Mill City Whiskey Review – Re-cap

MillCityWhiskeyReview*Sincere thanks to The Mill City Whiskey Review and Half Full Productions for the media pass.

I recently attended the first installment of The Mill City Whiskey Review, which was the second big whiskey-focused expo held in Minneapolis this year. Two in one year after years of no big whiskey shows at all? A veritable torrent of whiskey…well done, Minneapolis. The event was held in the aptly named Minneapolis Event Center, an exposed brick and beam space appointed with the requisite modern textures and lighting located in the riverside part of town called St. Anthony Main. The Mill City Whiskey Review (let’s call it MCWR, shall we?) seemed to fly under the radar a bit in terms of publicity and social media saturation. I learned about it a little over a month before, and ticketing had not begun much before that. Despite that, I’m happy to say the event was very well attended.

2015MCWR_1The MCWR had a much more casual feel to it compared to other large-scale shows I’ve attended. The pour list was smaller, around 90 spirits, and somewhat unremarkable in that it was made up of mostly big-name, accessible bourbon, Irish, Scotch, and Japanese brands. There were a handful of “craft” distilleries as well. There were no independent bottlers and very little in the way of higher-end, more exclusive selections. However, this seemed to fit the purpose and style of the event well. It was less a show for whisky geeks (at times, an insufferable crowd) and more for the refined reveller who was looking to simply expand their whiskey horizons a bit. Even the tasting glass, a low-ball tumbler rather than a tulip-ed nosing glass, helped the evening feel less academic and more about the fun. The atmosphere was lively, intimate, and social, with very little attention being paid to how long that new Johnnie Walker Select Cask spent in a rye barrel.

Those looking to delve a little deeper into whiskey geekdom were not left out in the cold, however. VIP ticket holders also had access to seminar on peated whiskies lead by Laphroaig/Beam Suntory ambassador Brant Foehl. The capacity group was led through six whiskies: Auchentoshan American Oak, Hakushu 12 year old, Connemara, Bowmore 15 year old, Laphroaig 18 year old, and Laphroaig Cask Strength 10 year old. It was a nice range to lead one through non-peated to very peated, though as it seemed most of the crowd were already fans, Foehl was preaching a bit to the converted. Nonetheless, it made for an entertaining break from the main room crowd.

Since the pour list was, as I mentioned, made up of more standard fare, I didn’t find anything new (or old) that really knocked my jaded whisky-snob socks off. But, in no particular order, here are a few thoughts worth mentioning…

Local Goodness I Was Already Sold On: After being introduced to St. Paul’s 11 Wells Distillery at this years Whiskey on Ice, I was pretty much on board as a fan. So far, their young spirits do a great job showcasing the ingredients with which they’re made. At the MCWR, 11 Wells expanded even further on that theme. Along with their whiskeys, they’ve come up with a line of cocktail-oriented products like their Dry Wermut, a sweet-ish dry vermouth based with Minnesota-grown grapes, as well as a trio of expressive bitters, including the five-spice-esque Chinese Secret. The whiskeys poured at this show were just a little older than the ones from earlier this year (go figure), and showed that same excellent grain character. New to me was a wheat whiskey and their very nice peated single malt, which to my mind, shows signs of being right up there with the young Westland and Kilchoman peated malts. These guys are doing it right.

And While We’re On The Subject Of 11 Wells:  Master distiller/liqueur maker/bitters concocter Lee Egbert has also recently founded Thirst Network, a cool sounding new media project focusing on all those things that help us get rid of thirst: spirits, wine, beer, coffee, tea, sodas, etc.

Another Nice Midwestern Surprise:   Obviously, one of the best things about a show like this is having the chance to taste several similar spirits and experience their range of quality. Along with 11 Wells Rye, southwest Michigan’s Journeyman Distillery stood out above the small crowd of “craft” distillery ryes by showcasing great grain character in their young but pleasingly drinkable Last Feather Rye Whiskey.

