EZdrinking

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.

ADI adds American Single Malt Whiskey as a Judging category

The American Distilling Institute has decided to add American Single Malt Whiskey as a distinct category for their upcoming spirits competition, the Judging of Craft Spirits. American Single Malt is a burgeoning whiskey category and we at ADI believe that whiskeys made in line with the proposed standard of identity created by the American Single Malt Whiskey Commission (ASMWC) are different enough in character that they deserve recognition as a distinct category.  

In 2016, a group of American Craft Distilleries got together and formed the ASMWC with the express purpose to "establish, promote and protect the category of American Single Malt Whiskey." The reason for this is, at present there is no legal definition for American Single Malt. The Alcohol, Tobacco, Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) defines Malt Whiskey as whiskey made from a fermented mash of at least 51% malted barley, distilled to no more than 160 proof (80% ABV), and stored at less than 125 proof (62.5% ABV) in charred new oak containers. Under the current definition, US Malt Whiskey can include other grains such as corn, rye, or wheat in the mash and it is required to be matured in charred new oak barrels the same as bourbon and rye whiskey. This means that a US distiller could make a whiskey from 51% malted barley and 49% corn and call it a single malt whiskey, because the word single has no legal meaning for TTB.

The ASMWC aims to bring American made single malt whiskey in line with the broader understanding of single malt whiskies from around the world. They propose that American single malt whiskey should have the following standard of identity: "Made from 100% malted barley; distilled entirely at one distillery; mashed, distilled, and matured in the USA; matured in oak casks not exceeding 700 liters (185 gallons); distilled to no more then 160 proof (80% ABV); and bottled at 80 proof (40% ABV) or more. This definition has a few important differences from the current TTB standard for Malt Whiskey. First requiring the whiskey be made from 100% malted barley at one distillery in the US lines up with the EU definition of Single Malt Scotch. The other key difference is that under the ASMWC's proposed standard American single malt would be allowed to be matured in used barrels. This would most likely make the largest difference in the flavor to the spirit. Charred new barrels contribute a lot of intense wood flavors over time and as we have seen with many extra aged bourbons. By allowing American single malt to be matured in used barrels, distilleries, especially in climates with large temperature swings, would be able to produce at much longer aged spirit that is not overwhelmed by wood. It is a common practice in Cognac to start a brandy off in new or young barrels and then move the spirit to used or exhausted barrels to allow the spirit to slowly oxidise and mellow over time without also increasing the wood flavors extracted from the barrel. If the ASMWC's standard is formally adopted by the TTB we could see 8, 10, 12, and 18 year old American Single Malt Whiskeys become the norm rather than the exception.

At present, there are whole realms of flavors that are largely cut off from US malt whiskey because of the current legal definition. However, innovation and pushing the boundaries of whiskey and gin has helped energize and drive growth in the spirits industry. Hopefully, the TTB will seriously consider adopting the standard of identity set out for American Single Malt Whiskey. And in the meantime, ADI will continue to support distillers as they expand the legacy of US distilled spirits.

Review: Smuggler's Cove Excotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki

Martin Cate with Rebecca Cate, Smuggler's Cove: Excotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki, (Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2016), 352 pages, $30.00. ISBN: 9781607747321

Martin Cate has long been a champion of rum, exotic cocktails and the tiki community as well as a proprietor of several award-winning drinking establishments, including Smuggler’s Cove (San Francisco), Whitechapel (San Francisco), False Idol (San Diego), Hale Pele (Portland) and Lost Lake (Chicago). Along with his wife, Rebecca, Cate has created a comprehensive guide to tiki culture; it’s history, techniques and, most of all, the drinks— Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki.

Smuggler’s Cove is a fantastic achievement and a beautiful monument to the influence of tiki, rum and exotic cocktails on American culture, and it is a fun read, told with Cate’s impish sense of humor. Part one of the book tells the engaging story of the birth, rise, decline and revival of Polynesian Pop. In part
two, the Cates tell their own story of how Martin and Rebecca became captivated by tiki and built one of the country’s preeminent bars for rum and exotic cocktails. Part three describes the history of rum, how it is made and the various styles and categories that define it. For distillers who want to better understand how bartenders use different styles of rum to create exotic cocktails, this is a must-read. Part four covers the nuts and bolts of what goes into making the cocktails. And in part five, how to deck out your home and wardrobe for your new found (or long-held) love of tiki aesthetic is covered.

