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Singlemalting # 196 – Magnificent Bastard? Why yes I am.

G’day everyone and welcome to the fun tale of my visit to meet Daniel and Rex of the Whiskey Tribe. I have had several trips to Texas this year as we at Secret Spirits continue to work hard to bring delicious adventures to deserving folk in the US. It was on one of these trips that I had the absolute pleasure of visiting the newly minted Crowded Barrel Distillery.  Getting a secret tour of The Vault up in the Wizards Academy tower and learning all about the Whiskey Tribe was an added bonus.

Wizards Tower

Firstly having seen a lot of their Whiskey Tribe videos I have to say that I really resonate with how much fun Daniel and Rex have in and around all forms of whisk(e)y. The world needs more fun and adventure and these guys offer it in spades.

View from the Wizards Tower

The Wizard Academy is a not for profit university style campus in Austin Texas and helps entepreneurs and businesses of all sizes to delve into the world of marketing and more. There is a wedding chapel that provides an amazing free space for couples from all over to tie the knot. Now a brand new distillery to help fuel Daniel and Rex’s passion for great whisk(e)y is up and running.

The attention to detail that Roy Williams the visionary behind this space has put into the campus experience is amazing. The amount of inspirational artwork and design are everywhere. My personal favorite is the hilt of a sword that perpetually points to the North Star at the top of the tower. You look up from a below sea level trench cut into the Texas bedrock that ties into the old man and the sea display behind you. This would be a fantastic place to learn while getting creative juices flowing.

Boys at the Fang & Feather opening day
Fang & Feather

Daniel escorted me through a tour of the tower where every different floor is a unique experience. The ultimate room however was the Whisk(e)y Vault. You gain entrance through a secret book case doorway and step into a world of whisky donation wonder. Every whisk(e)y in the room is sent to the vault by people from all over the world and Daniel and Rex work tirelessly to review every one of them.

 

I know how much time and energy is required to consistently keep putting good content out there and engage the whisky faithful that are always thirsty for more cool stuff. Well done Daniel and Rex you have created something very special that has enhanced the whisky experience for thousands. What a fantastic whisky achievement.

My wife Cindy and I checked out the Fang and Feather bar attached to the distillery to try the first bottling releases of Eleanor Bourbon that is only available on site. Next time I am in Texas I am going to have to grab one if there are any left as they were just getting the bottling going when we were there. It was the first official day that the distillery and bar was open so we felt very privileged to be able to share it all.

Eleanor Bourbon

This month (August 25th) they had their grand opening celebrations. Wish we could have been there for that as I know that great whisky flowed and a lot of fun likeminded magnificent bastards attended.

Daniel one Magnificent Bastard

To you Gentlemen may your MB Tribe grow in leaps and bounds.

Cheers

Jonathan

Whisky Vault

Singlemalting Whisky Blog # 160 – Wigle Wigle

On my recent trip to the US I had the pleasure of travelling to some amazing whisky retailers in the Eastern States and happened upon a bottle of Wigle Organic Rye.
Having not reviewed an organic whiskey before and with some high praise from Jacob at The Old Wise Dog in Connecticut this was a no brainer.
Wigle Distillery is a small distillery in Pennsylvania (the first state to produce Bourbon) that uses heritage organic grains that they mill on site. They have an outstanding reputation for attention to detail and doing it right from start to finish.
Pronounced why-gl (not wiggle) I was initially told about this distillery by a good friend of mine who’s last name happens to be the same. So as it happens I also brought back a bottle for him so that he can drink a delicious Bourbon with his name on the label.
Wigle Deep Cut Organic Rye Whiskey
So lets get into the whiskey. Bottled at the cask strength of 57.5 and aged for 14 months only in a small charred new American oak casks. Made in small batches my bottle is from batch 17 that was bottled on the 30th October 2016. Tasted in my SWAC 1st edition Spiegelau whisky tumbler. Distilled in a copper pot still.
All the details you could want by hand.
Colour:   Really deep red giving a big clue as to the amount of charring those wee barrels received to allow for maximum whiskey/barrel penetration.
Nose:    Rye and lots of it with the cask strength not really asserting how much alcohol the label tells me is present. This nose is exciting with a real richness to the spice load that makes me think the Heirloom Rye grains used here could hold more flavor than I have experienced in rye before. Lets see if the palate holds up.
Palate:   This hits me as being all rye with some lovely bitter notes intertwined with just a mass of heavy spices. The alcohol while there only adds to the big punch this whiskey has. Despite the largess of the spice there is a lightness about the delivery on the tongue that has me picking out some more delicate chocolate and toffee notes. Big and oily.
Finish:  There is a juicy Rye bitterness that runs through the finish that I think makes this a dram for a mature Rye whiskey palate. The high ABV just dries it all out a touch leaving some citrus zest and an oh so lingering knowledge that you just got spanked a little but in a good way.
Not a rye for the faint of heart it “cuts deep” to the heart of why Rye is such a cool grain. There should be more big Rye expressions like this at high ABV so that we can experience the truly untamed beast that is Rye whiskey.
This is going to make some cocktails that my wife will be very happy about 🙂 and I can’t wait to put it alongside some Connecticut wrapped cigars this Summer.
Wigle Whiskey is not yet available in Canada that I am aware of but if you are in the Eastern US you owe it to yourself to seek out any of their bottles.
I just love hand crafted small batch whiskey and Wigle are right up there for what I have tasted from the US in the past few years.
We will be getting our rum on again next time as Father’s Day looms and the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise cranks out for the last time.
Cheers
Singlemalting

