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.

Review: Carsebridge Batch 1 Single Grain Scotch Aged 52 Years

Carsebridge Batch 1 Single Grain Scotch Whisky was distilled at the Carsebridge Distillery, aged for 52 Years and bottled by That Boutique-y Whisky Company at 40.5% ABV

Price: $250.91 for 500ml

That Boutique-y Whisky Company is an independent whisky bottler who selects unique whiskies from around the world. Their Carsebridge Batch 1 comes from the famed and long closed Carsebridge Distillery in Alloa, Scotland.  Located in the Scottish Lowlands, Carsebridge was originally founded by John Bald as a malt distillery in 1799. Apparently Mr. Bald's sons who took over its management, switched the distillery over to making grain whisky in 1851 as the popularity of Blended Scotch began to rise. In 1877, Carsebridge and six other distillers joined together to from the Distillers Company Ltd. and about 90 years later became part of the Scottish Grain Distillers. Finally in 1983, amidst the world decline in whisky popularity, Carsebridge closed its doors and in 1992, the distillery was demolished. Thankfully, there are a few barrels of this amazing whisky still around. That Boutique-y Whiskey Company were able to find 52 year old barrels of their single grain whisky and bottle it at 40.5% ABV. Here single refers to the fact that the whisky in the bottle comes from one "single" distillery. In Scotland grain whisky is made from a mash malted barley, and any other malted or unmalted cereals, which often means corn, wheat, or rye. The regulations for grain whisky do not require the use of a pot still like with malt whisky, so as a result, grain whiskies are usually produced with column stills.

Tasting Notes

Nose: The nose is vibrant a touch of alcohol intermingled with notes of maraschino cherry and a touch of vanilla. A light aroma of oak belies its age. 

Palate: Is incredibly smooth, initially the whisky shows notes of vanilla, rum cake and a touch of oak without any bitterness. However, as the whisky slides over the tongue the flavors transform into a cornucopia of tropical fruit. Notes of passion fruit and guava that is reminiscent of fine aged rum. 

Finish: The finish is dry and very long with subtle notes of passion fruit, guava and fresh green grapes reaching out to the horizon. 

Conclusion: This is an amazing whisky that is a delight to drink neat. I am awe struck that the oak flavors have not totally dominated the spirit but instead is acting as a support for the wonderful fruit flavors that have developed over the last half century. I am not usually one to think of spending hundreds of dollars on one bottle of whisky however, if I was in the market for a truly once in a lifetime bottle that has the quality to match the price this would be at the top of my list. 

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

Review: Blended Whisky #1 Batch 5 Blended Scotch Aged 50 Years

Blended Whisky #1 Batch 5 Blended Scotch Whisky Aged 50 Years, blended by That Boutique-y Whisky Company and bottled at 46.6% ABV

Price: $160.04 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 5 was released in 2017 and the youngest whisky in the blend is 50 years old.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Nose is full of rich aroma of vanilla, cinnamon and rum raisins. Underlying that is a vibrant note of oak and a slightly hint of smoke carried up on the alcohol. 

Palate: The whisky is very smooth for 46.6% ABV and is full bodied. The flavor starts sweet and fruity on the palate and as the whisky warms on the tongue it shows more of its oak character.

Finish: The finish is long and  slightly sweet with notes of plum and dark cherries. As the finish lingers the smoke comes through and mingles nicely with the residual fruitiness. 

Conclusion: This is a very complex blended Scotch that is vastly superior to some of the other very old blended Scotches on the market. This demonstrates that blended Scotch is not an inferior spirit to single malts but a different animal with the capacity for greatness and newance. 

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

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