Friday, December 30, 2011

Steam Holiday Sales

I'm sure, by this point, you know how much I love to play video games. There is nothing better in this world than a LAN party. Few things equal sitting down with a tall glass of good whisk(e)y and some Skyrim. I'm not afraid to say it. I'm a gamer. Wannafightaboutit?

Unfortunately, games cost money. Well, legitimate games cost money and I'm a man of the law. You should know this because I never buy Cuban products. Ever. While I make a solid amount at Tuthilltown, most of it goes to ancillary bills and related costs. Seriously, gas is so damn expensive. What's the deal with that? They're just decayed dinosaurs. Let's compress some garbage and make more oil. Problem solved.

Anyway, Steam has decided to royally screw with me for not just a few days but, like, two solid weeks. The Steam Holiday Sales cause much strife to my wallet so I have decided to do something about it. If you don't follow me on Twitter, awhile back, while I was writing my thesis, I would write people 1000 word stories provided they gave me the first sentence and an email to send it to. I would do this for free because I love you. And people really enjoyed their stories. Here is an example of one of the stories I wrote:

    He knew they were in trouble when he found out the penguins had got into the whiskey.  The long days guarding the penguin pen from inquisitive children and particularly light-fingered teens had taken their toll on him. It was a bottle of blended scotch he kept in the feeding room, tucked behind some of the multiple buckets they usually filled with herring to throw at the little bastards. He didn’t even care if it smelled like fish when he drank it. But now the cat was out of the bag. And in the stomach of a dozen penguins.
    It was our job to do clean-up on this. Shannon has a degree in Marine Biology which, frankly, means she‘s frighteningly overqualified for this kind of grunt work. I went to college for a degree in English. That’s how I ended up being a professional penguin wrangler. You wouldn’t think that twenty years after I proudly exclaimed, at three years old, that I would be a scientist that you’d find me standing knee deep in water in a penguin habitat. I think Shannon only does it because she likes to watch them waddle. The water was frigid and smelled like decomposing fish and I‘m really regretting my life choices. But I had an apartment that required rent and a belly that constantly required food. So here I am, wrangling penguins.
    Normally, it’s not too hard to wrangle penguins. There’s a variety of tricks you can use to lure them into the cages they transport them to the vets in. A tried and true method, as cartoony as it sounds, is a fish on a stick. Penguins love fish and aren’t known for their agility on land. You just have to slowly amble along slightly faster than those little tuxedo’d wretches, holding out that stick, and they’d plod their way into the cage after awhile. The other method is a bit more tricky. Catching a penguin is no small feat. They may not be fast on land but they’re slippery little devils and, once the get into the water, it’s nigh impossible to catch one of them. At that point you just have to wait for them to tire out and nab them when they pass out. But drunk penguins…
    I’m wading around in the water trying to get these drunken little buffoons to swim in Shannon’s general direction so she can catch them with a pool skimmer. They’re amazingly drunk and are having a hard time not just swimming straight but thinking straight as well. Two of them are in the corner, fighting over absolutely nothing. Another one is just standing at the glass wall, staring at the children who are laughing at what must be the best day of their young lives. Two grown adults, chasing after penguins. A child’s dream come true.
    I catch one as it wobbles around like a poorly made top. It flops around like a beached fish and I put it into the cage. Behind me, I hear another penguin throw up. I didn’t know penguins could throw up. Did you? Well, they can. And the smell of scotch soaked fish is not a pleasant one. The zookeeper tells me that the bottle fell into a bucket of fish early last night after closing and the fish marinated in their ethanol bath overnight. The smell of the fish covered the alcohol and, after morning breakfast, there were some mighty inebriated penguins. Another penguin swims close to me and, by sheer luck, I scoop it out of the water and put it into a cage. It stares at me with it’s beady little eyes. If it could, it would try to fight me with a broken bottle. I can see it.
    Hour after painful hour we spend in that enclosure, pursuing our little web-footed prey. You’d think you’d catch one but the water slicked skin would just bounce off your rubber gloves. You’d get them cornered and they’d panic like sheep, bolting in different directions and it would be back to trying to corral them again. The last one just gave up. I’m pretty sure it was hung over. It laid down on the ground and just let us pick it up. I kind of felt sorry for it. After I put it into the last cage, the zookeeper came over and heartily clapped us on the back. He handed us our check and we went back to the truck. I pulled off the rubber gloves and looked at the check. $150.

I’m going back to school.

So yeah. Now, thanks to Steam (blame them), I gotta charge $5 for 'em. So follow me on Twitter because that's where the magic happens. Whenever the Steam Holiday Sales for the day come out (usually at 1pm EST), I take a look through them. If there's some games I want, I calculate how many stories it'll cost and I'll put a post up on Twitter. Probably on Facebook too. You message me / DM me the first line of the story and an email to send it to. I send you my Paypal email (hint: its my Contact email). I write a 1000 word story in about a half hour based on the first sentence. You get literary gold (I guess?) and I get vidja games. Everybody wins. So stay tuned.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Science of Wood Maturation

This has been a long time coming, I'll admit. And it's not that I've been putting it off, per se. It's just that it's a huge topic to broach. The science behind wood maturation is the last bastion of scientific advancement, the last frontier, of distilling science research. Even to this point, there are men and women far my superior that still don't know how reactions take place within the barrel. Me, I'm just going by what I've learned from school, good old fashioned hands-on work, and some linking of things. But, since it has been so heavily requested, I present to you:

The In With Bacchus Guide On: The Science of Wood Maturation

Wood maturation has been done, on purpose, for hundreds of years to improve taste and flavor of spirit. Realistically, probably at about the mid to late 1600s. Aging spirit really began as a happy coincidence. In the early days, most places and people preferred their spirit straight off the still. The Glenlivet that King George IV drank in Edinburgh (at that time an illicit liquor made in the hills and dales of Scotland) probably wasn't aged. At that point, distilling wasn't entirely about flavor and, hell, not even really about getting loaded. It was about not wasting things. It was easier to transport porcelain/clay jugs of new make than the equivalent acreage of barley to market. The container didn't really mean much, it was just a means of transportation. With the inception of long distance shipping (read: wooden ships) and the need for more sturdy (read: wooden) containers, barrels came into usage. Even then it was a matter of shipping and storage rather than flavor. But once barrels that had sat, slowly rocking below the decks of a ship as it sailed about Europe, people began to realize: "Wow, this tastes better." At that point, putting spirit into casks was a matter of not just necessity but of choice. Not only did it hold up under duress and travel much better but you got a tastier product out of it to boot. Everybody wins! But even though we've been intentionally putting spirit into barrels since, as said, about the dawn of the 18th century...we still didn't know WHY it was doing what it was doing. It wasn't really until the last hundred years and the advancement of analytical methodology have we discovered what happens in a cask. And we still only have an overview; a lot of the chemistry is a mystery.

