What’s Your Go To?

If there’s a whiskey that I have in the house at all times, it’s bourbon. I like all kinds of whiskey, but I’ll go to bourbon before I go to anything else.

Today, a co-worker visiting from out of state and I got into a discussion bourbon. She asked me what my go-to was, and I said, “It’s usually Bulleit.” She sheepishly replied, “Mine’s Evan Williams because I can drink it with ice and coke and not feel guilty that I’m ruining a good bourbon.”

I smiled and told her that I have a liter bottle of Evan Williams that I’ve almost polished off. I’ve been making an Old Fashioned with the stuff nearly every night for the last three weeks (I only use a little at a time), just to wind down before bed.

What can I say? It’s not a bad bourbon at all, and at $15.99 for a liter, it’s pretty easy to pour a drink and not look longingly at the bottle as the volume drops! 🙂

Yeah, I still have my fine bourbons and whiskeys on hand. But I’ve only been enjoying those on the weekend. It’s nice to see that their volumes haven’t dropped. So I think I’ll keep getting this trusty bourbon, though I think I might have to get some Wild Turkey as well to add a change of pace.

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Westland American Single Malt Whiskey

As they say, the best cure for a hangover is a beer… But in reality, the best cure for a hangover is to have what you drank the night before. Mixing different booze will just make you sicker.

Such was the case this past Saturday, after a night of drinking great bourbon and whiskeys the previous night. I wasn’t hung over as much as I was just dragging from the Old Fashioneds and shots of bourbon I was drinking with my sons.

We were in Seattle for my niece’s wedding, so prior to the ceremony, my boys and I wanted to “pre-game” the wedding at the bar in our restaurant.

I started with a dram of Tatoosh Bourbon to get things going. My gracious bartender poured it for me to try out, as I had requested trying a locally distilled spirit. It was good; not very inspiring, but still pretty good.

Since the bar technically wasn’t open for another hour, I had to move to the restaurant bar a floor down. Not a big deal, just so long as there was a bartender – of course, there was!

Once I finished my first drink, I immediately flagged my bartender and asked to try the Westland. I had seen it sitting on the shelf the night before and resolved to try it out at some point during my stay. I really enjoyed this single malt – for a couple of rounds.

What I Smell

The first thing that hit me was a coffee candy aroma, that then resolved into a little peat, wet, salty seagrass. There was a certain sweetness that floated throughout the glass that was akin to fresh-cut sugar-cane. Freshly poured, the whiskey holds its aromas close to the vest. But the addition of a couple of drops of water really helped the aromas bloom.

What I Taste

The coffee candy aspect in the nose persisted on the palate, no doubt due to the moderate peat, with a little cherry pipe tobacco. In addition to the coffee, about mid-palate I got some tangerine and a hint of vanilla and caramel. This whiskey has an excellent coating effect, which makes the finish moderately long, with an ever-so-slight astringency. A little hot up-front, but not overpowering; a perfect complement to wet weather.

Overall Impression

I truly enjoyed this single malt. While it doesn’t have the complexity and sophistication of say a Caol Ila, it’s strength lies in the balance of aromas and flavors it does present. I truly believe that over time, as more older whiskey can be blended into the finished product, this whiskey has the potential to blossom into a truly great spirit.

Every Whiskey Has a Story

Within every whiskey, there’s a story waiting to be told. The stories revealed can frighten me, excite me, or tickle long-forgotten memories of times past. And the stories vary from whiskey to whiskey and even bottle to bottle of the same brand.

I want to hear all those stories. I want to immerse myself in the plotlines of flavor each whiskey I taste has to offer.

I’m writing Whiskey My Love to share my own stories of what I taste. It’s less about reviews and more about taking notes, so I don’t forget. But at the same time, I’ll be sharing my own story behind the whiskeys that I encounter.

Bainbridge Battle Point Organic Wheat Whiskey

This trip to Seattle has been incredibly fortuitous with respect to discovering new whiskey! Right before I left my hotel, I was at the hotel’s bar speaking with a man who turned out to be the western regional sales manager for Bainbridge Organic Distillers on Bainbridge Island.

When I first encountered the man, I had no idea that he was part of Bainbridge. But he had struck up a conversation with two ladies within earshot of me, and though I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, I couldn’t help but listen to him tell his elevator pitch. Once I heard it, I got up, introduced myself, and told him I write a blog about whiskey.

At that, the bartender pushed a shot glass towards me that had a sample taste of the whiskey, which they just so happened to carry. 🙂 Nice. I had to go, so I didn’t have much time to converse with him, but I did get to taste the whiskey. Wow!

