Monday, 28 November 2011

A Glimpse of a Bright Future for Canadian Whisky.

Last Monday the 21st, I had to privilege to attend a seminar hosted at Clive's Classic Lounge, with Whisky pioneer, John Hall of Forty Creek.

Before tasting the wonderful Whiskies John had brought for us to taste, I had the chance to sit down and ask John a few questions about Forty Creek and the Canadian Whisky industry.

Q: What is your background in the beverage industry?

I actually started out as a wine maker. I’ve been a wine maker in Canada for 41 years, since 1970. A lot of changes in the wine business in those years. And I’m still making wine.

Q: What inspired you to start making whisky?

Every wine maker dreams of opening up their own winery.  So in 1992 I opened up my own winery and distillery. The reason for doing that was really two fold.  One was, in the late 80s, most of the Scotch whisky that was being made was blended Scotch Whisky.  The Scotch Whisky industry realized they had to up their game, and they started introducing some really nice single malt Scotch Whiskies.  The Bourbon guys in Kentucky were stepping up as well by starting to do small batch Bourbons.  But nobody was doing anything with Canadian Whisky; it was the same old same old.  Just relying on what they had done in the past.  So I thought it was important to try and bring craftsmanship and heritage back to Canadian Whiskies.  At that same time between 1985 and 1995, 15 whisky distilleries closed in Canada.  The industry was rationalizing, and a lot of it was being purchased by offshore companies.  So, I thought it was important to the Canadian Whisky category to bring some additional excitement to it, some craftsmanship.

Q: Did you ever think you’d being winning awards from malt advocate when you first started out?

No.  It is a huge honor to be recognized by Whisky experts from all over the world as well as winning those awards: Pioneer of the year by Malt Advocate, distillery of the year from Whisky Magazine, ambassador of the year from Whisky Magazine, Canadian Whisky of the year.  And all the various awards: double golds at San Francisco Whisky competition, and numerous gold medals internationally.

Q: What is Forty Creek doing now that separates it from all the other Canadian Distilleries; that really makes it unique?

Well I think it’s actually unique from all aspects of Whisky making; whether it’s Canadian Whisky, or Bourbon, or Scotch.  It’s the approach that I use, and fortunately being a wine maker I approach it the same way, as you would make a wine.  Typical Whisky is made from a mash bill, which is a recipe card; so many pounds of this grain, so many pounds of that grain, put it all together, cook it, convert the starch to sugar, cool it down, ferment it, distill it and age in white oak barrels.  And I just thought from a wine maker’s perspective that this was the wrong approach.  As a wine maker you try to bring out the best characteristics of each grape varietal, like the soft roundness of a Merlot, or that spicy tropical notes of a Gewurztraminer.  Rye doesn’t taste like corn and corn doesn’t taste like barley.  So I would do my grains separately and try to bring out the best characterizes of each grain.  My grain selection was rye, barley and corn; which I sort of think of as the noble grains of whisky.  Same way as a wine maker thinks of the noble grapes as being Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.  So that’s why I distill them separately, to bring out that spiciness and fruitiness in the rye, the nuttiness of the barley and the heartiness of the corn. I also use various toasting levels on my barrels just as I would when aging wine to assist in bringing out the special taste characteristics of each grain.  Then eventually after aging I bring back these three noble Whiskies as a meritage so they aren’t just one-dimensional but universally appealing.  Very similar to what a wine maker tries to achieve.

Q:  What can you tell us about the newest expression from Forty Creek, John’s Private Cask?

I’m very excited to offer it and also a bit disappointed because there is not a lot of it out there.  There was only 9000 bottles.  What happened over the last 20 years is that, every now and then I’d taste a barrel that just blew me away.  Every barrel ages differently, but every now and then I’d come across a barrel that is just perfect.  Over the years, whenever I came a across an outstanding barrel like that I would chalk it “Hold for John”.  But over the years I collected so many of them that I realized I couldn’t consume them all.  So I decided to pull them together, and hand pick which ones would work together.  It’s one thing to bring those whiskies together but they also have to work together in harmony.  I managed with 23 barrels, 20 of them were American white oak, and 3 of them were Canadian white oak, a mixture of rye, barley and corn, and as I mentioned it made 9000 bottles.   It’s just an excellent tasting whisky.  I haven’t yet entered Private Cask into any tasting competitions because it’s just been recently release but I’ve already had excellent reactions from some whisky writers that they thought it was an outstanding whisky. 

