Oh Happy Day! World Whisky Day That Is!

Today has been deemed world whisky day, and I for one think it’s about time a drink so ancient and revered to be called “the Water of Life” should have it’s very own day of celebration. Whether you’re a die-hard aficionado like me, or just dipping your toes into said “waters”,  today is the perfect opportunity to enjoy one of the most delicious accomplishments of human kind.

What makes whisky, all whiskey, worth celebrating? Well, when you consider that it all begins with something as simple as grain, (corn, barley, wheat, or rye), the complexities of the malting, distillation, barreling, and aging processes, and the beauty of the finished product, of course it deserves celebrating! I’m talking fireworks, parades, marching bands, church bells should be ringing, after all even the angels get their share! Okay, maybe the church bells are a little much, but you get my point. Scotch, bourbon, Irish, and rye whiskies are as close as this age of humanity will ever get to experiencing manna from heaven.

So, make it a point to imbibe in honor of an alcohol that dates back to the 1400’s, perhaps by experimenting with some new flavors, or creating your very own personal libation.  If you’re a bourbon fan, I highly recommend Four Roses Small Batch, excellent for sipping alone, or mixed in a cocktail. For my single malt scotch fans, just last night I tried three really lovely whiskies, each sure to please a wide variety of taste preferences. First is the unequivocal Talisker Storm, with flavors of sea salted smokiness, that ripens to a spicy, oaken finish, this Isle of Skye distillation is a treat. Next up is Bruichladdich’s Port Charlotte Scottish Barley Heavily Peated Islay Single Malt. With a PPM of 40, this whisky is a heavyweight when it comes to rich peat smoke flavor, and aroma. It’s truly a lovely aromatic blend that makes me think of barbecuing at the beach, mixed with the rich, savory sweetness of fig, and dark toffee. My first undiluted sip was a marvelous combination of sweet, nutty barley, ocean brine, and charred oak. Adding a splash of water enhanced the surprising sweetness that makes this smooth, crisp whisky an utter delight. This was by far my favorite of the three. Last, but most assuredly not least, is Bruichladdich The Classic Laddie Scottish Barley Unpeated Single Malt Islay. This whisky has a most enticing aroma, fresh, a slight hint of mint that blends nicely with the crisp tang of sea breeze awash with a clean, green scent, like spring wildflowers. Even better than the nose, is this whisky’s palate, tingling with mouth pleasing sweet oak, ripe fruit, and barley, that bursts on the tongue like bubbles of sea spray. This is not your typical Islay, so if you prefer Highland, or Speyside whiskies, you will definitely find the Classic Laddie to your liking.

I realize this is only a small sampling of what’s available, but, one thing you can count on is me always telling you the truth. If I think something is nasty, I will say so. There are a few whiskies I refuse to touch, as I find drinking them no different from swilling finger nail polish remover, or licking a bar room floor, (happened many years ago by accident, remember never fall down drunk with your mouth open) and you probably won’t read about them here, as I don’t see the need to waste any effort talking about them.

 

sandshells

Anyway, I hope my selections discussed here will help you better celebrate World Whisky Day 2015.

Remember to drink responsibly, designate a driver, do the same for your friends.

Sláinte Mhath!

Nancy

I Like it Dirty

laphroaig 15

Most of you who know me well, know I love my single malt scotch, particularly the Islay whiskies, which for some are an acquired taste, but for me it was love at first sip (Laphroaig 15 yr was the first single-malt Islay I ever tasted). I’ve been told most women don’t care for the heavily peated flavor of my favorite whiskies, and I can understand that. I enjoy the pungent aromas and flavors of the Islay whiskies, redolent of forests, earth, oceans, and fire. It is a matter of preference, but  ladies, before you take a sip and deem that whisky as (quoting my friend Ashley T.) “tasting like licking a dirty Band-Aid” consider there are many different whiskies to choose from, and not all taste like “wood fired dirt.” The fact that there are so many single malt whiskies to choose from can be very confusing, and the term “single malt” simply means that whisky was made at one particular distillery from a mash using only malted grain, which in the case of scotch is barley. Knowing where to start geographically is key for the novice whisky drinker, same as it is for new drivers. You have to know how to navigate, and scotch distilled in Scotland has distinctive flavors depending on the region, or area they’re made in. This particular blog post is focused on my favorite, the Islay whiskies.

“The Queen of the Hebrides” aka Islay, (pronounced eye-la) fifth largest, southernmost island of Scotland’s Inner Hebrides chain, is the ideal location for whisky production thanks to it’s fertile soil, outstanding pure water sources, and abundance of peat, which comprises much of the island . Peat plays a major role in the Islay distillation process, the source of it’s whiskies rich, smoky, earthy flavor, giving the Islay single malts the highest PPM out of all the single malts produced in Scotland. What is PPM? Hell what is peat for that matter? Peat is compacted layers of decomposed matter, such as sphagnum moss, rotted vegetation, you know, organic matter, or to put it bluntly… dead shit, enhanced by sea salt washed/blown in by storms. When dried it is a very economical fuel source, used by the local distilleries to fire the malting floor kilns. The peat smoke infuses the barley as it’s malting, adding phenol that creates the smokiness of the whisky’s flavor and aroma. The amount of phenol is rated by PPM (parts per million).

