Tag - Liquor Fairy

Bulleit Rye
Review: Crown Royal Black
Gin ‘n Cinn
Basement Bar Accessories #10: The NewAir Portable Ice Maker
Really, Canada? Really?
Essential Tool Not On the Chopping Block!

Bulleit Rye

The Liquor Fairy recently delivered me a nifty bottle to tell you about. Bulleit Rye is the new companion to Bulleit Bourbon, which I reviewed here. it is a 95% rye whiskey, coming in at 95 proof as well. For those in Ohio, Bulleit Rye is on the state list and retails here for about $22. (More in some markets)

To recap my opinion of Bulleit’s bourbon, I believe that dollar for dollar it is the best all around bourbon I’ve tried. It’s delicious, smooth, and versatile.  So I was understandably excited to try the rye.

At 95% rye in the mash, Bulleit has a lot of rye. 51% is the mandated minimum. It is very smooth. I’d never think of just having most ryes straight, but Bulleit Rye is rather nice with a single ice cube or a splash of cold water, like I enjoy my scotch. The singular spiciness in most ryes that immediately distinguishes them from bourbons is present but mellower here. This allows some of the more savory undertones in the mix to make themselves more readily experienced.

But most of my use of rye is in Manhattans and Old Fashioneds. Here the mellowness of the spice ends up modifying both drinks considerably from what I usually expect from a rye version of same. When you first use it to mix cocktails, I’d start with small ones until you figure what works for you. I back off both the sugar in the Old Fashioned and the vermouth in the Manhattan slightly to compensate.

This is really fine whiskey, but it took me a while to grasp why I am fighting the urge to be grumpy about it. The reason is that Bulleit’s bourbon is so damn good and so versatile, I wanted the rye to be a similar Swiss Army knife. and it’s not. It’s delicious, and fun, but it is just different in character from the average premium rye. That said, if you are a rye drinker, you really ought to try this bottle. And if you are a bourbon drinker who never had much use for rye, Bulleit Rye’s slightly more sweet and savory profile could give you a reason to give the classification another look.

The Liquor Fairy Was Here!
The following product, Bulleit Rye, was recently provided to me as promotional consideration to encourage me to discuss it.
For a complete disclosure of my policies regarding promotional items and all other financial interests, please click this link, or follow the Liquor Fairy link in the header of this page.
(Additionally, I own a chunk of stock in Diageo, the parent company)

Review: Crown Royal Black

Crown Royal Black, a new Canadian whisky
A week or so ago, the Liquor Fairy fought his way through ice and snow (appropriately enough) to deliver to me a bottle of a new Canadian whisky: Crown Royal Black. Now, up front let me disclaim that I have never been a big Canadian whisky guy. When I was young and my palate undeveloped, I drank vodka or rum, with the occasional Jack Daniels for when the Fugue came upon me and demanded brown liquor.
That said, Crown Royal was one of the very first liquor brands I ever identified with. Why? Because like most geeky twelve year-olds, I viewed Crown Royal as the world’s premier makers of quality dice bags for D&D. And when you bought one, it came with free booze for Dad!

Now the Canadian whisky makers (in addition to being the only people besides the Scots who know how to spell that word) have as a whole perhaps the weirdest reputation in the liquor market. On the one hand, they have tremendous (though falling of late) market share and a huge swath of drinkers who pretty much wouldn’t think of drinking anything else. Yet, at the same time, Canadian whisky is viewed by many others as being at best weak tea. Or worse Old Man Booze. Cocktail snobs eschew it because they are under the impression that it is bland and uncomplex.
How do we explain these contradictory facts?
Prohibition, to a large extent.
When prohibition destroyed the US liquor industry, Canada’s remained strong (suspiciously strong if you were an enforcer of the Volstead Act).When the Great Experiment was over, about the only ready supply of good quality liquor was Canadian whisky. If you didn’t want crap for a long time, you drank Canadian. The residue of this still remains, from older folks who remember those days, to many of their kids whose Dad transmitted to them that Canadian was the best, and the other stuff was dicey. In short, there is good historical reason for Canadian whisky’s power in the American market.

But in the last half century, America’s own great distilling tradition has rebounded, and there is no longer in most minds the assumed superiority of Canadian brands. The old men who learned that axiom the hard way are fewer now. And the smooth blended flavors of Canada’s product were sneered at first by the Scotch groupies when Single Malts became a craze, then by the Bourbon boys as Kentucky and elsewhere responded with huge, bold liquors of their own in response to the market’s demand.
During this time, the Canadian’s haven’t really responded as much as they could have. The big dog not responding to market forces as quickly as it ought is not unique…. The difference of course between the Canadians and the automakers is that the Canadians’ product quality has remained excellent. It has been their innovation and marketing that has lagged.

