Whisk(e)y musings read by tens of people worldwide.

Monday, December 26, 2022

(Mis)Truth in Advertising

For most of America’s history, the gears of government would cease to churn without the revenue generated from taxing alcohol.  It paid for almost half the federal budget in some years.  Gaugers or excise officers were put in warehouses to ensure Uncle Sam always got his “fair share.”  It was the job of an excise officer to determine or “gauge” the amount of spirit made at a facility.  Distilleries pretty much self-regulate today.

John E. Fitzgerald was a gauger who, as the story goes, would drink (steal) from the best barrels in the warehouse when no one was looking.  When it came time to dump the barrels, there were always some that seemed suspiciously light.  Workers would jokingly call these “Fitzgerald barrels.”  Unfortunately, there’s no credible evidence linking John E. Fitzgerald to the Old Fitzgerald warehouses.  Don’t you mean Larceny warehouses Ryan?  More on that below.

Heaven Hill launched Larceny in 2012, so why does the label suggest the brand started in 1870?  Well, Heaven Hill acquired Old Fitzgerald, whose roots date back to 1870, from what’s now Diageo in 1999.  As I’ve mentioned in the past, when a company buys a brand, they also conveniently purchase the history of that brand.  Heaven Hill, a distillery founded in 1935, simply decided to co-opt the Fitzgerald story, and act as though it was their own.  Michter’s does the same thing.  Like false fronts on buildings back in the old west, marketing departments will use every trick in the book to project longevity and stability.

Larceny is a wheated bourbon.  What makes a wheated bourbon or “wheater” different from your typical bourbon is the absence of rye in the mash bill.  Like all bourbons, wheaters need to be made from at least 51% corn.  Larceny is 68% corn, 20% wheat, and 12% malted barley.  Wheated bourbons generally lack a grassy, spicy profile, and tend to be on the sweeter side.  Caramel, vanilla, candied fruit.  Some citrus.  A trace of oak in the background.  The palate runs a tad thin, but that’s to be expected from a chill filtered, entry-level product.  This is a nice, reasonably priced, easy-going sipper.

Happy dramming,


Monday, December 19, 2022

For Entertainment Purposes Only

With each passing week, a new crop of whisky influencers seem to sprout on YouTube.  On the bourbon side, you get the feeling most of them bought the same starter kit pitched on some late-night TV infomercial:

YouTube Bourbon Expert Kit

(Make sure the following tasks are completed before posting your first video.)

1.)  Think of a clever angle.  If you fish, maybe call your channel Drams ‘n’ Clams?

2.)  Buy an influencer-grade LED ring light.  The more money you spend, the more it looks like you know what you’re talking about.

3.)  Get some shelves and fill them with whiskies.  Make sure the shelves are in the shot at all times.

4.)  When it comes to bourbon reviews, wood panelling is just as (if not more) important than the whiskey you’re reviewing.  Go to your local lumber merchant, and buy as much of it as you can.

5.)  Prepare a brief montage of your feature whiskey from a variety of different camera angles.  This portion should be accompanied by royalty-free background music.

6.)  Please “stick to the script” when recording your video.  Don’t be a hero.  Stagg good.  Dickel bad.

You get the idea.  What concerns me most is the high volume of inaccurate information being peddled.  Is it really that hard to verify your content before sending it out into the world?  Stop saying, “I think,” and start saying, “After consulting multiple sources, I can tell you…”  A couple more things.  Chocolate malt whiskies don’t contain chocolate, and Bunnahabhain 12 isn’t a good starting point if you’re curious about peated Islay whiskies.  It’s not peated.  There’s one thing I do agree with when it comes to these online commentators, their love for Arran 10.

Arran 10 has been a favourite in scotch whisky circles for quite some time now.  It’s super-approachable (there’s a good influencer word), non-chill filtered, and naturally coloured.  Ex-bourbon and sherry cask matured.  A sweet and fruity affair.  Honey, vanilla, orchard fruit, cinnamon.  A little malty.  Citrus.  A solid whisky at a solid price.  Best of all, it’s influencer-approved!

Happy dramming,


Monday, December 12, 2022

The (Actual) Father of Tennessee Whiskey

A little over six decades ago, Frank Sinatra went onstage with what appeared to be some kind of beverage.  Before starting his set, he stepped up to the mic and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is Jack Daniel’s, and it’s the nectar of the gods.”  Jack Daniel’s wasn’t a household name back then.  Their output was a mere 150,000 cases per year (they make millions today).  Sinatra’s endorsement put Jack Daniel’s on the map.  The distillery has always appreciated this, and frequently churns out releases in his honour.  Recently, they’ve started to appreciate another man who had a huge impact on Jack’s life.