Q: Where do you see the reputation of Canadian Whisky going?

I do see it changing.  I think the industry tends to promote Canadian Whisky in cocktails.  Quite often because it is a very light mixable whisky that can enhance a cocktail; whether it’s a Manhattan, an Old-Fashion or a Whisky Sour.  But hopefully the industry is looking at taking it further than that.  Just like the Scotch and Bourbon makers started doing in the late 80s.  I hope my Forty Creek Whisky is inspiring other distillers to do so and I hope my Forty Creek whisky is encouraging consumers to try the category and support Canadian made.

Q:  So any of the Whisky in the Forty Creek range be both mixed and enjoyed neat?

Absolutely.  I wouldn’t be so presumptuous to tell someone how to drink Forty Creek.  But it’s just like a chef, if he or she is cooking with whisky or cooking with wine they need to use a good whisky or wine; otherwise the dish isn’t going to turn out.  And I think it’s the same for the cocktail.  Forty Creek Whisky has some wonderful flavors that can enhance the cocktail.  But it’s also wonderful to just be able to sip and savor it on its own as well.

Q:  What is your opinion on the regulation surrounding Canadian Whisky because there are so few in comparison to other industries like the Scotch and Bourbon?  Do you think it helps or hinders Whisky making?

I don’t think it helps or hinders.  The regulations on Canadian Whisky are that it needs to be made from Canadian grown grain, It needs to be aged in a small wooden vessel, and it needs to age for a minimum of three years.  Those minimum regulations, and some of those regulations are similar to other whisky making countries as far as length of aging.  I think it’s really up to the whisky maker and his objective of what he is trying to achieve with his whisky.  Certainly, as far I’m concerned I go beyond that because what my real goal is to achieve a very good, well made, flavorful whisky.  It’s easy to get the alcohol, that’s not the difficult part; the difficult part is that you need to capture those flavors, the spicy and fruity notes of the rye, the nuttiness of the barley and the heartiness of the corn.  A lot of people think that the best whisky is the oldest whisky, but unfortunately that’s not the case.  Age is important but that’s only one factor.  You have to start with great stills and great barrels.  Then add in some passion and patience.

Q:  How do you determine what people will be drinking 10 years down the road? 

It’s extremely difficult to forecast out ten years.  In the early years it was very difficult because I didn’t know how high was high, so I just kept laying barrels down.  It’s a little easier now.  I forecast out ten years, and I revise my ten year forecast every six months.  So it is a difficult thing to do.  Fortunately in my case, people have supported Forty Creek by choosing Forty Creek as their whisky of choice and that has made it a lot easier for me.  

Q:  So what’s next for Forty Creek, what will be the next expression?

I’m going to probably decide in the next couple months what that expression will be.  Obviously because of the length of time it takes, I’ve been working on various things for several years now.  One particular taste expression that I introduced about three or four years ago was the Forty Creek Port Wood, which was finished in vintage Port barrels.  Unfortunately I didn’t make enough of that to satisfy everyone’s needs.  I have laid more down so I might do a repeat performance on that one. But I haven’t quiet decided yet, as I have a few other expressions on the go as well. 

After our chat, we sat down with some other local bartenders to enjoy the current line up of whisky offered by Forty Creek.  

In addition to the Forty Creek Barrel Select, Double Barrel Reserve, and John's Private Cask, we had the rare opportunity to taste all three grains in their nature element.  100% rye, corn, and malted barley whisky were all tasted individually to demonstrate the three pillars that construct Forty Creek Whisky.  The last whisky to be tasted was John's Private Cask, and to sum this whisky up in one word; spice!  Loads of christmas spice and lots of signature Canadian Whisky notes of carmel, maple and honey.  I will definitely be enjoying this whisky around the holidays.

