Searching for the world's best drinks and what makes them extraordinary.

Searching for the world's best drinks and what makes them extraordinary. EZdrinking is a drinks blog by Eric Zandona that focuses on distilled spirits, wine, craft beer and specialty coffee. Here you can find reviews of drinks, drink books, articles about current & historical trends, as well as how to make liqueurs, bitters, and other spirit based drinks at home.

Review: Blended Whisky #1 Batch 3 Blended Scotch Aged 35 Years

Blended Whisky #1 Batch 3 Blended Scotch Whisky Aged 35 Years, blended by That Boutique-y Whisky Company and bottled at 46.5% ABV

Price: $129.76 for 500ml

That Boutique-y Whisky Company is an independent whisky bottler who selects unique whiskies from around the world. Their Blended Whisky #1 was designed to highlight older malt and grain whiskies from Scotland that when blended creates a smooth and well balanced drinking experience. Batch 3 was released in 2016 and the youngest whisky in the blend was 35 years old.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Initially the nose has a strong alcohol bite but after it has a little time to breath, a very strong and fragrant aroma fills your nose. At first there are notes that remind me of Islay peat with its distinctive combination of smoke, iodine and sea air. And, underneath this first layer of aromas are notes of chocolate, fresh apple, and caramel. 

Palate: The palate is smooth with a light touch of heat from the alcohol and medium bodied. The whisky is pleasantly sweet on the tongue with a flavor that is not immediately obvious but reminds me of sweet corn bread. As the whisky warms in your mouth the flavor begins to reveal some of the smoke character followed by briny sea air.

Finish: The finish is mostly dominated by smoke with underlying notes of malt and a slight nuttiness.  

Conclusion: This is a very complex and flavorful blended Scotch that is easy to drink neat and will likely to appeal to those who prefer a touch more smokiness and peat in their whisky.

Thank you to Master of Malt and That Boutique-y Whisky Company for providing the free sample.

On Leaving San Francisco & Loving Oaxaca

View of San Francisco looking north from  Bernal Heights Park. © 2017 EZdrinking

August 1st, my family and I gave up our rent controlled studio apartment in San Francisco and moved to Oaxaca, Mexico. Given the current housing market in San Francisco, we are well aware that this probably means we will never be able to afford to move back. But, we made our peace with that and embraced the adventure. Two months in we have seen a riot, a four week garbage strike, and two major earthquakes.  That being said, there is a lot to like, even love about Oaxaca.

Moving away from the Bay Area and the only home I've ever known, I expected to be somewhat homesick and pine for all that San Francisco has to offer. But after some time to reflect, I can honestly say there are not many things that I miss about San Francisco. While I have yet to find a substitute for the perfectly portioned cappuccinos from Ritual and Four Barrel, much of the food and cocktail culture that makes the City an exciting place to live was quickly moving out of economic reach for us.

That being said, the thing I miss the most about San Francisco are the people. My my work, our church, and our neighborhood allowed my wife and I to create a fantastic and supportive community that continued to grow and expand. One of the things that I like most about San Francisco is the opportunity the City provides for networking within your field and the ability to meet people from very different walks of life. I could walk into any number of bars or cafes in my neighborhood and meet tech entrepreneurs or an electrician, Chinese immigrants or gay transplants from Georgia. But, despite our fantastic community and all that the we love about the City, the mundane activities of buying groceries, paying for healthcare and childcare were beginning to take a financial toll. 

Through a series of conversations with friends and family, we decided to move to Oaxaca, Mexico for a 6 month trial period. One of the great advantages of living here is the reduced cost of living. And, after being here for a couple of months I was able to realize the emotional strain the financial stress of San Francisco had caused. I now feel much more at ease which has made it easier to deal with a new cultural as well as the difficulty associated with living outside Oaxaca City without a car.

Oaxaca has a very strong sense of pride in its culinary contributions to Mexico and the rest of the world. Coffee, chocolate, mole, mezcal, and new to me, the rich and creamy chocolaty drink called tejate. In addition to enjoying this rich culinary tradition, Oaxaca City and the surrounding areas are large enough to be a thriving metropolis with lots of interesting events, and small enough that lots of people know each other within a given field making it somewhat easier to network.

