Friday, March 29, 2013

TV and Drink Pairing

Note: I am re-posting this as I had some glitches with Blogger and not sure if it was every posted the first time.  Sorry if you've already read this.

TV is the new great American art form.  It's more versatile for telling stories than film, and allows for rich character development.  But with scene after scene of hour long dramas, directors have to use plenty of scenarios and props to keep the story moving along.  One of those props is alcohol.  How many times have you seen one of your favorite characters sipping a drink, and you suddenly have the urge to join him/her?  This post serves as lighthearted guide to what to drink with some of the best shows on television, and why.

Mad Men
While Don and Roger pound straight pours of brown and clear liquids, respectively, you'll want a classic cocktail in your hand while you follow the exploits of Madison Ave. advertising executives and their lackeys.  A few suggestions: Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Sazerac, Martini, Aviation, Gimlet, Negroni, Daiquiri.

Breaking Bad
Unless you want to become a meth head, than have some whisky to steel your nerves while on this thrilling show that seems to ratchet up the tension, scene after scene, through the whole series.  Whistlepig Rye is a Canadian rye out of Vermont that has been featured on the program, but any brown pour will do.  Alternately, staring at the desert of the American southwest might cause you to get thirsty for something quenching like a wheat beer or a crisp IPA.

The Walking Dead
Anything you can get your hands on.  In the zombie apocalypse, anything goes, and any booze counts as premium.

Top Chef
Here I'd say something modern and creative to match the efforts of the cheftestants. A cocktail like the Porch Swing, which is like a grown up lemonade. Or perhaps the Rubicon, which involves lighting rosemary on fire. There are cocktails that involve food, one that I saw uses chorizo as a garnish. Or make a Dark and Stormy with homeade ginger beer by making a batch of ginger syrup and mixing with club soda.

The Americans
This new FX drama is quite promising.  A Cold War tale of KGB living undercover as average Americans.  If you like spy stuff this one is pretty neat.  I would recommend incorporating some kind of drinking game involving potato vodka shots.  Maybe a shot for each time the main characters put on a new wig.

Any Medical Drama
The Penicillin cocktail.

Timothy Olyphant plays U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens, a modern day gunslinger.  At one point he says, "I'm going to go home, open a bottle of Jim Bean."  Yes he seems to pronounce it "bean."  Jim Beam white is pretty boring stuff though.  I'd recommend spending the extra few bucks for the black label, or the new Devil's Cut.  The bad guys generally drink Wild Turkey 101 on the show, but when they run their own bar Boyd, the main criminal, says "give us a pour of that "Elmer T" (Elmer T. Lee is a Buffalo Trace single barrel hand selected by it's namesake, one of only two living men with bourbons named after them).  Raylan's boss drinks Blanton's in his office.  Yeah, you can pretty much drink any bourbon with this show.

Parks and Recreation
Ron Swanson's favorite is Lagavulin 16 year single malt.  But I'd say the show would pair best with a fizzy, bubbly cocktail.  Gin rickey, or champagne with hibiscus flowers.  Fun and light.

Amazing Race
Something with exotic ingredients to savor as the contestants travel the globe.  We made a cocktail with blood orange and tamarind paste.  It wasn't my favorite, but fun to try new things.

Bloody Mary.  Alternately, Dexter drinks a lot of Presidente Beer in early seasons.  Anything that would help with the stifling Miami heat and pair well with lots of blood.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Compass Box Oak Cross

I recently did a review of High West Campfire.  High West has a distillery, but currently most of it's products are purchased and blended.  Compass Box has been doing a similar thing in the most famous home of whisky, Scotland, for over a decade.  This is a review of their Oak Cross.

Oak Cross is a blend, or vatting, of Highland single malt (vatting bc/ they are all single malts, no neutral grain whisky in this one).  The box notes that the malts are sourced from the "villages of Brora, Alness, and Carron."  The Dalmore is one single malt distilled in Alness, but Compass Box is not noting any specific whiskies on the packaging.  Ostensibly, Compass Box is getting these whiskies after their primary aging period in first fill and second fill American Oak.  They then "marry" the whiskies in special casks that they have had made with French oak heads on American oak casks.  The French oak comes from a small mill in France known for its cooperage oak (according to the Compass Box fact sheet).  Two oaks, hence the name.  I got this on sale for about $45 bucks, it's 86 proof.  Let's see what we've got.

Color/Nose:  You can probably see in the picture this one is incredibly light in color.  The nose carries some heft, though.  I get a lot of fruit, like pears drizzled with honey.  Maybe the faintest of peat smoke?  Not sure to what degree any of these malts are peated.

