Saturday, January 2, 2010
In Praise of Blended Scotch
From Beer Wine and Whisky
"I was going to title this post “In defense of blended Scotch” but when you look at the sales figures at least, blended Scotch needs no defense from me as blends make up 90% or so of the Scotch sold in the world. But, when it comes to folks who style themselves “serious” about Scotch whisky, blends are ignored, if not downright reviled.
Personally, I love a good blend. In fact, my consumption is probably at least 2:1 blends to single malts. So in the interest of getting other malt fans to give them a shot, here are a few of the things I love about a good blend, as well as some recommended blends to try.
One of my favorite things about a good blend is the “bite” it has. This is particularly true of young blends, which is what I tend to favor because they have this punchy element. A good young blend is the whisky equivalent of an extremely hoppy beer, or tannic red wine - there is just so much vitality there that it’s hard for me not to get excited. I think this character is generally the result of the relative youth of the whiskies used to make most blends, and as someone whose palate skews away from oak influence, young whisky is something I tend to prefer.
The other main selling point about blends for me is the complexity that’s possible. Sure, a fine Springbank or Glenmorangie is a complex whisky, but the sheer variety of whiskies available to blenders opens up a staggering potential, and allows the use of malt whiskies that might not be compelling on their own to add a much-needed voice to a choir.
So, what do I drink when it comes to blends? Here are a few favorites.
For the Islay lover, I highly recommend getting your hands on Islay Mist. This blend features a hearty dose of young Laphroaig, in all of its peaty loveliness, but with very little oak influence at all due to its youth. Backing this up is a rich, plush bed of grain whisky that wraps the Laphroaig in a velvety, long, lingering finish. It’s a great ride, and I drink more of this than any other whisky. It costs all of $18 a bottle.
Another favorite is Teacher’s. This is a more Highland-style, though it does have an underlying smokiness from a healthy dose of Ardmore. It is much more of a malt bomb than Islay Mist, but a firm backbone of grain whisky keeps it from getting diffuse in the mouth. Amazing length, and criminally under-priced at about $15 a bottle.
Less ubiquitous than Teacher’s, but almost as compelling is White Horse. This is another Islay-led blend that used to employ Lagavulin as its signature malt, but since the popularity of Lagavulin went through the roof (and maybe before . . .), the oily richness of Caol Ila has been the star here, though some Lagavulin still makes it into the blend. Firm grain again gives steel to this blend, and makes for a long, busy finish. A lot of fun for $15 a bottle.
Finally, the least surprising rec on this list and the one most malt drinkers are likely to admit to having on their shelf is Johnny Walker Black label. This is a truly seamless but busy blend where starring malts are not apparent, yet the whole is much more than the sum of its components. It is an incredibly complex drink, and I haven’t had too many single malts that I enjoy as much as a good bottle of JWB. About $28 a bottle.
As you probably noted, though I think of it more as a bonus than anything, blends are bargains compared to single malts. I find the best stand on their own as great whiskies, but when you compare them to single malts on the basis of value it’s no contest at all." -- Dave Nelson, Beer Wine and Whisky
Stirrings Bitter Lemon....$5.69 / 4pk
Stirrings all-natural Bitter Lemon is made with lemon essence, triple-filtered water, and infused with “champagne” carbonation. The result is a cleaner, crisper, lighter and brighter soda that makes cocktails taste better.
Did you know: Our Bitter Lemon is simply a blend of our delicious Tonic Water with lemon? It is the quinine (from the Tonic Water) that gives this drink its bitter taste.
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Stout drinkers check out Evan Benn's article in the Post Dispatch today....
Choices in stout go far beyond the obvious
By Evan S. Benn
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Dark beers can be intimidating to casual beer drinkers. Maybe that's because their only stout experience has been with Guinness, an Irish dry stout with a creamy mouthfeel that's a staple at many bars and restaurants. Truth is, Guinness isn't bad, but there is so much more out there that could convert occasional stout drinkers to full-on aficionados.Not all stouts are created equal. They fall into subcategories depending on what ingredients brewers choose to highlight, such as oats (oatmeal stout), lactose (milk stout) or hops (American stout). The most complex and high-alcohol of these brews are sometimes called Russian imperial stouts because they were first brewed for 18th century Russian czars.
click here to read the rest....
