Category Archives: Scotch

The Brown-Forman Scotch Collection

There is no doubt that the company owning names like Jack Daniels, Woodford Reserve and Old Forester has serious insight when it comes to truly great whiskey and bourbon. When the opportunity comes to taste scotch from three newly acquired, iconic Scottish distilleries’ brands that date back to the 1800s, you take it. Period.

The night with Brown-Forman started off with specialty scotch cocktails designed by the Global Brand Ambassador of their Scotch Collection (more on him in a minute) and a little talk so we could get to know the Brown-Forman team. 



Honestly, before this night, I had never tried (or even heard of) a scotch cocktail. The though in my mind was that just isn’t done because it would be a waste of a great spirit. When I asked the ambassador (who is from Scotland, naturally) if it hurt him that we were drinking scotch cocktails, he laughed and said, “Of course not! I designed them myself, and when you complement the flavors of the whiskey, there’s nothing wrong with mixing.”

We began with a traditional scotch cocktail, the Penicillin (BenRiach 10-Year, lemon, ginger, honey syrup), which is a stout cocktail with the perfect balance of bright flavors with the smokiness of the scotch. We then had a couple of less classic options like the Highland Game Changer (GlenDronach 12-Year, vermouth, cherry brandy, dash of absinthe) and the Bobby Burns (GlenDronach 12-Year, orange liqueur, and vermouth).

Once everyone was sufficiently lubricated, we moved into the tasting portion of the evening. The tasting was led by Stewart Buchanan, a Scottish native and Global Brand Ambassador of the Brown-Forman Scotch Collection. Stuart has been involved in the Scotch industry since 1993.

He has worked in virtually every position within the industry from production to warehousing, office work to hosting tastings and management. In 2004, he helped to restart the BenRiach Distillery, one of the sampled brands in the tasting, after it had been closed since 2002.

Needless to say, he is a world-class sommelier of Scotch (whatever the word is for that). With his production background, Stuart gives a unique insight into the different process techniques and what makes a whiskey individuality by using different styles of casks in maturation. All that said, he has an incredibly outgoing personality and is a dangerous drinking companion.


Now to the whiskey…

GlenDronach 12-Year-Old Original
Rich sherried, 12-year-old single malt matured in a combination of Spanish Oloroso sherry casks.

Proof: 43% ABV
Nose: Sweet aroma with creamy vanilla and hints of ginger and autumn fruits
Taste: Creamy and silky smooth taste with rich oak and sherry sweetness, full mouth feel, raisins, soft fruits and spice
Finish: Long, full and slightly nutty finish
Distillery: The Glendronach Distillery, founded in 1826 in the valley of Forgue deep in the East Highland hills and one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland. Characteristics of this distillery are heavy and robust using mastery of sherry cask maturation with a deep color and rich flavor profiles ranging from sweet and fruity to dry and nutty.


BenRiach 10-Year-Old
Fresh and smooth single malt Classic Speyside. It is unpeated, fruity and matured in American Virgin Oak wood.

Proof: 43% ABV
Nose: Crisp, green orchard fruits, stem ginger and tangerine mellows to creamy vanilla with a delicate note of mint and a twist of citrus with a barley back note.
Taste: Warm toasted oak spices through green apple skins and dried apricots with hints of peach and soft banana. Touches of aniseed and lemon zest contrast the fruit and add to the crisp barley finish.
Distillery: The BenRiach Distillery was founded in 1898 in Northeast Morayshire that uses 100% Scottish Barley sourced from farms across Speyside and Northeast Scotland. They are known for using a wide variety of casks for maturing and finishing. BenRiach is one of only two remaining Speyside distilleries to seasonally produce whiskey using malted barley from its own traditional floor maltings.


