Thursday, May 23, 2013
This was an old Stitzel-Weller brand bottled for the Peter Hauptmann Co. in St. Louis that I haven't been able to find too much about. I'm hoping some of our bourbon experts can shed some light on it in the comments. This one is a 1955 bottling. The brand is now a sourced bourbon owned by Luxco.
David Nicholson 1843, BIB, 100 Proof
The nose has honey, floral notes and some citrus. The palate is rich with vanilla bean, butterscotch and some oak. The finish returns to some of the floral notes.
This is actually far better than I expected it would be with some real complexity. I've had a number of Stitzel-Weller bottom shelfers that weren't great. This is really good stuff and more akin to some of the better Old Fitzgeralds I've had.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Up until about a year ago, I pretty much ignored the existence of Balvenie. Some of their malts were fine, but I'd never had anything that bowled me over. Then last year, they blew one out of the ballpark with the Tun 1401. Given that success, I was pretty excited to taste their newest whiskey, a 12 year old single barrel aged in first fill bourbon casks.
Balvenie 12 year old Single Barrel First Fill, 47.8% abv, Cask 12694 ($70)
The nose is a fruit bomb with pears and fruit cocktail. The palate is fruity and malty in equal parts. The finish is mostly malty with some cereal and cocoa.
This one is bright and fruity. It's not overly complex but is nicely drinkable, a good edition to the Balvenie lineup and a perfect lighter whiskey for those hot summer months (along with Bladnoch). Keep in mind, as a single barrel release, barrels may vary.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
It sort of seems like a no-brainer that the new Batali/Silverton/Bastianich project let by Chad Colby focusing on meats would be amazing, but it is. Located in what is fast becoming a Mozza mini-mall, Chi Spacca is a small space with amazing meat.
Charcuterie plates are beyond cliche these days, but Chi Spacca's sampler is extraordinary. There's copa, one of the best specks I've ever had, two salumis with gloriously large chunks of fat and, my favorite, two country style pates. One pate was pork with pistachios wrapped in bacon. It was smoky and ham-like. The other was a pork liver and kidney pate that was unctuous and livery. This was fantastic stuff.
But the tour de force on the menu I ordered was the beef and marrow pie. A small, but very deep pie of braised beef with a marrow bone stuck in the middle. The braised beef in this pie was black as night with a syrupy thick jus. It was the best of braised meat and soaked beautifully into the flaky, perfectly done pie crust. Eat some of the marrow by itself on bread, but then spread some on the beef and pastry to get an ultra-rich bite. (You may need to use the back end of the spoon to get all of the marrow out.)
There are lots of great things on this menu, including huge steaks and pork chops, that would have been better for a larger crowd, but don't miss that pie.
The wine program was also impressive. Rather than offering bottles, wine is offered from a limited selection by the glass or carafe. Alternatively, they offer three levels of wine pairings, selected to match your particular meal (even though it isn't a tasting menu). We ordered the cheapest one ($25 per person) and were delighted with the diverse choices, which included a sparkling red and a sour beer among the four selections.
If you're a meat lover, this should go on your must-try list.
6610 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Thursday, May 16, 2013
In terms of dusty whiskey, Los Angeles is pretty much shopped out. It's been a long time since I found a good, old bottle on the shelf. Even the dusties I left behind are long gone. These days, I'm pleased to find even a bourbon with a mediocre reputation if it's from the old days, and so there's this.
Hill and Hill was a lower end National Distillers label that is no longer around. This bottle is a half pint circa 1976 that I picked up in the San Gabriel Valley. It cost me all of $4.
Hill and Hill Bourbon, 4 years old, 80 proof (40% abv)
The nose is pretty decent with some brandy like sweetness and some solid rye spice. It actually smells like it has some age on it. The palate is also nice and spicy with some wood notes and a nice sweet, caramel note at the end. The finish retains that sweetness and again gives some brandy type notes.
I expected this to be terrible, and it's actually quite good. Despite the age statement, this tastes much older than four years; it has that rich, caramel flavor that I've seen in older bourbons from the '70s. I'm guessing this one is a glut whiskey, filled with older stocks that the distilleries didn't know what to do with back when bourbon supplies far outstripped demand. It just goes to show, you shouldn't make assumptions based on the label. I could drink this stuff all night, and that's what I call four dollars well spent.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Earlier this week, I wrote about the great ryes distilled at the Bernheim Distillery in the 1980s that were released by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers (KBD). There is another set of great Bernheims out there from a different era. In 1991, the old Bernheim Distillery was torn down by United Distillers and replaced by a new, high-tech distillery. At around the same time, United Distillers closed one of their other distilleries, Stitzel-Weller. They needed somewhere to make the wheated bourbon for the Stitzel-Weller brands like Old Fitzgerald and W.L. Weller so they started making it at the shiny, new Bernheim Distillery.
