Sep 28, 2013

Blend Project #8 The Famous Grouse...

The Famous Grouse (40.0%): It's been quite a while since I reviewed a whisky for the blend project. It is a lovely Saturday evening here in Cambridge and I have Edrington Group's work horse Famous Grouse in front of me. It's the best selling whisky in Scotland and contains malts from The Macallan, Highland Park and The Glenrothes as well as grain whiskies from North British and Cambus distilleries. A classic affordable blend for about $25 which kept me company for long years in many pubs across the world and mostly in UK. It has been always one of my favorites in its class and it will be fun to spend some time with it again tonight. I feel like hosting an old friend... Color: Medium amber, caramel coloring at its best. Nose: First impression is way more on the grainy side than I remember. Young grain whisky aromas hit bad right away but fade out quick. After airing it just a little butter toffee candy, thin honey and very subtle peat aromas evolve. It's getting even better and calmer in time: sweet malt, oatmeal raisin cookie dough, warm brioche, zante currants and cooked prunes. Palate: Chewy and viscous. Roasted pecans, toffee, hazelnut praline, malt with sweet eggy notes: custard and Mexican flan with toasted coconuts. Finish: Pretty short like expected but not frustrating. Hint of spice: maybe a little white pepper, whiff of smoke and roasted hazelnuts. Overall: Absolutely nothing wrong with this blend but nothing to be super excited for either. It sure doesn't have anything edgy on its palate but isn't it the point? It is designed to be a crowd pleaser and it is. For me it tastes like the perfect accompanist to a malty and bold British ale. Exactly like I remembered. Oh, sweet London memories...

Sep 21, 2013

Whisky Live Boston 2013 (take two)...

It's getting pretty close... Whisky Live Boston is only ten days away folks... I am pretty excited to be honest. The evening of October 2nd this one of a kind event will take place at the Park Plaza Castle, 130 Columbus Ave., from 6.30PM until 10PM (for VIP ticket holders the event starts at 5PM). It will be a great evening to get together with fellow bloggers, whisky enthusiasts, master distillers, taste over 150 expressions and geek out about whisky all night long.

For any reason if you still didn't buy your tickets here is your chance to get a 20% discount if you use the special code "Boston" (not case sensitive). No excuses after this one I hope... See you all there..! Full price regular tickets are $119 and VIP tickets are $149. I urge you to rush they might be selling out as we speak... For more information please visit

Sep 17, 2013

five more books to booze with in 2013...

It was right after the new years when I posted five books to booze with in 2013. It's been more than nine months since then and I thought maybe it's time for a follow up... Here are another five books about booze I enjoyed reading this spring and summer.

"The Drunken Botanist"
by Amy Stewart

This book didn't see the shelf yet... I don't even remember how many times I grabbed it to check a cocktail recipe, to look for the ingredients of a liqueur or just simply to flip between its pages to find an article to read. It lives on my coffee table all the time where I can reach easily with two other great reference books: Gavin D. Smith and Graeme Wallace's "Discovering Scotland's Distilleries" and Ingvar Ronde's "Malt Whisky Yearbook 2013". The Drunken Botanist explores hundreds of different ways of using leaves, herbs, trees, flowers, vegetables and fruits in drinks, methods to extract, ferment and blend them, history and stories behind the process with pages of drink recipes, gardening tips and scientific explanations. It has a very smartly thought layout, the index at the end works great and the contents list up front also makes sense. You basically never get lost and it takes only a few seconds to find what you are looking for. On the other hand its clean but stylish design makes it very enjoyable to read it like a hip contemporary magazine. And most importantly all the sections are very well written. I learned a great deal of new stuff and still referring it almost daily. A must have book for everybody who is into different kinds of alcoholic drinks and mixing.

"Stillhouse Stories, Tunroom Tales"
by Gavin D. Smith

Gavin is one of my favorite whisky writers of our era. I immensely enjoyed his earlier books and articles he wrote for different publications. This book is more like a sequel to his book The Whisky Men. He interviewed 12 names who spent their entire life in Scotch whisky industry. 12 unique characters with interesting stories from different eras and generations all occupied different roles and positions: A maltman from The Isle of Skye, a stillman from Orkney Islands, a cooper from Perth and a master blender from Glasgow and more. What I really liked is the easygoing style of Gavin letting the interviewees to talk freely and tell their memories without any restrictive or leading questions. There are no interceptions or whatsoever I can remember disturbing the nature of conversations. The whole book is more like listening to those amazing personalities in a pub in Highlands over a few drams next to the fireplace when it's pouring outside... It's an old school storytelling style without any limitations of time and print space. Or it made me feel that way... Even the look of the book is like it is printed in early 20. century. I breezed through the pages in a few days and really wished we had 12 more stories to follow. Heart warming, simple, naive and plain style with quite a lot of information about the near past of Scotch whisky distilleries, blending houses and independent bottlers. I cannot imagine any whisky geek who wouldn't enjoy this book big time.

