Bar Review: Dry 85 (Annapolis, Maryland)

My family traveled to Annapolis and Baltimore for last weekend’s Army Navy Game. What a weekend! It was great having our family back together. We always love spending time in “Naptown.” After wandering through shops downtown and along Main Street, we decided to stop by Dry 85 for a drink before dinner. (If you’re seeing a trend, Lynn and I always try to experience a Bourbon/Whiskey establishment when we visit a town.)

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Dry 85 is, “A modern industrial take on a Prohibition-era speakeasy. The back alley garage where someone today would sneak a bourbon, beer or gourmet comfort food meal.” Dry 85 opened in January 2014. It has a cozy atmosphere with a good selection of bourbon and whiskey.

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They have a nice selection of craft cocktails. Combine that with the friendly wait staff and fun atmosphere of Main Street in Annapolis and you have an instant winner. We really enjoyed our visit.

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We had 6 different combinations of drinks. I tried something I normally wouldn’t – a Buffalo Trace Sugar Plum. I guess the Christmas season and thoughts of the Nutcracker that Friday got the best of me. BUT for a guy who drinks his bourbon neat it was a very refreshing drink. The Sugar Plum is made with Buffalo Trace Bourbon, House-made Plum Puree, and Freshly Squeezed Lemon it. My kids did laugh though because it was served up and was bright pink. My daughter and son-in-law had their soon to be famous Old Fashioned made with smoked maple syrup and said it was done to perfection. It looked great. My son and his wife both had drinks with fig (blanking on the name of them) which were very different and not the biggest crowd pleasers, but props to them for going out on a limb and trying something different. Lynn had a Manhattan, which was perfectly made.

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All in all, we would definitely recommend Dry 85. We didn’t eat there but the food looked good. Between their extensive whiskey selection and unique craft cocktails, it’s a great place to meet up with friends, stop in for a quick drink, or visit after dinner for a relaxing drink.

If you haven’t been to Annapolis go, especially in December when the whole town is decorated with garland over all the shops and restaurants, wreaths on all the doors, and the big tree by the bay. I’ll be back later with a visitors guide to Annapolis! We have been too many times to count and always find new things to do each visit.

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(Lynn in front of Blackwall Hitch – another good restaurant in Annapolis)

Bourbon Review: Cotton Hollow Bourbon

We were in Corpus Christi, Texas a few months ago and our son said the local Spec’s liquor Store was a must see – so we went! Spec’s is a large chain with a huge selection of everything wine, beer, liquor, spirits related. I asked the salesman in the bourbon aisle to recommend a Texas Bourbon. He said he did not have one he recommended which shocked me (any readers have some Texas whiskey recommendations??). But, he did say to try Cotton Hollow. I had never seen it before so I thought I would bring home a bottle.

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Cotton Hollow Distilling is an “Independent Bottler.” Independent Bottlers buy whiskey in the barrel from producers and brokers. These whiskies are then bottled under the label of the Independent Bottler. Cotton Hollow’s goal is to bottle whiskies from American distilleries and bring the finest flavors to the consumer at 93 proof. It is distilled, aged, and bottled in Kentucky.

It is distilled from sweet corn, rye, and malted barley. They are using limestone filtered water in their process. Limestone water, good for the horses, even better for the bourbon. The bottle I purchased is from Batch 003 Bottle No. 2902. Their first release was in 2014 and it was aged 4 years. The second release in 2015 was aged 8 years. The bottle I have was aged 8 years.

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As I first opened the bottle it reminded me of the Wild Turkey 101. Not sure why but that was my first impression. Other reviews have said it has the aroma of Banana Cream pie, ash, and even nail polish remover. It may be the latter that reminds me of the 101. The higher proof bourbons at first breath give you a strong alcohol smell. They then mellow and you will smell some grains, and oak, and pepper.

It has a nice finish and is pleasant on the tongue. Once it has breathed I like the softness of its release. I am not sure where you might find it other than Spec’s. If you do see it, the bottle has a great presentation and attractive label, but even more important it’s a good addition to any bourbon bar.

Age: 8 years
Proof: 93
Color: Cinnamon Brown
Aroma: grains, oak, pepper
Taste: vanilla, toasted oak, pepper
Price: $47.99 at Spec’s

Bourbon Review: Michter’s Bourbon

I am sure many you have seen Michter’s on the shelf and wanted to try it. I was in that same boat and I decided to pick up a bottle at Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa (they also have a great website you can buy their products from). They have almost everything you ever wanted to add to your bourbon collection.

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Michter’s was established in 1753 and know as Shenk’s and later Bomberger’s. It was founded by John Shrek a Swiss Mennonite in Pennsylvania. It is one of the oldest distillers and George Washington even requested it for his men in the Revolutionary War. From their website I got the following. Michter’s USUS1_Michters_American_Whiskey_FRONT 1 Bourbon is made from a carefully selected mashbill that features the highest quality American corn. It is then matured to the peak of perfection, with barrels often aging in excess of eight years. Truly “small batch,” each batch of our US 1 Bourbon is typically composed of no more than two dozen barrels, leaving no margin for “blending out” imperfection and thus necessitating excellence from every barrel. Reflecting the spirit of the Bluegrass State, Michter’s US1 Kentucky Straight Bourbon is nuanced, mellow, and earthy.

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Now for my own tasting experience. It has a wonderful warm, rich color to it. It is bottled at 91.4 proof. That puts it between smack in the middle between Basil Hayden at 80 proof and Wild Turkey 101 at 101 Proof. Not sure if that tells you much but it tells me it’s going to have a gentlemanly grasp when you take your first sip. But it’s not too strong for any woman that appreciates good bourbon. I poured a small glass to take my pictures and noticed immediately how much aroma it exuded. It has a strong caramel taste with vanilla overtones and some stone fruit notes. It has a good smoky oak finish as well.

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I was very impressed with it as I tried my first sips neat. I then put a small ice cube in it and the caramel jumped out of my glass. I would highly recommend you try a bottle of Michter’s Bourbon. They say they bottle their US 1 bourbon in excess of 8 years. They also bottle a 10 year and 20 year bourbon. I hope to try the 20 sometime. Pick up a bottle and give it a try. You will be glad you did!

Age: 8 years
Proof: 91.4
Color: Warm Golden Brown
Aroma: Caramel, Vanilla, Smoky Oak
Taste: Caramel, Vanilla, Stone Fruit
Price: $36.99 at Hi Time Wine