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March 18, 2004

I’ll eat when I’m hungry. This New York Times “Dining and Wine” piece reads like the author actually wanted to write about the contemporary comeback of classic American rye whiskey, but for some reason was forced to frame it with a visit to the Jack Daniel’s distillery in Lynchburg, TN (pop. 361, as all the ads say). Not that there’s anything wrong with Jack, but it has about as much to do with rye whiskey as beer does, so the enjambment makes for some abrupt transitions.

That said, I definitely want to try Pikesville Supreme, Sazerac, and the other boutique ryes that seem to have popped up in the last few years. As discerning drinkers have known for years, real rye whiskey is one of the hidden jewels of North American distilling—spicy, pungent, punchy, and by god you know you’re drinking booze. None of this “I accidentally drank four margaritas because I was so thirsty and they went down so smoothly” with rye. At any rate, if this blog is basically all about encouraging people to suck up to editors (as Teresa has been informed), the least I can do is provide guidance and hints. Say, if you’re buying, I’m curious about the three-year-old Potrero, too. [01:35 PM]

Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on I'll eat when I'm hungry.:

Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2004, 01:45 PM:

I never drank rye -- how does it differ from bourbon? I started drinking bourbon about a year ago after years of only Irish whiskey and I like it a lot -- I'm pretty cheap and do not go in for expensive whiskey. Cheapish bourbons I can recommend: Ezra Brooks, Old Grand-dad, George Dickel.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2004, 01:58 PM:

Real rye whiskey has at least 51% rye in the mash, just as real bourbon has at least 51% corn. That's why bourbon is sweeter and rye is more pungent.

Prohibition did in most of America's rye distilling. After repeal, it was bourbon that came back, because (IIRC) it's faster to get decent bourbon in production. Confusing matters, during and after Prohibition, Americans took to referring to the neutral-grain-spirits-with-a-brown-crayon-dipped-in-it that Canadians call "Canadian whisky" as "rye," which it certainly is not.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2004, 01:59 PM:

Incidentally, the old grand-dad of Old Grand-Dad, Basil Hayden, is almost certainly a distant relative.

aphrael ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2004, 02:01 PM:

And here I thought this blog was about well-reasoned left-wing politics. *shrug* I guess i should head off and find a *reason* to want to suck up to editors ...

Matt Runquist ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2004, 02:21 PM:

I'm a small batch bourbon man as well. Currently working on a bottle of Basil Hayden's strangely enough. Not that anybody cares, but I've liked Knob Creek and Booker's (all three of those from the Jim Beam distillery) and wasn't particularly fond of Maker's Mark or Woodford Reserve.

Haven't taken the rye plunge but it sounds like it may be too strongly flavored (spicy, pungent) for my taste. What would you recommend for a first bottle, Patrick?

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2004, 02:34 PM:

Old Overholt. A nice average rye, good body, on the dry end. If you hate Old Overholt, you basically don't like rye.

Of the widely-available ryes, Wild Turkey's 101-proof rye is good too, but by all means add a little water.

I haven't had the chance to try many of the newer boutique ryes, but Winkler's 13-year-old is darn nice, and again, pretty much in the mainstream of flavor balances--just smoother and somehow "bigger," the way a 15-year Macallan is to the 10-year-old version.

If you like Manhattans, try one made with any of these ryes, the way the cocktail was originally designed. Certainly it makes more sense to offset sweet vermouth with the tart pungency of rye than with the creamy sweetness of bourbon.

Say, this writing about the drink is easy. Perhaps I'll start working in some of those professional drinks-critic words, like "tarry," "strawberries and cream," "jammy," "esters," "like being dragged face-down over gravel," and so forth.

julia ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2004, 03:06 PM:

My (nothern italian immigrant) grandfather drank rock and rye, which apparently was rye with crystallized sugar floating in the bottle.

