The Bruery Sans Pagaie

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With the drinking of this beer, I have officially depleted the remaining spoils of Operation Cheddar. It may seem odd to say that, seeing as though Operation Cheddar was an incursion into Vermont and The Bruery is about as far away from that fine state as you can get, but it turns out that Hill Farmstead usually features bottles from their friends, and this was the one available when I was there last year (incidentally, the current guest offerings at the retail shop are numerous and impressive, and that's before you get to the Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup! I need to get back up there.)

The only thing I knew about this before I bought it was that it was a Bruery beer that I had never seen around the Philly area. Once I got my greedy paws on the bottle, I saw that it was a sour blonde ale aged in barrels with cherries, basically their take on a Belgian kriek. I assume this "sour blonde ale" is the same base they use for Rueuze and other fruited variants like Filmishmish and Beauregarde, though that is pure speculation on my part, meaning that you can safely IGNORE ME!

Sans Pagaie translates to "without a paddle", and the bottle itself sez: "Up a Kriek". I see what they did there. Let's see what I did this past weekend:

The Bruery Sans Pagaie

The Bruery Sans Pagaie - Pours an almost clear orange pinkish red color with a finger of off white head. Smell is beautiful, lots of oak, vanilla, cherries, tart fruit, and some light earthy funk. Taste starts off with some tart fruit, cherries, more fruit roll-up than sour patch kid (though both seem present), followed by an intensifying sourness into an oaky, sour finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, acidic, vinegary, intense (but not Avance-level intense), quite the pucker factor. Definitely an interesting and worthwhile beer, the fruit lends a sorta sugary candy character that sets this apart from the really awesome Belgian takes, but this works well enough on its own. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.4% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a Tired Hands wine glass on 4/25/14. 2013 vintage.

Among Bruery's attempts at Belgian sours, this doesn't quite hit Rueuze or even Oude Tart levels, but it is interesting on its own. Fortunately, the next Bruery beer we plan to tackle here at Kaedrin will probably be their upcoming anniversary beer, called Sucré (shit, has it really been 6 years since the Bruery started?)

Good news everyone! After three long weeks of primary fermentation, I transferred my barleywine to secondary yesterday. Fermentation was vigorous and I'm glad I used the blowoff tube, but it never quite reached the near catastrophic levels of the initial RIS fermentation (I was seriously worried that my fermenter would pop its top, and it probably would have if I didn't keep such a close eye on it). What's more, I did seem to get a really good, high attenuation ferment here.

Final Gravity was 11.6 Bx or about 1.017. This is a little lower than the goal, but that was expected given that my OG was a little lower than my target as well. High attenuation, as planned, but it should still have plenty of body. This should put us in 10.1% ABV range, which may very well be the highest ABV beer I've managed yet.

As planned, I split the batch into two secondary fermenters:

Secondary fermenters with barleywine

As you can see, the one on the right did not quite reach the full 2.5 gallon mark, so that will be the "regular" version. The one on the left got the bourbon soaked oak cubes. I used Eagle Rare 10 and this time around, I made sure to soak the oak in bourbon for a much longer period (about 3-4 months), which seemed to result in a much darker liquid:

Bourbon and Oak, sitting in a jar...

I used 2 ounces of Hungarian oak this time, which is supposed to be a little more mild than American oak, but more potent than French oak. It was medium char, but from what I can tell, it felt a lot less like a campfire than the American oak I used previously. The plan is to let this sit on oak for around 3 weeks, then bottle some from each fermenter, and a blend of the two treatments. I am greatly looking forward to it, while I believe the RIS turned out well, I think this one will be more refined. But only time will tell.

I still have not really decided what I'll brew next, but I'm definitely hoping to get one more batch in before it gets too hot around here. Right now I'm thinking of a 4ish percent ABV pale ale, highly drinkable. I might even use something akin to the recipe I used for the Earl Grey beer, just without the tea and using American hops instead of the British ones. Or, if I'm lazy and it does get too hot around here, maybe I'll hit up a saison recipe instead. More to come.

Pappy Van Winkle Big Black Voodoo Daddy

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Every time I pull out one of these Voodoo barrel room selections, I wonder what the hell took me so long. The last one I tried, the Buffalo Trace Big Black Voodoo Daddy didn't quite blow my mind, but it was a worthy beer and certainly an improvement over the base. Of course, that was aged in lowly Buffalo Trace bottles; what I have here was aged in that most hallowed of Bourbon barrels, Pappy Van Winkle (ermegerd!) I've already gone over this sort of thing in the past, so I'll spare you the nerdy wrangling about why these barrels are so prized. Suffice it to say, the clouds parted and an angelic choir heralded the opening of this beer, and it was good.

