Category Archives: Whisky2.0

Movin’ On

The Whisky2.0 Blog lives on: You should still see the URL working just fine, and this blog will live on here at But now my blog is hosted at Blogger. I’m trying it on, so please be patient.

Why keep the WordPress site? I put a lot of work into collecting the physical locations of Scotch whisky distilleries and I want those to remain available, if for no other reason than so I can refer to them in the future. 🙂

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Posted by on 15-February-2012 in Announcements, Whisky2.0


Tom Has Left the Building

Wait! Let me explain myself. My wife’s photo blog last night is a picture of my hat and coat – but no me, which was very apropos for today…my last day at my job of the last 6 years. What a big change! So when I saw her picture when I got up this morning, I titled it “Tom Has Left the Building.”

The reason I’ve been so preoccupied of late is that I have been in the process of getting hired by Google. This has been extremely stressful, due to the tension between my strong desire for a positive outcome vs. the long time that it took. The process basically involves a bunch of short, very stressful high-intensity periods of activity punctuated by long periods of nothing happening.

In possibly unrelated news, Google’s stock price has gone from $522.18 to $650.02 (i.e., up just over 24%) since I started down this road. The market approves, apparently. 🙂

I hope to now have a chance to rebuild my mental energy reserves so I have the capacity to write more here again. I think I’ll find writing about whisky to be therapeutic…after I get a LOT of sleep!

I bet you wonder what whisky I celebrated with. No? I’ll tell you anyway: Dalmore Mackenzie. It is outstanding. I was lucky to have a sample on hand, because it’s way more expensive than my usual budget. With that said, now that I’ve had it, I am pretty sure that it’s worth the price.


Posted by on 7-January-2012 in Whisky2.0


Bliadhna Mhath Ă™r – FĂ ilte 2012!

That is Scottish Gaelic for “Happy New YearWelcome 2012.”

I hope you haven’t missed me – the last few months have been, um, hectic. More news as events warrant. Also, 2012 should bring more blogging from me.

Click this picture for an article on the misty origins of Auld Lang Syne.

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Posted by on 31-December-2011 in Whisky2.0


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Wine Is to Brandy as Beer Is to… ______

Fill in the blank: ________ The answer is “whisk(e)y,” but I might be skipping ahead too far.

The real question is: People drink wine and brandy (and specialized kinds of brandy, like cognac), but people don’t drink beer and whisk(e)y. You might think I’m wrong. Did I just say that people don’t drink beer?

The Real Question

Yes. Of course, people drink beer. But people don’t drink the beer from which whisk(e)y is made. So, let’s ask a related question that may be possible to answer:

  • Why Is Good Whisk(e)y Made from Bad Beer?

If we just focus on Scotch whisky and Irish whiskey, as far as I know, the beer (wash) from which these are made isn’t even drunk by the people that make the whisk(e)y, much less offered to visitors. Single-malt Scotch whisky is made from malted barley, water and yeast (period). Irish whiskey is made from a combination of malted and un-malted barley (and water and yeast). Even though the Scottish or Irish distilleries don’t sell or offer tastings of their starting product, their finished products turn out well enough….

  • Why isn’t whisk(e)y made from good beer?

I define “good beer” as beer that whisk(e)y producers would be happy for distillery visitors to drink, perhaps good enough that they’d sell it on the open market. I will point out that it’s all the rage to sell “new make” (or “white dog”) spirit, which is simply legal moonshine, so I wondered why no one had extrapolated this process further up the production chain. Whisk(e)y lovers seem to be clamoring for such “insider” experiences.

Yes, Virginia, You Can Make Whisk(e)y from Good Beer

I was very fortunate this Summer to spend time at the Charbay Distillery in St. Helena, CA. Marko, the 13th-generation Master Distiller, is doing just this. He’s making whiskey from Bear Republic Brewing Company‘s Big Bear Black Stout and their Racer 5 IPA. Both are likely to become fine whiskeys. Marko’s direct quote about the distilled stout is: “…green spice, rum tones, and its so smooth i want to bottle it right off the damn pipe.

Back to the moonshine comment above: I’m not a fan. I’ve tried many of these trendy “whisk(e)y” products and mostly they are pretty flavorless. As with anything I write here, this is my opinion. I know that many people like them and I am not disparaging their opinions. Please: If you like something, drink it! You don’t have to justify your preferences to anyone else. To my palate, these products do have more flavor than vodka, which is the closest thing I can compare them to, but it’s clear that — at least for the ones I have tried — they really need lots of time in wood (at least the traditional 2-3 years) to acquire their “whisk(e)y flavors.” Not so with Charbay’s product: According to Marko (see above), his white dog spirit actually has flavor before it has rested in wood for years. It doesn’t need those years of chemical reactions and magic to be palatable.

If you think about it, the distillation process is a way of concentrating flavors and smells by 15-20x, so in your mind, imagine starting with an excellent stout beer or IPA and extracting and concentrating the best flavors. You’d imagine that the finished product would simply rock…and it does.

This isn’t the first time Marko (and his Dad, Miles) has made whiskey from good beer: Marko’s solo project, Doubled & Twisted was distilled from an IPA (rather recently), after Marko and Miles got rave reviews on their first beer distilling collaboration that they produced from Pilsner beer. I was able to taste their Pilsner whiskey at one of the local retailers that carries their products, and it was amazing. You would be blown away at how the hops evolve in distillation. And these flavors are present immediately — as soon as the liquid leaves the still. This whiskey had been aged as well, so it was a deep and complex whiskey, one of the best I have ever had.

California has always attracted pioneers, explorers and dreamers, so it’s only fitting that you’d find a distillery in the middle of the Napa valley wine country that was experimenting with making whiskey from good beer. Honestly…where else?


