July 28, 2013

The White Lie

Every Saturday night the gang went clubbing, but never before a fresh spray
Dilemma: To be true to truth (like a good wanna-be-Buddhist) or support distillers at the expense of said truth? When you decide to get in the business of Whisk(e)y making, you're assumedly aware that you're up against some serious players that know their stuff. They make it a specific way (i.e.: painstakingly waiting years for oak barrels to work their magic) for a bloody good reason. It's obviously not the most expedient way to produce alcohol but since 'life IS suffering' we wait.

Jeb had big plans, then the blindness came
Making Whisky ain't no different than making any other widget people crave. You look at supply and demand and you ramp up or crank down your production. If demand gets Cheech & Chong high then you're gonna have to find a new way to feed the monkey. Enter "New Make" un-aged white whisky, otherwise known by many an Alabamian as Moonshine. There's a reason you don't see moonshine lining the shelves… it tastes like shit. No oak aging equals no likey. It's not that difficult to grasp; you distill a spirit, you age it for flavour, you bottle it, you become the town hero.

In Sephora stores everywhere this fall
Seems to me, some peeps think they can pull the ole lipstick on a pig / this 'da bomb'-'ski trick with some sexy buzz words and beauty hand drawn labels. "Craft" typos aside, this "Crap" isn't worth the trip to the booze-mart via your local LRT. (Am I being too honest now?)

I appreciate the concept of New Make moonshine, really I do: make booze as fast as possible so you can get wasted. It's kind of like making beer in your basement. It'll get you drunk, but all your buddies wish you would just splurge on the Lakeport once in a while. I suppose on some level these spirits are getting away on a technicality. Because they aren't aged for the min. required 3 years, they can't be called whisky, but the marketing is sure making the kissing cousin connection plain as day.

"The Good"
True Whisky is all about the aging. That all important wood barrel breaths life into the spirit. It defines it. As whisky sits in a barrel over the years it expands and contracts in and out of the wood with each season and temperature shift. The whisky literally sucks flavour out of the wood. Take a deep breath and fill your lungs with air… that's whisky in the summer. Now exhale… that's whisky in the winter. Now do that 10 times and you've got ten years of whisky deepening it's relationship with the wood. This is the true 'Craft" of whisky making. Patience.

"The Bad"
Is there a place for moonshine? Well 285,000 cases of the stuff were sold last year in the U.S. so I guess the answer is yes, right along side my carton of O.J. and soda pop. Because it's a new product (on the legal market) sales will spike. Long term I can't see people spending $40 on something that tastes this bad when actual aged whisky is coming in at a cheaper price point. The only value I see in New Make is as an educational tool during tastings as a 'before' snapshot of whisky.

Most new distillers will produce vodka or gin while their whisky matures. It makes sense, those spirits take little time to make and require no aging. They have bills to pay so the gin gets them through the first 3 years. It's a gamble: create a brand and tie your product's quality to said brand. If people like it, you're golden. If you cut corners and produce based on your bottom line, then you'll be folding your cards. It's a game of patience. Pump whatever you can into the market and hope it sticks, or wait it out and reveal something true to the spirit. Because with real whisky, you just can't fake it.

May 12, 2013

Lone Wolf's new pack

"Yes, I promise I will call you more. I'm just really busy at work these days ok. OK, love you too."
Well it's Sunday, and being Sunday, it's another fine day for some sipping' n' samplin'. And because it also happens to be mother's day, I thought what better reason than that to get a little extra glow going on. Mom should be arriving at the ol' jackashack in a few hrs for diner and to remind me of how dirty the floors and counter tops are.

Today also happens to be perfectly miserable outside. It's the middle of May and we have an icy drizzle pelting the ground. This is Islay weather. Time for some Ardbeg yes? You see, weather affects mood and mood affects your reactions to pretty much everything. So if you're going to do an Ardbeg day, well, do it on a cold, wet, crappy, rainy and cloudy day. From henceforth we will refer to these grey depressing slabs of despair as "Ardbeg Days" A wee bit of man-made liquid sunshine to counter an undeserved F.U. Mother Nature blessedly bestowed on her mortal offspring.

Let's get mentally prepared shall we? 4 drams today kids; and all Ardbeg.

Just the anticipation alone was enough. I'm a peat addict, admittedly… so when I set up a proper dramming I go all out. I dim the lights. I prep the table with my geeky charts and waters – and depending on mood and/or budget you'll see either Kitchener's finest tap, or Tuscany's mineral gem from the Apennine Mountains (roll eyes here) So let's get to it then:

Maxwell House ain't got nothin.

Ardbeg 10: The Lone Wolf

I've said it all here.

Light, like the sun

Intense, bright brine, citrus, cutesy in a femme fatale sort of way. My grandfather's shoe shine box from the 50's (i.e.; mothballs & formaldehyde)  Smell of the sea; this is ALL Atlantic.

Everything the nose is, just translate it to your mouth, then add a bag of sea salt and attempt to crush it with your pathetic-weakling man teeth.

Strong. Everything an Islay whisky should be. This Scotch shows the rest of the world what it means to be a whisky.

Mmmmm, swampy goodness.
Ardbeg Uigeadail: The Lone Wolf's mother

Red, bloody, lone wolf with blood stains on it's woman claws.

Everything the 10 yr old is but with an intense woodsy brine. Christmas combined with play-doh? Peat… duh. Correction: peat x5. Corryvreckan's little brother (we'll get to it). A little less femme fatale than the 10 yr old for some reason.

If you could strap a nuclear fusion impulse drive from STTNG to the lone wolf using nothing but reclaimed leather straps from some steam punk side show, then you would basically have the palette of the Ardbeg Uigeadail in your mouth. Nuff said.

Warp 9
Scotland's death pool of love. ahhh, the romance of viking stupidity.
Ardbeg Corryvreckan: The Lone Wolf's viking lover.

Deeper than the others but still lighter than a Speyside.

Uigeadail's 'older' brother. More mature, subtle and not as desperate to impress, but does anyway (and knows it). No formaldehyde scent like the 'lone wolf' but still a deep sense of impending doom; just more 'at your front door' kinda way.

Chewy. Seriously… chew this scotch. It's a food, not a liquid. The vikings have sowed their seed among many a port, but the Corryvreckan bore the man-fruit of their, ahem, labour.

This particular part of the viking in Ardbeg is from Denmark. Not as long as the Uigeadail. Still it persists, but let's be honest; the Dane's are kind of like teenage boys: all rah-rah with no lasting stamina. (This isn't really a slight) a viking is a viking, but it's just not a Warp 9 kinda viking.

"BANG, ZOOM! Straight to the moon!"
Ardbeg Galileo: The crazy italian uncle.

Winner of World Whisky Awards Top prize for 2013. This 13yr old special release commemorates Argbeg being the first whisky in space. (Trekkies take note.)

softly goldenly soft.

Lots of reviews mention pineapple… there's a reason for that; it's absolutely true. It softens the creosote volcanic-punch a bit with these heavenly Hawaiian hula girls.

Aged in Marsala casks (Italian) I'm going to put this one in-between the 10 yr old and the Uigeadail for sweetness. The Corryvreckan feels like it has the richer note of the 4 sampled here. Coal fire drizzled with lemon is ever present, as in any Ardbeg so don't fret.

Soft landing. Touch down.


Final Warning Note: You can't drink Ardbeg endlessly. It's a wolf; its nature is to bite and gnash and maul you until you stop kicking. It's the kind of scotch that needs breaks in between pours… unless as previously mentioned... it's mothers day.