Bourbon Review: Parker’s Heritage 8 Year Old Malt Whiskey

I was in Dallas on business last week and visited Whiskey Cake, my favorite spot for a drink and bite to eat in the Frisco/Plano area. I decided to try something from Parker’s Heritage Collection.  Each year Heaven Hill Distillery releases a special whiskey in the name of their late Master Distiller Parker Beam.  I have never tried anything from the Parker Collection.  To honor the great Parker Beam I thought I would try one of their releases.  I selected the 8-year-old Malt Whiskey released in 2015.

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Enjoying Parker’s Collection at Whiskey Cake

 

If you are not familiar with Malt whiskey it is made from a fermented mash just like bourbon. Unlike bourbon which is 51% corn or higher, Malt is made from a malted grain, and this one is barley, 65% barley and 35% corn.  Just like bourbon it must be aged in a new charred American Oak barrel.

This is one of the first American Malt’s I have experienced. It was really good. If you haven’t had experience with American Malt Whiskey’s you will be pleasantly surprised.  There are many similarities to bourbon.  It felt a little like drinking a scotch, then I thought, “no, it’s a little like a bourbon.”  It has notes of butterscotch and toffee, and you get the sweetness from the corn.  You can definitely taste the oak.  It has a mellow rich flavor and is a very smooth whiskey with a soft finish.

I was originally going to try the 8th Edition 13 year old “Wheat” whiskey but they had sold the last of it. I never would have picked it first but glad the wheat was sold out. I’ve never been a big fan of scotch or European malts, but I’m glad I tried this.  I’m looking forward to trying more Malt Whiskey in the future. It’s a unique experience.  If this becomes the benchmark for American malts we are in for some fun experiences.

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Parker’s Heritage Collection Editions (Photo from the Heaven Hill Distillery website)

Aged: 8 years
Proof: 108 proof
Color: Mahogany
Aroma: Oak, pine
Taste: Toffee, butterscotch
Price: $100 (When Released in late 2015; you can find resale bottles at nice liquor stores like Hi-Time Wine Cellars)

Restaurant Review: Hatch (Tustin, CA)

Our adventure started because Lynn and I wanted to see the Batman Lego movie. Lynn had just read the March/April Westways Magazine’s (AAA of California’s magazine) 14th Annual Cheap Eats Dining Review. There was a review of Hatch in Tustin’s Union Market at The District and the movie was showing there as well. Our date was set.

As the article said: “You can’t exactly stumble upon Hatch.” That is an understatement. You have to hunt real hard to find it. But the good news is once you find it you will be charmed by the retro, mid-century Tiki décor, Disneyland-inspired “Enchanted Tiki Room” wallpaper, and cool retro lights. It is small and quaint with only a handful of tables inside plus a bar that seats about 10. There is also outside dining perfect for most nights.

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The menu is quite simple. Their specialty is sliders, but these are not your local sliders. These are gourmet, craft, creative sliders. You can order a combo on the menu of 2 sliders and a side for $14. The menu is creative as the sliders are broken into Moo, Oink, Flap, Swim, and Sprout. There are 3 different sliders in each category.

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The Hatch slider is their signature item. It’s an all-beef patty, fried onions, Hatch sauce, a Portuguese bun, and a slice of crispy grilled cheese hat. It was a fantastic burger, and I am still amazed by that thin sheet of grilled cheese. How did they do that?

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I had a Hatch and a Buffalo Chicken slider. The buffalo chicken is buttermilk fried chicken, parmesan, Sriracha buffalo sauce, with carrots and celery. Both were so different and so flavorful.They also have sliders with Japanese style fried pork, duck, salmon, soft shell crab, oyster, and more. Lynn had the soft shell crab and said it was fantastic.

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They consider themselves a Rum Bar and have the theme oriented glasses. They also have a full bar, wine and beer. I always order a bourbon drink (my name is not Rum or Tequila Bill, its Bourbon Bill). I ordered an Old Fashioned and it was perfect. An Old Fashioned is good with any food. But riven that rum is their specialty, I would suggest you try the house rum drinks. They also have a list of 26 creative and different craft beers.

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I would highly recommend Hatch. We are looking for an excuse to go back very soon. There are also a number of interesting restaurants around Hatch.   Tustin’s Union Market has become a great little destination for dining!

Visiting The Homestead

We recently had one of those weekends you will always cherish and remember fondly. Our daughter and her husband suggested we go to The Homestead. If you are not familiar with The Homestead it is not because its new – they recently celebrated 250 years as America’s first and oldest resort.

