Posts Tagged ‘Boston’

TVs in bars/ Stoddard’s

I love tv.

A lot.

Seriously. I watch it more than I know is healthy. And do unhealthy things while watching it, like drink beer and eat fatty food. But it’s comforting. When I went through a period of underemployment, my tv helped me through it, and despite the personal finance crunch, the cable stayed on. Who needs health insurance? I’m not going to break my leg if I don’t leave the couch.

But I also love to drink. And I love to go places to drink. Most of the time, that’s a bar. And when I’m at a bar, I’m trying to observe and pass judgment on those around me. That woman wears too much lipstick and eyeshadow so clearly she has low self-esteem and is probably a giant whore. Those college kids are all drinking Bud Light despite the fact that they’re in a craft beer bar with over 100 offerings. The guy at the end is trying too hard to look wealthy, and is wearing white socks which effectively ruins his carefully crafted ensemble of “casual opulence.” Even the overly made-up strumpet isn’t buying it.

There’s plenty of judgy entertainment. No need for a tv.

Yet, most bars seem to disagree. Why do bars feel they HAVE to have a tv? I understand it in a sports bar, or even a dive bar, but a place trying to sell itself as a more upscale cocktail-oriented place shouldn’t stoop to that level. I go to a bar to AVOID the tv and get some human interaction… if I wanted tv with my booze I’d drink at home. I can’t not watch it; if a tv is on – and it doesn’t matter what horrible reality program or jocktarded sporting event is shown – my eyes flick over to it like ocular moths to a beckoning flame. They’re even worse now that we’re solidly in the era of flat panels and HD.


Stoddard’s has a tv.


I’m referring to Stoddard’s Fine Food & Ale, a restaurant/bar that decided on an early 20th-century decorating theme, located on Temple Place, in Downtown Crossing. They’ve only been open a couple years, and I finally made it into town to check it out. I had a Friday off, and went for lunch with my friend, Leelz, a former coworker. She’s an artsy type (RISD grad artsy) and is much more fun outside of the office. We share the common interests of Photoshop geekery and photography, often launching into nonsense tech talk that few others outside of the photo world can understand. “You might have a CMOS sensor, but my electronic curtain will sync to 1/500, AND I can hack the speedlight control sensors for an FP sync, though that drastically reduces strobe duration, and thus, power output.” Get a few drinks into her and she becomes a chatty, excitable little Tasmanian Devil.


Here she is after a gin and tonic calmly discussing how to use Apply Image from a L*a*b* channel to pull detail from an underexposed shadow.



What was I talking about? I’ve got TV ADD.

Oh right… Stoddard’s.


Quite.



For a place that styles themselves as a Prohibition-era speakeasy, the monstrous flat panel lurks high above, but thankfully perpendicular, to the bar itself. Their decor of dim lighting, dark solid bar, gleaming chrome taps and ornate bar back is ruined in an instant when a power button is pressed and a Toyota commercial flares to life, searing the dark ambiance with a pixellated harshness. Again, I expect it in lower-end places, but I feel that Stoddard’s is trying to give themselves a little street cred among cocktail and craft beer enthusiasts with their retro styling, which is dashed to pieces when you turn on that tv. On the other hand, it helped me get some low-light shots, no easy feat since the place is mostly dark wood. Just have to wait for that Camry spot to play again and snap like crazy.

