Ole Smoky Harley Davidson Moonshine – Drops

Easy Rider, starring Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper is probably the best-known motorbike film in the world.  Despite not having much of a story, the film celebrates the sex, drugs and rock n’roll cliché perfectly.  Of course, with so much rock, pot and sex, no one will ever remember the script anyway.  The film was the icon of a generation and defined a genre and everything that goes with it – hair blowing in the wind, leather jackets and chains around the neck.

However, nothing comes close to representing the Easy Rider style like a certain brand of motorbikes.  One that maybe, from the title of this post, you have already guessed: Harley Davidson.  The Harleys are the motorised version of the iconic, anti-establishment spirit of Easy Rider bikers.  Even though, let’s face it, it has always been closely aligned with the establishment.

Obviously, such success needs to be used to advantage.  Harley Davidsons aren’t just motorbikes.  As I said, they are ultimate symbols of a lifestyle and what could be more natural than the brand expanding into products related to that lifestyle.  The official Harley store has it all – jackets, helmets, boots, gloves, glasses and posters and a myriad of accessories.

Ah, the north American spirit!

Catching a lift (get it?) on the back of this fame, Ole Smoky, a well-known producer of American moonshines, has released a special edition in conjunction with Harley Davidson.  Ole Smoky Harley-Davidson Road House Customs Moonshine is matured in highly charred American oak barrels.  Visually, the product is incredible.  It comes in a jar, with a crooked label and a metal lid, exuding all the rebelliousness of motorbikes.

It isn’t, however, very aggressive to the palate.  Ole Smoky Harley-Davidson Road House Customs Moonshine is very sweet, almost reminiscent of burnt syrup, and the alcohol is not very well integrated, so not exactly aggressive.  The alcohol content is high, by the way, 51.5%, but hides behind the moonshine’s excessive sweetness.  Incidentally this is intentional.  In American measurements, this corresponds to 103 proof – a tribute to Harley Davidson’s twin-cam 103 engine.

Ole Smoky Harley-Davidson Road House Customs Moonshine is produced by Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine, a corn whisky distillery located in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  In addition, the distillery produces more than twenty different expressions, among them aged and unaged whiskies and moonshines.  There is for example, a moonshine with peach and another with strawberry and even a weird blue one with more than 60% alcohol content.

It’s hard to compare it to any other bourbon whisky.  It might be best to use a metaphor here – imagine that any bourbon – a Woodford Reserve for example – is a rock song.  Now, turn the instruments up, distort the voice and change the tempo.  The result will be a set whose elements don’t really match.  Ole Smoky Harley-Davidson Road House Customs Moonshine is exactly this: the juxtaposition of whisky elements but don’t get to communicate very well.

None of that matters though, because Ole Smoky Harley-Davidson Road House Customs Moonshine has a beautiful caramel colour and is sold in a jar.  On the jar is a black label with the coveted motorbike brand in the world: Harley Davidson.  As I said, with such a rebellious look, nobody is going to stick to the script.

OLE SMOKY HARLEY-DAVIDSON ROAD HOUSE CUSTOMS MOONSHINE

Type: moonshine (corn)

Brand: Ole Smoky

Region: N/A

ABV: 51.5%

Tasting Notes:

Aroma: Caramel sweets, burnt sugar and alcohol.

Flavour: More burnt sugar – sweet molasses, alcohol and pepper.

Availability:  International shops

Aberfeldy 12 YO – Protagonist

There are films I always stop to watch, when I come across them on television.  It’s as if my brain goes onto autopilot and comfortably surrenders to the sense of familiarity.  There’s nothing I can do about it.  It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve seen each one, the outside world can wait.  Examples are Casino Royale, Fight Club, Pride and Prejudice, The Green Mile, Gladiator, As Good as it gets, Lethal Weapon, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Bourne Supremacy, Inception, Gattaca, Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Mission Impossible 4.  It’s strange because they have nothing in common, other than the fact there are hypnotic.

The most magnetic of all is Constantine.  Constantine is, for me, is the equivalent of Peppa Pig for the little pup.  But instead of Peppa counting to ten, there are demons.  Instead of George and his dinosaurs, there’s Lucifer – who by the way deserves some deference here.  Played by Swedish actor Peter Stormare, the devil completely steals the show from the moment he appears on screen.  In fact, perhaps therein lies the appeal: watching Keanu Reeves and waiting for the dog to appear. Not me, the Devil.

#annoyed

Something similar happens with Dewar’s 12 years and its main component, Aberfeldy 12 years.  Once firmly in the background and used mainly for blended whiskies – especially the Dewar’s line – the Aberfeldy whiskies are comparable to the devil.  The Devil in Constantine.

They have recently gained prominence thanks to Bacardi, owner of Dewar’s and the Aberfeldy, MacDuff, Brackla, Aultmore and Craigellachie distilleries, which finally decided to bottle its single malts.  The result was the group called Last Great Malts of Scotland.

