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Secret Whisky Shopper Part 1 | Blog #12

What do vacationing in Florida, Bourbon, Scotch, Rye and the Largest liquor store in Orlando have in common? They all come together as the subject for this series of blogs.

Being normally on the selling side of the whisky transaction I thought it would be fun to head into Total Wine in Orlando while on vacation with my wife Cindy. I posed as an interested consumer to see where the staff would direct me to make my purchase.

Total wine has a good reputation for knowledgable staff and an amazing selection. Having been to numerous Total Wine stores in the past I was somewhat prepared and expected a great experience.

My wife Cindy inconspicously took photos and recorded conversations while I made my way around the whisky aisle and started browsing.

To say that Total Wine has a large selection would be a gross understatement. The only thing holding retailers in the United States back is the government regulation to have 750ml bottles. This cuts out smaller United Kingdom producers that use the UK standard 700ml and are not willing to do 750ml due to additional expense and stringent labelling requirements.

The whisky aisle was long, high and imposing with a ton of whiskies that I had never seen and of course a lot that I had.

The first staff member to notice my perusing was Tony. A very nice young guy that instantly wanted to help me find the right whisky. He happily took me down the aisle pointing out a number of selections based on my criteria.

I indicated that I was looking for an interesting whisky that I had not tried before under $100 and if there were some options that would allow it that I could buy two whiskies keeping that $100 cap as a total. I mentioned that I liked Bourbon, Rye, Scotch etc. and was open to any and all suggestions. I’m sure that retailers would love an endless stream of customers like me. Open to suggestion, eager and ready to buy.

Here are the whiskies that Tony suggested.

1.        As we passed the Scotch section he pointed out a 30 year old blend called Grangestone. This is an exclusive whisky to Total Wine put together especially for them in their own packaging. It is $ 89.99 which is a really good price for a 30 year old blend and also picked up a Double Gold at the San Francisco Spirits Competition. A combination of Speyside and Highland Malts combined with Lowland Grain all 30 years or more. A very tempting bottle indeed. However, I wanted a lot more out of this journey so continued on awaiting with baited breath to Tony’s next suggestion. He didn’t really offer any more suggestions in the Scotch category and headed over to the Bourbon section.

2.        His number one choice for Bourbon was Angel’s Envy Barrel Selection. I have had the Port Pipe finish on many occasions and am a true fan of the brand. The Barrel selection was awarded 98 points in Wine Enthusiast and was $46.99. This was straight away a front runner in my bid to buy two whiskies for under $ 100 and left me intrigued as to what might change my mind and see me walking out with something else.

Upon reaching the Rye section Tony had several options that were both out of stock.

1.        Angel’s Envy Rye – limited release and apparently almost never on the shelf this Rye got 94 points with Wine Enthusiast and was $ 75.99. It was out of stock and would have been tempting as I have never tried it and I have a real soft spot for good rye.

2.        Willet Single Barrel Rye receiving 90 points from Wine Advocate and only $42.99. This was according to Tony another sought after Rye and was also conspicuous by it’s absence on the shelf.

Tony was extremely helpful and was doing a great job for Total Wine. He was definitely keen on points and accolades and gravitated towards special, popular and rarer bottlings. I wanted of course to buy everything that I couldn’t have especially the Angel’s Envy Rye.

I asked him about High West Double Rye as both of his suggestions were unavailable. He said that he had not tried it and that he would go and get the whisky expert Chris, who could potentially help me with that and perhaps give me some other suggestions.

At this point I already had some great options but wanted to press further and find out what Chris would have in store for me and if there would be any suggestions in common between the two staff.

Part 2 next week is dedicated to Chris who spent a good long time with Cindy and I and ultimately led to my purchasing decisions. I had already, before entering the store, resolved myself to buy the clear winner in price and suggestion based entirely on what the staff told me to buy. I was just hoping that they were going to sell me something yummy.

What is your favorite whisky category? Let me know in the comments.

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Accessorize Your Whisky | Blog #7

Whisky toys – More fun than you can poke a dram at…

Let’s take a step back from the more serious venture of whisky analysis and talk about some really fun toys you can acquire to have in your whisky sandbox.

1.     Ice – the topic of blog #5 comes in all shapes and sizes and you too can have some really funky “cubes” ready for that Summer Dram party.

I myself am a self confessed nerd and love a good Sci-Fi flick. Check out these top fun designer ice cube trays. Nothing would get conversation going like some of these. Hmmm which dram would best suit being poured over the Death Star…

Coolest Ice Trays

2.     Whisky Stones – So you want something in your glass but you don’t want it melting and watering down your whisky. Whisky stones have been around for a while and can provide the Summertime refreshing chill without the melt. There are some issues however that a lot of people seem to find. You need multiple stones to have a noticeable effect on the whisky which makes the glass pretty heavy. They tend to slide into your teeth if you have more than 2 stones in your glass. They can pick up freezer burn type tastes if you don’t wash them regularly enough and this can definitely add unwanted flavor to a whisky. However if you are willing to wash them diligently they can really work well for some whiskies and you will have to play around to see for yourself. If you are the patient kind then give them a go. If you have been a “known” whisky geek for a while then you probably already have received them as gifts.

3.    Fun Fake Ice – LED glowing ice cubes can be a really fun way to be the Uber nerd in the whisky crowd at your next tasting event 🙂 – If you don’t have a novelty store close by you can use this link to E-bay.

4.   Cool glassware – When not tasting out of your beloved Glencairn, Reidel or Speigelau whisky glass how about one of these fun options.

Blade Runner (Sci-Fi geek coming out again) whisky tumbler would be on my Christmas list.

The Spin & Swirl Glass: It looks cool and gives you something to play with in between sips.

There is no doubt that the more you get into whisky the more it can become a pretty decent passion taking up a good amount of time and money. Why not make it fun as well to counterbalance all those serious contemplative tastings.

The next time you have a whisky gathering or club meet how about cranking it up a notch by seeing who can bring the coolest whisky accessory.

Post your links to other fun whisky gadgets or if you have the ultimate Whisky man-cave send in a photo.

Next week we will be looking at specific glassware and doing a comparative tasting with the same whisky to see the differences.

Until then – have tons of fun!

“somebody stop me”

Jonathan Bray