What we HAVE discovered is that aging spirits can be broken down into three categories, all ending with "-tion": extraction, reaction, and interaction. Let's get to it, shall we?

Extraction: This has to deal with the wood in a two-fold manner. To start, let's go back to the major basics and start with cellular level chemical make-ups. For us humans, our cells have what's known as a cell membrane, shown below:

Courtesy of Wikipedia
 Ignore the stuff on the top, what we want is the thing in the center. Technically the photo isn't an ACTUAL cell membrane (it's missing some parts) but it's the important part of the cell membrane: the phospholipid bilayer. It's made up of phospholipids, or long chain fats with a phosphorous atom on the end. The phosphorous is very hydrophilic, it LOOOVES water because of it and water are polar ions. The fats are hydrophobic; they HAAAAATE water because they're non-polar and water's polar. So they arrange so that the phosphorous is on the outside, near the water and the fats are on the inside. As you can see, the non-polar fats stick together on the inside (since there's water on the inside and outside of the cell) so it forms this dual layered membrane. Keep this in mind. It's
 important later.

Plant cells are different. Plant cells have a cell wall, shown below:

Courtesy of the University of Georgia.
It's made up of different stuff. No fats for these babies. What gives plants rigidity and strength is their cell wall, made up of a composition of long-chain sugars. As you can see in the above photo, the cell wall is made up of three things: cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin. These are where we want to focus our attention.

Trees are plants so the rigidity of a barrel comes from its cell walls. Cell walls are comprised of about 45% cellulose, 30% lignin, 15% hemicellulose, and 10% other extractables. Toasting and charring the wood break down that cellulose and hemicellulose by severing bonds in them and breaking them down into smaller chain sugars that will dissolve into the spirit with time. The most quickly taken up are arabinose and glucose with fructose and xylose trailing in terms of uptake time in 55% spirit. Some of these will also breakdown into furan products (like furfural, which gives whiskey a nutty flavor). What primarily adds flavor, however, is the lignin. Lignin will break down (both by heating and by ethanolysis) into aromatic aldehydes (syringaldehyde, sinapaldehyde, coniferaldehyde, vanillin) and their counterpart acids (syringic acid, synapic acid, ferulic acid, vanillic acid). Depending on the level of toasting/charring, phenolics will be derived from the lignin as well and taken up by the ethanol. These are your guaiacyl and syringyl phenols that will give toasty, smokey flavors.

Reaction:  The reaction phase deals with evaporation and chemical reactions but this is where things kinda get weak. We know that there's a lot of chemical processes going on in the barrel but we don't really know all of it (or at least I don't). But what I do know is this. For evaporation, there is both evaporation of positive and negative attributed chemicals. For the negative aspect, the release of the polymethyl sulfides (dimethylsulfide, trimethylsulfide) that is commonly attributed to a “sulfur” smell and taste in new make evaporates. However, here is evaporation of “good” chemicals as well such as acetaldehyde, ethyl hexanoate, and acetic acid (however, the acetaladehyde / acetic acid levels are generally in equilibrium throughout maturation, meaning that the overall level upon disgorging the cask is similar to that at the very beginning). Within the reaction phase is also the aforementioned oxidation of components. Two of the key oxidation / acetal formation reactions within the cask is the transformation of acetaldehyde and acetic acid from the ethanol within the spirit. Also, the formation of dimethyl sulfoxide from dimethylsulfide (which, once again, limits the sulfur content of the final spirit). There is also esterification reactions within the barrel, such as the formation of ethyl acetate from the previously mentioned acetic acid (it can also be extracted from the wood itself as opposed to reaction with ethanol). There is also the reaction of ethanol with the aromatic aldehydes. The presence of many hydroxyl (OH) groups, afforded by the ethanol, will cause breakdowns in the aldehydes to their constituent acids and even further down the reaction chain. An example would be coniferaldehyde. In the presence of ethanol, it changes to vanillin, then vanillic acid and then to ethyl vanillate. Or sinapaldehyde, perhaps. It will change to syringaldehyde, to syringic acid, to ethyl syringate. Thus, the longer you keep it in wood, the more of these "deeper", or further progressed down the chemical reaction chain, products you get.

Interaction: The last stage is interaction. Interaction comes in two forms: pH based interactions and ethanol / water interactions. While the reactions stated above seem to be numerous and consequential, the reality is that the concentrations of the volatiles don't really change too much during maturation. Yep, dead serious. However, fluctuations in pH cause changes in the ionization states of weak bases within the spirit which affects their volatility. By changing the pKa of the solution within the cask (either by addition of acidic / basic components from the wood or the evaporation / concentration of the solution itself), the evaporative losses of some volatiles may be greatly increased. Then there's the ethanol / water interaction thing. This is where me explaining the cell membrane comes in handy. Truth be told, if you pick up a bottle of vodka, you see that it's perfectly clear and you'd probably say that the ethanol is evenly distributed within it. That if you were to pour a glass it would have as much ethanol in it as the next glass and the next glass.

You'd be wrong.

Ethanol and water are a funny pairing. They're both "polar" so they should dissolve evenly within each other. But the structure of ethanol keeps that from happening. Let's take a peek, shall we? Here's ethanol:

Courtesy of Wikipedia
Take a peek at that. You have your polar hydroxyl group on the right (the O-H, or OH group). To your left, you have your non-polar ethane group. Sounds like your phospholipids, huh? Well, you'd be right. Ethanol in concentrations above 20%, is heterogeneously distributed through the solution (unevenly distributed). What they will tend to do is form ethanol clusters. A bunch of ethanol molecules will bundle up such that their OH groups are sticking outward (the polar OH group preferring the polar water) and the ethane group sticking inward. So, above 20% ABV, this happens. And not all at once, either. This is why older spirits can taste "smoother". As time passes, these ethanol clusters become more and more compact, making the solution more and more heterogeneous. New spirits will have more of a "burning" taste because the ethanol hasn't had the time to cluster as effectively. This is also why watering down a spirit (with a mixer or whatever) makes it easier to drink. Below 20% ABV, the ethanol evenly distributes into a homogeneous mixture so you won't get random clumps of pure ethanol. When you taste it, it's like drinking a shot of 200 proof alcohol and pure water at the same time. When drinking a heterogeneous mixture, it's like taking shots of 200 proof alcohol, then a shot of water and repeating this at infinitesimally small time periods. Significantly more burning on the latter.

