Glenfiddich Bourbon Barrel Reserve

TubeI started this blog to share my experiences trying out new kinds of liquor. I wanted to make sure I was trying new things, and really get the most out of them by really paying attention to their scents and flavors. The accountability needed to write about what I drink is something I’m using to make sure I do that. Every once in a while though, something comes along that grabs one’s attention all on its own, and doesn’t need any special encouragement.

I am a fan of Glenfiddich, I typically drink the 12 year old variety, but I was excited to see something new on the shelf in the scotch section. In a blue tube with it’s other siblings is a 14 year old single malt that Glenfiddich calls their Bourbon Barrel Reserve. They say its their take on American whiskey, and it’s available only in the U.S., which is a loss for scotch fans everywhere else.

If I were to describe this whiskey in one word, it would be delicious. And that’s not “delicious” with an asterisk next to it, to be disclaimed by saying that I mean for something that contains alcohol. This stuff tastes plain damn good. It’s dry, smooth, and savory.

I try to be objective through analysis when I write about spirits, but the truth is I’m not going to try here. Too much analysis can make it harder to just enjoy something for its self. Like having a someone explain a joke to you, being told what to expect from this drink in cork sniffing terms wouldn’t add anything to your experience, and might take away from it. Some times, you need to find out for your self why and how something is good, and this is one of those times.

So, I’ll say only this: You should drink Glenfiddich Bourbon Barrel Reserve. If you’ve seen it in the store and were on the fence, get off and buy some. If you haven’t heard of it and this is all news to you, don’t think too much. Go out and find a bottle at your nearest purveyor of fine spirits. I’ll vouch that you won’t regret it.

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Jägermeister

Orange logoJägermeister is a drink that didn’t know what to think of. It’s often associated with young people partying; it’s not exactly known for being a flavorful, enjoyable liqueur for people who just want to enjoy a drink and relax, but that is what I found when I tried it.

At first taste I didn’t know what to think of it. It had nice flavors that I could pick out, like anise and orange peel, but it was also very bitter. I also tried it mixed into some Red Stripe Jamaican Style Lager (known as a Jägerbomb,) but found that its flavors were too delicate for such a mixture, and it ended up as a nondescript, indistinct cocktail.

I was a little disappointed, as I’d had high hopes for a drink that comes in such classy looking packaging and has been around for as long as it has. The next day, I gave it another try, and it was a completely different experience.

It turns out that even though I’d chilled my bottle of Jägermeister in the freezer, I hadn’t had it in long enough. After it had been cooled over night, and was really truly cold, the flavors changed. The bitterness sank down into the background, and the complex flavor that comes from many spices interacting came out. Most sips were slightly sweet, and dominated by anise or orange. As I came down to the bottom of my glass, other spices that had been settling came to the fore, and it was savory and good; it was like an old spice cabinet, with years of scents mingling and coming to life together.

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Better than being mixed with beer, I found it very good mixed with Sprite. Once again, I used an imported glass bottle from Mexico made with cane sugar. The Sprite gave the Jägermeister room to breathe. It spread out, and a fruityness that you only get a hint of on its own was bolstered by the citric acid in the soda. Sprite also shows you just how dark Jägermeister is, being darkened to look almost like rootbeer.

Red Stripe Jamaican Style Lager

This next subject might seem a bit out of place on this blog since it is about spirits, or it might not, since this is only the third subject relevant post in its history. But since I’ll be mixing my next spirit with beer, and beer contains ethanol, I thought to my self “why not review the beer I’m mixing it with?” So here are my thoughts on Red Stripe Jamaican Style Lager.

For a long time, I didn’t know what to make of Red Stripe. I’d never heard of it or seen it in stores, but suddenly I started seeing their ads on TV. Since so often products seem better in ads than they really are in person, I’m always a little wary of a product that has a nice ad. As often as not, when you pay more for something that’s got good ads, you’re paying for the ad, not any extra quality in the product. Red Stripe had fun commercials with happy little jingles and interesting situations, and I thought it was some new corporate beer coming out of nowhere. But then I heard someone say “oh, I remember Red Stripe, it’s pretty good,” and that made me think that maybe it wasn’t just another label on some giant corporation’s same old stuff.