John's Private Cask No.1

Another Whisky of John's that has received various awards -including Canadian Whisky of the year by Whisky Advocate Magazine (Formally Malt Advocate)- is the Confederation Oak.  Aged in trees planted during Canada's confederation, nearly 150 years ago,  Forty Creek Confederation Oak is an example of a true premium Canadian whisky.  Setting elegant packaging a price point aside, the Confederation Oak is a bench mark in innovation and quality.

While stocks of the Confederation Oak sold out long ago here in B.C. Lucky I still have a full bottle at home. 

The Confederation Oak is a wonderful whisky.  On the nose is a boutique of lovely sweet notes: honey, carmel, toffee, marzipan, dark chocolate, maple and butter.  The taste does anything thing but disappoint as well.   On the palate is a complex whisky with some notes reminiscent of the nose: honey, maple and carmel.  Additionally notes of cinnamon, creme brulee, apples, lime zest and a hint of smoke.  The finish is medium length with a mild spice and a hint of floral notes in the distance finish.

It is great to see someone as passionate and innovative such John Hall of Forty Creek.  The category of Canadian Whisky is quite a bland array of the same whisky, different packaging.  Forty Creek is one of the few Canadian Whisky companies truly doing justice to the Category. 

I -along with all other whisky anoraks- can only hope that John is the first among many of a growing trend of distillers to take a pride in the product that they put on the selves.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Mixology Monday: Retro Redemption

This month's Mixology Monday comes from Portland bartender Jacob Grier at Liquidity Preference.  Self proclaimed freelance writer, barista, mixologist, and magician,  Jacob has chosen the theme of retro redemption.  In other words, taking a cocktail from the dark times of cocktail culture (50s-90s), and breathing new life into it.

This theme comes at the perfect time.  I am currently participating in the Martin Miller's Gin, Trading Up competition.  This is the first online competition I've competed in.  Along with 51 others, my drink has been selected as one of the few exceptional recipes that were submitted.

The goal of the competition is to do a twist on an 80s cocktail.  As many of you know, the 80s were a dark time for cocktails.  Sex on The Beach, Slippery Nipple, Slow Comfortable Screw and countless other trashy drinks filled the cocktail landscape.  Fortunately, I wasn't even alive during the 80s.  After a little online research on beverages of the 80s, I discovered that one of the more popular drinks that people were imbibing was the wine cooler.  Occasionally I would come across someone's home made recipe of a wine cooler; consisting of cheap wine, canned juice, lemon/lime soda and lots of sugar, this was an easy candidate for my cocktail revival.

As of right now I am currently in 6th place for the most Facebook "Likes".  To get into the finals I need to be in the top 5 by November 30th.  Please, visit the link below and click "Like" on the photo of my cocktail. 

I used my new favor tool, the iSi Twist `n Sparkle, to force carbonate my wine cooler.

Racer X
- 225 ml Water (water is to compensate for the dilution and water that is present in soda)
- 200 ml Lillet Blanc
- 125 ml Martin Miller's 80 Proof Gin
- 100 ml Fresh Lemon Juice (Pulp strained)
- 100 ml Raspberry & Thyme Syrup *
- 8 Dashes of Bittermens Grapefruit & Hop Bitters

- Thoroughly chill Martin Miller's, Lillet, water and raspberry & thyme syrup in fridge
- Add all ingredients to iSi Twist `n Sparkle and carbonate
- Allow iSi to settle for a minimum of one minute before opening
- OPTIONAL: Pour cocktail into glass bottles; cap with bottle capper and enjoy when needed
- Pour over Crushed ice
- Garnish with long, thick lemon twist, cucumber, mint and a straw

If you own a Perlini, then here are the proportions for making this cocktail one at a time:

