This holiday season was very successful and a wonderful end to the year. As I stated in my last post, my birthday celebration was a treasured event, but this entry is about the whiskey related items I received and a review of them.
First off, as you might expect whiskey did make its way under my tree, in a big way. All but one bottle received was unique and not tried before. Bottles from Scotland, Ireland, Japan, India, and the U.S. all found a place on my shelf and are slated for sampling in the upcoming year. But I am most proud of two bottles in particular, neither of which were actual Christmas presents. I managed to get my hands on some whiskey from my home state of Colorado, each of which are impossible to get outside of the borders and almost as hard to find within. I was finally able to get the elusive and rare Stranahan’s Snow Flake. Supper limited production and only being sold at the distillery my sister and father (thank you so very much!) were gracious enough to stand in line during the wee cold hours of the morning to pick me up a couple of bottles. When I finally got the bottles I was
astonished to find out the head distiller, Rob Dietrich, had personally autographed them and was signing them for anyone who requested it during the release. This batch was finished in fresh Malbec wine casks from the local Spero Winery.
The next bottle I am proud of came from the small, yet growing, Deerhammer Distillery. I am happy to say I have developed a good relationship with their head distiller Lenny Eckstein and am excited to see and follow this distillery into the future! Everybody should look for good things from them, if you are able to find a bottle!
Again, getting my hands on this bottle would not have been possible without Lenny’s help and I thank him deeply! I can not express what a unique experience this whiskey has been. The initial sample was a very complex and joyful ride, you can see my tasting notes on one of my previous blogs about the Colorado Distillers Festival. Since their debut of this product in August 2012 they had a full release in December 2012. Down Time was sent all over Colorado and sold out. Not a bottle can be found but do not fret, they are diligently working on the next batch and for this whiskey’s fan, none too soon can be the next release!
But it was not all about whiskey, there were other products received this season! The first is a unique innovation on the drinking glass. A pot shaped, wide-mouthed, expansive lip glass known as the Neat Glass.
One of the selling points the company has given is the reduced amount of “nose burn.” This problem occurs when an individual smells the spirit and the alcohol causes a burning sensation. This can actually hinder the appreciation of the spirit because it causes the olfactory to go into a “defensive mode” and deadens the body’s ability to smell. It usually takes 10 minutes to reset the sense of smell but can take up to 30-45 minutes to get full capacity back. They also state the glass is scientifically designed to deliver the aromas in a magnified way…so here is what I have found.
I will start by saying I have a very sensitive nose when it comes to “nose burn” and I am very careful when nosing samples. There have been times with higher ABV whiskeys that I knock my nose out accidentally because I brought the glass to close to quick and what should have been an hour of testing turns into two or three. For me, the Neat Glass does not completely get ride to the “nose burn,” but it significantly reduces the alcohol vapors and I am no longer overly cautious with bring this glass to my nose. I tested it using whiskey at 40%, 45%, 47%, 50%, and 62.8% ABV samples. The wider neck and, what feels like a shelf, rim for delivery spread the aromas out. I feel like this glass delivers the aroma and spirit to a wider area of my face. In doing so the aroma of the samples hit me in a different way and some things are highlighted more while others do not come out as much, it quite literally is a different experience.
So what does this mean? My standard sampling glass is the Glencairn Glass. The Glencarin concentrates the aroma into a specific area and I feel one can control where those aromas go. The Neat Glass spreads those aromas out and while they wash over your face it makes it harder to concentrate and identify the specifics. This is not a complaint! This is just a different experience because none of the aromas are actually lost. With the Glencairn I am able to process the information in a more directed way. With with the Neat Glass I have to search for the aromas and while everything might be there it really is not in the same place as the Glencairn.
In conclusion, I am going to stick with the Glencairn when I sample whiskeys. The Neat glass however is a new and fun experience and when I am drinking to enjoy, instead of evaluating, I think I have found my glass of choice. I would like to also note the way this glass feels in the hand. There is just something about the shape and feel of this glass that make me feel like royalty. The pot shape fits so well into the palm and the neck and rim hug the forefinger and the thumb is such a pleasing way. I never thought the feel of a glass would make a difference but with this example, it really does.
