March First Brewing and Boundless Ambitions

If you are unaware of March First Brewing, don’t be hard on yourself. They’ve been intentionally flying under the radar for a few weeks, slowly seeping out to bars and restaurants around town. But this is only the very beginning of perhaps the most ambitious Cincinnati brewery yet.

March First Brewery Taproom

Continue reading “March First Brewing and Boundless Ambitions”

Book Review: ‘Proof: The Science of Booze’ by Adam Rogers

In my continued quest to read everything about booze I just finished reading Adam Rogers’ Proof: The Science of Booze and damn do I love this book!

Proof The Science of Booze

Continue reading “Book Review: ‘Proof: The Science of Booze’ by Adam Rogers”

Book Review: Tasting Whiskey

Tasting Whiskey: An Insider’s Guide to the Unique Pleasures of the World’s Finest Spirits is a new book from longtime whiskey and beer writer Lew Bryson.  I follow Lew on Twitter and saw him pitch the book there. After deciding Buy Tasting Whiskey on Amazonto spend 2015 learning about whiskey and bourbon I saw Amazon’s description of the book, below, and decided this was a great place to start learning.

Whiskey lovers will devour this fresh and comprehensive guide to everything there is to know about the world’s whiskeys, including Scotch and bourbon as well as Tennessee, Irish, Japanese, and Canadian whiskeys. You’ll learn about the types of whiskey and the distilling traditions of the regions where they are made, how to serve and taste whiskeys to best appreciate and savor them, how to collect and age whiskey for great results, and much more. There are even recipes for cocktails and suggestions for food pairings. This is the guide no whiskey drinker will want to be without!

Continue reading “Book Review: Tasting Whiskey”

Few Spirits Gin Review

xcC0rRx4i3W_x6zayF9wMg7vsdEMN98p7be10piUWIo

I have written in the past about the boom in craft distilling and how heartbreaking it can be when the cute little distillery with the beautiful bottle that you just paid $50 for turns out to be putting out less than impressive product. So it was with excitement but also a little cynicism that I opened my box of samples from Few Spirits in Evanston, IL. The samples included three different gins, a bourbon, and a rye whiskey.  My first thought on seeing the whiskeys was to wonder where they were sourcing from. When I read the informational materials and learned that Few ferments, distills, and bottles all of its products from scratch in their distillery I had to reevaluate my expectations. Turns out that the Few Spirits blew those expectations out of the water. Charlie and I tried the three gins included in the sampler, Few American Gin, Barrel Gin, and Standard Issue Gin on Episode 137 of The Charlie Tonic Hour and I can tell you that it was one of the most enthusiastic drink segments of the show’s history. Here are the details of the three gins.

IWd7vcnWypIip9LJ22PjCRqNZEQ_-cuHUzsA1kEkU6U

 

Few American Gin: First the basics. It’s made with a bourbon mash of 70% corn, 20% wheat, and 10% malted barley and flavored with 11 botanicals including juniper, bitter orange, lemon peel and fresh vanilla and weighs in at a modest 80 proof. The nose is sweet, heavy on the corn but I can smell mint and vanilla as well. It is smooth with a gentle burn on the finish. The juniper isn’t overpowering but it is not as citrus heavy as other American-style gins I have tried. There is almost a hoppy quality to the flavor but it is nicely balanced by the sweeter notes. The vanilla is surprisingly easy to pick out. When I watered it down I felt that the flavors got too diluted but I think this would make a lovely gin and tonic. Retails for $39.99.

CIMTa-LrJaMIMojBB0Ax7vYNcCOZf7prJ1wmn-97_Dw

Few Barrel Gin: The info materials state that the Barrel Gin is made with a more neutral base spirit which I am interpreting as having fewer botanicals than their American or Standard Issue gin. Then they age the gin in a mix of new American Oak and used bourbon and rye barrels. The Barrel Gin is 93 proof. Barrel aged gins have been popping up all over the place lately. I can see how some people might think that they are a bit gimmicky I have to admit that I kind of love them. They just taste like nothing else out there. Few Barrel Gin has a lot more body and spice than other bourbon barrel gins I have tried. I think using a blend of different barrels was a very good choice. The predominant flavors are mint and a sweet cinnamon with notes of vanilla. The only problem with barrel gins that I have found is that they really don’t work in cocktails for me. Few recommends making a “Ginhattan” with it but I am skeptical. So far I have stuck with sipping it. Retails for $49.99.