Nathan “Nearest” Green was a slave on Reverend Dan Call’s farm in Lynchburg, Tennessee during the middle part of the 19th century.  Call was devoted to more than just his faith, he also had a small still behind his farmhouse.  When parishioners caught wind of this, they demanded he step aside from the endeavour.  He complied, and handed over the reins to an associate.  It was Nearest who ran the still.  His whiskey was thought by many to be the best in the state.  One day, a young man started working as a hired hand on the farm.  He expressed an interest in distilling, so Call asked Nearest to teach the boy everything he knew.  That boy’s name was Jasper (Jack) Daniel.

There probably wouldn’t be Jack Daniel’s whiskey without Nearest Green.  It was Green who mastered early charcoal filtering, a practice commonly used in West Africa to purify water.  Sadly, Nearest Green, the true “Father of Tennessee whiskey,” is rarely referenced in whiskey literature.  Thankfully, that’s all starting to change.  The Jack Daniel’s website now acknowledges Nearest and his contributions in their history section.  They even launched an initiative with the Nearest Green distillery to advance diversity within the American whiskey industry.

Jack Daniel’s Bonded is 50%, made from one growing season, and (at least) 4 years old.  Tennessee whiskies have an unmistakable flavour profile.  Every drop of this whiskey takes a nearly week-long journey through a 10 foot vat of JD-infused sugar maple charcoal before finding its way into a barrel.  Brown sugar, caramel, cinnamon, oak.  There’s a bit of a nip to this one, but those rough edges will soften if you give it some time in the glass.  A solid buy that’ll probably make you rethink your thoughts on the brand.

Happy dramming,


Monday, December 5, 2022

Only The Stout Survive

For better or worse, Diageo is the reigning monarch of scotch whisky.  Close to 30% of all distilleries in Scotland are owned by Diageo.  Caol Ila, Dalwhinnie, Lagavulin, Oban, Talisker, all Diageo.  Heavyweights aside, most of the Diageo clan have the unglamorous responsibility of providing juice for their large-scale blends like Johnnie Walker, J&B, and Bell’s.  How Diageo came to be is an interesting story.

Distillers Company Limited (DCL) controlled close to 75% of all scotch whisky holdings up until the early 1960s.  When scotch dwindled in popularity, so did their grip on power.  By 1984, their share was less than 20%.  Guinness smelled blood, and aggressively took over the company in 1986.  In the past, DCL would use its influence to keep prices down, Guinness (United Distillers) did the opposite.  They wanted to make scotch synonymous with luxury.  Blue Label and The Classic Malts range were introduced at this time.  The company was renamed Diageo in 1997.

Talisker is one of only a couple distilleries in the Diageo stable that bottles their stuff above 43%.  Before you start jumping with joy, almost all their expressions are chill filtered and coloured, an all-too-familiar pattern when it comes to this multinational.  Wait, there’s more.  Most Talisker is matured at a centralized monstrosity of a warehouse on the mainland.  Talisker may be made by the sea, but it sure ain’t raised there.  Impairments aside, Talisker makes good whisky, like the Distillers Edition.

Diageo launched the Distillers Edition range in the late 1990s.  They’re basically finished versions of their popular single malts.  Talisker Distillers Edition is the 10 year old standard Talisker with an Amoroso sherry finish.  Sherry, for those of you who don’t know, is Spanish wine fortified with grape spirit.  Amoroso is Oloroso with a dash of Pedro Ximénez.  It gets its name from workers who’d stop at El Maestro Sierra bodega to pick up some sherry before heading home.  They’d ask for Pedro Ximénez to be added so their wives would find it more loveable.  Amoroso means “loving” in Spanish.

If given enough time to develop in the glass and bottle, Talisker Distillers Edition can be pretty special.  Talisker’s peppery, coastal character will emerge in due course, you just need to get through those first few sherry-dominated pours.  This is a wonderfully complex whisky with a nice mouthfeel despite its chill filtration handicap.  Worthy of your time, as long as you give it some.

Happy dramming,


Instead of dying she shall merely fall into a profound slumber that will last a hundred years. -  Charles Perrault,  The Sleeping Beauty in ...