I would like to thank you, the reader, for your constant visits to this site. I’m amazed at the new comments on older posts still showing up. Despite my hiatus from blogging, you’ve kept coming back and giving me a reason to keep the blog and write. So for all you readers out there, thanks and stay tuned.
I had the opportunity recently to speak with the U.S. Brand Ambassador for The Glenlivet. Here’s the story.
Recently The Glenlivet Distillery generously delivered two bottles of their fine single malt whisky to sample and write about the experience. There is no better way to enjoy a fine drink such as The Glenlivet than with a friend. The opportunity presented itself, and during the course of the evening, a good friend shared in the event.
As mentioned in an earlier article, Getting to know Glenlivet, the distillery has a long a rich history. This history is echoed in their product, from the packaging to the whisky itself.
The Glenlivet 12 arrived in a lightly gold-colored box. Inside the box a package wrapped in similar colored paper revealed the bottle itself. The presentation is impressive.
Upon opening the corked bottle, a small amount of whisky was poured into a clear, clean glass. Aromas of vanilla, fresh grains and flowers play about the nose. The color reflected the packaging and reminded this author of bright morning sunlight. The taste was clean, honey-like with a hint of oak and a citrus sweet finish. Refreshing would be one way to describe it.
Upon opening the bottle, again, pouring a small amount of the whisky into a new glass, aromas of oak and dark fruits. The color was that of antique gold, certainly darker than the 12 year from the additional time in the oak casks, and a slight burgundy hue. Upon first taste, the whisky is smooth and sweet, with great mouth feel. The sweetness gives way to bolder flavors of spice, oak, and strong, hearty fruit. The taste lingers in the mouth with notes of smoke and oak.
Since this tasting, The Glenlivet has afforded the author to speak with Ricky Crawford, it’s U.S. Brand Ambassador. A concluding article will feature a summary of that conversation, as well as some of Ricky’s insights into the brand he proudly represents.
Both The Glenlivet 12 and 18 can be found in local liquor stores, such as Hokus Pokus on Jackson Street Extension. The Glenlivet 12 can be found at several area supermarket liquor and wine beverage sections around town.
In a previous article on blended Scotch whisky, the differences between blended scotch and single malt scotch were touched upon. Preceding reviews of the 12 year and the 18 year single malts provided by The Glenlivet and a summary of a conversation with Ricky Crawford, The Glenlivet U.S. Brand Ambassador, it is appropriate to give a short history of the distillery.
The Glenlivet Distillery is located in the Speyside region of Scotland. During the early 1800’s, the manufacture of whisky was already taking place in illicit stills in the area. This harsh environment made detection almost impossible and highly improbable. However, these whiskies would make their way into the hands of noblemen and eventually into the hand of King George IV in 1822. A year later, whisky manufacture was made legal.
It didn’t take long before a native of the area, George Smith, who had already been making whisky there, established The Glenlivet Distillery. The year was 1824. This move made him many enemies among his whisky-making neighbors, who threatened to burn his distillery down, as well as to deprive him of his life. While many whiskies were made in the area, only one survived and retained the name The Glenlivet.
The quality of the barley that was used to make the whisky, along with the single water source coming from Josie’s Well nearby hasn’t changed since 1824. So it is no surprise that The Glenlivet quickly became the No. 1 selling Single-Malt whisky in America following Prohibition.
Relax, Mom. What I meant to say was I had Ron de Jeremy RUM. An interesting play on words, considering ron is Spanish for rum. A clever name for the rum branded with the former special education teacher turned adult film star and multi-faceted entertainer, Ron Jeremy. Ron isn’t the first celebrity to endorse a brand of spirit, thinking immediately to Dan Aykroyd’s Crystal Head Vodka. While I can’t speak for Dan’s product, I can say that a celebrity endorsement can make or break a product. However, Ron “the Hedgehog” Jeremy seems to have the gift for getting those endorsements and having them pay off.
I have to admit I have a cynical attitude towards celebrity-endorsed products. By that I mean, their particular endorsement of a product does not automatically make me reach for my wallet. However, I am a fan of certain musicians, actors, etc….and if celebrity endorsements didn’t mean anything to people like me, the advertising agencies would have a their work cut out for them. I said all of that to say this….it’s not THE factor to get me to buy anything.