Posted by on 25-October-2011 in California, Whisky2.0


What’s the Flavor of Yeast?

Yeast is perhaps one of the most overlooked (or perhaps the least spoken about…) ingredients in whisk(e)y distillation. We all know the main contribution of the yeast: Ethanol. I wrote about yeast on my first whisky blog in 2008. But this Summer I learned a lot more about it in the best possible way: Using my nose and mouth.

What Gets Distilled?

If you think about it, the “liquid” that goes into the first still (in Scotch whisky production, the wash still) isn’t a pure liquid. It has dead yeast in it, and lots of other things, including leftover undistilled liquids from previous passes through the wash still. There are unconsumed enzymes from the mashing process, malted barley solids (or in general whisk(e)y terms, grain solids), and the latter contains every kind of biological chemical compound from proteins to amino acids to fats to DNA to complex carbohydrates to trace minerals absorbed from the soil into the plant when it grew.

Then you cook that mixture to boil/extract the alcohol and whatever comes along for the ride. That’s distillation, and it’s not nearly as simple as “extract pure alcohol” — chemical analysis of single-malt Scotch whisky has identified over 600 chemicals in the distillate! That’s a good thing, too, because pure Ethanol has no flavor to speak of…what’s brilliant is that many chemicals that we associate with various smells or tastes are alcohol-soluble. Good stuff comes along for the ride, and gets refined during aging.

The spirit still will further concentrate the esters and other chemicals which are the source of the pleasant flavors, smells and textures of whisk(e)y.

So: What Did I Learn?

I was privileged to participate in a side-by-side tasting of two identical unaged California Bourbon whiskeys made with identical ingredients in identical proportions. The only difference was that each recipe used a different kind of yeast. One of the Bourbons was noticeably smoother in texture, almost buttery, with a “flatter” flavor profile. The other was much “sharper” and had (for lack of a better term) a “watery” texture, at least compared to the first one. The two samples were at the same ABV, which was over 60%, and they were roughly equivalent in that department. Both were clearly corn-based because that came out in the smell of the whiskey.

The lesson was that yeast has a heck of a lot of influence on the final product. I now have a much higher appreciation of yeast’s “unsung” contributions to the flavor of whisk(e)y.

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Posted by on 23-September-2011 in California, United States, Whisky2.0


272 Days until World Whisky Day

I just added World Whisky Day to my blogroll (here is a link to the event details on their Facebook event page…). Scroll down and go check them out (the right column has the blogroll if you scroll far enough).

What is World Whisky Day? Tuesday, 27-Mar-2012 is an entire day devoted to Scotch whisky. Mark your calendars!

I am 100% positive that whatever kind of Scotch you prefer is ok. You like blends? That’s fine…you’re not alone: Most people do; blends represent more than 80% of the market for Scotch whisky (It’s a Whisky2.0Fact!). Single-malts? Ohhh…fancy! 🙂 Single-grains? How exotic! Blended malts or blended grains? Go for it (if you can find them; hint: Johnnie Walker Green is a blended malt…).

I’ve partnered with the guys who are promoting this, so I’ll be occasionally reminding y’all that you need to lay down some stocks of your own to prepare for the glorious day. This is a grassroots effort to promote Scotch whisky education, appreciation and above all, responsible consumption. There is no distiller behind this. We’re doing it because we love Scotch whisky and want to spread the joy.

Whatever you choose to enjoy, remember to add a comment here (when the time comes). Actually, make a comment on the World Whisky Day event page on Facebook *and* leave a comment here. 🙂


WhistlePig 100/10/100 Straight Rye Whiskey

If the Willett is a crackerjack Rye, WhistlePig is a bolt of lightning, wrapped in velvet. The price is double or so what you’d pay for Willett, because WhistlePig is 10 years old and 100 proof. Oh, and it’s also better than the Willett. WhistlePig is awesome — easily worth the price premium.

You will have to look carefully to find WhistlePig, but it’s worth the effort. I don’t know of a better Rye whiskey at this, or any, price point. Before I go further: A “whistle pig” is a New England name for a groundhog or similar varmint.

The facts of this whiskey are these:

  1. 100% Rye whiskey — no other grain is present
  2. Aged for 10 years
  3. 50% ABV (100 proof)
  4. Distilled in Canada, bottled in Vermont
  5. Product of ____ (they prefer not to state by whom it is distilled)

When nosing and tasting this whiskey, my wife and I pulled out many sample spices out of our kitchen pantry. She got a hint of blackstrap molasses on the nose, and I agreed that there is a dark, oily “aroma” hidden in the background, somewhere between diesel fuel and freshly ground coffee.

The predominant note on the nose is honey, which doesn’t smell sweet (try it!). Honey *tastes* sweet, but the smell is dry and almost like fresh hay (we have several kinds in our kitchen, and they all smell different, depending on the type of honey). This could be the source of the floral notes.

There are spicy notes as well: black pepper, baking cinnamon, and oaky notes like butterscotch and caramel. There is also a hint of leather on the nose. These smells are all very well blended and I suppose that’s due to the age. The one thing that’s either so dominant or so mellow that you can’t notice it, is the rye.

The finish has a very faint hint of dried spearmint that’s nearly eclipsed by the baking cinnamon that I find to be very pleasant. The finish is looooooooong.

Bottom line: This is *excellent* whiskey. Get some. You won’t regret it.

p.s. Be sure to check out Davin de Kergommeaux’s review of WhistlePig, too. Davin is probably the world expert on Canadian whisky. You’ll want to follow his site.

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Posted by on 16-June-2011 in Whisky2.0

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