Uncle Jacob's Double Feature

| No Comments

While the origins of Bourbon are not well documented, there are a few legends and claims that are frequently made. One credits an early distiller by the name of Jacob Spears with being the first to call his product "Bourbon whiskey" (named after the location of his 1790 distillery: Bourbon County, Kentucky). This sort of obscure historical reference would normally be enough for a brewer to get all hot and bothered and brew a Bourbon barrel aged beer, but Adam Avery's sister discovered this tidbit while doing a genealogy project and it turns out that Jacob Spears is their 6th Great Grand Uncle.

As a fan of Bourbon barrel aged imperial stouts, I've been on the lookout for this beer for a while, and as luck would have it, I snagged a bottle late last year not realizing that it was a 2013 vintage. Then, when the new 2015 batch came rolling around, I started seeing it everywhere and obviously I cannot resist such temptation. It was fate, and I knew I needed to drink both side-by-side. Of course, both are 16.5+% ABV, so it's important to find a night where I could pace myself. So here we are, comparing two vintages of Uncy Jacob's Stout:

Avery Uncle Jacobs Stout

Avery Uncle Jacob's Stout (2015 Vintage) - Pours an almost cloudy (hard to tell, since it's so dark) pitch black color color with a finger of brown head. Smells of dark, roasted malts, a little caramel, bourbon, oak and vanilla, maybe a faint hint of coffee. Taste is all rich caramel, bourbon, oak, and vanilla, faint hints of dark malt in the background, an some booze in the finish. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, surprisingly well carbonated, but still a little sticky in the finish. Thick and viscous, I'm guessing a relatively low attenuation here. A pleasant amount of boozy heat. Overall, it's a pretty fantastic Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout, worth seeking out. A low A

Beer Nerd Details: 16.9% ABV bottled (12 ounce). Drank out of a snifter on 4/11/15. Batch No. 4. Bottled Feb 13, 2015.

Avery Uncle Jacob's Stout (2013 Vintage) - Looks pretty much the same, though I guess it's a clearer looking beer, even if that doesn't really matter because it's so dark. Smells much more of bourbon and oak, a little caramel and vanilla, brown sugar with an almost fruity aroma. Taste is similar to the 2015, but it again features a new brown sugary molasses type of character and less in the way of dark roasted malts. It feels a little more sweet and a little less boozy. Mouthfeel is the same - full bodied, rich, and chewy, well carbonated, a little sticky. Perhaps not quite as thick, though it's still a pretty viscous beer. The booze is a little more tame here as well. Overall, it's another fantastic BBA stout, a little sweeter and more integrated than the 2015. Just a tad too sweet though, so I'd go with 2015, though they're very close. A high A-

Beer nerd Details: 16.53% ABV bottled (12 ounce). Drank out of a snifter on 4/11/15. Batch No. 2. Bottled Jun 27, 2013. Production: 848 Cases.

So there you have it, a beer I'll totally get every year if I luck into it at Whole Foods like I did this year (while I had given up beer for a while, no less). It is certainly knocking at the top tier door, even if it isn't quite there just yet. But you never know. I gave Parabola an A- the first time I had that, and now it's an A+ candidate (yes, this is a thing, I should really get on that, seeing as though I have not awarded an A+ in, like, 2 years).

Hair of the Dog Adam

| No Comments

The case against Portland, Oregon's Hair of the Dog basically comes down to inconsistency across batches, especially when it comes to carbonation. That has certainly been the case in my (admittedly limited) experience, though I should note that I'm especially sensitive to carbonation issues. It's clear HotD makes good beer, and while consistency is admirable, inconsistency can be charming if you do it right.

