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Why You Should Buy Tanqueray's New Old Tom Gin

This week, Tanqueray drinkers will find a new bottling on the shelf next to the familiar green bottle of London Dry: the distillery's spin on an Old Tom Gin, a once-extinct liquor that's poised to step out of the shadows and into the spotlight again. It's delicious stuff. Here's a bit more on Old Tom (and how to use it in cocktails.) More

If You Like Savory Cocktails, Try These Celery Bitters

Celery bitters lend an enticingly vegetal and citrusy edge that plays well with traditional savory drinks (Bloody Mary, anyone?) but is also lovely with the floral notes of gin (just one dash in a martini is a revelation, and 2 to 3 dashes takes the sweet edge off a G&T), as well as the grassy, herbal undertone of tequila. Which bottles should you try? Here are my favorite brands of celery bitters. More

Awesome New Honey Liqueurs From Bärenjäger

Wading through saccharine, artificial-tasting bottles in search of that unicorn—a truly delicious liqueur—is most often unrewarding and gag-inducing. But today, I'm here to tell you that magical creatures do exist, if you only look hard enough. Two of the most exceptional examples I've found are the new honey liqueurs from Bärenjäger. More

Andrew Strenio's Top Ten Spirits of 2013

It's been a banner year in the spirits industry, with incredible new releases flowing fast and furious. After reviewing dozens for this site (and drinking even more beyond that), it's always difficult for me to choose favorites. Still, you're wondering what to seek out to tuck under the Christmas tree or order online as a gift to yourself, so I might as well try. Here are my top spirits of the year. More

Talisker Storm: No Age Statement Scotch Done Right

Releasing whiskies without age statements is a growing yet controversial trend among distilleries, a move away from 10 year, 12 year, 18 year, etc., offerings. The movement has been met with mixed feelings from connoisseurs and critics, skeptical of the trend as a way to cash in on the current boom in demand for whisky despite the limited stocks of older aged malts at most distilleries. While that is certainly a very real concern, we tend to feel that the proof is in the pudding. More

Compass Box Peat Monster 10th Anniversary Limited Edition is Worth Celebrating

Compass Box has many lovely bottlings in their lineup, but arguably their breakthrough whisky was the Peat Monster—an unapologetically peaty blend of single malts that has a balanced sweetness to it that makes it an entirely distinct style of whiskey. This year Compass Box celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Peat Monster with a limited edition anniversary release, bottled at 97.8 proof. We gave this special whisky a try. More

Win a Copy of 'Shrubs: An Old Fashioned Drink for Modern Times'

And if you don't win it, do Michael a solid and pick up this outstanding work of literature. I'm going to go so far so to call it this year's imBible.

Beautiful book Michael, congratulations!

Ampersand Cocktail

Seriously one of the best cocktails I've made at home in quite a while...

Why You Should Buy Tanqueray's New Old Tom Gin

@Richard Brum great question! As matthewg notes the Malacca is very aromatic - fresh, fruity, and vibrant - while I find the Old Tom more mellow with its muted juniper, lime, and pepper profile. Hope that helps!

Ao Vodka Could Change Your Mind About Vodka

I'm liking this discussion... I hear where you guys are coming from. Yes, of course, there's the TTB definition of Vodka (which I agree with @Seina still allows for subtle nuance vs. the "distinctive character" of say a gin or @Wade Woodard's delicious suggestion of a Straight Bourbon), but my thinking is coming from a place where the production of vodka pre-dates the founding of the TTB, let alone the discovery of the New World. And as we all well know, the TTB is nothing if not arbitrary, and at best is a set of laws and definition to dictate labeling for consumer protection.

To @BeavisPeters's point, perhaps "essentially" was the wrong word to use, as all spirits are essentially ethanol and water if you really come down to it. Perhaps I should have said flavorless ethanol and water, or something like that, which indeed is the ideal of some vodka producers and many vodka drinkers, as I mentioned.

I'm just suggesting that the category can be a bit broader than such a narrow definition, which is almost the point of this entire article - this spirit really made me think about vodka in a new light.

Ao Vodka Could Change Your Mind About Vodka

@androiduser, sourdough, beavispeters

Says who? That's a modern myth, definitely popularized by the marketing driven Grey Gooses of the world. The motivation is clear: if you can convince people that vodka should be a tasteless way to get drunk, then you can just filter poorly distilled spirit a bunch of times, bottle what is essentially ethanol and water, and make cash money.