So there you have it. The In With Bacchus guide to the science of wood maturation. Bear in mind that I could be wrong. Distinctly possible, in all likelihood. And that this is just an overview. As said before, maturation is the final frontier of distilling science so there's constantly papers being put out about it. But only nerdy people like me constantly seek them out.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sweet Leaf Lemon Iced Tea - Sunday, November 13th

The Irish have a saying. Well, they have many sayings but there's one I enjoy in particular. It goes:

"What butter and whiskey will not cure, there is no cure for."

As a man (and product) of science, I should fundamentally disagree with this on all levels. Managing my anxiety takes nigh grams of anti-anxiety drugs. You could have slathered the two onto my spine for all eternity but the only thing that would have cured that was a bone saw and a skilled doctor. But still...I love this phrase. And, for maladies that don't require a doctor's intervention, I find them a potent mixture of comfort and abatement of pain. But it's missing something.


They should change that phrase and every Brit knows to the marrow of their bones that they should. A healthy cup of tea (with or without whiskey, cream, or sugar) is a failsafe cure-all in the British Isles and I agree heartily. When I'm sick with a cold, flu, headache, or whatever, I reach for two things: over the counter medicine and a whole lot of tea.

As it stands now, I'm rather sick so I've been quaffing tea down like a madman. Not the primo stuff because that would be wasted on my jam-packed nasal cavities. But cheap, strong cups of tea with milk and honey (an amended Builder's Tea) and iced tea when I'm just plain parched. I've been going through canned iced tea when I need a break from the tongue-scorching and I've been prowling the stores for new offerings. Sweet Leaf Lemon Iced Tea is NOT a new offering, however; I remember picking up a bottle of this when I was but a wee lad. Maybe my tastes have changed since then but I remember finding it not so hot back then. Nowadays, it's some pretty solid stuff. Here it is, in all the granny glory:

Frankly, this is not a can (or bottle) of tea to pick up if you have a fever or are on any significant dosage of Nyquil. That granny is SCARY. Look at that.

"They will never find your body, dearie..."
I mean, just...GAHHHHHHHH. Those eyes bore into my goddamn soul. I'm finding a trend in canned tea of ludicrous can decorations that can just be downright chilling. C'mon labeling artists. Buck up and gimme a friendly granny holding a plate of cookies (complete with heat lines coming off the top) and a glass of tea. Not Franken-Nanny.

The good news is the tea is pretty solid. They don't use HFCS or any other gross crap like that so it's a pretty easy drinker that doesn't leave your mouth like a oil slick. I'd be a bit happier if they toned down on the lemon and/or boosted the tea flavor but that's just me. I remember when I was younger I didn't like it because it wasn't sweet enough. I am downright Southern when it comes to my iced tea. I prefer an hellion brew of super strong tea cradled and swaddled in liquid diabeetus. But maybe it's my stuffy nose talking though.

Anyway, creeper granny aside, I'm feeling better already. If I put some whiskey into it and make it a buttered, fortified iced tea, I should be good in no time.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Whisky Magazine

I know.

You were expecting this to be a post about my recent employment at Tuthilltown and what I do in the Willy Wonka shop. Well, I have to clear the article through HR before it can get posted. And before that, well, I have to write it. I was going to do that this weekend but the majority of the shocking little time I had was spent trying to find a car. I'll write it sometime this week. Maybe.

Instead, I bring equally good tidings. You will find, on page 20 of Issue 99 of Whisky Magazine (coming soon, if not already, to your local Barnes and Noble) a wee little article on craft distilling. It's titled "The Art of Craft." It's about 1500 words. Actually, it is 1478 pre-editing. How do I know these things?

I wrote it.

Yep, that's right. I've been published by Whisky Magazine. Here's a little snippet of the article:

"Distillation today is a far cry from its introduction. When distillation first started, it was done as a necessity rather than a luxury.

Completed in small batches on farms to save crops that would otherwise spoil, distillation was by no means an industrial process. Times have changed and distillation has become a multi-billion dollar business. Long gone are the days of private distillers handcrafting product in nigh miniscule volumes. Or are they? In the past 10 years, while companies like Diageo have been growing larger, a trend in the United States has been pushing to smaller.

Smaller volumes, smaller companies, and smaller stills, this trend has steadily grown to the point that it is gaining international attention. Known by many names such as craft, boutique, or farm distilling, smallscale and independent distillers free from the multinational conglomerate yoke have been cropping up across the country.

It is difficult to put a definition on exactly what a micro-distiller is and what they distill as well. The easiest way to describe them is ‘hands-on.' Many of the distillers do not have the budget to hire engineers, publicity teams, and lawyers.

Since it is so expensive to start a microdistillery, in terms of both licensing fees and equipment prices, they have to do everything independently and at minimal costs. But this independence gives them the freedom to produce whatever they desire."

That is but a mere taste of what's to come. Do you want to read the rest of this fateful chronicle? Do you desire to plumb the inky depths of beverage law and craft distilling trends? Well then, here is a step by step list of directions that will, at the end, leave you, too, with a crisply printed copy of Whisky Magazine's page 20 article by that devilishly handsome rogue Scott Spolverino:

The In With Bacchus Guide to Getting Whisky Magazine
1. Make a cup of coffee. Add cream and sugar as necessary.
2. Drink coffee. Peruse newspaper. Relax.
3. Grab keys. And cash. Or credit. Maybe even a gift certificate. But no checks. Paying for a $6.99 magazine with a check is tacky. 
4. Don't forget your Barnes and Noble discount card.
5. Get in car. Make sure that it has gas.
6. Get gas because you are almost out. Pick up a soda or something. I recommend Mountain Dew.
7. Go to Barnes and Noble. Head to the Food and Wine section.
8a. Pick up copy of Whisky Magazine. Cradle it like a newborn.
8b. They don't have the latest copy. Find the manager and yell at them until the police arrive. Post bail, go home, and start from 1 (hopefully skipping 8b this time).
9. Go to the cash register and purchase said magazine.
10. Put it in the trunk of your car. Don't want the cops to find it if you get pulled over for speeding.
11a. Get home.
11b. Get stopped by cops because you're a lead-foot. Yell at cop that you have critical mission documents in your trunk and that no one can stop you. Don't resist the taser; just go with it. Post bail and start from step 1 (definitely skipping step 11b this time). 
 12. Read it. Bask in my linguistic prowess.

Or you could just subscribe. That would save you a lot of time. And maybe some bail money.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Man About (Tuthill)Town

Look at this picture.