The other difference is that they seem to be getting the idea of what is happening in the market and finding ways to respond. Witness: Crown Royal Black.
Crown Royal has actually introduced several new whiskys to the market recently, including Black. The idea seems to be to offer blends with bigger, bolder flavors that retain the signature Canadian smoothness. This makes sense to me. Retain your signature strengths while adding elements that have lured some of your market away.

With the Black, Crown Royal has opted to punch up its flagship blend with more oak. People seem to be of two minds about this, even those who like the spirit quite a bit. Oak and alcohol are a magical mix, but you do have to be careful. I gave up on California Chardonnays years ago when I kept fearing I was going to be picking oak splinters out of my teeth when drinking.
But it works here with Crown Royal Black. This is a big yet smooth whisky. The color is seriously dark. If you pour it next to other flagship Canadian whiskys, it is three or more times darker, darker even than most bourbons or ryes. It is less fruity than the regular Crown Royal and a bit more spicy as well. On the rocks, both the flavor and aroma open up nicely, making Crown Royal Black an excellent sipping whisky.

While I’ll likely drink most of the Black just that way, sipping on the rocks, it does mix well in some applications. And since this is Tiki Month, my next post will be a pretty darn good use for Crown Royal Black in a cocktail.

The-Liquor-Fairy-ThumbThe Liquor Fairy Was Here!
The following product, Crown Royal Black, was recently provided to me as promotional consideration to encourage me to discuss it.
For a complete disclosure of my policies regarding promotional items and all other financial interests, please click this link, or follow the Liquor Fairy link in the header of this page.

Gin ‘n Cinn

The Liquor Fairy is a wonderful guy. Recently, the good folks who represent Hiram Walker had him deliver a box. Said box contained a bottle of Hiram Walker Original Cinn cinnamon schnapps. They evidently wanted us to really take notice of this sample, as they included quite a selection of related bottles to help us make use of it. Here’s how they put it all together (click to enlarge):

Seven bottles. Seven deadly sins. Kewl.

Original Cinn is a full 90 proof liqueur, so keep that in mind when you play with it. The nose is remarkably nice. Now, I ordinarily avoid most commercial products that claim the mantle of cinnamon, chiefly because they all sort of taste like Big Red. And I hate Big Red. But true to their word, Original Cinn manages to avoid that chemical burn sensation that may trigger the same taste buds as cinnamon, but doesn’t fool them.
It’s a schnapps, so it will smack you in the face unless you chill it and/or mix it, but it doesn’t taste like a product of International Flavors and Fragrances. What you have is a nice naturally flavored cinnamon liqueur with noticeable vanilla overtones that you can do some interesting things with.

Now this all still leaves me with the issue of what to do with the stuff. The other bottles they sent along were selected to be the kind of things that should go well with Original Cinn, so I played with most of them. I also found that with relatively little difficulty, you can find many happy homes for Original Cinn in Tiki drinks, such as my favorite Jet Pilot. Simply try use it in place of cinnamon syrup, extracts, or shavings, adjusting amounts to suit you.

In the end, the drink I offer uses none of the bottles, of even classifications, sent along as suggestions. I’m a pain that way. Still, I actually rather like this little drink. It is clean and a little sweet and pleasantly spicy. I suggest you give it a try as an after dinner cocktail (not a dessert drink), though I’ve been drinking it as starter as well.


  • 3 parts gin
  • 1 part fresh lime juice
  • 1 part Original Cinn
  • 1/3 part simple syrup

Combine ingredients with ice and shake gently. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with lightly bruised lemon verbena sprig impaled on a homemade brandied cherry.

The garnish is mostly for fun, though the verbena adds a nice hint of herbality to balance the spice. The cherry is just a good way to anchor a sprig in a cocktail glass with no ice.

… delicious.

Original Cinn is an affordable bottle with lots of avenues to play with. It’s thus an easy way to expand your tool kit and if you run across it, give it a try!

The-Liquor-Fairy-ThumbThe Liquor Fairy Was Here!
The following product, Hiram Walker Original Cinn, was recently provided to me as promotional consideration to encourage me to discuss it.
For a complete disclosure of my policies regarding promotional items and all other financial interests, please click this link, or follow the Liquor Fairy link in the header of this page.