Racer X
- 1 oz Water ( Less water is needed when using a Perlini since water is also added through shaking)
- 1.75 oz Lillet Blanc
- 1 oz Martin Miller's 80 Proof Gin
- 0.75 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
- 0.75 oz Raspberry Thyme Syrup
- 2 Dashes Bittermens Grapefruit & Hops Bitters

Raspberry & Thyme Syrup *
- 1.5 Cups Sugar
- 0.5 Cup Fresh Raspberries
- 1 Cup Water
- 3 Sprigs of Thyme

- Add all ingredients to sauce pan over low - medium heat
- Macerate raspberries to extract as much flavor as possible
- Once all sugar has dissolved, allow to simmer for 5 minutes
- Let cool, and strain twice through fine mesh strainer
- Bottle and store in fridge

Lastly, I would just like to thank Jacob Grier for hosting this month's MxMo.  As well, I'd like to thank Jacob for being one of the people that inspired me to start a cocktail blog.  I stumbled upon Jacob's blog little less then a year ago, and since then I have been a regular viewer.  So check out Jacob's awesome blog HERE.

Following me on twitter @Spirit_Imbibing to keep updated about future blog posts.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Mixology and Home Bartending for Beginners: Methods of Mixing

Well it about time that everyone who has been following this mini-series of blog posts finally learns how to actually make a drink.  So far we have covered, tools of the trade, stocking your home bar and the various non-alcoholic ingredients.  Now that you have your tools, booze, and mixes, we will learn the basic methods of mixing.

There are three basic methods to making drinks: building, stirring and shaking.

Building is the most simple of techniques.  The biggest factor to consider when making a built cocktail is the type of ice you use.  The type of ice you use depends on three factors, alcoholic strength of the cocktails, level of desired dilution, and desired temperature.  With out going into the full details (which can be found in an early post here), ice with a large surface area (eg. crushed ice) will give more dilution and thus chill a drink more sufficiently.  The opposite applying for ice with a small surface area (eg. cube ice).

To make a built drink, simply add your base ingredients (spirits citric, syrups), then add your ice, top -if necessary- with addition carbonated ingredients (eg. soda, ginger beer).  Last, stir gently and garnish.  Here are two cocktails that utilize the technique of building.

Tom Collins
- 2 oz Gin
- 0.75 oz Lemon Juice
- 0.75 oz Simple Syrup
- Soda Water

- Add  Gin, lemon and simple syrup to collins glass
- Fill glass with cracked ice*
- Top with soda water
- Gently stir and garnish with a lemon zest** and straw

* Cracked ice is simply cubed ice that has been cracked into smaller pieces.  This can easily be done with your bar spoon by giving a cube of ice a swift smack.  For more on ice visit my last post for beginners, Ingredients.

** using a potato peeler, peel length wise a long strip of lemon.  Express oils over top of cocktail.  Clean up edges with a pairing knife and drop zest in glass.

- 2 oz White Rum
- 0.75 oz Lime Juice
- 0.75 oz Simple Syrup
- 8 - 10 Mint Leaves
- Soda Water

- Add mint leaves to bottle of collins glass
- Very Gently, muddle mint to extract the oils from the leaves
- Add white rum, lime and simple syrup
- Fill glass half full with crushed ice and churn mixture
- Fill glass full with crushed ice
- Top with a splash of soda water
- Garnish with a massive sprig of mint, lime wheel and straw

The Mojito is one of the most bastardized cocktail around.  Here are some dos and don't of the Mojito.

DO: Use only fresh lime juice
DO: Use crushed ice
DO: Served this cocktail in a tall glass

DO NOT: Muddle the mint into a paste
DO NOT: Shake a Mojito.
DO NOT: Drown the cocktail with soda water

It is a general rule that we stir drinks consisting only of clear ingredients (eg; spirits, bitters, syrups).  So your Martinis Manhattens, Sazeracs etc. are all stirred drinks.  There are several reasons as to why we stir a cocktails: presentation, texture, temperature and dilution.

