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Manbeverages: Spirits
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2011 11:54 pm    Post subject: Manbeverages: Spirits Reply with quote

In keeping with the beer thread, I felt it was high time to talk about one of my favorite subjects, liquor. Accoring to Wikipedia, a liquor or spirit can be classified as a distilled beverage consisting of at least 20% alcohol that contains no added sugar.

Generally I am considering liquor as it exists outside of cocktails, though obviously those will come up at some point. By cocktails I mean an adulteration of the original beverage beyond the introduction of ice or one of the forms of water. It should be obvious from this statement that the purest form of consumption is room-temperature 'neat'. For those with less robust constitutions and an already adequate supply of chest hair, the application of ice and, if necessary, water is allowable if not necessarily in keeping with the true man experience. WWHD is the general aesthetic, meaning of course "What Would Hemingway Do" -- and if Hemingway wanted a cup of ice and water he wouldn't drink whisky. When he wanted to drink whisky, he would have the perseverance to endure it unaltered, and profit by the experience, and be grateful for it.

This brings us to the ne plus ultra of spirit, which is quite obviously whisky. And by whisky I do not mean whiskey, that American libation that is sometimes a creditable but usually a lurid imitation of the original mother-spirit. This mother spirit is of course none other than Scotch, traditionally pot distilled twice from the fermented mash of malted barley that was dried by the heat of a smoky peat fire, then aged at least 8 years in a used sherry cask and left unblended with the produce of other pot distilleries such that it is termed a "single malt."

Scotch whisky, much like Scots themselves, has traditionally been divided into three main categories: highland, lowland, and island. Highland scotch, like the clans that claim it as their own, is an enterprise marked by vigor. Almost all scotch is produced there, so that a separate region had to be carved out of it -- Speyside, that produces the most scotch of any region, as well as the two best-selling single malts in the world, The Glenlivet and Glenfiddich -- so that the other regions felt less bullied. Lowland scotch has become a virtually extinct enterprise, with only three operating distilleries, but notable whiskys are still produced there. Island scotch is only produced on Islay, the southernmost of the Hebrides, so island scotch is not surprisingly called Islay scotch, which includes some of the very finest and most distinctive of all scotch. In addition, another once-defunct region has recently been reinstated, Campbeltown which is situated on the Kintyre peninsula, not very far southeast of Islay.

Scotch varies quite a bit in character and quality, and despite the folk wisdom that scotch is an "acquired taste," there are truly tastes for almost every palate, from the surly peat of Laphroaig to the velvet polish of The MacCallan. Those who have partaken, know of what I speak. And perhaps most importantly, fine scotch is one of the purest of spirits, often producing a very pleasing and happy intoxication, but rarely a hangover (provided one stays adequately hydrated, which in keeping with good form must be accomplished outside the whisky glass).

The pairing of a great scotch with a fine cigar after dinner is a practice of long standing, not without significant justification. It truly seems to be the case that, via an effervescent magic, each pushes the other to its fullest and most flavorful potential. Try a snifter of neat Lagavulin 16 with a full bodied cigar (such as La Flor Dominicana Ligero Cabinet Oscuro L500) and tell me you're displeased.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2011 1:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I do enjoy my spirits. I haven't had Scotch yet, maybe some day when I can afford it (I'll also have to try your suggestion of Scotch with a cigar... sounds amazing!)

However, my tasting of the spirits is limited to essentially taking shots... I am in college, after all. My favorite of all the liquors I've tried would have to be gin.

Gin, of course, comes in wide 'varieties', the only characteristic required being that the alcohol has to be distilled in an infusion of Juniper berries. As a result, you can have smooth gin like Bombay Sapphire or rough kick-your-ass-through-your-throat gin like Boodles.

Most gins (well, the ones I've tried that are worthwhile) are 90 proof... meaning an amazing night if drinking heavily, but also for a stronger mixed drink in the form of the classic gin and tonic.

When mixing with other waters, it is important to make sure the gin has a strong presence, otherwise it'll be like drinking water and just as pleasurable. I like a good 50/50 mix.

