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September Scotch of the Month – The Balvenie 15 Year Old

Here’s the bottle that we just sent out to our Scotch of the Month Members. Enjoy, everybody!

Today’s post is collaborated with the good guys over at Modern Bartender. You can see their latest offerings here: www.modernbartender.com/product/ice-ball-maker-ice-ball-molds

I’m a big fan of this one. This version of Balvenie is drawn from a single bourbon cask of a single distillation. Each cask forms a limited edition of hand-numbered bottles – there’s a maximum of 350 bottles from any one cask – so each bottle is unique and unrepeatable. There is a bit of difference between casks, but not a lot.

Age: 15 years
Proof: 95
Color: Light amber

Tasting Notes:
NOSE:

Vanilla fragrance is strong, honey sweetness, dry oak. When watered down, expect sweet fruit and malt tones to be more apparent.

TASTE:

A rich and complex flavor – indicative of a good, long aging process. You’ll notice tones of honey and malt mixed together with vanilla and oak at the forefront. I also got flavors of toffee and cream.

FINISH:

The finish is long. It has a touch of licorice and almond and perhaps a bit of coconut. Warming until the end. There’s a pleasant smokiness and a bit of moss.

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Whiskey + Yoga = “Gaga Diet”

Lady Gaga has become a bit of a public figure in the whiskey world and has brought a lot of recent attention to our favorite beverage. On one occasion, she explained to Anderson Cooper during an interview for 60 Minutes “I drink a lot of whiskey…when I write.”

She touts Jameson Irish Whisky as her fave. Her public devotion to the brand has resulted in record breaking sales numbers for Jameson and an all around stronger demand for other irish whiskys.

More recently, she was seen on stage taking a shot with Jimmy Kimmel.

I know what you’re thinking. Sounds like Gaga is a real lush, artist type. How does she have the athletic physique of a Barby Doll, sing like a Jackson and party like Tommy Lee? The answer brings us to the second half of what she calls the “Gaga diet”: Yoga.

On Sirius Morning Mashup, Lady Gaga claimed “I like to drink whiskey and stuff while I am working. But the deal is I’ve got to work out every day, and I work out hung over if I am hung over…I do a ton of yoga.”

But why Whiskey & Yoga? Is it that vodka and basketball just don’t have the same allure? Why not Tequila and Tennis? …Anybody?

*Well, it turns out Patanjali, one of the founding leaders of the yoga movement in India, was also an enormous whiskey fan. In fact, Yoga was developed to perfectly compliment the body after a night of whiskey binging. Early yogis would traditionally drink their dram before and after practice as it “centered their sense of being and purpose” before connecting with the divine and exploring their mind/body connection.*

You heard it folks, Whiskey & Yoga (or, as some affectionally call it, “Yogskey”) is the magic combination. It’s the right stuff, man. Upon mixing these two mystic ingredients, you might able to sing and dance with the best of ‘em.

However, beware, it may give you undeserved confidence. Next thing you know, you’ll be wearing nothing but meat and diamonds to next year’s VMA’s.

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State of California Whiskey

California is known for a lot of things. Some of them are pretty good (San Francisco, The Beach Boys, craft beer); some aren’t so great (Hollywood, bankruptcy, Kim Kardashian). Whatever comes to your mind when you think of California, I’m guessing it isn’t whiskey. After all, the American whiskey reputation has been snatched up by Kentucky, Tennessee mostly. But this unfortunately leaves some great whiskey action happening right here in California that needs more attention.

Full disclosure: I’m a California-dweller (San Francisco to be exact) and am very much in love with my state. Maybe it’s for that reason that I thought it was important to bring the spotlight over here for a second.

I’ve had the opportunity to learn about some really cool distilleries and whiskeys coming out of the Sunshine State recently and thought I’d spread a bit of the love around. “We certainly have the knowledge here because of the number of Scots who settled here and have brought their skills with them. Rye and bourbon were originally made by Scots and Irish immigrants,” says Phil Elwell, from Ye Olde King’s Head pub in Santa Monica, a whiskey haven for southern Californians. The west coast is known for its wine and beer, which is precisely why many believe locally distilled whiskey is also catching on. For some, it seems like California is ripe for such a movement, which is why it’s achieved a few drams of success – “People in California have grown up with wineries and microbreweries so they are already receptive to craft whiskeys,” says Elwell. What you can find here are whiskeys with very distinct personalities, whiskeys you don’t find anywhere else.

St. George Whiskey
Alameda, CA

Jorg Rupf comes from a line of eau-de-vie distillers in Germany. Lance Winters has a brewing background, which is what did before coming to St. George in 1995. Together they run St. George’s Distillery.