BenRiach 10-Year-Old Curiositas
Peated single malt distilled from heavily peated malted barley giving this scotch a fresh, peated expression with smoky-sweet notes.
Note: Peat is a traditional source of fuel that is taken from the land and consists of compressed, decaying plant material. Different processes in sourcing and the varying locations of Scottish distilleries give varying flavors of smokiness unique to where the Scotch is distilled. BenRiach uses Highland Peat that is taken from the top layer of soil and has charcoal and campfire notes, unlike the salt-water infused peat used in coastal distilleries that have a medicinal and iodine notes.

Proof: 46% ABV
Nose: Aromatic peat smoke with hints of honey, fruit and mellow oak
Taste: Pear front followed by a complex hint of fruit, heather, nuts, oak and wood spices.


Glenglassaugh Evolution (my favorite of the evening)
Distinctive whiskey matured in ex-Tennessee Whiskey barrels which gives it a unique flavor compared to other Scotch whiskeys.

Proof: 50% ABV
Nose: Combination of sweet barley, pineapple and vanilla with deep oak spices and caramelized pear.
Taste: White peppery oak through crisp green apple with hints of salted caramel and ripe banana.
Distillery: Glenglassaugh is an award-winning distiller founded in 1875 on Sandend Bay on the Moray coast of Scotland that is on that Highland and Speyside border. Their Scotch, both peated and unpeated is matured in beach side warehouses that gives it salty notes, but uses Highland malt that creates a unique flavor of three regions. They are known for innovation of their newer whiskeys, but have old stocks going back to 1963.


Brown-Forman created a truly amazing and educational evening. Due to the recent acquisition of these distilleries and their commitment to knowledge and quality, this scotch whiskey is currently available in limited quantities in the United States. Specifically, in the Dallas area, you should be able to find them in Total Wine and Specs. If you are looking to sample, we were informed that the Standard Pour and Whiskey Cake in Plano were the only two watering holes that were mentioned to have stock. Not to worry, though, the Brown-Forman team said they would be more widely distributed later in April and May. Save up your money and go grab a bottle … or three.

Highland Park Draft & Dram

“I love scotch. Scotchy, scotch, scotch. Here it goes down, down into my belly…” This Ron Burgundy quote definitely embodied the day leading up to the delicious #DramAndDraft pairing event at the Meddlesome Moth presented by Highland Park. Some argue that scotch must be served neat … others would argue that scotch should be served on the rocks. But after this wonderful evening, I would suggest pairing it with a great craft beer.

RICOstudios-SDD_HighlandPark-5644

Garrett Youngbloog and US National Highland Park Ambassador, Steph Ridgway made it loud and clear that Highland Park Scotch Whisky goes great with craft beer. I have to say that it’s more than just a fancy boiler maker. The great craft beers they paired with the great scotch whiskies opened up flavors in both beverages that are perfectly complimented by other.

We greeted with a cocktail by Austin Gurley of High and Tight, the Lady of Shalot (Highland Park 12, Four Corners Local Buzz Honey Rye Ale, citrus bitters, Cardamaro). Then the tasting began …

Imagine drinking your favorite drink, then having someone offer you the same drink, but better. That’s what happened.

I definitely urge you scotch fans out there to pick up some craft beer the next time you pick up your favorite bottle of scotch. Not only should it compliment your scotch … but you might even find yourself not wanting one without the other!

RICOstudios-SDD_HighlandPark-5639

 

The Second Floor Bar

I have visited the Dallas Galleria more than few times (women be shopping’, yo), and I’m kind of mad at myself that all along, I have been missing out on the greatness that is The Second Floor by Scott Gottlich.

Aptly named, this sleek, contemporary spot is nestled away on the second floor of the Westin Galleria, and just paces away from the interior mall entrance. I had a chance to belly up to the bar to check out The Second Floor’s liquid offerings. Let me tell you, they’ve got a lot going on here, folks. This is not your average hotel bar. It may be attached to the Westin, but the sippable menu at The Second Floor easily competes with offerings you would expect to find at some of the best watering holes in Dallas. If you haven’t discovered this spot yet, it could be a game changer.  Ladies, is that shopping trip you dragged your guy on taking just a liiiitttle bit longer than originally advertised? Sit him down at the bar, and you’re solid for at least another hour. Better yet, are the odds ne’er in your favor when swim suit shopping? Screw swimsuits … they have cocktails.