I have no idea why. I've seen it it stores, and it looks very odd.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2004, 03:14 PM:

I've had rock and rye. It tastes like alcoholic Juicy Fruit gum. This is not a recommendation.

Steve ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2004, 03:54 PM:

Currently working on a bottle of Basil Hayden's strangely enough. Not that anybody cares, but I've liked Knob Creek and Booker's (all three of those from the Jim Beam distillery) and wasn't particularly fond of Maker's Mark or Woodford Reserve.

You can make a hell of a Manhattan out of Maker's Mark. Patrick, would the vermouth in a Manhattan disguise the difference between bourbon and rye? Is this something I should investigate drinking my whiskey over rocks?

Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2004, 04:06 PM:

Van Winkle Family Reserve is excellent. A friend of mine always keeps a bottle--I love going over to her place!

Iím curious about the three-year-old Potrero, too.

I went to Anchor's little seminar on historical distilling. It was fascinating--they had samples of the various distillates, and their experimental Geneva gin (not Junipero, which I love, but an earlier style made before the invention of neutral-grain spirit). Very bizarre. The Old Potrero was nice, but even if I could afford it there's other stuff at that price that I would prefer. And their small beer, well... it keeps better than water.

I also like Booker's, and it's part of my Manhattan recipe: 1 part Maker's Mark, 1/4 part Booker's, 3/4 part Cinzano, dash of bitters, cherry (ideally brandied rather than maraschino). Not only do you get the transgressive thrill of making a mixed drink with small-batch bourbon, it tastes great. (Using more Booker's makes it worse, not better.)

I've never tried making a Manhattan with rye, but it sounds like a great idea. I'll have to pick up some Old Overcoat.

Lately I've been more likely to drink Scotch, because my brother has acquired the endearing habit of bringing me obscure single malts (Benromach, anyone?) when he visits from the UK. But this reminds me that I mustn't neglect the native spirits.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2004, 04:11 PM:

"You can make a hell of a Manhattan out of Maker's Mark. Patrick, would the vermouth in a Manhattan disguise the difference between bourbon and rye?"

Well, I don't think so, but your drinkage may vary. To my mind, it's like the question of whether you put sugar on grapefruit, or salt. Maker's Mark is a great bourbon and an excellent mixer, but what's nifty about a Manhattan made with rye is the way the sour-pungent ryeness contrasts with the sweet aromatic headiness of sweet vermouth. (Hey, I said I was going to get down with the professional drinkmeister lingo. "Sweet aromatic headiness"! Tarry esters, here I come.)

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2004, 04:21 PM:

And lest anyone conclude I'm anti-bourbon, let me agree with Jeremy Osner that George Dickel is a fine inexpensive spirit (yes, technically Not Bourbon but rather "Tennessee whiskey" blah blah blah), and with Matt Runquist's praise for the outstanding small-batch bourbon Knob Creek. Warehouse Wines and Spirits on Broadway just south of 8th Street has been selling Knob Creek at the discount price of $19.95 a bottle for quite a while now; it's one of the best bargains around in premium hooch.

Back to rye whiskey: a cursory Googling reminds me that this isn't even the first time this ardent spirit has come up on nielsenhayden.com. (Google, our collective 21st-century substitute memory and outboard brain.) Here's Chuck Taggart of Looka! with a Making Light comment from last June discussing fine ryes new and old.

redfox ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2004, 06:14 PM:

I think the key to Maker's Mark manhattans is that they should be perfect manhattans. Perfect manhattans are too sour with rye, I think, and regular manhattans are too sweet with bourbon.

biff3000 ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2004, 06:42 PM:

Standard disclaimers apply, but I could *swear* I've had Jack Daniels' rye. Of course, after a few shots, I could swear I was Pope....

bonkydog ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2004, 07:12 PM:

I'd give the Old Portrero a few more years. The label calls it a spirit, which is accurate -- it's still proto-whiskey. Awfully pricey for something so harsh.