It is a common saying that we eat with our eats.  That saying also applies to how we imbibe.  Take a look at the two pictures below.  To the left is a stirred Manhattan, and to the right is a Manhattan that has been shaken.  The stirred Manhattan will be perfectly clear, and the shaken Manhattan cocktail will have a slight haze.  Try this experiment at home for your self, you'll notice a major difference in look and mouth feel.

- 2 oz American Rye Whisky
- 1 oz Sweet Vermouth
- 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters

- Add all ingredients to mixing glass
- Add ice and stir for 30 seconds
- Strain into a chilled cocktail glass
- Garnish with an orange zest

If you were to taste the two side by side, the stirred cocktail has a silky texture, while the shaken cocktail is a bit more heavy in the mouth.  Shaking aerates the cocktail, resulting in a drastically difference mouth fell, which may be undesirable.

Pre-Prohibition Martini
- 2 oz Gin
- 1 oz Dry Vermouth 
- 1 Dash of Orange Bitters

- Add all ingredients to mixing glass
- Add ice and stir for 30 seconds
- Strain into a chilled cocktail glass
- Garnish with an lemon zest

Remember, keep your vermouth refrigerated!  If the level of the bottle reduces enough that you can transfer it into a smaller bottle, do so.  The less air in the bottle, the longer the vermouth will last.

While presentation and texture may come down to preference, dilution is the primary factor in why we stir.  Stirring is much less of a violent act than shaking, and thus dilutes the drink less.  One thing to remember is dilution = chilling.  A stirred drink will not be nearly as cold as the same drink that has been shaken.  It would take 2 minutes of stirring to achieve the level of dilution and chill that 15 seconds of shaking will achieve.

More information on the science of dilution and chilling can be found at Dave Arnold's blog

Shaking is using for drinks containing fruit juice, cream, eggs, or any other ingredients that need to be thoroughly mixed into a drink.  You may stir drinks that contain fruit juice, (Never egg or cream!)  but the drink will not achieve the same consistency, texture and temperature that may be desired from a shaken drink.

Here are two drinks that should always be shaken:

Whisky Sour
- 2 oz Whisky (Your Preference)
- 1 oz Lemon Juice
- 0.5 oz Simple Syrup
- 1 Dash Angostura Bitters
- Egg White

- First add egg white to cocktail shaker. (In case you break the yolk or drop the shell in the shaker, you don't ruin the entire drink)
- Add all remaining ingredients to cocktail shaker
- Dry shake *
- Add cubed ice to shaker
- Shake for 15 seconds
- Double strain into chilled rocks glass **

* Dry Shake: A dry shake is a technique used for cocktails containing egg.  By adding the spring from a hawthorn strainer into the cocktail shaker (without adding ice), shake the cocktail for 10 seconds to whisk the egg white.  Then remove the spring and add ice.  Continue shaking as you would with any other cocktail.

**Double Strain: Use a tea strainer (aka, fine mesh strainer) to strain out any additional ice, bits of fruit, or any other undesirable debris.  This results in a drink with a smoother texture.  99% of all drinks I shake are double strained.  An sufficient alternative to double straining is pressing the gate of the hawthorn strainer closer to the edge of the shaker tin.  I use this technique for straining a Ramos Gin Fizz, which is the one shaken cocktail I do not double strain.

Brandy Alexander
- 1.5 oz Cognac
- 0.5 oz Creme de Cacao
- 1 oz Half & Half

- Add all ingredients to cocktail shaker
- Add cubed ice to cocktail shaker
- Shake 15 seconds
- Double strain into chilled cocktail glass
- Garnish with fresh grated nutmeg

If you are just discovering your love for cocktails and you still have questions in regards to any material, please do ask.  Additionally, if anyone has any suggestions for material that may be useful to cover in a future addition of Mixology and Home Bartending For Beginners, your input is greatly appreciated.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, 7 November 2011

5 Recommend Single Malts for Beginners

The world of Single Malt Scotch can be a bit of an intimidating one.  With hundreds of single malts flooding most markets of the world, it is not an easy task for a novice to decide which Scotch will be his/her first purchase.  Not only can the sheer selection of single malts be intimidating, but the flavor profile of these whiskies can also be quite over powering.  What I am about to suggest would have many whisky aficionados gripping their crystal glass in fear, scotch cocktails.  The majority of scotches are not suited for everyone's palate.  It is rare to serve a glass of scotch to someone that has little experience with the spirit and expect them to appreciate its qualities.  Below I've listed 5 scotch cocktails.  All of which are various different styles of cocktails and ascend from lightest in spirit intensity to heaviest (using my grading of Level 1-5 as explained in a previous post).