Bacardi couldn’t have made a better decision.  Taking its malts out of the background, the brand was able to demonstrate the quality and personality of each of the main components of its blends.  Previously, unbeknown even to those interested in single malts, these whiskies were given the chance to shine.  Some, like Aberfeldy 12 years, stole the scene from the other lead roles.

Aberfeldy 12 years is the youngest expression in Aberfeldy’s current portfolio.  In addition, the distillery has a 16, an 18 and a 21 year old, as well as certain limited editions.  What is curious about Aberfeldy – and indeed, all the distilleries belonging to Bacardi – is that their entire ranges have age statements.  When questioned about this, Fraser Campbell, Dewar’s ambassador, jokingly quotes Tommy Dewar, “We have a great regard for old age when it is bottled.”

While we’re on the subject, let’s talk about Tommy Dewar.  Although Aberfeldy has only recently been revealed to the public, the distillery is a central character in Dewar’s history.  It was founded in the mid-1890s, when Tommy and his brother John decided to start producing – and not just blending – whisky.  The place they chose was then three miles from where their father and founder of the company was born.  It wasn’t chosen solely for sentimental purposes.  Water is a very important component in whisky and back then it was important to have a source nearby that could be used by the distillery.  In the case of Aberfeldy, the source was Pitilie Burn, which is also famous for possessing gold.

One of the most vaunted characteristics of Aberfeldy 12 years’ production process is the long fermentation of its wash.  It takes between 72 and 88 hours, much longer than the average for distilleries.  According to Aberfeldy, it is this long fermentation that produces the honey and caramel aromas characteristic of the single malt.  The Aberfeldy stills are heated with steam and the second distillation is relatively long – resulting in an only slightly oily malt.

Well done, Aberfeldy!

The 12-year-old Aberfeldy has received numerous awards since its relatively recent release.  Among them is a 2014 World Whisky Awards gold medal in the Highlands Single Malt aged 12 years or less category.  It was also named a “master” by the Scotch Whisky Masters, for being a whisky from the Highlands and Islands aged 12 years or older, in 2013.

Even for those trying it for the first time, the 12-year-old Aberfeldy has a very familiar flavour.  It’s an herbal whisky, with honey, vanilla and fruit.  The finish is medium, sweet and extremely pleasant.  You can drink it effortlessly and the next sip is almost automatic.  It’s almost like the film you stumble across on television.  Even if you’ve seen it a hundred times, there is a mesmerizing fascination in all of them.

ABERFELDY 12 YEARS

Type: Single malt with age statement – 12 years

Distillery: Aberfeldy

Region: Highlands

ABV: 40%

Tasting notes:

Aroma: Honey, vanilla, floral and light.

Flavour: Honey, vanilla caramel with milk, fruit compote.  Medium finish, sweet with lots of honey.

Glenkinchie 12YO – Meritocracy

If you’re an engineer or a meteorologist, you probably know the Chaos Theory.  If you’re not, I’ll explain.  The Chaos Theory suggests that in complex systems, where there are a large number of variables, the sensitivity makes a certain result unpredictable in the long term, due to action and repetition – although there is a recurrence of these variables.

If you don’t understand, let me give you an example of a simple object – the umbrella.  Deciding whether or not to take an umbrella when you go out depends on many factors: the temperature, the amount of clouds in the sky, humidity in the air, among other things.  Maybe you get it right, but you might be wrong and end up getting soaked, or even leave the stupid thing in a restaurant on a beautiful summer’s day.  The truth is, it’s impossible to predict the weather with absolute certainty, because there are so many variables.

The Chaos Theory is not only used to explain meteorological phenomena.  It can be applied to everything in our lives and whisky is no exception.  A good example is the story of Glenkinchie and its late – now reborn – sister, Rosebank.  When both were launched at the beginning of the eighteenth century, no one would ever have imagined that the euthanasia of one would be as pointless as its beauty.  However, that is what happened.

Rosebank was founded in the mid-eighteenth century, just a few decades after its sister Glenkinchie.  Both were in the Lowlands – but Roseland was in a relatively ugly place near the Forth & Clyde Canal.  Years later, the water flow of the canal was interrupted due to the build-up of rubbish.  Glenkinchie on the other hand is nowadays located in the Kinchie Burn Valley (hence the name Glen-Kinchie), a beautiful place, close to the, similarly beautiful, village of Pencaitland.

Ugly by Scottish standards, of course.

It turns out that in 1914, Rosebank, Glenkinchie and three of the region’s other distilleries decided to found a commercial group called the Scottish Malt Distillers.  This group was purchased by the Distillers Company Ltd in 1919, which later became the giant, Diageo.  Legend has it that the group decided to close one of their Lowland distilleries in 1993 to concentrate the investment on the other.  Rosebank was considered the queen of all the region’s distilleries.  Their whiskies were among the best in Scotland.  Those of Glenkinchie, however, were merely considered good.  Logic would have dictated the closure of Glenkinchie and keep the crown on Rosebank’s metaphorical head.

