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Sky Rockets in Flight

International Space Station. Islay peat. 1920′s drinking den.

The lowest common denominator? Ardbeg single malt Scotch. Naturally.

Recently, I was invited to attend an Ardbeg tasting event in Fort Lauderdale at Bar Stache. Stache was the South Florida stop on their 2013 Ardbeg Rocket Tour. Regrettably, they weren’t serving up Galileo but I did partake in the 10 Year Old, Corryvreckan, and Uigeadail. Stache deserves its own recognition for its 1920′s-themed speakeasy that actually operates as, you guessed it, a speakeasy – secret password for admittance required and all. This den is headed up by Miami’s own John Lermayer so you won’t be surprised by how remarkable the cocktails are. I’ll save Stache for another post though. The real draw here is Ardbeg’s space experimentation on the maturation process.

In October 2011, Ardbeg partnered with NanoRacks, LLC to launch vials of their malts accompanied by shards of oak into space. The more time whiskey ages in the barrel means the better it tastes as it mellows and the oak imparts flavors into it. On the space station the vials have undergone scientific testing to analyze how zero-gravity affects that maturation process. What happens inside the barrels and what processes are happening which create these effects are still, by and large, unknown. In celebration, Ardbeg has released a special edition expression called Galileo that celebrates and honors this unique and pioneering endeavor.

Why am I writing to tell you about 2 year old news? Because, the experiment was scheduled for two years. If we do some math – subtract the 2, carry the 4… – and we’ve got: space results, coming soon. In the mean time, stop by your local spirits shop and try to locate the celebratory Galileo and partake in the excitement.

Although a bottle of Uigeadail wouldn’t be an awful consolation prize.

UPDATE: Galileo was, in fact, served up yet somehow I missed it. Also, rumor has it that you can find a bottle at Fine Wine Spirits & Liquor.

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Rum with a Bourbon Twist

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Solera aging. Bourbon. Rum.

The common thread: Papa’s Pilar Dark.

It’s a growing trend: cross pollinating spirits in order to capture the best elements of both into a single, exceptional product. Here at WJ we know whiskey and sometimes, we enjoy rum. Papa’s Dark is the latest on our list. Released only a few months ago, we first stumbled across the young brand at the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival. It’s not often we develop an affinity for a spirit like we maintain for whiskey, but the Dark stole our hearts.

The rums used in the blending process are sourced from our own backyard: Central America, the Caribbean and Florida. Solera aging in bourbon barrels allows this 24 year old power house to borrow the characteristic sweetness of bourbon – a subtlety which lends itself well to rum, apparently. Proofed at 43% ABV makes this a respectable and smooth dram.

As happens with imbibment, mistakes are made. For instance, using mixers here. With its moderately sweet, caramel-y bourbon taste, it is too unique and deserves to be enjoyed uninterrupted. If you’re looking to cut the proof slightly or add some longevity to the bottle (and your night) add a splash of coconut water. It’s the perfect compliment.

Perhaps Papa’s Pilar Dark wasn’t able to leave behind its Angel’s Envy sibling – a good problem to have in this case for rum runners and bourbon fans alike. If you’re looking for something a bit lighter we recommend Papa’s Pilar Blonde. It’s equally amazing and has even established itself in a new category of rum – just don’t call it white.

 

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St. George Spirits at The National

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We’re glad you made it! We’re obviously referring to your post-gluttonous survival of Food Network’s South Beach Wine and Food Festival this weekend.

Though a plethora of  wine and food (festival – get it?) is to be expected during one of SoBe’ craziest weekends of the year I stumbled upon my fair share of distilled malts too. If I’m being honest – and I always am, sometimes brutally – I was extremely underwhelmed with the offerings. Heaven Hill brought some acceptable staples from their Evan Williams and Elijah Craig brands. Barenjager, of sister spirit Jagermeister fame, presented me with their Honey & Bourbon – the best honey blend I’ve had to date. The real treasure though was something that I came across at a non-#SOBEWFF related event at The National Hotel.

Enter St. George Spirits distilling. Upon arrival, I recalled passing up their Breaking & Entering Bourbon on Caskers a while back which I immediately regretted after my first dram. Their bourbon is solid. It’s not produced in their Alameda distillery but St. George creates this “Super Bourbon”  - from a masterful blend of the best bourbons from Kentucky. I tried my damnedest to get their rep liquored up in hopes that he would share what bourbons they’re blending, but my efforts were fruitless.

After talking to him about their processes and commitment to the fine craft of distilling, I sampled their Absinthe and their whiskey-lovers expression of gin: Dry Rye Gin. I absolutely loathe Absinthe, especially since my Bachelor Party, but that’s for another article. St. George’s version of this once forbidden spirit was one the I actually enjoyed in my Sazerac and will likely keep on hand for my home bar. It was smooth and didn’t come across too hot even though it rings in at 60% ABV. I was particularly happy that the anise wasn’t brutally pungent but its presence was clearly stated. As for the Dry Rye Gin, it should suffice to say that they’re essentially distilling a rye white dog whiskey before adding the juniper and peppercorn along with other botanicals. Rye + peppercorn = remarkable gin.

Finally, I was told about their Single Malt Whiskey which piqued my attention. I’m always on the search for quality American-made Single Malts that can rival my Scottish ancestors whiskies – I like to think of it as a good-hearted family rivalry, if you will. I snapped up a bottle at a boutique liquor store the very next day. Currently, this bottle of Single Malt is the best in my collection, hands down. 1001 Whiskies You Must Taste Before You Die agrees saying this “might just be the best U.S. single malt available today.” It’s very complex but well balanced. Exhibiting hazelnut and notes of cocoa, a slight smokiness from beech and alder woods and aging in a range of barrels to include French oak, bourbon casks, port and sherry barrels.

St. George says each bottling will be different as the aging process continues. I suppose this means that I’ll have to stock a fresh bottle of this hard to find whiskey on a yearly basis then. Damn.

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Raise The Macallan

After my last post detailing the magnificent, invite-only Art Basel  – The Macallan X-Ray event last week, I wasn’t expecting too much from the publicly accessible Raise The Macallan last Friday. Oddly enough, this was my first official whisky tasting. Then again, this is how Whisky Juliet got started; a casual penchant for swilling whisky turned into a mission to make your grandfathers favorite spirit more accessible, a little less pretentious and a lot more enjoyable. I’ve heard that Johnny Walker tastings are accompanied with small bites that enhance the taste and enjoyment of their spirits and I suppose that was what I was expecting.

The setting in Miami’s Design District at the historic Moore Building was a perfect start and The Macallan offered up 10 year olds at the door. They filled the room with large HDTV’s for their tech-savvy presentation as they walked us through a 12, 15, 17 and finally 18 year old scotches. For me though, the tasting fell flat. Miniscule tastings left me wanting a little more as it was difficult to take the smallest sip and leave enough to circle back at the end while still slurping up enough required to get the full taste of the scotch. The presenter, Macallan Brand Ambassador Randolph Adams, was funny on occasion but also behaved as he was teaching an old dog new tricks. Then again he was – the crowd was largely wealthy geriatrics and while I’m out to bring whisky back to the younger generations, I suppose age (therefore disposable income) comes with the territory of $150 bottles of 18 year old scotch.

It wasn’t a bad tasting, just not my speed. I’ll be at the next one too because when you cut to the chase, The Macallan is some damn fine scotch.

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