Mamie Taylor 
- 2 oz Blended Scotch
- 0.25 oz Lime Juice
- Ginger Beer

- Add scotch and lime juice into a collins glass
- Fill collins glass with cracked ice
- Top with ginger beer
- Garnish with lime wheel, mint and straw

Mamie Taylor

Smoked Sour
- 2 oz Black Grouse
- 0.75 oz Lemon Juice
- 0.5 oz Simple Syrup
- 1 Egg White
- 1 Dash angostura bitters

- Add egg white to mixing tin
- Add all additional ingredients to mixing glass
- Dry shake
- Add ice and shake
- Double strain into chilled cocktail glass

Smoked Sour

Bird Is The Word
- 0.75 oz Black Grouse Scotch
- 0.75 oz Yellow Chartreuse
- 0.75 oz St. Germain
- 0.75 oz Lemon Juice

- Add all ingredients to shaker
- Add ice and shake
- Double Strain into chilled cocktail glass
- Garnish with lemon twist

Bird is The Word

Orkney Julep
- 2 oz Highland Park 12 Year Old
- 0.25 - 0.5oz Simple Syrup (To preferred taste)
- 10 - 14 mint leaves

- Add simple syrup and 1 oz of Highland Park to julep cup along with mint
- Gently muddle mint to extract oils
- Fill julep cup half full with crushed ice and churn mixture
- Add remaining ounce of Highland Park and top with crushed ice
- Garnish with a massive mint sprig

Orkney Julep

Rob Roy
- 1.5 oz Scotch
- 0.75 oz Sweet Vermouth
- 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters

- Add all ingredients to mixing glass
- Add ice and stir
- Strain into chilled cocktail glass
- Garnish with lemon or orange zest (Depending on your choice of whisky)

I prefer my Rob Roy with Laphroaig Quarter Cask, Camparo Antica, bitters and a zest of lemon.  Try experimenting with different scotch vermouth, bitters and citrus.

Once your palate has become accustom to the taste of these cocktails, then sipping scotch neat will not be such an intimidating task.  Below I have listed my 5 recommend single malt scotches for beginners.  The list is arranged in from lightest to heaviest in intensity and complexity.

First, here is a few tips on tasting your whisky.  First off, drink it how ever the hell you please.  It's your money and your whisky.  If you like it on ice in a tumbler, then go for it.  However, many experts will tell you neat is the best way to appreciate your fine single malts, and that is true.  Think of garlic.  Out of the fridge, nearly no odor.  Room temperature, fresh cut garlic has a distinctive scent.  Now frying garlic,  the smell is enough to engulf an entire room in its intoxicating aroma.  Same goes for whisky.  On ice, you will not get the complexity from the nose that you would from if you were to drink it neat.  Warming the glass with the heat from your hand will help bring out those intoxicating aromas.

The glass you drink out of can also have a major impact on how you preserve smell.  A classic tumbler (or "rocks" glass,) with its wide opening, allows for little concentration of the odor of a whisky.  A narrow mouth wine glass or Glen Cairn is best for appreciating the nose of a whisky.

You maybe wondering, why all the fuss about how a whisky's smell?  Well with 70% of what we taste coming from what we actually smell, the perfume of a whisky can either make or break your over all experience with that particular malt.

Without any further delays, here are my 5 recommend single malts for beginners.