I wouldn’t have started this port talking about the Chaos Theory however, if this is what had happened.  As I said, Rosebank was on an ugly canal, Glenkinchie in Scottish picture postcard landscape.  In addition, a few years earlier, Glenkinchie had been selected to be one of the Classic Malts of Scotland – a group of Diageo distilleries representing their respective regions (including Talisker, Lagavulin and Oban among others).  In fact, one of Diageo’s projects was to build a beautiful visitors’ centre so that tourists could experience the processes of their most prominent distilleries.  There was no discussion.  Rosebank’s fate was sealed by its appearance, something which no one could have ever foreseen.

Of course, there are other factors at play.  Glenkinchie was a more well-known distillery thanks to its inclusion in the select group of Classic Malts.  Its productive capacity was also superior.  In turn, Rosebank only had a supporting role – providing malts for blended whiskies.  Its only expression was part of the somewhat obscure line, Flora & Fauna.  Glenkinchie on the other hand, had its own expressions, such as its backbone at the time – Glenkinchie 10 years.  Recently replaced by Glenkinchie 12 years, the subject of this post, this is the only representative from the Lowlands that has officially come to Brazil.

Glenkinchie 12 years is a light bodied, pretty delicate whisky.  Many attribute this to triple distillation – common practice in the Lowlands in the not-too-distant past.  Glenkinchie, however, employs only double distillation – common practice in the Scottish industry.  The little body is owing to the size and shape of its stills, which encourage the reflux.  The serpentine condensers help to bring a certain sulphur taste to the malt, which is lightly peated.

Glenkinchie stills.
Glenkinchie stills.

The distillery does not clearly divulge the Glenkinchie 12 years maturing process.  By the sensory characteristics however, this Dog’s educated guess is that it takes place entirely in American oak barrels previously used for bourbon whisky.  This makes sense, when you consider that the other expression in the portfolio – Glenkinchie Distiller’s Edition – is matured in European oak barrels formerly used for sherry and is the same age.

In Brazil, a bottle of Glenkinchie 12 years costs around R$ 250,00.  Sensorially, Glenkinchie 12 years is floral and slightly bitter with a slightly sulphuric and short finish.  Although not a very complex malt and (arguably) expensive for what it is, it is also easy to drink and please most palates.  It is one of those whiskies that dispels the Chaos Theory and can be drink in any situation, come rain or shine.

GLENKINCHIE 12 YEARS

Type: Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Distillery: Glenkinchie

Region: Lowlands

ABV: 43%

Tasting notes:

Aroma: sulphuric and floral (vegetal).

Flavour: lightly bitter and spicy, with a clear vegetal note.  The finish is dry and short with almost no smoky taste.

With water:  the whisky becomes even drier, with a shorter finish.

Glenfiddich 26 YO – Self Indulgence

The other day, I was in the car driving the way I always do, like a bat out of hell with rocket boosters.  I was in the virtually traffic-free fast lane on the ring road and needed to get into the lane next to me, which was completely stationary but had access to the empty turn-off.  My lane was short and ended in a wall.

What I did would have been really cool, if it hadn’t been ridiculous.  I continued in the fast lane until the last moment, touching my brakes intermittently, pretending to be lost and unsure.  Then, at the last moment, I slowed right down and slipped into the lane, thanking profusely the car behind me, which had saved me from my simulated incompetence.  I jumped the queue and no one was upset.  At that time, I didn’t worry too much – I was late for my meeting and I had to get there on time.

On another occasion, I was waiting in lane for a turn-off.  My lane wasn’t moving, but the one next to me was flowing freely.  So freely, in fact, that another car decided to grab the opportunity.  He took the parallel lane until the last minute and then very quickly, and without indicating, swung in front of me.  I was furious. Dear driver, you’re not clever you’re a cretin, I thought.  Then I remembered the day on the ring road.  I might have been late that day, but it was my own fault.  I should have left the house earlier.

The truth is, we are all a little bit hypocritical.  Our hypocrisy appears in a wide variety of shapes and forms.  The traffic is one of them.  Another is when shopping.  At the supermarket I always convince the mother of my pups to buy the cheapest, non-label brand of shampoo, bleach and fabric softener.  But when I buy whisky online, I filter the shops by price, starting with the most expensive.  Everyone is like that – all that changes are our priorities.  We are simultaneously ultra-critical and self-indulgent.  A combination which is as hypocritical as it is natural.

OK, as long as I can buy an expensive whisky afterwards.

I’m very permissive in relation to my spending on whisky and even have the most surreal justification of it all: it’s for the blog.  However, in many cases, not even this hypocrisy suffices.  Glenfiddich 26 years is such a case.  It is the distillery’s most exclusive expression in Brazil and perhaps the most expensive single malt sold here at the moment.  I’ve always wanted to taste the wonder.  Lack of courage and credit, however, superseded self-indulgence. I didn’t think I would ever taste this malt.

Until one day, a golden opportunity arose.  At the invitation of the brand ambassador for Latin America, Christiano Protti, and of Caruso Lounge, this Dog took part in a most arduous task… especially as it was a rainy Monday.  I had to taste the complete Glenfiddich line available in Brazil, ending in the incredible 26 year old – all at a fitting dinner prepared by MasterChef Irina Cordeiro.  I was even entitled to a cigar at the end.  Everything, from starters to spectacular end, was flawless.

