More Bourbon-Themed Gifts

As you finish up your holiday shopping, as promised here are a few more whiskey themed gift ideas. Helping to stock the bar is always a great option!

One website I visit over and over to look at all the great gifts they offer is Bourbon and Boots. One of the items they have that I just love are the rocks glasses with whiskey related sayings from writers, generals, presidents, & Hollywood stars. These are some fun sayings and makes drinking out of them even more festive.

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Earlier this week I made a trip to my favorite liquor store – Hi-Time Wine Cellars. They have several seasonal gifts that you can buy through their website, or likely find at your favorite liquor store.  The first is the holiday bottle from Woodford Reserve. Woodford has been releasing a special Kentucky Derby bottle for years and this year they released a Holiday bottle. The painting on the label is named “Snowfall at Woodford Reserve Distillery.” It was painted by Thomas Allen Pauly. He also did the paintings for the last 2 Kentucky Derby bottles and was featured on my blog earlier this year. It is a very warm and inviting painting of a limestone barrel house at Woodford Reserve. His paintings are known for his attention to detail and the details show through here with the evergreens lining the warehouse wall. The label draws you to the bottle and partners well with the beautiful color of their bourbon. It invokes thoughts of a great sip of bourbon while sitting by the Christmas tree. This could be made even better with a fire in fireplace and a little early snow falling outside. These bottles are selling for $44.99 at Hi-Time Wine Cellars.

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Hi-Times is also offering a bottle of Woodford reserve with a branded rocks glass in a gift box for $26.99. It is a 750 mL bottle and 1 glass. That is a very good deal, and one any bourbon lover would appreciate.

WRGS

My final suggestion is from Makers Mark. I found a Makers gift set at Spec’s in Texas that was a bottle of Makers Mark and Makers 46 in the same box. You will find many stores have these holiday offerings. The offer at Hi-Time Wine Cellars has a box of with Makers Mark 46 and 2 glasses. This too is a very good deal at $31.97. You will pay more than that for a bottle of Makers 46 most of the year.

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Whatever you do, “drink responsibly this holiday season.” But do toast your friends with a glass of your finest bourbon and a gift that will remind them of your friendship for months to come. Merry Christmas to all, and a very Happy New Year!

Some Bourbon Gift Ideas

With the holidays upon us, I will be spending the next 20 or so days sharing ideas for the whiskey lover in your life, or your personal bar cart. You will see a little bit of everything spirits related.   I hope to give you a lot of ideas for that last minute shopping, or those stumped for ideas. I made 2 stops over the weekend that were whiskey related and found some good deals that would make for good gift giving or just generally stocking up.

My first stop was Trader Joe’s. Trader Joe’s has always been known for their wine selection and wine bargains such as “Two Buck Chuck.” In California, and other states that allow it, have started carrying more spirits and I was intrigued by 2 in particular. They have their own Trader Joe’s branded Bourbon. It’s a fun bottle and label and has a beautiful deep mahogany color. There is no information on the bottle as to who distilled and bottled it. But I was told by one of their associates that she looked up the distillery code on the box and it is Buffalo Trace. When I got home I compared the color to the bottle of Buffalo Trace I have and it looks similar. At a price point of $14.99 it is certainly worth the risk. If not a great sipper at $14.99 it is still a good mixer. I will review in an upcoming blog, I haven’t opened it yet.

TJ Bourbon on Shelf

TJ Bourbon

The other is the Trader Joe’s Branded bottle of Glen Moray 14-year old Single Malt Scotch. Where do you find a 14-year old scotch for $29.99? My Aunt Pat loves Glen Moray and swears by its taste and finish against many other single Malt’s. I have to take her word for it, I am not a single malt guy.

The second stop I made was Total Wine. Total Wine has a totally amazing selection of wine. They also have a huge selection of spirits, and particularly whiskey of all kinds. During my visit i picked up one of my favorites to keep around for mixing – Evan Williams Black.Great to have handy for holidays parties! A 1.75L is on sale right now for $14.99. Stock up for the coming year at that price. Whiskey Advocate Magazine picked Evan Williams Black as their best bargain in bourbon a few years ago. The article suggested at the price point you can’t beat it for sipping or mixing. It’s a good bourbon, and for the holidays if you are making holiday cocktails it will go a long way at that price.