Now back to me.

Now back to this picture.

Now back to me.

Sadly, you aren't me. Because if you were me you'd be working at the above place. You would be gainfully employed to fabricate wonders at the above place.

The above place is Tuthilltown Distillery.

That's right folks. Through a complex combination of sheer luck and stubbornness, I have landed a job working at Tuthilltown Distillery. While I won't go into specifics about what I'm doing (pesky NDAs!) the most apt title of my position is Research and Development. As I described to Mutineer Magazine earlier on Twitter:

in reply to @mutineermag
@mutineermag I am their Research and Development department. I am the Science Smith. I forge experiments, quench raw data, and hone reports
Oct 26 via webFavoriteRetweetReply

Literally, that's what I do. I make science...because science is a verb now.

In reality, I am doing a continuation of my wood maturation thesis work along with other fun, science-y things. I take barrel samples and put them in little jars and label them. I go around knocking on casks. I help the bottling/batch production team analyze their incoming batch barrels (by tasting). I also label, bottle, and box whiskey batches. If you have a bottle from batch 21 or 22 of the Baby Bourbon or 21 of the Manhattan Rye, chances are I put the label on it, gave it its birth number, and sealed the cradle it came in. Pretty solid chance. I've done about 600 bottles so far.

Now, I'm sure you're all wondering what this means for In With Bacchus. True, I will be posting less frequently (if that can even be possible). I will also be Tweeting less (but it'll give me time to make the tweets I do send extra special). And my website will be perused by my work's HR department, at least until they get used to my crazy ranting writing style. Other than that, nothing much will change. I promise. Tuthilltown and, potentially by extension, William Grant and Sons are cutting my paychecks. It's true; fair disclosure. Does this mean that I will change my views because of that? Nope. Not at all. I will do my utmost to remain fair and neutral. I'm not afraid to speak my mind on the things I'm passionate about and, if you've stuck around this long, I'm sure you know that.

There is one thing that will change and it's for the better: my knowledge base. Each day I'm learning not just things about wood maturation and maturation chemistry, but the business and efficiency of a working distillery. They don't always notice me, but I always notice what most people are doing. From the corner of my eye I watch them mill and mash. As I come down the stairs among the heady grain smell, I watch them cool and pitch. I chat with the distillers who walk me through their methods for determining the foreshots, hearts, and feints cuts. I lovingly watch over each barrel as it's filled like a mother hen. When it rolls to it's final resting place, I am generally there. And when an old barrel rolls out, I'm there too. I make it a point to be present in every aspect of the production process to the best extent I can while getting stuff done. And I can tell you, I'm learning a lot. No amount of reading and lectures can make up for almost a month's worth of hands on experience. The chalkiness and bitterness that signals the end of the hearts cut. The steam vapors of cooking corn that fog your glasses and leave you smelling like grits. The worn oak and whiskey tinge of a warehouse. Can't learn that from a book.

So yes, I am gainfully employed. And no, nothing will change here at In With Bacchus.

Except my depth of knowledge.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Glenlivet Faemussach - Monday, October 10th

Knowing whisky (or beverage) people is a funny thing for a variety of reasons. I would be flat out lying if I didn't say that, at one point, I had a drunken argument about the merits of a protein rest during brewing and the viability of cask reuse-age for whisky. It's things like this that eventually come up in conversation, either alcohol induced or otherwise. Talking shop is one of the most rewarding things about this job. Well, almost.

I'd have to say the most is the fact that most booze and cocktail people have fantastically stocked bar backs in their home and they are more than willing to share. They'll trade regional product for regional product, swap homemade bitters for falernum, surprise you with a snort of old cognac in the mail or maybe a cocktail book they found at a yard sale. We share what we've got. And this is how I got a small sample of the Faemussach.

Glenlivet Faemussach is a 13 year old, cask strength Glenlivet. I got my sample from a friend that works at Royal Mile whiskies. It came in this bottle:

Yep, that's right. An old Duncan Taylor sample bottle. You get used to seeing stuff like this. Recycling is key. Smart booze people save all of their mini bottles and sample glass so that they can pass on stuff to other people. Oddly enough, this is a second hand sample. This sample, in turn, came from ANOTHER person (or people) who got a bottle of it as a present. That would be the Edinburgh Whisky Blog. Yeah, booze gets passed around in the community.

And I likes it.

Anyway, here she is in all of her golden glory:

I think it's straight from the cask, unchillfiltered, uncolored, and at a hefty 59.1% ABV. And it's so good. Here's the notes:

Nose: Orange marmalade. Pine needles. Milk chocolate. No peat at all, despite the fact that it's named after a peat field. Some sawdust / new wood. Grassy and floral like a spring field. Very cracking nose on this one.

Taste: Lots of oranges and cream. It's almost like a creamsicle. Clover honey. A bite of wood towards the end develops into some spice. Slightly salty too. Peat is so faint over the explosion of sweetness and fruit on top of it. The wood on the finish is nice. It's almost like buttered oak.

This is a -fantastic- dram. I don't have much of it left but I'll be sure to savor it. Unfortunately, you can't get any unless you're super cool and Pernod Ricard loves you. Well, loved you. They gave away all the bottles they had, I believe.  They release a new one each year with a different name and no release is ever the same. Which makes me even sadder. That Duncan Taylor bottle is frighteningly low but I'll be hoarding that like a dragon. Sadly, I won't be sharing it, booze nerds. Sorry.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Thursday Drink Night (TDN)

I'm back.

Reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated. Many people I've heard from said that I died in a booze related incident on the plane. I've heard a few "they didn't have scotch so he had a heart attack" stories. Lies. The most embarassing is a story that I got cut off and in a desperate, lurching attempt to steal a few bottles of Glenlivet off the booze cart, was subsequently aerated by a Glock 17 firmly in the grasp of an Air Marshall.

All slanderous lies.

I am indeed in fine form and fiddle. All of the booze that I smuggled onto the plane in my checked bag not only made it through Customs but made it in one piece. My cigar collection remains in it's blissfully humidified state as well. I'm actually reconditioning my humidors to store these delicious little bad boys. Life is sweet for the time being. And it's about to get even sweeter.

