Blarney on the Long Trail

BlarneyontheLongTrail

Blarney: talk that aims to charm, pleasantly flatter, or persuade. AKA: full of baloney.

No Blarney on this blog!

Spur of the moment trips oft result in unexpected surprises. Add to that the opportunity to sample six new whiskies and pure happiness fills the air. As it happens, two of us decided to spend a couple of days in the Green Mountains of Vermont away from the relentless heat of the city. The clever lady that I am, upon confirming a reservation at the Inn at Long Trail in Killington, had me quickly scanning for local distilleries to peruse. To my benefit, Vermont has joined the explosion of entrepreneurs spiriting enthusiastically.

Those who know my book and perhaps check my blog on occasion recognize that my preferred manner of tasting whiskies is to sip and compare with (sometimes) known whiskies of a similar genre. This blog will continue that style. One more caveat, I am a single malt scotch drinker first and foremost….perhaps some of my views below are, therefore, askew.

Let the Vermont journey begin…final destination about three hours north of Boston.

Silo distillery

The first stop was to Silo Distillery located in the same Artisan Park in Windsor that houses the popular Harpoon Brewery. One could easily spend extra time visiting the other new shops in the park – cheeses, sauces, ice cream, with more shops to come soon. My focus was lasered in on Silo.

Unfortunately for me they were out of their whiskey product, but the assistant quickly expounded the virtues of their new whiskey that was being launched that evening. She graciously went to see if a spare bottle was hidden in the office. Sure enough she appeared with a bottle of Aisling as well as the distiller, Chris Magiollo. I was served a generous pour, which I sampled, then quietly tucked the remainder to bring home for a comparison tasting.

Silo Aisling: 40% alc wheat whiskey aged in charred Ash wood staves. The whiskey is fairly colorless with a overly sweet wheat nose, and a taste that is a combination of nutty cloves, syrupy sweet and a bit puzzling to me, perhaps a memory of the concord grape that grows wild in New England. I tried it again at home side by side with a bottle of Bernheim Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey, 45% alc. On the box it has a quote by F. Paul Pacult, “Bernheim offers a fine balance of wood, moderately sweet grain, and acity…finishes elegantly, warm.” The color is a beautiful golden and offers whiffs of caramel. Completely different from the Aisling and much more to my liking. Could be Aisling is best served in a cocktail? Silo is a vodka producer after all. I rate the Aisling 1+. The Bernheim somewhere in the 2+ range.

alpacas

Next stop, Quechee Gorge, home of the Antiques Mall, a Cabot cheese sampling store, a few alpacas, and Vermont Spirits.  I have purchased VT Spirits vodkas for number of years now along with their very likable No14 Bourbon (with a touch of maple syrup.) Their latest edition is called Provisional Light Whiskey. Its 45% alc grain whiskey, light golden in color and sweet spice to the taste. It is aged a minimum of nine months and quite appealing. Don’t know how it happened, but I bought a bottle, as well as another bottle of No14.

Provisional whiskey

At home, I paired the Provisional with another whiskey new to me, Appalachian Gap Distillery’s Ridgeline. This baby is 49% alc, rich in color, thick with legs like a big red wine or cognac. The taste reminds me of a cinnamon chewing gum with chocolate finish. The rye shines through much to my pleasure.

I rate the Provisional a 2+ and the Ridgeline a 2+. I really want to give the Ridgeline a 3- but can’t quite justify it.

VT Spirits distillery

Back to the trip. At days end we settled in at the Inn at Long Trail. This rustic Inn is near the Appalachian Trail and Vermont’s Long Trail and usually filled with hikers from around the globe. If by some chance I can be called a hiker by association, well then I’m all in! The Inn has a great Irish Pub, named McGraths, with a predominance of Irish whiskies, all of which I have tippled over the years. The bar’s only new bottle caught my eye: 2Gingers. This little known expression is produced at the Kilbeggan Distillery.  At 40% alc it is very light, very Irish. Is it cinnamon or organge peel on the nose? After sipping, it fades so fast that I cannot find the flavor. That is not a bad thing, just a simple taste that doesn’t go big at all.  I rate the 2Gingers a 2-.

2gingers

The chef at the pub makes all the desserts from scratch, so not to disappoint and to show appreciation for all the hard work in the kitchen, I ordered the double chocolate Irish bread pudding with Irish whiskey sauce. I ordered a Bushmills 21YO to accompany the pudding and fell completely into bliss.

irishchocolate breadpudding

The following day was spent visiting a friend, touring Montpelier, the state capital, and by chance the Fresh Tracks Farm Vineyard and Winery in Berlin. If we must, we must. Established in 2002, Fresh Tracks is a nice distraction along an already scenic back roads drive. There were twelve wines to taste and the three of us managed to share our way through them all.  Several were surprisingly tasty. A few bottles were purchased. But I digress from the mission of whiskey.

Freshtracksfarm  FreshTracksfarmmenu

We couldn’t make it to the Mad River Distillery but Chris from Silo highly recommended its whiskies, so I eagerly purchased a bottle of the rye whiskey. I waited to taste the Mad River until home. For my own mini tasting, I cracked open a bottle of Copper Fox Rye from Virginia and a bottle of Ryan and Wood Rye from Gloucester, MA.