Basement Bar Accessories #10: The NewAir Portable Ice Maker

The Liquor Fairy brings me many things, not just booze. But his little wings were beating mightily this week as he flew up with a box from Air & Water, Inc. The box contained a new model portable ice making machine called the NewAir Portable Ice Maker.

The current model is more sleekly trimmed than pictured here.

Among my most important rules for a successful Basement Bar setup is the importance of a ready supply of fresh ice. Cocktails and Ice are inseparable items, like chickens and eggs. One of the more popular posts I’ve ever written was my discussion of ice making options for your home bar. Therein, I strongly encouraged people, for a variety of reasons, to consider adding an automatic, stand-alone ice machine to their setup. I got two objections from most readers to this advice: the expense of the machines and the expense or sheer impossibility of plumbing them.

The NewAir holds at least the possibility of an answer to their pleas. I’ll talk about the machine, how it works, the ice it makes, who will want this machine, and who won’t.

The unit itself is fairly large, 17 inches by 17 by 15, and weighs about 45 pounds. It is a bit large to set on a countertop, but it really is fairly portable. It has well-placed handles, large, sturdy feet, and seems pretty durable. While it is actively making ice, you can hear it but it is not obnoxiously loud.

The way it makes ice is actually pretty ingenious. I made a YouTube video so you can watch it work.

The refrigerant is pumped through pipes connected to twelve vertical cylinders. The little bucket revolves up to contain those prongs and fills with water from the machine’s internal reservoir that doubles as a drip catcher below the finished ice bucket (not seen in the video). The NewAir holds enough water to fill its ice bucket several times.
The ice forms around the prongs. There are three ice size settings, and these merely determine how thick the ice is allowed to form. When the ice has reached the desired size (about seven minutes for the smallest setting), the bucket rotates away from the prongs and the remaining water flows back into the reservoir. You can see in the video that the refrigerant goes from cold to warm, and the ice slides right off the prongs.
After a moment, the bucket rotates back into position for the next round of ice, and the attached flipper shoves the new ice over the edge to fall into the ice bucket.
The machine is not designed to be on and running full time like a built in version that costs five times as much. The ice turns into a glob of merged pieces after a day or so, rather than cleanly melting away and being replaced. This isn’t a problem if you are using the ice all the time, but if you make a drink or two a day, take advantage of the automatic timer to ensure you have fresh ice ready for you at cocktail hour. On the other hand, it is very easy to maintain, with a swift and effective self-cleaning mode.

So what is all this ice like? Each piece is a rounded, hollow cone, about an inch and a half long. It is also filled with microbubbles so it’s white rather than clear. Finally, it is pretty warm ice, coming out of the machine right at 32 degrees. As an aside, the little flanges you see in the video on the top of the ice are due to leaving the door open while videoing the mechanism. The actual ice produced is much cleaner in appearance. The ice has a large surface area to mass ratio and is warm. This means it will start melting pretty quickly in a glass or mixing tin.

In short, the ice geeks and cocktail showmen are not going to like this ice.
But then, mostly they don’t like any ice from a machine, preferring to fill a freezer with all manner of fancy ice trays and molds, or hack away like Sharon Stone on a huge block of the crystal clear stuff, so the Camper Englishes of the world really aren’t the issue here.

First off, I think the ice is just fine in the tin for shaking and stirring. I know some mixers swear by “super cold” ice, but the science (and my own experimentation) says that most all of the chilling from ice comes at the moment it melts. Using cold ice may make your drink at most a degree or two colder, but actually takes longer to get there. “Warm ice”, especially with lots of surface area, can chill a drink faster than anything else, with only a very little more dilution.
Additionally, unlike with plumbed-in ice makers like mine, you can be as big a water snob as you like with the NewAir. Use Fiji water or even Perrier I suppose. I use water from my Brita filter and the ice tastes great.
For serving in a glass, the NewAir’s ice is less ideal. It really isn’t a pretty as cubes, and its propensity to melt quickly makes for dilution issues if you are a slower drinker.

OK, who would find this machine a great buy, and who won’t?
I see two main categories of buyer who will be happy with the NewAir. The first is a lot of the people for whom I’ve been writing my Basement Bar Design series. If you are putting together a bar for your home, don’t have a massive budget and/or can’t get running water into your chosen space, the machine will get you plentiful ice for everyday use at a great price. Home bar builders who have available plumbing and sufficient budget will be much happier with a built-in system.