1. Glenfiddich 12 Year Old / Glenlivet 12 Year Old
Most people's first single malt experience is with either of the following malts: Glenlivet or Glenfiddich 12 year old.  Usually, introduced to them because of its excitability.  Both in availability and flavor profile.  Both whiskies fallow similar flavor profiles of green apple, pears oak, cinnamon, as well as a young "grassy" characteristic.  I would consider both on level ground in terms of quality as well.  Neither of the whiskies are outstanding, but rather a middle of the road malt.  Now you maybe asking, "Why is it on the list then?"  Well, to appreciate the spectacular spirits of Scotland, you much first experience the mediocre.  By this I mean, you can not serve any new comer to the scotch world a glass of Laphroaig 30 year old and expect them to appreciate its complexity and flavor.

Glenlivet 12 Year Old

2. Glenmorangie 10 Year Old
The Genmorangie 10 Year Old is a staple in any scotch lover's liquor cabinet.  If you don't own a bottle, I hope it's because you just finished your last one.

The nose is full of orange and lemon oils.  A definite presence of honeycomb and autumn fruits can be detected in this sweet and fruit forward single malt.

The taste of the Glenmorangie 10 Year Old is a mirror image of the nose.  In addition to the citrus oils and fruit, Christmas spices such as cinnamon, vanilla and allspice can be detected.

A distinct apple sauce taste lingers in this whisky's medium length finish.  Notes of rye bread, almond, and again that citrus oils last well to the very end of this superb dram.

Glenmorangie 10 Year Old

3. AnCnoc 12 Year Old
If there is one whisky that emanates fall, it is the AnCnoc 12 year old

On the nose is a harmony on green apple, pears, allspice, oak, ginger, lemon.  Rounding off these autumn notes is a subtle floral scent, reminiscent of lavender and chamomile.

The taste is again filled with fall flavors.  Apple, vanilla, caramel, cinnamon, allspice.  As well, black pepper and a hint of tropical fruit (pineapple?) complete this wonderfully balanced whisky.

The finish is medium length with a mild intensity.  The tastes, just like mother's apple crisp.  Apples. cinnamon, oats, pumpkin and in the distant finish, tobacco.

AnCnoc 12 Year Old

4. Highland Park 12 Year Old
Highland Park will be your first introduction to a peated whisky.

Peated to only 2ppm( 2 parts per million is very low when compared to Laphroiag at 35ppm) Highland park is know as the malt containing a little bit of very thing.

On the nose are layers of honey, citrus, ginger, autumn fruits (apple and apricots), banana peel, toffee, espresso and of course, a touch of peat smoke.

While the taste resembles some characteristics of the nose, leather, anises, basil, oak, raisin, cinnamon and nutmeg is also present.

The finish is medium length with a sweet, honey/citrus and smokey notes.

A staple for all whisky advocates!

Highland Park 12 Year Old

5. Glen Garioch 12 Year Old
Glen Garioch is not a single malt that gets a lot of attention outside the circle of malt fanatics.  With such a wonderful richness and complexity, this is a malt that will never leave my liquor collection.

On the nose is a bouquet of floral notes followed by a variety of baked fruits (apple, pear, apricot).  A wonderful sweet aroma, reminiscent of brown sugar, honey and dark chocolate rounds off this amazing nose.

The taste is what really blows me away with this whisky.  Your initial sip is very similar to notes found in the nose, baked fruits, sugar and slightly floral.  Upon swallowing a blast of  herbal notes, somewhere in between basil and rosemary, coats your taste buds.

My only complaint with this malt is the finish.  Far too brief for such a great dram.  The herbal note endures with a sweet note of toffee in the distant finish.

Glen Garioch
'The month of November is full of Scotch related posts.  So if you enjoyed this one, please return for various talks including malts from Islay, Campletown, and everywhere in between.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Classic Cocktail of The Month: The Lion's Tail

One of the biggest challenges with recreating old cocktail recipes is tracking down hard to find -and some times extinct- cocktail ingredients.  It was not until recently that mixologists couldn't even create an Aviation, due to the absence of creme de violette.  Most of the classic tiki drinks call for things such as falnerum, pimento dram (or more commonly referred to as "allspice dram") and many other ingredients that have become misplaced in time.  Thanks to the work of outstanding companies like Bitter Truth, we are finally seeing a resurrection of these once deceased ingredients.  Much credit must also be given to Ted "Dr. Cocktail" Haigh, author of Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails.  Without the publication of Mr. Haigh's book,  there would be nearly no demand for such obscure ingredients such as pimento dram.