One of the traditions I take part in is the bi-weekly or weekly Thursday Drink Night. It is a conglomeration of internet chat room and online Tales of the Cocktail. It involves a lot of cocktail geeks getting together and mixing up drinks based on the theme selected. Some of the past ones have been sponsored events (like the Mandarine Napoleon one) or just straight up silly ones like Charlie Sheen. Only those that have put in their chops get to set the coveted topic: a topic based on your persona. There have been many TDN in the past devoted to the lovers of shaken lore and stirred magic. Last week, Rumdood had the fortunate opportunity to have a cocktail named after him. A few years ago, an entire TDN was devoted to creating cocktails for all the cocktail nerds, geeks, and dweebs going to Tales of the Cocktail. While I haven't put in my chops, heavy and significant bribing of Sean Mike Whipkey of Scofflaw's Den resulting in the greatest of honors falling into my lap.

So here's the nitty gritty:

Next week, Thursday, September 15th from 8pm until whenever you feel like passing out is...


That's right. You too can participate and make cocktails that mock my sense of pride, self-dignity, and weight. You too can take part in the ribaldry. To do this, follow a few simple directions.

Step 1: Go to your local liquor store and stock up your home bar. Recipes for all of the cocktails are posted in an online chat room and it is your job, at home, to recreate the cocktail and denote whether or not they need adjustment (either in ingredient list or technical work) or if they're spot on. Some of the people there choose the craziest ingredients so don't feel bad if you don't have everything. Feel free to sub out. If you don't know what to sub out for, ask.

Step 2: Invest in a lot of beer. Ice cold. Put the kids to bed. Gonna be a long night.

Step 3: Go to and sign up for an account. It's easy, it takes 10 minutes, and it'll last you for a lifetime. Pick a good name otherwise I'll probably get drunk and make fun of it. So make like Indiana Jones and choose wisely.

Step 4: Next Thursday, log in and participate. Feel free to submit cocktails, chat with the folks there, and just shoot the shit. It's fun.

Now, if you have decided to join us, know that you will be rewarded for your creativity. I've managed to finagle (BRIBE AND BLACKMAIL) a few prize sets. The firm categories will be:

Best Name
Best Cocktail
Most Representative of In With Bacchus

For your troubles, the prize packages are...

1 Momokawa / Moonstone Sake set courtesy of SakeOne. A sweet sake glass, a t-shirt in your size, and a few bottles of Momokawa and Moonstone sakes (good stuff) to fiddle around with at the bar or just to drink.

1 SakeOne G set. A bottle of the SakeOne G sake (their equivalent of a cask strength scotch) along with a shirt in your size.

More prizes will be added as I blackmail my way through my contact list. Just kidding, I don't have any dirt on anyone I've chatted with. Or do I...

Also, if you want to iron out the whole TDN thing early, tonight from 8 - whenever is TDN: Football. Sign up for an account and get a taste of the mayhem!

Friday, August 12, 2011

What I've Learned in Scotland

On Sunday I went to Whisky Fringe.

It took place at the Mansfield Tranquair (which is where the Boutique Bar Show took place). I had an awesome time. Lots of fun. I met up with Dave Broom (who poured me a Jamaican rum that smelled like eating bananas foster next to a tire fire), tried the entire line of El Dorado Rum (more on this later), and drank super special whiskies from all across Scotland. Then we went to Bramble and I drank a bunch of Negronis (one with Campari, one with Fernet Branca) and shots of corn whiskey.

At this point, I could get into the nitty gritty of what expressions I tried, what the tasting notes are, and overall what I thought of the Whisky Fringe. I could do this.

I'm not gonna.

I think the 20 quid I paid to get in serves a better jumping off point for something else. Mainly, what I've learned from Scotland (much like my IPCPR post). I was thinking of actually doing this AFTER I left but that won't be for about another month and it's fresh in my mind at the moment. So let's roll with it then.

1. Scotland is awesome.

This is a pretty roundabout and vague title so let me explain (read: get ready for an anecdote). I realized this at the Bruichladdich booth at Whisky Fringe as we were sitting around sipping on a 7 year old single barley varietal whisky (to be released in the near future), as well as gin. I'm standing there, chatting with Natalie, an awesome and patient worker at the Bruichladdich booth.

 Some guy in a blue checked shirt, obviously blootered, comes up next to me and asks for a try of their gin. He's jovial, to say the least. In a heavy Glaswegian accent, we start chatting about Scotland and scotch when another guy comes up to say "hi" to Natalie and offer a card of some sort. This ends up forming into an improptu discussion of the liquor industry in duty free, then to travel, and then to my accent. I tell them that I'm, indeed, a Yank and that I'm from NY. The guy next to me says that he was in an elevator in NY once with a guy who commented on his Scottish accent and asked him where he'd been. He said Las Vegas and NY, to which the guy replied "you still haven't been to the US." Natalie said that she'd love to go to NY, to which I replied this:

"It's a nice place to visit but not to stay, I think. The people there...they just don't care about other people."

And then it hit me. Of all the places I've been both in the US and abroad, the NICEST people have been in Scotland. Everywhere you go, people are warm and inviting. In London, I definitely got a weird vibe from people because of my weight but here, they just don't care. If you need help, you can literally ask anyone and they'll reply, politely and with a smile. Just walking by people and catching their eye leads to a "Hullo" and a grin. I dunno what it is about this country but everyone here is, to put it most accurately, awesome. They're accommodating, generous, helpful, and warm. I suppose I should amend the title to say "Scottish people are awesome" but that's not the entirety of the story. Just looking in ANY direction in Scotland is breathtaking. I look out my window to not just one, but two sets of mountains in the distance. From my classrooms, there's beautiful views of sweeping fields, stoic mountains, and the history of Edinburgh. So I'm sticking by what I said. Scotland is awesome. If you ever get the chance to come here, do. Without hesitation. Just bring pants and a rain jacket. You'll need it, no doubt.

2. It's important to push yourself

This is a big one for me and I've really been hesitating writing about it for awhile but I think it's really time to set things straight. I talk a big game on Twitter, I really do. Truth be told is, I drink maybe a 10th of what it sounds like I do, mainly because of the medication I'm on. If I drink too much, my heart might slow down enough to stop. Or I could just get violently nauseous. Either way, I lose. If you've ever seen me at an event, chances are I haven't taken this medication so that I can actually do a solid tasting without blarfin everywhere. And I'm generally extremely nervous. Why? The reason why I'm on this medication is for anxiety. I'm not going to lie, it's a crushing anxiety. I'm literally sweating bullets and panicking as I write this. Thanks to my extensive medical history, I have a little something commonly reserved for soldiers that have returned from combat. I have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I won't bore you with the details and such but, suffice to say, 26 surgeries have made me a jangling bundle of nerves for my whole life.

