The spirit of discovery is alive and well here at Cereal Alchemist. A lot of behind the scenes footwork goes into exploring new frontiers and distilled spirits to write about, very few of which will ever grace the Drink page for a review or the Blog page for an honorable mention. Simply put: not everyone can be a winner in these boomin' times, and there are plenty of really good things going on in the spirit world that you'd rather hear about first. Ordinary people with extraordinary dreams are making them happen.
This edition of Friday's Finest goes to the movers and shakers in the distilled spirits arena, the ones who know the great strivings and are coming out on top. I'm not going to tell you which bottles to buy from these people, because I'd buy anything they put out there. These are the select few players who you just can't go wrong with when it comes to quality, taste, and craftsmanship. They are out of this world.
Sure, Chip Tate can come across as a pretentious know-it-all, but my experience is that many whisky astronauts suffer from a deplorable excess of personality. What's more, you can't deny that Balcones' whiskies are generating more excitement than a meteor fly-by at the moment. I've tasted it all, and it's the best rocket fuel this side of Cape Canaveral.
I just got a chance to tour this place, nominally the "world's highest distillery." It's not exactly exoatmospheric, but you're going to have a hard time with the Colorado altitude all the same. Understanding the effect this would have upon their angel's share, the whisky's makers mature the spirit in a carefully climate-controlled warehouse on site. I understand that Jordan has a single malt in the pipeline that's been maturing for a couple years now. In the meantime, I'll just get that Rocky Mountain high from their bourbon, vodka, and bitters. Too infinity, and beyond!
Triticale is not a moon, it's a space station. If you're thinking that a rye/wheat hybrid grain would produce a whisky with characteristics of rye and wheat... you'd be absolutely correct. It's delicious. It's unique. Not your cup of Irish tea? Scoot around this binary system for a taste of their port-matured wheat whisky. Or their cask strength bourbon. Or hell, anything you'd like. Where Dry Fly's going, you don't need roads.
Nothing this company makes is bad. NOTHING. And all of it is pretty great. Start with their core expression ("the original") then move out from there. It's a whole new solar system of delicious Scotch whiskey.
I'm pretty sure some Ardbeg Day release will flop, someday. Shoot, even our own sun will eventually expire and collapse into tiny neutronism. Until that day, I expect this will continue to be my Islay of choice.
Don't worry about how to pronounce it. Just know that they're the most progressive, inventive Scotch distillers in the galaxy. With a pipeline that includes "cuvee" (PX is my favorite, but they're all great), the world's peatiest whisky (Octomore), and the mysterious Black Art series, you'll have to watch how quickly you imbibe or you're going to be explaining a lot to your EMH.
Products from this Campbeltown distillery can go by any number of illicit names: Springbank, Longrow, Hazelburn, just to name a few. Hard to find much of their stuff stateside, but if you've got Jango Fett on speed dial I'm sure you can work something out.
El Dorado is insane, just totally insane delicious rum. Insane, because they apparently have boatloads of mature stock sitting around and are selling it below exorbitant prices. It's a mad house! A mad house!
Avion: the Betazoids of the United Federation of Agave Roasters. By that I mean that it's almost as if they can read your mind and totally get you what you want out of a tequila. By that I mean that they would make a frightening addition to the collective. 7 of 9? More like 10 out of 10. Can't go wrong.
Who distills only vodka anymore? You realize that cosmonauts drink vodka, right? Astronauts drink that other stuff I just wrote about. Still, Karlsson's is pretty damn good. When you only make one thing, why not make an astonishingly prodigious potato vodka? Those guys don't dig imperfection. Resistance is futile.
A blend of distilled spirits news and commentary from around the web. In this edition: The wisdom of the Rum Guru, crafting in Colorado, Cask Master's on the rocks, and a battle without honor or humility. We miss you, Eren.