Chuck ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2004, 07:44 PM:

One of the most mindbogglingly good ryes I've ever tasted was a 13-year-old Old Overholt that was bottled before my parents were born. I'm not entirely sure of the dates (I was offered a rather tremendous amount of fine liquor to drink that night), but I think it was distilled immediately pre-Prohibition and bottled immediately post-Prohibition. That was followed by a tiny dram from a hip-flask-shaped bottle in its original cardboard box that was labelled "KENTUCKY STRAIGHT MEDICINAL BOURBON", with huge warning labels stating that consumption of this product without a doctor's prescription was a violation of the Volstead Act and makes the tippler liable to fines of $1000 and/or 5 years in prison, or something like that. This happens when you're lucky enough to be friends with someone who collects vintage spirits, and is willing to share them!

The next rye on my want list is Michter's, which has been devilishly hard to find out here on the left coast but has just now popped up. Martin Doudoroff, co-proprietor of CocktailDB, raved about it a while back. Wine and Spirits Depot in Van Nuys has Michter's Rye, Bourbon and "American" whiskey, along with a staggering selection of whisk(e)ys of all kinds -- Scots, Irish, Bourbon, rye and more.

I might have trouble justifying shelling out the cash for the Michter's, though, considering the six bottles of Irish whiskey we brought back from Ireland a few weeks ago. These included John Power's Gold Label plus Power's 12-year-old blended, Locke's 8-Year-Old Single Malt from the Cooley Distillery in Co. Louth, Connemara Single Malt (a peated whiskey heading over to Scots whiskey terrirory, the only peated Irish whiskey I know of), and the one that left a scorch mark on the credit card ... Bottle No. 56 of the 2003 release of Midleton Very Rare, a carefully selected blend of 16- to 24-year-old Irish whiskeys from the Midleton distillery in Cork.

I won't be turning my back on rye by any means, but I'll most certainly be on an Irish kick for a while as well. :-)

Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2004, 08:21 PM:

I'd give the Old Portrero a few more years. The label calls it a spirit, which is accurate -- it's still proto-whiskey. Awfully pricey for something so harsh.

The whole idea is that it's made according to colonial practice, which means a short maturing time. It's young on purpose. The one-year is so young they can't legally call it whiskey.

It's an interesting approach, at least, but an expensive experiment for the buyer!

Chuck Nolan ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2004, 08:25 PM:

Sounds like the only advice I ever got from my grandfather:"Always drink straight whiskey. It won't let you forget that what you are doing is getting drunk".

I only found out I'd never seen him sober when he was on his deathbed, and the doctors wouldn't let him have any whiskey.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2004, 09:44 PM:

Under the circumstances, that seems rather harsh of them. Personally, if I was on my deathbed, I'd probably want a nice drink.

Nancy Hanger ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2004, 10:29 PM:

Now on hospice care, my father (90 and still counting) is still drinking his whiskey straight up, because to do otherwise is sacrosanct per his Scottish heritage (aye, laddie). I'm amused that he's fighting to have two drinks before dinner instead of one, because it sure ain't gonna be the thing that kills him now. I'm with him!

I've informed him that it's all his fault that I drink my whiskey straight.

Patrick -- we need to share some rye when we next get together. I had no idea! And here we've been only drinking whiskey at my house when you're here!

(BTW, freelancers don't suck up to editors. We try to stay anonymous and hide behind the furniture.)

Seth ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2004, 12:38 AM:

I didn't know rye was on a comeback. I'm pleased to hear that. I've always wanted to walk into a bar, do my best Ray Milland impression, and yell, "Give me a rye!" just to feel like I'm living the Lost Weekend.

But no. Bad idea.

First, my blood sugar shouldn't tolerate the small amount of alcohol I already use to abuse it (a common and cheap islay single malt--say, Ardbeg--every couple of weeks).