But let’s get to what everyone wants to know about: Glenfiddich 26 years.  Glenfiddich 26 years is aged exclusively in American Oakbarrels.  They are very special American Oak barrels, made by the Kelvin Cooperage in Kentucky, which, like Glenfiddich, has been run by one family since its foundation in 1963 – a Scottish family, incidentally.  This is an important detail, not because it makes any difference to the spirit (although the cask quality has some influence), but because it carries an important message.  It reflects the values of Glenfiddich itself, which despite being one of the largest distilleries in Scotland, is still owned by the founder’s family – the Grants.

William: founder

By the way, speaking of aging, Glenfiddich 26 years is the first expression of the distillery that uses exclusively American Oak.  For many, this could give the impression of a one-dimensional, simple whisky.  However, that is not the case here.  Although delicate, Glenfiddich 26 years shows incredible complexity.  Its beginning is quite fruity with a certain taste of honey and very pronounced brown sugar.  The taste though develops rapidly, giving rise to something resembling pineapple and leather (seriously).  The finish is medium and floral with plenty of vanilla.  It is perhaps the most elegant of whiskies in the Glenfiddich line that this Dog has ever tried.

Indeed, it’s strange how a whisky that has only been aged in one barrel can develop such complexity.  Much is said today about finalisation.  Whiskies that spend the last years of aging in barrels previously used for other drinks for example, in order to add to, and complement, the flavours.  This is a way in less time and with a certain technique, to create a complex and at the same time accessible product.  Glenfiddich 26 years, however, is the opposite of this.  Its complexity comes from time – from more than two and a half decades of oxidation in one type of carefully chosen and mixed barrel.  That is the most incredible thing about it.  As tempting as it might be, there are no shortcuts and the result is impressive.

In Brazil, Glenfiddich 26 years is a steal at an average R$ 4.500,00 (almost £1,000.00).  This makes it the most expensive single malt ever reviewed here and sold in the country.  It’s pretty expensive.  For the same amount, you could buy seven bottles of Glenfiddich 18 years or twelve of the all-time favourite Glenfiddich 15.  And if you’re throwing a party, twenty-two bottles of distillery’s starting expression, which is 12 years old.  All this means that a measure of the beautiful firstborn is equivalent to an entire bottle of his youngest brother.

All this doesn’t matter very much though as Glenfiddich 26 is really a statement.  A statement that everything that is well made will always have its place, that patience and attention to detail can still create extraordinary, luxurious and amazing products.  Even when the technique can – and often does – equate to time, or when it is easy to switch from the left into the right-hand lane.

GLENFIDDICH 26 YEARS

Type: Single Malt Whisky with age statement – 26 years

Distillery: Glenfiddich

Region: Speyside

ABV: 43%

Tasting notes:

Aroma: fruity, with clearly apparent vanilla and a certain floral citrus – nectarines and apple.

Flavour: fruity and citrus, with vanilla, cinnamon and apple.  The taste of the wood is very clear in the forms of tannins and a hint of chestnut.  The whisky starts off more bitter and becomes progressively sweet until practically finishing in vanilla and cinnamon.  Long finish

With water: water reduces the tannin tones and strengthens the fruit and floral flavours (vanilla).

Price: R$ 4.500,00 (four thousand and five hundred Brazilian reais)

Macallan Classic Cut – Violent Elegance

Liver with fava beans and a good chianti, or a good Amarone, if you prefer the literary version to the film.  Classical literature, especially Dante’s Divine Comedy, the Goldberg variations of Johann Sebastian Bach, the beautiful city of Florence – all seem like the choices of an extraordinarily cultured and sophisticated person.  In fact, they are.

Incredibly, these are also the interests of one of the most famous fictional villains.  The psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter, who appears in films like Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs, would almost be the perfect gentleman if it weren’t for one minor detail, or rather taste, which isn’t at all sophisticated.  Hannibal likes to eat people.

By the way, therein lies the success of his character, in this Dog’s opinion – in the balance between erudition and wild, brutal violence, between politeness and aggressiveness.  Hannibal is Jekyll and Hyde, with the bonus of being a cannibal.  He embodies seemingly contrasting characteristics, which, despite this, complement each other beautifully.

 

Ok, ok… “beautifully” isn’t the best word.

If Lecter was a whisky, he would definitely be The Macallan Classic Cut.  A special edition by the distillery, which brings its traditional elegance and sophistication, but with something extra.  This isn’t human flesh (which is a relief) – it’s the 58% ABV, which is the villainous part of the release and of course just what makes it fascinating.

O Macallan Classic Cut is the first in a series of distillery launches, which it says is aimed at “revealing (its) unique character and eternal spirit.”  Its visual identity – the white label with the red band – pays homage to one of the distillery’s highly discontinued expressions, highly sought after by collectors: The Macallan Cask Strength, another of the distillery’s whiskies that has a healthy alcohol content.