There are many vodkas on the market that proudly allow you to taste the characteristics of the wheat/potato/rice/what have you that went into the production of the spirit, and they're trying to turn around this misconception.

See: http://karlssonsvodka.com/the-vodka/ et al

If you prefer vodka that is tasteless, that's fine - it's a matter of preference - but it doesn't define the category.

Andrew Strenio's Top Ten Spirits of 2013

@Wade Woodard

Four Roses is absolutely on FIRE. Can't wait to see what they come up with next... and OFBB is always an anticipated release, and agreed that this year was the best in recent memory.

LSB does price out higher than I would ideally like (though in NYC area I'm seeing it around $120), and while it comes from the same distillery as Whistle Pig and Masterson's (ADL), it's not exactly the same rye. Rob Cooper told me that the barrel that went into LSB (and will eventually form the more aged editions they intend to release) were hand picked before the folks from Masterson's or WP had a chance to get to the ADL stocks. So while it may be the same juice, it's a completely different vatting. It's got an age advantage on its competitors, and in my opinion was just one of the standout spirits of the year. (The only one that is comparatively aged and proofed is the Boss Hog, which in my market comes in around $155, though of course we all know how crazily booze pricing varies).

I've never had a chance to try Alberta Premium - how does it compare to the older stuff we're talking about?

Balvenie Tun 1401, Batch 9: The Best Value in Ultra-Premium Scotch

@ScotchLover

Thanks for your feedback, and welcome to Serious Drinks! You raise a number of interesting points, and some strong recommendations - but I wanted to push back a bit here.

For starters, I did in fact find the 1401 something very special compared to Balvenie's standard offerings (and the internet I'm not the only one) so your dissent could just be a matter of taste, for which I'm told there's not accounting, and which is totally valid. To me this was a whisky that simply outperformed its price bracketing in a way that was frankly surprising to me, so I felt compelled to share my opinion.

You're totally right that great values can also be had in the IB world, so thanks for bringing that up - I only tend to stay away from writing them up because they are so limited in distribution and generally difficult to get your hands on.

And while I appreciate your point about the escalation in pricing taking place only in the stratospheric bracket, but how many readers, or how many people in the world for that matter, could really consider buying any of those status bottlings? The biggest problem to my mind is that this price racketing all trickles down. We've seen standard releases racketing up steadily over the years (remember when you could get a Lagavulin 16 for $45?). What used to be an $80 bottle is now a $130 bottle, etc., and the value cart is starting to come off the rails.

And while it's mostly a semantic distinction, I'm pretty confident that a bottle coming in at $250 definitely qualifies as ultra-premium Scotch. I tend to but those $3k+ bottlings into their own "more money than sense" special category :-)

Sláinte!

Glenfiddich Age of Discovery Bourbon Cask: A Bourbon-Haunted Single Malt

@kimthaism like most aspects of whisky appreciation, proof is a tricky subject. In general, I tend to think of proof as "strength," or how powerfully the cask of whisky impacts my glass.

Different whiskies tend to drink better at different strengths, depending on their profile. A malty Jameson is enlivening at a ligheter proof, but a dense Ardbeg tends to thrive as a heavy hitter. I generally prefer slightly higher proofs to give more grip, more bite, and a more immediate flavor to the experience. However, there's no accounting for taste, and this particular release is a wonderfully balanced dram.

To my taste, a higher proof would give this juice a bit of a supercharge to make it mindblowing. But I'm also the kind of guy who used to add salt to my ramen because it wasn't "salty" enough...

Hope that's helpful!

Compass Box Peat Monster 10th Anniversary Limited Edition is Worth Celebrating

also what shermanhelms says - right on the money

Compass Box Peat Monster 10th Anniversary Limited Edition is Worth Celebrating

@arjordan hmm that's an interesting analogy that I haven't considered before. Upon reflection, I would say that (like most analogies) it's true in some senses and flawed in others.

I think peat and hops are similar in their respective domains when taken to extremes. There are peat fiends in the same way there are hopheads, people seeking the most intense experience and (some would say) chasing excess for the sake of excess. There are plenty of offerings and marketing campaigns that stoke that fire - take the name of this whisky for instance.

However, I think the analogy breaks down in terms of elevating subpar product. A peated whisky still needs to be complex and integrated to be successful, and while peat can overpower more subtle flavors it can't fix the broken structure of an inferior whisky. OTOH there will probably be people who will buy (and enjoy) bad whisky if it's peaty enough in the same way people profess to love what tastes to me as profoundly overhopped beers.

At the end of the day there's no accounting for taste!