PVW Big Black Voodoo Daddy

Voodoo Brewing Pappy Van Winkle Big Black Voodoo Daddy - Pours a deep black color with a cap of brown head that quickly resolves into a ring around the edge of the glass. Smells of rich caramel, a hint of roast, and a heaping helping of bourbon. Taste follows the nose, rich caramel, tons of bourbon, booze, and a hint of roast emerging in the finish. Mouthfeel is on the lower end of full bodied, rich, and creamy. Low but appropriate carbonation, some hot booze, but it's actually pretty easy going for a monster beer. Definitely a big improvement over the Buffalo Trace variant, but still not as great as Pappy Black Magick. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12.5% ABV bottled (22 oz waxed cap). Drank out of a snifter on 4/19/14. Bottle #284. Bottled: 12.14.12.

I think I'll crack open one of the Lairds Apple Brandy variants next, and I'll try to make it snappy too. None of this waiting 5 months anymore. Anywho, after two relatively quick barrel room releases, things look quiet on the Voodoo barrel front. I assume they've filled it up again, but their website does not appear to have been updated and I haven't heard any news on upcoming releases. Here's to hoping they do another Philly release at some point!

April Beer Clubbing

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Tonight was beer club! For the uninitiated, beer club is a gathering of beer-minded individuals from my workplace who get together once a month for beer and revelry at a local BYOB. This time around, we went to a local Pizza place, got our fill of deep fried pizza pockets and other such delights, and naturally partook in lots of beer:

April Beer Club Selections
(Click for larger version)

For the sake of posterity, completely unreliable notes on each beer are below. Standard disclaimers apply, and other such waffling. Great, now I have a sudden craving for waffles. Thanks a lot. Anywho, in order of drinking (not necessarily the order pictured above):

  • Green Flash Le Freak - Labeled a Belgian IPA, I didn't get much in the way of hops out of this, but it remained a pretty solid Belgian Strong Pale nonetheless. Nice spicy Belgian yeast character. B
  • Ovila Abbey Saison - Bog standard saison material, nothing special at all, though certainly not bad or anything like that. Still, there wasn't much to make it really stand out in a setting like this. Mild Belgian yeast character, maybe a hint of lemon peel if you are really looking for it. B-
  • Stone Stochasticity Project Grapefruit Slam IPA - Rock solid IPA that feels like it's actually made with grapefruit (as opposed to only hops that lend a grapefruity character). I don't actually know if that's the case for sure, but that's what it feels like. Beautiful nose, what seems like Stone's trademark hop profile, and a heaping helping of citrusy but astringent grapefruit. An interesting beer. B
  • Evil Twin / Crooked Stave Ryan And The Gosling - One of my contributions for the night, this is dominated by funky Brett. This is quite welcome in the nose, and the front end of the taste is fantastic, but the finish is very odd. That funk turns super earthy, almost savory in the finish, which brings this down a bit. Still an interesting beer to try though. B
  • Allagash Midnight Brett - Hey, look at that, a beer I just reviewed yesterday. And it held up rather well in this setting as well.
  • Ken's Homebrewed Honey IPA - Brewed with a bunch of New Zealand hops, this was quite nice.
  • Sly Fox Nihilist - An interesting take on the imperial stout style, huge carbonation, dryer than I'd normally expect, but a nice roast character, with hints of booze (but not overpowering). It's definitely a decent brew. B+
  • Kaedrin Bomb & Grapnel - Straight up imperial stout, this one compared very favorably to the Nihilist, definitely thicker and more creamy, less roast, but really quite nice. B+
  • Kaedrin Bomb & Grapnel (Bourbon Oaked) - Interestingly, I feel like the char that came through on early bottles has mellowed out, and the bourbon seems to be lessening the roast as well, making this an interesting blend of flavors. It's turned out quite well, though not at all like your typical bourbon barrel aged stout. Still, not bad for a first attempt, and quite nice on its own. B+
  • DuClaw Dirty Little Freak - Holy hell. Huge chocolate nose, like powdered cocoa. Less chocolate in the taste, as it takes a back seat to a big coconut character. Surprisingly not super sweet, and it works well enough I guess (certainly a unique beer), though I was a little disappointed. B-
  • DuClaw Cocoa Fuego - Brewed with dark chocolate and chipotle peppers, its the latter that seems to dominate this beer, even contributing a sorta smokey flavor that's pretty tough to overcome. There's some peppery heat that takes up residence in your jaw, but it's not punishing or anything like that. Not the worst hot pepper beer I've had, but not a beer that I connected with either. C+
  • DuClaw Hell on Wood - Ah, now this is more like it. This is DuClaw's excellent Devil's Milk barleywine aged on bourbon barrels, and it turned out reasonably well. Clearly not a top tier BBA barleywine, but it works really well on its own. B+
So all in all, quite a nice night. As per usual, already looking forward to next month... In the meantime, stay tuned for another .rar wale review tomorrow.