According to The Macallan “exclusively matured in exceptional American and European oak sherry casks from Jerez, Spain and bottled to show perfectly its unique profile and taste, this limited release offers a special and memorable view of The Macallan.”  This is a description that even Lecter would find interesting.

Even more interesting than what is described, is what is not.  There is a curious silence (not of the lambs) about the expression “cask strength”, which would imply a whisky bottled directly from the barrel, without being diluted.  The words are not used anywhere on the label or marketing material related to The Macallan Classic Cut, which would be expected for a bottled whisky above 50%.  The omission would indicate dilution with water – however small.

Some have commented that The Macallan did this precisely to avoid any form of comparison with The Macallan Cask Strength that the distillery discontinued a good few years ago.  However, you don’t have to be Clarice Starling to see the argument doesn’t hold.  The red and white label of the Classic Cut makes a direct reference – almost a tribute – to Cask Strength.

Any similarity is (no) mere coincidence (source: Winesearcher).

Be that as it may, Macallan Classic Cut is a sensorial delight.  There is the traditional oily nature of The Macallan, but it is more pronounced, as well as its fruity and vinous profile with ginger, wood and marzipan.  Despite the high content, the alcohol is well integrated and comes out as a certain dry spiciness in the finish.

Just like Hannibal Lecter, The Macallan Classic Cut has always been hunted down, since its launch.  This makes finding a bottle to buy – even in international shops – almost impossible.  However, if you are lucky enough to find one, be sure to try it.  Or you could patiently wait for the next release as a certain fictional killer would say “all good things to those who wait.”

THE MACALLAN CLASSIC CUT

Type: Single Malt with no age statement

Distillery: Macallan

Region: Speyside

ABV: 58.4%

Tasting Notes:

Aroma: citric, fruity, with ginger and vanilla.

Flavour:  Fruity, raisins, tobacco.  A long finish with a fortified wine. Dry and spicy.

With water: Fruit and wine taste is emphasised and the whisky is sweeter and less spicy.

 

Method and Madness Single Pot Still

I recently dreamt I had gone to a party in pyjamas.  In case you don’t follow, let me explain – it wasn’t a pyjama party, which would have been pretty weird at my age.  It was a regular party, except I was wearing pyjamas – yes, those good old classic blue-striped pyjamas.

In the dream, I seemed to be the only one aware I was in nightclothes, which was really embarrassing irrespective of the others’ opinions.  I tried to convince myself that it could actually be worse – I could have been in fancy dress… dressed up as a pimp or Barney (from the flintstones, not Barney Stinson).  It was no use however, it’s just a sort of burning inadequacy.

Later, I was wondering what it would be like if this happened in real life.  If I went to work in my pyjamas, for example, I would probably be sent home, given some clothes or they’d take my photo and post it on social media.  But maybe they would respect me – I would be there, comfortably dressed, challenging tradition and proving I could be better wearing pyjamas.

 

If they can, I can

Perhaps the people at the Irish distillery Midleton dreamt the same thing.  Maybe they just woke up one day and decided to challenge tradition, because they just released an Irish whiskey that is not matured in European oak barrels formerly used for sherry or port.  Neither is it finished in American oak bourbon barrels, or virgin or simply oak – it is finished in (wait for it) chestnut barrels.

Conveniently called Method & Madness Single Pot Still, the whiskey is matured in a combination of oak barrels that previously contained sherry and bourbon and finished (for an undisclosed period of time) in French chestnut barrels.

You might not have understood the concept.  So, let me open proverbial brackets to explain.  Irish pot stills are different from single malts.  The denomination indicates that the Irish whiskey was distilled in copper stills, the style of malts.  However, malted and non-malted barley were used in its ingredients, contrary to a single malt, which uses only malted barley.

Back to Method & Madness Single Pot Still.  In the words of the distillery “Method & Madness is a whiskey brand hatched from the minds of the Masters and Apprentices of Midleton Distillery. (…) When great minds collide, incredible creations can emerge (…) There will be a trial, and error, and brilliant bottled breakthroughs that start with ‘What if?’ (…). Innovation is nothing new to Midleton but the new micro distillery has provided the copper canvas for experimentation to run free.  The whiskeys coming out of this distillers’ playground provide a new taste from Irish whiskey history.

 

Some whiskeys from the Method & Madness line

 

And about the new release “A Single Pot Still whiskey aged in chestnut casks, a combination of what we’ve always done in Midleton and what we’ve never tried before. It’s not often we stray from the traditional oak, but one sip suggests it was well worth the deviation. Incidentally, the Method & Madness is consistent with this concept.

The Method & Madness Single Pot Still is a spicy, almond flavoured whisky (or is it chestnut?) and it’s lightly floral.  When I tried it, I caught myself several times trying to separate in my head what the influence of the traditional oak might be, and what the chestnut added to the whiskey.

I think the great thing is exactly that – the curiosity and the investigation.  Be that as it may, Method & Madness Single Pot Still is an extremely interesting whiskey that is certainly worth a try – and believe me, I’ve tried it – its’s even better in your pyjamas.

