Mark’s a bread master, too. Our scotch tastings continue with Bowmore 12 and 15. You lose your Gaelic in Albuquerque. We taste Auchentoshan American Oak and Three Wood. We talk about our favorites overall. Here’s that German list again.
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.”
Today our friend and self-made Scotch expert Mark Griffith joins us for scotch tastings! We taste Suntory Toki, The Dalmore 18 and Ardbeg Dark Cove. Hear about distillery field trips, distilling regions of Scotland, and more. Here’s a list (and discussion) of caramel coloring in Scotch.
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 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.
We celebrate episode 100 with the people who made it all possible: Larry and Susie! We make a Larry Martini using Shaker 33. Tito is Larry’s Texas Twin. Vodka talk. Impressing bartenders? Susie’s dad. Home bartending: “part of your family.” William Grimes’ book. We make a Silverado Cocktail. New music courtesy of Argyle Street.
Dry Line’s Cape Cod Gin is made by the same distillers of Twenty Boat Spiced Rum, a “Cape Cod rum” that we scoffed at on the podcast….until we tasted it. I’m happy to say that Dry Line lives up to that same, good reputation.
We got to try “batch 1” of Dry Line and it has many of the tasting notes I love in a gin (I prefer bitey London Drys): a solid clove/spice tasting note, together with what I can best describe as hot mustard-like: a unique sweet/spice note. Dry Line is distilled from cane sugar, not neutral grain, which is unusual and may contribute to that sweet touch in the flavor profile.
The bottle itself is sexy, to be sure: perfectly square, moreso than Jack Daniel’s, even. South Hollow Spirits has delivered a solid, northeastern gin with a great deal of character, that’s somewhere between New Western and London Dry gins in it’s overall flavor.
I’ve been drinking Dry Line mostly in Gin Rickeys (gin/soda lime), and it’s a solid product for that drink. The drink I was really curious about, though, was a Etrog-tini (or is it a Dry-Lini?): Dry Line with a dash of Etrog liqueur (which we tasted recently on the podcast). Here’s the recipe:
Just as they did with Twenty Boat Spiced Rum, South Hollow Spirits has released another solid entry into an established space, yet has impressed with the unique and tasty flavor profiles they’ve been able to achieve there.
Let’s start with a diss from Greg. Bourbon Curious. Medicinal whiskey. The new book “Bourbon.” Fred’s Albuquerque connection. “A passionate lover of carne adovada.” Fred’s Derby Museum work.
Photo by James Eaton.