A Stampede Rendezvous | Blog #17

It’s the second day of Summer and my first opportunity to sit out on the deck and relax over a nice pipe and whiskey. What a great setting to put pen to paper for this weeks Blog.

With Stampede, Canada’s Premier Outdoor event starting in just over a week everyone starts donning those old cowboy boots and getting into the swing of all things Western.

Indeed my attention has been very Stampede focused of late with the launch of a new range of wines for PVI. Silver Buckle from Rutherford Wines in California has great upscale Cowboy appeal and is going to be featured by the glass at all the Stampede on-site restaurants. So grab a glass when you are down getting your Stampede on.

As a lover of whisky, I am also very partial to good wine and beer – call me an equal opportunity drinker. Perhaps in the future I might deviate from non-stop whisky to throw in the odd wine or fabulous pint. Especially over the Summer where my daily dram often makes way for a mixed drink, frothy pint or chilled Rose.

Today my attention is drawn to a very Stampedesque Whisky that hails from the good old US of A.

Rendezvous Rye made by High West Distillery in Park City Utah has an absolute litany of awards including:

*94 points Wine Advocate
*95 points Malt Advocate Magazine
*Double Gold Medal San Francisco International Spirits Competition

“Rendezvous” was an annual Summer gathering for exchanging goods of all kinds including whiskey for Utah’s mountain men from 1825 to 1840.

Made from a combination of Malted and unmalted Rye and by combining two Straight Rye Whiskies one 6 years old with an extremely high Rye Mashbill of 95% Rye and 5% Barley. The second a 16 year old Rye with 80% Rye, 10% corn and 10% barley.

Tasted in a Spiegelau Whisky Tumbler.

46% non chill filtered – Lovely deep amber colour with reddish hues.

Nose:
Competing with the fresh air of the backyard and blossoming Lilac tree Rendezvous was still offering up layers of spice and sweet vanilla. Rye is such a distinctive whiskey. I love the spice and am even more pleased to find an expression such as this that throws in such a hefty percentage. I can get undertones of almost smokey sweetness like a pan of sweet BBQ ribs just thrown onto the grill.

Palate:
Rich spice and a lovely tingle that dances over the palate and gets the buds well into Stampede party mode. For such a high rye content the whisky is still adept at reigning in the runnaway spice and drinks much like the image on the label with the Cowboy balanced in the saddle making his way across the range in no particular hurry.

The finish: Long and continues to insert tiny explosions of lingering spice with loads of complexity.

This is a delicious drink and would be equally at home in an outstanding Manhattan or splashed with something like Fentiman’s Ginger Beer for a slightly different Dark and Stormy.

Ever since skiing down to the High West Distillery, removing my ski’s and parking myself in their award winning restaurant for the remainder of the day, I have been somewhat smitten with how well they do things in Park City.

David Perkins makes some really fun drink and I highly recommend that if you are ever close to Park City that you owe it to yourself to check out the full High West experience.

For those interested my pipe is a Lorenzetti with some lovely Brigham Ripley Avenue Anniversary Blend. Brown and Black Cavendish with a touch of bright Virginias. Smells like Christmas cake and the sweet spice complements the whiskey extremely well. Picked up from my good friend Alex at Golden Leaf Cigars in Crowfoot, Calgary.

Write in and let me know what you will be doing this Stampede if you are in Calgary. If not let me know what your Summer dram of choice is. I look forward to hearing from you.