Goose Island Bourbon County Stout
Lowdown: This chewy sipper is perfect for a cold night. Bourbon-barrel aging imparts notes of smoke and vanilla. Pair it with ice cream or a cigar.
Price: $18.99 for four 12-ounce bottles
Where to find it: The Wine and Cheese Place, 7435 Forsyth Boulevard, Clayton
Eisenbahn Lust...$25.99 / 25oz
"Eisenbahn Lust is the first beer in Brazil produced under the traditional champagne production method, the champenoise. After the first fermentation in the brewery the beer is sent to a winery, where it stays for three months and undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle. After that, the cuvee, remuage and dégorgement processes take place, ending in a fruit and refreshing beer, with a fine and persistent perlage. Ideal as an aperitif, pairing with cheeses and with desserts. The perfect beer for great celebrations." -- importer
Eisenbahn Defumada Smoke...$2.49 / 11oz
"Eisenbahn's Defumada, like the famous smoked lagers of Bamberg,Germany, is brewed with a special, smoked barley malt, giving it arich, smoky flavor and aroma." -- importer
check out their website
Odell "Single Serve Series"
In stock now! Order online
Apparently some accounts did not take their allocation.
We got cases in today at Forsyth. No limit now, buy what you want.
Odell Bourbon Barrel Stout....$13.99 / 750ml
"This limited edition offering begins with a full-bodied imperial stout that has notes of sweet milk chocolate, smooth vanilla and roasted coffee beans. Then things get interesting. We transfer it to Kentucky bourbon barrels where it’s aged for four months to let traces of oak and caramel come forward. The bourbon barrels have a remarkable effect on the beer. In turn, the beer has a remarkable effect on the senses." -- Odell Brewing
Odell Mountain Standard Reserve '09....$13.99 / 750ml
"This is more than a limited edition offering. It’s an enigma in liquid form. At first it looks like a deep mahogany ale, then you take your first sip and notice its distinct hoppy character. We begin with a ridiculous amount of Cascade and Chinook hop varietals from Western Colorado and bring out their flavor with the hop back. Then we double dry hop for even more of that aroma you love. The result is an unforgettable beer from the forgotten time zone." -- Odell Brewing
Odell Woodcut No.3....$24.99 / 750ml
"American oak plays a predominant role in Woodcut No. 3. Crystal, and Cara malts marry with Munich malts to create a pleasing red hue and a satisfying sweetness. Notes of raisin, rich caramel and toasted almond complement the hop pairing as a prominent oak aroma completes it all. Each Woodcut offering is a truly limited-edition beer made with select hops, fine malted barley and our brewers careful aging process.
In the fall of 2007, we received our first shipment of oak barrels from Canton Cooperage in Kentucky. The barrels, cut from new American oak, were specifically crafted with a medium toast to give beer added flavor and depth. The Woodcut series of barrel-aged beers was born. Woodcut offerings are crafted with select hops and malted barley on our pilot brewing system. After fermentation, the beer is chilled and then transferred to the oak barrels for aging. As the beer ages, the wood imparts unique and complex flavors. Brewers evaluate various barrel blends, carefully selecting the blend to bottle. Woodcut ales are then bottled conditioned in 750ml Belgian-style bottles with a cork-and-cage finish." -- Odell
of the Jacobite Rebellion. A strong ale based on an ancient recipe, Jacobite Ale is
spiced with hops as well as another traditional and ancient seasoning: coriander.
Deep brown color; rich aroma of spice, chocolate and leather; full, creamy body.