With the winter months fast approaching, the mojitos and margaritas are slowly exiting center stage.  In their place, egg nog and hot toddys begin to fill the glasses of winter imbibers.  When we think winter drinks, we think of those typical holiday flavors, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, often dusted over the top of an egg nog or brandy alexander.  Nearly all of these winter drinks follow one of two paths, either hot or creamy; there seems to be no middle ground for those not whiling to fully except the cold reality of winter.

Taking a page from Ted Haigh's Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, I present, The Lions Tail.  The first publication of The Lion's Tail comes from CafĂ© Royal Cocktail book in 1937.

The Lion's Tail
- 2 oz Bourbon
- 0.75 oz Pimento Dram (Or less, to taste)
- 0.5 oz Lime Juice
- 1/2 Tablespoon Simple Syrup
- 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters

- Add all ingredients to cocktail shaker
- Add ice and shake
- Double strain into chilled cocktail glass
- No garnish necessary

As you can see on a side note beside pimento dram, it mentions adding less, and I highly recommend doing so.  The pimento dram can easily over power this drink.  Trying using 1/2 ounce to begin with and adding from there.  It is also a personal preference of mine to increase the amount of lime juice to 3/4 ounce.

Even with these forgotten liqueurs finally coming back on the shelves, their distribution is fairly limited.  In BC we are still without a commercial allspice dram.  So what do you do?  Make your own of course!

The recipe is very simple, the hardest part is being patient.

Home Made Pimento Dram
Makes 1.5 L of liqueur

- 2 1/4 Cups 151 Proof Rum
- 1/2 Cup Dried Allspice Berries
- 3 Cups Water
- 3 Cups Brown Sugar

- Crush allspice berries to allow for maximum surface area
- Place allspice berries and rum in a sealed mason jar for a minimum of 10 days
- Strain rum, first through a fine mesh strainer, then through a coffee fitler
- Make 1:1 simple syrup with water and brown sugar
- Mix allspice infused rum and simple syrup together
- Bottle and allow to aged for a minimum of 1 month in bottle

Now get to it!  Make that pimento dram so it will be ready in time for the holidays.  And once finished, try out this month's variation on The Lion's Tail.

The Dragon's Den
- 2 oz Blended Scotch
- 0.5 oz Pimento Dram
- 0.75 oz Lemon Juice
- 1/2 Tablespoon Honey Syrup (1:1 Honey to Water)
- 2 Dashes Highland Bitters *

- Add all ingredients to cocktail shaker
- Add ice and shake
- Double strain into chilled cocktail glass
- No garnish necessary

I don't like to brag, but I find The Dragon's tail to be a great improvement on The Lion's Tail.  The lemon plays very well with the scotch, more so then bourbon and lime.  Also, the bourbon in the Lion's Tail does struggle to keep its head above water, while the scotch cuts through and plays well with the other ingredients.  The Dragon's Tail may just be is an obvious Scottish twist on a classic, but it is one of the better original libations I have concocted.  If you don't want to spend the time making highland bitters, just use angostura, the subtle changes will be negligible.

Highland Bitters *
- 25 Grams Gentian Root
- 14 Grams Coriander Seed
- 7 Grams Orange Peel
- 7 Grams Clove
- 3.5 Grams Camomile Flower
- 3.5 Grams Cinnamon Bark
- 375ml Highland Cask Strength Single Malt

- Add ingredients to sealed mason
- Allow to infuse for one month
- Strain bitters: first through a fine mesh strainer, then through a coffee filter
- Bottle into bitters bottle

If you took the time to make The Dragon's Den -and enjoyed it- be sure to return for future blog posts during November.  I'll be doing several posts revolving around scotch, as it is getting to that time of the year in which we need a real winter warmer.