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The Resort

While there we took the history tour of the Homestead and learned a lot about how a resort in pretty much the middle of nowhere in Virginia came to be, and became a legend.

Quick overview… Captain Thomas Bullitt, Charles and Andrew Lewis were part of the militia and surveyors during the French and Indian War. They were told of the many healing qualities of the waters in the area. In 1764, at the end of the war, Captain Bullitt received a colonial land grand of 300 acres which contained seven natural mineral springs from Colonel George Washington. Captain Bullitt moved his militia and his family and their families to the area. Within 2 years the land was cleared and an 18 room wooden hotel was built. In 1766, The Homestead was opened and named in honor of the Homesteaders who built the resort and bathhouses. The hotel changed ownership several times until 1901 when a fire started in the pastry shop and burned the entire resort. The day after the fire the investors met and decided to rebuild immediately. Fast forward to today and it is now part of the Omni Hotels & Resorts.

Getting There
We flew into Richmond (RIC) and stayed the night with our daughter before heading to the Homestead. If you’re coming from out of the area, Charlottesville and Roanoke are the closest airports, but Richmond is the largest close airport and serviced by Southwest which I’m loyal to. You definitely have to rent a car, there really isn’t another way to get to the resort. It is a nice 3-hour drive from Richmond through horse farms and the Blue Ridge Mountains. On our way, we enjoyed a leisurely drive stopping in the Charlottesville area to get a sandwich for lunch at Greenwood Grocery, one of our son-in-law’s favorites. If making a day of your drive, you basically pass through Central Virginia wine country and stopping at a vineyard such as King Family Vineyards is highly recommended.

Once you get close to the hotel you’ll see the Tower and the resort coming into view. It is perfectly nestled into the hillside. You also drive past the golf courses and surrounding spa, casino, and cottage row on your way into the main entrance of the resort.

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The Resort from the Spa

Activities
The Homestead offers tons of activities for visitors young and old. It is most well known for its golf courses. The legend Sam Snead helped in giving the Homestead that legacy. Born nearby, Snead began caddying at The Homestead when he was 7. He worked as an assistant pro at The Homestead at 19 and turned professional in 1934. There are 2 courses at the Resort. The Old Course has the oldest continuously used 1st Tee in the country. The Cascades Course is set against the Allegheny Mountains. Both offer excellent golf. There is also a miniature golf course for younger and non-golfers.

The spa is another popular attraction. My wife and daughter had facials at the spa. The facilities are about 5 years old and very nice. When they re-did the spa they added a great headed outdoor pool and hot tub just for spa-goers. And within the spa complex is a Hot Spring pool as well. Lynn and I spent the afternoon soaking in the mineral pool – I definitely recommend it. (Not to be confused with the original hot springs that are off-site. We didn’t make it to those.)

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The mineral pool at the Spa

Other activities include fly fishing, shooting, zip lining, hiking, the outdoor family pool and lazy river when it’s warm out, the indoor pool, and of course the hot springs. Carter and I went to the shooting club to shoot trap. I was very impressed with the club, but not my shooting.

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The indoor pool – isn’t it beautiful?

Another activity you can’t miss is afternoon tea. Well, they call is social hour now, but it’s essentially afternoon tea. The service has changed a bit since the last time my daughter and son-in-law were there. They set up a station to get your tea (hot or cold) and then waiters walk around with a treat – while we were there it was pumpkin bread one day and lemon bars the other.

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The Great Hall

Another popular activity is just sitting in the Great Hall (essentially the lobby) by the fire reading, playing games, or hanging out. Lynn and Taylor spent a decent amount of time working on their needlepoint there Saturday afternoon.

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A fire we posted up by for a couple hours Saturday afternoon

Tip: Pack your own alcohol! We brought a bottle of bourbon and a bottle of wine to enjoy throughout the weekend. It’s a great place to pour yourself some bourbon and wander down to the Great Hall to gather with people. We also brought some after dinner drinks to the outdoor fire pit to enjoy with our s’mores.

Dining
Dining at the Homestead excellent. We opted for the breakfast package to enjoy their popular breakfast buffet with its legendary homemade donuts. Breakfast takes place in the Main Dining Room – a grand, open room with a dance floor and piano. You can picture how it was used years ago for opulent dinners. We didn’t eat dinner there, but the breakfast was great.