METHOD & MADNESS SINGLE POT STILL IRISH WHISKEY

Type: Irish Whiskey

Distillery: Midleton

Country: Ireland

ABV: 46%

Tasting Notes:

Aroma: Almond, floral, cut grass.

Flavour: Spicy with more almonds (or chestnuts?), and a light liquorice finish, spicy.

 

Cocktail à La Louisiane – Rivalry

 

Rivalry.  The feeling of restless and prolonged animosity.  Certain rivalries are only destructive.  Others, however, are pretty beneficial and drive you to do things that you never would if it weren’t for the insatiable desire to beat your rival.  A classic example is the war of the currents – the main players being Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison.

The (literally) electrifying rivalry began in 1884, when a young Nikola Tesla began working in Thomas Edison’s laboratory. In case you didn’t know, Edison was the guy who invented continuous electric current (DC), the light bulb and lots of ‘graphs and ‘scopes, such as the phonograph, vitascope and mimeograph.

Just one year later, Tesla resigned and started his own electric company.  Funded by a banker, George Westinghouse, the inventor suggested that the standard electricity system in the USA should be alternating current (AC), rather than direct current to which Edison owned the patent.

in 1903 – afraid of losing the proceeds of his patent – Edison launched an advertising campaign to promote DC.  In one of his commercials, the inventor electrocuted an elephant named Topsy using AC, just to show how risky it was.  That, in this Dog’s opinion, is like grinding someone’s hand in a coffee grinder to show caffeine is bad for you.

“High Voltage” Rivalry.

Edison’s campaign didn’t work, and little by little DC was replaced by AC.  The race to find the best model for lighting the USA brought huge benefits.  The change of system meant that electricity could reach remote areas more easily and sparked the technological advances of the time.

Another advantageous conflict occurred in New Orleans the 1920s.  The city had two beautiful hotels with great bars: the Monteleone and La Louisiane.  The first created the classic Vieux Carré, a cocktail that today is among the best known in the world.

However, La Louisiane felt that, in order not to fall behind, it should also have a signature cocktail.  The result was La Louisiane cocktail.  Maybe creativity in naming things was not their forte, but it didn’t matter, because mixing drink certainly was.

Hotel La Louisiane poster

For some reason I can’t shed any light on (see what I did there?), the La Louisiane cocktail has never reached the international prestige of its rival.  Its first appearance was in Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix ‘Em, by Stanley Clisby Arthur.  Later, the cocktail also appeared in The PDT Cocktail Book, by Jim Meehan and Chris Gall.  Throughout its career, it also gained a variation of its original name: De La Louisiane.

The Cocktail à La Louisiane can be considered a hybrid between a Vieux Carré and a Sazerac.  Like its contemporaries, it is made with the famous Peychaud’s bitters, produced in the city.  The original recipe was made with equal parts rye whisky, red vermouth and Benedictine.  This recipe appeared in Stanley Clisby Arthur’s book.

The version in The PDT Cocktail Book however, required a significant increase in the dose of whisky to balance the sweetness of the Benedictine.  This is the recipe I’m going to give you here – although, my dear readers, if you do want to change the proportions, feel free.  There is no rivalry here, only the incessant search for the best cocktail to suit your taste buds.

COCKTAIL A LA LOUISIANE

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 parts rye whiskey (yes, I know, the only one we have in Brazil is Wild Turkey 101 Rye, and even that it difficult to find. We recently received a batch of Wild Turkey Rye with lower ABV.  You can use one of these or a bourbon with a high concentration of rye in the mash bill, like Bulleit)
  • 1/2-part red vermouth (this Dog uses Miró Etiqueta Negra)
  • 1/2-part Benedictine (if not, use Drambuie, but bear in mind that the cocktail will become spicier and sweeter)
  • 3 dashes of Peychaud’s
  • 2 dashes of absinthe
  • Maraschino cherry to garnish (I’ll make this optional, before you, my dear reader, put a cherry-shaped chayote in your drink).

PREPARATION:

  1. Cover the inside of a glass with Absinthe and tip away any excess (I know you’re going to tip it into your mouth – go ahead).
  2. In a mixing glass, add lots of ice and the other liquid ingredients. Stir for about five seconds.
  3. Using a strainer, strain the mixture into a cocktail glass.
  4. Top with a glacé cherry.

Bowmore Feis Ile 2008 – Drops

Do you know what Feis Ile is?  Feis ile is the biggest annual festival on the island of Islay, famous for production of peated whiskies.  Feis Ile celebrates the culture of Islay.  There are Gaelic classes, traditional plays, golf and bowling championships and endless whisky tastings.  There is also a myriad of curious activities, such as birdwatching and a fly-fishing championship as well as folk-rock music performances.  None of this is very important, though… what really matters is the commemorative bottles.

For Feis Ile, the Islay distilleries often launch commemorative limited editions – highly sought after by collectors, and certain shops that prefer to buy them directly from the source and store the bottles, so they increase in value.  For this reason, the island is visited by hundreds of tourists and enthusiasts of the best drink in the world during the festival.  Some even camp outside the distilleries for the chance to get their hands on one of these editions.

