Archive for the ‘Other spirits’ Category

Gin Meets Whisky (in a barrel)

Monday, January 27th, 2014

We welcome Geoff Kleinman, editor of the DrinkSpirits website, as a guest blogger on the subject of aged gin…which can be tantalizingly close to whisky.

Author_Geoff KleinmanAged Gin isn’t a new spirit category, but it’s a category that has been getting an increasing amount of attention. Craft distillers have embraced aged gin as another vehicle for creative expression and as an aged product that can be sold during the long waiting game that’s required for aged whisky. The problem with the category is that, at times, it tends to blur the lines between gin and whiskey, with one product, Pow-Wow Botanical Rye, completely obliterating the lines.

“Early American gin (up through the 1860s) was made in the flavored-whiskey style, and it was often barrel aged. Later, once (neutral-spirit based) English styles took root, that, too, was often aged, but much more lightly,” explains David Wondrich, spirits historian and author of Imbibe!.

One of the first contemporary entries in the aged gin space came from Ransom Spirits, in Sheridan, Oregon. With Ransom’s Old Tom Gin, distiller Tad Seestedt helped resurrect a “lost” style of gin and in the process helped kick off a new wave of the aged gin category. “The idea was initially to replicate the short amount of time that the gin would have historically spent in barrel during transport over land or sea to its final destination. We also realized afterwards that the barrel aging had an obviously pleasant effect on the gin,” says Tad Seestedt.

agedginRansom’s Old Tom Gin soon became a darling of the craft spirit world, and it opened the door for more craft spirit companies to follow in the aged gin space. “One of the most challenging aspects of “craft distilling” is that the big boys make outstanding products – aging gin allows me a chance to not only be creative but create products that the big boys fhave to play catch up, like with Beefeater’s Burroughs Reserve,” says Paul Hletko, founder and master distiller of FEW Spirits.

Many craft distillers don’t have the ability to truly rectify spirits and scoff at using neutral grain spirits for their products. The result can be a malty botanical spirit with similar characteristics to a young whiskey. “The primary difference, besides the addition of the botanicals to the spirit, is the distillation proof of the base spirit. As you know, whiskey is distilled to a much lower proof off the still, so there are fusels and other congeners in the whiskey distillate that aren’t there in the base of the gin distillate,” remarks John Little, head distiller of Smooth Ambler Spirits.

Seeing this intersection between aged gin and aged whiskey, Amir Peay, CEO and founder at Georgetown Trading Co., created Pow-Wow Botanical Rye. “We took a fine, mature whiskey and then infused it with whole botanicals over an extended period of time. My idea of a good whiskey is one that is complex and balanced, and I wanted to see if we could take a great whiskey and add new layers of botanical complexity that worked in concert with the existing flavors.”

The dividing line between a botanical flavored whiskey and an aged gin may be murky, but it’s there. “Aged London dry style gin, or any gin that’s based on neutral spirits, is not aged whiskey, it’s aged vodka. If you make your gin with an unrectified grain spirit that’s been distilled to a relatively low proof, as the Dutch do with their moutwijn, then it’s a flavored whiskey,” explains David Wondrich.

While aged gin is predominantly seen among craft distillers, this year Pernod Ricard got into the space with their limited Beefeater Burrough’s Reserve “Barrel Finished Gin.”

“Aged or rested gin opens up another drinking occasion for gin. Most people wouldn’t think to sit and enjoy a glass of neat gin with a cheese plate after dinner, but with Burrough’s Reserve on the market now we can,” says Nick van Tiel, Pernod Ricard’s English gins brand ambassador.

Whether or not whiskey drinkers will embrace the aged gin category remains to be seen, but it’s certainly a category that deserves exploration. Paul Hletko best sums it up: “It is a wide open place, and much of what we do is education on what ‘brown gin’ is and why it’s brown.  But the opportunity to be creative is worth it.”

What are you drinking besides whisky?

Friday, November 5th, 2010

It’s fair to assume you are all whisky drinkers. But what else are you drinking? Do you drink more whisky than anything else, or does something else come first? And do you think that drinking other alcoholic beverages has made you a better whisky drinker?