Still, I’m not much of a beer drinker. If I’m on my own I’m much more likely to drink liquor than anything else, so I never sought out Red Stripe. It was only recently when I was at a bar that I sometimes go to that I saw that they’d added Red Stripe to their beer lineup that I gave it a try.

Red Stripe is a pretty run of the mill beer. It’s a medium yellow color, it tastes a little bitter, it tastes a little like grain, it’s a little bit sweet. It’s got more flavor than a lot of “premium” beers, particularly some imports that I don’t think are actually premium in their native lands. Since it costs less than those, I’d say it beats those low end “premium” beers as a good choice to drink. It doesn’t stand out from the pack in any major way, but at less than a dollar a bottle for beer that doesn’t taste like piss water, it makes a pretty good every day beer. Do you really need more than that?

Ketel One Vodka

Ketel One - CopyI remember hearing once that the purpose of Vodka is that it have as little color or flavor as possible, and that those qualities made it “perfect” for mixing with other ingredients for a cocktail. As someone who enjoys deep, complex, and/or strong flavors, that seemed to me to be a bit of a contradiction. If an ingredient isn’t bringing some of its own character into the mix, why is it there?

Some vodka that I’ve tried had a tantalizingly faint flavor way in the background as an aftertaste, which would frustrate me. That taste was usually pretty good to me, so I thought “why doesn’t it just taste like that? Why is there so little flavor?”

What’s more, whenever I’ve had vodka in the past, I was surprised that instead of tasting like something meant to be consumed by a human being, it tasted like rubbing alcohol. Since it tasted so bad, I certainly wasn’t going to drink it straight, so if it was in my fridge, it was damn sure getting mixed with something just to cover up the taste. Whenever I had vodka in the past, it also wasn’t smooth at all. It didn’t just taste like rubbing alcohol, it burned like it too.

So, it was with some trepidation that I picked up a bottle of Ketel One. I don’t know much about vodka, I usually avoid it. But I’ve had conversations with a few people that really liked Ketel One. The people who drank Ketel One didn’t drink any other kind of vodka. and I’d now say I understand why.

Like other vodkas, the flavor that Ketel One has is very faint, but its is even more subtle that others; there’s really just a hint of a taste. While that might usually upset me, this vodka’s other traits more than make up for it. Ketel One is very, very smooth. As I told one person whom I recommended it to (which is not something I do often,) it’s almost like you’re not drinking alcohol.

As a sipper, it’s usually three or four sips into a glass Ketel One before I start to feel that gentle tingling burn on my lips and tongue. While I this vodka with the intent strictly to mix it with other things, to my surprise I found my self just drinking it on its own. In fact, I bought some soft drinks specifically to mix it into, but haven’t really done so.

I like Ketel One best served straight at room temperature. It’s got a little bit of a thick texture to it and is pleasant just to drink on its own. Serving it over ice doesn’t really do much; when my tastebuds become numb I detect less of its flavor, as the ice melts it waters down what little taste there is to almost nothing. The water also takes away some of its smoothness, so it burns a bit iced. Chilled in the freezer its taste is a little stronger, but there’s also a bit of bitterness that comes out. Again, it’s also a bit less smooth chilled.

When it comes to mixing, I would advise against putting it an anything sweet. I was going to go out dancing, and mixed it in with some Gatorade so that I could be relaxed but also stay hydrated. The bitter flavor that peeks its head out when it’s cold comes out in force when contrasted with something sweet, and actually overpowers it. I had the same experience making a screwdriver: it just tasted like juice from an underripe, bitter orange. But, when I added a bit of milk and vanilla to that screwdriver, the bitterness went away and it was sweet goodness again. I didn’t make a Bloody Mary with it, but I suspect the savory tomato juice would go well with Ketel One.

There was also one other little snaggle that bugged me, but it was an issue with the packaging, not the spirit: I found that the cap to the 1.75 liter bottle that I bought is actually kind of hard to reseal. After opening it, I laid the bottle down in my refrigerator. When I came back about an hour later, I was surprised to find that it was slowly leaking. When recapping it, I found I really had to make an effort to get the lid on just so as to make sure it made a flush seal with the bottle. I’m not sure if this is a regular issue with the cap design that the Nolet Distillery uses, or if it is just a one off issue with my bottle.

The Troubling trail into Social Media

It has begun for Ethanol. The first step is a simple Twitter account, which you can find @ethanolspirit.