Allagash Double Feature

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This past Saturday, one of my favorite local beer bars celebrated its fourth anniversary. It's a tiny little place, but they had a rather spectacular tap list for the occasion, so I made my way over there, arriving just a little after opening. It was a total madhouse and took me a while to get anywhere close to the bar, so during this time, I reprioritized the order of desired beers, placing ones I've never had at the top of the list. Insanely crowded bars are not really my thing, and a friend I was going to meet was running way late, so we just called it quits and met up later in the day somewhere else.

That being said, I managed to snag a rare Allagash sour while I was there, and was really happy that I got to try this (there was a brewery-only bottle release not too long ago, but thankfully a keg made its way down here...) Avance is a strong sour aged on Strawberries in bourbon barrels for a whopping three years. Strawberry is not a particularly common fruit used with beer, so I was pretty stoked to try this out. Realizing that I've not been particularly attentive to Allagash's sour and wild beer program, I also cracked open some Midnight Brett that I had laying around; it's a dark wheat beer fermented with Brett. All in all, this was quite a nice Saturday!

Allagash Avance

Allagash Avancé - Apologies for the craptacular picture, but I was lucky enough to be able to extend my hand that far in this place, which was pretty obscenely crowded. Nice bright orange brown color, with a finger of bubbly head and great retention. Smells of oak and fruit berries, with the strawberry actually coming through rather well. Big sour twang in the nose too. Taste hits with a massive wave of sourness up front, tempered by oak and jammy fruit in the middle, the strawberry character less here than the nose, but still present, then returning to an intense sourness in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbed and very acidic. This is very intense, and reminds me of high ABV sours like Consecration or Riserva (and yep, now that I know this is 10.8% ABV, that makese a lot of sense. I thought the board said 8% when I ordered it, but it turns out that I neglected to notice the "10." ahead of it!) Really nice stuff, intense, oaky, delicious... perhaps just a hint too intense, but it's still great. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10.8% ABV on tap. Drank out of a goblet on 4/19/14.

Allagash Midnight Brett

Allagash Midnight Brett - Pours a dark brown color with amber highlights and a couple fingers of tan head with great lacing and retention. Smells of musty, funky brett yeast along with a fruity, vinous aroma that suits it well. Taste has a very Belgian dark feel to it, dark malts but not a lot of roast, maybe some chocolate though, definitely spicy, fruity Belgian yeast that is offset by some earthy, musty, fruity funk. An almost chocolate covered cherry character that really suits this well. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and effervescent, smooth, and almost creamy. A little bit of tartness and acidity, but very low on that scale. It's a very nice tweak on the Belgian dark style, and a very worthy beer. B+ but very close to an A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7.3% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 4/19/14. Date Bottled: Oct. 16, 2013.

So there you have it. I've never been supremely impressed with Allagash's wild beers before, but I also haven't had many of them. Both of these are significant improvements over something like Confluence, though of course, you'll have to pay for the privilege (Allagash is great, but their prices are on the high side).

The Emptiness is Eternal

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For 40 days or so, I pretty much gave up beer, mostly just to see if I could. There were a couple of preconceived exceptions to that, but for the most part I was busy expanding my horizons to bourbon, wine, tea, and the like. I really enjoyed all that and my pleasantly reduced waistline thanks me, but I have to say, nothing quite satisfies like beer. Not even a Snickers.