An even better buyer for this machine is the mobile mixer. If you like to tailgate, camp out, or own an RV, a continuous supply of fresh ice will save you from the utter barbarity of no Martinis. Of course, if you want to run the NewAir in the woods so you can sip a Pegu while fishing in that remote stream, you’ll need power. The machine takes 400 watts, and most trees don’t have electrical outlets. Ditto for stadium parking lots. If this is your desired application, be sure to purchase a power inverter so you can run it off your car. Be sure to get one that wires into your battery directly, as the NewAir draws too much power for the inverters that just plug into the cigarette lighter.

The NewAir doesn’t make perfect ice. If you enjoy being persnickity about your ice, or view it as a garnish, this machine will likely not meet your needs. If you need a lot of fresh ice for mixing cocktails, or chilling juices, sodas, or basic mixed drinks like Rum and Cokes or Screwdrivers, it will provide plenty of the cool stuff fairly conveniently and for a very reasonable price. I like the machine. It is an ingenious design, the maker has a number of previous models, so they have had the chance to refine and improve what they are doing. I haven’t had it long enough to really vouch for its durability, but as I mentioned before, both the stainless steel case and the mechanism seem pretty sturdy. If you need what a portable ice maker can give you, I can definitely recommend the NewAir. UPDATE: If you decide to get a NewAir directly from the company, you can get an extra 10% off the price by entering the discount code: “PEGU” at checkout!

The-Liquor-Fairy-ThumbThe Liquor Fairy Was Here!
The following product, NewAir Portable Ice Maker, was recently provided to me as promotional consideration to encourage me to discuss it.
For a complete disclosure of my policies regarding promotional items and all other financial interests, please click this link, or follow the Liquor Fairy link in the header of this page.

If you want to follow this specific series of posts on the Pegu Blog, you can subscribe to our Basement Bar feed here. Or you can just subscribe to the entire blog, with all its brilliant content, here!
Here’s a list of the other articles in this series that have been posted so far:

Really, Canada? Really?

I realize that this is in danger of becoming a “Stupid Liquor Laws” blog, but that category really is a target-rich environment lately….

Today’s amusing-if-it-weren’t-alarming idiocy comes to us courtesy of the Liquor Control Board of Canada (via The Globe and Mail, via Ed Driscoll). The LCBO has seen fit to ban Crystal Head Vodka from stores in the increasingly benighted province.
Er, the bottle, as you can see above, is in the shape of an attractive crystal skull. And, um, That’s an image that’s commonly associated with death.
Well, the concern du jour in prohibitionist government regulatory circles is [spins Wheel of Furrowed Brows] the possibility of binge drinking. And since binge drinking occasionally leads to alcohol poisoning, which occasionally leads to death, a skull bottle of vodka is apparently an inducement to, um, something. But whatever it is, it’s bad! Very Bad!
Oh, but bars and restaurants can still serve it in Ontario, and display this visual inducement to ethanol-induced suicide right there where the children, the children can see it. And you can buy it by the case as well. Because it is always better to sell binge-drinking products in bulk. You know, for safety.
The LCBO might consider that Crystal Head is not exactly in your average binge drinkers target price range. You’ll need to pony up fifty bucks (sixty if your cash has the Queen on it), to buy a bottle.

As it happens, I happen to have a bottle of this dangerous, banned product sitting on the display shelf of my Basement Bar. Dan Aykroyd sent it to me to try. Well, his minions sent it to me, but it is much cooler to use the Transitive Property of Liquor Fairys and claim he did. Why Dan? Because Crystal Head is Aykroyd’s company. He started the brand as a joke, and to ensure he had a ready supply of unique and fun gifts for the holidays. But the bottle is really cool looking, and the product it contains is good, so he has found himself with a profitable business.
And Aykroyd, who has more marketing acumen locked up in his own, personal skull than possessed by the collective rocket scientists at the LCBO, is unfazed by the ban. I like it, it kind of makes the product more appealing in my view, he told the Globe and Mail.
While Crystal Head may not be terribly inconvenienced, and perhaps may be helped, by this ban, the problem is that every ban like this that slides through makes the next, possibly more damaging one easier to put in place. If this stands (and it will) you may turn around in five years and hear the LCBO say that Creme de Violette is pretty, and has flowers in the name. And little girls like pretty things and flowers. So they are banning Creme de Violette because it might induce little girls to drink. (I have more realistic examples to offer, but I refuse to give the ninnys any ideas.)