This era's Bernheim wheat whiskey is great stuff. Today, as Stitzel-Weller stocks run dry, many of the Van Winkle whiskeys have some of this Bernheim bourbon in the mix. But some of the best Bernheim wheated bourbon I've had is from a run of Willett whiskeys distilled just over twenty years ago, on April 6, 1993. Of course, since these are independently bottled and the producer is not disclosed, I can't guarantee they're Bernheim, but there aren't that many candidates for a wheated bourbon from that era.
These are huge, oaky bourbons with abvs in the high 60s. If you don't like wood, stay away, but if oak doesn't bother you, these are fantastic, like cask strength Van Winkles.
The 4/6/93 Bernheims are bottled under the Willett label (the date is on the back label). Shopper's Vineyard had a 17 year old version a few years ago, and Pacific Edge has distributed a number of them in California, including 16 and 17 year olds. It's possible that some are still on the shelves. If you find one, and you like that oaky wheater profile, definitely pick it up.
Monday, May 13, 2013
The old Bernheim Distillery in Louisville was not one of the more treasured distilleries of its time. Operated by the Schenley company after prohibition, it was the home to IW Harper and Old Charter bourbons until it was torn down in 1991 to make way for the new Bernheim distillery which is now Heaven Hill.
The Bernheim distillery also made rye, which is popularly referred to as Cream of Kentucky rye, though it was a very limited release and most of the rye they made went into various blends (Schenley was one of the largest whiskey companies of the time).
Midway through the first decade of the twenty-first century, a number of Kentucky Bourbon Distillers independently bottled ryes distilled in the mid-1980s started appearing on the scene and making waves. There were Willett bottles by Doug Phillips, the Velvet Glove and Iron Fist Willetts that are still available in DC, the Red Hook Rye bottled for LeNells in Brooklyn and Rathskeller Rye, bottled exclusively for the Seelbach Hotel in Louisville. These were huge, spicy, cask strength ryes. They are without a doubt, some of the best ryes I've tasted.
Eventually, it came out that many and possibly all of these whiskeys had their origination at the Old Bernheim distillery. What they were doing to the rye at Old Bernheim in the 1980s, I don't know, but it was something amazing.
Today, I'll taste the Rathskeller rye, but you can see my previous notes for LeNells Red Hook Rye Barrel 3 and Barrel 4, the Willett Iron Fist and one of the Doug Phillips Willett Ryes on the LA Whiskey Society site.
Rathskeller Rye, 23 years old, distilled 1983, 68% abv
This has a really concentrated nose of sandalwood, molasses and brown sugar. It starts spicy and goes sweet. On the palate it's thick and syrupy with sandalwood, plenty of wood and sweet wine.
The finish has mulled wine spices and cloves.
This is really amazing stuff. It has a lot in common with the old Pennsylvania ryes I've tried, particularly the sandalwood notes. Unfortunately, the days of these ryes are numbered. Other than the Seelbach, there are bottles of this at a few prominent DC bars, including the Acadiana, Jack Rose and Bourbon DC, though it will cost you from $60 to $70 per glass. Still, one of those bars is your best bet, since it's pretty much impossible to buy a bottle.
Thanks to Jason Beatty for the sample and photo.
Thursday, May 9, 2013
As my readers know, I'm a whiskey guy. I'm not really into wine. In fact, I'd never had a glass before last Thursday, but after I saw Sideways at a friend's house, I thought I would become a wine advocate, throttle a few wines and give you the definitive scores on the best ever wines.
Screaming Eagle Cabernet. Someone told me this was the very best wine in the world, and since I did not do any research for this piece, I am going to parrot that information here: This is the very best wine in the world. It is red and smells strangely grapey. Yes, I would say there are definitely grapes in the mashbill. On the palate, it tastes like a great bourbon but wineyer. Don't bother with the ice or Coke with this one...sip it neat! Oh, and this is a really rare wine that you will never get which enhances its quality by a huge amount. 100 million points!
Charles Shaw Merlot. Charles Shaw is a guy who I assume grows and then stomps on grapes for this wine. I think it's from France and imported by a guy named Trader Joe. The only downside is that it's a Merlot, and the guy on Sideways didn't like Merlot so I can't recommend it. Terrible stuff that tastes like sewage. 90 points.
Onus One. This slope shouldered bottle has a white label with some blue smudges on it and a signature. It's fine, but I've seen better labels, especially for the price. I didn't get around to tasting it. 99 points.
Manischewitz. My Rabbi told me to drink this. It's definitely the best white wine I've had, and I think it's cask strength! 94 points.
Now that I have made the definitive statement on wine, you, my devoted readers, are ordered to slavishly hunt these down until you have driven your local retailer to the point where they will consider suicide as possibly the only relief from your incessant harassment.
I hope you enjoyed my conquest of wine and wine's unconditional surrender. Next week there's a James Bond marathon on...get ready for my definitive statement on Vodka.