One of the things I missed most during my mini-hiatus from beer was trips to Tired Hands. This was exacerbated by the fact that they're absolutely tearing it up of late, and they've had plenty of newsworthy events in the past month, including the announcement of a new production facility and brewcafé ("we will soon have room for hundreds of oak barrels" - music to my earballs) and two, count 'em, two bottle releases. Of course, I attended these because I am a glutton for punishment, but when I finally got back into the beer drinking swerve, I knew I had something special to start with.

This is the third beer in the Emptiness series of barrel fermented saisons made with various fresh fruits from "rockstar farmer" Tom Culton (in this case, we've got Hachiya persimmons). So for my triumphant return to beer, I cracked a bottle of this stuff and experienced a Highlander-style quickening (fortunately, my electronics are hardened against such disturbances). I'm sad to say, the emptiness of this particular bottle will now be eternal:

Tired Hands The Emptiness is Eternal

Tired Hands The Emptiness is Eternal - Pours a beautiful, hazy but radiant straw yellow color with a finger of white head. Smells of oak, fruit, berries, and funky, musty yeast. The taste is perfectly balanced between sweet, bright, and tart fruit, berries, oak, and finishing with a puckering sourness. Mouthfeel is well carbonated (perhaps the highest carbed Tired Hands beer I've ever had!) with medium bodied, a beautiful oak character, and a well matched dry acidity. It's crisp and refreshing, bright and damn near quaffable. This may well be Tired Hands' best sour since the superb Romulon, and is certainly playing with the big boys of farmhouse sours (Hill Farmstead, Sante Adairius, etc...) This beer is awesome, in the true sense of that word. A

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (500 ml waxed cap). Drank out of a flute glass on 4/18/14. 400 Bottle Release.

This will be a tough act to follow, but then, I said that about the last Emptiness series beer... So It Goes? We'll find out soon enough. In the meantime, I had some interesting Allagash stuff this weekend, and dipped into my cellar for another wale that we'll cover later this week. Stay tuned. In other news, I have to get my ass to Tired Hands sometime this week. Godspeed, uh, me.

Lapsang Souchong Tea

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Rounding out the teas I sampled during my temporary hiatus from beer is this Lapsang Souchong tea. After my little peat smoked Scotch adventure this past weekend, I decided to keep the smoky theme going and try this smoked tea. Lapsang Souchong is a black tea that is dried over a pinewood fire. I don't know much about the structure of tea plants, but apparently "Souchong" refers to the less potent (and thus less desirable) leaves of the tea plant. The smoke is an attempt to whip these leaves into shape and make them more complex. This style originated in China, but this particular tea comes from Taiwan (and is supposed to be slightly more smoky than typical Chinese varieties).

Formosa Lapsang Souchong - A pretty golden brown color in the cup, a little bit of sediment from the loose tea. Smells like a campfire, smoke and wood, maybe even a hint of meatiness, but nothing dramatic. While my intention was to match this with the peaty Scotches I was sampling last weekend, I should note that the smoke here is quite distinct - which makes sense, given that they use pine to dry the tea and peat moss for the Scotch. The taste is surprisingly mellow given the smoke. It's there, but nowhere near as overwhelming as it is in something like an Islay Scotch or Rauchbier. Instead, we get a sorta woody black tea character that suits this well. Mouthfeel is big and robust, again like your typical black tea. Overall, this is an interesting tea, not at all like Scotch, but it works really well on its own.

Tea Nerd Details: 1 tsp for 8 ounce cup, steeped for 5 minutes at 212°.

Beer Nerd Musings: I've mentioned that tea is sometimes used in making beer, and Lapsang Souchong seems to be a mildly popular variety. I've not had any, but I certainly wouldn't mind trying the Italian Baladin X-Fumé or Kentucky's Against the Grain Bo & Luke (both of these are variants on a base beer as well, so there'd be other treatments as well). From my admittedly limited sample, I'd think this would be a nice, mellow alternative to big helpings of smoked malt. Rauchbiers and the link sometimes make me wonder who put their cigar out in my beer, but I get the impression that a beer made with Lapsang Souchong would provide a more mellow smoky character.

So this wraps up my 40ish day whirlwind tour of exotic beverages. My triumphant return to beer starts this weekend, so beer blogging will resume as normal next week. I'm breaking out a couple of wales for the weekend, so stay tuned!