Others, however, are luckier.  Thanks to the generous insanity of Single Malt Brasil, this Dog had the opportunity to taste one these unique treasures – Bowmore Feis Ile 2008, at a tasting in Rio de Janeiro.

Bowmore Feis Ile was distilled on exactly 14th June 1999 and bottled while young – after eight years – for Feis Ile 2008.  Eight hundred numbered bottles were produced with a (literally) staggering alcohol content of 57.4%.  It was aged exclusively in European Oak barrels from the Limousin region, some of the most expensive and most popular barrels in the whisky industry.

Incidentally, Bowmore is famous precisely because it is aged in a variety of barrels.  There are American Oak, European Oak and even Japanese Oak, known as Mizunara.  The distillery is well known for mastering the balance between a peaty flavour and the wine influence of wine and sherry.  This is a difficult technique, since the taste of fortified wine clashes with the smoky peat.  One of Bowmore’s biggest attractions is its warehouses – in particular that known as No. 1 Vaults, which is the oldest in Scotland and dates back to 1779.

I would go into this dungeon! (source: http://cocktailchem.blogspot.com.br)

Bowmore Feis Ile 2008 is a very spicy, peaty whisky with a clear orange citrus flavour.  The taste is spicy, smoky and fruity with lime orange and raisins.  It’s amazing how such a young whisky develops such complexity, thanks to Bowmore, the careful ageing process and quality of the barrels.  It just goes to show that young whiskies can easily outdo more matures ones – depending on their flavour and profile.

It seems obvious, but unfortunately Bowmore Feis Ile isn’t available in Brazil.  No Bowmore is, by the way.  After all, we are just a small and remote country in the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.

BOWMORE FEIS ILE 2008

Type: Single Malt with age statement – 8 years.

Distillery: Bowmore

Region: Islay

ABV: 57.4%

Tasting Notes:

Aroma: peated and smoky with orange lime and lemon.

Flavour: Initially spicy and smoky buy quickly becomes fruity and citric with orange lime and raisins.  The finish is long and smoky.

With Water: Adding water softens the whisky and enhances the citrus flavour.

 

Dalmore 18 – Manners Maketh Whisky

Manners make a man.  This is what the British writer William Horman wrote in his book Vulgaria in 1519 – a compendium of quotes and proverbs from his day.  In the archaic original, “manners maketh man“, the aphorism may seem overtly polite and outdated, but its meaning is as simple as it is contemporary.  He says that courtesy, upbringing and good manners are essential to living in society.  ‘Man’ here, is in the broader sense – it means all mankind.

All this is by-the-by though, the important thing is that Horman’s quote, which is actually not his but Colin Firth’s catchphrase in Kingsman.  The film, directed by Matthew Vaughn in 2014 is a parody, and tribute at the same time, to all the spy films – in particular to James Bond.  Just like the 007 films, this one is fitted out with tailored suits, explosions and megalomaniac villains.  It’s often even better than a Bond film.  The controversial long sequence shot in a church, for example, is absolutely incredible.  Samuel L. Jackson’s cross between Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk beats any Blofeld hands down.

More importantly, however, there’s whisky.  James Bond is to Macallan what Kingsman is to Dalmore.  More specifically, Dalmore Sinclair 62.  In one of the scenes of the film, the precious liquid is actually mentioned by one a secret agent about to be sliced in two.  “1962 Dalmore. It’d be a sin to spill any. Don’t you think?”  This Dog couldn’t agree more.  Dalmore Sinclair had, for some time, held the record for the most expensive whisky ever sold.  It is extremely precious, worth more than one hundred thousand pounds today.

Really astonishing, motherfucker.

 

The choice of whisky is beyond reproach.  After all, Dalmore is known for producing some of Scotland’s finest single malts.  It is the work of Richard Paterson, who until recently captained the distillery production process as master blender.  Richard, better known as “The Nose” is a legend in the whisky world.  His sense of smell is so trained and accurate that his nose is insured by Lloyd’s Bank for 2.5 million pounds.

In Brazil, Dalmore is imported by Casa Flora and has three expressions with age statements – 12, 15 and 18 years old.  The latter is the subject of this post.  Dalmore 18 is matured in American oak barrels for 14 years and then transferred to spend three years in Matusalem sherry barrels.  Finally, it spends another year in European oak barrels, previously used for sherry and bottled with an alcohol content of 43%.  So far so good.  The description seems perfect.  However, those with a greater understanding of grapes will notice something curious: Matusalem.

Most whiskies finalised in sherry barrels use oloroso or Pedro Ximenes varieties, little is said about Matusalem.  Matusalem is, in fact, a sweet oloroso known as Oloroso Dulce.  On average it is 30 years old and its base is a blend of Oloroso and Pedro Ximenes.  The initial maturation of the wine occurs in the barrels later used by Dalmore.  It is then transferred to soleras, where is spends another couple of decades until being bottled.

Mature sophistication.