It was a huge step for me to go to undergrad, five hours away from home. My PTSD meant that I would have constant and severe panic attacks during anything remotely stressful. Like tests. Or interacting with my professors. Or being a normal human being. I wasn't diagnosed with this until right before I went to college and I didn't get a medication regime that worked until about two years ago. Thus, when I say moving to Scotland to pursue a degree in Brewing and Distilling Science was a "big step", it's a bigger step for me than for most people. If I sweat, shake, get nausea, shortness of breath from tests, think of how I was taking on a $32,000 loan to move 4,000 miles away from home to a completely different culture. The first week or so here was...intense. And it's been pretty difficult ever since. I've done fairly well in my classes and I'd like to think my thesis is going quite swimmingly (for someone that had to do pretty much ALL of the work themselves, without help). And I've learned a whole lot about myself and my capabilities. Yeah, it was rough but I think it was definitely a good thing. Doesn't hurt to come out with a degree from it either.

But this doesn't mean that it's all been gravy. I've mostly kept to myself the entire time I've been here. I use video games and movies to escape from my anxiety. Also, that $32,000 didn't go very far with the fluctuating exchange rate so money anxieties have really kept me from doing anything with the people in my program (If any of you are reading this, sorry. I know I came across as the weird loner kid. I tried though.) That and the anxiety of being in a completely different world and culture. Like above, I've done the equivalent of only going to Las Vegas and New York while I've been here. Realistically, I haven't "been" to Scotland. But hopefully when I'm stupid rich later on I'll amend the hell out of that. So stay tuned.

3. Learn how to do stuff for yourself

I've heard people say "necessity is the mother of all invention." I'd like to take this a step further and also state that "hunger is the mother of all innovation." Being generally flat broke here, I've learned how to cook in a pretty rapid time. I went from buying the cheap, ready made meals to making my own. I actually just pulled a mushroom and bacon pie with flaky crust out of the oven. I've learned how to brew my own beer and come up with recipes (although that's a lot of the degree's doing). I've learned how to fix just about anything with compressed air, string, tape, and paper clips. I've learned how to garden and sew. I can make a damn fine cup of builder's tea, jars of pickled eggs, and oatmeal. I can also make a mean bottle of limoncello and I've learned how to make an fantastic cup of coffee in a moka pot. I suppose making my own stuff has been a combination of being broke as well as needing something to do but I've learned a lot over here not even remotely related to my degree. Even my buttermilk biscuit recipe is coming along nicely. They've just progressed from the threshold of "only edible if soaked in gravy" to "edible". That's gotta count for something, right?

4. Never wear shorts on the Royal Mile / Princes Street

I learned this one from the ungodly amount of people doing it. You look like a tourist. Just stop. How are you even warm? It's 55 and raining.

If I come up with any more, I'll add them here. For hanging in there with my rambling, have a Negroni from Bramble:

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Macanudo Cru Royale Robusto - Wednesday, July 13th

I'll admit something, right here, right now. I'm not a huge fan of Macanudo. Well, let me be more specific, I'm not a fan of the old Macanudo. I've had the Cafe, the Robust, the Maduro, and the Gold and, for was less smoking a cigar and more sucking on a straw. They didn't pack a whole lot of flavor. I tried a few times on each and they just didn't do it for me. Try as I might, they were just wayyyyy too mild for me. To steal Yogi's thing, they're milder than your average cigar. And I like my cigars like I like my women: robust, full bodied, and with spirit.

I also like them older than me but that's here nor there.

Thus it was with great trepidation that, during the IPCPR last year, I learned that the Macanudo line was getting a new baby brother: the Macanudo Cru Royale. For me, I thought "fancy name, same-old same-old." I got a few samples of it at some point during the show and put it out of sight / out of mind. I knew I wasn't going to like it, it's a Mac.

I'm not a proud man. I'm not overly vain or egotistical. Hell, I'm not even humble. I'm borderline sadistic when it comes to promoting myself. I THRIVE on self-defacing humor. So it's easy for me to say this:

I was wholeheartedly WRONG.

This was an enjoyable cigar. I sparked it up again today and it reminded me how absolutely solid and in-line with my taste preferences it was. With no further ado, here he is, the Macanudo Cru Royale:

Look at 'im. Big, bold, and brash. A wrapper darker than a German film noir. It just screams "light me on fire!" So I did. Here's the notes:

First quarter: Surprising amount of complexity. It starts with a new leather taste; heavily tannic (in a good way). Woody too, oak. Spurts of nuttiness (peanut?)

Half way: Mainly that fresh leather flavor. Some hints of cinnamon in there too. Black tea as well. But predominantly leather. Complexity has definitely faded since the first quarter.

Third quarter: Intensity of the leather dies down. Dark chocolate. Velvety, almost creamy now. I get toast too. A buttered toast thing going on. Mmm.

Overally, a very solid addition to the Macanudo line. Is it the best cigar available? Can't say that, sorry. But is it a solid, enjoyable cigar that is available readily and for a decent (~$6.50) price? Sure is. Would I pick it up? Yes and no. Depends on my mood. If it had maintained the complexity of the first quarter throughout then I definitely would. However, I feel it stagnated towards the middle and didn't really recover the complexity it had at the beginning. So it would depend on what I'm doing. Frankly, this would be the -perfect- golf cigar for me (or any "smoking + activity" cigar). Tasty, enough complexity to keep me interested without diverting my attention, and easy to smoke more than one of in a sitting. So take it as you will.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Wild Turkey 101 - Sunday, July 10th

Cheap bourbon is a fickle mistress. There are few bourbons that maintain both a low price and a palatable taste. Take for example Fighting Cock bourbon by Heaven Hill. It's a decent, six year old whiskey that clocks in at a healthy 103 proof. It's about, oh I dunno, $16~ish a liter. It is a decent bourbon for mixing but drinking it straight is a measure in sheer willpower. I'm not sure what it is but I can't drink that stuff neat no matter how much I try. And then there's Early Times. That's cheap and readily available. But I can't drink that in any fashion. It smells like corn soaked in paint thinner and tastes equally wretched. Budget bourbon is hard to come across and those that do find one jealously horde it.

For me, I have a broad range of cheap bourbons and, unlike some people, I'm willing to share. Fighting Cock and Buffalo Trace make it onto my bill of fare rather frequently and that's cool. But thanks to travel retail, I've found my favorite budget bourbon. Wild Turkey 101. Eight years old, 101 proof. It's a manly whiskey. It's got a kick like a mule and makes me think of the stuff they swilled down in Wild West taverns in the mid 1800s. But unlike that stuff, it tastes pretty damn good. And the best part? I'm equally comfortable mixing it (the higher proof holds well in a mint julep) and drinking it neat. Here she is in all of her bottled glory:

How does it look in the glass?