Next is something I thought I would never use, but they were a gift so I had to give them a go!
Since I have educated myself on whiskey and have grown an appreciation for this drink, ice has not touched a single dram. Ice closes off whiskey, slowing down its molecules and taking away from the overall experience. Is adding ice “cool” because they do it in the movies? Yes. Has Scotch on the Rocks become a status in culture? Yes. Am I going to tell anyone how to drink their whiskey, no, do what you want. But adding ice does take away from whiskey and you will be missing out.
So when I received this gift, I was reluctant to use it. The information on the box claims a few things about this product. The first is it wont dilute your drink like ice does To this I can not refute the claim. No water is added so everything stays as it should and after a few uses I have not found the stones to deteriorate leaving no detectable impurities. They also claim the stones are non-porous and will neither impart odor or flavor. After doing a little research on soapstone, which these are made from, I have come to trust the claims made by the company.
But what about the final claim on the box, “More gentle than ice, Whisky Stones can be used to cool down your favorite spirits just enough to take the edge off without ‘closing down’ the flavors.” Well, I had to add ice to my whiskey so I could compare…which made me very sad. I am happy to say however the claim is true. The ice made the whiskey closed off and with a little time became overly watered down. The stones at the most stunted the aromas and flavors. The stones themselves never seem to get as cold as ice and in effect do not interfere as dramatically. It really did feel like the edge was taken off. While I will never use these in any tasting/evaluation of a whiskey, they are fun to have around and do allow for that connection to popular culture to happen with less impact on the whiskey. Every time I use them I am taken back to the scene in Rodger Rabbit when Bob Hoskins orders a Scotch on the Rocks and the penguin brings him a glass of Scotch with rocks in it instead of ice.
A final comment about the Teroforma Whisky Stones is that I have used them in a number of glass and crystal and have been happy to find no damage. This takes me to the final gift I wish to report on. A number of years ago I started on my Whisky Adventure. This adventure started with research and reading so I stocked my shelves with both whiskey and books. I researched the process of making whiskey, the marketing of the drink, and the history of fermented and distilled beverages.
This research had me find a small group of industry professionals who seemed to be the only ones writing about whiskey and I gained an appreciation for the information they had to share, but one thing I found in their reviews is none of them had negative words for any of the brands in the book they wrote. I personally came to the conclusion they must be leaving out the bad whiskeys, the alternative to this thought is the industry has in some way compensated them to speak nothing but good about the products featured but I like to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, so it must be the bad stuff has been left out. That being said I was always a little wary about reviews. I knew through my own experiences there is bad whiskey out there but since no one was saying anything bad I began to think something was wrong with me, am I tasting whiskey wrong?
I then got my hands on a Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible. This opened my mind to the experience of whisky tasting in more than one way. I found a reviewer who was not afraid to challenge the industry and was wiling to report on bad whiskey and let the reader know it is bad. I also finally came to realize we are all different, yes we share some traits because we are the same species, but everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses when it come to what we smell and taste, and that is OK. Since I picked up that first Whisky Bible it has become a tradition every year to receive the book as a Christmas gift and I look forward to having it under the tree or in a stocking. I thoroughly enjoy reading his reviews and am always happy to find a dram we have sampled together and compare my notes to his and see how I am doing. I always sample my whisky first , journal it, and then compare notes. It is always neat to have someone with his experience share the same thoughts about a whiskey, disagreement are always fun too. One example of this is his review of the Glenrothes 1994 Vintage. He did not have very good things to say about it but the sample I tested was very good which just goes to show we taste things differently. Jim Murray has some very interesting views on the world of whiskey and I have found him to be informative and a good voice for this drink we all love.
Well, that brings me to the end of my Holiday review. As you can see here, my whiskey drinking companion and I wish you a very Happy New Year and hope your holidays were as fun and exciting as mine! I look forward to this new year and am anxious to try new whisk(e)ys, have new distillery experiences, and hope I can contribute something of value to this community of whiskey drinkers!
Thank you for reading, and cheers to you and 2013!