Mad River Rye is 48% alc, ages for a minimum of six months, bold and rich in color, bold and means business in taste – peppery, spicy grains. All that I appreciate in a rye.

Copper Fox is 45% alc, “aged (14 mos) with a progressive series of new and used Applewood and oak chips, inside used bourbon barrels and finished in a second used bourbon barrels.” Copper Fox is lighter and has a finesse as opposed to the boldness of Mad River.

Last up was the Ryan and Wood Rye, which I have written about before. It is overall lighter, softer with some tang to it.

My rankings are based not only on tasting and comparing but also on my preference for big and bold flavors: Mad River a 3; Copper Fox a 2+; and the Ryan and Wood a 2.

FlowersatInnatLongTrail

Visiting Vermont in the summer is an entirely different experience from visiting during skiing season. It is a beautiful state anytime. Actually, the only time to be wary of Vermont is during its fifth season…known to the locals as mud season. Really the mud can rule!

I never cracked open the bottle of Stonecutter Spirits Heritage Cask Whiskey I bought. A bottle to play with on another day. Anticipation!

I raise a glass to summer sipping!

 

10-4-10 Series: Joshua Hatton, Single Cask Nation

This is the fourth installment of my 10-4-10 series of interviews with people who are swirling winningly in the wide world of whisk(e)y. Up this time is Joshua Hatton, the President and CEO of Jewish Whisky Company, Single Cask Nation.

Thanks again to Joshua for taking the time to provide detailed informative answers to my ten questions; and here goes….

  1. What was the impetus behind the creation of JWC/SCN?
  • From 2008 – 2010 I was actively looking to leave my current profession as a Director of Sales and Marketing for a manufacturer of Industrial Storage Supplies for something that was more near and dear to my heart: whisky. I spent a good amount of time looking for band ambassadorial work but for various reasons things never did work out for me as a brand ambassador.  As a lover of independent bottlers and all of the special, and given my entrepreneurial spirit, starting my own independent bottling company seemed the way to go. I brought the idea to my friend and fellow whisky blogger, Jason Johnstone-Yellin, and he loved it. I instantly asked him to be my VP.
  • Thankfully we have many friends and contacts within the industry that have supported us from the beginning to help get the company started. We went from bottling 3 casks in our first year to upwards of 18 casks in 2015. We hope to bottle around the same in 2016 – we shall see…

  1. Please explain how JWC/SCN membership works.
  • Currently there are three levels of membership: White Lite Level, White Level, Silver Level.
  • Regardless of your level of membership, purchasing your Single Cask Nation membership allows Nation members exclusive access to all our whisky releases.  This is the number one benefit as a member of Single Cask Nation.
  • Our $36 White-Lite membership level simply grants you access to our whiskies.
  • White Level, provides Nation members with a full 750ml “Welcome Bottle” of one of our finest Single Cask, Natural Cask Strength Whiskies available.  The choice of “Welcome Bottle” is completely up to the new Nation member. White Level members also receive two Single Cask Nation whisky posting glasses, a membership card, SCN or JWC t-shirt, and a copy of the latest Malt Whisky Yearbook by Ingvar Rhonde. Membership lasts one year and can be renewed for only $36.
  • Silver Levelmembership allows new members to choose 2 full 750ml “Welcome Bottles” (again, new members get to choose the welcome bottles). Silver Level members also receive 6 SCN nosing glasses, membership card, copy of the latest Malt Whisky Yearbook, an SCN embroidered work shirt, and no membership renewal fees until the 4th year of membership.
  • Unlike a wine-of-the-month club, we will not ship members any whisky they have not ordered or do not want.  As a member of Single Cask Nation, you will have complete control of your purchases and choice of your “Welcome Bottle(s).”
SCNworkshirt
Full disclosure…yes, I have my work shirt!

 

  1. Did you have any “this is not going to work” moments that you would like to share?
  • As with any new business, there have been rocky moments but we are continually amazed that we run this fantastic business. No, we always knew this was the right thing to be doing!
  1. Where do you see JWC in five years?
  • Wow – interesting question. We do have a 5 year plan as well as a 10 year plan. However, much of it is very hush-hush. All I can say is “watch this space.”
  1. Care to share what bottles you will be launching this upcoming year?
  • We’re very excited about the 28yo Bunnahabhain & 10yo Loch Lomond we just bottled. That will arrive to the US in a couple of months. We *just* released a 2yo Westland single malt that was chosen by us and 20 SCN members at the distillery. Also in the pipeline are the following: 8yo Craigellachie (sherry matured), 10yo American Light Whiskey (two different casks), Glen Moray Madeira Cask (6 years bourbon matured, 6 years Madeira matured). We’ve got a few other casks up our sleeves…
  1. What have you learned about the world of whisky that has surprised you?
  • The stark differences between independent bottling as it’s done in Scotland as compared to how it’s done in the US. In Scotland, and our model follows suit, on the label is the bottler’s name and the name of the distillery where the whisky was produced. Here in the US, it’s more common to create a brand around whiskey produced at this distillery or that (usually MGP). As a result, our ability to source American spirits *and* put the distillery name on the label is limited. That said, we have bottled whiskey (both rye and light whiskey) from the Midwest Grain Products distillery (MGP) and put their name on the label. To our knowledge, we’re the first and only bottler to do this.