What I Smell

I must have a weird nose, but one of the first smells that hit me was a subtle banana bread aroma. I looked up, puzzled over it, but didn’t say anything. I absolutely loved it! I then detected a slight, wet, sweet hay, and forest floor, along with a buttery note that seemed to indicate that a richness was awaiting me.

What I Taste

Oh wow… I’ve never had a 100% wheat whiskey. I know it’s whiskey when I drink it, but it doesn’t have the expected notes that come from mixed grain spirits. They’re certainly similar, but well… the characteristics are different enough to make this unique.

For me, there’s a sweet, buttered bread-like quality up-front, like liquified King’s Hawaiian Bread. The banana bread certainly persists on the palate, but it’s accompanied with a bit of raw cane sugar, giving way to a slight raw honey note, that then breaks into Wheat Thins. Underlying that, I also get spicy notes of clove and cinnamon to highlight the palate even further. The finish is moderate, with a slightly sweet brown sugar note. Mouthfeel throughout is silky-smooth and full-bodied.

Overall Impressions

Because I only had the one taste thus far, it wouldn’t be fair or right to include a “How I Like to Drink It” section. But should I get this whiskey – which I certainly will – I’d probably stick to drinking it neat or over a cube. But this would also go great with a medium-bodied robusto cigar. I have a couple of Cubans in my freezer that I might thaw out to drink this.

This is definitely not a whiskey I’d drink every day. It’s far too unique, complex and sophisticated to waste as a daily drinker. It is a whiskey that is meant to be savored and sipped. But that said, this whiskey has got me curious enough to explore it further since I only had a brief tasting. I really need to see how it changes in the glass and that will take a longer amount of time.

I can’t wait to finally spend some time with this whiskey. At least from my initial tasting, it shows lots of promise!

Tatoosh Bourbon

tatoosh-bourbon-3-years-oldHere’s another bourbon that I tried on my trip to Seattle…

This bourbon actually comes from Bend, Oregon and produced by the Bendistillery. The last time I was in Bend, I saw this but didn’t really think too much of it because I was busy trying out all the fantastic craft brews and breweries in the area.

But yesterday at my hotel’s bar, I asked to try it since it was one I hadn’t had yet. My great bartender poured it in a glencairn glass but also accompanied it with a rocks glass with a large cube to see how I’d like it. Turns out I preferred it over ice.

This bourbon is balanced. Nothing really stands out. And while there’s nothing that particularly stands out, there’s nothing bad about it. It’s like the equivalent of playing guitar “in the pocket.” Steady.

What I Smell

Slightly floral with a little honey and a bit of leather. It’s pleasing without being spectacular.

What I Taste

A little vanilla, a little spice, a little honey, a little toffee, overlaying a citrus note and a super-short finish. Nothing bad about this bourbon, but it’s not that inspiring to me, either.

How I Like to Drink It

The only way I’ve had it is neat and with a cube. But I’d probably use this as a mixer. But at the price, it is highly unlikely I’d get a bottle of this, especially if I’m not going to drink it any other way. Like I said, it’s not bad, but it’s also not that inspiring.

Overall Impression

Thus is a good, solid bourbon. Would I drink it again? Sure. But I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to get a bottle. There are plenty of better bourbons at that price point.

2Bar Bourbon Whiskey

I’m up in Seattle as I write this. I’ve been to Seattle and all over the Pacific Northwest a myriad of times over the course of my life, and one thing that always sticks in my mind whenever I visit: The Pacific Northwest is… well… eccentric. Who woulda thunk that Oregon, though famous for wine (especially Burgundian-style wines), would be on the forefront of the craft brewing craze?

Seattle, on the other hand, has been known for coffee. This is the birthplace of Starbucks. But besides Starbucks, little craft coffee houses dot the Seattle metropolitan area. I’m not a fan of Starbucks, but I am a BIG fan of good coffee. So I know that in Seattle, the lifeblood of my morning will be enriched and enlivened by good coffee.

Then there are the distilleries…

I have to admit that I had no idea that this Seattle had so many distilleries. I only learned this yesterday, while conversing with the bartender at my hotel, the Kimpton Palladian, right new Pike Market. I saw these bottles I had never seen before on his shelves and he told me they were all produced locally. So of course, I had to try them; well, not all at once. But in the few days that I’m here, I’m going to sample a few. Besides, they’ll give me subjects to write about here, which brings me to the subject of this post.

2Bar has got to be one of the most unique bourbons I’ve had in awhile. Most bourbons don’t take me by surprise, but this one definitely did. It has a weird nose up-front – almost offputting – but it finishes very well.

While I was drinking it, I looked for some reviews. Ratings were all over the map. Having from the wine world, when I see ratings that are all over the map, it tells me one thing: The item is unique. Some will hate it, others will love it, and typically, there’s very little middle ground. 2Bar fits that profile.

