Category Archives: whiskey

Piña Colada Fizz

pina colada fizz cocktail

One of the more exciting jars I found when I opened my Sugarlands sponsorship shipment was their Piña Colada Moonshine. I’ve been thinking for a few weeks about a great cocktail to make with it, and one day I discovered a new Trader Joe’s product that I figured would really make it shine (pun intended): “Island Colada” Mineral Water, a fizzy, sugarless water that I knew would work well with this moonshine.

So I developed a recipe for what I call a Piña Colada Fizz using Sugarlands’ Piña Colada Moonshine, Island Colada Mineral Water, and a splash of banana liqueur. It’s an AMAZING warm-weather cocktail:

Piña Colada Fizz (by Greg Mays)

  • in a collins glass filled with ice, add:
  • 2 oz Sugarlands Piña Colada Moonshine
  • 1/4 oz banana liqueur (creme de banane)
  • top with Trader Joe’s Island Colada Mineral Water (plain mineral water will do, too)
  • stir briefly
  • garnish with cherries
Special thanks to our sponsor, Sugarlands Distilling Co.

Moonshine Collins

moonshine collins sugarlands

Sugarlands Distilling Co. has been sponsoring the podcast for the last few episodes or so, and I have been thinking of creative ways to use moonshine in cocktails.

Tequila cocktails are usually a very good fit, as blanco tequilas and moonshine are most similar in their flavor palates, and I’ve made Moonshine Margaritas pretty often. I started to think about the classic cocktail recipes, too, and test out drinks that would be a good fit for moonshine as well, and recently on the podcast, we made a Mooonshine Collins that was awesome. Here’s how you do it:

Moonshine Collins

  • in a collins glass filled with ice, add:
  • 2 oz Sugarlands Silver Cloud Moonshine
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • stir well, add more ice to top off, then top with club soda and stir briefly
  • garnish with a cherry and a lemon wedge
Special thanks to our sponsor, Sugarlands Distilling Co.

Walk the Line: Evan Williams

evan williams bourbon family

Evan Williams is, by design, a bargain bourbon brand operating under the umbrella of the Heaven Hill family of brands (whose brands also include Elijah Craig, Larceny, McKenna and many more). Ranging from $10 on the low end to $25 for top-of-the-line, Evan Williams’ bourbons have a spicy bite to them and a familiar flavor profile from the top to the bottom of the line. Here’s a comparison of their regular 5-bottle lineup:

Evan Williams Green Label. 80 proof, about $10. The “bargain priced” Evan is really a value bourbon like no other. Distilled by Heaven Hill, who is one of the only remaining family-owner bourbon distillers in the country, Green Label may not be considered as sophisticated as some of the higher end bourbons out there, it has a balanced yet spicy flavor profile. Because of the proof of Green Label, even though I usually like by bourbon with a lot of ice, I drink this one neat or in cocktails only.

Evan Williams Black Label. 86 proof, about $11. Black Label is our Simple Cocktails “well” bourbon. I always have a bottle on hand as I find it’s got the cinnamon-spice-zing that I love in whiskey. For $11 a bottle, it’s value is excellent, and it’s higher proof than Green Label, so I can ice it up when I sip it straight.

Evan Williams White Label Bottled-In-Bond. 100 proof, about $13. With the price and favor profile of White Label considered, I feel comfortable saying this is my favorite bourbon. I’ve not tried another in this price range that had the flavor profile I seek after (higher rye, higher spice) like this one. There’s a touch more burn with White Label as it’s higher proof than anything else Evan Williams produces. Like it’s little brothers, this bourbon serves a spice-forward balanced profile of cinnamon, caramel, clove and nutmeg.

Evan Williams 1783. 86 proof, about $15. As you can see, you can explore almost the entire line of Evan Williams bottles for less than $15 apiece. 1783 is a more specialized and, dare I say, delicate bourbon than the value line, though. While I’m not sure of the mashbill (the grains making up the bourbon), I suspect a little less rye and a little more wheat or barley in this one. It’s subtler and I found this is a better fit for drinking neat. I found the flavor set too delicate to pair with most cigars, too, which often pair better with a bolder whiskey.

Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage. 86 proof, about $25. This is the best-of-the-best in Evan’s world. It’s a bottle at a price that you can easily keep 2 or 3 around to serve to guests and it’s quality is definitely good enough to sip alone, but the price won’t prevent you from considering it in a cocktail either (Old Fashioned, anyone?). It’s flavor profile is more in line with the colored-label brethren above, so a bit more spice and sizzle than the cool sweetness of 1783.

anCnoc Blas

anCnoc Blas

anCnoc is not a scotch I’ve had before, and I recently had an opportunity to pair their Blas bottling with a Hiram and Solomon Traveling Man cigar.

