Wednesday, March 13, 2013

PHC Blend of Mashbills

I've sampled a few of the other PHCs- the wheater, the cognac finish, and some others I'm not even sure anymore which ones they were.  All were delicious.  This past year I would not miss out, I jumped on 2 bottles of the PHC blend of mashbills ASAP.  It's a mix of a wheated and rye bourbon.  I love my wheated bourbons, and as an EC 18 fan I like the Heaven Hill rye too.  This though, just doesn't work for me. It's been a few months now and I'm just about to kill my first bottle.  Even the fans admit the finish is weak, but for a barrel proofer hovering around 130 proof, it's not just the finish.  This thing lacks flavor!  With proof this high it should be bursting at the seams with... STUFF!  Anything!  I just find this tame and dry.  It's like a dish that needs salt. It's not bad, it's just not special.  For the price and hype, I want special.

Monday, March 4, 2013

2010 Chateau La Dauphine, Fronsac

I'm still drinking stuff.  More drinking than writing, but I thought I'd do a quick check in with the wine I'm drinking tonight.  Chateau La Dauphine, a French wine from the Fronsac
Bordeaux appellation.  What does that mean?  I don't really know much beyond that is a region of France.  When it comes to wine I'm more comfortable with the local California wineries, and that's exactly why I bought a bunch of value French Bordeauxs!  So far this one is my favorite.  This 90% merlot 10% cab-franc tastes like a mouthful of black cherries that are a little more tart than sweet.  Up front there's fresh minerality in the background that I generally associate with a crisp white wine (I'd love a more descriptive term than minerality).  Then cherries throughout, and at the end some mild black pepper that comes up as it dries into the long finish.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Jefferson's Presidential Select 17 year

Pappy Van Winkle was my gateway to bourbon.  I found out about the craze when it had already reached a fever pitch, but had never been too impressed with American Whiskey before (not that I'd had any worth being impressed by).  The Pappy hunt commenced and I tasted Pappy 20.  It is deep and sophisticated with rich caramel and sweetness.  How heart breaking it was to also find out that the distillery it all came from closed years ago and there is hardly any left.  Stitzel Weller, I wish we had met sooner.  It always feels like I find these items subject to a growing wave of popularity near the end of their run.  I have a mountain of baseball cards from 1989 to prove it.

Hardly any is not none.  You can Ebay for some Pappy for 2 or more times retail, or you can go for something easier.  That brings me to Jefferson's Presidential Select 17 year old.  Wheated bourbon just like Pappy 15 and 20, from old Stitzel Weller stock just like Pappy, hand selected by members of the Van Winkle lineage just like....  no, wait.  OK, no Van Winkles were present for this bottling, and hence some have said that the batches can be a bit variable in quality.  On the plus side, even though the stock is also limited, you still have a decent chance of finding it in a store with a little searching, likely for around the retail price.  (Or you can find the Jefferson PS 18, the same juice one year older).

These notes are from my bottle, which is from batch 4.

This pours a fairly dark amber.  The nose has heavy butterscotch candy and caramel notes with one other strong note floating above that.  I was thinking honeycrisp apple until I passed the glass to Mrs. Drinksstuff, and she said flower petals.  She's right, it's clear as day, there is a floral, almost baby powderish note on the nose.  It sounds weird but it works with all the candy sweetness it's surrounded by.

When drinking the flavors are swimming in burnt sugar syrup, with the butterscotch present as well.  Let it lay on your tongue and you get a hint of bubblegum.  There's not too much burn since it's a modest 94 proof, but I tend to prefer a muted alcohol presence in my older whiskeys.  It really lets the aged character of the whiskey shine, and personally, I love the old stuff.  This will really coat your mouth and leave you with that nice long finish.  

It's been 6 months at least since I had any Pappy.  I have a few bottles stowed away waiting their turn.  ThisThe Jefferson's PS does capture the character as I remember it, and it will only cost you your arm.  Therefor you will still have both legs to chase the Bevmo delivery truck all over town when the Pappy shipments are scheduled to arrive.  Yes, I've done that.  Regardless of the lineage, Jefferson's PS is fine bourbon that has a welcome spot on my top shelf.

Rating:  Presidential

Monday, March 5, 2012

From the Bar: Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye

This bottle has been just about impossible to find in Socal.  More elusive than Pappy himself!  I was very happy to get the last two pours of a bottle with a friend on our Sunday afternoon drinking sojourn.  Our eyes lit up when we saw it sitting on the back of the bar.  I don't think it was supposed to be out and I could kind of sense the bartender thinking ooooops...

It tastes old.  It's supposed to be a 13 year but it's easy to tell it's older.  The info I've seen pegs it at about 18.  What struck me was the lack of spice.  I'm used to much younger ryes, and they all have a much more distinct rye flavor.  This was subdued and rich.  For something that wasn't distilled at the old Stitzel Weller distillery, it really shares of lot of its character with the SW wheaters like Pappy 20.  That's not what I was expecting, but it is very very good.  I would love to get my hands on a bottle.

Rating: More!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Dessert Wine. Late Harvest Viognier

Dessert wines concentrate everything I like about normal wines.  They are sweet, syrupy, and dense with flavor.  While I love the fortified wines like port and mediera for their added boozyness, tonight I'm drinking a 2005 late harvest viognier from Epiphany in Los Olivos that rings in at 14.9% abv.
I love the nose on this bottle.  There's a rich apricot and a floral note to go along with sweet honey.  The taste follows the nose with more sweet apricot nectar.  It's thick and concentrated and leaves a nice coating in the mouth.  Minerality is a word I always chuckled at in taste descriptions, but I finally 'got it' drinking a bottle of Reisling recently.  I notice it as a refreshing quality in the drink that makes me think of summer, similar to (high mineral content) mountain spring water. Very fine minerality to this viognier.

