Category Archives: Single Cask Nation

Whisky Jewbilee 2014 Recap

Whisky Jewbilee 2014You may have noticed I disappeared from the blog for three months. I hate when that happens. Blog silence is like nails on chalkboard to me. It seems like this just happened, too.

Truth is, when I saw this year’s new venue for the Whisky Jewbilee, I was so excited that I funded a time travel experiment to get there faster… and it worked! I didn’t have to wait to go to the show!

So you may see the large gaps between postings here and begin to think that I don’t take whisky blogging very seriously, but I assure you, on the contrary, I take everything I do, very, very seriously.

(1658). Beaver. Topsell's The History of Four-footed Beasts and Serpents Woodcuts. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries.

Like my blog, this beaver is completely fucking serious.

But the real reason I haven’t posted in so long is cool enough that it doesn’t actually need a sarcastic cover story. I passed clumsily through allergy season and then joyfully into a mild barbecue season. So, in the beginning, it was pollen and delicious pecan smoke taking up all the free smelling-abilities which I usually allot to whisky. Then, there was a quick vacation to Vermont. My wife and I did some hiking. I built a chicken coop for fun and we bought some chickens. I did a lot of stuff, and most importantly, I recharged.

We all hope to return from our sabbaticals with new inspiration and the ability to become better than we were when we left, so it’s fitting that donning the press pass for the 2014 Whisky Jewbilee would serve as my reintroduction; admirably, the Jewish Whisky Company’s show just gets better and better every time it comes back.

blending class view from the penthouse

View of WTC 1 from the penthouse

This time we trekked out to the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, first, for a pre-show hands-on blending demonstration by High West’s David Perkins. The Jewish Whisky Company also collaborated with Perkins for this year’s festival bottling, a blended whisky assembled from punchy, 6 year old rye; stony, 8 year old Bourbon; and buttery, 11 year old light whisky. Attendees to the blending class were given samples of the three components and got to play with measured beakers, pipettes and water, attempting to create their own blend.

blending kitI wished I had 50 more beakers, as once I started to play with the ingredients, it became clear that, even with only three whiskies, there were far too many variables for me to approach it, methodically. I settled on a cask strength 8:7:1 blend of rye, Bourbon, light whisky.

While I walked away feeling like I knew even less about blending than I did when we started, the wisdom Perkins shared was actually very enlightening. Attendees left with the knowledge, all of the equipment, and the leftover whisky, so it was also possible to play around with blending at home. I was especially excited to take home the sample of cask strength light whisky, a spirit that almost never sees the market undiluted and unblended… though I should mention, you can plan to see a cask strength light whisky from the Single Cask Nation very soon, and membership costs just went down to a very affordable $36.

The tasting portion of the show started a few hours later. Some of the spiritual event goers were wearing sparkly, branded yarmulkes they picked up at Highland Park’s table, but my wife noticed that many people in the crowd were also wearing tassels around the bottoms of their shirts. At one point in the night, she leaned over to a complete stranger and asked about them. The man she asked happened to be a rabbi and explained that they were called Tzitzit and that it was commanded in the Torah to wear them. He then went on to explain that Judaism is steeped in ritual, and that to him, the tassels formed a frame. This gesture was just one of the ways he remained mindful, every morning; preparing a frame for himself, a spiritual mindset through which he would choose to view the world. It didn’t matter if there was a reason, it was the act of reverently acting out the intention. That put a surprisingly Buddhist spin on what was already shaping up to be a very zen experience.

Elijah Craig 23 yearLike the conversation, the hypnotic, white-everything decor of the venue framed the whisky brilliantly. The space was comfortable and inviting. This was one of the most relaxing shows I’ve ever been to, and while I would guess a lot of the mellow vibe had to do with the visual environment, it would be criminal to neglect the smartly capped attendance and the neighborly crowd.

Back to the spirits, the night was a whirlwind of delicious whiskies. The Hibiki 21 was a divine meeting with the buxom goddess, Asherah, eating a plum. The port-finished blend of ryes titled A Midwinter Night’s Dram, was a prophetic glimpse of a product you can only buy at High West’s Utah distillery. A single barrel Bourbon bottler from Connecticut offered the crowd a few bottles of their first batch of unfiltered, cask-strength, Barrell [sic] Bourbon. Highland Park’s 15 year old, buttery, ex-Bourbon release, the falcon-cloaked goddess Freya, made an appearance. A celestial, Bowmore 25 year, Purple Valley Imports’ Blackadder Raw Cask 23 year Strathmill, and the Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel made it hard to choose which whiskies to taste then dump, and which to enjoy. The Heaven Hill table had my favorite American whiskies at the last show and kept the tradition alive this year with an Elijah Craig 23 year old.