Reading over this, I realize I'm not nearly as experienced in such matters as Ex, but that's why I'm here... to learn Very Happy

Next: Absinthe.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2011 1:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm a fan of Glenfiddich, such that the first bottle I was given as a gift I was told to save for a special occasion I kept for several years till I got my first pro acting gig. I was actually introduced to scotch in general, Glenfiddich in particular, by a German friend of mine while I was in the Army. Hell, my intro to all booze except bad beer and tequila happened in the Army.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2011 2:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Among gin's more notorious and controversial effects is said to be an alleged ability to cause spontaneous abortions as well as enhancing male sexual performance.
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"It is not the responsibility of knights errant to discover whether the afflicted, the enchained and the oppressed whom they encounter on the road are reduced to these circumstances and suffer this distress for their vices, or for their virtues: the knight's sole responsibility is to succour them as people in need, having eyes only for their sufferings, not for their misdeeds." Don Quixote


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2011 8:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Exnihilotto2 wrote:
Among gin's more notorious and controversial effects is said to be an alleged ability to cause spontaneous abortions as well as enhancing male sexual performance.


Laughing never heard that one!

The only spirit I drink straight (gin&tonic in the summer) these days is cognac. After a nice meal out, there's nothing better. Normally Courvoisier just because it's a normal priced one but still smoooooooth.

Jaime I (a Spanish brandy) deserves a mention too. (impress the barman - 'haimee de primero')

Never been brave enough to try one of the really expensive ones Sad

(Top tip for drinking brandy - use a proper brandy glass. Pour boiling water into a mug and prop your brandy glass on top.... the bowl of the glass I mean, so the 'stand' bit is sticking out to the side. Turn gradually so the whole bowl gets warm. Dry well, then pour in your brandy. mmmmmmmm)
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2011 2:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Frank Sinatra was another noted consumer of spirits, though he had no problem adding water or ice. Here's his favorite drink.:

Quote:
Frank Sinatra drank expensive red wines, and mixed martinis for his friends on the set of "Ocean's Eleven." And, he never forgot a pal's favorite drink (according to Sinatra's old friend Ed McMahon). But his own drink was a simple, but exacting mix of ice, Jack Daniels Tennessee whiskey and water. "This is a gentleman's drink," is how he described it. "This is nice." He called it "The Black Ass of Jack Daniel," on occasion.

Instructions:
1. Use a leaded crystal glass, if possible. Sinatra was a fan of elegant glassware, and built a voluminous collection. He believed that good glassware brought out the best in any booze.

2. Drop four cubes---no more---into the glass. Sinatra would pick out any more cubes than four with a spoon, and admonish the bartender that he wanted to drink, not skate.

3. Pour two fingers of Jack Daniels over the ice---no more. His bodyguards would tell bartenders "Don't try to be his friend by mixing it heavy. He don't like it like that." Sinatra once described a drink too heavy in whiskey as "Sammy Davis in a glass."

4. Fill the remainder of the glass with a quality still water, like Poland Springs. Sinatra drank water only as a cocktail mixer, never for refreshment, or even as a back to a cocktail. "I'm thirsty, I'm not dirty," he would scowl.

5. Allow the drink to settle for two minutes. Sinatra would drink martinis right on pouring, but believed that allowing a mixed drink on the rocks allowed it to settle, and brought out its subtleties.

6. Drink your Black Ass of Jack Daniel Sinatra's way. He did not hold cocktails by the rim, and infrequently set them down. He would cup them in his hand, insulated by a cocktail napkin.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2011 2:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've only had Glenlivet, and didn't think it was anything special. I'm from Kentucky, and hence a proud bourbon drinker (when I'm not drinking beer, which I prefer). Woodford Reserve is my current favorite, although Eagle Rare is about the same quality. Weller's makes a 12 year bourbon that's excellent for the price. And if you're going to be mixing, Jim Beam's Devil's Cut achieves an aged bourbon taste that most inexpensive bourbon cannot match, due to its proprietary process of extracting the bourbon that is soaked into the wood of the barrel (a product that is usually lost when the barrels are discarded).

The latest Popular Science has an article about a new technique that ages whiskey in a matter of hours, instead of years. Apparently the process is identical on the molecular level, and blind taste tests side-by-side with the "real thing" show very little difference.