When I say they do things differently here, I’m not kidding; I was impressed to learn that The Second Floor actually makes their own hand-crafted aromatic tonic, infused with orange bitters and burnt cinnamon. The Second Floor’s creative and thoughtful cocktail menu offers seasonal features in addition to old standbys; one fan favorite is the Cucumber Sip (Organic cucumber vodka, elderflower, strawberry, & soda, $12),  which I’m told is The Second Floor’s most popular drink.  I had the opportunity to sample the House Sangria ($8), which was chock-full of boozy berries that I’m told spent a good amount of time hanging out in a cognac-lemon-elderflower concoction prior to taking a dip in my glass. (Is it rude to ask for a fork to get these leftovers from the bottom of my glass?) The sangria was rich and bursting with fruity goodness, and ultimately waaayyyy too easy to drink.

FullSizeRender_2

A few new inventions that are featured on The Second Floor’s spring cocktail menu include:

  • GRILLED MARGARITA – Char-grilled orange, El Jimador tequila, Combier, lime ($12)
  • CINNAMON SIDECAR – Four Roses bourbon, Combier, lemon, cinnamon, bubbly ($13)
  • CHAPALA – Hornitos Black Barrel tequila, mole bitters, grapefruit infused agave nectar, ground Mexican chocolate ($13)

 

FullSizeRender

Perhaps the thing I was most impressed with overall about The Second Floor’s fleet of beverages is their extensive whiskey menu. With more than 70 American whiskey offerings in total, and an equally impressive Scotch list, the menu runs the gamut from old standards to Texas labels to far more exotic options. (18-year Japanese whiskey, anyone? ) Intriguingly, The Second Floor offers a very nice variety of whiskey tasting flights. Oh, yes. Flights start at just $12, but if you’re feeling saucy, go for “The Big Spender”–this flight features three whiskeys each aged 21 years or better (Hello, 25-year Macallan), and it can be yours for a mere $100.

Additionally, The Second Floor boasts a comprehensive wine list with more than 80 offerings by the bottle, 20 of them by the glass. If you are a beer drinker, they’ve got you covered, featuring 12 premiums, 12 Texas craft brews, and 5 domestic options.  Pro-tip: With any food or beverage purchase, The Second Floor will validate your Westin Galleria parking, which is kind of awesome. Must remember this come holiday shopping.

FullSizeRender_1

Stay tuned for another post soon about their new menu offerings for Summer 2015!
The Second Floor offers up some mighty fine happy hour specials.

Happy Hour- 4-6 PM, Monday- Friday

  • Specialty cocktail of the day (changes daily) $5
  • Domestic beer $4
  • “The Best $5 Wine in the City”- Honoro Vera, Garnacha OR Les Costières de Pomerols, Picpoul de Pinet

Various snacks and small bites, $2-5

The Second Floor by Scott Gottlich
The Westin Galleria Dallas, Level 2
13340 Dallas Parkway Dallas, TX 75240
(972) 450-2978

A Night with Ballast Point Brewing & Distilling Co.

A bit ago I attended a happy hour with Ballast Point Brewing and Distilling at Bird Cafe. To be honest, I didn’t know much about Ballast Point before going to the happy hour, and I learned that Ballast Point began as a small group of home brewers in San Diego, California. Most of the beers are named after fishing terms. The labels have illustrations of fish to pay homage to the brewery’s origin’s. After they made a name for themselves through their beer, Ballast Point began distilling. The company now has seven spirits they call their own.