Peaty Double Feature

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The number of whisk(e)y reviews in the past few weeks may have given you the wrong idea about how much spirits I really drink. In reality, it takes me forever to get through a bottle, even one I really like. As such, it took me a while to realize that I'm something of a peat freak. I get the impression that people who recommend stuff for newbs don't really go overboard with peat, which is probably advisable, but after a slow ramping up, I realized that I really enjoy me some peat and smoke in my scotch. It started with the faint hints in Highland Park 12, caught a bit more peat smoke with Talisker 10, and culminated in Ardbeg 10, at which point I realized that I should just stop worrying and embrace the peat. This past weekend, I cracked two peaty Scotches and compared notes. There's a lot to go over for these two, but stick with me, it'll be fun:

Compass Box The Peat Monster - The Scotch nerd community seems to be mostly about Single Malt Scotches, yet they represent some stupid-low segment of the market (something like 5%, kinda like craft beer). The grand majority of Scotch that is sold in the world are called "Blended Malts", and they don't have the greatest reputation. Johnny Walker certainly makes some well respected, older-aged bottles, though even they get poo-pooed. The likes of J&B and Cutty Sark don't do blends any favors though, and taste a little like gasoline. Here at Kaedrin, we're big tent kinda people, so I thought it might be nice to go after a "good" blend, and in today's market, that seems to be Compass Box. I was in the market for a new peaty bottle, and this sucker has a great reputation. The guy behind Compass Box, John Glaser, is a longtime member of the industry and got his start by blending bottles from his bar to see what kinda weird stuff he could create (this great interview gives more background on this, amongst other topics). He's gotten into some trouble by adding adjuncts to some of his more adventurous blends (coming from the rough and tumble craft beer world, where a recent local brewery just released a beer made with goat brains, the prospect of having some orange or spice added to my whisky doesn't really frighten me - not that Peat Monster has any adjuncts). The blended components seem to be something of a secret, though they do appear to be Islay malts (see below for a little more on Islay). As an added bonus, check out that label. Perhaps not as "classy" as most Scotch labels, but it's really well designed nonetheless:

Compass Box The Peat Monster

I'm always surprised by how light these smokey, peaty monsters can be - this is a clear, very light yellow color. The nose is very nice, with the obvious smokey peat aroma being the most prominent, but also an underlying sweetness that indicates balance. The taste bears that out, with a big malt presence up front, maybe some oak and vanilla, and that intense peaty smoke coming through strong towards the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, a nice oiliness to it that helps coat the mouth, and plenty of booze. Overall, this is a very nice, very balanced peat smoked whisky. Despite the name, this is an approachable dram of peat smoked whisky, and pretty easy drinking too... I'd say more intense than Talisker, but not quite at the Ardbeg levels...

Whisky Nerd Details: 46% ABV bottle (750 ml, just opened recently). Drank out of a Glencairn glass on 4/12/14.

Ardbeg Uigeadail - I've already mentioned Ardbeg 10, which is my favorite Islay whisky (which isn't to say that I've had a ton of them, but still). To a newbie the whole Scotch region game can be tough to figure out, but Islay is the easy one - they tend to be intensely smoky and peaty, moreso than any other region. Why is that? As per usual, the historical origin is a tale of necessity, rather than a specific desire for peat smoke. Islay is an island with no trees, so they had no wood to fire their kilns and malt their barley. Thus they relied on what they had: peat. This imbued the malt with a distinctive smokey flavor, which many have grown to love. A tradition born of necessity. This bottle adds to the normal Ardbeg style another component, one not typical in peated Scotches (see Jacob's Venn diagram for an illustration) - it is also partially finished in Sherry casks. It's also a higher-proof offering than the standard Ardbeg 10, and while it has no age statement, I can't imagine this being too young...

Ardbeg Uigeadail

Definitely a darker pour here (than Peat Monster, but also of Ardbeg 10), more on the golden orange side of things. Nose is definitely more complex, hitting with that classic Ardbeg peat smoke, but also something else, presumably that sherry influence. People often talk about smoked malt as having meaty characteristics, which in my experience is actually rare, but this Uigeadail definitely has something like that going on in the nose. The taste hits on that peat smoke and tar, but future sips yield some oak and vanilla, and sometimes an almost fruity malt note (or maybe that sherry again). Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and oily. Definitely a hotter alcohol component here, but still approachable. Overall, this is really spectacular and complex. On the other hand, I think I might prefer straight up Ardbeg 10, though this is a really nice riff on the same style.