MGPSCN

  1. Do you have particular SCN favorites? They are…
  • While I am proud of all our bottlings, right up there would be the 6yo Laphroaig we bottled and the 2yo heavily peated, sherry cask matured Westland. That said, our 18yo Glen Elgin, 12yo Glen Moray and 13yo Arran are nothing to shake a stick at. I find these whiskies in my glass quite often (well, the ones we still have stock on that is).

GlenElginSCN

  1. Do you collect any whiskies from around the world?
  • I’m a terrible collector in that I open nearly every bottle I own.  I do have some bottles that I have duplicates of so I don’t mind opening only one of them and I do have some that I’ll open *at the right time*
  • With regards to whiskies from around the world — before Jim Murray gave his “Whisky of the Year” award to the Yamazaki sherry cask, I had quite a few Japanese whiskies in my collection. Karuizawa, Chichibu, Hanyu, Yamazaki, Chita, Hakushu, Yoichi… you name it. Whiskies from these various distilleries are now untouchable and that saddens me greatly.

Joshua

  1. We have met at the Saratoga Whisky Obsession Festival several times.  Tell us more about your Whisky Jewbilee events.
  • Whisky Jewbilee is a festival we started in 2012 and is now in three cities. We started in NYC but have expanded to Chicago and Seattle. In short, Whisky Jewbilee is a festival for whisky geeks by whisky geeks.
  • We cap the attendance for all of our events to ensure that attendees can comfortably move around and have a chance to talk with the exhibitors behind the table. What’s more is we have a no models policy. Everyone behind a table at Whisky Jewbilee must be distillery or brand direct and be able to talk in depth about their brands.
  • At any given Whisky Jewbilee event, attendees can expect 40 exhibitor tables which will have between 80-100 brands, and a total of 200-300 different whiskies.
  • There is no VIP hour, everyone is treated as VIP and we ask our exhibitors to bring in special bottles to pour for those that are truly interested in their brands (not just asking for the oldest/most expensive stuff).
  • We are the only American whisky festival that features a special festival bottling to celebrate the event. So far we’ve worked with Heaven Hill, High West, Westland Distillery, MGP, and Wild Turkey for our festival bottlings. On Sept 1st we will have our 2nd annual Whisky Jewbilee Chicago event and our partner for that festival bottling will be Chicago’s Koval distillery. We will be bottling one of their oldest single cask bourbons for that event.
  • All of the food served at Whisky Jewbilee event is kosher so that all can comfortably enjoy the event. While this is the “Jewbilee,” the event is focused on Whisk(e)y first and foremost. *All lovers and appreciators of brown spirits are welcome*

And do you have a fun or unusual story or experience when speaking with attendees at any festivals that you have participated?

 

  • Two stories for you:

o    A few weeks prior to Whisky Jewbilee NYC 2016, I found out that a friend of mine from NYC was good friends with my favorite comic book writer (Garth Ennis, writer of Judge Dredd, Hellblazer, Punisher, and among many other things, Preacher which is now a TV show on AMC) and that that writer was also a fan of brown spirits. I asked Garth to be my guest at Whisky Jewbilee and he graciously accepted the invitation. Having a chance to share whisky and pints with him made the 6 months of planning for our event that much more meaningful.

o    This next story is a heart touching one (for me). One of our table runners needed me to talk to an attendee of our most recent NYC event. At first, I thought something may have gone wrong and I wanted to make sure all was fine. I went to meet the table runner and the gentleman that needed to speak with me. The gentleman pulled me to the side and said to me, quietly, in my ear, “you’re treating the Jewish people with respect.”

o    Now, we do our very best to make sure that ALL are welcome. Jew, Gentile, men, women; all are welcome. But there is no other event like ours that makes sure kosher-keeping Jews are fully taken care of. I guess this gentleman saw and felt what we were doing with the event and it touched him enough that he had to tell me how much he appreciated our hard work. That made me feel great.

  1. Are there authors, bloggers, tweeters that you recommend readers of this site follow?

First and foremost, I highly suggest everyone stay up-to-date with Malt Whisky Yearbook. It is THE source for yearly updates on all things malt whisky related. I’ve always been a fan of Dave Broom as a whisky writer. My go-to blogs tend to be: whiskyfun.com and whiskynotes.be. maltimpostor.com is amazingly good fun though you may need to bring a dictionary and some sort of pop culture guide that spans from 623 BCE to today to fully grasp what they’re doing.

As a proud member of SCN, I can attest to the high quality whisky members and the general public will find through this young and growing independent bottler. Again, thank you to Joshua for participating in my 10-4-10 series.

Here are additional ways to check out JWC/SCN:

JWC Twitter: @jewishwhiskyco     SCN Twitter: @monocaskism

I raise a glass to local entrepreneurs bringing us more great whisky!