Exotic, engaging finish with notes of warmth and oak. ABV: 8.0%" -- importer
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
(I am told Aperol sells more than Campari in Italy)
Aperol (similar to Campari) is traditionally served with a splash of Sparkling water and an orange slice. (or substitute Prosecco for the sparkling water)
Info from their website
Aperol was launched by the Barbieri company, based in Padua, in 1919 on the occasion of the Padua Exhibition - introducing the revolutionary idea of an aperitif with an alcohol content of only 11%. After the second world war, it really took off, becoming a major success in Italian homes and bars. Today it is enjoyed by over 3.4 million Italians and is available in every bar and main food retailer in the country.
Aperol's unique flavour and colour is achieved through a subtle blend, with a perfect balancing of different erbs and roots.
The ingredients' quality allows a very low alcoholic strength: 11%Vol.
A secret recipe that has been unchanged since its first creation in 1919.
Please note: the bitter and sweet Aperol taste is not a banality, it is perfectly "aperitivo".
Click here for drink recipes
"Clean, crisp and flinty, with green apple, lime, quince and spicy hazelnut notes that are pure and focused, gaining depth on the finish. Drink now through 2012. 5,500 cases made. –JL"
Rated 93/100 The Wine Spectator
"The non-malolactic barrel-fermented, green/gold-colored 2007 Chardonnay Red Shoulder Ranch offers loads of tropical fruit, pear, and honeysuckle characteristics in its full-bodied personality. The oak component has been downplayed over recent vintages, and the wine is all the better for it, displaying gorgeously pure fruit. It should drink nicely for 2-4 years. This family-owned winery routinely fashions exceptional wines from their Stags Leap vineyards. Moreover, they have long been the reference point for what can be achieved in Stags Leap. My highest compliments to this great winery."
Rated 92/100 The Wine Advocate
2007 Pahlmeyer SONOMA Chardonnay....$66.99
"For starters, the 2007 Chardonnay Sonoma Coast may be one of Pahlmeyer’s finest Chardonnays to date (it’s coming right on the heels of their two brilliant 2006 Chardonnays). Most of the fruit comes from the Ritchie Vineyard, a site from which Mark Aubert also produces incredible wines. This 1,600-case cuvee is fashioned from the old Wente and Mt. Eden clones. Like the finest California Chardonnays, it reveals a light greenish hue to its straw color in addition to a beautiful perfume of nectarines, brioche, subtle smoke, crushed rocks, and gobs of white peach and pineapple fruit. This full-bodied beauty should drink easily for 5-6 years."
Rated 95/100 The Wine Advocate
2005 Pahlmeyer Red....$299.99 / MAGNUM
"The 2005 Proprietary Red is significantly better than what I tasted last year, although I certainly gave it a high score. This wine has fleshed out beautifully. The final blend (84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, and the rest Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec) has a deep purple color, a beautifully sweet nose of blackberries and cassis intermixed with some meatiness, smoke, and a touch of pain grille as well as notes of espresso and licorice. Full-bodied, rich, with decent acidity, excellent delineation, and moderately high tannin, this is a beauty that should evolve for 25-30+ years It is no wimpish wine at 15.2% natural alcohol, but that is buried beneath a cascade of gorgeous fruit and glycerin. This wine should be cruising along brilliantly in 2030+."
Rated 96/100 The Wine Advocate
It is a blend from the 7 main distilleries of Islay:
Ardbeg, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, Lagavulin and Laphroig.
Black Bottle Scotch....$15.99 / 750ml
"Being ordinary is easy. Just keep your head down, follow the crowd, do as you’re told, never complain and stick to the straight and narrow. Safe, secure, straightforward. Painless, pedestrian and predictable. But dull, deadly dull.
And then there’s Black Bottle, a singular dram that stands up, demands attention and delivers huge chewy mouthfuls of flavour that cannot be ignored. Never reserved for feint praise, it’s adored by the critics, loved across the land and inspires the kind of passionate devotion that can last a lifetime. Ordinary it is not.
Capturing the very essence of Islay in an artful marriage all seven of the island’s classic malts alongside some of the finest grain available, this is a blend to savour. Every sip is a celebration, every glass an occasion, every mouthful is smooth, full-bodied and uncompromising.
Being extraordinary may not be easy, but it’s so much more satisfying. Dare to be different, insist on Black Bottle every time.