2015MCWR_2One That Will Be Missed:  Earlier this year, when Laphroaig announced it was discontinuing the 18 Year Old, it was a sore blow. Adding salt to the wound, the beloved and departed 15 Year Old made a teasing, limited re-appearance but will continue to only be just that, a limited edition type release. It’s never welcome news when it seems a brand is doing away with all its age statement malts. So it was a nice surprise at the VIP seminar to find a bit of the wonderful 18 Year Old in a glass and enjoy it one last time.

Surprising Find of the Night:  Outside of an independent bottling or two, I’ve not tried much Glen Moray. I feel like they’ve always had the reputation of being a decent whisky that’s priced well below the competition. Having the chance to taste through their range more or less proved that point. Specifically, I thought their Port Cask Finish was a bit of a surprise and a great value. For around $30, it’s a well-crafted, no-age-statement malt that shows off the Port influence nicely, making it a pleasing and accessible introduction to cask-finished whiskies.

Best Sounding Guy In A Skirt:  Easy, that would be Dennis from Merlin’s Rest, taking a break from pouring Teeling whiskeys to belt out a few tunes on the bagpipes. Who doesn’t love bagpipes? No, seriously, I love them…doesn’t everyone?

Most Sobering Realization of the Night:  Outside of the 9 or 10 “independently” owned brand booths, the other 80 or so whiskies being poured were owned by just 7 parent companies. Beam Suntory’s brands made up nearly a third of what was offered. While not necessarily a good thing or a bad thing, (though variety is the spice of life) it just goes to show how much consolidation there has been in the industry, and the wide net that is cast by these large companies hoping to snare your cash.

2015MCWR_3Overall, the MCWR was good first-time event. Whether or not the more casual, introductory atmosphere was intended, it worked fairly well. I think there is room for this kind of event alongside larger events such as Whiskey on Ice or Whiskyfest that feature deeper, more interesting though possibly overwhelming pour lists. The regular ticket price was very reasonable, being much less costly than those bigger shows. However, I’m not sure the whiskeys offered early and the seminar made the VIP price worth it. Perhaps more notable bottles earmarked for that ticket would add more value. Though I hate to mention it because I feel like I’m always mentioning it, there needed to be more food. What was there was fine, but it wasn’t there long enough. I don’t expect to be served dinner at these things, but access to a little food throughout the night does wonders for one’s outlook the next morning. So, like I said, all in all, it was a good event. I hope there will be a second one and look forward to watching the Mill City Whiskey Review grow.

Head-to Head! Two Young Laphroaigs From The Exclusive Malts


*Thanks to SF and the good folks at Impex Beverages for the samples.

My incompetence and negligence has afforded me an interesting opportunity to taste two very similar single malts side by side. Towards the end of 2013, The Exclusive Malts released to the US market an 8 year old Laphroaig, distilled in 2005. I received a sample of it and in the heady haze of parenting two small hellions…I sort of lost track of it. Thankfully, I found track of it. Earlier this year, The Exclusive malts released another Laphroaig, also distilled in 2005, this one now 10 years old. Lo, I saw my path for redemption laid out before me like a road paved with peat bricks and staves from re-fill bourbon casks – a twofer.

So here’s a rare look, at least from me, at two independently bottled, single cask expressions from Laphroaig. Both were bottled at cask strength from ex-bourbon hogsheads. It’s mildly interesting to note that, in the glass, there was very little difference color between the two. There was, however, quite a difference in the cost, see below for more on that.

ExMalts_2005Laphroaig8yoThe Exclusive Malts 2005 Laphroaig 8 Year Old

The Nose:  Not quite as medicinal as I usually think of Laphroaig, but Laphroaig-y nonetheless. Initially, there’s Granny Smith apples, lemon oil, and the smoke from burning, oily railroad ties. After that comes subtler notes of briny, dried seaweed, even subtler hints of iodine and rubber. Soft notes of vanilla bean, allspice, and a tiny touch of anise are in the background. With water, a bit more of that Laphroaig peat comes through while the rest is smoothed out a bit.

The Palate:  Sweeter than the nose initially, with bruised green apples now, and Lemonheads candy. The Islay quickly takes over with lots of salty brine and more peat here – more iodine and rubber than the nose. The woodsmoke is drier now, less oily. The spices greener and more youthful: white pepper, coriander, cinnamon with sharp tannic oak. It’s mouth-watering and a little hot at the end. With water,  it’s a little saltier, and slightly smoother, but those spice and wood notes are still a loom large.

