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Month: July 2015

To share or not to share……. | Blog # 75

Everyone who has some decent bottles of whisky at home will have experienced this dilemma. A friend or two come over and you decide to have a dram but they are not that experienced with whisky.

Should you ply them with the cheap stuff rather than waste your better bottles? Or should you treat them to something amazing that might just get them further down the path to enjoying the finest imbibing liquid on the planet?

I have heard this many times from people tasting something a little higher end and amazing… “this whisky I’ll be keeping just for myself” and “can you taste me on a good everyday bottle that I can share with my friends”?

It seems that the rule of thumb if you are a novice whisky drinker is that you will be missing out on your buddies better offerings.

I rather take the opposite view and am happy to offer up almost any of my more delicious whiskies as long as the company in question has shown some interest.

Inevitably one dram turns into a couple and seldom the same dram twice so I normally offer up a number of choices and let my guest choose their poison..ahem um nectar.

Perhaps it stems from the Scottish penchant for stinginess that people would hide away the special and serve the mundane when company calls. There are those, trapped in the drinking culture of their native land (Newfoundland for example) that just tend to drink more and so do not want their crowd of invited guests plowing through their 25 year old. I can absolutely empathize with why this would be just such a scenario that would warrant a few bottles of palatable but unexciting whisky.

Heaven forbid if you were having a party that you would leave an untended bar brimming with 20 year old this and 30 year old that.

It would be like coming home to find that your sister in-law had raided the wine cellar and “randomly” grabbed that special bottle of which there was only one in the entire country (that you had been cellaring for a decade) and opened it as the evenings quaffer (true story).

But at the end of the day it is only booze. Delicious, expensive and sometimes irreplaceable but still at it’s core just a drink. We could be teetering on the edge of the investment vs drinking debate but I will save that for another time. Let me just be clear that I am a drinker of whisky not a collector. Any bottle that I have in my home is fair game and I love to share it all (sometimes forcing one or two drams more than I should on unsuspecting guests so my wife tells me).

It is so easy to get excited when someone is just getting into their whisky journey and I, like a kid in a candy store, want them to experience it all straight away.

I guess one of the questions you might have to ask yourself is how many friends do you have that are on this whisky journey  and specifically those that you like to sit down with you regularly to work on all those open bottles in your cupboard.

Outside of people that I have met on my industry journey’s I have probably less than a handful of friends that really salivate at the prospect of hitting my place for some “dram time”. Perhaps that is why I am so free and easy with my bottles. If I had a small army of thirsty friends then I might quickly revert to those hum drum offerings that currently take up pretty much zero space in my collection.

My appeal to everyone out there in the spirit of education and enlistment of any and all friends into this passion that we share, please be generous with your whisky.

Be especially generous with interesting and unique bottles that could just get someone hooked for life. I guess writing a blog and plying everyone and anyone that will stand still in front of me for 10 seconds with whatever yummy dram I have in hand would make me a pusher of sorts. Well guilty as charged I say and if you meet me at a show or in a class be sure to come on over and demand that I make good on my promise to give you a taste of something delicious.

Live free and drink well …


It’s a Bourbon Stampede | Blog # 74

Bourbon is one of the rising stars of the whiskey world and the Alberta market is no exception. Bourbon as a category has exploded with shelf offerings going from a handful of well known names to dozens of smaller craft distilleries.

I have in the past touched on the odd Bourbon like Blog #14 where I reviewed the Hancock Reserve. Since that blog over a year ago where the selection in the US was massive by comparison, we can now find whiskies like the Hancock available in Alberta.

As Stampede fever once again grips Calgary I felt the need to reach for smooth sweet bourbany goodness. This time around I am teasing you all a little as this whiskey will not be available in Alberta until next year.

Whistling Andy is a small distillery in Big Fork Montana. My wife and I had the pleasure of visiting the distillery years ago when they were just starting to age their whiskey. It was a fabulous trip and the hospitality put on my Mike, Dana, Lisa and Brian was outstanding. If you are planning a trip down across the border then you owe it to yourself to stop in and try everything. A warning though… their fabulous Cocktail bar will test your mettle if you try to get through them all. A great little drinking hole called the Raven is close by on the lake and boasts some fantastic local craft beer on tap and a delicious menu to pair with.

Cindy and I had a really good time in Big Fork and plan to go back on our next driving trip South.

It has been a long time coming for the release of the Whistling Andy Bourbon and when it happened it was the first ever by a Montana distillery.

So let’s delve into the whiskey shall we….

Whistling Andy hand crafted Straight Bourbon Whiskey distilled from 100% Montana grown grain. Aged in American white oak barrels with a mashbill that combines sweet Montana corn with barley, wheat and rye. Batch Number 7. Bottled at 40% ABV.

Tasted in a Samaroli Spiegelau Whisky Glass. This unique glass was custom made for the Samaroli Independent bottling company by Spiegelau and is designed to enhance the delicate and elegant side of whisky. While not especially designed for Bourbon I thought it might be an interesting glass to use on this occasion.

Colour:     Light polished copper

Nose: Cherry ripe chocolate bar, cinnamon sticks, Crunchie – (Aussie honeycomb chocolate bar) – might be what would be created with a Cherry Ripe, Crunchie combo 🙂 There is a lot going on here and the combo of wheat, rye, barley and 60% corn have done a great job in layering complexity with underlying honey sweetness – A big bowl of Honey Smacks (honey coated puffed wheat cereal available in Australia. The Samaroli glass is very easy on the nose with the wider rim and makes it fun to delve right in there. I came back around to the nose after tasting and was rewarded with custard tart which was one of my favorite small bakery treats growing up. Creamy custard in a sweet pie shell dusted with cinnamon.

Palate: Light and easy mouthfeel with definite honeycomb and vanilla fudge opening to salted caramel. The heavier rye and barley notes join in on the mid palate with a hint of cherry tart and just a wisp of sweet pipe tobacco. For a younger whiskey this already has a ton of complexity to enjoy. I can only imaging how interesting this will be with more time in cask.

Finish:  Decent length on the finish with a little more of the rye peeking in with flourishes of sweeter spices. I think that this will lengthen as their stocks spend more time aging.

Great start for Whistling Andy and a really interesting mash bill combination. The nose for me is the standout and I could spend a lot of time hovering the old schnoz in this glass.

Would love to see a 46% or better yet a cask strength version that I could play with.

If you are on the hunt for small batch craft distilled Bourbon then hold onto your white hats. This little whiskey will be visiting a store near you in 2016.