Whisky Nerd Details: 54.2% ABV bottle (750 ml, nearing the bottom). Drank out of a Glencairn glass on 4/12/14. Bottle Code: L11 284 14:57 6ML (basically, it's a late 2011 bottle - see full breakdown of bottle codes here)

Beer Nerd Musings: One of the most surprising beers I've ever had was Yeastie Boys' Rex Attitude, a mostly unassuming recipe... except that it's made with 100% peated malt. This sounds like a ludicrous idea, but it works way more than you might think. If you're a peat freak and you have the opportunity to try this beer, give it a shot, I bet you'd enjoy it (alas, Yeastie Boys is a rather small contract brewing operation in New Zealand, so their beer can be hard to come by...) There's also an imperialized version known as XeRRex that I'm certainly going to keep an eye out for. In terms of barrel aged brews, Islay barrels are a bit of a mixed bag, and to my mind, often overwhelm the base beer with their smoky, boozy intensity. Some are drinkable, but none seem to approach the exalted heights of the top tier bourbon barrels, or even Ola Dubh beers aged in Highland Park casks...

So there you have it. Up next in the peated Scotch realm, if I can find it, will be Ardbeg Corryvreckan, which combines Ardbeg's typical peat smoke with new oak (typically Single Malt Scotch is aged in old Bourbon barrels)... In other news, we're really in the homestretch now, one more non-beer entry on Thursday (for tea), then we return to beer blogging with a vengeance. Looking forward to it!

Balvenie 15

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Coming down the homestretch, only one more week until I start blogging about beer again. I don't know about you, but I feel that these past 5-6 weeks have been a worthwhile (if temporary) interruption in my obsession with beer. Ironically, I've been writing more during this non-beer period than I normally do. This is not unexpected, as one of the points of this exercise was to learn more about other drinks, and seeing as though I've displayed varying levels of experience in the worlds of bourbon, wine, port, tea, and Scotch, I've got a lot of ground to cover. One of the primary reasons I blog is to learn, and surprise, I've got a lot to learn in those other subjects.

But I digress. This week, I'll be covering a few Scotches. Today, we cover what may be my all-time favorite spirit (most definitely my favorite Scotch), The Balvenie 15. As luck would have it, I've already told the story about how I came to acquire this prized bottle and what makes it so special to me. In brief, I won the bottle in a charity auction, didn't want to waste it on an unrefined palate, so I held on to it for a while while I sampled some other Scotches. Eventually, I cracked it open and lo, it was good. As I've continued to explore the world of whisk(e)y, I've consistently come back to this bottle, and been very impressed. One other notable aspect of this particular bottle is that even though it's marketed as a 15 year old Scotch, if you look at the dates on the bottle, you'll see that it's actually 18 years old. It's a single barrel offering, so most are probably closer to that 15 year date, but I guess I got lucky. According to this interview, this is something that still happens from time to time, though I imagine the whole whisky boom we're seeing right now has cut into that a bit.

At this point, it's been about 4 years since I opened it, and it's definitely showing its age (in a bad way), but I've only got a few drams left in the bottle. I was trying to save it, but it seems that oxidation impacts even the high octane spirits. That being said, the notes below incorporate some notes I've taken a few times in the past, so I'm hoping it'll still be a good view:

The Balvenie 15

Balvenie 15 - Pours a gorgeous clear golden color. The nose has a nice sweetness to it, almost fruity, and a nice vanilla and oak component that always revs me up. The taste has a nice honey and oak feel to it, sweet and rich, but also faint hints of spice (maybe even smoke, but you reallly need to look for that and my mind may be playing tricks). Lots of complexity, and the finish lasts for quite a bit. The mouthfeel is smooth, oily, almost creamy. It coats your mouth and doesn't let go. It's obviously boozy, but it goes down very easy, little to no alcohol burn, though you can get a nice warming sensation in your belly. Overall, this is a spectacular whisky, though I suppose the caveat is that I'm probably a bit biased. Still, it remains among my favorite whiskys ever, and well worth seeking out.

Whisky Nerd Details: 47.8% ABV bottle (750 ml). Drank out of a glencairn glass. Bottling Date: 14.5.08. In Cask Date: 17.5.90. Cask Number: 8300. Bottle Number: 150.