Second, my Ray Milland impression sucks.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2004, 12:46 AM:

Hey, I just want to know where you live that Ardbeg is "cheap." $35 a bottle is kinda pricey by any standard, I would think.

Understand, I hold Ardbeg up there in the second-highest category, right along with Talisker and Laphroaig, just short of Lagavulin, The Greatest Whisky In The World. (Another hint for my legions of ass-kissers!)

(And, yes, we like the medicinal smokey taste of peat moss, and we do in fact roll around it and rub it into our pores, why do you ask?)

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2004, 01:47 AM:

Patrick, there are times that I can love one of the big malts, like Lagavulin. These days, my preference is Dalwhinnie and branch on a quiet evening. When I can afford it.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2004, 03:41 AM:

(And, yes, we like the medicinal smokey taste of peat moss, and we do in fact roll around it and rub it into our pores, why do you ask?)

Oh dear. What a picture. Leroy, hand me mah fan. 's gettin a might warm in hyah.

Claude: I put water in whatever spirit I'm drinking straight. It's meant to be drunk that way. Note that the only spirits I drink straight are gin, Irish, and Scotch. The Irish and the Scotch are meant to be drunk way. The gin, well, I had Bad Influences in my life. The water is usually in the form of melted ice cubes. Yes, even in the Lagavulin.

MKK

Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2004, 04:31 AM:

By the way, Mary Kay, look who's going to be on TechTV's The Screen Savers tomorrow (and Monday morning)...

Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2004, 06:38 AM:

I shall probably have to hand in my Scottish citizenship papers for admitting this, but the only way I really like whisky (not counting brose, because who could not like whipped cream with oatmeal, honey, and whisky?) is in hot tea. My great-aunt believed firmly that a mug of strong hot tea with a dash of whisky was medicinal, and while I wouldn't go that far, the combination leaves me feeling warmed and braced, as Uncle would say. (Hot chocolate with a dash of orange vodka is also good, but the effect of this is to make me want to curl up in front of a nice warm fire and not do anything for some time - whereas hot tea with whisky just makes me feel sturdier.)

I've never tried whiskeys made outside Scotland, though (except for a slug of Jack Daniels, offered by a Stargate fan: didn't like it but didn't expect to).

I tend to be a wine/fortified wine kind of person, but I like flavoured vodkas: I made chilli vodka a few years ago that was terrific stuff, like drinking a red-hot ice-cube.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2004, 08:57 AM:

Nobody's obliged to be a devotee of their national tipple. At one point in the 1970s, I believe, the French drank more Scotch whisky than French brandy, and the Scots did the reverse.

Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2004, 08:59 AM:

Yonmei: whisky, or any spirit, in hot tea *is* medicinal, if you have a cough and a sore throat. The tea (especially if sweetened) will sooth the throat, and the alcohol will numb it, suppressing the cough and the pain and allowing you to get some sleep.

My aunt swears by tea with lemon, honey, and whisky. That way you're having vitamin C as well.

The absolute best way to do this though is not to put the spirit in the tea but to have it in your other hand and take alternate sips -- that way you can get your throat numb enough to drink the tea really hot.

There's a pub in Lancaster where they think that Earl Grey tea with a cherry vodka chaser is a tolerably normal thing to order.

Oh, and whatever you do, don't mix this folk remedy with any actual medication containing paracetamol/tylenol/aceteminaphin.

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2004, 09:51 AM:

Yonmei, would you elaborate on brose? It may be the heathen in me, but that sounds downright lovely. I'm very partial to oatmeal, but _alcoholic_ oatmeal? I'm all ears (or eyes).

Mris ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2004, 11:17 AM:

Jo, is it something in the tea itself or just the warmth of the beverage? I have a gnat's tolerance for caffeine, so I usually steer clear of black tea. Will your average chamomile do the same thing, or is the soothing tea-specific?

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2004, 01:02 PM:

Well, theobromine, the dominant xanthine in black tea, does have a soothing effect on coughing spasms. Not for nothing is tea the preferred stimulant beverage in cold and wet places like Russia and Britain.