Home to less than 4000 inhabitants, and nine world famous distilleries, Islay produces some of the most unique flavors found in single malt whisky. These distilleries are scattered around the island, creating a scenic tour route, that I hope to experience next year.  Ardbeg, Bowmore, Bruichladdich (Brook-laddy), Bunnahabhain (Bunna-ha-ven), Caol Ila (coov-eel-eh), Kilchoman (keya-homan), Lagavulin, and as previously stated my favorite, Laphroaig. Each one of these distillers produce amazing whiskies, each distinctive, and rich with unique flavors that come only from Islay. I haven’t tried them all, but I’m slowly, yet surely working my way through a list of the ones that are available here in the states.

Aroma can tell you a lot about a whisky without even tasting it, and the Islay’s are very aromatic, which is another reason I like them. Their rich, sort of briny odors of smoke, peat, recall memories of my early childhood growing up on a farm,  riding on the tractor with my daddy on a chilly spring evening as he finished plowing the field, the smell of freshly broken soil, and newly sprouted grass pungent and earthy, mingled with daddy’s own scent of soap, sweat, tobacco, and saddle leather. The single most distinctive odor among the Islay whiskies is smoke, the single most distinctive flavor is peat, some being more powerful than others. If you’re just starting to explore this particular scotch region, I suggest you start light and work your way into the whiskies with higher PPM. Each distillery makes several variations of their product, so there is a wide range to select from. For the newbie, I recommend Bowmore Small Batch, which is exclusively matured in first fill (virgin casks never been used), then second (used) fill bourbon casks. (American bourbon casks can only, by law, be used once, so the used barrels are sold to distilleries overseas to be re-used.) The aroma is an invitingly subtle mix of peat smoke,  vanilla fudge, a tang of salt air, with hints of honey and spice. Even better is the first sip crisp with citrus, yet sweetly smoky with a hint of toasted coconut. Upon adding water, the flavor expands, and you can savor the oaken vanilla bourbon, purled with wisps of smoke and lime. Although not as peated as I prefer, the Bowmore Small Batch is a refreshing treat, a good dram to enjoy in warmer weather.

Another good beginner dram to try is Bunnhabhain 12 year, aka “Bunny”, a pleasantly nutty, lightly smoked whisky tinged with butterscotch and salt,  that is sweet and full bodied, just like me, but if you call me bunny, I will probably punch you in the throat.  If you’re the type who prefers a mixed drink, this particular scotch  might be okay with a mixer, but I really can’t imagine defiling any whisky, much less one this lovely, and well balanced, with anything other than a splash of water, or a single ice cube, if that. I’m a little more stringent on the best way to enjoy Scotch than I am bourbon, why, I don’t know. Blame that on my Highland blood!

Once you’ve figured out you like the flavor of peat smoke, you can venture further afield and broaden your palate with more buxom whiskies like Caol Ile, or my favorite, Laphroaig, (a special edition 15 year is scheduled for release this year, most excellent & I highly recommend) eventually working up to hard core peat, such as Ardbeg Uigeadail (oog-a-dal), and Octomore made by Bruichladdich which is probably as peated as it gets without pouring malted mud in a bottle.  As with any experimentation, take your time, know your limits, and sample slowly. Find a well stocked whiskey bar, (here in Baton Rouge I highly recommend Lock & Key) with a knowledgeable staff, who will take your tastes into account and either make you a cocktail, or put together a flight (3) of Islays for you to compare, and determine what you like best. Who knows, once you start tasting, and experiencing the myriad flavors among the Islay whiskies you might just find that you like it dirty too.

As always, drink responsibly, designate a driver!

Slainte Mhath!

Nancy

That First Sip

Whiskey is usually associated with masculine things, images of leather upholstered furniture in dark wood-paneled, book-lined studies, the scent of tobacco, and oak. True enough, whiskey (spelling with an “e” denotes bourbon, which is the focus of this blog post) is traditionally a mans drink, and maybe it’s a southern thing, but I love the stuff, and it is becoming more and more popular with women worldwide.