9sdXRWLDN4CcOJJgYyvlBBgTcW32kzSa6_GbtE0O2xo

Few Standard-Issue Gin: This gin is 114 proof. I mention that first because the high-proof is a big part of what defines this style of gin, which is often referred to as navy strength gin. The story behind this is that when British sailors received their daily ration of gin it had to have enough alcohol so that the gunpowder could still ignite if the gin was accidentally spilled on it. Along with the higher alcohol content a navy gin would have been drier than American gins. To balance this dryness Few added a hefty dose of fennel to balance it out. The result is a gin that will put hairs on your chest but is also surprisingly reminiscent of those candies you get at an Indian restaurant. Surprisingly smooth for the proof, the juniper flavors come on strong and there is a bitterness you can feel on the tongue rather than taste, but the finish leaves a strong impression of licorice. With water the burn was greatly diminished and the softer flavors came out more. I think this would be a great cocktail gin, perhaps with a gimlet. Retails for $39.99.

Right now Few Spirits are not available in stores in Ohio and Kentucky but you can order them online. Next time I am in Chicago I will make a point of visiting the distiller and picking up a few bottles.

Tito’s Handmade Vodka

titos

With so many micro-distilleries popping up around the country I thought it would be nice to review a vodka from one of the early success stories from the micro-distilling movement. Tito’s Handmade Vodka is celebrating its 16th year in business. Tito’s was stared by a guy named Tito Beveridge (with a name like that how do you know go into the alcohol business) who started out making vodka infusions as gifts and somehow ended up founding the first legal distillery in Texas. Since winning a double gold medal in the World Spirits Competition they have come to be known as one of the go-to brands of vodka for people who are serious about cocktails but also aware of price. I have even heard of some up-scale bars and restaurants who are using Tito’s as their well vodka so that the taste of their carefully crafted cocktails don’t get ruined by sub-par vodka. This really is the path that every micro-distiller around the country is hoping to follow, although few of them look ready to compete at this point.

Despite having been aware of the brand for many years I had not actually gotten around to buying a bottle until now. Tito’s is a 100% corn vodka and it does have the characteristic sweet and creamy taste that most of the corn vodka’s I’ve tried also have. But the other corn vodka’s I’ve tried also have a lot more of a flavor to them. And when it comes to vodka that is not necessarily a good thing. Tito’s is incredibly smooth, with a creamy mouthfeel and just a hint of sweetness before you do taste the alcohol at the end. But it is not a burning alcohol and you can drink it without making cheap vodka face and coughing. One reason for the difference is that Tito’s microdistilled in an old-fashioned pot stills and so they have more control over the process than with column stills. I would say it is very similar in character and quality to Buckeye Vodka but is a few dollars cheaper per bottle and, in my opinion,  slightly better. Don’t be put off by the cheap looking bottle and plastic cap. Part of Tito’s mission statement is keeping their product as affordable as possible and they are clearly not investing too much in bottle. Instead they use quality ingredients, a careful distillation process, and then distill it just enough (six times) to get out the impurities and strong corn flavors but not so much that all that is left is the ethanol flavor. So there you have it. If you want to support local vodka at an affordable price go with Buckeye but if you want a bottom line better vodka for an even better price, go with Tito’s.

If you want to listen to a tasting and review of Tito’s you can hear it on this week’s episode of Bottom Up.