Feature: A Rum Guru's Wisdom
This will unblock your rum chakras. I'm not sure a more definitive or revealing expose of the secrets of distillation has ever been written. Originally posted on KLWine's Spirits Journal, this open letter from Bryan Davis (Lost Spirits Distillery) to David Driscoll (KLWines) comes across as impromptu but genuine. Posterity demands that I repost the entire tomb.
Everyone wants to talk about age, but in truth the barrel should only represent the final step that catalyzes a chain of chemical reactions and brings all the work together from each step of the spirit production process.
Nobody would ever accuse Lost Spirits Distillery of following the beaten path. To be honest, I was not the biggest fan of their Leviathan II or Ouroboros single malts (uniquely matured and American peated). This description of the process behind their navy style rum is forcing me to reconsider my initial conclusions.
I had this particular theory myself after hearing about Glenmorangie's latest Private Edition release. I must correct an error from my last Nosing the Net post where I said Cask Master's was intended to crowd source Glenmorangie's next private edition. It wasn't. Instead, it was intended to pick the next addition to the company's core lineup of ACE'd whiskies (next to Nectar D'or, Quinta Ruban, and the Lasanta). Taghta will join those ranks at a similar price. Interesting, then, to see the stone that the builders rejected make its way into this year's private edition at a much higher price point. I'll be sure to post my review on Companta in the "Drink" section soon.
The Age of Acquiring Us
No Age Statement (NAS) whisky: a battle without honor or humility. "No Age Statement Will Kill Us All." No it won't. Yes it will. It's a conspiracy. It's complicated. It's business. Don't act like you're not impressed. "What do I say? Yes, the 18 tastes 3 better than the 15?" Who cares? This whisky is 60 years old.
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to tour Breckenridge Distillery this week. There are good things going on there, including an outstanding bitters reminiscent of Drambuie and a single malt in the works. Colorado has a great thing going on here, and I'm excited to see what the future brings. Nobody could tell me whether they were experimenting with ACE'ing their bourbon though. How about it, Jordan?
One of my very first reviews on this blog was of Sons of Liberty's seasonal summer release, a craft hopped whiskey. Well, it seems Sons of Liberty's winter release (a pumpkin spiced whiskey) has just achieved the incredible honor of "Best Flavored Whisky" in Whisky Magazine's World Whisky Awards. Regardless of your feelings on flavored whisky, this is a huge win for a distillery I've followed and believed in from the beginning. Look for a review on the winter release (along with cocktail suggestions) in the "Drink" section soon.
Sullivan's Cove won "World's Best Single Malt" with their French Oak expression, which is instantly worth 10 times as much. I'm kicking myself for not buying a bottle when I had the chance. I did get a chance to taste the expression and speak to their master distiller back in January. Super nice guy.
I've never turned to whiskey for self-medication (nor would I ever recommend it), but 4 weeks on, I miss you, Eren.
Someone once asked me,
"Why do you drink so much coffee?"
and I fought the urge to say
if I didn’t drink coffee, it would be whiskey
Because it takes 8 cups of coffee a day
to get my mind racing fast enough
to skip over thoughts of you
But one bottle of whiskey
not only who you are,
but who I have been.
- Author Unknown
It has been a rough two weeks for the Cereal Alchemist family. On February 19, my first child, Eren, was stillborn weighing 4 pounds and 11.5 ounces. Only three weeks away from his due date, the doctor shockingly informed us that Eren no longer had a heartbeat. After two days of zero sleep and a heart-wrenching delivery (my wife was very brave and is healing well), I penned a testimony to my son and our loss on Facebook. It has since been shared on the Cereal Alchemist Facebook page.
Today I feel called to share with you the eulogy I gave at Eren's memorial service. I understand that many readers might prefer not to focus on the death of an infant, but there is a light in this dark story that I think deserves to be recognized. In some small way, I pray that you would also be blessed by my son's story, which is really not his story at all.
Eulogy for Eren Jacob Highley
My wife and I appreciate your love, thoughts, and prayers.
Author and Editor