[Edit: I do find it humorous that people associate this or that drink with "masculinity" and look to acceptable historical figures to back up this impression, or for guidance or justification in how a certain drink should be drank. Hemingway is often mentioned (the dude committed suicide ... not really a figure I want to emulate). There is certainly a bit of romanticizing of the consumption of beverages ... which doesn't seem all that manly to me, personally. I don't personally look to role models or people to copy, but like to follow my own taste buds. I think bourbon and Coke taste great, for instance. I feel no compulsion to drink something neat in order to prove my manhood (that's what testicles are for Twisted Evil ), and think that people are largely fooling themselves if they claim to actually like the taste of alcohol. Alcohol, in itself, isn't a pleasant substance to put in your mouth. That's why no one drinks 190 proof pure grain. Alcohol is harsh, it burns, it tastes like ass, and no one would put up with it if it didn't get you drunk, or wasn't moderated in some way with (often) expensive and/or time-consuming processes which mellow or distract from the taste. That's the the whole idea behind aging a spirit, and to think this substantially different from mixing a cocktail I think is bravado and/or pretension. If drinking a mixed cocktail makes you feel girlie, then I humbly suggest the problem is with you, not the drink.]

2...
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2011 2:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've only had Mark Twain bourbon. It's infamously one of my biggest mistakes.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2011 8:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I had a recommendation to try Woodford Reserve so I bought a bottle of it the other day. Nice and smooth.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2011 8:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Woodford Reserve is the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby. Not my favorite, actually. Maker's Mark is my personal favorite bourbon.

If you are ever in the vicinity of the Bourbon Trail, visit the Buffalo Trace Distillery just outside of Frankfort, KY. There, you can buy the most delicious of fluids--- Buffalo Trace Bourbon Creme Liqueur. It's like Bailey's Irish Creme, only 10x better. Last time I was there, I bought a case.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 24, 2011 12:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like Maker's Mark as well. Am an ambassador for them (love the little gifts at holiday time), and have a barrel with Beorn's name on it. Looking forward to it being tapped.
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 24, 2011 1:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

To Z specifically, Scotch is highly idiosyncratic for regions/taste...a good friend of mine who has the same tastes as me in multiple boozes finds Dewars [a blended one] best top to bottom. Considering you're beer posts, it seems you have a palette for the subtle, [as do others here] so age matters among single malts [which Glenlivet I think, and Glenfiddich I know, both are]. In blend ones age is more of a "texture" and "bite" than anything else...for singles everything alters. OTOH: considering what I've seen of the beers you like best, and your bourbon thing, Scotch might just be not in your enjoyability frame.
On the popular science article: I looked but couldn't find it...but great whiskey made fast [maybe even spawning a serious home/micro industry!] sounds so cool...can you link it? Or do I need to subscribe?
On the masculinity edit, which I just saw...yea, I agree, it's funny ...at a gathering for everyone in my last degree class, it was on a lake cruise with a cigar and cognac tasting included. The org that arranged it was all women, [grad council, 10 members], and 75% of the sippers and smokers [by definition, grads] women. I'm pretty sure none of them wanted to be manly or grow testicles. Even the one who I know was a lesbian cuz we been friends for years. Good taste, good booze, good smoke are not connected to genitalia or hyphen inities.

Other peeps [but including Z]...Bourbon is a mood drink for me, mostly winterish ones. For instance any time halloween and after...a glass of hot hard cider with a shot of JD dropped in it. Deep winter, more straight up with a fireplace.
I like makers mark over j. beam....but you can't trust me cuz I like [for instance, not bourbon specifically] j. walker black [another blended] over all other j walkers..cheaper and more expensive, though I've never had the mythical [to me] blue label.

ASIDE: I don't know if it still exists, or if it was ever available generally...but j.walker for a while sold a pre-mix "Red and Cola"...don't recall if that's the actual name, but it was literally that, j walker red with cola in a pop-top can.
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 24, 2011 12:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I must reiterate that despite protests to the contrary, there is a proper way of consuming spirits, and that way does not involve the introduction of fruity concoctions into the man-glass, nor does it involve complaints about the taste of alcohol. In fact when has anything worthwhile been achieved without effort or perseverance? Why must everything be instantly rewarding, instantly pleasant, instantly charming? Isn't part of the charm of discovery that the seed of one's initial impressions are so often confounded by the fruit of experience?

