Johnny Cocktail has been VERY busy!

There are many more posts to come so stay tuned. This Blog is getting ready to see quite the face lift!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Irish Whiskey Tasting

In a Shot:  Hosted my first Irish Whiskey tasting and tended a shut out bar with special guest, Atena Moore.

Let me begin this one by stating, I have found a huge new appreciation for Irish Whiskey.  Our country has trained us to be one of three things.  A huge and bias brand loyalist, a cultural or geographical pride zealot or a media/class elitist.  In other words, if you are proud to be an American, drink your Bourbon and bourbon alone otherwise you'll drink only your Johnny Walker Blue Label because your TV and the price tag says it's the best of the best or turn your nose at anything that isn't Single Malt Scotch because, well, it isn't Single Malt Scotch.  At one point or another, everybody is one of these people, including myself.  I've had roughly four bottles of Johnny Walker Blue Label come and go in my household and have been to tastings such as the Johnny Walker Experience.  I will admit that I favor Bourbon because I'm American raised and I even intentionally look for Virginia based products because that's where I was born.  I have a preference with Single Malts because they consistently showcase fantastic regionally embracing products.

But it's the narrow minded and the extreme who blindly tell you that Scotch blends are inferior and unfit in a bar.  These same people from a different state of mind say that bourbons are too sweet to be enjoyed neat and have no say when compared to a beautiful malt.  Yet there are many who claim that single malts are over priced, gaudy and are good for removing tar or starting engines.  Another misconception in the world is that Irish Whiskey is one of the harshest in the industry, famous for being used in Irish Coffee and because of that one catalyst drink, is ONLY good for mixing with coffee.  By law Irish whiskey is distilled three times, one further distillation than Scotch.  This process of separating harsher and more volatile alcohols actually make the drink not only softer in style but lighter in body and finish.  Irish whiskey is  also a product that comes from barley that hasn't been peated like it's Scottish counterparts which translates to a far less aggressive spirit.  What this means is that legally and traditionally, Irish whiskey is the exact opposite of it's perception.  It also turns out, surprisingly, like all other spirits there are versions produced for the cocktail industry, the casual dram you mix with sodas or lemonades and then there are higher end, small batched, artisinally crafted, classically produced whiskies.

So I chose to make an attempt at obtaining a variety of Irish whiskies that not only represented the spirit as a standard, but represented it in a mainstream, historical, modern, off-beat and high end way.

That's why I chose Tullamore DEW, the first product in Ireland to be marketed as a "Blended Irish Whiskey" and often recognized as the very lightest of it's industry.  The modern and off beat is represented with Michael Collins, a double distilled Irish whiskey, from independently owned Cooley  Distillery, that was only released to the American market January 2011.  Of the two biggest names in the game, I chose Bushmill's "Black Bush" one because it comes from the oldest distillery in the world and two because it's heavily malted, creating a very different and full bodied dram.  My fourth selection comes from the Midleton distillery and is considered by many to be the above all and end all of Irish whiskey.  Produced in a very old style, a pure pot still (Meaning, made from 100% malted/un-malted barley and being distilled in one copper still at one distillery) an Irish whiskey drinker's answer to single malts as far as quality is concerned.  For the mainstream I went for one of the big dogs, Jameson 18 year, to showcase what an old Irish Whiskey can taste like when aged in the fashion of many popular single malts.

Special guest Atena Moore presents the famous Victoria Martini

To wrap up the tasting we headed to the bar where me and guest bartender Atena Moore paired up and created cocktails, shots and served more Irish whiskey than the bar could handle.  By the end of this particular night, we had everyone so wound up that we sold out of all whiskey in the house!    Even all the vodka, gin and rum had been wiped clean.  In the end there was only cordials and drops of some Rye and Scotch left!

In the beginning I thought Irish whiskey was rot gut that you drink to get drunk.  it was harsh and great with my coffee and pretty much nothing else.  That was roughly 7 years ago and believe it or not, though many things stay the same, so much has changed on the market.  None of them are the same any more.  If you have a bias opinion on certain spirits, try them again, at least in a tasting format such as this one or another one like it.  You'll be informed of rich history that you'll appreciate, you'll be amazed at what you'll enjoy when tasting many drams side by side and you'll be surprised by what you discover about yourself.

As always, thank you so much for the support of my Next Rounds on Me fans.  I know this one was late, but I'm sure it was worth the wait.  The only question left, is what to do next.....


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