Interestingly enough, the more popular blogs and rating sites give it only a fair rating. Methinks that this is because they expect a fairly traditional flavor profile. 2Bar is NOT traditional. I think a lot of that has to do with the mash, that is made from 100% Pacific Northwest grains.

For me, while I’m not too wild about the initial aromas, from a pure flavor perspective. I LOVE this bourbon!

What I Smell

My very first smell of this was not all that pleasing. It was from a newly-opened bottle, right into a glencairn glass. My first thought was, yuck! Sulfur dioxide. But I swished the glass a bit to get some air on the liquid to open up the whiskey. Once I did that, smelled it again, and the unpleasant aroma went away. Then things got a little interesting…

With the unpleasant initial aromas blown off, there’s a distinct alcohol presence in the nose, giving a nod to the 100 proof strength of the bourbon. Underlying that is bit of honey, vanilla, and an ever so slight orange blossom. As the bourbon opens up over time, the alcohol aroma mellows out letting the other aromas bloom. It’s actually quite nice.

What I Taste

I was expecting a bit of burn from the 100 proof. But I was surprised by the smoothness. This is largely due to the silky mouthfeel, which is magnificent. Up front, I get more vanilla and honey which then gives way to a moderate burnt citrus peel, which forms the base of the finish, which is long and pleasing and transforms to black licorice; not that cheap, “Red Vines” black licorice, but that distinctive, traditional, old-school stuff.

This bourbon finishes in an absolutely amazing way. I love that black licorice taste and combine that with that silky mouthfeel, this is a totally distinctive bourbon.

How I Like to Drink It

More likely than not, I would drink this neat. I’d add a couple drops of water to help dissipate the initial aromas. I need to try to see how it would do poured over a large cube or globe of ice. I suspect that may have an even greater effect on the initial aromas. But I will have to see.

Overall Impression

I have to get a bottle of this. It’s not an inexpensive bourbon at around $50 street. But this is definitely a sipper, so it will be on my shelf for a long time.

Here Are a Couple of Ways to Get More Booze When You Go to a Bar

c-and-b-old-fashioned1Way #1: When I go to a bar the first time, I look to see what bourbons they carry. If they’ve got some decent ones, I’ll order an Old Fashioned. But I always tell the bartender or the server to make sure that they don’t add any soda water to top off the drink.

You see, I’ve come to learn that many bartenders – especially those old, crusty ones – hate serving glasses that aren’t full, so to make it look that they’re providing value, they’ll top off a drink with soda water to make it look full.

I think it actually really bugs them! So when I say don’t top it off with soda water, many times, to help quell their phobia of serving a half-full glass, they’ll bump up the bourbon. In several places I’ve gone, this means that they bump it up to a double, but charge me for a single. 🙂

Way #2: This has happened to me several times over the last few years. If I go to a bar that caters mostly to young people and the sports crowd, I will order an Old Fashioned. Invariably, the bartender gets a look of panic on their face because even though they’ve heard of the drink, most likely, their typical clientele never orders one. A few of these folks will even remark out loud, “Wow! No one ever orders that.” That’s my cue. 🙂

I then say, “You want to know my recipe? People will flip over how good this tastes.” Unfortunately, at bars like this, all their oranges are cut up into slices. That’s okay because I just direct them to use the pulp part of a 1/4 slice, show them how to muddle it with a bit of sugar and bitters (amazingly many have orange bitters). Then they add the bourbon. What immediately bugs them is that a shot – even in a single rocks glass – doesn’t look like much. I don’t say anything at that point besides just telling them to add just enough ice to fill 1/2 the glass. It still looks wrong to them, so they’ll pour in more bourbon!

The last time I did this was last year at Champs Sports Bar & Grill in Honolulu. I saw that they stocked Buffalo Trace, so I ordered an Old Fashioned. The young guy there said, he hadn’t poured one of those in awhile because most people just ordered drinks to get drunk or he just pulled levers to pour a beer. But a “real” drink? He hadn’t done that for awhile. So I taught him my recipe and he even made one for himself and remarked that it was no wonder I liked that cocktail.

I visited Champs three days in a row, and from that point on, he poured me doubles for a single price. Of course, that was in appreciation for teaching him, plus hey! It’s ALOHA spirit! On the last day I visited, he told me he’d been pouring Old Fashioneds for people because he was so proud of learning how to make that drink, and people loved it! When I got my final bill of three rounds, the guy only charged me $12! I gave him $60 because I believe in Aloha as well. 🙂 He looked at it and said, “Uncle, that’s way too much.” I just smiled, got up, and said, “Mahalo! Late-ahs!”