So, Leelz and I met for lunch and drinks. The cocktail list at Stoddard’s is full of classics, and very impressive. They do things the old-school way here, with quality ingredients, and have a number of originals as well. I opened with their Temple Smash, a conglomerate of bourbon, lemon juice, ginger beer and a king’s ransom in mint. It came very highly recommended by a coworker, whose brother works as a bar back at Stoddard’s. I found it well balanced: there’s a nice bourbon flavor, though the ginger beer spice is quite mellow, and lemon citrus lurks happily in the background. Everything is intensified by the minty forest poking out of the mason jar giving your nostrils a menthol blast with each sip. Leelz started with a Planters Punch, and seemed to enjoy it. While sipping, I watched the bartender work over a Lewis Bag with a wooden mallet to make some fresh crushed ice, and was pleased at the extra effort. (Note: a Lewis Bag is a small sack made of canvas. You put ice into it, and smash it with a hammer or mallet to make crushed ice. The trick is that the canvas absorbs the water created from the friction, and gives you a very nice, dry, ice. Not dry ice.) Moving on, it was a Jack Rose for me, which was a much deeper shade of red than my homemade versions have ever been. It didn’t taste too heavy on the grenadine, however, as the apple flavor of the spirit still shone through nicely. [UPDATE: They make their own grenadine, as do I.] Leelz, after much deliberation, went with a Bronx with Bitters, and reluctantly followed my insistence that she order it just that way. The bartender came back a moment later after taking the order to confirm that she wanted an “Income Tax,” which is indeed the name for a Bronx cocktail with a few dashes of bitters added. Bonus points, and bully for you, sir!


Bully, indeed.



It was about here that some food arrived, though I don’t remember much about it other than it was excellent. I munched on some tastily battered fish n’ chips (though the chips were tater tots) and the cocktails started hitting Leelz, who got very chatty after seeing a commercial for A Christmas Story (told you that TV was distracting). Apparently her feelings on that particular film are quite intense, as she chittered:

“Do you like ‘A Christmas Story?’
You either love it or hate it.
My best friend and Tom
[her boyfriend] hate it
and I said ‘Join the tradition or DIE!!’ “



Ok there, killer. Time for a beer to calm you down.


Oh, the lovely taps.



Luckily, Stoddard’s has a craft beer list equal to their impressive cocktail menu, and the chromed taps run the entire length of the bar. There are also a large number of bottles available, so making another decision took some time. In the end, it was a lovely Left Hand Milk Stout for me, and a Coney Island Lager for she, though her lager tasted much hoppier than expected. She calmed considerably, and swayed slightly on her bar stool, sipping quietly at the brew while I shot a few pics of the gloriously-styled bar. I came back to collect Leelz, and we eased into the street, where the sunlight caused her much distress. She’s not used to daytime boozing and reacted as if she was Dracula’s niece, hissing and cursing at the sky, scalded by the bright yellow orb. The Lady Friend came to collect me, and Leelz went on her way through Downtown Crossing searching for a last-minute holiday gift, with a slightly tilted gait.


This is from earlier. It was cloudy then.





[UPDATE: After writing this, I have been informed that the tv at Stoddard's does indeed get turned off "after the local sports team is on." Good to hear!]

The Monday Hangover: Jan 28-29

The Monday Hangover:
Other drink adventures of note from the weekend.



Wowsers. I might actually publish a Monday Hangover post on a Monday.


Friday started with a break in the usual routine. The Lady Friend was off to have dinner with some friends in Charlestown, and I had some projects to accomplish before she got home. However, I wound up going to a friend’s housewarming party in Rockland, to gather with former coworkers, since we had just lost a coworker and friend of ours suddenly on Thursday night. Some good laughs and beers later (I brought some tasty Dale’s Pale Ale), it was time to head back to SFHQ to meet with the Lady Friend, and prepare for Saturday’s main event.


Last weekend, Lady Friend’s father made it down into the big bad city for dinner and a Bruins game with some friends. Apparently he had a good time, since he suggested that both LF parents make the trek down THIS weekend for the Lady Friend’s birthday celebration (it never ends). I was invited along, so the four of us made a day of it. They rode the Downeaster into North Station, and we met up at the Beantown Pub, right across from the Granary Burying Grounds, where some famous Boston people are hanging around underground. Samuel Adams is buried there (as are John Hancock and Paul Revere), and Beantown Pub loves their little claim to fame as being the only place in town “where you can have a cold Sam Adams while looking at a cold Sam Adams.


I had a Harpoon.



