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Month: April 2015

Return of the Mystery Whisky Shopper | Blog #67

Last year I had a lot of fun visiting Total Wine in Orlando and pulling a “mystery shopper” on them to see which direction they would steer me for whisky choice. See Blog HERE

Finding myself back in Orlando again I made a bee line back to Total Wine to visit Chris and the team and grab another interesting bottle.

Chris remembered us so there was no mystery shopping this time around. A lot of interesting drams that were available last year were no longer on the shelf. Willet, Angel’s Envy Rye and even Buffalo Trace were all non existant.

To say that American Whiskey has exploded in popularity would be an understatement.

So I asked Chris to suggest something a little secret and unknown to the majority of whisky hunters.

Chris handed me a bottle of Mellow Corn for the bargain basement price of $ 12.99. I had to admit looking at the garishly bright old school label and even…cough… the inexpensive nature of the whisky that it was a hard sell. Chris was not perturbed however and jumped right into explaining why it was worth a shot.

Apart from the amazing price, Chris promised a smooth and delicious dram at 50% alcohol with lovely bourbon sweet notes.

According to Chris, Mellow Corn will not be around much longer as the corn fields used have been converted to a different strain used to make ethanol. Definitely not drinking a bottle of that.

Distilled by Heaven Hills Distillery in Louisville Kentucky Mellow Corn has the same label that it had when it was released in the 1940’s. The ugly yellow label has now become a cool retro badge of honor and Mellow Corn has found a niche in mixology bars in California and New York.

Bourbon by law requires a minimum of 51% corn in the mashbill. Mellow Corn is 90% corn which is a rarity and is considered a Straight Corn Whiskey.

Right so with bottle of Mellow Corn purchased and a bit more time waxing lyrical with Chris about the state of Scotch sales and other interesting whisky topics it was back to the hotel for a much anticipated dram.

Tasted in a hotel rocks glass outside on the deck in sticky 30 degree Orlando weather.

Mellow Corn Whisky Mellow Corn Whisky

Nose: A touch closed at 50% and getting in too close gives the 50% a chance to make it’s presence felt but no where near what you might expect. With gentle swirling and placement lovely buttery sweet and lightly spicy character comes to the fore and actually a little more time in the glass and it starts to shine with even the slight prickle I got at the start completely gone.

Palate: Great combination of sweet buttered corn on the cob with a dusting of cinnamon. I have never tried this combo but could be worth a go next time I am throwing foil wrapped cobs on the BBQ. You would not guess that this whiskey is 50%. Balanced, smooth and well….. mellow.

Finish: A touch of heat does acompany the finish and the spice level kicks up a notch but all the while still underpinned with lovely sweet corn notes. It lingers on and the sweetness hangs right there till the end keeping the spice from overpowering.

Water/ice: While I didn’t add water or try it on the rocks for this tasting given the warm weather I think that might be on the agenda for tomorrow. I think it will lend itself well to a wee splash or one nice cube.

After 4 years of aging in used casks Mellow Corn is impressive to say the least. Of course there is no way you can buy a bottle of 50% anything in Canada for $12.99 and I would think even if Mellow Corn was available it would run closer to $ 30 or more and would still be worth every penny.

If Chris is right about the imminent demise of this throw back label then I would grab a bottle or two of Mellow Corn the next time you are down in the US. Total Wine still has good stocks and I’m sure some searching online will offer up other options.

Thanks heaps Chris for steering me into something I would never have normally picked up off the shelf.

I have always cried a mantra of not judging labelling or price or being snobby about whisky/ey, however standing there cringing at the price and label I’m ashamed to say that I failed to live up to it on this occassion. Never judge a book by it’s cover. Great call Chris.

I look forward to another fun visit to Total Wine Orlando next year.


Scotchy Scotch Scotch Part 4 | Whisky Blog #66

Touching down in Brussels we just had time for a mandatory beer and waffle before winging our way to Rome.

Thankfully the roads were empty at Midnight as our taxi driver tried to break the speed record for an airport to the Eternal City.

Rome is awesome and having been lucky enough to visit twice in the mid 80’s it was really fun to have Cindy along on her first trip.

