Tis the season to try new Whisk(e)y

I decided to buy my self an early Christmas present, after I was talking with a friend I hadn’t see in a while about not being able to go to the bar for a while. Then we got to talking about Whiskey. He was saying to he had gotten into Irish whiskey. Made me think that it is an area I haven’t explored much, at least at the more discerning levels. Obviously I had Bushmills and Jameson, and a a couple parties in college lower shelf stuff like Paddy, and a other swill I cannot remember.

So at his suggestion I made a trip to the fancy grocery store, and picked up a bottle of Redbreast 12. Gonna be cracking 'er open as soon as I get my ass up and away from this here keyboard.

Any other folks getting adventurous with the booze this season?

Redbreast is a nice Irish. If you like the plain 12, try the Lustau. Then you can move on to The Dubliner and Knappogue Castle 12 & 16.

My adventure in booze this holiday season is “No hard liquor at all, or only under extreme restrictions.” For reasons. So wine is going to be the tipple for the winter. Good luck with the Red Breat!

I’m generally more of a Scotch and Bourbon sort of guy when drinking whiskey straight, and most of the whiskey cocktails I like use rye whiskey. I also like rum a fair amount. Not necessarily for drinking straight (although I’m far from above that), but in cocktails and the like.

So… I saw the Tullamore DEW Caribbean Rum Cask Finish whiskey, and figured I’d try it. It’s interesting and surprisingly good. If I had to describe it, it would be 3/4 Irish whiskey and 1/4 demerara rum. So a bit sweet, but smooth and interesting.

On the bourbon and scotch fronts, I got a bottle of Compass Box’s Great King Street Glasgow Blend, which IMO is a fantastic blended Scotch. I also have been diving into the cheap bourbon world over the past 9 months- Evan Williams 100 Bottled in Bond, Very Old Barton 100, and Jim Beam Repeal Batch. The first two are nothing special- solid inexpensive bourbons good for whiskey bucks and eggnog. The third is a tad more interesting- it is Jim Beam produced to the immediate post-Prohibition recipe without the modern stuff like chill-filtering, etc… It’s not stellar, but it’s a hair better than regular Beam, I’d say.

Redbreast!

That’s what got me drinking whisky! Pre-pandemic, a bunch of us used to meet for Irish Happy Hour, and shots of Redbreast were half price. The first time my friend tried it, she said “Where’s that paint thinner effect that other whiskies have?”

Well, I’ve decided life’s too short for paint thinner, and since I love smooth whiskies, I’m sticking with those. My Christmas list is full of bourbons like Woodford (the Double Oaked if the elves can afford it) and J. Henry (THE smoothest I’ve ever had).

Hmm, I may add a good brandy and a Plantation rum as a footnote to the list…

I have finished two glasses of the Redbreast now, and having a weird situation, I really like it but I’m having trouble appreciating it.

On every sip the very first molecules hit my tongue. And those quick reaction taste buds activate and react, sending the instant message, “Ohh Scotch, I love Scotch. :)” But then the rest of the flavor happens, and it goes in a different direction than Scotch, which triggers a weird secondary automatic message “false alarm, not Scotch, disappointing”

As I consciously read the taste of it, I do really the the flavor, but every sip is that same weird autonomic disappointment, that is interfering with just relaxing and enjoying it.

Guess I gotta retrain my brain.

I’ve never drunk Irish. My father (descendant of Presbyterian Scottish teetotallers, curiously enough) insisted that Irish was rotgut and that only Scotch should be drunk neat. He even made his Irish coffee for St Paddy’s day with Scotch (blended, not single malt).

If’n I were inclined to have a late-life rebellion against parental dictates, what Irish would people recommend?

Standard response, of course, is get to a bar (when they reopen) with a decent selection and sample. Barring that, I’d start with The Dubliner. Then Jameson. Moving on you can go several directions. I’d say Redbreast, Knappogue Castle, or alternatively Teeling and Midleton bottlings.

In college I used to drink ten high whiskey out of the plastic jug. Then as I grew older, more refined and has more disposable income I switched to drinking old crow out of the plastic jug. It was all cheap but it made me temporarily happy. I miss whiskey. Damn health problems won’t let me drink anymore.

I’ve mentioned this before, but if you ask this of a good bartender, you’ll get an education. It’s how I discovered Tullamore DEW (a good mild start), then Redbreast and Teeling’s.

The bartender at our local pub began to look at me as a student. Pre-Covid, I’d walk in and he’d say “Okay, we did Irish last week, tonight we’ll try some Highland single malts.”

I learned to avoid some whiskies without wasting money on a bottle (really wanted to buy Knob Creek just for the typography on the bottle, but I just don’t like it), and I also got to try some wonderful stuff where I could never have afforded a whole bottle (Balvenie, Talisker, J. Henry Bellafontaine, Yamazaki).

I usually stay away from the really pricey stuff, because at least to my unsophisticated palate, I begin hitting diminishing returns pretty quickly; but I’ve won a little money in an essay contest this year, and decided to treat myself to a single-cask bottling of 10 year old Bunnahabhain, which was aged in octave casks (part of the ‘The Octave’-series of independent bottler Duncan Taylor). These are very small barrels, which has the advantage that more of the whisky is in contact with the inner surface, leading to a ‘faster’ aging process. This also means there exist only 110 bottles of this particular expression.