I noticed that Harpoon’s Celtic Ale was on tap, and it had been awhile since I tasted it, so it beat out the Sam Adams novelty. The Lady Friend and her mother followed my lead, but I suggested a Samuel Adams Brick Red Ale for the patriarch. As I’ve mentioned before, you can only get it on tap in Boston (they don’t bottle or ship it anywhere else) and I figured he’d enjoy it, which he did. From there, the Widmer Brothers Pitch Black caught my eye, and it turned out to be a black IPA. Now, there’s a bit of a kerfuffle going on in the beer world over this. IPA stands for India PALE Ale, so how can you have a BLACK version of a PALE ale? When I checked this one off my list, I noticed that they also refer to it as a “Cascadian Dark Ale.” Fair enough. It was tasty all the same. The Lady Friend and her father followed this time, while her mother had a taste or two.


Time for ze Germans.



From Beantown, we ventured down to Jacob Wirth’s for some good German beers that you simply can not find in Moo Hampsha. It was a quiet Saturday afternoon, so the service was more than adequate, which is not usually the case at Jacob’s. I think it helped that we just had beers, and didn’t bother with a food order. I love the setting (it’s styled to look like a German beer hall) and the selection of brews, but the food service is always lacking.

Opening round: a Hofbräu Dunkel for me (I lectured for quite a bit the other night explaining to the Lady Friend that “dunkel” simply means “dark” in German, and is a dark lager) and a surprise for the Lady Friend. The parents also looked to me for suggestions, which makes me feel helpful. You know that person at the table to whom everyone defers to when it comes time to pick a wine for dinner? That’s me, but with beer. Trust me, you don’t want me to choose a wine, but beer and liquor I can handle. I had been threatening the Lady Friend with a proper rauchbier (smoked beer) ever since she tried a Samuel Adams Bonfire “smoke beer” which was like a weak Sam with a dollop of “smokey” flavor. It was time for her to try the real thing: Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier. Though it did indeed smell like a campfire, there was enough malt in the brew to balance it out, and she wound up enjoying it. She didn’t love it, but at least enjoyed it. Her palate’s come that far.

A Spaten Optimater doppelbock was the selection for vater and a Matilda, a strange floral hopped conglomerate from Goose Island (they call it a Belgian pale ale) for mutter. I proceeded to have an Optimator for myself, suggested a Jake’s Special Dark (the house dark ale) for LF’s dad, and die frauen shared a tall glass of Schneider Aventinus Weizenbock (wheat bock).


Jah, das Optimator!



After our German beers, it was time for some Italian food. We hiked over to the North End (with a stop at Mike’s Pastry) for dinner at Risorante Limoncello, where LF’s dad had eaten the week before. Plenty of fresh Italian bread, a delicious chicken parm, and even some *gasp* wine made for a tasty stop on the drinking tour. I have no idea what wine we were drinking, but it was acceptable even for my infantile palate. The meal ended with a birthday dessert for the Lady Friend, and a round of limoncello liqueur, a digestif made from soaking lemon peels in booze.


We walked the parents back down to North Station for their return train, and decided to hop over to see a bartender friend of mine at the Purple Shamrock. It was only about 6:30, so the dinner crowd was still keeping things mellow before the Saturday night crowd of 20-somethings from Andover and Billerica douched up the place. We chatted for a bit and had a couple of pints before moving on ourselves. Also picked up an interesting bit of info from Jackie the bartender. She pours a black and tan with 3/4 ale (they recently got Goose Island’s Honkers Ale on tap) and topped with 1/4 Guinness. I always thought it was a 50/50 ratio, but Jackie claims that is a half-and-half. From there, we discussed the Black Velvet, which I know as equal parts Guinness and champagne, but had seen on menus with cider substituted for the wine. Jackie agreed and said that in just about every bar, it’ll be poured with a cider, such as Strongbow. Neat. This is just the dorky stuff I enjoy debating, and finding out what a particular drink order is likely to get you in a real bar. The Lady Friend was intrigued enough by the conversation to have a black-and-tan, after which we headed back to SFHQ, courtesy of the MBTA, the bestest public mass transit system evar. Another good drinking day down.