Varia ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2004, 01:12 PM:

Mris--I highly recommend the above mix, but using Throat Coat or a similar tea--it's a very sweet herbal mix, using lots of Slippery Elm, and it makes your throat happy on its own; combine it with whisky and you will be a happy, happy soul.

Seth ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2004, 01:49 PM:

Hrm. $35 a bottle sounds about right. One the one hand, I'm told by my Serious Scotch Snob Friends that I'm drinking the "cheap" Ardbeg and I should pony up. On the other hand, I don't *like* the older stuff much better, and sometimes not better at all.

So, it's not that Ardbeg is necessarily cheap, it's that I'm cheap about my Ardbeg :-)

Also, I don't drink wine. If I want kool-aide, I'll drink kool-aide. So I don't think of $6-12 a bottle as normal. Although, my gf has found some oak aged chardonnays that have an actual flavor other than sugar....

The way I recon it, she gets a $6 bottle of wine two or three times a week. I get a $35 bottle of scotch and it lasts me three months. I'm ahead on dollars per day in alcohol and I get to continue my claim that you can't get a hangover from good scotch.

On the toddy front, also try hot lemonaid with honey, alternating with a good booze.

But I like strong flavors: Russian Caravan tea and scotch that tastes like iodine.

Mmmm. Iodine and peat moss.

Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2004, 02:44 PM:

Another vote for whiskey in tea! In general, spirits in hot tea are very, very nice of a winter's night. This concoction is called "grog" by sailors and old ladies -- at least if it is made with rum, but I think whiskey and tea qualifies too. (And veering off topic, rum mixes very nicely with iced tea too.)

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2004, 06:46 PM:

Lydy: Here is the recipe I have for Atholl Brose. http://www.copygal.com/recipes/atholbrose.htm

I have no idea how authentic it is. There's also something in McCaffrey's Cooking Out of This World which claims to be an Atholl Brose recipe but I'm too something or other to go look it up right now.

I had some once in Scotland and it was heavenly.

MKK

Josh ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2004, 01:04 AM:

Re Old Potrero: The whole idea is that it's made according to colonial practice, which means a short maturing time. It's young on purpose. The one-year is so young they can't legally call it whiskey.

It's an interesting approach, at least, but an expensive experiment for the buyer!

It may be authentic, but it doesn't exactly make for good drinking. I'm a big fan of Fritz Maytag's, but I wonder what he's thinking sometimes.

But Tim Walters, you mix Booker's? That's sacrilege in my book! Of course, adding water is sacrilege in my book too. (Maker's Mark or Woodford for mixing, Booker's for sipping. Goes really well with cigars, too.)

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2004, 02:00 AM:

But Tim Walters, you mix Booker's? That's sacrilege in my book! Of course, adding water is sacrilege in my book too. (Maker's Mark or Woodford for mixing, Booker's for sipping. Goes really well with cigars, too.)

Explain to me, please, how this is not a pointless superiorty dance which allows you to look down your nose at others. He pays for the booze he can drink it any damn way he likes. People vary; tastes vary. This does not mean one is superior to the other. This is a lesson which must be learned on the way to adulthood.

MKK

Josh ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2004, 02:13 AM:

Explain to me, please, how this is not a pointless superiorty dance which allows you to look down your nose at others. He pays for the booze he can drink it any damn way he likes. People vary; tastes vary. This does not mean one is superior to the other. This is a lesson which must be learned on the way to adulthood.

I fear you have greatly misread the spirit (ha ha - I kill me) in which I posted. I'm not exactly up for playing Stalinist Truth Squad when it comes to other people's taste in booze. I wouldn't mix Booker's, but Tim's more than welcome to do whatever he pleases with it.

Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2004, 02:17 AM:

But Tim Walters, you mix Booker's? That's sacrilege in my book!