Bottoms Up Podcast: Angel’s Envy Bourbon

bottoms up podcast

As some of you may know, I do a weekly podcast called the Charlie Tonic Hour. My co-host Charlie and I like to describe it as an alcohol-soaked culture podcast with a side of sexy but mostly it’s just Charlie and I discussing music, events, popular culture and whatever else crosses our mind. Every show has had a “bottoms up” segment where we talk about a drink of some kind. It’s always been my favorite part of the show, a chance to talk to local bartenders, try a new spirit, beer, or wine, or just practice mixing up a new cocktail to try. Well, I liked it so much that I talked Charlie into starting a second podcast that was all alcohol. It’s called Bottoms Up with Ginny and Charlie, and it goes live every Friday. At just about 15 minutes in length, it’s a short shot of alcohol to kick off your weekend. Charlie and I will be heading out to local bars to talk to people, attending Cincinnati events, trying new things and making new drinks. If you like cocktails, spirits, beer, or just the local drinks scene, I think you will enjoy the show. We started a few weeks ago with Angel’s Envy Bourbon, and I thought I would go ahead and share it with the good people here at Queen City Drinks. If you like what you hear, you can subscribe through iTunes or download it from the site. Give it a listen and let me know what you think.

FULL SHOW NOTES FOR THIS EPISODE
Run Time: 11 Minutes, 19 Seconds

Click to listen
Subscribe to the show

Angels’s Envy
 From the official website (angelsenvy.com):

Created by Master Distiller Lincoln Henderson, Angel’s Envy is worth coveting. Aged up to 6 years in charred white oak barrels and finished in ruby port wine casks, Angel’s Envy is an artisan’s masterpiece, unlike any other bourbon.

When Wine and Spirits Magazine calls you a “Living Legend,” it should mean one thing. You’ve still got work to do. Lincoln Henderson wasn’t content resting on his laurels. He’s always been a malcontent. You don’t spend 40 years defining the spirits industry and earn a spot in the Bourbon Hall of Fame without a few unconventional ideas.

Angel’s Envy is what happens when 200 years of tradition meet an independent master craftsman’s instinct to improve. It’s a total return to craft first, hand-blended batches of 8 to 12 barrels at a time. We start with the finest local ingredients distilled in micro-batches and aged in American oak. Lincoln personally tastes every barrel throughout each step of the process to ensure that the spirit meets his malcontent’s standards.

This would be enough for any other premium bourbon, but Lincoln had other ideas. That’s why we finish every batch in ruby port wine casks. There’s no set time for the process. It’s only Angel’s Envy when we say it is. The ruby port wine finish adds subtle nuance without ruining the integrity of the bourbon. The result is a rich, exceptionally smooth and rare bourbon. Sin aside, we work every day to inspire envy, even if it takes a little longer.

Ginny Tonic’s April 2012 Article on Angel’s Envy
Angel’s Envy Makes The Angels Beg

Charlie Tonic Hour #14 Where We Originally Discuss Angel’s Envy
Angels Envy, Powerful Females and the Road to Gem City

Photos from Our Tasting
  
The Music You Hear Throughout the Episode

thefordtheatrereunion.com

Photo by Cara Suppa at MOTR in January 2013
Brought To You By the Same People Who Created
The Charlie Tonic Hour | Tonic Tours

A Tale of Two Bourbons: Buffalo Trace Hot Box Toasted Barrel and #7 Heavy Char

Buffalo Trace Experimental

When it comes to bourbon (and pretty much all spirits), the treatment of the distilled liquids are just as important as how and with what the spirit is made up of in the first place. Buffalo Trace has been on the forefront of bourbon tinkering with their Experimental Collection. Since 2006 they’ve been releasing bottles with either various non-traditional mashes (rice, for instance) or strange treatments of reasonably normal mashes. The scale of this experimental work is huge.

In 1987 Buffalo Trace Distillery began experimenting. Since then Buffalo Trace has produced over 1,500 experimental barrels of whiskey now aging in its warehouses. Each of the barrels has unique characteristics making each one different from all others. Some examples of these experiments include unique mash bills, types of wood, barrel toasts, and more.

Buffalo Trace periodically bottles a few of these experimental barrels and makes them available to consumers. Each experiment that is released is very limited and rare.

The two newest of these releases for 2013 utilize their Rye Bourbon Mash #2, found in Elmer T. Lee and Blanton’s. They take this same base and then give it two different, almost opposite, treatments. Continue reading “A Tale of Two Bourbons: Buffalo Trace Hot Box Toasted Barrel and #7 Heavy Char”