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Singlemalting Blog # 161 – Doin it Big in Texas

It’s amazing how so much comes back around in this industry and so it was over 6 years ago that I last visited the Lone Star State of Texas and this time at the helm of my own company with a case full of Secret Spirits goodies and some Texans to talk to.
Gary Clark an Edinburgh born Texan has pretty much been there and done everything in the alcohol industry but his real love lies with whisky and so I knew I was in great hands. Airport to hotel and then straight to “The Man Cave” a South Houston Cigar lounge that was hosting Gary and Brian Devorik of Impex to pour the range of Tamdhu and Kilchoman Single Malts for the whisky club crowd that were coming in to get their taste on.
The Man Cave
Lets head inside
A quick stop on the way for Texas BBQ and a plate full of smoked Brisket did me the world of good. I was along for the ride to chat with club members, taste some whisky and of course support The Man Cave by having a cigar (if I have too). I ended up going for a My Fathers….. which was a great smoke and went really well funnily enough with both the Tamdhu Cask Strength Sherry and also the Single Batch Kilchoman sherry. Some really tasty whisky, cigar combo action going down for my first night in Texas.
Deja vu reigns supreme as I travel into the US now visiting stores and meeting people that I have seen and talked whisky with before. It was very encouraging to be met with such enthusiasm about what is for everyone in the US a brand new concept. Along the way Gary was always keen to drop into his go to spots to showcase a local Texan treat like Tex Mex Fajitas that were absolutely awesome and a triple smoked pastrami sandwich that was so big I had to eat half of it for lunch and the other half for dinner. I think you are getting the picture here that I love trying the local specialties and meeting like minded whisky and rum lovers.
The 35 degrees every day made it much like my former home (Australia) and so I was really soaking up the ambiance and recharging my Summer batteries. There were some great independent stores visited along with one of the largest Chains in the state so fingers crossed Texans everywhere will be able to get their hands on our fun brands this year.
Thanks Brian for the Ashton Churchill it was excellent and thanks Gary for being such a great host and showing me the dining ropes in Houston. I’m really looking forward to heading back to the market with some whisky to pour after our launch later this year.
Whisky brings people together from so many backgrounds and cultures and it is so fun as an Australian/Canadian to be tagging along with a Scot/Texan and a Jewish/Illinois combo to sell great whisky and rum.
Thanks again boys it was a great time. Look forward to cracking some whisky when I am down there next.

Jewbilee | Blog # 85

Off to the Windy City (Chicago) for my first ever whisky Jewbilee as a guest of the Jewish Whisky Club, Jason, Joshua and Seth.

One of the fun opportunities in putting together the Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar this year was the inclusion of a whisky from these guys and to help launch the Single Cask Nation club in Canada.

Spending 3 days in Chicago is always an exciting prospect. When you add a whisky event like Jewbilee and a chance to spend time with some really quality guys that just love to get their whisky geek on well lets just say that I have been looking forward to this trip for a long time.

Chicago put on an amazing day of fall weather for our arrival and Cindy and I took full advantage wandering the length of Michigan Avenue and taking in the sights.

No trip to Chicago is complete without some Italian and our dinner experience at Volare was awesome. Despite the restaurant being packed we were treated with personal care and seated as fast as humanly possible. Creamy chicken risotto along with fresh pasta topped with black truffle really made the wait worth it. An extensive Italian wine list gave us plenty of yummy options and even after a bottle was unfortunately corked, a fresh glass of Barbaresco was quickly delivered with a touch more added for good measure.

Rounding off the whole amazing evening was in house Limoncello. Thanks Volare for such a great evening. A leisurely walk back to the hotel and whisky dreams of the coming Jewbilee.

Started 3 years ago in New York Jewbilee has grown from 150 to a maximum cap of 450. The Chicago version was the inaugural event and the 4th Jewbilee. Every event warrants it’s own bottling that is only available to Single Cask Nation members and those attending the festival. I promise a review of this extremely rare whisky in the coming weeks.

On show at the Chicago Jewbilee was an array of whiskies from all over the world. Small local producers like Koval had some mind blowing whiskies on offer, how many of you out there have had 100% Millet whiskey? I spent a lot of time at the Koval table.

Keeping the number of consumers to a reasonable limit meant that everyone was able to have great conversation with each table and really delve into the story behind the whiskey/y.

Being careful to sip and dump, Cindy and I were able to get around and try a large array of delicious drops. The other most notable table was manned by Jason with a host of Single Cask nation bottlings. We are very excited that the Nation has officially come to Canada (Alberta). Everyone buying or receiving the 2nd Edition Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar will not only taste their first Single Cask Nation Whisky but also find all the details they need to become part of this exclusive club.

While Jason was working hard pouring all things Nation for the Jewbilee whisky goers Joshua was wandering the aisles shmoozing and making sure that everyone was having a great time.

Salvage One was a really interesting venue loaded with amazing items from times past. It set such a great backdrop for the event and will no doubt be the regular venue for years to come.

Get ready Canada because the Nation is coming. The first whisky has already landed and will be available to the first new members soon. In Edmonton the ambassador store is Unwined that has two locations, downtown and St Albert. In Calgary the ambassador store is Point McKay Wines and Spirits.

Head on over to Single Cask Nation to check out all the goodies and send off an email to Jason and Joshua at info@singlecasknation.com to get full details on the Canadian memberships.

Next week as promised the Jewbilee bottling will be tasted and dissected. I know this is a teaser as you will not be able to get a bottle unless you a) join the Nation and then b) head to the US and arrange to get one from Jason or Joshua.

Our evil plan is to eventually have a Canadian Jewbilee in Alberta which would be more fun than you could throw a kippah at.


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.