Blas is a collaboration between anCnoc (pronounced uh-knock) and Scottish fashion designer Patrick Grant, which is why the label is so stunningly designed, plus you may get a bonus pocket-hankie as I did, too (pictured above).

Make no mistake, this is a sweet and balanced scotch. A straw-colored highland whisky, Blas is caramely with a potent ABV of 54%. It has notes of vanilla bean and custard a slight rear palate barley-beer tang.  It’s an excellent after-dinner drink and it’s a surprisingly sipper even at 54%. I’ve been taking mine with a single small ice cube to add just the right about of cool water. As expected, its a great couple for a cigar, too.

anCnoc Blas retails for $80.

Swift Single Malt Texas Whiskey

swift single malt texas whiskey

Swift Distillery in Dripping Springs, Texas started with a very noble (and maybe a little expensive) undertaking: to distill scotch-quality single malt whiskey.

Here’s the thing: then a distillery starts, it makes the most financial sense to distill stuff that you can sell right away, like vodka or gin, while your whiskey ages. Swift has not done that, though, choosing laser-focus on the whiskey alone. Founders Amanda and Nick Swift traveled to Scotland, Ireland, Japan and Kentucky for research, then came home to Texas to work on their single malt.

Swift Single Malt is on its way, too: a floral, mild, orange-forward flavor profile that’s balanced and very drinkable. In fact, the only thing you’ll likely struggle with is getting a bottle as it’s only available in the Austin, TX area now.

For a passion-induced, quality American single malt, Swift is a great addition to your whiskey collection.

Dalmore 18

dalmore 18

Dalmore is a highland distillery in Scotland and has been distilling since 1839. The highlands are the largest whisky-producing region of the isle and boast and of the biggest names in the country. Highland whisky is generally very mild and accessible, and The Dalmore is no exception.

At about $100, The Dalmore 18 is one of the older malts in Dalmore’s regular range and is aged in American ex-bourbon casks for 14 years, then 4 more years in sherry butts. As a result, this malt is fruity and sweet with a mild palate and long, pleasant finish. Compared to bolder scotches, this malt is quite mild and is great sipped neat after dinner as a digestif. Cigar pairings are a good fit, of course, but choose a milder Dominican stick so you don’t overpower the subtleties of the whisky.

The flavor and cost are in line with each other, offering a complex and cool profile at a price range that’s to be expected from a distiller of this caliber and a scotch of this age.

Here’s our Dalmore 18 tasting on the podcast.

William Wolf Flavored Whiskies

william wolf coffee whiskey

Over the course of the past several weeks, we’ve had the opportunity to try a couple of varieties of William Wolf whiskies on the podcast. Available in about half the states in the U.S., William Wolf’s line is distilled in Holland and imported.

William Wolf Coffee has an amazing coffee scent, rich and creamy tasting with a bold coffee finish. This is a great alternative to the bigger-name coffee liqueurs like Kahlua or Tia Maria. It’s not too sweet, it’s high alcohol (35%) and it has a great coffee flavor.

Don’t forget with is a whiskey, though. As I’ve pointed out on the podcast, this drink tastes nothing like whiskey. Not a trace. We have enjoyed it on the rocks with cigars and, as I said, in place of Kahlua and it’s a good value at $25.

william wolf frisky whiskey

Now this week’s podcast episode revealed a bit of a mystery that lay in our bottle of Frisky Whiskey, namely what is it? Frisky arrives in a purple crushed velvet bag and sports a pink-ish label with a guitar-playing Mr. Wolf. It does not tell you much about the whiskey itself though, so I went to Wolf’s website to research it more:

“William Wolf Frisky Whiskey has an enticingly caramel nose, smooth taste, and a lingering vanilla finish.”

That didn’t help either, particularly with one big question I had: is this a flavored whiskey? Well, after one taste, it very much is. Just like their coffee whiskey (can we just call these liqueurs now?), Frisky is flavored and sweetened, too. This is not a typical caramel nose and vanilla finish, that you experience with other whiskies, it’s actually caramel and vanilla flavored! This is a creamy, vanilla liqueur posing as a whiskey, and I wished there was more clarity on the label about that. As we experienced with their coffee “whiskey,” Frisky really doesn’t taste like whiskey at all, in fact, it tastes even less like whiskey than the coffee variety.

Frisky has it’s place in a cocktail bar as a vanilla liqueur, and it does a noble job in that role. At $25 a bottle, either of these liqueurs are a good buy.

