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Apparently I Like Basil Hayden Now
But I'm not so sure about Coors whiskey.
Pretty cocktail, isn’t it? The foamy pinkish concoction in this picture is a riff on a paper plane: one of whiskey’s quirkier delicious beverages. I’m a big fan of ordering this one at bars. Aside from not being able to make it myself (the ingredients aren’t easy to find), it’s a drink that shows you what a bartender is capable of.
For people who love a great drink, seeing a drinkmaker really nail a drink is as impressive as any Olympic performance. A great drink isn’t just a freak occurrence—it comes after hours and hours of practice, and years of dedication.
That goes for cocktails, but it also goes for whiskey, like the stuff produced by Jim Beam. I visited them earlier this week. I’m excited by what I tasted—and that list goes way beyond this drink.
What I can share right now isn’t much, but it starts with this: a mea culpa. My friends know that I’ve slagged off the Basil Hayden brand for years. It’s an easy shot to take (the joke, not the whiskey) but for me, Basil Hayden has always been a flawed product—the rate imperfect member of what Booker Noe (sixth generation Beam master distiller and absolute legend) called the small batch collection.
Well, eighth generation master distiller Freddie Noe released a product this week that addressed all of my personal grievances. I’m not narcissistic enough to think he did it for me, but he also pulled it off using one of my favorite Beam family tricks: brown rice in the mash bill. You can read my review for Maxim for more details, but let’s just day that Freddie stuck his landing on this one.
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Onto the news…
Beers Are Evolving like Pokemon
If you’re a fan of Coors Banquet (I am, because I ranked it the best cheap domestic beer for Maxim in 2017), you may be just a few years from the ultimate boilermaker. For the newbies, a reminder that whiskey is essentially distilled beer (with a few extra steps).
So in the simplest terms, you’re just tweaking your fermentation process a bit, and then doing a controlled boil to capture the alcohol vapors from that beer. Well, Molson Coors is the latest beer brand to start making whiskey, and Coors malt is going to be the central ingredient.
Meanwhile, Molson Coors also this week killed off 11 beer brands that some of the older readers might remember. Wait a second—I’ve had these myself!
Matters of Taste (and Tasting Notes)
Danny Chau dropped a thoughtful piece for Punch on using the word “funky” as a tasting note. Chau explores the word’s use in wine, but it has practical value for us spirits lovers—particularly rum and whiskey lovers.
Unpacking the various types of “funk” and their biochemical origins is some pretty heavy mental lifting, so you might want to read this before drink number two.
Speaking of taste, here’s a judgment free piece on how to drink whiskey, in case you’re looking for new ways.
Finally, hats off to Susannah Skiver Barton for a polarizing but honest debut piece for Half Full. She points out that as bourbon prices have soared, the new value in sippable whiskey may be the very place responsible for some of the most expensive whiskies of all time: Scotland. As she points out, the pendulum has swung, and the once-bargain bourbon category is no longer that cheap.
Scotch is Catching Up with Changing Expectations
Whiskey makers are getting smarter about packaging, and for Scotch that may include changes to the boxes and canisters you see on shelves. Dewar’s, for instance, has begun switching their card stock boxes over to metal. They picked metal for its comparably low carbon footprint.
What’s not being talked about enough is the relationship between Scotch distillers and Japan—and specifically how much “Japanese” whiskey is actually just, well, scotch. To understand that, I direct you to Nick Morgan’s recent story.
Is 2021 the Craziest Year in Bar and Restaurant History?
I love a good hyperbole, especially when it comes to craziness in the industry. Is it the craziest year? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean crazy s—t isn’t happening. For one, people in New York are trying to construct crazy two-story outdoor dining sheds.
But if outdoor seating is lacking, the real absence is staffing for those same bars and restaurants. Many who worked in the field in years past aren’t returning. Tyler Zielinski wrote about why for Wine Enthusiast. If nothing else, it’s a reminder of why we should all be striving to be more kind to one another.
I always like throwing page views to the smaller sites, and my buddy David “Rare Bird” Jennings—the ultimate Wild Turkey fan—dropped news about the next Master’s Keep release on his site this week. Check it out if you like limited edition stuff from good distilleries.
Tim McKirdy is looking at the question of whether tequila can replicate bourbon’s success through imitation. This is an interesting story, particularly as new data shows that tequila volume has surpassed bourbon in the United States. As usual it’s a thoughtful read—one which I won’t cheapen with a tl;dr.
The founder of whiskey procurance site The Whisky Exchange is dropping an unusual auction lot this month: a massive collection of vintage minis, airplane bottles, miniatures or nips (whatever you want to call them).
Last and not least, check out this whiskey Ted Talk from Alex Castle, who claimed the title of first female Master Distiller in Tennessee a few years back. Class is in session.