After you check out the Twitter page, don’t forget to read Ethanol’s first article about Appleton Estate Signature Blend.

Appleton Estate Signature Blend

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So here I’ll start with the Appleton Estate Signature Blend rum. The scent opening the bottle is rich a fruity, and makes me anticipate a complex flavor. The scent from the glass seems to be what artificial rum flavoring tries to imitate, but it’s much more enticing than the overpowering chemical taste of that fake flavor. It’s a medium amber color in the bottle, an slightly orangey brown; the color in the glass is much paler, a medium yellow amber.

Neat croppedTaken neat, the texture in the mouth is syrupy and pleasant. The first taste is something woody, though I’m not yet an expert in figuring out what kind of wood a liquor barrel was made out of. It leaves a taste on the tongue of that illusive rum flavor that the artificial flavor people try so hard and fail to achieve, and also leaves a taste of olive in the throat. Subsequent sips didn’t reveal any more flavors deeper within; Oh well.

Overall it has a mild taste, and while it seems a little out of the ordinary from my experience with rum, it certainly didn’t make me fall in love with it. It goes down fairly smoothly though, so there aren’t any complaints from me.

On the rocks, or, since I use a single large whiskey cube, on the rock, the On the Rock, croppedolive taste is brought forward. I taste it now with the rum in my mouth instead of as an after taste, but once again I didn’t find anything new or hidden.

Mixed with Coca-Cola is where I found Appleton Estate’s Signature Blend to shine. Mixing it with a Mexican Coke made with cane sugar from a glass bottle, there’s really something to enjoy here. I’ve never found much difference in the flavor of HFCS as compared to cane sugar, it always seems the difference in taste is masked by other flavors, but that’s not the case here. The flavor of the cane sugar pops out with this rum mixed in and is quite a treat.

The Signature Blend also brings forward the spiciness of the Coke, and the two combine to bring out an earthy flavor that’s quite good. The olive taste is gone, but the rum flavoring taste that lingers takes on a quality I can only describe as a “cleanness.” Sadly, it seems any dilution throws off the balance of flavors, as I found when my ice began to melt. If you like your rum & Coke ice cold, you may want to keep this rum in the freezer with glass beside it, and skip the frozen water.

EggnoggSince it’s less than 10 days from Christmas, I also tried Appleton Estate’s Signature Blend with eggnog. I mixed it with Sunnyside eggnog, which is a pretty mild, middle of the road variety. It’s not overly sweet, not overly (or underly) spicy, and has a texture that’s not too thick and not too thin. The flavor of this rum just blended in for the most part. The rum flavoring flavor sat subtly on top of the eggnog, with neither really intruding on the other. They came out as separate, parallel tastes, but did go well together. My experience with Coca-Cola does make me wonder what would happen when this is mixed with a spicier eggnog however.

With either mix, any roughness was completely mellowed out, and this rum went down smooth as silk. As for intoxication, this went to my head more quickly that some other spirits, but not overly fast. While it did leave me with heaviness to my buzz, it wasn’t an uncomfortable feeling. I didn’t drink to drunkenness as I typically don’t, but that heavy feeling leads me to think this may not be the best drink for that (if you could say there is one.)Glowing (dynamic) - Copy

So, that’s one down. I hope that my opinion might help someone out there decide whether or not they want to try this rum. I’m looking forward to the next spirit I try, and hope someone out there will be reading along. I’ll see you next time.

In the Beginning

It would seem prudent that I should explain what we’re all doing here, so I’ll just get to it.

Since before I was of legal drinking age, I loved spirits. From a sip of wine during a holiday dinner, a quick taste while making the batter for beer battered chicken, or the floral scent of good scotch, there has always been something that appealed to me, something alluring, about the adult beverage.

I discovered at a young age that I prefer the harder stuff, liquor, like whiskey or rum, to beer or wine, and now find my self drawn to discover which ones I like most. To find the answer to that question, I have to start trying them, and it’s my goal to taste them all. I’m here to invite anyone that might want to read along to follow me and see what experiences I have: Good, bad, and unexpected.

I sit here on a cold night with a bottle of Appleton Estate Signature Blend rum, which I will soon try for the first time. In my next post, I’ll be telling you what I felt about it. Not to sound trite, but until then I’ll raise my glass to everyone out there. Cheers, and see you next time.