Beer Nerd Musings: My experience with Scotch barrel aged beers is somewhat mixed, but I suspect that Balvenie barrels would be damn near ideal for this task. Alas, I've not heard of much in the way of beer aged in Balvenie barrels. My staff's exhaustive research (i.e. 5 minutes of googling) has uncovered this Iowa beer from Court Avenue, a stout aged on Balvenie Double Wood wood. Double Wood, by the way, is probably the easiest Balvenie to come by, and it's definitely a fine dram (I've only tried it once, but it was nice). Anyway, the way that beer phrased their description makes me think the barrel was dismantled or something. Also, the beer is a stout, but it's only 4.6% ABV, which is not usually conducive to great barrel aged beers. Also, it only has one review, so it was probably a one off. Anywho, I do think the idea of Balvenie barrel aged beer could be fruitful, if any enterprising brewer would take that on...

Balvenie will always hold a special place in my heart, and probably in my liquor cabinet as well.

Silver Needle White Tea

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So far, we've conquered the world of Black and Green teas. And by "conquered", I mean, I drank a cup of each. However, with each of those, I at least had some frame of reference, having sampled various bag teas and whatnot. Hardly impressive, but at least I had a general idea of what to expect with those two. Today, we tackle White Tea, something I've never had before.

At Kaedrin beverage compatriot Padraic's suggestion, I took a flier on a sample packet of Chinese Silver Needle White Tea. He describes this tea as "astonishing, but also astonishingly expensive", and he is correct, though $5 for the sample packet was certainly not a strain (but then, I'm a guy who buys obscenely priced barrel aged beers on the reg, so my priorities are clearly problematic). This being my first white tea, I have no idea what I'm talking about, so I'll let Padraic explain:

While Darjeeling is commonly referred to as the "Champagne of teas," I've always felt quality white tea should really be granted that status...it's smoother, cleaner, and simply more elegant than Darjeeling. White tea is almost exclusively Chinese, and is the least processed of any type of tea. For example, black teas are picked, bruised to expose the essential oils, then allowed to oxidize (a process that is frequently and incorrectly called "fermentation." Actual fermented tea is called Pu-erh, and is a story for another day.) Green tea is picked, allowed to wilt, and then usually heated to halt any further oxidation. White tea is picked and allowed to wilt, then dried to halt oxidation, sometimes in steam, but in the highest quality teas, in nothing more than direct sunlight. The resulting leaves are minimally processed, and brew up a liquor that is fresh and clean, often with lots of natural sweetness and floral notes. Perhaps not surprisingly, white tea is often the priciest of teas, due to a limited harvesting window and non-mechanized processing.
So Darjeeling is like Miller High Life, and White Tea is like Gueuze (the true Champagne of beers, excepting that hybrid style thing)? Good to know.

Now that I have a reference point, I'll say that I found this reminiscent of green tea, though clearly distinct in a number of ways. I greatly enjoyed it, and even managed to take a picture of the leaves, because maybe I'm not as horrible as I thought.

Silver Needle White Tea

Silver Needle Organic White Tea - Pretty much clear in the cup, almost no color at all but there is a very light yellowish tint. The smell has a resemblance to the green tea I had, vegetal and grassy, though those notes are not as domineering or pungent as they were in green tea. This is more delicate and has a better note of sweetness to it, almost flowery. Very mellow and clean, with a subtle grassy flavor that lingers in the finish. Mouthfeel is clean and bright, very delicate feel. Overall, this is a really nice cup of tea. I wouldn't say that I was astonished, but I'm really happy I tried it, and I'll be happy to have another cup or two this weekend.

Tea Nerd Details: 1.5 tsp in 8 ounce cup, infused at 180° for 3 minutes.

Beer Nerd Musings: I've got surprisingly little here, as I've already gone over the Champaign of beers schtick above. There are some beers that are brewed with white tea, though I have not had any of them, and none seem as well regarded as Magic Ghost. I would worry about the delicate nature of this white tea being overwhelmed by the beer in some way, though some white teas are supposedly more robust and thus may stand up better to the treatment.

So that just about covers it for Tea™. This upcoming weekend is going to be mostly Scotch drinking, though I do have one tea left (that will hopefully dovetail with some of the Scotch I'm going to drink). See you Monday, with a review of Balvenie 15, perhaps the best whisky I've ever had.

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Hi, my name is Mark, and I like beer.

You might also want to check out my generalist blog, where I blather on about lots of things, but mostly movies, books, and technology.

Email me at mciocco at gmail dot com.

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