"Geuze & Kriek"
The Secret of Lambic
by Jef Van den Steen

I love sour Flemish ales and when I first saw this book I knew that I had to have it. So far I know it is the only publication out there solely about Lambic beers. First of all I have to say the book looks absolutely gorgeous. Designed like an artist monograph from its paper quality to its amazing photographs and layout. It has an absolute charming appeal. The introduction section delivers all the information needed to understand the very different nature of instantaneous fermentation, history of Lambic beers, blending Geuze and producing Kriek. After the introduction Jef Van den Steen visits every Lambic brewery and Geuze blending house, interviews brewers and blenders and focus on differences of their brewing techniques and gives us very detailed notes about their product line. Actually this is the book inspired me to visit Leuven, Beersel and Halle and Zenne Valley this summer. It was an amazing journey where I visited two breweries featured in the book and tasted dozens of different expressions from many different brewers and blenders from the same geography. The notes I took when I read the book back in last spring were a big help. If you are drawn to Belgian beer you will adore this book. Guaranteed...

The Spirit of Turkey
by Erdir Zat

Finally a great book about my country Turkey's national spirit Rakı I can recommend to everybody... Kudos to Erdir Zat, great work..! It is filled with all kinds of know-how about Rakı including the production techniques, its history, the food culture shaped around it and even the music to listen to when sipping. It gives a great picture of how a drink can create its own entire culture in a society and how it can be loved so much by a nation. The book is edited with very well selected archival photographs, quick recipes of mezes (special tapas to accompany rakı) and interviews with poets, singers, actors and artists identified with it. Zat also listed a very detailed and impressive bibliography for his readers who might be interested to reach more information. Literally every time I flip the pages the book makes me homesick. If you already read my post about Rakı a few weeks ago and liked it getting a copy of this book might be fun. It is originally written in Turkish and then translated in English and German with the identical layout and print. It can be purchased from Amazon.

"How to Love Wine"
A Memoir and Manifesto
by Eric Asimov

Eric Asimov is the chief wine critic for the New York Times and a truly wine and food lover. I started to follow his notes after I moved to New York and always appreciated his casual approach to a delicate topic which is usually identified with snobbery, wealth and arrogance. His book How to Love Wine is not a book which will teach you rules about how to taste wine, which wine to buy, what food to choose with different varieties of wine or will not lecture you with pages long of information about terroir, different grapes, fermentation techniques, etc. It is a simple memoir and his very personal intentions and motives about wine and wine tasting. It is an honest, smart and and intelligent book. A great introduction to wine enthusiasts who wants to broaden their interest one step wider and a great weekend read for any wine lover with a couple bottles of their favorite wine.

Sep 12, 2013

Whisky Live Boston 2013...

And Whisky Live is back to Boston... Cannot believe that it's been almost a year since I moved to Boston area. The first Whisky Live Boston happened literally two days after I moved here and it was the best welcome party ever. We had a blast together that night with Joshua Hatton and Jason Johnstone-Yellin from Single Cask Nation, Thom Mitchell from WhiskyRI and three Malt Impostor(s) John, Stephen and Bill... This year it looks like it will be even better.

Malt Impostor(s) and Tire-Bouchon at Whisky Live Boston 2012...
courtesy of The Malt Impostor
Whisky Magazine's foremost tasting event will feature again a long array of Scotch, American and World whiskies. October 2nd, on Wednesday Bostonian whisky enthusiasts will come together to sample over 150 whiskies, meet master distillers, brand ambassadors and industry experts. This year’s event also includes the Boston debut of the Indie Spirits Expo, a show-within-a-show featuring small spirits entrepreneurs. Whisky Live tickets allow guests to visit the Indie Spirits Pavilion and sample gin, mezcal, vodka, liqueurs, and more from international craft producers and boutique importers.

In the press release Rob Allanson, the England-based editor of Whisky Magazine says: “Whisky Live has been a tremendous success around the world since it started in 2000 in Tokyo and London. We’re excited to expand our reach in America by bringing the event to Boston this fall. Of all the major cities in America, we’ve had our eye on Boston most closely over the past few years. Not only is it home to historic bars and pubs, but the increased number of whisky bars and the growth of sales of premium bourbons in the region makes us certain that Boston is a whisky-lover’s town.”

The event takes place October 2nd, Wednesday at the Park Plaza Castle, 130 Columbus Ave., from 6.30PM until 10PM. Tickets are $119. VIP tickets are $149. The event starts for VIP ticket holders at 5PM. For tickets hurry up and visit They might sell it out pretty early this year. I will post the schedule for masterclasses as soon as they announce... Keep tuned...

Sep 9, 2013

Whisky Jewbilee(s)' 2013...

Just double-checking if you guys already purchased your tickets for the hippest whisk(e)y event(s) of the year or not: the Whisky Jewbilee(s)..! The genius minds of Single Cask Nation prepared two amazing events next month on Wednesday the 9th in Mount Kisco, NY and on Thursday the 10th in New York, NY for all the whisk(e)y geeks.

Visit their website for more information and to check their exhibitors and their pour list. Be careful though because there is a good possibility you will be drooling on your keyboard... Now when you purchase your ticket do not forget to use the special "tire-bouchon" discount code "TB13".

