In Honor of Back-to-School: “What I Did This Summer”

Is it that time of year already??

I visited a distillery (my second!) and I learned a lot. No, not in Scotland. (I wish!) Blog posts coming on what I learned.

I have been on vacation (see first point) and also traveling a lot. I managed to get back to Calgary but I could not get to the part of the airport with the great whisky shop (“Cloud 9“). They are making a major investment in expanding their airport, and that part may not be open again until 2015. 😦 Maybe next time….

I got kind of immersed in Google Plus. Now I’m finally starting to get a handle on it. You can find me at As part of my experimentation, I tried to create an account for whisky2dot0, knowing full well that it was against their rules. They eventually found me out (but it took way longer than I thought it would…), so now I have to wait for “brand pages” like everyone else. Don’t worry…my gmail address still works:

But enough about me: What have *you* been up to? Did you drink any interesting whisk(e)y? I have to say that it never really got warm enough (here in Northern California) this year for me to stop drinking my liquid peat, whenever I was so inclined. Yes, I know that folks elsewhere have been suffering through record heat. Sorry about that! If you were sweating through the Summer, what did you drink, if not whisk(e)y?

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Posted by on 18-August-2011 in Announcements


News from the Isle of Lewis

Abhainn Dearg on the Isle of Lewis started distilling new make spirit just over 3 years ago (12-Aug-2008), and now it’s old enough to be called whisky. To celebrate this milestone, they are offering a commemorative bottling of their single-malt whisky in a special package.

I want one. 🙂

It’s only £150 (plus postage, packing and insurance, all of which varies depending on where you live). The package contains a numbered 500 ml bottle — one of 2011 total bottles in this limited release (bottled by hand, and each bottle is signed by the distillery owner, Mark Tayburn. You can purchase it online at their website.

If you are reading this, you are likely interested in what’s inside the bottle:

  • 46% ABV
  • Non Chill Filtered
  • Natural Cask Color
  • Single Cask Bottling

Remember, this is the first legal whisky distillery on the Isle of Lewis in nearly two centuries (see my earlier story for all the details, including a map of the location with a link to the Google Street View…as usual, just click the Post Code and you’ll be transported to a nearby location with a view of the distillery).

Abhainn Dearg is a small operation today, and it’s in a very remote part of the world. It reminds me of Kilchoman on Islay (except Islay isn’t nearly as remote as is Lewis), in that both are small, farmhouse distilleries. It’s very exciting to see a new distillery making it from first spirit to production. Help them grow…buy their whisky!

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Posted by on 17-August-2011 in Isle of Lewis


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


Willett Straight Rye Whiskey

This is a crackerjack Rye. Costco has it for $32.99 as I wrote recently. You may not be lucky enough to live near such a Costco, but I even think it’s worth paying more for this whiskey. If you find it for less, please leave a comment on this blog post!

The facts of this whiskey are these:

  1. Family Estate Bottled Single Barrel Rye
  2. Aged in hand-selected white oak barrels for 3 years
  3. Hand bottled from barrel number 38
  4. Bottle 111 of 216 (from that barrel)
  5. 55% ABV (110 proof)
  6. Distilled in Indiana, bottled in Kentucky
  7. Product of The Willett Distillery, Bardstown, KY

They don’t mention that the barrels are charred, and they don’t say ex-Bourbon, and I think the aromas and flavors bear those guesses out. [Turns out I was wrong…see the comments: The barrels were charred.] You get nice wood notes, but only very light vanilla or caramel notess that are commonly associated with ex-Bourbon barrels. The light touch of the oak could partly be due to the fact that it was only in wood for 3 years, but many Bourbons are in wood for that long and present a much stronger/sweeter flavor profile which is often heavy on the vanilla.

The nose was interesting: Many layers of smells. My first impression was lavender or some similar floral scent. Not overpowering, very pleasant. Over time, the nose evolved (as the alcohol evaporated?) and revealed wood notes but not the typical “Bourbon” oak notes (i.e., vanilla, caramel, etc.). The flavor was what really got me going.