Evan Williams Black

They also have Elijah Craig Small Batch for $24.99. Whiskey Advocate just picked Elijah Craig Small Batch as their #1 Whiskey of the Top Whiskies in the world for 2017. Need I say more? Why are you still reading my blog and not in the car?

Elijah Craig

I strolled over to their wine section looking for whiskey barrel finished red wines. Are you seeing a theme here? I immediately saw a gift box from Cooper & Thief. It’s a bottle of their red wine blend in a box with 2 rocks glasses. On the box it says, “Red wine stashed in bourbon barrels. Enjoy in whiskey glasses.” I thought that was very creative. Why not enjoy a wine finished in bourbon barrels in whiskey glasses, makes sense to me? And they are good looking etched glasses to boot. This set sells for $30.99. I first saw this California wine in Richmond when we were visiting our daughter. Total Wine’s description of the wine is, “A daring red blend aged for 3 months in bourbon barrels which produces a complex and smooth, well-rounded wine. Dark and jammy with bourbon-inspired flavors that give way to soft tannins and a long, lingering finish.”

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My last offering today is 1000 Stories. You may have seen it elsewhere it has a very broad distribution. I bought several bottles the first time I saw it and I love it. It’s a bourbon barrel aged Zinfandel. They have an American Bison on their label and 1000 Stories is involved in American Bison conservation. To bring the story home, bison used to roam Kentucky, and the Midwest. To me, aging the wine in bourbon barrels, and having a silver bison on their beautiful black label brings it all home for me.

1000 Label

Happy shopping! Let me know what great gift ideas you have, or see, while out on the trail.  I am heading back out later tonight. I will let you know what I find. Cheers, and stay tuned.

 

 

Thanksgiving Cocktails

While we traditionally serve wine during the Thanksgiving meal (I recommend a nice pinot noir – a light red pairs well with turkey), bourbon cocktails are a great way to start your Thanksgiving gathering. I was asked by my sister-in-law Cheryl to come up with a couple fun cocktails for Thanksgiving Day at their house. Challenge accepted!

I have been pouring over internet sites to find some fun drinks. A common theme among the cocktails I’ve found is What I have found is  cranberries, cinnamon, and apple cider. I asked the guys at Hi-Time Wine Cellars what bourbon they would use in a fall cocktail. They suggested Buffalo Trace and Elijah Craig. They said the spice in both bourbons will play well with the Thanksgiving flavors. The Elijah Craig at 94 proof is just a little higher proof than the Buffalo Trace at 90.

Obviously Bourbon Bill is planning on serving bourbon cocktails but there are also plenty of cocktail recipes out there using rum, vodka or another liquor. Your menu should definitely drive the cocktails.  As I mentioned above, also think also about what you will serve to drink with the big meal. We usually get some of the newly released Beaujolais Nouveau from France, or a California Pinot Noir to serve with our turkey (usually cook one on the Weber grill and deep fry one).

The three cocktails I recommend are below. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families!

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The first drink I would suggest is a Bourbon Cranberry Cocktail. This drink I found on the Food Network from Nancy Fuller. The recipe makes a lot so you may want to cut it in half unless you have a lot of Bourbon drinkers.

Bourbon Cranberry Cocktail
2 Cups Fresh Cranberries
1 Cup Orange Juice
1/3 Cup Sugar
3 Cinnamon Sticks
1L (about 4 Cups) Bourbon
Orange Peels for Garnish

Combine the cranberries, orange juice, sugar and cinnamon sticks in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves and cranberries start to pop, about 5 minutes. Let cool completely, then combine with the bourbon in a pitcher. To serve, pour into glasses over ice and garnish with an orange peel.

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The next drink is for the going the fall apple route. We went apple picking with the kids in Virginia a little over a week ago. When I saw this drink I thought it was the perfect sophisticated fall bourbon drink. I got this one from the Woodford Reserve website. They have a lot of creative cocktails on there.