Just don’t tell us this is “whiskey.”

Walk the Line: Knob Creek

knob creek walk the line

Knob Creek is a familiar name for whiskey drinkers and widely available. Here we’ll add another brand to our long-running Walk the Line series with Knob Creek, a Jim Beam brand (now owned by Suntory) and one of the best-selling “small batch” lines at Beam. Bourbon Curious, my bourbon reference bible, places Knob Creek’s line with the cinnamon-forward bourbons, like Wild Turkey, Bulleit and Four Roses, most of which are my favorite bourbons, so Knob Creek is in good company in my liquor cabinet.

Here are some notes on each, pictured from left to right above:

Knob Creek Bourbon. 100 proof, about $35. For a 100-proof bourbon, Knob Creek is surprisingly sweet and smooth. The mashbill isn’t released by the company, but I’m assuming it’s a pretty typical corn/rye/barley, maybe wheat. The blend is balanced and cool, with just a mild touch of rye spiciness to it. This is a 9 year old bourbon.

Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve Bourbon. 120 proof, about $45. Similar in taste to the staple bourbon, S.B.R. is a touch spicier and has a more pronounced barrel flavor. It’s not uncommon to find a “high-end” high-proof bourbon these days, but for $45, this is a bargain as well.

Knob Creek Rye. 100 proof, about $40. I love the bite of a high-rye whiskey, and Knob Creek isn’t quite that. Hear me out, though: this is a rye that I really love to drink. Again, Knob Creek’s mashbills are secret, but many (including me) suspect it’s just a reversed version of the bourbon recipe. That is to say, this is not the 95% or 100% rye mashbill that some others brag on, but this whiskey is a balanced experience with the right amount of sweet and spice and ultimately, it’s a sipper with a little more character than the spice bombs out there. Knob Creek’s ryes don’t currently have an age statement, they just say “patiently aged.”

Collingwood Whisky

collingwood whisky

I’m going to jump right in to this: Collingwood is unlike any other whisky I’ve tasted.

A Canadian whisky (which explains excluding the “e” from whisky), Collingwood is distilled from corn, rye (a staple of Canadian whiskys) and barley, finished in oak barrels, then rested additionally with toasted maplewood staves.

It must be this final step of the aging process that adds the uniqueness to Collingwood’s flavor profile. I’ve passed it around to friends who are whisky fans, and the results and preferences have been mixed. The nose of Collingwood is sweet, but the flavor and finish are unexpectedly sweet and sharp, and we gathered it’s the maplewood finish that’s contributing to that (oak is far-and-away the wood preference over maple when it comes to whisky). I felt it tasted like a quick-aged whisky, which usually involves smaller barrels or additional wood added to the aging process. Friends noted the unusual finish, too.

What we did learn at about the halfway point of the bottle, and after several weeks of trying it out, is that Collingwood seems to go better in cocktails than as a straight sipper. The flavor profile never quite delivered with the whisky-drinkers in my camp, but a Manhattan, Old Fashioned and Whisky Sour with Collingwood were some tasty cocktails that tended to be incrementally sweeter than their bourbon or rye counterparts. The Sour in particular seemed a great fit for this whisky.

Collingwood retails for about $30 per bottle.

Suntory Toki

suntory toki

Suntory is a legendary Japanese distillery, one of only a handful of whisky makers in that country. They have become famous for quality, well-crafted single malts in the tradition of scotch whisky. Their fame is so solid, in fact, that they were able to purchase Jim Beam in 2014.

This summer, Suntory introduced and affordable whisky blend that’s designed for cocktails. Toki is comprised of 2 Suntory single malt “pillars”: Hakushu (light and fresh) and Chita (heavy grain). These two combine for a flavor that’s malty, crisp, light and sweet with a mild spice finish.

At $40 per bottle and 43% ABV, Toki is a light sipper for the warm months, and goes well neat or on the rocks. It’s malty character is reminiscent to me of Dutch Genever and barley-based Shochu. It pairs well with milder, lighter cigars, sipped neat.

While Toki can be mixed in cocktails any way you choose, Suntory has a specific “ceremony” they recommend for making the Toki Highball (pictured above):

“To begin a highball recipe, fill the glass to the brim with ice. Add one measure of whisky. Stir to cool the whisky and glass. Again add ice to the brim. Pour three measures of chilled sparkling water along the side of the glass to avoid melting the ice or bursting the bubbles. Add a twist of lemon. Enjoy.”

As a cocktail, the Toki Highball is subtle, malty, refreshing and easy to make, and at $40, Toki may serve to be an introductory Japanese whisky if you’re unfamiliar with the category.