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The Main Dining Room (Photo from the Homestead website)

We were supposed to eat dinner our first night at Jefferson’s Restaurant, which is described as “a modern American grill serving regional influences.” Its menu looks pretty similar to a steak house menu with some regional additions like fried green tomatoes and shrimp and grits. Unfortunately the power went out right before our reservation on Friday, so after having cocktails in the bar area in the dark and ordering as many cold appetizers and salads from the menu as possible we called it a night. I guess we’ll have to go back!

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The bar area at Jefferson’s Restaurant (Photo from the Homestead website)

We had lunch on Saturday at the Casino Restaurant which is near the pro-shop. Lunch was delicious. We shared the fried zucchini appetizer and a couple pizzas. Everything hit the spot.

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The Casino

We ventured to the Waterwheel Restaurant at the Gristmill Inn a couple miles from the resort for dinner Saturday night. It is very quaint in an old gristmill with exposed wood beams and whitewashed walls. They have a fun little wine cellar in the basement of the mill where you can go down to pick out your wine. Everyone raved about their dishes, including the guests around us. It’s a fun atmosphere, excellent food, and great experience.

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Waterwheel’s Wine Cellar

After dinner Saturday night we wandered back to the Homestead and got a s’more kit to roast s’mores outside around their large bonfire pit. While it was definitely cold out (we were there in February) the fire was roaring and it was a fun little after dinner activity.

Tip: Make reservations for dinner as soon as your book your trip. There aren’t a lot of dinner options in the area and because of both on-site and off-site restaurants they fill up quickly.

Another must-try is the Lobby Bar. When the Homestead did a small remodel 5 or so years ago, they added this bar literally right off the lobby (hence the name) with a small billiards room with pool tables behind it. The bar has portraits of the 22 sitting Presidents who have stayed at The Homestead. It’s a warm and inviting bar with a nice selection of liquor, beer, and wine, and a great atmosphere especially during a busy weekend. While there, I enjoyed an Old Fashioned and Lynn a Manhattan – our “go to’s”!

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The Lobby Bar

There is also a new French restaurant in town called LesCochons d’Or that people recommended. We did not get a chance to eat there but plan to on our next trip to The Homestead. It has gotten excellent review and you can walk to it from the hotel.

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Outside of LesCochons

Overall, I can’t say enough about the experience. When I have described it to people here on the West Coast they say it sounds like the setting for the movie “Dirty Dancing.” While a little less “campy,” it’s definitely similar. And years and years ago people would head to the Homestead for the entire summer much like Dirty Dancing.  Sitting in the Great Hall with all the overstuffed furniture and roaring fires is part of the wonderful experience. We really did feel like we had dropped back in time but with all the amenities of the 21st century.

If you get a chance go, you will come back refreshed with very fond memories.

We made it through Whole30!

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As many who read the blog, or follow me on Facebook, know our whole family was doing Whole30.  I can’t say enough good things about Whole30.  I want to thank my niece and her husband for introducing it to all of us.  I was a 63 year old junk food junkie.  I loved my Dr. Pepper and Mountain Dew.  I also have a sweet tooth that goes all the way to my Big toe.  No more. I learned a lot and lost a lot of weight.  I will now work hard to keep it off!

I am back to eating and drinking some of the things I enjoy and working hard to staying on the straight and narrow to be healthy (everything in moderation). I AM NOT giving up my bourbon and will continue to enjoy it.

Last week, on Day 31, I sat down after dinner in my favorite chair with a rocks glass and a little Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon.  Wow, it felt so good to relax with a wonderful bourbon after a day of work.  One of the simple pleasures in life.

As I sat there I thought of the cowboys depicted in the movies riding into town after a long day on the trail.  They would belly up to the bar and ask for, “A whiskey or a bourbon, bar keep.”  When you don’t do something every day it makes it special.  My first bourbon drink post-Whole30 was special.  Reflecting back on many life, family, friends, and experiences.

We spent the weekend on a short vacation in Virginia and I’ve returned with more exciting and fun places to recommend to all of you my faithful readers.

Here’s to all of you.  Cheers!

Kentucky Bourbon Trail Sees 1 Million Visitors

Football season ended with Sunday night’s exciting Super Bowl. So, now we turn to spring baseball, and, welll, just spring. I’ve talked about the Bourbon Trail before, but with spring upon us I wanted to talk about it more! There is no better time to visit Kentucky than spring, although fall is pretty spectacular as well.

The Bourbon Trail, which officially began in 1999, announced this past week that together the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and Craft Bourbon Trail saw over 1,000,000 visitors last year. That is an impressive number and shows the interest and growth in bourbon and whiskey. There are two unique trails, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and the Craft Bourbon Trail. There is also a third experience, the Urban Bourbon Trail, which is a tour through Louisville’s bourbon bars (but all bars in Kentucky serve bourbon).