Le Nez Du Whisky

There was also a really cool nosing kit set up, called Le Nez du Whisky, with four different aromas set out to try and guess. These kinds of kits are great (if you can afford them) to test your abilities. Even if you don’t drink whisky, nosing things is a fun way to learn to be more mindful and sharpen your perceptions. Of course, nothing beats smelling real world examples of things, but making it easy to test yourself by consolidating the aromas like this is really cool.

Mark Gillespie and I

Enjoying a quick conversation with Mark Gillespie

Of course, for the die-hard whisky fans, the show didn’t stop at the whisky. There are always loads of industry people to chat with. Among the local and itinerant whisky nobility this year, I met WhiskyCast’s resident Malt Maniac, Mark Gillespie. G-Lo, Limpd and WCO from It’s Just the Booze Dancing; Joshua Gershon Feldman, from The Coopered Tot; and Stephen from The Malt Imposter, all made appearances, too.

As I said before, the Whisky Jewbilee gets better each year, but still, it’s hard to imagine getting much better than this. I’m already excited for next June. Cheers!

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Whisky Jewbilee 2013 Recap

Whisky Jewbilee Logo

We came in a few minutes early to get our press passes, and before we knew it we were surrounded by hundreds of ambassadors and aficionados alike, caught up in whirlwind of whisky, kippahs, food and cigars. It was a three hour jaunt through some of the best offerings the market had to offer, and before I knew it, it was over. People poured out into the streets beneath a purple-lit Empire State Building and a cool mist that held off until the very end, dizzy from the sheer volume of new experiences they left with. Time flies when you’re having fun and this was an amazing event. Kudos to the Jewish Whisky Company on a job well-done!

BenRiach Dark Rum Finish       Arran Devils Punchbowl II

The hard work and affable personalities of the company’s founders, Joshua, Jason and Seth, guaranteed a good show. These guys are very easy to talk to and clearly love the work they’re doing here. Though, the other half of their success was timing and opportunity.

Last year, the nationwide goliath, WhiskyFest, moved their event from a Tuesday to Friday. This year they followed suit by expanding the show to Saturday, as well. The move prevented a large population of Jewish locals from attending, leaving an opportunity for the three to throw their own event for those observing Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, which commits observers to rest from sunset Friday to Saturday night. This was their second year throwing the event, and it looks like they have the momentum to keep going strong for a third.

Four Roses LE 2012       Laphroaig QA Cask

So Thursday morning, my wife and I drove to the city, met up with the bloggers from The Coopered Tot, It’s Just the Booze Dancing, SmokyBeast, What Tastes Good, and Whisky Lassie for Elevenses, Luncheon and Afternoon Tea. We loaded up at Keen’s Steak House and shared a few laughs under the pipe strewn ceiling before hurrying off into the night. Those are all great blogs you should check out, by the way.

Parkers Heritage Promise of Hope       Compass Box Delilah

At the show, Auchentoshan and Glen Garioch took their Virgin Oak releases for a test ride. Heaven Hill had a great line-up that included their highly sought after Elijah Craig 21 year and Barrel Proof releases along with the Parker’s Heritage Promise of Hope. Four Roses had a few hidden goodies, including their much lauded 2012 Limited Edition. Wemyss brought a beeeautiful 30 yr Coal Ila titled Heathery Smoke. Highland Park brought some Loki to share. Glengoyne’s heavily sherried 21 year, Tomintoul’s sweet and malty Reserve 31 year, Canadian distiller Still Waters’ Stalk and Barrel, the not-yet-here-in-the-US Miyagikyo, there were so many noteworthy spirits in attendance it’s unreasonable to list them all.

Outside there was a cigar lounge. There was food, too, but I was too busy looking for top-shelf whisky to really notice. Judging by the mob of hungry festival goers attacking the tables I’d say it must have been really good. I think I even saw friend chicken skin at one point. How awesome is that?!

Highland Park Loki       St-George English Single Malt

Among my favorite whiskies for the night were Arran’s The Devil’s Punchbowl Chapter II. Like the movie Alien, I’m not sure it needed a sequel, but it definitely got one worth the franchise.

Of course the Single Cask Nation’s festival bottling of a 15 year Heaven Hill was amazing, too, though I had been privy to a sampling before the show so my readers already knew my opinion on that one. You’ll be glad to know, I didn’t nunchuck one single person in the face to get to the table to sign up for a bottle. I walked, very patiently, over to the sign-up list without incident. Yay, self control! I’m not a terrible human after all!!!