St. George’s distillery is on the same premises as that of Hangar One Vodka, which is in an isolated airplane hangar in the old Alameda Naval Air Station. Rupf and Winters bring certain beer techniques to their whiskey. For example, St. George uses a mixture of the toasted malts on their whiskeys that lend a rich, dark color to porters and stouts; they’re the only West Coast distillers to do so. Some say this is why their whiskeys have such striking fruit aromas that make it so distinctive. Their Bourbon barrels also contribute to their signature fruitiness.

They are also known to use smoked malts – smoked over hardwoods like beech and alder. The product of their collaboration is like no other whiskey ever — it has a rainbow of sweet fruit and flower aromas you can scarcely believe come from grain, and an amazing smoothness on the palate. Yes, it’s a single malt. Or, the “whiskey that wants to be a whisky” (2).

Charbay Distillery
St. Helena, CA

Charbay is known for it’s high-end brandies and eau-de-vie and produced near Napa Valley. More recently they got into the whiskey business and started to get wild. When deciding how to build a great whiskey, they had a rather radical idea – embracing hops at a new level, featuring it in a similar way as some American beers. This, combined with aging in American White Oak barrels, creates a unique flavor profile. Charbay Double Barrel Hop-Flavored Whiskey is impressive. Its aromas are vegetal – like grass and hay – and has a bitter finish (props to the hops). Heady, dry-grass aromas. More recently, Charbay has announced R5 Aged Whiskey, which is a new experimental whiskey distilled not directly from grain, but from Bear Republic’s Racer 5 IPA Beer, typically known to please very strong hoppy-beer fans across the west coast. It’s then aged for 22 months in French Oak.

Anchor Distilling:
San Francisco, CA

In true American fashion, Fritz Maytag, the founder of Anchor, wanted to rediscover the way whiskey was originally made in America, the same kind George Washington used to make – 100% rye, sold straight from the still without barrel aging. He calls it “Old Potrero Straight Rye Whiskey”.

However, laws that still linger in America after Prohibition don’t allow him to sell it without aging it (which surprised me), like he originally planned. He does release one version aged for only two years – but he’s not allowed to call it “whiskey” due to California laws, and settles for “spirit” instead.

Another version he makes is aged three years in charred Bourbon-type barrels. In a tasting panel conducted by the LA Times, it was said that Old Potrero’s aroma is reminiscent of brandy-based liquer such as B&B. When water is added, notes of fresh hay come front and center.

Old Potrero Straight Rye Whiskey
45% ABV
$64

Nose: Very smoky and Scotch like. Old leather and molasses with a hint of Alspice.

Taste: Molasses, spice. A bit of vanilla and leather. Finish: Very sweet molasses and spice that lingers for a minute and then simply becomes a bit smokey.

*tasting notes from Bourbon Enthusiast

Perhaps it’s because California doesn’t have a strict whiskey tradition to limit experimentation, or maybe it’s thanks to typical California craziness, but it needs to be noted that there are unique and seriously interesting whiskeys being created right here in the Sunshine State. After all, if we elected this guy to be governor, isn’t anything possible?

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Stranahan’s Straight Rocky Mountain Whiskey

Stranahan’s Straight Rocky Mountain Whiskey
47% abv
$55

For my first blog post, I thought I’d focus on a solid whiskey made right right here in the good ol’ US of A. Colorado, to be specific – a region that I thought was worthy of coverage. I was sure to put this on repeat during my first tasting. I suggest you do so, too. Don’t choose this on accident. Don’t forget the flannel shirt.

I did a bit of research on Stranahan’s, who I wasn’t very familiar with. Stranahan pimps small batches and local ingredients – 40 barrels each week, which “is about five minutes of production for some of the mass producing distilleries”. quality of the sources of their natural ingredients separate them from the rest of the whiskey-making world.

They tout local ingredients, too – Rocky Mountain water and exclusively Rocky mountain barley (I think? Someone correct me if I’m wrong). It’s a single malt, which is rare in these parts, so that’s cool.

Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey won the Gold medal in the malt whiskey division of the 2008 American Distillers Institute in Louisville, Kentucky as well as the over all Best of Show.

It is a good story, and they are clearly separating themselves from the rest of the whiskey world, but how does the product taste?

Now let’s taste.

TASTING NOTES:

Color: A deep creamy gold.

The drink really hangs onto the sides of the glass with all its might.

Generally, I felt like I was surrounded by oak, cinnamon and vanilla. Some peripheral flavors include some orangey tones, honey and even banana. The sweetness of the palate is replaced by dryness on the finish, as a charred, burnt woody element comes to the fore.

Don’t expect a subtle experience. It’s big, bold and is quick to remind you who is boss. But don’t forget who the real boss is (Bruce Springsteen, duh).

This is an American whiskey and really tastes like one. Lots of cool flavors across the board, simple and agreeable. I had a second, but that’s not saying much. In all seriousness, this is an enjoyable whiskey but it didn’t change my life, but still impressive. Happy I had it. If you’re a bourbon fan, grab one.

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