Bottle conditioning of high alcohol beers can be uneven, and to HotD's credit, they will often reduce the price of their limited beers if they're having a lot of carbonation issues. It's also possible that bottles will get better over time, and while I am carbonation-challenged, the beers I've had from them seem like they'd do well in the cellar. Brewer Alan Sprints has commented on this in the past:

Each batch is a moment in time, unique, like we are. Some of the batches that I have not been happy with have turned into the most popular ones after a few years. Beer is more than bubbles.
Hard to argue with that. Adam was the first beer they made at Hair of the Dog, a recreation of the historical Old Ale style, and from what I've seen, it certainly rivals the best of them (carbonation or no):

Hair of the Dog Adam

Hair of the Dog Adam - Pours a very dark brown color with just a cap of slow forming head that quickly resolves into a ring around the edge of the glass. Carbonation seems present, but clearly low. Smells great, lots of brown sugar and molasses, candy, dark fruits, cherries and the like. Taste is malt forward, brown sugar and molasses again, more of a crystal malt feel, less in the way of fruit, maybe a hint of chocolate. Mouthfeel is full bodied and viscous, minimal carbonation (not completely flat, but still a little low for my tastes - keep in mind that I'm generally sensitive to carbonation issues), a hint of boozy heat. Overall, this is very nice, but once again, Hair of the Dog's infamous low carbonation tempers my enthusiasm for what would otherwise be a fabulous beer (even if it wasn't as bad as last time). But at least there was some this time, and by the end of the bottle, I was quite pleased. I'll give it a B+ for now, but this could easily enter A- or even A realms if there were just a little more carbonation...

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (12 ounce). Drank out of a teku on 4/18/15. Batch 93.

I'd be willing to take a few more fliers on this beer in the hopes of getting one that's better carbonated, and naturally, I'd absolutely love to score some Adam from the Wood (though I'd guess the higher ABV and aging process would make carbonation issues more likely, but then, I might be more amenable to that in a barrel aged beer...) Also, Old Ales are another style that I seem to mostly enjoy whenever I find one, so I should probably seek out some more (I'm coming for you, BB4D!)

Kern River Just Outstanding IPA

| No Comments

In a world saturated in hops and IPAs, I have to pause at the presumption of naming a beer "Just Outstanding". It is apparently named after a local mountain bike trail, but it still serves to ratchet expectations, perhaps unfairly (one wonders if know-it-all biking nerds finish the trail and tweet their disappointment as they break all sorts of traffic laws and cause accidents while cycling home). It doesn't help that Kern River is the brewer that makes one of the most coveted Citra DIPAs in the world either. If this more regularly available little brother beer turns out to be only moderately outstanding, it might be a letdown. The less trendy (but delicious nonetheless) Simcoe and Amarillo hops will need to step up big time. On the other hand, there are a lot of outstanding IPAs out there, and this manages to clear that bar pretty well, even if it ain't the end all and be all:

Kern River Just Outstanding IPA

Kern River Just Outstanding IPA - Pours a pale golden orange color with a finger of white head and plenty of lacing as I drink. Smells fantastic, lots of bright citrus, tropical fruits, mangoes, grapefruit, and the like. Taste follows the nose, lots of bright citrus, a little more in the way of grapefruit, maybe a little pine sneaking in, with a clean, bitter finish. Mouthfeel is crisp and clean, light bodied, well carbonated, quaffable, finishing dry. Matches well with food and I'll be damned if this bottle didn't just disappear on me. Where'd those 22 ounces go so fast? Overall, this is an expertly crafted IPA, delicious and well balanced. I can't find a date on the bottle, but it's clearly a fresh bottle (none of the dank, piny, or catty notes that emerge when a beer like this sits around for a while). While it is perhaps not perfect or worth going absolutely crazy over, it is, in fact, outstanding. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.8% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a Charente glass on 4/10/15.

Since the Citra is only available occasionally via a lottery system, it's highly doubtful I'll ever get a taste, but I would be quite interested to get my grubby little hands on some of that stuff. In the meantime, I'll have to be on the lookout for more of their stuff.

Neshaminator

| No Comments

The Easter season is typically time for German Doppelbocks, all of which are named with an "or" suffix (i.e. Salvator, Celebrator, etc...), but emerging local favorite Neshaminy Creek broke with tradition by making their Easter beer a Weizenbock, but giving it the traditional "or" suffix anyway. As a lifelong fan of the original Terminator movie (and someone who laments most of what followed, even including the generally well received T2), I figured I had to check out the bottle with the clear homage to a T-800 foot crushing a human skull. Also, despite the fact that I haven't had a ton of weizenbocks, I do generally enjoy them quite a bit. So come with me, if you want to live:

Neshaminy Creek The Neshaminator

Neshaminy Creek Neshaminator - Pours a dark amber brown color with a finger of tan head. Smells of typical weizen yeast clove, but with a huge candied citrus character, orange, honey, it's complex and sweet. Taste starts off with a more typical weizenbock note, very sweet and spicy, a hint of dark, rich malt, hint of molasses, some more fruity esters emerge towards the finish, along with what I assume is that honey. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, medium bodied, with a touch of richness but also relatively dry (no real stickiness at all, and this is exactly what I look for from the style). Overall, it's a rock solid take on the style, with a slight twist that matches well enough. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a flute glass on 4/10/15.