Laphroaig’s travel retail exclusive QA Cask was also mighty delicious. I think not being able to find a bottle anywhere definitely makes a spirit more covetable, but Laphroaig’s effort here is definitely a worthy one whether it was easy to find or not. This one was hiding in “the welly”.

BenRiach’s dark rum finish was also on the top of my list. BenRiach finished this one in Jamaican ex-rum casks for around 3-4 years. The spirit actually came out of the cask lighter in color than it went in, and though my camera didn’t really capture it, the spirit took on a strange, light-green tinged hue.

Stalk and Barrel       Allison Patel Brenne

Finally, I’d be remiss to not mention Allison Patel’s label Brenne: French single malt matured in virgin oak and finished in ex-cognac casks. This whisky tastes like Nerds-crusted candy corn in a box of Luden’s cherry cough drops. Amazing!!! This is gateway whisky, dangerously delicious stuff, and I’m excited to see where this brand ends up in a few years. At the moment, Brenne is poised to be on shelves in over 30 states by December, so keep your eyes peeled!

I’d like to thank the Jewish Whisky Company for inviting me and all the brand ambassadors for giving me an opportunity to try so many awesome spirits. Cheers!

Heaven Hill Line Up

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Single Cask Nation Dalmore 12yr and Condensed Grapefruit Cereal

SCN-Dalmore-PairingThis Single Cask Nation release spent 12 years in a refill Bourbon hoggie and then 10 months finishing up in a luscious PX cask. It is cask strength, but the proof dropped down to a very unusual 92 proof (46.1%). Barrel proof usually goes up in places where the barrels are hot, like Kentucky, because alcohol molecules are bigger than water molecules; when the barrels heat up and become pressurized in the summer, more water squeezes out between the wood pores than alcohol. However, unimpeded by wood, alcohol wants to evaporate faster than water, so in damp and cool places like Scotland, the proof goes down slightly because there’s lot of water in the air already and there’s not as much pressure ejecting it from the barrel.

The anomaly makes for one bizarre spirit. It’s like a well-stocked produce department with a smashed up handful of Fig Newtons drenched in molasses and cherry cola. Taking my nose out of the glass, the world smells like a magazine, one with all those perfume samples in them. It’s sharp, sweet and woody, a challenging whisky, so rather than taking notes and reviewing this one, I figured I would toss things up, test my mettle, and post a recipe to pair with it, instead.

This recipe is inspired by Christina Tosi’s work at Momofuku Milk Bar in NYC. Sweetened condensed grapefruit and cornflake crunch are two toppings she uses in other applications, but I’ve modified the recipes here to make them easier to prepare, and postured them as a bowl of breakfast cereal. Feel free to try replacing the grapefruit with concord grape juice or even a dose of Pedro Ximemez sherry if you’re feeling adventurous. Both would compliment this whisky very well!

Pairing whisky with sweets can be hazardous if you’re not careful, but in this case, the woody qualities of the Dalmore could really use a nice confection to balance them out. The sweet cherry, and spicy cola balance with tart grapefruit and rich, crunchy cereal, while the creaminess of the condensed milk coats your mouth to make sure all the flavors can play nice. It’s a very simple recipe, as well, which can be prepared a few days in advance for convenience.

Condensed Grapefruit Cereal

  • 225g (3/4 cup) sweetened condensed milk
  • 60g (4 Tbl) white grapefruit juice
  • 2g (1/2 tsp) kosher salt
  • 2g (1/2 tsp) citric acid
  • 2 drops red food coloring
  • 85g (1/4 of a 12 oz box) cornflakes
  • 40g (1/2 cup) milk powder
  • 40g (3 Tbl) granulated sugar
  • 4g (1 tsp) kosher salt
  • 1 stick (8 Tbl) melted butter
  1. In a small pot over medium heat reduce grapefruit juice to 2 Tablespoons.
  2. Mix juice with salt and citric acid and stir until dissolved.
  3. Fold well into sweetened condensed milk and reserve in airtight container in the refrigerator to set.
  4. Preheat oven to 250*F.
  5. Mix milk powder, salt and sugar. Set aside.
  6. Lightly crush corn flakes.
  7. Toss corn flakes with butter, then with dry milk mix, and spread on parchment lined baking sheet.
  8. Bake 15 minutes (check after 10 and stop when flakes start to change color). Cool and store in airtight container until ready to use.
  9. Spoon a dollop of grapefruit mix into glass and top with cooled cornflakes mix.
  10. Serve with Single Cask Nation’s Dalmore 12yr PX finish and enjoy!

Thank you, Jason Johnstone-Yellin from Single Cask Nation, for the sample!