The Finish:  Longish, of course. The peat and slightly oily woodsmoke sticks around til the next morning, not quite getting the hint to leave…not that you really want it to. A little bit of white pepper and young grippy oak hang out as well.

Thoughts:  Young, slightly edgy, a little brash, but very enjoyable. With its toned down medicinal notes, this struck me as an ever-so-slightly more approachable Laphroaig. There’s a nice consistency throughout the glass, the shifts in the flavor profile are relatively gentle, not jarring as can be the case with young whiskies. Water helps to tone some of that youthful hyper-ness down, but this remains a fairly upfront, fun, in-your-face whisky.

The Exclusive Malts 2005 Laphroaig 8 Year Old, Islay, IB +/-2013

55.9% ABV

Score:  85


ExMalts_2005Laphroaig10yoThe Exclusive Malts 2005 Laphroaig 10 Year Old

The Nose:  Slightly hotter and more challenging than the 8 year old. There’s lemon furniture polish and crushed apples, with hints of over-ripe pear. The peat shows up more here than with the 8 year old – wet briny sand, iodine, band-aids, and a bit of tar. The dry-ish woodsmoke is more restrained. Clove oil, cinnamon, vanilla syrup hold down the woodspice end of things. Interestingly, water doesn’t do all that much for this one, everything gets a bit more integrated except for those hot lemon solvent notes.

The Palate:  There’s a deeper, more complex sweetness to this one :caramel, lemon curd, and snickerdoodle cookies even. It’s also surprisingly salty. The smoke and peat are well-integrated, with fewer rubbery notes and slightly tarry, oily smoke. The wood shows up in the form of hot cinnamon, clove, grippy rough oak, peppercorns, barrel char. Unlike the nose, water plays very nicely with this palate, bringing it all together, smoothing a few edges, nothing is lost but a little sharpness.

The Finish:  Again, longish…of course. Salty, Peaty, smokey, with mouth-watering tannic oak backing it all up.

Thoughts:  Almost as enjoyable as the 8 year old but in a different way. The nose had a few more challenging notes, but the palate was slightly more tempered, integrated and rich. There was more of a shift here between that hot nose and more complex palate, but it did manage to keep itself together. The salty notes were quite strong, but shy of being too much. Water didn’t help the nose much, but it brought the palate together quite well.

The Exclusive Malts 2005 Laphroaig 10 Year Old, Islay, IB +/-2015

54.2% ABV

Score:  84


Overall, Wrap-Up Thoughts:  It was a treat to taste these two side by side. The differences were subtle, but present. The Laphroaig character was there in both, but it was interesting to see how each cask shaded that familiar flavor profile. In the end, I preferred the 8 Year Old. Despite its slightly rougher youth, it was a more consistent whisky from the start to finish. The palate of the 10 Year Old was very, very nice, but the hottish, solvent-y nose took away from it a bit. It’s relatively fascinating to think about how small differences in the wood and possibly the cooperage created these subtle variances in flavor.

And then there’s the issue of the price. Back in 2013 when it was released, the 8 Year Old went for around $80-85. That’s a little bit more than what the 10 Year Old Cask Strength distillery bottling goes for, but not really out of line for an independent bottling of a popular distillery. This year’s 10 Year Old, however, is retailing for around $145, which is considerably more than the official distillery cask strength 10 year old…almost twice as much in fact. Yes, there is a certain unique quality to buying independent single cask expressions, and in the 8 Year Old’s case, I’d say its worth it. But though the 10 Year Old is a decent, interesting whisky, I’m not sure it justifies that high of a price.

400th Post…

IMG_8392I wasn’t sure if I was going to mark the occasion of The Casks 400th post with something special, just another review, or…I don’t know, a video of me sabering a bottle of vintage Pol Roger Brut while doing an ancient clog dance last performed by a bunch of drunk Jacobites in Killiecrankie. My impulse was not to go overboard and try something fancy because, lord knows, it’s been tricky enough just to get another review out lately. Then again, I thought, that’s precisely why I should single out the occasion.