Looks miiiighty delicious. Here's the particulars:

Nose:  It smells like freshly hewn wood and corn oil. What must be a decent rye content gives some paprika and mustard powder-like spice. Busted, worn leather as well. Reminds me of the barn on my godparent's farm.

Taste: Honey and corn oil sweetness tempered with wood. Floral as well but I can't quite narrow down what it is. This fades to a robust vanilla and oak coupled with, strangely, a taste not unlike burnt ends from brisket. That mustardy/paprika rye taste is there too but buried deep. Finish is not warm, but biting and bracing like a bonfire on a chilly night.

When you can get a liter bottle of this for $20 at travel retail, you can't go wrong. This is the "girl next door" bourbon. Sure, there's prettier, fancier, more costly belles at the ball...but more often than not the best thing is something you've always overlooked. Although, frankly, I feel that way about just about all bourbon. There's your fancy scotch, your Japanese whisky, your Irish too. But that girl next door, that southern belle, always calls to me strongest. And I generally heed. Funny, that.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Guillermo Leon Signature Corona - Saturday, July 2nd

As you may or may not know, last year I had the extreme fortune of attending IPCPR thanks to Drew Estate. If you haven't seen the saga, check here. In short, I spent about 12 hours a day smoking my face off, carousing, and battling kidney infections all while bringing my adoring fans (read: no one) all the news that was fit to print. One of the gems that I got to smoke during the show was the Guillermo Leon Signature. Launched during the show, I had the great fortune to attend the launch party along with a bunch of other bloggers (like Barry of A Cigar Smoker). I smoked a few of these during the duration of the show and while different from what I normally smoked, I liked 'em. I brought one back home with me from the show to get decent pictures of and put a review up.

Then I moved to Scotland.

If you've never been to Scotland, I'd like to summarize the weather here. rains. A lot. In the winter, it is precipitation. There is no "chance" of it, it just happens. Every waking second. Sometimes it's rather mild out for winter, other times its cold. The spring and summer mixes things up delightfully though. It's either sunny out and bitingly cold and impossibly windy...or warm and raining. Thus, conditions for smoking cigars without having the cigar go out, canoe like a Chippewa, or make me miserable and cold. So I've had to wait until one of those rare, dice roll days when it's warm, sunny, and not overly windy. When one of those days decided to show up, I sparked this bad boy. So, without much further ado...

Beautiful, no? Let's see how this beauty stacks up in the smokage department.

 First quarter: Man, effortless draw on this thing. Smoke is thick and rich. Starts off with a worn leather couch taste and a gratuitous amount of white pepper and toasted nuts. Sweet and medium-ish flavor at this point.

Half way: Body kicks up. The leather recedes and this powerful black coffee flavor bursts through. This would be a killer cigar with a cup of coffee. Cedar and leather intermingle in the background.

Third quarter: Coffee recedes and it reverts to the leather and white pepper flavor but more intense than the first quarter. I'd put it at a solid medium in terms of flavor at this point.

Last quarter: Power picks up a bit in the last quarter as a mustard like spice comes in.

Damn good cigar. It has the complexity of the heavier body, full flavor cigars that I like but I could definitely cruise through a couple of these in a day and still enjoy each and every nuance. While not fitting into my preferred cigar flavor profile (LIGERO), it is a pleasant smoke that can stand up to a day's worth of smoking. I'd imagine, with the heavy, predominant flavor of coffee that this would pair well in the morning with a nice cup of drip coffee or even a cappuccino. Would I recommend this? Definitely. Complex but not overbearing, ideal for days where you want to smoke a lot, and at about $6-$7, it's a pretty solid buy.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Marks and Spencer Review

As an American in the UK, there are a lot of things that I see as being completely different from their counterparts in the US. Sure, they call fries here "chips" and chips here "crisps". And aluminum isn't "al-loo-min-um" but rather "al -loo-min-e-um". Yeah, those are all true. But one of the biggest differences is in drinking culture. More specifically, the route in which you can get beer, wine, cider, or spirits. As in the US, the UK does a fairly bristling on-trade (bars, nightclubs, etc.) business but one of the most striking differences in beverage purchases is the off-trade in stores and such. In the US, when I want a bottle of wine, spirits, or beer/cider, I have to hop in a car. I drive to the store, browse the selection, pick out what I want, buy it, and drive home. Then I drink it, usually while surfing the internet and talking on Twitter. In the UK...I can get it delivered to my door. And in the UK, as long as I have valid ID, they'll deliver it anywhere. In the States, some states frown upon buying liquor online and having it sent to your house. Here in the UK, I can get a bottle of scotch and a case of beer with my bread, butter, and ground beef.

A bit ago, Marks and Spencer approached me to write a freelance editorial for them on the Food and Wine section of their website. I was happy to oblige. Not for the money, no. But rather it is a easy way to illustrate one of the biggest differences in the UK. So, let's investigate, shall we? Below is a screencap of their website:

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First off, you can see they have a pretty wide selection of wines. They cover the gamut of types (red, white, rose, sparkling/Champagne) from a variety of countries (Portugal, Spain, USA, etc.). It is nice to be able to browse a good wine selection online and then have it delivered to your door along with the groceries for the week. But delving deeper into this you can see another trend in the UK that's RARELY seen in the US. To start, let's pick red wine:

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Now let's go with something I'm more comfortable with in terms of knowledge. Let's choose USA:

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You can see that they have a small offering of California reds available. There's a Ravenswood Zinfandel 2006 (top row, 3rd from left). It is one of their standard bottlings. They also have a variety of Bonny Doon wines. Let's choose the Central Coast Syrah 2008:

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Looks like their standard bottling, right? Look closer:

Okay, let's go back to the main page and hit up some white wines:

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And then Chardonnay:

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Then France:

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Let's be gentle and meek here. I'll narrow it to a pauper's wine. £200 - £299.99:

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Mmm, a Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Leslumeux 2009. A cracking vintage (?). Either way, a standard bottling by the Domaine Jean Pascal et. Fils. But what of the other bottling, the Chablis Grand Cru Grenouille 2006? Check it out:

As you can see...they're PROPRIETARY bottlings. Bottlings done specifically for Marks and Spencer. You don't see that in the US. At most, you may get some bottlings by Trader Joe's that don't release the name of the wine. For these wines, no only is it a branded wine endorse by M&S but they go into where it's made, what's in it, and who made it. Check out the beer and cider section here. All proprietary, exclusive bottles for Marks and Spencer.