Now, I don’t usually buy into the whole ‘single cask, non-chillfiltered, cask-strength, non-colored’ hype—there are plenty of great whiskies that are none of these things—but I have to say, pouring myself a dram of this one has become a little bit of a ritual; and it does taste fantastic. Although I’m not sure how much of that is just the packaging—but that doesn’t detract from the experience.

when I’m feeling spendy I’ll buy a bottle of Balvenie 21 year-old portwood, superb, but probably over $200 in your neck of the woods. a third of the price gets you the standard 12-year doublewood Balvenie which very nice indeed.

They are both Christmas in a glass but the 21 year-old just has slightly nicer trimmings.

You can’t go wrong with any of the Balvenie bottles. I’d also recommend Aberlour as a terrific value.

I grew up with Jamesons (parents had New Years Day parties featuring Irish Coffee and folk music from the mid 60s to the 90s; made many an Irish Coffee from a young age!) Red Breast is a nicer whiskey for sipping in my opinion.

I picked up a bottle of Buffalo Trace bourbon a few weeks ago; not bad in my opinion. My wife however, hated it and she’s a bourbon fan. Or at least a Woodford Reserve/Knob Creek fan.

Bought two new ones (to me) as part of my birthday and Christmas bottles: The Macallan Edition no.4 and Green Spot Leoville Barton Bordeaux .
Both are very different and utterly delicious!

That’s me. I also don’t want to spoil myself to the point where I always have to spend a shit-ton on a bottle (for Scotch, it’s an Imperial shit-ton).

There are some single malts that are in my “drink a shot in a tavern, or at a rich friend’s house” category. My pastor knows this, and lures me (and his frugal assoc. pastor) to his backyard fire pit with promises of The Balvenie…

Redbreast is very nice. I agree with those below who recommend Balvenie in any form. If you want to try something different, I’ve been drinking The Quiet Man Irish Whiskey. It’s young and delicious.

I’ll give the Beam you mentioned a shot. Not a fan at all of White Label Beam, and my distaste has steered me away from anything else with their name on it.

I think I liked the EW BiB more than you did. It isn’t the Bookers Small Batch 2018 Uncut I’m staring at now. Heck it isn’t Elijah, back when they put 12 years on the bottle, but it isn’t bad at all. Especially for the price. 114 Old Grandad is another cheap Bourbon that punches above its price class. Weirdly, it makes a not half-bad (which my autocorrect changed to “half-baked”—it’s likely right) ‘Margarita’ when it’s substituted for the Tequila. Grand Marnier instead of Cointreau, to continue with the ‘Big Wood’ theme.

For an interesting new whiskey, though it’s still a hair overpriced, I recommend Andalusia Whiskey in general, and their Smoked Whiskey, “Stryker,” specifically. Not Scotch tasting, a bit malty, but an interesting drink. I’d really like it for 25-30, alas. I will try the rest of their offerings. I really want to compare it to High West’s Campfire.

To my mind, the absolute best Irish whiskey is Powers. Plain Powers. I do like Redbreast, but Powers is better.

I am liking the Redbreast more and more as I train my feeble brain.

However I realize I asked without giving. So my humble suggestion; a Scotch I love is the Laphroaig Triple wood. It Has the full heart of a peaty Islay, but the complexity of several aging casks. No age statement, but I am starting to be a believer that age statements are really more of a restriction for a reputable distiller.

Caveat: I am not a distiller. I know we have at least one here. That said, AIUI, the more you age single malt Scotch, the less ‘distilling’ character you get, and the more character from the wood. IOW, all older Scotch starts to taste alike, whereas their younger versions are much more distinctive. Cynically, I’m pretty sure the trend to trademarked, No Age Statement (NAS) versions, is mainly to improve cash flow and stave off having to expand warehouse space. But I would think a NAS, but 7 year, Laphroaig would be more Laphroaig-y than the 10, and especially the 15 and 16. So yeah, they are restrictive.

But ‘unrestricted’ single malts aren’t necessarily a good thing. For awhile, post-fire, Laguvulin had a, IIRC, 12 year, and I want to say I tried an 8 year. Not a fan. YMMV. Lots of distilleries are running with the concept though. Highland Park comes to mind.

Just a word of warning, if you don’t like Beam white, you probably won’t like the Repeal Batch version either. It’s basically a non-chill filtered slightly higher proof Beam white. So a bit more character, but not too far off.

OGD 114 is fantastic stuff! I like high-rye bourbons, and it’s about as high rye as you can get.

I wasn’t saying the EW BiB was bad… it’s clearly better than the regular EW, which is fine stuff. It’s just that it is in my view, a bourbon for mixing not for drinking on its own. It makes fantastic eggnog, for example. So does the VOB 100. Both also produce fine whiskey bucks (or mules, I guess). But neither is something I’m going to sit down and drink straight if I have something more interesting/flavorful lurking around. (currently that happens to be the bottle of Leopold Bros. bourbon I picked up in Denver about a year ago).