If you are interested, I do like the vodka. As I demonstrated in my last post, I’m no anti-vodka cocktail snob. And I damn sure can tell the difference between brands. Crystal Head is every bit as good as most other premium vodkas, and better than some. But let’s face it, at this price point, you are buying it for the bottle, not the liquor. True to Aykroyd’s initial idea, it makes a cool, distinctive gift. Also, it is fun to pour from when you have guests over and you need a conversation starter. (Careful when you show off with this bottle, it is lovely, but not ergonomic.)

I’ll throw the Liquor Fairy disclaimer down below for disclosure’s sake. But I go the bottle a while ago, and chose not to write about it because everything I had wanted to say about it had already been said (with better photographs) by lots of other blogs. It’s very irritating when other bloggers write what you want to say before you can say it, leaving the choice of sounding like a copycat, or not writing about an interesting product. So I guess what I’m ending with is a thank you to the LCBO, whose cranio-rectal inversion gives me an excuse to finally write about Crystal Head.

The-Liquor-Fairy-ThumbThe Liquor Fairy Was Here!
The following product, Crystal Head Vodka, was recently provided to me as promotional consideration to encourage me to discuss it.
For a complete disclosure of my policies regarding promotional items and all other financial interests, please click this link, or follow the Liquor Fairy link in the header of this page.

Essential Tool Not On the Chopping Block!

Recently, I heard that OXO, the makers of many nifty kitchen gadgets, had discontinued their gadget most near and dear to the hearts of many cocktailians, the OXO 2oz. Angled Measuring Cup.
I was miffed, as were a bunch of others. I asked everyone who read my piece to spread the word and to contact OXO, asking them to please not discontinue this essential product. Apparently, our efforts got their attention, because this comment appeared yesterday:

Stop the presses!!!! This is OXO. Seriously…OXO. I want to clarify that the Mini Measuring Cups are NOT discontinued! They are currently only available at retail (and I saw them on Amazon – just type in “OXO Mini Measuring Cups”), however we are working on a configuration to make both the stainless steel and plastic versions available on our website, http://www.oxo.com, very (very) shortly. Stay tuned!

I immediately communicated with the commenter, Bena, who is a Senior Brand Communication Manager for OXO. Apparently, the problem was that OXO had discontinued selling the cups on their own website, rather than discontinued making them. Apparently, they had a minor internal miscommunication which resulted in inquiring minds being told that the cups were no longer being made. The issue is that heretofore, OXO has sold the cups only in packs of 24. This does seem a pretty large number to buy at once, I will admit. When you buy a single cup from Amazon, or at a retailer like Bed, Bath, & Beyond, for four bucks, the retailer has broken up one of these 24 packs for resale. Why they don’t just sell them in smaller quantities (I’d suggest three packs), I don’t know, but Bena assures me it isn’t quite that simple. (Last sentence edited after clarification)
Still, the status of discontinued on the OXO website will apparently be short-lived. Plastic mini measures will soon be available there again, with the stainless steel to follow at some point. Bena has not gotten me actual numbers on the calls and emails they’ve received, but she was sure it was a pretty good number. It got her attention at any rate! So I call this one a victory for the cocktailosphere (whether our squawking actually had anything to do with the decision or not).
Regardless, we can all rest easy, our cocktail jiggers will not pass into that good night. Also, another OXO manager I corresponded with, Michelle, did reassure me that, while the cups were designed primarily for cooking, OXO has for quite some time realized how popular the product is with bartenders, professional and enthusiast.

Oh, and I did not call a Tiki Timeout from the February festivities here for this post because I think the mini measures are especially valuable for Tiki drinks. More than any other kind of drink, Tiki drinks call for large numbers of ingredients in small quantities. You can make these drinks with jiggers and spoons, but the process gets even more laborious. And all the Hawaiian shirts and Tiki music in the world won’t keep your mood happy if it takes you longer to make your drink than it does to drink it!
So, to celebrate the resurrection of the Mini Measure, demonstrate it’s Pegu Blog Certified Tiki Effectiveness™, and make a Rule 2 tie-in back to where I first heard of the whole kerfuffle (as well as throwing in a shoutout to two products brought by the Liquor Fairy), I present to you the following treat from Tiare, at a Mountain of Crushed Ice.


Put everything into a blender, saving ice for last and blend at high speed for 5 sek. Pour into a chimney glass. Garnish 2 pineapple leaves and a lime slice.

Now, if I could only get them to make a metal, 2 cup, dry measuring cup, I’d be my wife’s hero….

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