Rating: sweet nectar

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Espresso is Manly

Espresso is one of the best hobbies for men for so many reasons.  I'll list them.

1.  Machines are manly.  Steam powered machines are even manlier.  There's a reason trains are so cool, and so are espresso machines.
2.  It's an active hobby.  I open a beer and pretty much drink the brewer's vision.  No such thing with espresso.  You will waste a lot of great coffee learning how to prepare that cup properly, but you also get to experiment and tweak it to your liking.
3.  This is related to the last one.  There is always more to learn.  Making espresso is a simple but highly nuanced process which I believe is impossible to perfect, but gives enough positive feedback that you will keep trying.  The way all the variables interact is magical... or scientific.  It really doesn't matter if you are an artist or engineer personality type.  Both approaches can work.
4.  Ever play with a chemistry set?  I have scales, various sizes of cups, scoopers, baskets, tampers...
5.  When you get it right you will say "wow" to yourself.  Then you will try to make espresso for everyone who enters the immediate vicinity of your machine to make them say it too.  *BAM*  "It's for you!"
6.  I can enjoy a complex beverage at 9am and no one will look down on me for it.  An early morning whiskey not so much...

The downside - You will hardly ever be able to order a coffee when you're out.  Most of it is terrible!

I'll do an equipment post outlining my current setup at some point, but I will probably not do too many guides.  I'd just be regurgitating what I learned reading Home-Barista.  It's the best place to learn about coffee online (or off for that matter).

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Ratings by the (Non)Numbers

Numbers are difficult.  Trying to pin tastes, feelings, circumstances, and biases into a line and then dedicating myself to upholding the sanctity of that line is hard.  I can love a bottle tonight while knowing that it's not as good as a bottle I thought was kind of mediocre last year.  The whole experience around the drink can dictate how the drink feels, and there is no way to separate that from what comes out of the bottle.

For those reasons I knew I didn't want a rigid rating system, but I do want a rating system.  I tend to recall how I feel about things with vague impressions which might be as simple as "good", "disappointing", or "boring", or might imply a bit more like "horse vomit".  My system is going to be ratings by association.  The rating is a word of phrase that evokes the spirit of the spirit.  If this doesn't make sense, just know that if I give something a rating of "boobies" I really, really like it.

Rittenhouse Rye BiB

Grand plans!  Hey, I'll start a whiskey blog.  Oh I like a lot more than whiskey, I may as well throw all that in too.  If I'm at one post a week during my fresh new blog push I might not last too long at this.  Lets drink a cheap rye.

Cheap and rare is an interesting combination.  Rittenhouse is $20 a bottle, but the release is limited.  Even the local retailer marks it limit 3.  And while it's put out by Heaven Hill, it was distilled by Brown-Forman, and soon enough that will be changing to Bernheim.  No one knows how that change will effect the whiskey, but the current iteration will be gone.  That makes Rittenhouse BiB a candidate for the next hot discontinued whiskey.

The mash for Rittenhouse is 51% rye.  In the glass it's a deep bronze.  Smelling it I get golden raisin, black pepper, vanilla, and a mustiness that's reminiscent of an old attic.  Becca, who doesn't drink whiskey but does like to play "the tasting game", pulls out pineapple that I don't get.  The fruit note changes from raisins to orange  rind when taking a sip.  The pepper and rye spice remains.  The 100 proof makes itself known with a bit of burn while vanilla notes round out the flavor.  I'd say it's slightly unrefined, but there is big flavor that's not often found in this price bracket.  This was a test bottle for me, but I will be grabbing a few next time.  It's a good sipper neat when you're feeling spicy and a great base for Manhattans.

Rating:  Spicy Meatball!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A First Post

I started drinking whiskey a few years ago.  My fiancee and I live close to her parents, so we go over to their house often for holidays and family events.  Once we're there, we usually end up staying for a while.  Thankfully I found a retreat, in the den watching sports with her Grandpa.  He always drank Chivas Regal on the rocks, so I started drinking Chivas Regal on the rocks with him.  That was my gateway beyond using some Beam as a mixer with coke.  I started drinking scotch at home too, learned to drink it neat, tried American bourbons and ryes, and am really enjoying the whiskey thing.

I'm marrying his granddaughter this coming summer.  We were looking forward to him being there, but unfortunately he passed away in the fall a few weeks short of his 90th birthday.  I received one of the bottles he left behind as a gift for the holidays.  It's an unopened Chivas Regal 18 year old and it made me sad he never got to drink it.

I have a natural tendency to collect.  When I get a nice bottle it's hard for me to open it because I'll feel guilty when it's gone.  However, I'm adopting a new philosophy starting now, which is to drink the good whiskey as fast as I can.  This blog is a record that will contain notes and thoughts on what I've been drinking.  It's going to make it easier for me to open and finish bottles if I have this memento of the experience (and blog posts are a lot easier to store than empties).  Hoarding doesn't even make sense.  There is always a new conquest and another great whiskey around the corner.  I encourage everyone to drink them up with me.

Cheers to Grandpa!