Archive for February, 2012

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Start Spreading the News

February 28, 2012

New York City is at the forefront of nearly everything. It’s what gives the city its hubris, its energy, and its addictive appeal. So it isn’t surprising, that with a state history rooted in Rye and a recent loosening in the legal implications for start-up distilleries, we are witnessing a major scramble. It’s been next to nothing since the days of Prohibition, and there’s a lot of catching up to do. So if you weren’t a believer in the craft distillation boom, you won’t have to go much farther than a subway ride to see it for your self.

If you take a look at Kings County Distillery’s webpage, you might be surprised to find out they are the “oldest operating New York City distillery”. You might wonder why, the whiskey lover that you are, had never seen their simple and elegant flasks on your liquor store shelves. Well that’s because it wasn’t until 2010 that their stills got to work, tucked away in a tiny Williamsburg “warehouse” pumping out small (seriously tiny) batches of corn whiskey and 1 year aged bourbon. Do the math, and you’ll now understand why you’ve just recently started to see their bourbon for purchase. So does that mean their claim is BS?

Actually, not at all. Since Prohibition, the whiskey making in NYC was small batch in a different way. That is, in the illegal way. But in 2002 the state regulations for distillery start-ups started to loosen and after only a decade there are more and more players eager to get in the game. Take for example the NY Distilling Company situated just a stones throw from McCarren Park in Williamsburg. Already pumping out two brands of Gin and a NY Rye on the way, it’s only a matter of time for these newbies, to be the new staples at your local establishments.

But all of this means nothing, if the stuff doesn’t taste good, right?

So I picked up my first flask of the Kings County Bourbon the other day, and despite the price/size ratio which certainly isn’t the best bang for your buck, I have to say, I was pretty damn intrigued by this 1 year aged whiskey. For such a short aging process, the color and smoothness were really great. Plus I found it to have a mild spiciness which I tend to enjoy. In fact, if I had to guess (which I am because I couldn’t find the details), I would say there is a nice percentage of Rye in the mash contributing to the overall flavor. The founders are closing shop to re-open this spring in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and increasing production accordingly. A Nobler field trip is coming…

Just like a good whiskey, the NYC distillation scene is a development to keep our eyes on. As it ages I think we’ll start to see some fantastic complexity.

 

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Thirty Years Aged

February 27, 2012

I was hoping to follow-up the “future of American whiskey” discussion with a little more love for the blends but I had to wait until today as to not spoil the surprise…

My brother Steve turned 30 earlier in the month and we finally were able to make it down to celebrate. I had considered using the Whisky Blender site I posted about not too long ago but I wasn’t too sure of the timing and plus, I sort of liked the notion of really knowing and tasting what I was blending. By creating my own blend of commercially available  single malts, I was able to create a really smooth and delicious blended scotch that I hope he will enjoy for a long time.

This may sound a little silly, or even worse, a little like a Tupperware party, but I’m thinking this could be a fun Nobler activity. Everyone brings a bottle of single malt and with a few graduated cylinders and some mason jars, you could quickly see how blended scotch night could become a huge drunken hit. But as simple as I making this sound, the activity also enlightens you a bit about how great some of the “master-blenders” are. To consistently create masterful combinations of whiskeys that succeed on all fronts is no easy task. And one that can only be appreciated that much more when you give it a shot on your own.

This weekend also saw another batch of home-brew get kicked off. This time, a slightly smaller batch with Steve that should be ready in a few weeks. Between blending, brewing, and drinking I’m developing quite a few partners in crime. Even my little niece got in on the action!

Happy (belated) Birthday Steve!

 

 

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The Future of American Whiskey

February 23, 2012

As you probably have guessed, I’m not the only one out there who loves a good American Whiskey. Because whether you’ve been following the specifics or not, our nation’s re-birth in the whiskey world is in full-out growth mode and the obsession with small batch, craft distillation has followed suit. It really blows me away to see projections like those in this article from Serious Drinks that predict the number of American craft distilleries to balloon to over 400 by 2015. But with all the competition sure to brew (or should I say distill), I really love the model and suggestion brought out referencing true elegance in the liquor industry.

The Scotch business years ago, much like the current American Whiskey industry, grew like wildfire as the techniques and processes were perfected with local and regional practices taking shape in the form of Single Malts. But as competition grew, and “master blenders” began to tout the beauty of  blended scotch, the single malt distilleries needed to adapt to remain in business. As the article suggests, many of these single malt distilleries sell up to 90% of their output to those same “master blenders”. And the outcome is really ideal for all of us. The pressure to produce high quality single malts keeps the distilleries in business with the blenders and in parallel, allows them to remain focused on their uniqueness; the very thing that got them into business in the first place.

So looking forward, as a number of craft distilleries take form in the states, will a similar model be adapted? I think certainly some aspects will have to. Brands will have to capitalize on the quality of small batches to offer up highly marketable blends to keep a leading edge in the industry. But there is an interesting wrinkle taking shape that may provide for even more stateside excitement. As more of our craft distilleries begin production, more of them are looking to break the mold of what we know as a traditional bourbon or rye. By differentiating from the classic designations, we are in line for some pretty exciting stuff. The times of ordering just any “bourbon” are coming to an end (or probably already have) and we all stand to gain on this one. It’s time to get on board!

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The Original Wheated Bourbon

February 21, 2012

When a new friend of the Nobler suggested I try the W.L. Weller, it didn’t take much convincing. For one, he told me how at $16.99 a bottle (at least at Warehouse Wine and Liquors), it was one of the best values he had ever had. But more importantly, the dude’s from Alabama…

Seriously though, the Weller is pretty damn good. It’s origin and subsequent uniqueness comes from the “flavor grains’ used in the bourbon making process. Traditionally, bourbon, a majority corn based liquor contains some small percentage of rye to help flavor the mash and the final product. William Larue Weller, the company’s namesake, is said to have been the first to break from that tradition, in 1849 when he used wheat in place of the rye. The effect is a smoother, more rounded flavor profile which is now a distinct characteristic of this and other “wheated bourbons”.