Neshaminy Creek continues to grow in Kaedrin's local mindshare. I will continue to explore their offerings, and am quite looking forward to the upcoming Rum barrel aged version of this beer. Let's just say that I'll be bock. Get it? GET IT? Also Genisys looks absolutely terrible in the best way and I can't wait to watch it. I mean, it's going to be terrible and not deserving of comparison with the original, but it feels like it will be ironically fun in a so bad it's good kinda way.

Four Roses currently enjoys quite a popularity amongst the beer nerd community, some even going so far as to place them at the top of all bourbon distilleries (above Buffalo Trace and their Pappy juice, zomg). During last year's hiatus from beer, I tackled Four Roses standard Single Barrel offering, and was suitably impressed, noting in particular my appreciation of the openness Four Roses displays with their recipes. It makes the homebrewer inside me all tingly.

Four Roses has three standard labels. The Yellow Label is a blend of all 10 recipes, and their basic, 80 proof, everyday bourbon. There's the aforementioned Single Barrel, and a standard Small Batch bourbon, which is a vatting of a few recipes. They have some special releases of Small Batch that are released at cask strength and include well aged stocks (plus, the blend changes from year to year), which seem to be approaching Pappy level hype amongst the hardcore beer nerds (I believe the PA allocation sold out in 10 minutes or so). Then there's their Private Selection program, where various restaurants, bars, and liquor stores are able to purchase a single barrel and get the cask strength juice bottled exclusively for them.

This is what I have here, from the beer nerd paradise of State Line Liquors (in all honesty, they seem like a great whiskey and wine store as well). While many of these barrels use various recipes, State Line chose a barrel that happened to be the same recipe as the standard Single Barrel: OBSV (high rye, expressive yeast). This makes for an interesting experience for a relative newb like myself, as I get a chance to see exactly what the differences are in this higher proof and slightly older whiskey.

While I was at it, and since I was just at the end of this year's hiatus from beer, I used the opportunity to crack open another Eclipse Stout variant, aged in, you guessed it, Four Roses barrels. FiftyFifty does not specify which recipe they used for their barrels (and in all honesty, it could be that they used several barrels and just blended it all together in the end). Regardless, my affinity for this series of barrel aged stouts is well documented, and I never tried sampling the bourbon next to the beer aged in that bourbon's barrels. It was fun, so let's not waste any more time:

Four Roses Eclipse and Four Roses Single Barrel Double Feature
(Click to Embiggen)

Four Roses Private Selection Single Barrel Bourbon (State Line Liquors) - Pours a burnished golden orange brown color (let's call it copper), with legs that go all the way up (whatever that means). Beautiful nose, deep oak, rich caramel, nice spicebox component, cinnamon and the like, and that fruity bubblegum character that seems to wind its way through all the Four Roses expressions (thanks to my friend Padraic, I can't not notice it now). This might be my favorite nose on any whiskey I've ever had. Not that I've had a huge number of whiskeys, but still, I could just keep my nose buried in this glass for hours. Taste hits the same notes with varying strength, lots of oak, good dusting of spicebox, some rich caramel, hugely boozy in the finish. Mouthfeel is viscous, mouth coating, full bodied, almost chewy, and sooper boozy. I don't even think this is my baby beer palate speaking here, I suspect most folks add some water to this at some point. At 62% ABV, it's not exactly an everyday whiskey. When I added some drops of water, the palate softened a bit, but then, so did the wonderfully intense nose. Overall, it's a fabulous bourbon, one that approaches the top of my (admittedly paltry) list. Significantly more intense than the regular Single Barrel. Compared to the other cask strength Bourbon I tried recently (Maker's Mark), this is the clear winner by a mile. A-

Private Selection Details

Whiskey Nerd Details: 124 Proof, 62% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a glencairn glass. Specially Selected by State Line Liquors on February 13, 2014. Four Roses Recipe Selected: OBSV. Aged 11 Years 1 Months. Warehouse No.: ME. Barrel No.: 2-5H.