Now there is nothing uncommon about mixing bourbon with sodas like Sprite, Coke, or even ginger ale, but when I hear someone order a Jack & coke, or Crown & seven at a bar, especially one that is well stocked with a variety of whiskies, I immediately assume there’s a lack of imagination at play, and another poor soul has no clue what they are missing out on. I’m not judging, as I too, when faced with limited selection, will order a Maker’s Mark & ginger ale, or water, and it’s easy to get caught in the rut of sticking with a drink you know you like, or  ordering the same thing time after time, because that was the first mixed drink you ever tasted, and you don’t know what else to ask for. I especially notice this among women.  I also realize there are certain people, ladies in particular, who don’t like the taste of whiskey, no matter how many times they’ve tried it. That’s okay. If you do like it, but you just don’t know what to order, or how to order it, allow me to offer up some helpful tips that will get you headed in the right direction.

First and foremost, knowing your premium bourbons will help you know where to start. Granted there are plenty to choose from, most priced under $50 a bottle, with more hitting the market all the time, so it can get confusing. To keep things simple, here are a few of my favorite classic bourbons: Maker’s Mark, Maker’s 46, Gentleman Jack, Woodford Reserve, Knob Creek, Four Roses, Basil Hayden, and Buffalo Trace. All are quite lovely alone, or mixed in a cocktail, yet each maintains their distinctive characteristics, allowing for unique drink combinations, and concoctions. I highly recommend trying each one of these bourbons one at a time, not in the same sitting or tasting, alone, and with a mixer, or in a cocktail. One of my new favorite ways to enjoy Maker’s Mark, is on the rocks with a splash of Cointreau as a refreshing alternative to my usual go to ginger ale, or ginger beer. Classic bourbon cocktails like the Mint Julep, whiskey sour, or Old Fashioned are good choices that let the individual flavors of the bourbon used stand out, which in my opinion is rather important.  One of the best things about bourbon is it’s versatility, (which is fodder for another blog post) making it interesting to play around with different ingredients, perhaps to tweak a standard like bourbon and a preferred soft drink, or create a totally new drink, formulating your very own signature cocktail. Honestly, in spite of what die-hard bourbon drinkers might insist, there is no right or wrong way to enjoy bourbon. The whole point of consuming alcohol should be pleasure, and why bother drinking something you don’t find pleasing?

Ladies, single ladies in particular, another advantage, or perk to drinking bourbon, (any kind of whisky, really) is its allure. Oh yes, that’s correct. Bourbon is sexy, mysterious, and classy,  as are most of us females who drink it. I always get a kick out of the reaction I get at a bar when I order either a Maker’s & ginger, Rusty Nail, or dram of single malt Islay. Not only does it get attention, but almost always results in glances of approval which often leads to a conversation because men tend to be curious about a woman who not only enjoys drinking good whiskey, but knows something, if not  a good deal about what she’s drinking.

So, before you write off whiskey, in this case bourbon, as not your thing, take time to sample, explore, and experiment with different brands, and varieties. Find a local whiskey bar with a highly knowledgeable bar staff, ask questions, attend tasting events, learn about the actual product, and don’t be afraid to express your own opinions, likes and dislikes. I promise you will eventually find a bourbon, and way to drink it, that you will thoroughly enjoy.

As always, drink responsibly, know your limits, and always designate a driver.

Slainte!

Nancy

 

Welcome to Whiskyisms!!! A Female Whisk(e)y Lovers Perspective on all Thing Pertaining to Whiskies!

Welcome to Whiskyisms! This is my newest blog endeavor, where I will post and discuss the pleasures, and enjoyment of imbibing fine bourbons, scotches, Irish, and rye whiskies, from a female perspective. I will also highlight different brands, and types of whiskies, as I sample and learn about all things whiskey. Although geared towards women, guys, I promise you too will find my blog not just interesting, but eye opening, and quite possibly a tool for understanding the opposite sex.

Most of you are familiar with my Nancyisms, and don’t fret, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. It’s too good a source of cheap therapy for me to give that up, and I can vent without ending up in jail. (Well so far so good…) My last Nancyisms was about my love for whisky, and I really enjoyed writing it, and as I encounter more and more people through social media, and at my favorite local whiskey bar, who share my passion for the spirit, I figured the next natural step would be my own whisky blog. So here it is!

Whether you are a die hard whiskey drinker, or just taking your first sips, you will enjoy my goofy and irreverent insight into the different taste, flavors, and blends, plus learn a little about the products I discuss, where and how they are made, and their history. I’m not an expert, but I want to be, and I want to share my learning experience with my sister whisky drinkers, and perhaps enlighten, and educate along the way, and what better way to communicate than over a dram. Which means I expect to hear from my readers, as they share their favorite brands and cocktail recipes, ask questions, and offer opinions and feedback.

I drink responsibly. You should too. So, this is blog is not about getting shit faced drunk, or partying like animals. It is strictly for those who, as crazy as this sounds, enjoy quality alcohol too much to abuse it. If you have a drinking problem, please, please get help.

Have a safe, great weekend, and stay tuned for my inaugural Whiskyisms blog post, coming soon, like probably sometime late tonight, unless I fall asleep before I finish writing it. Don’t laugh, it happens.

Slainte !

Nancy