Next week, we have a special guest blogger that I have a tremendous amount of respect for. He’s both insightful and full of whisky knowledge through many many years of tasting and reviewing whisky.

Until then get your cowboy on and join in on the Stampede fun.

Yippee ki-yay!

Jonathan

Secret Whisky Shopper Part 2 | Blog #13

Why does a Scot always instantly command respect when the topic of whisky comes up? Firstly, the accent, it sounds as though they have had a few drams already and are speaking from field tested experience. Secondly, given that the Scots have been making whisky for longer than anyone, except the Irish, they deserve the recognition.

If you haven’t read part 1 of this series, check it out here

Tony, true to his word brought Chris over and gave him a quick summary of my needs. Chris, a Scottish infiltrator into the US, has been working for Total Wine for a while in multiple cities. Chris jumped into the opportunity with both hands, He quickly and enthusiastically engaged me with confidence and knowledge.

1st Category Scotch

Like leading a horse to water and forcing it to drink. Taking a Scot into the Scotch section is pretty much going to be a done deal. They will try hard to sell you something from the homeland.

Chris straight away showcased the Shieldaig 18 year old (Speyside). This brand is exclusive to Total Wine. It is bottled at 40% and while Chris did not mention either Chill Filtration or Caramel, I suspect that there is a little of both involved. At $39.99 for an 18 year old Single Malt, it is to be expected that it needs to be 40% for sheer economy of scale and part and parcel of that ABV is chill filtration.

92 points Wine Enthusiast and a Gold Medal at the San Francisco Spirits Competition give it a decent pedigree. For the purposes of my shopping experience the $39.99 price tag was certainly putting it right up there as a front runner and peaking my interest.

Given that Tony’s Grangestone 30 year old blend suggestion was $89.99 & Chris’s Sheildaig 18 was $39.99, I already had a leaning due to an agenda to buy two bottles. Chris then also worked to swing my decision with a slightly personal bias against blends. I can sympathize as a lot of the mainstream inexpensive blends can be somewhat harsh and decidedly inferior to most Single Malts. Having said that however, older grain whiskies can be magical and premium blends with higher Malt percentages can be exceptional. With Single Malt stocks at risk due to market demand these premium blends will become the way of the future for affordable Scotch.

I asked Chris in a lighthearted way if he was pushing me towards a Scotch as a true Scotsman should. He smiled and promised me that he would show me some other delicious whiskies as he bustled me over to the Bourbons to show me just how multi-whisky skilled he was.

2nd Category Bourbon

The first Bourbon Chris suggested was the Hancock’s Single Barrel Reserve. 89 points in Wine Enthusiast for $38.99. Chris had a lot of good things to say about this whiskey. I asked him about the Willet Bourbon as a possibility but he came back to the Hancock on value and balance. I am a big sucker for a balanced whiskey so he had unknowingly lifted the Hancock up to the top of the pile with just that one comment.

The second Bourbon option was Chestnut Farms. Receiving a Double Gold at the San Fran Competition, it looked to be a very interesting option. I actually had it in my hand at one point and at $47.99 it would still work within the 2 bottles for under $100 ceiling.

3rd Category Rye

Rye finally got its due and is one of my favorite styles of whisky. I just love all things spicy and Rye scratches that itch for me.

The first suggestion from Chris in this section was Darby’s Reserve, at $21.99 it seemed like a really good deal. I was not convinced however and in this instance really wanted the best whiskey I could find closer to the $50 mark. I pretty much dismissed this option as soon as it was offered.

Chris also suggested the WIllet Rye Single Barrel which Tony had also done. This made it even more frustrating that there was none in stock. This is a great sales pitch though as it made me want to come back and buy it when it was. A good way to get me back to the store and to begin to build a loyal customer. Good work from both Tony and Chris on this one. 90 points in Whisky Advocate this Rye quickly disappears on the shelf and they had no date for a re-stock. One to look for in the future. $42.99 seems like a bargain.

I also asked Chris about the High West Double Rye and his take on it was that it was too spicy … is that possible 🙂 which put it out of balance. I had to quietly disagree with Chris a little on this one as the 16 year old portion of the Double Rye really does smooth out the spice and leave a lingering balanced finish. But I could see his point as the younger 2 year old does light up the palate with a big spicy intro. Always interesting to get someone else to give you their palate experience on a whisky you personally like. Sometimes the very things you like about it are the same things that causes them to dislike it.

So next week the decisions will be revealed along with tasting notes on the first whisky.

Let me know about a great retail experience that you have had in the past 12 months.

I look forward to talking whisky with you then.

Cheers!

Jonathan