Ron de Jeremy is marketed as The adult rum. I am not sure what that means, but the bottom line for me as a spirits enthusiast and amateur cocktailian, is taste. Imagine receiving a sample of Ron Jeremy…uh, I mean Ron de Jeremy for your opinion. Admit it…it brings either a smile to your face or something’s wrong with you. Anybody who has seen an adult film in the last twenty years or so has probably seen Ron’s work. If not, you know the name. What I want to know is the RUM.
A Panamanian blend of seven-year-old rums by Cuban Master Distiller Francisco “Don Pancho” Fernandez, the color of Ron de Jeremy is deep amber. The aroma is very rich and strong, containing notes of vanilla, cane sugar and spice. The taste…very rich and long lasting, with a smooth, slightly spicy finish. I feel this rum would stand up well with fruit and cream-based drinks, coconut, etc. It would also be a great addition to cola, or simply sipped neat or with ice. Could you imagine a rum from Ron Jeremy being anything else?
SCOTLAND. Single Malt. Blended Scotch? For many, your first Scotch Whisky experience was with a blend. It may or may not have been a good one. In my case, it was the latter. For a long time I preferred single malt—because it was smoother. That statement is true and it is also false. The world of single malt Scotch Whisky is as diverse as the many distilleries that lie across Scotland itself. More and more people year after year continue to “get into” Scotch. Well, if you are like me and enjoy your Single Malt Scotch, then you better develop an appreciation for the blended variety. By appreciation, I mean, the history of Scotch whisky and of course, the wide range of product available.
Some of you geniuses out there are probably saying to yourselves that “blended equals poor quality”. Perhaps that it based on your first sip of Scotch whisky one of your pals snuck out of their parents’ liquor cabinet in high school, or you managed to scam from some unscrupulous night clerk at an out-of-the-way gas station. Well, chances are you probably knew nothing about what you were drinking nor did you drink it for the simple pleasure of enjoying a good dram.
Guys and gals those days are gone. The day has come when you choose to become gentlemen and ladies and drink for pleasure…not just “the buzz”. Whether or not you become a connoisseur of fine spirits is now totally up to you. In this age of information, there’s no need to walk up to a bar or go to your liquor store and get “pwned” or labeled “noob”. Learn something.
As someone whose major influence in drinking Scotch whisky has been with Single-Malt, particularly Glenfiddich, The Glenlivet, and Laphroaig, I admit that at first, I was tempted to go into this with some prejudice. I remember my first taste of Scotch, which incidentally was Cutty Sark, and whinced. Pardon me saying so, Cutty Sark fans, but keep in mind I didn’t know what the hell I was drinking and was tricked into taking a snort by a devious cousin of mine. Then my mind drifted to my first purchase of Scotch, which was Chivas 12 yr. I was then introduced to Glenlivet, which reinforced the aforementioned predjudice.
I had to take a moment to back out of my near-sighted view of blended scotch, and remember a few things. Scotland had at one time, many more distilleries than it does at present. Many of those distilleries closed because they could not get their product, no doubt, fine Single-Malt whiskies to market. To save themselves and the art of making their fine spirits, the wiser distilleries began selling their products, exporting a lot of product specifically for blending. Just think, a distillery starts up, makes a run, and has to by law age it’s product three years to be considered Scotch whisky. In the meantime, it’s making additional runs, to follow up once the previous run is bottled as is or sold to other distilleries for blending. It’s a matter of simple economics….you have to do what you have to do to survive. Even though many of the distilleries in Scotland still produce the single-malt variety, their bread and butter, so to speak, is product sold for blending.
A master blender would probably slap me in the face, or at least threaten to, by oversimplifying his art. Scotch whisky is aged in used bourbon barrels, which by law are made from American white oak and then charred on the inside. The charring will impart flavor and color that is preferable in the making of bourbon. Scotch whisky may also be aged in casks made of European oak, that have been seasoned with sherry or used for the aging of sherry. These are called Sherry butts. Bottom line is that each barrel lends a specific and unique set of characteristics to a given spirit. Taking into account the unique recipes for the right amount of malted barley and other grains, the multiple configurations of barrels in which they are aged, the length of time in which they are aged, the strength (ABV) of the spirit, and the nose of the master blender and you have hundreds of possibilities of how the resulting blend will taste. Today, blended Scotch whisky accounts for approximately 90 percent or more of Scotch whisky exported and sold in the world.