One of the most interesting things in the UK, I've found, is store brand alcohol. And it's not just limited to wine, beer, and cider. Marks and Spencer has it's own brand of port, sherry and spirits (not on the website but available in store). They're cheaper than their equivalent on the shelf, generally the same quality, and they even TELL you who makes's just got the Marks and Spencer approval on it. And that is something I can get behind. I dunno if it's legal in the US but if it's not, I sure wish that would change. Store brand alcohol that is the same quality and even same name, but lesser prices? The Scottish blood in me enjoys the hell out of it.

So thank you, Marks and Spencer, for not only giving me the opportunity to talk about my experiences here in the UK but to enlighten my readers as well. And hey, recouping some hosting fees don't hurt either.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Rishi Tea Organic Ancient Pu-erh Tuo Cha (Shu) - Tuesday, June 14th

I am, by no stretch of the imagination, an expert on pu-erh. I like it and I really want to try a whole bunch more...but I'm kinda intimidated by where to start. I read The Half Dipper daily and, frankly, most of the things Hobbes talks about I don't know. Not so much like "Oh, I think it means this" or "I guess it means that" because that involves some sort of intelligent guessing and deductive reasoning. No, this is more along the lines of "What the...wait...huh? Is that a real word?" The fact that pu-erh is a very traditional Chinese thing doesn't help. I don't speak a lick of Mandarin. But my Cantonese is superb.

Alright, passable.


Ok, ok, I can't speak any dialect.

So instead, I dabble. Here and there I get bits and pieces of cakes to try out and, for the most part, I enjoy the hell out of them. But I wouldn't consider myself a collector, or even an aficionado. I like 'em, a lot, but I don't actively seek them out. That would just scare the hell out of me.

That and the last thing I need is yet another beverage related hobby.

It's good to see companies that put out pu-erh products into mainstream stores that is both decent quality and economical.  Rishi Tea does this fairly well with it's line of blended pu-erhs, like their Ginger Pu-erh, Vanilla Mint Pu-erh, and Blood Orange Pu-erh (all of which I have samples of), as well as their non-blended ones like this one:

To say that pu-erh is an acquired taste might be a touch of an understatement. It's radically not like most teas. The sheng (raw/uncooked) has an intensely white pepper and grass flavor to it and the shu (cooked) has a deeply wet dirt flavor to it. And both, I've found, have an umami-like brininess to it as well. Strange stuff but addicting.

These tuo cha were provided by Rishi Tea for me to test out. Yes, tuo cha. What is that? Wel, it's this:

Wee little tea cakes and not the kind you eat either. It's actually the processed tea that's steamed and molded. I won't go into detail as I'm truly no expert but if you want a general glimpse, I suggest Wikipedia. Anyway, here's the notes:

Brewed in: gaiwan and tasting cup.
Water: boiling (212F)
Steep time: 3 minutes (as recommended)

First infusion: Nose is earthy. Kinda smells like pine too. Pretty quiet though. Taste is of hay and dirt. It's like licking a barn. Which honestly, isn't a bad thing. Molasses makes me want more rum. Mild bitterness but no astringency; very smooth. Not a whole lot of body though, seems kinda thin. Not too deep. Color is pretty inky.

Second infusion: Nose is almost gone by this point. Some earth, pine is gone. Bitterness is growing and the taste is fading. That pu-erh brine is coming out. Molasses is still there but fading. Hay flavor is gone.

Third infusion:  Nose is non-existant. Absolutely nothing there. Taste has lost the bitterness and now tastes more like cooked rice. Much more pleasant than the second infusion. Body is better, oddly enough, but still thin. At this point, I'd call it done.

For me, it's a good enough tea that displays the possibilities of the shu pu erh category. It is definitely an introductory tea as, for me, there are teas out there with more depth and that can stand up to more infusions. It is not uncommon to go for six or seven infusions out of one set of leaves but this really started tapering off after two. Would I pick it up again? Eh, probably not. I've had some AMAZING shu in my minimal travels so once you're bitten by the bug it's hard to go back. But I'd recommend it to someone that's never had it before. A damn sight cheaper than diving in headlong, I'll give it that.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Theakston Old Peculier - Thursday, June 2nd

Beer in the UK has funny names.

I'm not talking like "Deranged Psycho Axe Murder Stout" but far more classier names.

Like Fursty Ferret.

Or Bishop's Finger.

How about a pint of Finchcock's Original?

Or Riggwelter Yorkshire Ale?

Here in Scotland, you can slake your thirst with some Ptarmigan, some Red MacGregor or a nice pint of Thrappledouser.

One could arguably say that these names aren't really weird or strange. They're more like "British weird" which is best described as "eccentric with a monocle and a refined taste for claret." Or, you could say...Peculier.

When a beer calls itself OLD Pecurlier, it better be pretty peculiar. Below is a bottle of the 5.6% Old Peculier, brewed by Theakston.

It wasn't very good, for the record.
Honestly, as peculiar names go...Old Peculier is a rather tame cop-out, don't you think? As you may note, it also says "The Legend". That's a healthy cup of competition for quaffing. Not just peculiar in a land of peculiar names but a legend on top of that?

There's a pint of the cola black mistress. Look at how she shines in the light:

I'll give it this, it's a beautiful beer. But how does it fare up?

Nose: Fairly estery. Some overripe banana. Molasses. It actually kinda smells a particularly potent/sour ester I synthesized in Organic Chem once. An oblique reference but it's definitely got a lightly sour and pungent smell to it. Other than that, pretty lightly staffed in the Smells Department.

Taste: Very biscuity. The first sip is viscous and sweet like a digestif biscuit. This fades to chicory coffee. Stone fruits in there as well: dried cherries, maybe fresh plum. They obviously use a lot of bittering hops in this bad boy. The finish is almost mouthpuckering. I'm hazarding a guess at Fuggles. It has no hop depth aside from just an amazingly astringent and bitter finish.

The more I drink through this pint, the more it grows on me. When I first started drinking it I wasn't a huge fan. The hop profile felt one dimensional, even for British beer who don't go all hop-crazy like us Yanks. But as I drink it, I'm warming up to it. Its simplicity, at first, belies the changing flavors that bubble up from below. It's fruity, malty, and dextrin-ous at the beginning but the hop profile cuts straight through it, leaving a pleasant bitterness in the back of the throat and a taste like Roman Nougat at the tip of the tongue. Would I actively seek it out? Maybe. I'd be interested to see what this Legend can do on tap but I'd have to be in the mood for it. This is not a "pint with friends" beer. This is a "pint with a book and pipe" beer. It's easy to drink for it's ABV but more than one, I think, would be pretty cloying.