Black Bottle’s much lauded taste profile proudly wears its North East heritage on its sleeve.
While the taste is now skilfully crafted from the worlds renowned Islay malts, the original blend was cut from the peaty bogs of the Aberdeenshire crofters and washed by the salty seafront warehouses where the Aberdeen fishermen docked. Married within these bullish tastes and lightening the blend is a Speyside sweetness known throughout the world for its delicate footprint.
These tastes combine to create a dram that makes no apology for its complex character and consistently tips a wink at its Islay cousins, remembering a time when the fishermen of the North East stowed a Black Bottle in their cabins for a reminder of home." -- Black Bottle Website
Monday, December 28, 2009
Featuring Certified Sommelier, Angela Ortmann
Angela, STLwinegirl (http://www.stlwinegirl.com/) and recently named “goddess of wine” by Sauce Magazine, is an independent wine and food consultant.
$25 per class
February 4 -- Introduction to Wine: Demystifying the World of Wine
February 11 - Introduction to Wine: Demystifying the World of Wine
(same class, two chances to attend)
Covering the basics of wine including varietals, regions, wine making, components of wine, handling, serving, storage, cork vs. screwcap, when to decant
(same class, two weeks to choose from)
Here is what we will taste:
Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut
Big House Pink
Calistoga Cellars Sauvignon Blanc
Rodney Strong Chardonnay
Mandolin Pinot Noir
Oberon Cabernet Sauvignon
Martin Bros. Moscato Allegro
February 18 - Basics of Tasting Wine and Aroma Training
How to smell and taste wine, how to identify the aromas and flavors in wines, using the proper glassware, breaking down dry vs. sweet, tannins and acidity
February 25 - Old World vs. New World
How Does the U.S. Stack Up?
Learn and compare the differences in wine making styles and wines from European and domestic regions
White Bordeaux/Sonoma Sauvignon Blanc
White Burgundy/Napa Chardonnay
Germany/Washington State Riesling
Red Bordeaux/California Meritage
Red Burgundy/Oregon Pinot Noir
Italian Primitivo/Lodi California Zinfandel
March 4 - Price points
Popular wines shown in 3 different price points
under $15 ~ $15 to $30 ~ $30 to $50
March 11 - Worldly Whites
Showcasing the same varietals from 3 different regions of the world
Sauvignon Blanc - Loire Valley, New Zealand, South Africa
Chardonnay - Chablis, Chile, Central Coast California
Pinot Grigio/Gris - Italy, Alsace, Oregon
March 18 - Ravishing Reds
Showcasing the same varietals from 3 different regions of the world
Pinot Noir - Burgundy, New Zealand, Russian River Valley California
Syrah/Shiraz - Rhone, Australia, Central Coast California
Grenache - Chateauneuf du Pape, Spain, Mendecino California
March 25 - Everything Pink, Bubbly and Sweet
Taste through different sparklers, roses, and dessert wines.
The Wine and Cheese Place
7435 Forsyth Blvd
Clayton, MO, 63105
Time: 6:00pm - 7:30pm
Price: $25 / person
Reservations Required -- click here
Sunday, December 27, 2009
The new vintage has arrived
Fullers 2008 Vintage Ale
"Our 12th Vintage features two of our favourite English hop varieties, Northdown and Challenger. These, combined with floor malted Maris Otter malt, produce a rich fruit aroma laced with dark orange hop notes. A full luxurious mouthfeel is finished off with a satisfying alcohol warmth." -- Vintage Ale 2008
"Vintage Ale is a truly distinguished bottle-conditioned ale, crafted by Fuller’s Head Brewer, John Keeling. Each vintage is a blend of that year’s finest malt and hops, and of course our unique yeast, creating a unique limited edition brew.
Bottle conditioning means that a little yeast is left in the bottle after bottling, which will mature slowly over time like a fine wine or whisky - well beyond the best before date that we are obliged to state. Here at Fuller's, we recently opened (in the interests of research, of course) a few bottles of old Vintages: they tasted better than ever so stock up now and you'll be glad you did in years to come! " -- Fullers