Woodford Reserve Apple Cider
4 ounces hot fresh apple cider
2 ounces Woodford Reserve
1 ounces brown sugar syrup (recipe below)

Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well until chilled and pour into your favorite stemmed glass.

For the syrup: Combine equal parts water and brown sugar. Bring to a boil until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool.

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For my last Holiday cocktail, I would suggest a “Fall Fashion Issue.” It’s an Old Fashioned from Bourbon & Banter.  “In autumn, I like to add the seasonal flavor of apples. Cider is delicious, but there’s no place for juice in an old fashioned. No, you have to keep things boozy with applejack. Applejack was first made by William Laird in New Jersey in 1698. George Washington liked it so much he asked Robert Laird for the recipe in 1760. Laird & Company received distillery License No. 1 from the U.S. Department of the Treasury in 1780.” For this old fashioned we split the spirit duties between bourbon and applejack. The bitters will be aromatic, the sugar is honey, and the water is always ice.

Fall Fashion Issue
1 oz bourbon
1 oz applejack
1/4 oz honey syrup
3 dashes aromatic bitters

Stir all ingredients with ice in a double old-fashioned glass. Garnish with a twist of orange peel.

To make honey syrup mix equal parts of honey and hot water. 

 

Whiskey Wednesdays at the Public House (Fullerton)

Watch out Happy Hour and Taco Tuesday, the Public House in Fullerton has a new twist on Wednesdays: Whiskey Wednesdays. As a bourbon fan – what a great idea. They offer 3 whiskeys tastings and 3 beer tastings for $12.00. Each week they offer different whiskey and beer tastings. While there two weeks ago, it was Japanese Whiskey. I have been there for Canadian Whiskey Wednesday, and a Bourbon Wednesday.

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What a good way to try different whiskey (or whisky). It forces you to try something you might not try and it’s a great price to boot. Anyone who is into their whiskey always wants to try something new and this is the perfect way to do it. Hopefully Whiskey Wednesday starts to catch on at other restaurants!

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There are always new spirits to try. A tasting like this gives you that opportunity without the commitment of a bottle. I find it really interesting that Public House pairs it with three beers as well. You get quite a flavor explosion that way and find out what you really enjoy. I thought I had experienced enough scotch and dark beer tastes in my life to know I didn’t want more. But since going to the Public House I have had some dark beers on Wednesdays and want to give more a try.

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Evans Brewing is Orange County’s oldest craft brewery having opened in 1994. They opened the Public House in the fall of 2016. We go out on Friday nights with friends and Public House has become a regular for us. They have a wonderful happy hour with their brick oven pizzas on special as well. The menu has some good signature cocktails, or their knowledgeable bartenders can make you whatever your heart desires. They have a nice selection of whiskey which is unusual for the normal restaurant opened by a craft brewery. But it doesn’t stop there.

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This blog was supposed to be about Whiskey Wednesday’s and “Brown Liquor” tasting but I have to mention the food. I will do another post about their beer and food, it is so good. I am getting hungry writing this. Do you like “Tater Tots”? Loaded question because who doesn’t, right. The make sweet potato tater tots! They are to die for! There is the “White Pie” pizza my wife loves made with garlic puree, pea tendrils, ricotta, mozzarella, peas, sea salt. It was on the menu all summer but with the fall menu it disappeared. I thought Lynn was going to cry. The manager assured us it will be back. But my favorite is the “Home on the Range Bison Burger.” A generous bison patty, sweet onions, Oaklore reduced jam, spicy Cajun onion strings, aged white cheddar, arugula, and roasted garlic aioli. Can I just go there and eat now? The menu is extensive, soups, salads, pizzas, sandwiches, and big plates.

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This was supposed to be about “Whiskey Wednesday’s” and whiskey tasting but it has turned into the Food Channel. For readers in Orange County, the next time you go out, go to the Public House in Fullerton, you will enjoy the experience.