Any aged spirit, whether it be Scotch, Canadian, Bourbon, Tennessee Whiskey, Japanese Malt Whiskey, etc., is the result of a lot of different factors…and the Master Blender has his work cut out for him. Even then, if the product is wonderful, once it leaves the distillery, is in the hands of marketeers, promoters, and ultimately in the hands of a fickle consumer.
So, keeping my wikipedia-like understanding of blended whiskies in mind, I set out to taste and evaluate these two fine blends of Scotch Whisky.
This was the first whisky to sample. The color is deep amber color with a nice floral nose with hints of peat and wood. I could taste the faint hints of peat and oak in this one, gentle at first. Toffee and chocolate, then a punch of smoky oak at the end, but not harsh. The finish was warm and long, a little peppery.
Color was Light Amber. Deceivingly looks in the glass to be a lightly-flavored whisky. The taste was sweet, very smooth, with a hint of peat. Oak aroma slighter on this one, and a fine finish that lingered with diminished heat and left my mouth with a hint of sweetness.
My verdict…well, this is a tough one for me. Both are exceptional. Both have endearing qualities that would find a place in any Scotch lover’s heart. Comparing the two, you have to look at what they have in common. Both hail from Speyside…so that is where they are common. Both are masterfully blended from young and old whiskies. Would I purchase one over the other? Probably, as far as budget goes, the Chivas 18 year is less than half the going price for the Blue Label. Which, makes it great to have in your liquor cabinet to freely share with guests, but is not the best choice for mixing into cocktails. The Blue Label should be reserved for someone very special….it’s hard to find where I live, while the Chivas is more readily available.
A draw, then, is my best conclusion at this point. It depends on you, the consumer and what you like. As always, these fine products are in your hands.
I recently came across this post from Serious Eats for a Balsamic Strawberry Smash cocktail. At first, putting vinegar in my cocktail didn’t seem that appealing. My childhood memory of smelling it whilst dyeing eggs at Easter time quickly flashed before me. In recent months, however, I’ve had the delight of using it in a nice vinaigrette dressing on a spinach and strawberry salad. So why not?
I refer you back to Serious Eats for the exact recipe, but this cocktail is surprisingly easy to make. Most of your time will be spent making the strawberry syrup. If any of you have experience making simple syrup at home, or better yet, your own real pomegranate grenadine, then you will find what I think is an easier way of doing things.
Instead of waiting days for the strawberries to lend their flavor to the syrup, I altered the process by adding a little water to my strawberries, lemon peel and granulated sugar. I felt it was necessary because after two hours, they had not lent any of their juice to the pot. I applied heat as directed and I came out with a thinner, albeit still on the rich side, strawberry simple syrup. I might add that you may wish to make a bit more of this syrup. Once you taste this cocktail, you will be having another.
I muddled four large, plump strawberries with a thin slice of lemon. Adding my strawberry syrup (made the night before) to the fruit along with the balsamic vinegar and bourbon to a cocktail shaker, I was ready to shake the daylights out of this one. I mean, you really have to shake a cocktail like this. As I mentioned before, my strawberry syrup came out pretty thick…almost like honey or agave nectar, if that will give you a frame of reference.
After shaking, I poured the drink into a pre-chilled cocktail glass using my cocktail strainer and fine mesh strainer, which I find is apperopos to use on shaken cocktails presented this way as to catch the shards of ice. However, you will need it for the simple reason, you don’t want fruit pulp in this cocktail, much less those little seeds from the strawberry. I found it necessary to use my bar spoon to keep the strainer clear and aid in the filtering of drink.
All of this work was definitely worth the effort. The balsamic seemed to accentuate the strawberry flavor and helped balance out the cocktail. I used Buffalo Trace bourbon on this one, because it has worked well in sweet drinks in the past. I like sweet drinks, but not my favorite. This cocktail seems to get the balance right, pleasing those that prefer sweet over strong flavors and vice versa.
I’ll definitely add this one to my favorites list to make when having company over!