I admit that I am what I call an “equal opportunity drinker.” I like nearly all beverages, as long as they taste good. I drink more beer than anything else, but it’s always the good stuff. (Malt Advocate was originally a beer publication many years ago.) I also love wine and maintain a wine cellar of a couple hundred carefully chosen wines. Rum, tequila, Cognac, Armagnac also get thrown into the mix, and my preference is for those that are nicely aged. I’ll even have some white spirits (gin, vodka) on occasion, when I’m in the mood for a martini.

And yes, drinking other beverages has made me a better whisky enthusiasts–especially being a wine drinker, with all the exotic wine-finished whiskies on the market these days.

How about you?

Buffalo Trace Experimental Rum finally released

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

I first mentioned this in my blog back on May 21st. It is now official. Buffalo Trace has bottled a rum as part of their “Experimental Collection” releases.

The rum is 17 years old and is a marriage of rum from two different barrels–a new barrel and an used barrel. The yield is less than 300 bottles. Price is the same as others in the Experimental Collection, with an SRP just shy of $50 for the 375ml bottle.

I tasted samples from both barrels back when I visited Buffalo Trace in December. If married properly, this could be a very delicious rum. I am looking forward to trying it.

Buffalo Trace Distillery to release rum in July

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

When I was at the distillery in December, we tasted our way through many whiskey samples. Two samples that I tasted were pretty bad whiskeys. That’s because they weren’t whiskeys. They were rum samples.

According to Mark Brown, Buffalo Trace’s President and CEO, they have created a meritage of the two casks and plan to release the rum in July, as part of their Experimental Collection. As far as I know, this is just a one-off and won’t be repeated anytime in the near future.

The guys at BT always have something interesting up their sleeve, that’s for sure.

Buffalo Trace….Rum?

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

That Mark Brown. He’s a clever one. During my December visit to the Buffalo Trace Distillery, Mark (the President and CEO of Buffalo Trace) thought he would have a little fun with me.

I don’t think it was even 9 o’clock in the morning. But there I was, sitting in the conference room next to his office, with a “Who’s who?” of Buffalo Trace distillery workers sitting around the table. On the table were more than a dozen sample bottles, with the labels facing in the other direction so that only they could read them.

I knew what was going to happen next.

Mark told me that he has more than 1,500 different experiments going on right now, and he thought I would like taste some of them. But, he wasn’t going to tell me which experiment it was until after I tasted the whiskey and told him what I thought of it (with everyone else looking on, of course).

I nosed and tasted my way through malt whiskeys, oat whiskeys, whiskeys with different setbacks, whiskeys with different oak board “heat” treatments, etc. He pours the next whiskey for me and says:

“What do you think this one is? If you had to make a guess, what would it be?”

I nosed, I tasted. I nosed again and tasted again. It smelled like rice to me, but they’re no way I’m going embarrass myself in front of everyone and say that it smells like rice whiskey only to find out that it’s a traditional bourbon recipe spirit that was put into toasted oak barrels and infused with bamboo shoots, or something like that.

So, I just say, “Mark, with over 1,500 different experiments, there’s no way I’m going to identify what it is. Why don’t you just tell me?”

“It’s rice whiskey, John,” he said.

Great…so much for my fifteen minutes of fame.

So, I work my way through more samples until we get down to the last two. I nose and taste them twice and say: ” I don’t like these at all. ”

That’s when Mark told me: “They’re aged white rum samples.”

Talk about bending my mind. I hesitated for a moment, recalibrating my brain cells. They make terrible whiskeys, but they are fairly decent rums!

Both were distilled in 1991 from a column still in the Virgin Islands. One was aged in a new charred oak barrel. The other was aged in a used charred oak barrel. It was an experiment to see what rum aged in bourbon warehouses and Kentucky climate would taste like.

One was very clean and fairly light in flavor. The other was rich and full-bodied, but lacked subtly and refinement.

We joked about the whole thing for a while. But then I had a thought: “What if we blended the two together?” So that’s what I did.

Bingo! This stuff tasted pretty good. Certainly good enough to bottle. The Buffalo Trace team sampled the rum blend, and agreed.

But how? When? And where will it be sold? At the distillery gift shop? Specialty retailers?

According to Mark Brown, the current plan is to release the rum under the Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection line. This, I am looking forward to.

Buffalo Trace Rum. What next, I wonder?