I think it’s silly not to own a bottle of this W.L. Weller. It’s perfect for some easy drinking. But I have to admit I found myself missing the complexity of the Rye. Either way, I’m glad to have added the Weller to my overflowing collection…

I’m gonna need to have more gatherings!

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The Costello to Bourbon’s Abbot

February 17, 2012

I may often paint my fellow Noblers as booze-fiending, loyal followers of the experiment but…Well that’s true. However, some of them can write…

I’m set in my ways.  I’ve been so used to drinking beer as an after-work wind-down.  It’s actually become a bit of a “habit” if you may, but recently something I’ve revisited has changed my outlook on the clichéd liquor drink after work.  In an effort to create a special Valentines Day dinner my lady and myself scoured the annals of Epicurious to find the perfect recipe that might add a delicious segment of our night.  While searching Epicurious I stumbled upon a delicious pasta dish that included a generous dash of sweet vermouth.  I was hoping this Epicurious dish would get my girl drunk enough to make her bi-curious, but that didn’t happen.  What did happen was the vermouth made a delicious cream sauce that went well with shrimp I was forced to de-vein, since she decided to buy fresh shrimp to save $4.  But while I was ripping the shit out of 30 shrimp the vermouth was staring me in the face.  I had a plan.  

The next night I sat down with some Gentleman Jack (because I’m obviously a gentle man) and that sweet sweet vermouth and made a Manhattan that reminded me of a bygone era when men drank whisky on goddamn weeknights…and weekdays without letting anyone tell them otherwise.  I’ve watched enough Mad Men to know that a highball contains enough gravitas to make a man act on bold thoughts he would rather keep to himself in less-manly situations, so it sounded seductive enough to try out.  As I stood at the “bar area” I have been allotted in the kitchen I had to think to myself “Am I being a bitch?”  Why must I add a mixer (although it has alcohol) to a refined bourbon.  Here is my thinking: So the cocktail didn’t exist until Prohibition since all the proletariat could find was bathtub gin and basement distilled whisky to lubricate their nights.  They were forced to mix these toxics liquors with other beverages to create a palatable cocktail that would get them sufficiently drunk.  In this day and age corporations and (still) basement distillers are churning out delicious variations on American classics, specifically bourbons and whiskeys, which proves that we live in much better times, at least for our palates.  But why add vermouth to a drink that is so refined it is given the name “Gentleman”? I’ll tell you why. 

The Manhattan is a drink that can only be defined by the experience (but I will try with words, which will surely fail).  The rush of liquor upon each sip is tantalizing.  It hits you hard and leaves you a bit confused because you realize you have a fairly large glass of this concoction that is currently shocking your mouth that you must finish, because, well, you’re a man.  A second later it finishes with an amazing smoothness that can only be lent to the interplay between the vermouth and bourbon.  It’s velvety but with enough bite to remind you that you did not fuck around when you made that drink.  Vermouth is the Costello to Bourbon’s Abbot.  For the young kids, it’s the Charlie Murphy to the bourbon’s Dave Chapelle.  It just makes it that much sweeter.   Who’s on first?  I’ll fucking tell you.  It’s sweet vermouth.

– Dan Sicina

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A Contemplative Pairing

February 16, 2012

A few weeks back I spoke of the somewhat glorious combination of fried chicken and Basil Hayden’s. Since then, I’ve been putting quite a bit of thought into the notion of meal time liquors and nothing seems to be more conducive to a perfect pairing then a good bourbon. The delicate sweetness and strength of the bourbon lends itself to heartier meals of comfort and flavor. Take for example this duo of corn, my not so subtle attempt at humor:

I seriously dialed in the corn in my chowder to play off the bourbon by blending a small portion of yogurt with an entire bag of frozen corn and honey to act as my “cream”. The richness and soulfulness of the chowder was tempered and complimented by my consistent favorite, a few fingers of the Bulleit. But as I enjoyed the pairing, an unintended and welcomed consequence also came to light. Rather than charging through the meal as I too often find myself doing, sipping on a glass of bourbon had me throwing on the brakes as I enjoyed the night spoon by spoon, sip by sip. It was a contemplative meal, like all good meals should be.

So what about you guys? Any other liquor and food pairings I should be trying?

 

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The “How Ironic”

February 13, 2012

BBQ is as regional as it comes. Throughout America, arguments erupt over what is right and what is wrong: Sauce or no sauce. To rub or not to rub. Beef or Pork. It is all a matter of region.

So not so surprisingly, as Brooklyn has started to create some waves in the BBQ world, they had to claim stake in something. Luckily for us, it seems they have chosen bourbon and rye. I’m just thankful it wasn’t Tempeh…

But seriously, you can’t find a better American liquor list than at the more recent additions to the BBQ scene. It’s an amazing place to try varieties that you most likely won’t even find in your local liquor shop. So with that in mind, I came up with this soon to be hipster favorite combining all the glory of BBQ in one ice-cold glass. The pickle juice may sound a bit off-putting but you’ll be shocked at how refreshing it is. Feel free to substitute a little lime juice for some of the briney goodness, but don’t stray too far. It will surely lose some of that irony…

The “How Ironic”

2 oz bourbon

3 oz pbr

2 oz pickle juice

1 splash of ginger ale

In a tall glass with ice, mix all of the ingredients and garnish with a pickle spear and some Polaroid photography.

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