Your second question is a little easier to answer - make friends who love (or want to love Scotch) and start a whisky club! You're guaranteed to learn more quickly when sharing the juice with a bunch of people with different tastes and perspectives, and splitting the costs means your dollar goes much further.

If you're looking for a more introspective journey or have no Scotch-y friends, Master of Malt has a wonderful selection of whisky by the dram:

http://www.masterofmalt.com/samples/

Happy exploring!

Tuthilltown Hudson Maple Cask Rye: 'Flavored' Whiskey Done Right

@shermanhelms there's no sugar or syrup added - it's just rye that soaked in some maple barrels for a bit.

I just tried a short dram with sweetness in mind and came up mostly empty. Look, there are notes of maple which strongly trigger the idea of pancakes, but the taste stays rye through and through. It's kind of like when you have a nice bourbon with heavy cherry notes - the idea of sweetness is triggered despite (and among) strong wood and corn, etc. So I think you should give it a whirl if you're into the maple idea - it's almost as far from syrupy sweet as rye can be otherwise.

Your New Summer Drink: Luxardo Aperitivo

@Fnarf - you raise a good point. Aperitivo is literally the drink before dinner, but it's also a Northern Italian tradition of having drinks and snacks before dinner with friends - the closest thing we have is Happy Hour. You can go to aperitivo at a bar or cafe and even order wine!

So I think the intention behind this product is to introduce the unfamiliar to the tradition to the joys of having "an aperitivo." And as far as Luxardo is concerned, winning immediate brand recognition for those who do know can't hurt...

Though I probably wouldn't try the first "Happy Hour" brand beer that I saw on the shelf!

Tequila Aged in Whiskey Barrels? New Expresiones del Corazon is a Bold Experiment

@arbeck sure, many tequilas are aged in ex-bourbon barrels, but these are unquestionably distinct. They're clearly labeled with the bourbon (or rye!) that gives them their unique flavoring, and the whiskey influence is much, much more prominent than in your average reposado or añejo. But more importantly, this is a range of tequilas that gives the agave aficionado a chance to taste the impact of four different whiskeys on the tequila aging process - a rare treat indeed.

Thanks for bringing this up though, as it's definitely information I should have included in the piece. But to be honest, four tequilas can sometimes put me in a forgetful mood...

We Try the New Bulleit 10-Year Aged Bourbon

@arbeck The fact sheet being circulated by Bulleit states that "a select number of Bulleit Bourbon barrels were set aside to age for ten years to see how the already award-winning bourbon would develop," though it's certainly possible that the bottles now seeing wide release are different juice. I'll get back in touch for clarification and post any response I can get.

Also, you're absolutely right regarding the age statement - ages are going to vary from bottle to bottle and since it's labeled as straight bourbon the only legal requirement is that it's older than 4 years. However, Jim Bulleit has been pretty vocal about the approximate age of his bottlings as between 6-8 years. Of course that statement can definitely be taken with a grain of salt (or a dram of whiskey!), so thanks for raising that issue.

http://chicagoist.com/2008/04/10/interview_tom_b.php

Also, with the reopening of Stitzel-Weller it will be interesting to see if Diageo begins to distill Bulleit in-house going forward...

Distilled Beer: New IPA Whiskey from Charbay

@shaithisx Oops, minor typo that we're fixing. It's more like 10 to 1, so that 6,000 gallons beer yielded 590 gallons of whiskey. Thanks for the catch!

Great White Whiskey: New Unaged Rye from Jack Daniel's

@Wade Woodard

Regarding not having heard from the TTB, the PR rep states:

"the TTB ruled that it should be labeled as a 'neutral spirit'"

He goes on to confirm that it's distilled at 140 proof and that JD strenuously argued for designation as "unaged rye" instead of neutral spirit. I suppose it's possible that the PR rep straight up lied, but I would be surprised that any media relations guy would think he could get one over on Chuck. I'll be happy to post an update when (if) we do hear from the TTB.

In my opinion that's a dumb ruling - whiskey mashbill, low-proof distilling (if they got that spirit through 190 proof distilling, well, they're doing something magical), the same recipe and method supposedly headed to barrels to age to become a rye whiskey - and it sure as heck tastes like unaged whiskey. So it's an unaged whiskey for the purpose of telling people about what's in the bottle.

I did include the link to Chuck's blog for anyone who is interested, but the juice really is the headline here, and in the end this digression isn't the focus of the review.