The official Kentucky Bourbon Trail is made up of the following distilleries: Angels Envy, Bulleit, Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, Four Roses, Heaven Hill (Bourbon Heritage Center), Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Town Branch, Wild Turkey, and Woodford Reserve. By visiting these distilleries and having your passport stamped you earn a gift. In the past it has been a branded t0shirt though I understand that may be changing.

 

The Bourbon Trail is many of the larger distilleries and in a fairly concentrated section of the state. These are the big boys but that doesn’t mean you don’t get a very informative and personalized tour.

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Town Branch’s distillery

Because they have the bigger budgets their visitor centers are like visiting a museum and candy store with their gift shops. At Jim Beam Lynn got to fill a barrel before it was sent to the warehouse.

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Jim Beam’s visitor’s center

 

Then we got to bottle our own bottle of Knob Creek. We tasted right out of the cypress wood fermenting tanks at Four Roses. Woodford Reserve does 3 different tours. They have their general tour, a historic tour, and the one we took which is called “Corn to Cork.”

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On our tour at Woodford Reserve

The Corn to Cork tour is an educational experience that takes you from where the corn is unloaded into the storage facility to the corking of the bottles. We learned a lot, had a great time, and even got to taste out of a barrel.

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Front porch at Woodford Reserve – doesn’t it look inviting!?

Maker’s Mark lets you dip a bottle in the red wax for you to take with you. At Maker’s Mark it’s an interesting story, I don’t want to spoil, about why they painted the buildings black.

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Maker’s Mark’s tasting room

The Craft Bourbon Trail includes: Barrel House, Corsair Artisan Distillery, Hartfield & Co., Limestone Branch, MB Roland, New Riff, Peerless Distilling Company, the Old Pogue Distillery, Wilderness Trail, and Willet Distillery. These are your smaller distilleries and give you a close up look at the guys making small batch, craft spirits. The craft distilleries are spread throughout the state. This tour is a real challenge to complete in one trip to Kentucky. We did not complete it but look forward to going back this year and completing it. We did make it to Old Pogue, Willet, and Barrel House. They are all so different, and so interesting. One of our favorites was Old Pogue where it was just the 2 of us. We also got a personal tour of the family’s Antebellum home overlooking the Ohio River. Willet is also one you do not want to miss. Their pot still is famous because their Pot Still Reserve Bourbon is in a bottle the shape of their still.

There are other outstanding distilleries not on the official bourbon trails but a must on your trip. Those include Old Barton and Buffalo Trace. Anyone who knows their bourbon knows Buffalo Trace has a lot of brands. Just a few of their brands are Buffalo Trace, Blanton’s, Eagle Rare, E.H. Taylor, Sazerac Rye, George T. Stagg, Stagg Jr., W.L. Weller, and one other brand might have heard of — Pappy Van Winkle.

As you can see there are a lot of stops you can make on the Bourbon trail and I haven’t even mentioned other things to do while you are there. There is always horse racing at Churchill Downs in Louisville, or Keeneland in Lexington.

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At the Garden & Gun event at Keeneland

Or for something different plan a picnic and go to Steeplechase Racing or Polo. These events are always fun, exciting, and feature the food and drink of the region. Churchill Downs makes a mean Mint Julep in the spring. There is always a tour of a horse farm around the Lexington area.

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Visiting Calumet Farm while doing the Bourbon Trail. They have produced the most Triple Crown winners in horse racing history!

When in Louisville any sports fan is going to want to tour the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory. The Louisville and Lexington visitors websites have a ton of great information on them about the area and other things to do besides sip bourbon!

So where do you stay? The bourbon trail is very spread out, so you have to decide where you want to start and end if you’re trying to see a lot of distilleries. We stayed at the Seelbach Hilton in Louisville. A grand of Hotel with a great history. The Brown Hotel in Louisville is also a great place to stay. The Brown Hotel is home to the original Kentucky Hot Brown (another blog to come – I’m a big fan). In Harrodsburg, the Beaumont Inn has been highly recommended by friends. But Lexington, Frankfurt, Bardstown all have wonderful places to stay. In Bardstown you must stop in the Talbott Tavern for a bite to eat. It is the oldest western stagecoach stop in America having been built in 1779.

I could go on and on about bourbon, horses, and Kentucky. Leave a comment with some of your favorite stops along the bourbon trail if you’ve been before!

