Once the bourbon has aged a minimum of four years (and up to six years) in white American Oak, it’s finished for up to six months in 60-gallon casks that were formerly used to mature port.” (Rating: Very good) Angel’s Envy cask strength runs about $180 a bottle.  Somewhere above Lincoln Henderson, the late distiller who invented this whiskey, is smiling.


Myrtle Whiskey: A Lesson In an Old Bottle

myrtle-whiskey-gettysburg-03-2016-reducedThis early 20th century bottle was on display at the Shriver House Museum in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Note that the label boasts the quality of this whiskey is assured thanks to the National Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906. Hitherto, the consumer could never be certain as to what he was getting in a bottle. Congress’s enactment of a statute that set basic standards for productions and truth-in-labeling was a win-win-win development. Consumers got safer drink, producers were saved from a ruinous race-to-the-bottom competition, and government had fewer members of the public damaged or dropping dead from poisonous drink.


Booze-acrat Resigns After DUI and Car Crash

Source: WashingtonPost.com
Source: WashingtonPost.com

Oh, the dark irony of it all. The man atop the Prince George County board that plops out all sorts of rules to curb consumer access to drink has…. yes, resigned because he dove to deep into his cups.

The chairman of the Prince George’s County liquor board who was arrested on drunken driving and other charges after leaving the MGM National Harbor casino on opening night has stepped down from his position.

The resignation of Charles W. Caldwell III from the board comes the same day authorities released a police report indicating he attempted to leverage his position on the commission to get out of his arrest, asking officers while he was detained on Thursday, “Is there any way we can make this go away?”

Caldwell, who has publicly denied he was impaired, was charged with DUI, reckless driving and related traffic offenses after police said he was involved in a collision with two other vehicles outside the newly opened casino last week.

Read more at https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/liquor-board-chair-in-dui-arrest-is-there-any-way-we-can-make-this-go-away/2016/12/13/d9ce9a35-1ddf-4dbb-80a1-05ef8cbc6d8f_story.html?utm_term=.599c7222b7ae




Want a $950 Shot of Cognac?

columbia-roomFritz Hahn of the Washington Post reports:

“For your average barfly, the Columbia Room’s prix fixe Tasting Room cocktail menu — which starts at $79 for three cocktails paired with small bites in the meticulous Blagden Alley lounge — is a splurge. But even the Columbia Room’s priciest “experiences,” which incorporate champagne and osetra caviar, are far cheaper than the cost of a single ounce of cognac in the bar’s Spirits Library.

Okay, it’s not just any cognac: It’s an 1811 Napoleon cognac, from one of the most renowned cognac vintages in history, which is why its price tag is a hefty $950, the most expensive of almost two dozen vintage spirits priced by the ounce.

For Columbia Room founder Derek Brown, a library of historical spirits is like a cellar of vintage wines. “You’re not just buying something old, you’re buying something indicative of a different era, something very rare,” he says.

Read more at http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/style/2016/12/08/washingtons-high-life/


Machine Lets You Blend Your Own Wine

Source: CambridgeConsultants.com
Source: CambridgeConsultants.com

The Economist reports on the Vinfusion, a marvelous machine made by Cambridge Consultants:

To create a new wine the customer manipulates three sliders on a touch screen attached to the machine. One moves between the extremes of “light” and “full-bodied”. A second runs from “soft”, via “mellow” to “fiery”. The third goes from “sweet” to “dry”. No confusing descriptions like “strawberry notes with a nutty aftertaste” are needed. The desired glass is then mixed from tanks of each of the four primaries, hidden inside the machine’s plinth. The requisite quantities are pumped into a transparent cone-shaped mixing vessel on top of the plinth. Added air bubbles ensure a good, swirling mix and flashing light-emitting diodes give a suitably theatrical display.

Read more at http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21709491-how-get-wine-you-really-want-war-terroir