Last Day of Voting!


Yes chumps and chumpettes, it’s the last day to vote for me for CBS-Boston’s Most Valuable Blogger award. If I win, I might get to go on tv and then you’ll get to see me!

…hey! Wait! Come back! Ok ok ok you don’t have to watch. But vote anyway. Do it for drinking. Do it because Squirrel Farts is a funny name. Do it… for AMERICA. If you don’t vote, the terrorists win. AND THEY DON’T DRINK. So they’re totally evil.

Best Boston Blogger?


Apparently, I’ve been nominated for “CBS Boston’s Most Valuable Blogger Awards 2011.” I have no idea how, but it’s somewhat awesome sounding. So you should go vote for me. Because I am somewhat awesome. And you are somewhat awesome for reading this somewhat awesome blog. Vote!

Bully Boy!

Last week, Lady Friend clued me in to something she noticed while flipping through the Improper Bostonian.
It seems that a craft distillery had opened in Boston.


A.
Craft.
Distillery.


In Boston.


Let’s just get everybody on the same page here. A distillery. Not a brewery. Breweries make beer. We have a bunch of those in/around Boston… Sam Adams and Harpoon being the most well-known. Not talking about that. Distilleries make distilled spirits. Liquor. Rum. Vodka. Gin. Whiskey. Tequila. Brandy. All of them start the same way, from a distilled spirit. You have a grain or a fruit, and you add yeast. The yeast feeds on the sugars, and makes alcohol. Put the whole thing in a big still, boil off the alcohol, condense it back into liquid. That is a distilled spirit, as basic as I can explain it.


And for the first time since Prohibition, they’re doing it in Boston.


BEHOLD. Bully Boy. Boston’s first craft distillery.



Ok. Yeah. That picture is kind of anti-climactic. But the future is in there.


Rewind. Immediately after finding out this place existed, I fired off an email to the distillery asking/begging/pleading/hoping for a look inside their doors. I got a very friendly response back saying

“Thanks for the interest. We’d love to have you in.
We usually do production in the morning, although we can meet any time.
Let us know a time that works. Cheers.”



AWESOME.


Taking a personal day from work (hey, I had a dentist appointment too), I made my way to a section of South Boston known as the Newmarket District, a sort of no-man’s-land of industrial zoning, warehouses, food-processing plants and a prison.





I poked my head in the door, wondering if I was in the right place. And then I saw it.





It doesn’t look like much, unless you know what you’re looking at. Some counters, a desk with laptop, bottles of liquid, some giant plastic containers, and A STILL. A combination copper pot still with dual reflux columns. I hesitantly walked in, and met Dave Willis, the co-founder along with his brother, Will. They grew up on a farm in Sherborn, MA, near Natick/Framingham, and have been passionate about distilling for some time. The whole process of starting a distillery really became a possibility in 2003 when Massachusetts passed legislation allowing farms to use their products for distilling. Dave and Will looked for inspiration from their grandfather’s vault of Prohibition-era liquors, and took the name of his favorite horse, Bully Boy, as the title of the distillery, keeping a strong connection to the family farm.


They finally decided “now or never” and began to battle the bureaucratic forces of federal, state, and city licensing boards. Now, Massachusetts is not known for its easygoing and understanding liquor laws, and I can’t even imagine what they went through to get everything approved. Even with their backgrounds in law and real estate, it was not an easy process. Dave says one of the major sticking points was the building permit from the City of Boston, and they had to explain many times what the distilling process was, and that their building wouldn’t suddenly explode in a fireball of moonshine. Somehow, everything got done, they leased the building, ordered some German distilling equipment, and began making Bacchanalian nectar.