That's half the fun! Don't worry, they'll make more! But I sip at least as much as I mix.

(Mary Kay, I don't think Josh was totally serious...)

Of course, adding water is sacrilege in my book too.

To the extent there is a standard practice, it's to add water. A drop or two to standard-strength whiskey, to release the esters (this may be specious, but it seems to work); noticeably more to cask-strength whiskey (like Booker's) so that you can actually taste it, instead of just getting a vague burning sensation.

But there's no contradiction between it being standard practice and being sacrilege. No doubt we waterers will have to answer to our Maker and his Mark in the next life.

Josh ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2004, 02:29 AM:

To the extent there is a standard practice, it's to add water. A drop or two to standard-strength whiskey, to release the esters (this may be specious, but it seems to work); noticeably more to cask-strength whiskey (like Booker's) so that you can actually taste it, instead of just getting a vague burning sensation.

Just a vague burning sensation? We're clearly not drinking the same stuff. (Drinking it out of a brandy snifter is a challenge, since my eyes start watering.) I have to say I've never actually had Booker's with water; the bartender who introduced me to the stuff served it neat, and I've never seen any reason to dilute it. I'll have to try it and see if the trick with the esters works.

And MKK, I should add that even if I were so inclined, I'd hardly be in any position to look down my nose at other people's choices in booze: I actually like vermouth in my martinis.

Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2004, 02:36 AM:

I tend to believe that a lot of the popularity of rock & rye, highballs, and various other mixed whiskey drinks grew during Prohibition, when people often drank substandard booze in speakeasies. But i don't have much support for this other than the occasional John O'Hara story. Anyone know anything about this?

I'm fond of both good bourbons and scotches, though it's a taste I can't indulge as much as I'd like to (which is perhaps fortunate). I, too, am in favor of taking the stuff straight, both because it tastes better and because it helps manage an evening. I usually like a tall glass of club soda with it--goes easier on the stomach. The owners of my local are big fans of shots of good tequila, too, something I'd never gotten into...

Patrick, it really isn't good for you to be drinking alone (hint, hint).

Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2004, 02:49 AM:

Well, I'm one of the guys that drinks Blenheim Hot regularly (see recent thread in ML), so my standards for burn are fairly high.

Try adding about 10-20% water to Booker's one time and see what you think. I bet you'll agree that the flavor is clearer.

Bear in mind that, special bottlings and special cases like Booker's aside, what you get when you buy a bottle of whiskey has been watered down from cask strength. Cask-strength bottlings aren't meant to avoid that process but to put the drinker in control of it (and skip the caramel coloring).

I just dealt myself a 17-year-old Bowmore that I didn't pay for (thanks, bro!), with just the two drops of water. Gloat gloat gloat.

Alan Hamilton ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2004, 03:12 AM:

I haven't been much of a whisky drinker, but I'm going to be in Edinburgh next month and I like to experience the local culture. Clearly, I need to do some more research.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2004, 12:43 PM:

Sigh. Oh Teresa, no it's not just you. We're all being a bit irritable. Sorry.

MKK

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2004, 01:43 PM:

Just to back Tim up on this one (as if it were necessary) the established practice with single malts is just a little still water in a nosing glass that holds the aromas like this. (I love the elvish on it and would appreciate a translation -- it does make one wonder which whisky Gandalf or Elrond would prefer.) Wine glasses work for me.

The crazys out there demand the same water as was used by the distillery, but any fairly pure water without aroma will do. I know that I have made it to the right bar when the bartender knows how to set up a single malt with water on the side and not use a tumbler.

Jon Gallagher ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2004, 07:33 PM:

Say, if youíre buying, Iím curious about the three-year-old Potrero, too.

Sure, if you're in the neighborhood (Allied Gardens, San Diego, CA), I'm pouring the Potrero, their Genever, named Juniper, and of course the Steam Ale. God Bless household appliances!


