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)abc
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 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.
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.
GIN 'N CINN
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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Here's a list of the other articles in this series that have been posted so far:
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