Certainly there are many other blogs out there with far more posts, posting with far more regularity, and regularly being far more in touch with the whole whisky scene, but that’s beside the point. When I started this thing, five and a half years ago in 2010, I didn’t really have any expectation as to its longevity or any sort of relative popularity. The blog has always been mostly a way to catalog my experiences with the whisky world and partly a half-baked, mostly pointless social media experiment. I’m happy to report that the social media experiment part has more or less ended without generating any conclusive conclusions. The cataloging part rolls on, though. I don’t drink as much whisky as I used to, and I don’t leap out the door every time I get wind of a tasting, but I still enjoy exploring the booze and all its related history…especially the related history. I recently discovered that I own twice as many books about whisky as I do bottles of whisky. Granted this was after trimming my “collection” down to a few dozen bottles, but still, it’s telling. All those books have been opened, by the way, I can’t say the same thing about the bottles.

Ruben from WhiskyNotes (Belgium), Marc from Whisky Brother (South Africa), and myself sneaking around Brora in the rain. Photo by Darren Rook.

The best and most unexpected by-product of having this blog has been meeting all the good people in and around the whisky industry/community. It has been great fun to watch (with a twinge of envy, too) several of the writers and bloggers who befriended and supported me early on, turn their passion in to their livelihood. Equally, it’s been a pleasure to forge relationships within the industry that, through their generosity and expertise, have helped me expand my own experience. I would never have guessed that grabbing a domain name and using a free blogging platform would have introduced me to so many great people and places. The stats for The Casks show that over the years, it’s been read by people all over the world…that is astounding to me and humbling.

Will I make it to 500 posts? I have no fucking idea, that’s the main reason why I thought it best to celebrate 400 posts. Thank you, sincerely, for coming along on this ride.

Whisky-Related Stocking Stuffers for 2015

Gruss_vom_KrampusHang those stockings with care, people! Adorn that tannenbaum! Fire up that minora! Light those kinaras! Unsheath that Festivus Pole! Break out the lutefisk, the tangyuan, the latkes, the roast beast, the bûche de Noël, the vánoční rybí polévka, the Dundee cake, and the pasteles de hojas. Pour the gløgg, the cola de mono, the jiuniang, the ponche, and the whisk(e)y! And for the love of Krampus, fix up that dilapidated pfefferkuchenhaus! Whether you care to admit it or not, the holidays are upon us, and your loved ones are expecting very expensive or at least very expensive-looking presents. As an annual (dis)service to readers, here’s a haphazard list of whisky-related gifts for that special whisky-besotted person in your life. Shop til’ you drop, you crazed consumers…

WhiskyCuriousTwo books top the list: Fred Minnick’s Bourbon Curious, and Charles MacLean’s Spirit of Place: Scotland’s Great Whisky Distilleries. Bourbon Curious is an excellent, unflinching, no-holds-barred look at the good, bad, and ugly about “America’s native spirit.” It serves as an approachable guide to lead one through the murky historical and marketer-infested waters of Bourbon-dom. Spirit of Place, by comparison, is just a very nice bit of eye-candy for your coffee (whisky) table. With over 250 commissioned photos of picturesque distilleries, this one will send you running to either refill your glass or buy a seat on the next flight to Scotland. (As always, yes…you can buy these both from Amazon, but wouldn’t you rather support your local booksellers? Of course you would.)

GraziersEdgeIt’s not often that you find cheese in a whisky-related gift guide. Sure, there are cheeses that pair well with cheese, but cheese made with whisky? How about locally produced cheese made with locally distilled whisky? Minneapolis cheesemaker The Lone Grazer washes his delicious semi-soft, slightly earthy Grazier’s Edge with young rye whiskey from St. Paul’s 11 Wells distillery. Additionally, The Lone Grazer produces Hansom Cab, a similarly soft and earthy cheese washed with Two Gingers Irish Whisky, which while not local, was a brand originally conceived by a transplanted Irish local who also, coincidently, founded a restaurant called The Local.