Dalmore whiskies are traditionally single malts with a clear vinous tendency.  Even the distillery’s younger blends exude this characteristic.  Yet it is in Dalmore 18 that, in this Dog’s opinion, the whisky finds true maturity.  The sweetness and malt flavour are replaced by something more elegant – a dry taste, perfectly balanced with the sweet, fruity fortified wine.

The oily character of Dalmore is due to the shape of the stills.  Those used in the first distillation are short with flattened necks.  Those for the second distillation have a type of water reservoir – water jacket – around their necks, filled with cold water.  This causes the lighter molecules to condense, so only the denser part of the distillate passes.

If you love whiskies with the aroma and flavour of fortified wine, or like to combine whisky with a cigar, Dalmore 18-year-old will be your long-term companion – elegance, balance and personality.  If William Horman is right and manners really make the man, then Dalmore 18 is a true gentleman.

DALMORE 18 ANOS

Type: 18-year-old single malt

Distillery: Dalmore

Region: Highlands

ABV: 43%

Tasting notes:

Aroma: dried fruits, cinnamon, fortified wine.

Flavour: fruit syrup, raisins, panettone.  Fortified wine.  Long and winey finish.  Oily.

With water: the flavour of the spices becomes less apparent and the wine stronger.

Price: around R$ 800,00 (eight hundred reais)

 

Ardbeg Kelpie

My daughter is studying Brazilian folklore at school.  Yesterday, she came to tell me that her favourite folk character is the (one-legged) little menace, Saci Perere.  It makes sense, since she doesn’t sit still and can be quite a little rascal.  Then she asked me who my favourite was, and in order not to give an uninteresting, generic answer and also to teach her something new, I decided to do some research.  I ran straight to Google.

Isn’t our folklore rich!?  As well as the pink dolphin, Curupira (a dwarf-like little man, whose feet are turned backwards), werewolf, mule and Saci, there are a plethora of fantastic creatures I never could have imagined existed.  One of them is Pisadeira, who (as her name in Portuguese implies) is an old woman who steps on people’s tummies while they sleep and causes shortness of breath.  She does this especially when people eat too much at night.  I think Pisadeira had her work cut for her with me when I was a kid.

But it’s not only Brazil that has folkloric creatures of course.  All countries have them and Scotland is no exception.  There, one of the best known is the Kelpie.  The Kelpie is a spirit that changes shape and lives in the Scottish lakes.  Usually, it takes the shape of a horse but it can be a person too, to lure people to the waters.  It is the Scottish equivalent of the pink dolphin, but a little less selective, as (rather than only girls) anyone will do.

It was this legend that gave rise to the new limited edition of Ardberg, named after the demonic equine – Ardberg Kelpie.  This suggests a strong maritime and saline influence.  It was released in two versions to commemorate Ardberg Day of 2017.  One contained 46 percent alcohol and the other, exclusive to the Ardberg Committee, 51.7 percent.

Ardbeg Kelpie is matured in Virgin Black Sea oak casks.  According to press material, Bill Lumsden, Director of the Distillery and Ardberg stock, “in his continuing search for intriguing casks, was inspired by the depth of flavour imparted by the Black Sea casks. Grown and seasoned in the Adyghe Republic, which leads down to the Black Sea coast, these casks impart incredibly deep flavours.”  Whatever the Adyghe Republic and deep may mean…

It exists!

According to the distillery, “Its powerful aromas of oily peat, salty seaweed and tarry rope have been produced by virgin oak casks from the Black Sea, intermingled with the hallmark Ardberg flavour.  Waves of spicy black pepper give way to a delectable tide of bacon and dark chocolate.  Incredibly deep.”  That intriguing ‘depth’ once again.

This Dog had the opportunity to sample Ardbeg Kelpie on his visit to the distillery in August 2017.  Although he had no idea what Ardberg called deep, he found the whisky very interesting.  Kelpie has a very pronounced saline note, which marries perfectly with the peaty, citrus character of the distillery.  That might be why the distillery advertises it as deep.

You must have already guessed that this mythological creature will not be marketed in Brazil.  Despite the recent launches and even expansion of the distillery’s permanent portfolio with Ardberg An Oa, nothing will change.  Here in our tropical country, the only expression from the distillery available remains the Ardberg Ten.  It’s a pity.  Perhaps LVMH, which owns the distillery, prefers to focus on products with lower added value, such as Proseccos, to meet the repressed demands of a demanding, but nonetheless niche, market.

However, if you do come across this water horse, you have to try it.  It really has a legendary flavour.  Oh, by the way, my favourite mythical creature from Brazilian folklore is the fire serpent, Boitatá.  But this – like that alleged ‘deep’ taste – is neither here nor there.

ARDBEG KELPIE

Tipo: Single, no age statement (NAS)

Distillery: Ardbeg

Region: Islay

ABV: 46%

Tasting notes:

Aroma: peated, with seaweed and a certain subliminal herbal scent.

Flavour: peated, with charcoal, white pepper and sweet caramel.  The finish is almost reminiscent of barbecued meat.  It’s interesting that the taste is not as herbal ad the aroma.

Availability: only international shops.