FiftyFifty Imperial Eclipse Stout - Four Roses

FiftyFifty Imperial Eclipse Stout - Four Roses - Pours a deep black color with a finger of tan head. Smells of roasted malt, with some vanilla and oak peeking through, but surprisingly little in the way of bourbon. Taste is sweet, with a little bit of that roasted malt character coming through, maybe some dark chocolate, again surprisingly little in the way of bourbon, though the oak and vanilla do show up (not as prominently as other variants, but they're there), and a little bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is full bodied, but not as rich or chewy as other expressions of Eclipse. Overall, this reminds me a bit of the Elijah Craig Eclipse in that it retains more of its base character and the barrel notes are minimized. Still, I don't think this one quite hits the high of Elijah Craig, even if it is pretty darn good. On the lower end of A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11.9% ABV bottled (750 ml red waxed cap). Drank out of a snifter on 4/3/15. Vintage: 2014. Bottle Run: BR 1.

Beer Nerd Musings: This pairing was less fruitful than expected. Perhaps the quick sample of the real thing ruined my palate for the beer, but I just wasn't getting a lot of Bourbon out of the beer. Not sure what this means. One of the interesting things about the Eclipse series is that the beer spends just about the same amount of time in the barrel, no matter which barrel we're talking about. So beer aged in Rittenhouse Rye barrels (i.e. relatively young barrels that impart a lot of oak and vanilla) ages for the same amount of time as the beer in Evan Williams 23 barrels (i.e. really old barrels that impart more straight bourbon than oak or vanilla). In this case, I'm not positive what's going on. There's a fair amount of oak, but not much straight bourbon character.

One of these days, I'll put together an Eclipse horizontal tasting and try a bunch of these suckers side-by-side to see what's up. I've got a few of these suckers laying around, so I think I'm going to try and make that happen in the near future. Ish. Anywho, this marks my triumphant return to beer, so look for a couple more reviews this week. Also, comments are working again. Feel free to tell me how little I know about bourbon.

April Beer Club

| No Comments

Beer club was yesterday! For the uninitiated, beer club is a monthly gathering of like-minded coworkers and acquaintances at a local BYOB for good food, optional libations, and general merriment. Since the last beer club was sparsely attended, we ended up back at Couch Tomato for some excellent pizza, strombolis (having had both, I would recommend the stromboli over the pizza), and some sort of weird greek plate. Better weather means better attendance, and we had a rather fantastic selection of beer to work our way through:

April Beer Club

For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each are below. As per usual, I'm going almost purely from memory, and this was from last night, so take these notes with the appropriate shakers of salt. Or call it a sacred text and analyze it like the Zapruder film. I'm not here to tell you what to do. I am here to write indefensible notes on beer, so let's get to it:

  • Kaedrin Crom Approved - So it appears that this is doing ok, but I really feel like my challenges that lead to a clogged keg and having to transfer it to another keg really ruined this beer. Ok, perhaps ruined isn't the right term. This has a fantastic, tropical fruit hop nose. The taste definitely feels a bit oxidized, which I unfortunately makes sense and definitely detracts from what I was going for. I'm giving it a B, but the really disappointing thing is that when I first kegged it, I was thinking this was A level stuff. Oh, well, lessons learned, onwards and upwards. My next batch of this beer will be great.
  • Adroit Theory New Zealand Rye (Ghost 179) - I heard about this Virginia brewery a while back and have been curious to try their beers. A regular beer club attendee got down there last weekend and picked up a few beers to try. This one was a pretty solid rye DIPA, more malt and spicy rye than hops, but it also clocks in at a hefty 11% ABV and didn't feel like it at all. It was very nice. B+
  • Crooked Stave St. Bretta (Autumn) - Absolutely delicious beer, funky, light sourness, juicy fruit, really fantastic stuff, along the lines of the Summer (which I've had before)
  • Flying Dog Supertramp - This had a sorta berliner weiss feel to it, but not quite that tart, and while you could get some cherry character out of it, it also had a weird aftertaste. I just never got into this beer. C
  • Modern Times Blazing World - Dank, piney hops with a nice, hefty malt backbone, this is very nice. Just about in line with anything I've had from Modern Times, who seem pretty fantastic. B+
  • Intangible Ales (Pizza Boy) Acidulated Hive - One of Pizza Boy's Intangible Ales label beers (not sure why this is listed as a separate brewery), this is a great little saison. It reminds me of Saison Dupont, except with a lightly funky addition (I don't get much honey out of it, but it does perhaps remind me a bit of funky version of Dupont's Bier de Miel). Well worth seeking out B+ or A-
  • The Lost Abbey Lost & Found Abbey Ale - A pretty standard dubbel that is overwhelmed by raisiny flavors. Nothing bad here, but also nothing particularly special. B-
  • Adroit Theory Lux (Ghost 132) - This is labeled as a wheatwine, and unfortunately, it falls prey to a saccharine, sticky sweet character that would be cloying if I were trying to drink a whole bottle. As a sample in a situation like this, it was fine, but it's not really my thing. C+
  • Central Waters Bourbon Barrel La Petite Mort - A beer I've already reviewed, and it was just as good, if not better this time around. In fact, I think I'll bump it up to an A-
  • Oskar Blues Bolivia Newton John - A relatively low ABV coffee stout (6%), this is obviously not in my wheelhouse, but it seemed like a very well executed coffee stout. B
  • Weyerbacher Sunday Morning Stout - Another coffee stout, this one is an imperial stout that's also been aged in bourbon barrels. This is much more my speed, though again, I never really connected with it as much as I'd like. The coffee seems very well integrated, and the barrel aging adds a nice richness to the proceedings, even if I felt the barrel character was a little too light. Still, while not quite KBS level, it's on the same playing field, and you won't have to jump through many hoops to get ahold of this stuff. B+
  • Bonus Review: Boxcar Brewing Nitro Stout - After beer club, we walked over to Boxcar Brewing's new brewpub and had some stuff there. I grabbed this Nitro stout, a Dry Irish Stout, that might be my favorite thing I've ever had from Boxcar. Now that the brewpub is open, I'm hoping for good things from them... they're the brewery most local to me, but I've always been somewhat underwhelmed by their brews. This was really nice though. B
And there you have it. A fantastic selection this time around, and I am, of course, already looking forward to the next iteration...

Upgradation

| 2 Comments

So the comments on here have been broken for a few months and I haven't been able to figure it out. I'm finally taking some time to get this stuff fixed. All of which is to say that things may get a little wonky around here for the next couple of days, but we'll hopefully be upgraded to the newest version of Movable Type and comments should work too. Fingers crossed!

In the meantime, here's a pic of Tired Hands Out of the Emptiness Batch 2.

Tired Hands Back Into The Emptiness

It's just as fantastic as batch 1. Go forth, and drink ye a beer for me.

Update: The upgrade is complete, but I'm still dealing with some issues. Comments are working on my generalist blog, but not on the beer blog (no idea why), and I'm having trouble publishing new entries now. Super duper. Not even sure if this update will make it out there... In any case, bear with me. We'll be back and running soon enough.

Again Update: Huzzah! I think all issues have been resolved. Comments are working again, and I'm able to actually publish updates. And the world rejoiced! Or, well, I am rejoicing.

Single Estate Assam

| No Comments

Beer nerds can use acronyms with the best of them, though it's often just used to abbreviate our conversations and confuse new money (but really, we're just lazy and BCBCS is much easier to type than Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout). But other beverages have their own complicated nomenclature, and tea has a pretty goofy one.

Last weekend, I drank two Single Estate Assam teas. This is a category I droned on about in some detail last year, so I'll just note that it's sort of like the Single Malt Scotch of the tea world (i.e. components of blends that are released on their own), and boy do they have a fun little system (for certain values of "fun") to designate quality and grading. When you browse around for black tea, you'll often see a little jumble of letters affixed at the end, such as "Halmari Estate GFOP" or, if you're feeling more adventurous, "Oaklands Estate SFTGFOP1".