On the single malts, I prefer the Islay myself, which makes sense for a rye drinker.

CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2004, 10:22 AM:

Claude: the established practice with single malts is just a little still water in a nosing glass that holds the aromas like this.

Whose established practice is that? I've read several places that the traditional single-serving vessel for single malts is the quaich, which is somewhere between a cup and a miniature skillet in shape; a visiting Scot was appalled when I offered brandy snifters to go with his bottle -- although the restaurants I've tried around here tend to serve in something similar. Yes, I can see that the nosing glass isn't as closed as a snifter -- but the quaich is wide-open.

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2004, 12:04 PM:

The quaich, Chip, is the traditional Scottish vessel for toasts and such, and originaly was used for more than whisky. These days they tend to be silver and are often used at weddings. (I must admit that starting off a social event by passing around a bowl of booze sets the right tone. And it is more cultured than just passing the bottle.) Traditiona uses for the quaich include a welcoming toast upon arrival and a farewell toast -- which might be what your guest was expecting.

But they aren't much use for enljoying a good malt. As I understand it, professional tasters at distilleries developed the stemmed, round bowled but narrow opening glaseses for their work. The real ones have graduated markings, as the standard practice for analytical tastings is to vary the amount poured based on the percent alcohol by volume (% ABV) and then add distilled water up to the "full" line on the glass to get a standard 20% ABV strength. A watch glass is placed over the mouth of the glass to let the vapors concentrate for a while. The professional "nose" then works down the line sniffing and sipping. In some cases the glasses are made from blue cobalt glass so the taster cannot see the color.

An aisde -- the amount of water you add when drinking (as opposed to tasting) depends on the strength of the whisky. Stong cask strenth malts can take quite a bit of water. Also, you tend to use less water on after dinner drinks. YMMV, as always.

There never really has been a final official form for the nosing glass, and small snifters or wine glasses work. Lately there have been attempts on a glass just for malts such as the Glencairn glass, which looks nice both on the table and in the hand.

Patrick, how about designing an official nielsenhayden.com drinking vessel? Seems appropriate, somehow . . .

James J. Murray ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2004, 10:49 PM:

And we all missed the 2004 Whisky Expo Saturday in San Francisco, damnit!

Anyway, I just wanted to note that I found the Van Winkle 13 y.o. rye is the perfect finishing touch to "Chili Con Paisley." A couple of shots added during the final re-heating were just the thing. Unfortunatelly, i can't seem to find it here in KC any more.

Alison Scott ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2004, 11:56 AM:

Lagavulin has been a favourite drink of mine for a long time, and it's very nice, but it's a standard product, made in large quantity and sold everywhere. I wonder if rarity is critical to the quality of 'best in the world'; that something that can be straightforwardly bought at Oddbins for the price of a theatre ticket doesn't quite cut the mustard.

I've had various special malts that I think probably top it, though it's hard to tell because of the tendency to drink special malts on special occasions, whereas Lagavulin is very much my 'everyday' whisky. (Though Oddbins does also have a 25 year old cask strength Lagavulin... if only I had a legion of ass-kissers handy...)

Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2004, 12:01 PM:

That message engraved in Elvish script is transliterated English. It says "health to good friends".

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2004, 01:43 PM:

I saw that, James when I found the link for the Glencairn glass. Dammit indeed. And chili and rye sound wonderful together, mixed or not.

Thanks, Niall.

mattH ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2004, 04:19 PM:

Is this something I should investigate drinking my whiskey over rocks?

Add some bitters and you've got an Old Fashioned.

Dave Porter ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2004, 07:12 AM:

If anyone is still interested in the original thread about rye whiskey; Have you ever tried Alberta Premium Rye?
Made by some sort of grower's co-op up in Alberta, Canada. Very delicious and smooth.
I usually pick up a bottle in Thunder Bay, Ontario on may way up to my annual fishing trip, then get another on my way home.
Well worth the effort to find.