Bourbon Review: Willett Pot Still Reserve

The first thing you notice about the Willet Pot Still Reserve Bourbon is the bottle. It is a beautiful, elegant bottle with a very long neck and wood topped cork. The bottle shape is made to look like a copper pot still. There is a gold wax seal medallion on the front. Willett Pot Still Reserve Bourbon appears a copper brown which makes it look even more like a Pot Still. The distillery first offered this bourbon and bottle in 2008.

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We visited Willett Distillery when we did the Bourbon Trail a few years ago. It is small distillery viewed against the big distilleries but a wonderful size for a craft distillery.

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I highly recommend you make a stop by Willet on your tour of the Bluegrass. They produce over a dozen bourbons and a few ryes. They are also known for Willett, Noah’s Mill, Rowan’s Creek, Johnny Drum, and Old Bardstown, Kentucky Vintage, and Pure Kentucky.

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Looks similar to their bottle shape, doesn’t it!?

They offer tours daily and the $12 charge includes a tour, tasting, and a Willett Glencarin tasting glass to take with you. (Well, we didn’t get glasses back when we toured, so now I want to go back!)

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Lynn in front of  one of their fermentation tanks

There isn’t much info on their website as to the mashbill or makeup of their bourbon. Based on the government regulations for a bourbon there is obviously at least 51% corn. I am guess for the Willett Pot Still Reserve it’s a little higher. The bourbon is very floral on the nose. It gives you citrus on the palate with a strong flavor of honey. The finish is very herbal and smooth.

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Barrels at Willett’s Distillery

This is a very well made bourbon from a family with a great reputation for small batch bourbons.

You are going to want this top-class bourbon on your bar for the bottle, but more importantly the liquid gold inside. The bourbon has a delightful finish that come up remarkably sweet and smooth. This is a great sipping bourbon.

Aged: 4 years
Proof: 94 proof
Color: Copper Brown
Aroma: Vanilla, Citrus, Caramelized Sugar
Taste: Caramel, Spice, Herbs, Honey
Price: $43.99 for 750mL at Hi-Time Wine Cellars
$85.99 for 1.75L at Hi-Time Wine Cellars

How do you like your bourbon?

These days there are a lot of options when it comes to chilling your bourbon (and drinks in general). Today we’ll walk you through some of the different options like how to order your bourbon and the many different styles of ice cubes.

Neat, straight up, and on the rocks are still the standards. Neat means without ice. Typically a bartender would serve it in an old fashioned glass. Neat is also how most distilleries on the Bourbon Trail serve their bourbon for tasting. It definitely takes some getting used to if you’re like me and like your bourbon chilled.

Straight up means chilled but without ice in it. This is similar to how a martini is served. This is becoming trendier for drinks beyond martinis as bartenders get increasingly creative with their drink list. It’s also a very classic way of serving drinks.

And then there is on the rocks, which is what we are all most used to when it comes to sipping bourbon. Just some ice with bourbon poured over it.

Now, these days there are a ton of ice options. There’s your old standby of standard ice out of the refrigerator or ice maker. I tend to prefer this if I’m mixing my bourbon. The ice melts quickly, especially on a hot day, which waters down the bourbon.

So when I’m sipping bourbon I generally use a large ice cube from molds that I’ve purchased from Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table. There are a ton of ice mold options out there. These are very common in restaurants now too. Some restaurants I’ve visited have even installed ice makers that make larger ice cubes (there’s a Japanese ice maker that makes ice cubes that are larger than the normal squares an ice machine makes but smaller than the large square mold ice cubes).

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You can purchase ice molds in all sorts of shapes and sizes. I have a bunch of large square molds, and some round ice molds made by Tovolo – they seem to make the best ones (found in stores all over the place). I even have a tray to make Purdue P ice cubes!

For those who want chilled bourbon with no added water whatsoever there are whiskey stones. Whiskey stones are just that, small pieces of stone made in all sorts of shapes, but usually small squares. Most of them are made from Granite. Granite is very hard and dense. It doesn’t absorb liquid and also retains temperature very well. There are also metal stones with a coolant inside which freezes. This is a way to chill your bourbon without watering it down at all. Admittedly I don’t use my whiskey stones very often. I prefer the large ice cube option – chills the bourbon and dilutes just a bit as you get to the end of the glass.

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If you read the tasting notes of many of the bourbons being released today they suggest you serve the bourbon slightly chilled. How you achieve that is really up to personal preference! Right now, I think by a fire is the best way!