Oh, there is also a special Jewbilee bottling: A single barrel bourbon from Heaven Hill! It is a 15 year old Kentucky Straight Bourbon from a high-rye mash bill, bottled at 122.6 proof (61.3% abv). The cask yielded less than 100 bottles and will be priced at $110 per bottle. To be able to purchase one you have to sign up at the Jewish Whisky Company table at one of the events. First come, first served folks..!

Sep 7, 2013

Metaxa 7 Stars...

Metaxa 7 Stars (40%): Without a doubt Metaxa is the most famous spirit originated from Greece after Ouzo. The brand is created at the end of the 19th century by a Greek merchant named Spyros Metaxa. My first memories about the brand is from my childhood watching my father occasionally taking that gorgeous bottle from his cabinet to sip with my aunt after family dinners. He was born and raised in Greece after all, so I guess it was in his genes. Contrary to popular belief standard expressions of Metaxa are not brandies but liqueurs. The process starts with dry white wines from different regions of Greece made both from fresh grapes and raisins. They are distilled and aged in French Limousin oak barrels for a period of time. Then a small amount of rich, sweet muscat wines sourced from Samos and Lemnos islands are blended with the aged spirits and finally a secret mix of herbs and floral extracts containing rose petals is added. This unique process makes Metaxa a liqueur rather than a brandy. The brand has a wide range of products: 3 stars, 5 stars, 7 stars, 12 stars (stars refer to the age of the youngest distillate in the vat) and a Reserve Collection with Metaxa Private Reserve (30 yo) and Aen Metaxa. Aen Metaxa contains aged spirit sourced from their Cask Number 1 also known as "Spyros Cask" which according to their press release holds some brandy older that 80 years old. Now isn't it a bottle to secure a firm place in anybody's bucket list? I am adding it right now to mine... Color: Dark amber with visible thin legs. The labels says that it contains caramel coloring though. Nose: Peach compote, candied pecans and honey raisin bread. Very sweet and perfumy. Rich milk chocolate bars, Tokaji wine, golden raisins, rose water, quince jam and cloves. Palate: Very oily mouthfeel. Sweet quinine liqueur, elderflowers, rose jam and cooked dried apricots. Chestnut honey, ripe black mission figs and cinnamon dusting. Finish: Long with sweet spices and baklava syrup. Overall: A little too sweet but gentle and one of its kind. It has such a unique flavor profile, unlike anything else. As soon as I sip it I feel the calm and cool Mediterranean breeze at a summer night. Imagine: You had your amazing Greek dinner, took a short walk along the harbor of the small Greek island and sat down at a cafe right next to the water. All you want to do is to order your Greek coffee without sugar, a glass of Metaxa and watch the moon sinking into the sea. There is no better pairing I know... Greek coffee and Metaxa are meant to be together. I can imagine that it might taste a little off to regular brandy and whisky drinkers for the first time but like I said before Metaxa is not a spirit you can compare it with anything else. It has its own character in a beautiful way.

Sep 2, 2013

Cadenhead's Authentic Collection Tobermory 15yo...

Cadenhead's Authentic Collection Tobermory 15yo (53.7%): A recent Cadenhead's bottling from Tobermory Distillery of Isle of Mull. It is distilled in 1996 and bottled in April 2012 which makes it 15 years old. Aged in an ex-bourbon hogshead that yielded 246 bottles bottled at cask strength. Many thanks to Teresa Hartmann choosing this expression for me and carrying it all the way from Edinburgh to Cambridge, MA. Color: Very pale hay color. That Hogshead must have been a second fill. Nose: Pretty sour and surprisingly sulphury if you think that the whisky haven't spend any time in a sherry cask... Not at a level of being repulsive (at least not for me) but it has definitely a good amount of spoilt milk, fresh camembert cheese and thousand year old egg aromas. Actually I remember getting these aromas from other Tobermory bottlings and from some European oak sherry cask finished Bruichladdich expressions before as well. A few drops of water open it up. I can nose now fruits like Medlar and persimmon fruit but the sourness is still there. Geuze beer, pickled garlic cloves, grandma's attic and smell of thick warm wool sweaters when you take them out of the closet at the end of summer. Palate: Salty and sweet at the same time like sea salt caramels. I do get some nutty notes simultaneously: roasted almonds and macadamia nuts. With water and time sweet notes takes over salty ones. Marzipan, almond croissants, Jordan almonds and marshmallows. I don't want to channel Jim Murray here but it is pretty sulphury. Finish: Long with a steady fade out. Sweet butter with subtle pepperiness. Overall: It would be a great typical example for an ex-bourbon cask aged non-peated islands whisky if the sulphur content wasn't taking over the joy. Nonetheless I have a feeling that I can develop a friendship with this bottle this winter if I can find a way to deal with these sulphury notes. We will try our best... Thanks again to Teresa Hartmann and Mark Davidson from Cadenhead's Edinburgh for helping her to choose this bottle for me.