Taste/Finish:  Malty, sweet, and juicy.  More of the fruit hinted at on the nose.  A fair amount of spice mid to late palate, which is either providing or accompanying some burn.  The box says "notes of cloves and vanilla," and you do get some vanilla, though not the punch of it you get with many bourbons.  As light and low proof as this is, the finish is strong and lingers.  Overall the whisky has a nice round mouthfeel.  It feels rich.  I know the sourced whisky is from the highlands but this reminds me of Glenkinchie (lowlands); it's light yet brisk and flavorful.

Value/Intangible: When I drink scotch, I usually want a heavy dose of peat.  With any drink, the thing I value the most is flavor, and lots of it.  Though this one is light and delicate, it doesn't lack in flavor, and offers something a bit on the unique side.  I'd say it was well worth the cost.  In the end this is likely a one time purchase for me.  I've wanted to try something from Compass Box for a while, and I may yet try their other entries.  But while this was a good pour, it doesn't blow me away to the point where I will be depressed when the bottle is empty. The website says it pairs well with many cheeses, which makes sense due to the fruity profile.  I'm having it with a snack of a soft rind French cheese (the name escapes me), and it's indeed a pleasant pairing.

My apologies for any mistakes in this post, Blogger was having some glitches.  Cheers!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

High West Campfire

February came and went without a post.  My apologies.  It's a short month, I'm busy...No, excuses are like assholes, everybody's got one.  In any case, I have a couple of posts in store for the next week or so.  Today I'm reviewing High West Campfire.  Typically, I will write in my whisky journal and then transfer my thoughts onto the blog in an organized fashion.  Today you will get my thoughts as I have them; I am sitting with the glass as I type.  I have tasted this whisky before, so it's not totally blind.  If you don't know much about High West, out of Utah, the owner is David Perkins.  Perkins had a background in biopharmaceutical engineering and wanted to get into the whisky business.  He set up a distillery but, like most craft startups, realized it's not a profitable model to sit on your thumbs while your whisky ages.  So he began sourcing and blending whiskies from other producers.  Some whisky folks turn up their nose at this, and go so far as to claim that buying and repackaging other folks' juice is not an art or a skill.  But if you know anything about the history of brown spirits, blending is a huge part of the industry, and indeed takes a great deal of skill and technique.  And if you haven't tasted any of High West's products, which include a couple of fantastic ryes, a bourbon/rye blend called Bourye, and several others, than you don't know what you are talking about.  Perkins is marrying products with totally different mashbills, ages, and styles, and the results are totally unique products where the components work in perfect harmony.  My favorite High West whisky to date is the Rendevous Rye.  The K&L Spirits Journal has an interesting podcast interviewing Perkins if you want to have a listen. 

Campfire is a blend of rye whiskey, straight bourbon whiskey, and blended malt scotch whisky.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Scotch and bourbon in one bottle.  The text below is from the blog Sour Mash Manifesto, and gives a little more info on the components:

"Here’s the gist of Campfire Whiskey. Its a blend of a six year old bourbon distilled and aged at Midwest Grain Products (Formerly Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana or LDI), a 5.5 year old rye whiskey also distilled at the former LDI and aged in the upper floors of the famed Stitzel Weller Warehouses in Kentucky, and finally an 8 year old peated Scotch whiskey from the Scottish mainland."

You can read Jason Pyle's full review here.  I read it when he first posted it but I am not looking at it now as to not be unduly influenced in my review.

It has the standard cool packaging one would expect from High West.   You can see the batch and bottle number in the pic.  This shot is 92 proof and the bottle costs about $50.  I got it in Indiana.   I initially had a pour of this at Fete Sau, Stephen Starr's BBQ and Bourbon joint in Northern Liberties.

Nose: Fairly gentle.  Perkins writes on the back of the bottle about honeydew topped with peated syrup, a dessert he had in Scotland that inspired the drink, and I'd say the nose about matches up with that concept.

Taste: This is a fantastic whisky.  The smoke is certainly there but plays a supporting role.  This would be good for someone who wants an introduction to smoky whisky but isn't ready for the punch of a Laphroaig 10 year.  It's a bourbon at heart, for sure, but the rye spice is present in addition to the smoke.  Fruit drizzled with honey, oaky backbone, and all of it is laced with the smoke.  It's like when you cook over an open flame, every bite of your steak has some smoke influence, but again, it's not the dominant flavor.  My father in law loves peated whisky, and I wonder if the peat influence here will be too faint for his palate.  But as a bourbon lover it suits me just fine.

Finish: This one is about perfect at 92 proof.  Just a tiny bit of bite but on the whole is it very mellow.  It would indeed be a perfect pour in front of the campfire, but I'll settle for my living room on a nippy early March night in the Northeast corridor.

Value/Intangible:  I love the creativity of this product.  I have a review of a Compass Box scotch coming soon, Compass Box does some neat things on the other side of the pond, but for me High West is the high water mark for artisanship with sourcing and blending whiskies.  Fifty bucks for me does not an everyday pour make, but a fine price for a Sunday evening pour.  If you can get your hands on it I'd highly recommend it.