Dave gave me a tour of the space, and an overview on their process. Most spirits at Bully Boy start from wheat. Originally, they wanted to source it locally, but no Massachusetts farm was up to the task, so their red winter wheat comes from Aurora Mills & Farm in Maine, and is all-organic.






The rum uses blackstrap molasses from New Orleans, stored in giant plastic bins. Apparently it’s a colossal mess to work with, and the still has to be hosed down after every rum run.








This is the mash fermenting. The yeast is feeding on the sugars from either the wheat or the molasses (I don’t remember which liquor this was) and creating alcohol and carbon dioxide, hence the bubbles. At this point, it’s around 12% abv, and is essentially beer. The cogeners from the last batch can be added in here to bump up the abv to around 18% before distilling, and add some extra flavor.





So. The silver drum on the left separates the liquid from the solids. From there it goes to the wonky looking copper piece in the middle, which is a pot still. Steam heats up the bottom, and begins to boil off the alcohol into vapor. It collects in the top of the pot still and goes into the first column still. This vaporizes the liquid again, and it travels up the column in stages (each one of those little portholes is another level). For a vodka, they send the distillate up through the SECOND column as well. Eventually, everything winds up in the silver column on the far right, which is the condenser. The vapor is cooled back down to a liquid, and comes out of the spout as alcohol in the neighborhood of 80abv, or 150 proof.













Ok. Now you’ve got liquor. What do you do with it? Well, if it’s vodka, you filter out all the impurities to make it as neutral as possible, dilute it down to 80 proof and bottle it. Done. If it’s a white rum, you dilute to 80 proof and bottle. A white (clear) whiskey is a little trickier. To be called whiskey, you have to age it, otherwise it’s just unaged wheat spirit. Bully Boy ages theirs for eight hours. They tried 24 hours, but got too much smokey char flavor that they didn’t want.


That takes care of the clear liquors. The aged liquors have to be, well, aged. The amber colors of whiskey and rum come from time spent in wood (oak) casks, as the liquors absorb the colors and flavors of the wood. This is where you get vanilla in rum, and the smokey char in whiskey. Bully Boy expects to age their rum for about 8-9 months, and the whiskey for about a year and a half. Or whenever it’s ready. Basically, throw it in the barrel until it tastes good.


So while the aged liquors were busy aging, Dave let me taste the clear varieties. We started with the vodka.


Vodka
Nose: Alcohol. No other smells. Clean.
Taste/Mouthfeel: With vodka, there really shouldn’t be anything to taste, so you have to go with smoothness and mouthfeel. This one was pleasing, without an oily or syrupy mouthfeel. Some vodkas will coat your mouth and feel almost slippery. Not this one.
Very clean, very good.


Wheat Whiskey (White)
Nose: Banana. Alcohol burn.
Taste: Sweet, fruity. Banana. Apparently the banana essence comes from the use of wheat, which is why you get that aroma/flavor in a wheat/wit/hefeweizen beer. Young whiskey, so there is a mouth-numbing alcohol finish. Much mellower with a splash of water, allows the flavors to come through past the burn. Yum.


White Rum
Nose: Sweet. Alcoholic nose sting. Vanilla buried under alcohol.
Taste: Vanilla up front, sugar finish. Sweet, but not fruit; brown sugar sweet.
As Dave describes: “Like an aged, dark rum that isn’t aged.” Perfect.




Check our official reviews of the Bully Boy lineup:
For our Bully Boy white whiskey review click here: Bully Boy White Whiskey
For our Bully Boy rum review click here: Bully Boy Rum
For our Bully Boy American Straight Whiskey review click here: Bully Boy ASW
For our Bully Boy vodka review click here: Bully Boy Vodka



The white rum was my favorite of the three. Despite all three spirits being (nearly) unaged, the rum had the most flavor (ok, I guess the vodka doesn’t count, so it’s just compared to the whiskey). I am a whiskey fan, and did enjoy the white, but wasn’t as excited about the banana notes and flavors. I’ve enjoyed Maker’s Mark, which is predominantly corn, being a bourbon, but uses mostly wheat to fill the rest of the bill, giving it a clean, refreshing taste to cut some of the corn sweetness. This all-wheat variety was indeed sweet, but a bit too fruity for my taste. That said, I cannot wait to taste the aged version. It’ll still be a “younger” whiskey, aging for only a year and a half, but I’m really looking forward to a lot more of the vanilla char to play with the banana sweet.