Ballast Point happy hour beer menu
Ballast Point happy hour beer menu

I began the night tasting some of Ballast Point’s beer on tap. For those of you who like hoppy beers, go for the Grunion Pale Ale (5.5%). It has a nutty flavor as well as a summer fruit aroma. This beer won the 2015 Best of Craft Beer silver award. Next, I went for the Scotch ale. Piper Down (5.8%) is now in the running as one of my favorite craft beers … it’s not super heavy and it has a smooth taste. I tasted a chocolate, sweet after taste with this brew. This beer won the 2015 Best of Craft Beer gold award. The name came from Scottish bag pipers that drank too much … the piper became top heavy and people would yell, “piper down” when they began to fall. (I have to admit, I went back two days later for more.) My last tasting was the Victory at Sea Coffee/Vanilla Porter (10%). As expected, it was a dark, smooth brew. I am not a coffee drinker, but that didn’t not stop me drinking this beer. It had more of a vanilla taste than coffee.

San Diego Street Car
San Diego Street Car

Moving on to the spirits, I was curious about the first cocktail on the list–the San Diego Street Car (Devil’s Share Moonshine, Ancho Chili liqueur, corn water, lime, Burlesque bitters, egg white). I was puzzled by this concoction, so I had to ask the bartender how he came up with this interesting drink. He said it was his version of elotes in cocktail form. He wanted to bring out the corn flavor of the moonshine rather than mask it. After understanding the background of the drink, it made me enjoy it all the more.

I would urge you to go to your local liquor store and try out some of Ballast Point’s spirits. Here’s your shopping list:

3 Sheet’s Rum: made from pure cane sugar rather than molasses (80 proof)
Fugu Vodka: Filtered 15 times (80 proof)
Devil’s Share Moonshine (whiskey): hints of tropical fruit (98.6 proof)
Devil’s Share Burbon: American oak barrels, hints of caramel and vanilla cream (92 proof)
Old Grove Gin: made from juniper berries, rose, and coriander (88 proof)

Ballast Point Brewery
www.Ballastpoint.com
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Bird Cafe's amazing bar
Bird Cafe’s amazing bar

Bird Cafe
155 East Main Street
Fort Worth, Texas 76102
www.birdinthe.net

Product Review: SIA Scotch Whisky

Kickstarter. what can’t it do? Whether you’re looking for a reboot of some random TV show by people who already have plenty of money but don’t want to risk their own or just some delicious potato salad, it’s there for you. While potato salad is great and all, someone decided that it was time to use the voice of the people to make scotch. (The team here at SDD was totally behind it.)

Carin Luna-Ostasekski took it upon herself to use her Kickstarter funds to create SIA Scotch Whiskey, a “brand for consumers who don’t even know they like scotch yet.” This is notable not just because she has entered a traditionally male-dominated segment of the spirit industry, but she is also doing it in San Francisco. I can’t do her full story justice here, but you should definitely check it out at siascotch.com.
TL:DR – creative type gets an itch to learn the ins and outs of something, works hard and creates a great spirit.

All of the media materials sent talked about how the goal of the product was to be versatile and approachable – not just the old, smoky, peaty stuff that makes some folks drool and others cringe and reach for the nearest cocktail menu.

IMG_4139So, with this in mind (and me badly in need of a drink at the end of the work day), I poured a glass neat and took a few sips. The vanilla taste was immediate, but it sipped much more smoothly than most and didn’t finish too strong. After a few more sips, it was clear that I had a great sipping scotch. Just to see what happened, I poured a bit more and added a drop of water and the flavors opened a little bit with some toffee notes coming out under the vanilla. I also put some on the rocks and was very happy with that as well.

I was imagining a ton of cocktail recipes with each sip – especially for fall. In fact, I’m planning to revisit a few recipes at a later date, but I was so happy drinking this neat, I didn’t want to stop. And for me, that’s probably the best endorsement I can give it.

I’ll go ahead and say it … we’re dealing with a gateway spirit (in the best way possible). I’m not sure how much a scotch purist will like this scotch, but this is a perfect spirit for someone looking to bridge between the standard Maker’s/Jack/Crown frontier into something different. If you like the standard North American bourbons, I’d definitely recommend grabbing SIA on your next trip to the store and seeing if it opens your palate for the heavier end of the spectrum.

To learn how to order or find places to buy SIA or enjoy a cocktail, visit http://siascotch.com/buy/.