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Single Cask Nation – Glen Moray – 12yr (56.1%)

SCN Glen MorayThis single malt spent all twelve years in a first-fill ex-Bourbon cask, one which only 148 bottles escaped from, so hurry up! For scale, if you bought one bottle for everyone that works at your local supermarket there very likely wouldn’t be any left.

Glen Moray is considered an economy brand in the official bottle, but it has lots of potential, as illustrated by frequent indie bottlings like this. It’s image as a low cost blending constituent may have had something to do with why it’s previous owner, Glenmorangie, sold it to another French blending house in 2008. I haven’t had any of their official bottlings yet, but judging by this single cask, it’s also possible that they were actually too similar to Glenmorangie and the effort it would have taken to flush out Glen Moray into a luxury brand wouldn’t have added a new dimension to their portfolio.

If you’d like to sample all the Single Cask Nation releases you’ll have a chance to on October 9th and 10th at the Whisky Jewbilee. They have Designated Driver tickets available for $35 now; a commendable offering, in case you don’t feel safe piloting yourself home. That modest cost feeds your driver, and for those of you who don’t want to go stag, it can make it much easier to entice some of your non-whisky friends to join you. If you use the code H2DW13 in the promo code box you can 10% off of your general admission ticket, too!

They will have a new, extremely-limited bottle available at the event, one which will likely sell out quickly: SCN’s first ever Bourbon bottling: a high rye, high proof Heaven Hill. Joshua Hatton was kind enough to share a tiny sip with me at a tasting, and let’s just say I’ll be at the door early and may or mat not be wielding nunchucks to clear the way between me and the list. Check out the crazy awesome label!

SCN Heaven Hill Label

There were only 146 bottles of this awesome Glen Moray, to start. There aren’t even 100 of the Heaven Hill, but getting back to the Glen Moray…

Nose: Lush red grape skins baking in the sun are the first thing that comes to mind. Next streams of honey liqueur and dried apricots. It’s incredibly fruity with light strawberry air-freshener, that yellow melon I always forget the name of and juicy, papaya-drenched malt over a little bit of toffee. Eventually it transitions to sweet cedar.

Palate: Hot, as expected, but not as drying upfront. Mixed berries speed by too quickly to identify. Shark Bites fruit snacks wrapped in fresh grape leaves with a sprinkle of cayenne. A tint bit of pear with a bright, refreshing Honeydew (A-ha!) finish that sticks around.

Rating: Highly RecommendAnother very special offering from the Single Cask Nation. Thank you, Jason Johnstone-Yellin, for the sample!

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Single Cask Nation – Laphroaig – 6yr (57.8%)

SCN LaphroaigAs previously discussed here, the Single Cask Nation is a member’s only club for buying single-cask whisky. Why pay to join a club just to buy whisky? It’s an honest question, but not hard to justify at all.

Aside from having access to the unique casks that clubs like these offer, casks chosen by folks who really dig awesome whisky, you get your money’s worth in liquor and merchandise almost immediately. There are other, well-known clubs that cost twice as much and only send you half as much whisky for joining, but the guys over here at the Jewish Whisky Company aren’t messing around.

Even better, now, unlike the first wave of founding members, you won’t have to wait an inordinate amount of time for your whisky to arrive. The earliest members waited for quite a while for the Jewish Whisky Company to iron out all the preliminary details. There was a bottling fiasco and a few, difficult economic decisions along the way. The bureaucracy around alcohol is grueling, and the logistics of shipping from overseas (and even within the country) demanding, but you won’t have to wait for that to sort itself out, now. There are six whiskies available that won’t make you want to stab your eyes out waiting for them.

But enough shilling for the Single Cask Nation. This Laphroaig, as Co-founder and President Joshua would say, is a stunner. It’s unusually clean for a Laphroaig. It’s 1 of only 269 bottles, and matured in a refill ex-Bourbon cask. It’s gentle and especially sweet for such a young malt. This would be a great gateway Laphroaig if it were available in larger numbers, but sucks to be you, it’s not. That’s just a part of the beautiful impermanence that is monocaskism.

Nose: Smoked corn chowder and wafts of fresh Autumn air. Bright and sweet like a floral latex glove or the waiting room at a dentist’s office. None of the classic Laphroaig paper mill but it still has a gentle iodine coupled with light caramel. Pecan wood chips, hints of nutmeg, and #2 graphite round out the nose.

Palate: Sweet sage-laced cigarettes. Candied tarragon and pineapple. It has a hot and sweet streak, then firm pecans with a nice, warming, vapor finish that sticks around. Clean peat and a tangy finish with echoes of Super Golden Crisp cereal.

Rating: RecommendedHow about a peat packed punch? Can’t get enough Super Golden Crisp. It’s got the crunch with punch. 

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