It is a multicultural world and having sold Indian Single Malt to Canadians as an Australian I can pretty much say that nothing should be surprising. I did have to pause and wonder a little that on our Scotch sourcing trip we would be in need of an Italian rendezvous. Samaroli has been around as a company since 1968. At that time they were the only company outside of the UK buying up any notable amount of Scotch in barrel.

Driven from a fiery Italian passion for perfection Samaroli independent bottlings are amongst some of the very best that I have had in my short decade+ whisky career.

Antonio and Danielle, two great guys that are the driving heart of Samaroli, represent everything that is amazing about whisky with enthusiasm and the kind of cheeky non-stop zest for life that seems to define the Italian lifestyle.

Samaroli organized an amazing hotel right in the heart of the old city. Palazzo Navona was exceptional in both service and the incredible breakfast with fresh espresso every morning. The view from the roof took in the tops of some of the most famous landmarks in Rome. St. Peters Cathedral in the Vatican and the Pantheon just to name a few.

In warmer weather basking on the roof in the comfy chairs listening to the buzz and energy of the Roman streets below would be magical.

So day one we were careful to not overdo it at breakfast knowing that we would be having an extended lunch/meeting at Casa Bleve. Antonio’s family owns one of the best restaurants in Rome.

Antonio’s mum still runs the kitchen with an iron fist and carefully fawns over every plate that heads out to the appreciative clientele.

Cindy, Antonio, Danielle and I sat around talking whisky while being served a seemingly endless array of delicious tapas style plates of goodies. Washed down of course with some truly amazing wine. We then enjoyed some great Italian coffee with sweet treat home-made treats. This went on for so long that we actually didn’t get through all the whiskies we had to try. Having to reschedule another afternoon the following day to finish them off was tough 🙂

Left to our own devices Cindy and I strolled along the ancient cobblestone streets down to the Pantheon square and then over to Piazza Navona where we were sorely tempted to buy several fab pieces of local art before settling down in front of the Fontana Dei Quattro – Fountain of the Four Rivers – to enjoy some traditional wood fired pizza and Italian wine.

Cindy and I had to pinch ourselves a little as the moon shone almost full above the amazing scene.

As we meandered back we made it a longer walk and availed ourselves of the famous Gelato that would become a daily staple during our stay.

Back at Casa Bleve to get through not only the Islay Scotch offerings but then some single cask rums as well, turned into another 3 hour+ tasting. I was able to pair a small cigar which was delicious as the private function room had doors opening out onto the street and smoking is still a big thing in Italy.

With the secrets of what we are putting into this years calendar safely decided Cindy and I had a short time to freshen up before an evening that would rank as one of the best meals we have ever experienced.

1988 Samaroli Lagavulin 1988 Samaroli Lagavulin

Casa Bleve has an astounding cellar and beautiful high ceilings with an ambiance that Italian restaurants outside of Italy would love to emulate.

Served by Antonio himself, we were taken through a dazzling array of courses and wine pairings before some truly incredible early Samaroli bottling’s to bring it all to a close. The 1988 Samaroli Lagavulin was stunning and a real rarity to even see this distillery as an Independent bottling.

If any of you ever get to Rome I promise that if you make the Casa Bleve a must stop for either dinner or lunch you will not be disappointed.

With the official work now complete, Cindy and I had a full Sunday to further explore the sights, sounds and tastes of the old city. We pretty much walked everywhere as it’s all so close. The Pantheon, Fountain de Trevi, Spanish Steps, Vatican (more gelato) & Campo dei Fiori market where we had lunch and filled the remaining space in our luggage with Truffle oil and Truffle salt to go along with the aged balsamic that Casa Bleve stocks in their little shop.

Our final walk that evening was to the Colosseum (we got a bit lost) and we had one last delicious Italian dining experience at Squisito Cook Risto Cafe overlooking the fully lit landmark and the full moon.

A huge thank you to Antonio, Danielle and the Bleve family for such amazing hospitality. An absolute treat for Cindy and I that has created lasting memories to treasure. We look forward to seeing you again soon.

With our trip winding to a close we were off to Frankfurt for a night stay. Our last evening we spent touring around Frankfurt and finished our trip with some local Schnitzel, beer and strudel at Haus Wertheym est. 1479.

We sure are looking forward to doing it all again next year. Anyone want to come along??

See you then.