In any case, though good form and refined tastes are manly qualities worthy of aspiration, they are by no means restricted to men. I was introduced to the excellence that is The Glenlivet by a female friend of mine, who was also kind enough to give me my first Cuban cigar.
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 24, 2011 12:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Menolly wrote:
I like Maker's Mark as well. Am an ambassador for them (love the little gifts at holiday time), and have a barrel with Beorn's name on it. Looking forward to it being tapped.


An admirable bourbon.
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 24, 2011 12:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Talking about the proper way to enjoy spirits: I find a deep breath in through the nose (above your glass), a sip of your chosen tipple, and your breath let out through the mouth, helps me appreciate the subtleties better.
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 24, 2011 1:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vraith, Johnnie Walker Black was my introduction to the world of scotch and is still my preferred blend, though I also like Dewar's. I've had the Blue Label -- there was a half pint gift set last Xmas of Red, Black, and Blue for $55 at the liquor store -- and I can report that it seemed only marginally better than Black Label, and certainly not worth the difference in price.
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 24, 2011 8:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Damelon wrote:
Frank Sinatra was another noted consumer of spirits, though he had no problem adding water or ice. Here's his favorite drink.:

Quote:
Frank Sinatra drank expensive red wines, and mixed martinis for his friends on the set of "Ocean's Eleven." And, he never forgot a pal's favorite drink (according to Sinatra's old friend Ed McMahon). But his own drink was a simple, but exacting mix of ice, Jack Daniels Tennessee whiskey and water. "This is a gentleman's drink," is how he described it. "This is nice." He called it "The Black Ass of Jack Daniel," on occasion.

Instructions:
1. Use a leaded crystal glass, if possible. Sinatra was a fan of elegant glassware, and built a voluminous collection. He believed that good glassware brought out the best in any booze.

2. Drop four cubes---no more---into the glass. Sinatra would pick out any more cubes than four with a spoon, and admonish the bartender that he wanted to drink, not skate.

3. Pour two fingers of Jack Daniels over the ice---no more. His bodyguards would tell bartenders "Don't try to be his friend by mixing it heavy. He don't like it like that." Sinatra once described a drink too heavy in whiskey as "Sammy Davis in a glass."

4. Fill the remainder of the glass with a quality still water, like Poland Springs. Sinatra drank water only as a cocktail mixer, never for refreshment, or even as a back to a cocktail. "I'm thirsty, I'm not dirty," he would scowl.

5. Allow the drink to settle for two minutes. Sinatra would drink martinis right on pouring, but believed that allowing a mixed drink on the rocks allowed it to settle, and brought out its subtleties.

6. Drink your Black Ass of Jack Daniel Sinatra's way. He did not hold cocktails by the rim, and infrequently set them down. He would cup them in his hand, insulated by a cocktail napkin.


Frank Sinatra offers a credible counterpoint to Hemingway in terms of manly practice, and though I do not share his enthusiasm for Jack Daniel's, I concede that there is a lively and longstanding debate about the introduction of water into whisky as a flavor enhancer. 'Rocks,' while an expedient I am apt to indulge in myself when speed of consumption is a factor, seems to have the opposite effect on flavors, tending to tone them down and polish away any edges. While this may be desirable in certain instances it is hard to consider it manly. In fact one may legitimately question the consumption of whisky that requires such adulteration in the first place, or the motivations prompting one to pass unnoticed through the glass without the burden of savoring the experience. And certain whiskys such as Crown Royal or for that matter most Canadian whisky must never be placed on the rocks, as in that state they are hardly distinguishable from water.