Since this is a beer blog, I'm sure you're all very excited for me to deconstruct all this tea stuff. Calm down, people! I got you covered (but seriously, beer blogging to resume in earnest later this week). The first thing to note is the "OP" designation, which stands for Orange Pekoe, which has nothing to do with fruit or whatever it is that Pekoe means in Chinese. It doesn't even really represent a flavor or quality, but rather just the size of the leaves. When the leaves are processed, they result in varying sizes. They're then sorted by size, and OP is the largest of the sizes. BOP (Broken Orange Pekoe) are smaller, and grades smaller than that are referred to as Fannings or Dust (those are mostly what you find in tea bags you get from the store).

GF stands for Golden Flowery and represents leaves harvested early in the season (usually with a golden color) and T stands for Tippy, meaning that the tea includes an abundance of tips (as opposed to buds). SF stands for Super Fine, which means exactly what you think it means. The tea nerd joke is that FTGFOP actually stands for "Far Too Good For Ordinary People" and extrapolating from that, the regular GFOP designation would mean "Good For Ordinary People"? Ah snobbery, hello my old friend/foe!

So, armed with this super duper useful knowledge of acronyms and tea nomenclature, let's drink some tea:

Single Estate Assam, Halmari Estate GFOP

Single Estate Assam - Halmari Estate GFOP - Pretty standard looking black tea here, the leaves have some light colored tips included, and the liquor is a solid brown color. The aroma is more delicate than I'm used to from black teas, malty, nutty, perhaps even a little vegetal. Taste has a nice light malt character to it, nutty, with a bit of pungency towards the finish. Mouthfeel is full bodied and slightly pungent. Strong enough that it will take milk, but not overpowering at all. The description mentions winelike character, though I got approximately none of that, maybe a little fruit in the finish but I have to really look for it. Overall, it's a solid cup of tea

Tea Nerd Details: 1 tsp for 8 ounce cup, infused at 212° for 4-5 minutes.

Single Estate Assam - Oaklands Estate SFTGFOP1 - Very similar looking, both from the inclusion of light colored tips and from the deep brown color of the resulting liquor. Aroma is also similar, with that sort of delicate vegetal character that yields to more robust, malty aromas. The taste is definitely more robust as well, a very malty flavor with a pungent wallop. Mouthfeel is full bodied and pungent. Overall, what we have here is a more powerful cup of tea, perhaps not quite as complex as the Halmari, but nice in its own right...

Tea Nerd Details: 1.5 tsp for 8 ounce cup, infused at 212° for 4-5 minutes.

Beer Nerd Details: We need to come up with a super complicated beer grading system. It would totally shut up the people who go on and on defining what "Craft" means, or at least make it all a moot point. Quality, rarity, ingredients, freshness, etc... could be used. On second thought, this would bring about the apocalypse as beer nerd fury would approach singularity levels and collapse in on itself. In other musings, perhaps the Halmari would be a good candidate (along with the Gunpowder Green from last week) for steeping along with a few hop pellets. I could probably swing that at some point, and I'd be curious how a more robust black tea would compare to the more subtle green tea in that respect (I'm guessing the green tea would be more appropriate, but who knows?) This has to be a thing already, right? I want to experiment with this a bit before I search around to see what other deviants are doing, but perhaps I could post something about this in the near future...

And we're pretty much at the finish line now. Beer blogging will resume posthaste!

Green Tea Double Feature

| No Comments

Wimpy non-alcoholic beverage tastings continue with a pair of green teas that were paired with two of the more interesting horror movies I've seen lately. It Follows is a fantastic 80s throwback horror film, very tense and well executed, but doesn't really stick the ending. Spring isn't really horror and actually approaches romance, though there are monsters and stuff. Neither is perfect, but both are unusual and adventurous takes on normally stale stories. Worth checking out if horror is your thing.

Similarly, I really enjoyed both of these green teas, even if neither really knocked my socks off. The first one is a Gunpowder tea, meaning that the leaves have been rolled up into small pellet. Some say this looks like gunpowder, but as someone who reloaded bullets for years, I don't really see the resemblance. Regardless, I had no idea what it was when I ordered it, so it was interesting to see the little nuggets of tea. As for the other descriptors, Temple of Heaven refers to the most common style of gunpowder tea that is sometimes called Pinhead or Pingshui. What makes this Special Grade is anyone's guess though. Perhaps actual gunpowder is included.