Tasting the Range: Bushmills Irish Whiskey

@Sov Thanks for your comment. This is actually a pretty in-depth topic, which is why I didn't get into it in a review of several whiskeys as I wanted them to be the focus, but perhaps I should write a longer piece on all the different types of whiskeys (and whiskies). One could write a whole post on spelling variations alone... but let's sort this out!

Let me put out some quick working definitions (by no means exhaustive, as they get very technical fast):

Single Malt: 100% aged malted barley whiskey from one distillery
Blended Malt (formerly called vatted malt or pure malt): blended single malt whiskeys from different distilleries
Blended Whiskey: practices do vary a bit, but in general this is grain whiskey blended with aged malt whiskeys
Single Barrel (sometimes Single Cask): the product of a single barrel or cask, with some water added to bring it down to proof
Single Barrel Cask Strength: one barrel, into the bottle. that's it.

There are other categories also... bourbon, bottled in bond, canadian whisky, rye, etc, etc...

Tricky stuff. But the fact of the matter is that yes, in general single malt whiskeys are actually a blend of a bunch of different barrels of aged whiskey from a single distillery. This is how distillers are able to achieve a consistent product since, as you correctly note, each individual barrel will have variations in taste and color due to the vagaries of the aging process. The master blender tastes all of his barrels, and using his artful skill in the craft acquired through years and years of experience, she is able to orchestrate the blending of these barrels into an expression that people the world over know and love. The age indicated on a bottle of a single malt is the age of the youngest whiskey used to achieve that expression. So you can really read those as "x years or older."

Also it's not true that "all whiskeys are generally aged at least 4 years." There's been a trend recently towards early releases of a new whiskey, young (6 months!) whiskey, and white dog (unaged whiskey) hitting the market. "Whiskey" is a tremendously broad category - a distilled spirit made from fermented grain. That's all you have to do to make whiskey, aging isn't required. This is precisely why there are all of these subdivisions to differentiate different products!

It is a little unclear in this post, but both Bushmills Original and Black Bush are blended whiskies, while the 10 year and the 21 year are single malts.

I hope that clears things up!

That's the Spirit: Johnnie Walker Double Black

@TimoG Adding caramel coloring (the technical designation is E150A) is a pretty standard practice for scotch producers - in fact, if you don't see the words "no coloring added" it's a pretty safe bet that you've got caramel in your bottle. See Ralfy's in-depth video all about it here. As for the smokier flavor - I'm pretty sure that's due to the inclusion of more smoky whiskys in this blend!

That's the Spirit: Johnnie Walker Double Black

@portail32 The MSRP for the Double Black is $40, or 15% more than the Black Label's $34. Let us know if you find it, and what you think!!

That's the Spirit: Jim Beam Devil's Cut

@Wade Woodard, do you know that this is the process they use? I'm actually quite curious, but I'm not sure your analogy holds up - with the paint shaker, dried paint is merely coating the internal surface of the can, but here the bourbon is actually soaked INTO the wood of the barrel, so I would imagine that it would take more than shaking water around in the barrel to extract the trapped spirit. But I haven't tried the experiment myself - anyone have any insights?

Do You Use Fancy Wine Glasses?

I don't know from wine glasses, but I have done some legit A/B on spirits glasses - take the exact same whisky in a tumbler vs. a shaped glass and the results are stunning. Since so much of the spirit experience is based around aroma, shaping the flow of those compounds to your schnoz is paramount. My personal preference is for a Glencairn glass: it was designed for whisky in particular but I've found it versatile enough for any sipping spirit. There's definitely a place for the rest of the spirit stemware out there (tumbler for on the rocks, martini for martini, highball for highballs, etc.), but when enjoying a spirit on its own, it's worth paying attention to your glass.

Video: Baby in a Watermelon

In a superior parallel universe, the hippest '80s craze in children's dolls = melon patch kids.

Super Bowl Giveaway: Pig Pickin' and Wings from RUB

With apologies to George Thorogood:
1. Bourbon: A nice balanced bourbon [Four Roses] to get through the pregame coverage
2. Scotch: One of the peat monsters from Islay [Laphroaig CS or Ardbeg Uigeadail] to get the smoke on the fire
3. Beer to take it on out. American for the 'bowl - Sierra Nevada, king of American Pale Ale

That's The Spirit: Dry Fly Gin

Distilled from Eastern Washington-grown winter wheat and flavored with dried Washington apples, mint, juniper, and hops, this spirit is almost more of a genever than an American gin. It's very aromatic, with a nose perfumed with green apple, grapefruit, and malt and only a hint of the telltale juniper and botanicals. More