You know that there are many kinds of cinnamon. I had a strong reaction to one of the dominant flavors as “cinnamon” as soon as I tried it. But it wasn’t *just* cinnamon. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but there was some aspect I wasn’t getting. Then it hit me: It was very specifically not baking cinnamon but rather atomic fireballs. Or Big Red Gum. It was cinnamon *oil* that I was getting. Way cool. 🙂

The flavor also had the expected spiciness of Rye whiskey, including black pepper, rye seeds (which melds with the other aromas to make the smell of baking or proofing rye bread….mmmmm) and ginger and maybe wintergreen. The last was very hard to detect for me.

The finish was pretty long for a $33 Rye. There is a lot going on and I liked it so much I had a second serving. Don’t worry, I usually only have servings that are half what most people consider a serving (common whiskey servings are 1.5-2 oz.; I usually have 0.75 oz.). And I enjoyed this at home, with my wife. We put our heads together and, credit where due, it was she who had the breakthrough on the cinnamon. My final comment is that I can’t wait to use this in a Manhattan. The flavors (especially the spiciness) should make for an awesome mixed drink!


Posted by on 9-June-2011 in Whisky2.0


Bruichladdich at Costco

Mostly, my local Costco (in Redwood City, CA) has a pretty static whisk(e)y selection. Moreover, it’s usually pedestrian selections of the market-leading brands. Seeing Bruichladdich (and Willett Rye, for that matter) was a surprise.

A couple weeks ago, Costco added a new Willett Rye Single-Cask (3yo, 55% ABV) that I sadly haven’t had a chance to taste yet (I couldn’t pass it up at less than $33/bottle!). I do plan to taste it soon…. I found it funny that Costco’s price sign calls this “Rye Bourbon!” There’s no such thing — but I guess most people wouldn’t know what Straight Rye Whiskey was, either.

Then, this week, a raft of new Bruichladdich appeared: Organic 2003 ($69.99), their standard 12yo ($52.99), and Rocks (less than $40). The Organic is priced pretty nicely, since most places online that I have access to sell it for closer to $80.

Costco is occasionally an excellent alternative to a top-tier liquor store. Heck they’ve had Highland Park 12 for $36 for quite a long time, so much so that I think it’s now a regularly stocked item (at least at this store). So they do have really good stuff, and the prices are either amazing or competitive.

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Posted by on 6-June-2011 in Whisky2.0


The Letter ‘e’

I’m reading a book about the number ‘e‘ and the invention of logarithms. John Napier was a famous Scottish mathematician from the 16th-17th centuries and the book is partly about him, at least the first chapter (since he was one of the people who invented the concept of logarithms).

What do logarithms have to do with whisk(e)y? Not much, but whisky may play a part in a possibly apocryphal anecdote about a disagreement that Mr. Napier was having with his neighbor:

Many problems were solved by Napier at his home, Merchiston Castle. One such problem was his neighbor’s pigeons coming over and eating his seed and grain in the fields. After warning the neighbor, Napier sent a message to the neighbor saying he was going to catch the birds and keep them if they flew into his fields again. The neighbor laughed and replied that if Napier could catch the pigeons he could keep them. The next morning, Napier was out in his yard picking up pigeons and putting them in a sack. Napier had some unorthodox approaches to solving problems such as this one. Napier had soaked peas in brandy and sprinkled them in the yard for the pigeons to eat. Napier was able to pick up the pigeons because they were drunk!

Even though the linked website states that the spirit used was brandy, the man was a Scot. He lived in Edinburgh. I’d honestly be surprised if he didn’t use the local spirit, either it was due to his preference or simply because he didn’t want to waste his good brandy on pigeons. I guess we’ll never know, but I’d like to think it was Scotch whisky that was used to catch those pigeons. Lucky birds.

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Posted by on 5-June-2011 in Whisky2.0


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