 

Bourbon Review: Blade and Bow

Blade-and-Bow-Bourbon-Story

Blade and Bow Bourbon is distilled at one of the most famous distilleries in Kentucky, Stitzel-Weller. They produce two products: the first being their Blade and Bow Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey, and Blade and Bow 22-year-old, which is extremely hard to find.

From their website: “Named after the two parts of an ornate skeleton key, the blade shaft and the ornate bow, the Blade and Bow Brand is a tribute to the five keys that once hung on the door at Stitzel-Weller Distillery. These keys represent the five keys of crafting bourbon-grains, yeast, fermentation, distillation and aging. But more importantly they grew to symbolize the southern traditions of hospitality, warmth, and enjoying the finer things in life.” The bottles all come with one of the distinctive keys, some harder to find than the others.

But let’s go back to the beginning. It all started on Derby Day in 1935 when Stitzel-Weller Distillery was opened by Julian Van Winkle, Alex T. Famsley, and Arthur Phillip Stitzel. It became known as the Old Fitzgerald Distillery after the brand name of main product produced there. The distillery went through a lot of owners and changes until it closed in 1972. In 2014 Diageo reopened the facility following a multimillion dollar investment. The distillery was known for its wheated bourbons, where they used more wheat than rye in the mash bill. The most famous of those is Pappy Van Winkle.

Photography by ProofMediaMix.com

I recently had the opportunity to try their straight bourbon whiskey. I didn’t know what to expect, but knowing the origin of the bourbon I was expecting a lot and it delivers. Its dark amber color in the beautiful bottle is  Your first impression is a nose of vanilla and oak, with a bit of alcohol. As you take your first sip you get a very smooth and pleasant caramel taste. You may get some cinnamon and baking spice as well. The more it breathes the elegance and taste evolves.

This bourbon packs a lot of easy drinking flavor. I would suggest this is a good bourbon to add to that cart and serve to treat yourself or friends. Now to try to get my hands on the Blade and Bow 22-year-old.

Tasting Notes:
Aged: No Age Statement; 6 years blended with older bourbons
Proof: 91 proof
Color: Dark Amber
Aroma: Vanilla & Oak
Taste:  Caramel, Cinnamon, Spice
Price: $46.97 at BevMo

Is it worth it?

I am often asked by friends and readers, is it worth it? That bottle of bourbon or whiskey you saw at your favorite liquor store or online, read about in a magazine, or is featured at a favorite restaurant. My daughter recently emailed about a lottery being held for 10 bottles of a special release bourbon. I get a call, email, or text with that question every week.

It’s a very hard question to answer as value is, generally, in the eyes of the beholder. What is a bourbon or whiskey worth? Like anything else you would buy, sell, or collect, it’s worth what someone will pay for it. The market for bourbon the last five years has been very volatile and we have seen huge increases in the aftermarket prices of the hard to find bourbons. So, there really is no easy answer to the question.

Fall is the time of year when many of the distilleries release their special bourbons. Buffalo Trace releases their Antique Collection of bourbons and rye in the fall. Anyone who has pursued a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle knows everyone has been maneuvering with their local store for the bottle of Pappy that Buffalo Trace will release in October or November without paying a huge resale markup. Other distilleries have released, and are releasing, special bourbons during this time period. Fall is early Christmas for the drinkers and collectors of hard to find whiskey. You’ll start seeing a lot of articles, lotteries, and information about getting a bottle of these releases.

My suggestion, as I have said before is, “have a guy” who you know and trust to give you a valid review of the whiskey you are thinking of buying. I have mentioned before I talk with Ryan at Hi-Time Wine Cellars near our house. Find the specialist at the stores where you shop. Many Total Wine stores in Southern California have a whiskey specialist at their stores.

Rebel Yell 2

Rebel Yell, which used to be famous for the fact you could not get it above the Mason Dixon Line, released a bottle of 10-year-old bourbon earlier this year. Ryan at High Times Wine keeps me up on the new releases they receive and suggested I try it. Based on Rebel Yell I had tried recently I was skeptical. That is why, “have a guy.” Ryan said it was good, and that I might want an extra bottle to stick in the closet or under the bed. Well, he was right, it was rated in the recent Whisky Advocate Magazine at 92 points making it one of the highest rated bourbons in the Fall 2017 issue. I have not tried it yet but those who have said, it’s worth it at $47.99-69.99 depending upon where you find it. The low being Total Wine and the high being the Idaho State Liquor Stores (but when I looked recently I could not find any available at Total Wine).