The rum really blew me away. I wasn’t expecting so much flavor and sweetness. Coming from blackstrap molasses, you can really taste the brown sugar, without a syrupy mouthfeel. Dave had several varieties of rum as comparisons, and even had an agricole variety that smelled like tomato paste. He said it tasted awful, and I’m inclined to believe him. The aged rum should be a real star after snoozing in red wine casks for 8 months, and I’m really looking forward to it. I plan to buy a bottle of the white as soon as I get to a liquor store that carries their brand (there’s one in Southie near the distillery, but it didn’t occur to me to stop by until I was halfway home).





This really was a visit to my happy place. Dave could not have been more helpful and welcoming, and I even called him a liquor geek at one point, which he freely agreed to. The passion is evident at this distillery, and they’ve made a very important step, becoming the first to make it this far in Boston. Hopefully it will make the process a bit easier for more distillers to follow, as with the craft brewery revolution of the 1980s. Bully Boy is the first craft distiller in Boston in over 75 years, and went up against one of the most notoriously juvenile alcohol legislative states in New England. And succeeded. They have a great attitude, a beautiful space, and great products. Now go buy their stuff and support this local business trying to get you drunk.


Website: Bully Boy Distillers
(Very nicely done site, also good photography by Heath Robbins. Check out his writeup on the shoot here.)
Blog: Read it here.


Alberta Premium

For the past couple months, Lady Friend and I had been discussing a road trip up to Vermont, and perhaps Canada. I’ve been mulling it over since about a year ago, when I learned of the existence of Alberta Premium, a 100% rye Canadian whisky. As a rye lover, I was intrigued as to what a 100% version would taste like, and began formulating a plan to blast up to Canada to score a bottle. Originally, it was to be a solo flight in Elsa, meine kleine Deutsch-Rennwagen. It’s roughly a 6 hour drive from Boston, and I had thought to spend the night in Montreal and drive back the next day as an easy weekend turnaround trip. Then Lady Friend, who loves to pretend to be a travel agent, discovered that the liquor stores in Quebec are controlled by the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ), a government-owned corporation for the distribution/sale of alcohol in Quebec. Naturally, the SAQ doesn’t carry Albert Premium. Curses.

However, her parents were going on an annual trip to Newfoundland.
They found it in the first liquor store they encountered.
SCORE.




Oh, Canada.



My precious! Even though it’s inexpensive, and apparently widely available (except in Quebec), this little filly gets rave reviews. Jim Murray, a highly-regarded whiskey critic, loves the stuff, awarding it Canadian Whisky of the Year for 2006-2009 calling it


“one of the great, most wonderfully consistent whiskies of the world that is genuinely a Canadian rye and a must-have for those searching for the real thing.”



I am no great fan of Canadian whiskies, and consider them starter drams, like most Irish whiskies, due to their lighter taste. I snagged a free bottle of Canadian Club 6yo (along with a tshirt, rocks glass and ad proofs) for providing feedback when they rolled out their retro “Damn Right Your Dad Drank It” ad campaign. That’s the only Canadian I owned until picking up a bottle of the CC Reserve 10yo at the duty free shop on the way home from Montreal. I’ve had the usual fare: Seagram’s Seven, Crown Royal, and Canadian Mist, but didn’t really care for any of them. I prefer rye, and to a lesser degree, bourbon. Give me something with a bit of punch to the flavor.