Oaxaca is a vibrant, bustling, fun and at times chaotic, and confusing place to live. Most people we have met love our kids and have been very warm towards us, which has made living here much easier. Here we can afford to put our oldest son in preschool which has been great for him. And, like San Francisco, the best part of Oaxaca has definitely been the people and their willingness to welcome us and share their rich lives full of family, food, drinks and history. These new relationships have allowed me to deepen my knowledge of mezcal and Oaxacan coffee but, more on that later. 

View from our back patio in Huayapam, Oaxaca, Mexico. © 2017 EZdrinking

Review: Shots of Knowledge The Science of Whiskey

Rob Arnold and Eric Simanek, Shots of Knowledge: The Science of Whiskey, (Fort Worth: TCU Press, 2016), 160 pages, $35.00. ISBN: 9780875656540

Rob Arnold and Eric Simanek are the authors of Shots of Knowledge: The Science of Whiskey. Arnold was born in Louisville and is the third generation of his family to be in the whiskey business. He is the head distiller at Firestone & Robertson Distilling Company and a Ph.D. candidate in plant breeding at Texas A&M University. Simanek is the Robert E. Welch Professor of Chemistry, Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Texas Christian University and the director of the TCU IdeaFactory. Arnold and Simanek divided 58 essays on the science of whiskey into three parts: “From Sunshine to Sugar” describes how water, light and CO2 combine to form the essential structures of various cereal grains. Part 2, “From Wee Beasties to White Dogs,” covers the science of yeast, mashing, fermentation and distillation. And lastly, “From Barrel to Brain” follows the whiskey through maturation to ingestion.

Shots of Knowledge is an excellent coffee-table book for your home or a distillery tasting room. Each of the 58 essays is one page with an accompanying photograph or illustration. In the margins, Arnold and Simanek also include short snippets of information that build on the central theme of each essay. Both authors have significant scientific training to write authoritatively about the chemical and biological processes that convert grain, yeast and water into whiskey. While the essays are very specific about the science involved, they are short enough to not overwhelm. Shots of Knowledge makes a great coffee-table book since each essay stands alone and the illustrations are engaging. Arnold and Simanek have produced a book that will interest both consumers and distillers who want to better understand the science of whiskey.

First appeared in Distiller. (Summer 2017): 167

Review: Gin Tonica

David T. Smith is an internationally recognized gin expert, he is the author of four books on gin, and writes the gin blog Summer Fruit Cup. Smith also serves as a lead judge for the International Wine and Spirits Competition, and as the lead steward for the ADI Judging of Craft Spirits. Most recently Smith has helped create the world's first independent gin bottler, That Boutique-y Gin Company, which works with gin distillers around the world to offer unique and creative expressions of gin not seen before. His latest book, Gin Tonica: 40 Recipes for Spanish-style Gin and Tonic Cocktails is a brief and informative guide to the incredible creativity and wide ranges of flavors possible in Spanish-style gin and tonics.

While the gin and tonic is most closely associated with England and the former British Empire in India, the G&T has be warmly embraced in Spain and transformed into a unique and tantalizing drinking experience. From Spain, it the Gin Tonica returned to the UK and more recently has started to pop up around the United States. As in introduction to this novel way of preparing and serving a gin and tonic, Smith breaks the book down into four basic sections. Sections one and two are separated based on the style of gin being used, either classic or contemporary gin. And, sections tree and four are differentiated by types of garnish that can be use, which Smith describes as experimental and seasonal.

While it is common for a distiller to promote his or her gin by serving it in a gin and tonic, the Gin Tonica provides an interesting alternative. Take for example Smith's Late Breakfast Gin Tonica. This cocktail features FEW Spirits' Breakfast Gin which includes bergamot and Earl Grey tea in the botanical mix. Smith includes a teaspoon of marmalade and a dried orange slice to garnish the drink which adds sweetness and plays well with the signature botanicals. Rather than offering a regular G&T, gin distillers can expand their creativity beyond their botanical mix and think about ways to highlight any unique or signature botanicals used in their gin by offering Gin Tonicas that use complementary and colorful garnishes. Gins that standout can sometimes make it harder for your average consumer to know how to use the spirit. Gin Tonicas, like those demonstrated in Smith's book offer a new way to present gins to the drinking public that are enticing and designed to complement the base spirit.

David T. Smith, Gin Tonica: 40 Recipes for Spanish-style Gin and Tonic Cocktails, (London: Ryland Peters & Small, 2017), 95 pages, $12.95. ISBN: 9781849758536