Until the next morning anyway.
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*The poster formerly known as Exnihilo, Exnihilo2, Exnihilotto, Ron Burgunihilo, Don Exnihilote, Mongnihilo, and counting...
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 29, 2011 8:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ron Burgunihilo wrote:
I must reiterate that despite protests to the contrary, there is a proper way of consuming spirits ...
A "proper" way? That implies that any way beside your personal preference is "improper." So anyone who is in the mood for a Manhatten is just wrong? I don't buy that. We're talking about subjective preferences. There isn't a proper or improper preference. There's simply a way you like to drink it, a way which (according to you) makes you feel manly and allows you to judge the preferences others as "improper," a way to look down on other people.

At most, you could say that drinking scotch or bourbon neat is the best way to experience the flavor of the spirits unadulterated, unmodified, and undiluted. Neat is the way to experience it at its most intense level (if that's your thing). But, as you point out, sometimes the experience is enhanced by the addition of a counter-part flavor (in your case, the smoke of a quality cigar). Some people prefer the contrasts and complexities of bringing two different things together to produce something that neither can achieve on their own. [This is why I prefer beer, btw, the contrast between sweet malt and bitter hops--in addition to the infinite variety found in adding fruits, spices, vegatables, etc.].

Personally, I think that smoke dulls the palate ... which may account for why people combine it with a strong drink, to "soften" or "mellow" the effect of putting a harsh solvent into your mouth.

Ron Burgunihilo wrote:
In fact when has anything worthwhile been achieved without effort or perseverance? Why must everything be instantly rewarding, instantly pleasant, instantly charming?
As a homebrewer who must wait at least 4 weeks for his beverage to be drinkable--after 10+ hours of work to brew it and bottle it--I'm certainly not advocating a lack of effort or perserverance. The beer I drink ranges up to 13%, which most people find exceptionally strong and undrinkable. They are definitely not meant to be drank fast or one after the other.

I do actually drink bourbon neat every now and then, especially when I'm comparing one to another, in order to taste them in their purest form and get an accurate comparison. I don't particularly enjoy it this way, however, and prefer it with ice. I personally believe that strong spirits are made so strong in order to stand up to mixing them, offering people this choice and variety, and I've heard distillers who had the same opinion. For instance, you could certainly experience the flavor of vanilla in its "purest" and "most intense" form by drinking straight vanilla extract, but it's intended to be mixed sparingly into other ingredients. An argument could be made that spirits have the same function. Tequila seems to be made for margaritas. Rum seems to be made for daiquiris. When you taste these drinks, it's like discovering the spirits' purpose. In this context, "proper" is a matter of opinion.

In the end, every form of alcoholic drink is "mixed," unless you're drinking pure grain. What you like about the taste of scotch is the taste of wood, i.e. the effect that a wooden barrel has on the original liquor, without which it would be nearly unrecognizable and virtually undrinkable. Wood is a nice flavor, I admit, but it's still a way to mix and mellow and flavor the liquor into something drinkable. (Come to think of it, the "wood" flavor that a barrel adds is in many cases a lot like vanilla .... something that children and people with unadventurous palates prefer in their ice cream Laughing ). As such, it's only a matter of degree in the difference between neat and mixing a cocktail. Liquor doesn't originally taste like wood. That's something added, intentionally, because most people aren't "man" enough to prefer it in its original form. So you could "man up" and drink it unaged, if you really have something to prove. There are distillers who sell it that way. But then it wouldn't have that sweet, vanilla-y wood taste that is apparently so manly. Big Grin
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 29, 2011 8:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Heh...I don't disapprove personally of mixed drinks except the ones I don't like.
Laughing
I like a margarita when I'm not in tequila shot mood, and I am the worlds hugest fan of Bloody Mary's. I've searched the net and mixed dozens of recipes.

OTOH, I think too many mixed drinks are intended to hide the flavor of the booze, not complement it...oddly those seem to be the ones I don't like, fancy that.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2011 12:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vraith wrote:

OTOH, I think too many mixed drinks are intended to hide the flavor of the booze, not complement it...oddly those seem to be the ones I don't like, fancy that.

Wink
I agree with that completely.
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Meaning is created internally by each individual in each specific life: any attempt at *meaning* which relies on some kind of external superstructure (God, Satan, the Creator, the Worm, whatever) for its substance misses the point (I mean the point of my story). -SRD

Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth ... Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do-back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning. -Nietzsche
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