Rebel Yell

My friend Joey and I were recently looking for Blood Oath Pact No. 3. Most of the stores in California we had shopped were out of it. I found it at the Virginia ABC stores while there for our first grandchild’s birth. In Virginia it was going for $139.99. I asked how many bottles they had and decided I should do some research. After looking online a couple of times I found a Total Wine store not far from our house that had it for $99.99. Moral of the story – shop around if you’re in pursuit of a special bottle.

This brings up another great point. If you are linked into Caskers, and some of the other online purveyors of top rated liquor and wine sometimes you will find good deals, and if you watch carefully you may get free shipping.

When stocking your bar, look for reviews and ratings on line, read the magazines, “have a guy,” and shop around and do your research before you buy.

Bourbon Heritage Month

September marks the 10th anniversary of National Bourbon Heritage Month, which was passed by the U.S. Senate in 2007 to honor America’s native spirit. The month-long holiday celebrates the history, cultural heritage and legacy that the bourbon industry contributes to the United States.

I know I am a little late to the game in reporting this but you should have noticed a flurry of ads and media about Bourbon the past few weeks. If you are not keeping up with what’s going on in the whiskey industry, I would suggest you subscribe to “The Bourbon Review.” The Bourbon Review is based in Lexington, Kentucky and has it thumb on the pulse of everything going on in the state.

Bourbon Review Magazine

They just put on the “Bourbon Shindig” at Taylor Made Farms. It’s an annual event held in Lexington. They put on a wonderful evening of bourbon, and food that will make anyone want to move to Lexington the next week. Their selection of locations like Taylor Made Farms is superb. Some of the legends of the industry attend and the crowd at just over 100 makes for a comfortable evening of food, drink, and fellowship.

Bourbon Shindig

The other publication I read is Whisky Advocate. Whisky Advocate is published in New York, you can tell by the spelling of their name the focus on the all brown spirits including Irish Whiskey, Japanese Whisky, Scotch Whisky and American Whiskey, bourbon being a large part of that coverage.   Whisky Advocate also puts on the WhiskyFest which they hold in New York, Chicago, Washington, DC and San Francisco annually.

Whisky Advocate Magazine

By reading these publications you get advance notices of spirits like “Statesman” and other new releases. They also talk about tasting, buying, storing, and enjoying your purchases, and collection. If you are collecting they talk about how best to do it. They answer questions like,

This weekend is taking all the month long Bourbon hype to a level only Hollywood can bring with the opening of “Kingsman, The Golden Circle.”

Taken from the Old Forester website:

“Inspired by the dynamic characters in the upcoming film “Kingman: The Golden Circle,” Old Forester Statesman offers bold flavor blended to a smooth 95 proof from hand-selected casks of our famed Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky from the warmest places in the warehouse.” Their tasting notes say, “A buttery leather is quickly dominated by a bold flash of pepper, cinnamon bark, and sharp citrus.”

Stateman Bourbon

Kingsman will be in theaters on September 22nd. If you didn’t see the first Kingman movie (Loosely based on the Marvel comic series) you are in for a treat. This live action, comedy film has the London based crime fighting organization Kingsman working with their American counterparts, the Statesman, after their London based headquarters is destroyed. The statesman operates out of their namesake distillery.

“Bourbon isn’t just part of the movie, its central to the plot,” said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. He went on to say, “If you are going to take bourbon as your theme in your movie, what better place to frame those scenes than Kentucky.”

As you raise a glass to the weekend start planning for a trip to see “Kingsman, The Golden Circle,” The Bourbon Trail this fall, or dinner out with a great bourbon cocktail. Get out and enjoy the “Brown Water” and the spirit, of the spirit.