Thursday, November 17, 2011

Whisky Party 2011

If last year’s party was a campfire, warm and slow burning, this years was more like a fireworks show, big and loud and then it was gone. Was it the inclusion of the women? Was it the high proof whiskies? The introduction of cocktails? We may never know, but it was still fun. Here’s a quick rundown of the whiskies that were sampled and the response. I put out a bunch of ryes to compare with our main selection, Sazerac 18, and some other folks brought other styles.

Rittenhouse Rye 100

This was a hit. Being a “cheap” whisky can help or hurt a whisky’s image, but if you think more in terms of value, there are none better. It has a rich, chocolate-like flavor to complement the rye spice and alcohol burn. Those that indulged in the manhattans seemed to like it in that format, as well. For the record, the manhattans featured Dolin sweet vermouth and Fee Brothers whisky barrel aged bitters.

Willett Family Estate Rye (110 proof)

This is a young rye (3 years), but it doesn’t lack character or flavor. One party guest in particular was raving about it. At 30 dollars, another stud value.

High West Rendevous Rye

This was barely tasted. But I know some folks tasted it back at the Beer, Bourbon and BBQ fest and others on other occasions. It’s a great rye, minty and crisp. Who knew good rye could come from Utah?

Penderyn Welsh Whisky

Another bottle that barely got touched. It probably didn’t help that the first person who tasted it ripped it pretty hard. With others to choose from, it seemed silly to get intoxicated on one that was inferior. I myself thought it a bit aloof, and am eager to give it another run.

Clynelish 14 year

This one didn’t go over that well. A coastal highland whisky, this has all the flavors of scotch—smoke, mellow sweetness, and so forth, but somehow comes across as harsh. I tried it again a couple of days later, it grew on me, but not a whole lot.

Sazerac 18 year (2011)

This was supposed to be the star of the show. Supposedly the first release of this came out when Buffalo
Trace “found” barrels in their rickhouse of 18 year old rye and it was great, so they bottled it. I love it. It’s like drinking bread. I usually think 90 proof is a bit low for most American whiskies, but I really like the mellow and subtle nature of this one. I think others really liked it but didn’t rate it as the best of the night. For those that felt it lacked bite, I would recommend the Thomas Handy Sazerac, which is also from the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection and is barrel proof.

William Larue Weller (2011)

Another entry from Buffalo Trace Antique collection, it’s their wheated bourbon. It’s in the vein of the Van Winkle bourbons. It has a ton of flavor, it’s very sweet and round but packs a punch at 133 proof. This one probably was more liked than the Saz 18, or at least about the same.

George T. Stagg (2010)

This is like drinking bourbon concentrate. George will probably always be the star of any party he is invited to, but he kind of ruins it by getting folks too drunk at 144 proof.

Parker’s Heritage Collection Cognac Finished

This whisky is the same recipe as Evan Williams Black Label, Single Barrel, and the Elijah Craig 12 and 18. After 10 years traditional aging, they move the whisky to cognac barrels for a few months. The result is distinctive. The cognac mellows the whisky and adds that “wineyness” to it, but not in a bad or overpowering way. The Heritage Collection has some cool entries, one from a couple of years back mingled whiskies from all five decades of Parker Beam’s distilling career.

Throw in a couple of Bell’s Best Brown Ales, a gin and rosemary cocktail called the Rubicon, and you have one hell of a night.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Why I love Baseball

There will surely be some whisky and other alcohol related posts after this weekends 2nd annual Whisky Party.  But after watching the Eagles latest debacle the other night, I thought I'd take a detour into the sports world. 

First, let it be known that I am a true homer when it comes to sports.  I follow the Phillies, Eagles, and Sixers (sorry Fly-guys, I'm not much of a hockey guy).  I don't watch ESPN.  I have no idea, for example, of the record of the St. Louis Rams, and I don't play fantasy football (though I have in the past and might again sometime).  On the collegiate level, I do really enjoy watching college basketball, especially any of the local teams.  I'll watch Temple football here and there, as my wife is a Temple student.  But at the end of the day, it's Phils, Eagles, Sixers.  Not necessarily in that order.  Now it's football season, and I'm no dummy, I know that in many ways the NFL is now our national pastime.  And for good reason.  The Sunday scheduling, importance of each game in a 16 game season, and bone crunching thrills amount to a pretty good show.  But in my heart I still prefer baseball. 

Everyone tells me how football has so much action and baseball is dull.  No one likes how the batter can step out of the box, the pitcher can throw to first base multiple times, right-left-right pitching changes, etc.  Some folks feel there should be a time component to the game.  But the beauty of baseball is the lack of time component.  Each game has its own flow.  The most memorable game of the Phils season last year for me was the 19 inning game.  I was at the park that night, and left after the 9th bc/ I had a job interview the next day, but then stayed up all night watching it bc/ I couldn't sleep.  Watching a position player pitch--and pitch well--was surreal.  And there was plenty of action, in that game and all season long.  Watching JRoll leg out a triple, or flip a double play, is even more exciting to me than a moonshot from Ryan Howard.  And when the Phils hang on by a gut wrenching save by Ryan Madson, the win afterwards is that much sweeter.  Even the "boring" parts of baseball are interesting to me, like watching a pitcher like Roy Halladay set up a batter to strike out in his next plate appearance.  Or watching Charlie Manuel refuse to make his players bunt in a clear bunt situation.

Does football really have all the action it's hyped up to have?  In a 3 hour game, there are 60 minutes of gameplay.  Of that gameplay, there have been studies that show there are only about 15 minutes of real "action."  The rest of the time the clock just ticks, while I am supposed to be content staring at Andy Reid's fat stomach.  I guess the action is more intense, from a physical perspective.  (Aside: I won't even debate which sport has more strategy, bc/ I like the strategy aspect of football as well as baseball.  As much as I was rooting for the Eagles, it was incredible to witness such an amazing Bears gameplan on Monday night, as they contained Vick and punished the Birds).  Watching football can be a bit boring.  Minutes upon minutes of giant men just standing around, waiting for the next play.  Commercials after every freakin' kickoff return, time out, and injury.  In baseball, I know when the commercial is coming, so I can time my beer run, bathroom break, or dog walk accordingly.  And speaking of injuries, there are so many in football.  It's "part of the game," but for me it kind of ruins it.  So many key players miss time on every team.

I also love the long season of baseball.  It's like a friend for the summer.  When I walk around South Philly during a game, there are still some folks listening to the radio broadcasts on their porches (some even set up tv's outside) so I can soak up the gist of the game.  I can watch a couple of innings here and there and get the general idea of the game.  Or I can sit and watch all 9 if I have the time, and I often make the time.  And as the fall chill looms on the horizon, there is nothing like a pennant race to keep things heated up. 

This baseball season was a huge disappointment.  But it was still a hell of a lot of fun.