Special Grade Temple of Heaven Gunpowder Green Tea - Leaves were very different than the green I had last year, almost nugget-like in appearance. The liquor itself is a very light, pale yellowish color (more brown than green, though not really brown). Smell has a mild vegetative aroma, a little grassy. Taste is also a little on the mild side, that light grassy character comes through well enough. Mouthfeel is light and clean, with a little pungent but pleasant kick on the sides of my tongue. Overall, it feels like a very nice, everyday cup of green tea. Not going to overpower you with anything, but tasty nonetheless.

Tea Nerd Details: 1 tsp for an 8 ounce cup, infused at 180° for 4 minutes.

Next up, I went for a flavored green tea. I've had some cheap, prepackaged Chai Green Teas before, and I really like that combination. The spices are quite strong, but the green has just enough oomph to not get lost in the shuffle, which makes for a lighter cup than black chai...

Green Chai Tea

Chai Green Tea - Leaves are more traditional and have a bunch of spices intersperced throughout, appearance of the liquor is more green this time. As you'd expect, the chai spice is all over the nose, less cinnamon than I'm generally accustomed to, but cinnamon, clove, cardamom, etc... are all there, layered on top of the more delicate green tea aromas. The taste has more green tea than the nose, a little vegetal, a little grassy, and then the spice layers on top of that in a very nice way. It seems well balanced! Overall, I really like this, almost better than black chai teas...

Tea Nerd Details: 1 tsp for an 8 ounce cup, infused at 180° for 3 minutes.

Beer Nerd Musings: There are lots of beers that are explicitely called out as Chai-spiced, but there are probably plenty of Winter Warmers or Pumpkin beers that use a similar spice regimen as well. Some beers are even made with chai tea, though I don't think any use green chai tea, which is mildly interesting. In any case, one of the things I've noticed with flavored teas is that the leaves are often interspersed with actual spices, flowers, or peels, and I'm actually wondering what it'd be like to throw a hop pellet or two into the infuser when I make a cup of, for example, the Gunpowder green (not the chai one, as the spices would probably clash with the hops). The vegetal nature of green tea might match very well with the hops, and since we're only infusing for 3-4 minutes, we don't have to worry about bitterness or anything like that. We'd just, hopefully, get a pleasant hop aroma that would add complexity to the green tea without overpowering it or even feeling particularly weird. I... need to try this. I will make it happen this weekend.

In the final homestretch now, my triumphant return to beer will be this weekend. It will actually be a transition weekend, and you can expect a bourbon and beer double feature, with the beer having been aged in the bourbon barrels - most exciting! Otherwise, I've got some Single Estate black teas that I'd like to try this weekend, not to mention the hop tea experiment...

Ardbeg Corryvreckan

| No Comments

One of the goofy things about Scotch is that most of it is aged in old Bourbon barrels. This is partly a result of the large secondary barrel market that emerged from the legal definition of bourbon, but it also means that the whisky can sit in the barrels for much longer without getting over-oaked. Other barrels previously used for the likes of wine, sherry, rum, and other exotic fortified wines are also frequently used in Scotch production. As a result, there aren't many Scotches that are aged in new oak casks.

Enter Ardbeg, known for their intensely peat smoked whisky expressions and tricksy celtic naming conventions, they're a Kaedrin favorite. Their 10 year made me realize that I should just stop worrying and embrace the peat, while the Uigeadail remains a fascinating spin on the Ardbeg style that really grew on me as I worked my way through a bottle.