Sidenote: Historically, Canadian whiskies have been referred to as “rye” due to the usage of rye grain as part of the malt. Many Canadians in fact contain little or no rye. This particularly irked me when visiting the Oak Room at the Copley Fairmont Plaza Hotel in Boston. I asked the bartender if he had any rye whiskey, and he started naming Canadians. Le sigh.
However, when asking the same question at Local 121 in Providence, RI, the bartender reached for an unopened bottle of Sazerac. Go there and ask for Dave… he was voted the best bartender by RI Monthly readers in 2010. A great guy and a fantastic cocktail bar with a history.






So after finally finding the bad boy of Canada, weighing in at 100% rye grain, there was only one thing to do: a taste test.





Bring it.



Ok, so maybe this battle isn’t very fair. I’m pitting the Canadian underdog against two of my favs, Rittenhouse 100 proof bottled-in-bond straight rye, which I wrote about earlier, and Pikesville Supreme straight rye, both of which are products of Heaven Hill Distillery. Yeah, I play favorites. However, since the Alberta is an inexpensive 100% rye, it needed fair opponents. Both the Rittenhouse and Pikesville are straight rye whiskies, both are punchy and flavorful, and both are excellent value brands, though the Rittenhouse has experienced a sharp price increase due to demand, at least in the Boston area. Alberta Premium is aged five years; Pikesville is four years old, and Rittenhouse is an unknown age, though the term “bottled-in-bond” means it must be at least four years old.



Challenge I: Straight taste.

Just a splash of each whisk(e)y (it’s “whiskey” in the USA and “whisky” in Canada) neat in a shot glass.

Pikesville: Sweet, floral nose. Bitter, sharp, spicy taste with a touch of cereal sweetness.

Alberta: Sweet candy nose, maple syrup, butterscotch and caramel. Sharp rye taste with a bit of medicinal sour afterburn. Creamy and syrupy.

Rittenhouse: Caramel sweet sticky nose. Bitter rye taste. Alcohol burn while sharp, not as medicinal as Alberta. Almost cherry-like syrup sweet aftertaste.



Challenge II: Manhattan.

A small Manhattan (stirred, as a proper Manhattan should be), made with Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth and two dashes of Fee Bros whiskey barrel-aged bitters. Omitting the cherry for this one.

Pikesville: A bit sour. The floral notes don’t stand up to the big bitters.

Alberta: Strangely, the sweet maple of the whiskey and the spicy cinnamon of the bitters create a ginger nose and flavor. Very unexpected, but a pleasant little trick. It almost tastes like flat, bitter ginger ale. Yum.

Rittenhouse: The way Rittenhouse melds with the whiskey barrel-aged bitters is amazing. Lots of cinnamon from the bitters, and the syrupy hint of cherry behind a good rye bite combine into a wonderful experience. Still my favorite.


There was going to be a third challenge with whiskey sours, but I got a bit buzzed, and caught up in photo editing for this post, and realized that work tomorrow morning was going to be unpleasant if I stayed up another couple of hours setting up shots, making drinks, editing raw files, processing, adding pshop tweaks and uploading them to this post. So I finished my various Manhattans and went to bed like a rockstar. Goodnight moon.


Summary: Ok. It’s pretty good. The 100% rye certainly makes a difference… you can TASTE rye spice, which gives the flavor a kick. However, the bite is very well-balance by the sugary, creamy sweetness that had Lady Friend and I both saying “maple syrup.” Other reviews have noted butterscotch, which I totally get, and toffee. The only downside would be a bit of a medicinal alcohol burn that puts the brakes on a nice flavor, until it evaporates leaving a coated, chewy mouthfeel. I find that alcoholic sting to be common among Canadian whiskies, but is usually hidden in the big flavors of bourbon and American rye. It just gives it a cheap, raw feeling, which makes sense given its 1970s blocky glass knobbed bottle and simplistic label. I’d love to give the 25yo version a try to taste the mellowing effect while hopefully keeping the sweet flavors. The ginger effect in a Manhattan was most unexpected, and very pleasant. I’ll certainly try that trick with future party guests.

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