Smuggler’s Cove is a wonderful book in terms of its prose, humor, completeness and graphic design. The story of the rise,fall and rebirth of tiki culture is fascinating, and numerous photos connect readers to the people and places that made Polynesian Pop and exotica nationwide phenomena. The Cates intersperse more than 100 drink recipes within the book and close each chapter with a smattering of cocktails that match the narrative. Smuggler’s Cove allows the audience to not only read the history of exotic cocktails but also to drink that history, if they choose.

First appeared in Distiller. (Summer 2017): 167

Review: Ableforth's Batch 2 Pedro Ximénez Aged Bathtub Gin

Ableforth's Batch 2 Pedro Ximénez Aged Bathtub Gin was macerated, and aged by Ableforth's  for That Boutique-y Gin Company and bottled at 43.3% ABV

Price: $3.92 for 30ml

Ableforth's is a self described "Madcap creator of unique, small-batch spirits." In the US, Ableforth's would be described as a rectifier, in that they purchase spirits, and then modify them by macerating botanicals, fruit or maturing the spirit in special casks. In the late 1800s the term rectifier took on an negative connotation in the US from the bad practices of some companies that would buy well made bourbon or rye and dilute it with neutral spirit, prune juice and even acids. However, there is a responsible way to be a rectifier and Ableforth's demonstrates that. They are well know for their Bathtub Gin which takes neutral spirit and macerates juniper, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, orange peel and clove. The result is a gin with an yellow or amber tint from the botanicals. For this bottling, That Boutique-y Gin Company took some of the regular Ableforth's Bathtub Gin and aged it in a Pedro Ximénez Sherry cask.

TASTING NOTES

Nose: The nose has a very pleasant aroma of of cherries with baking spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. The nose is rich with notes from the sherry supported by juniper and the citrus. 

Palate: On the palate the gin is smooth and full bodied. There are notes of coco, orange zest, cinnamon, and a slight undertone of brightness from the juniper.

Finish: The finish is medium long with concurrent flavors of juniper and citrus followed by deeper flavors from the wood.

Conclusion: It is hard to do this gin justice in writing but Ableforth's Batch 2 Pedro Ximénez Aged Bathtub Gin is one of the most amazing and wonderful spirits I've had the pleasure of drinking. The gin is a complete treat. The gin picks up a wonderful sweetness and complexity from the sherry while still allowing the juniper and other botanicals to sing. This gin should be enjoyed neat or use in an amazing Martinez.

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

Review: Batch 1 Cherry Gin

Batch 1 Cherry Gin was macerated by That Boutique-y Gin Company and bottled  42.6% ABV

Price: $32.36 for 500ml

Cherry Gin is whats known as a flavored or cordial gin. This means that That Boutique-y Gin Company took a finished gin and then added additional flavors and some sugar to sweeten it. In this instance, they macerated a combination of sweet and sour marasca cherries along with some spices in a classic juniper forward gin. Once the maceration was finished the cordial gin is filtered, sweetened and proofed down before bottling. 

TASTING NOTES

Nose: On the nose there are clear aromas of sweet cherries, lemon zest, grape juice and mulling spices. 

Palate: On the palate the gin is very sweet, with flavors of milk chocolate and fruit jam, perhaps cherry or raspberry though it is had to say exactly. The gin is bright withe a fresh tartness from the cherries and lemon zest. 

Finish: The finish is very long and sweet however, not cloying. Notes of fruit and milk chocolate linger on the palate.

Conclusion: Batch 1 Cherry Gin is an intensely fruity, bright and sweet cordial gin. That being said, the gin could work as an after dinner desert drink with a hazelnut biscotti. In a cocktail, I am sure it would work nicely in a tall drink with soda, or perhaps it could be used in place of Cherry Heering. Aside from cocktails, Cherry Gin would be excellent drizzled over vanilla ice cream.

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