Corryvreckan, named after some famous whirlpool or such, was originally an Ardbeg Committee exclusive. The Ardbeg Committee seems to be roughly the Scotch equivalent of something like The Bruery's Reserve Society or, perhaps more relevant to me, Tired Hands' Believer's Club. Membership provides certain benefits, including exclusive bottlings, and so on. The Committee release of Corryvreckan was originally aged in first fill French oak, with some sort of wine cask finish (Bordeaux?) rumored. I should note at this point that exact details on the casks seem a bit sketchy, and I've seen various different descriptions around the internets, but I do know that it's always been an NAS whisky. Anywho, the Committee bottling was so successful that Ardbeg decided to bring it back as a regular offering, though the casks on this version seem to be a blend of new American oak and old Bourbon casks (again, conflicting reports of a Burgundy wine component as well). This is what I have here, so let's take a look:

Ardbeg Corryvreckan

Ardbeg Corryvreckan - Pours a deep golden yellow color with some pretty mean legs. Smells of peat and light smoke that's been mellowed out by some vanilla, maybe even some toffee or caramel peek through, with some peppery spice added in for fun. When I first opened the bottle, I was a little disappointed as it seemed like the nose would sorta clam up over time, getting less and less interesting as it went on. For whatever reason, it seems to be holding up well right now, and it's actually a pretty fantastic nose. That new oak comes through well, I think. Taste features lots of peat, more tar and smoke than the nose implied, almost meaty, some of that peppery spice, followed in the long finish by booze and peat smoke. It's certainly Ardbeg through and through, but the peaty smoke feels a bit less prominent here than it does in the other expressions I've had. Like the nose, when I first opened the bottle it seemed to fall off with time, but it seems pretty great right now (perhaps it's just my beer baby palate, not used to the cask strength ABV). My guess: This is a NAS whisky, but I'm thinking it's very young... Mouthfeel is big and burly, viscous, coats your mouth pretty well, long finish, very hot (as usual, take into account my beer baby palate). A little water smooths it out some, but it also reduces the impact of the nose (which is still quite nice). Overall, it makes for another great spin on the classic Ardbeg character, and the 10 year, Uigeadail, and Corryvreckan are a great core trio in their lineup. Uigeadail seems to be the favorite, but I have to say that I might still be more in the bag for the 10 year. Go figure. Still, the new oak component of this is really nice, and it's well worth trying

Whisky Nerd Details: 57.1% ABV bottled (750 ml, about 2/3 left). Drank out of a Glencairn glass on 3/28/14. Bottle Code: L14 048 11:13 6ML (basically, it's an early 2014 bottle - see full breakdown of bottle codes here)

Beer Nerd Musings: In last year's review of Uigeadail, I mentioned one of the biggest surprises I've had with beer in Yeastie Boys' most excellent peat-malt-based Rex Attitude, a beer I've not seen around much since I initially procured that bottle (let alone the doubled version XeRRex, which I'd love to try someday). There are plenty of beers aged in old Ardbeg casks, but Islay casks and beer tend to have a contentious relationship. Even big, burly stouts will sometimes wilt when faced with the awesome power of peat smoked whisky. That being said, I might take a flier on an Ardbeg barrel aged beer at some point, just to see what's up. Perhaps low expectations will yield a more favorable result.

So there you have it. I was more of a bourbon man this year than last year and I think this will end up being the only Scotch I get to during this temporary detour from beer (which, excitingly, is fit to end this weekend). Up next, more tea, and next week, we'll finish off the non-beer stuff with another bourbon and perhaps even more tea. Not sure what's next for me on the Scotch front. Ardbeg does some specialty bottlings and one-offs, but I feel like I should probably venture out to some other Islay distilleries. I recently tried some Lagavulin 16, which was fantastic, and some Laphroig 10, which was cromulent, but not particularly special. I'll have to see what I can get my greedy paws on the next time I head down to State Line Liquors (who seem to have the best selection around here)...

Categories

OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID

About

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.

Recent Comments

  • Mark: Hey Mike, yeah, everything I've had from Trillium has been read more
  • msd10: hey Mark, it's Mike. Used to post as mdanberg, but read more
  • Mark: In fairness, the times I wait in line for beer read more
  • phagan55: With greatest respect to your beer nerd status, I just read more
  • Mark: Last year, when I reviewed the regular Single Barrel Four read more
  • phagan55: Test, test. Hadn't had much luck with Four Roses myself read more
  • mciocco: Glad to see that comments are working for people other read more
  • danadillon: I LIKED IT. Hey, look! a Comment! read more
  • mciocco: Testing! read more
  • mihai: This is a test! read more