Admittedly, The Oak Bottle strikes me as a little gimmicky, and perhaps a little expensive for something that strikes me as gimmicky. Not to mention that, in the whisky world at least, “oak” is becoming perhaps a little bit too prevalent a flavor…but what the hell, a bottle made out of oak looks pretty cool. And if you’re fooling around with aging your own whisky/cocktails/gin/bitters/cheddar-coffee liqueur, this 750ml bottle is certainly less of a commitment than a larger barrel.

WhiskyChartIf you’ve grown tired of drinking whisky and staring at a blank wall, your mind flooding with unanswered questions about whisky (or maybe beer, or wine, or cocktails, etc.,) perhaps it’s time you put something up on your wall to help answer all those unanswered questions. Pop Chart Lab has great infographic-type prints on a variety of subjects, but for the sake of this list, check out this vast array of excellently designed, fairly accurate booze-related prints.

whiskyChartGlassesAlong the same lines, if for some reason, you’ve grown tired of staring at your blank wall AND you’ve grown tired of not having any interesting glassware to drink whisky out of, Pop Chart Lab has you covered there as well: They’ve spread their taxonomic whisky info over four good-looking tumblers, with a glass each covering Scotch, single malt Scotch, Bourbon, and Irish whiskey. Just don’t try to read them and drink from them at the same time…trust me on this one.

OriginHgRingBeing something of a cycling fan (a gross understatement) and, obviously, a whisky fan (kind of gross on occasion,) this beautiful carbon fiber and whisky barrel ring from OriginHG is enough to make me a jewelry fan as well. Hell, all the rings here are worth a look whether they’re made from whisky oak and carbon fiber or not.

UK online retailer Master of Malt gets included in my gift-giving list every year because they have some of the best whisky gifts to be given. Along with their now-famous whisky advent calendars, they also have advent calendars featuring gin, bourbon, cognac, armagnac, tequila, mezcal, rum, vodka, and absinthe. They have a wide array of carefully curated (and rather affordable) tasting sets as well as blend-yer-own whisky kits, and personalized bottles. One stop shopping if you want a unique twist on the gift of booze.

JWhisky_1This one may seem a little obvious, but if you’re looking for a gift for someone just developing an obsession interest in whisky, the sturdy-yet-elegant Glencairn Glass is the perfect vessel for their newfound passion. To even further sweeten the deal, Glencairn also makes nice rocks and beer glasses as well.

UhuruBILDGEchairI think this one falls under the “if you have to ask, it’s probably too expensive” category. Still, if you’re looking to spend big, this is a fairly incredible looking piece of furniture. The Bilge Lounge chair from Uhuru Design is made from reclaimed bourbon barrel staves and leaf springs from New York City fire trucks. If you’re wondering, yes, I need two. I have no room for them at the moment, but I need two of them.

BitterHousewifeIf you need to breath new life into all those tired whisky cocktails, this holiday season look no further than The Bitter Housewife. Handmade in Portland Oregon with cherries, walnuts, ginger and baking spices, the Bitter Housewife’s aromatic bitters are made to go with whisky. If you need to breathe new life into your bitter housewife…I don’t know what to tell you, you’re on your own there. Perhaps you’re spending too much time reading whisky blogs?

Black Bottle Blended Scotch Whisky (2015) – Review

IMG_8862“And every time I thought I’d got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet”
– Changes, Bowie.

It seems that whenever a consumer product experiences a surge in popularity, as whisky has the last several years, there’s always a few brands that decide to completely overhaul their product. I suppose it’s an attempt to somehow cash in big, though often the change isn’t always for the better. Black Bottle Blended Scotch Whisky is apparently one of these brands. For a number of years, Black Bottle was one of whisky’s great values, a somewhat peaty blend that had a relatively unique flavor profile and complexity beyond its low price point. In 2013, Burn Stewart Distillers (and parent company Distell), who have owned Black Bottle since 2003, decided to re-brand the brand, giving it a new updated throwback bottle and changing the whisky inside to something more common mundane approachable…I guess.

Obviously, despite my near-constant critiquing of marketing, I am no marketing expert, but it’s hard to fathom why Burn Stewart would take a somewhat unique product and change it so drastically. Why would they try to re-formulate and re-position their brand in an already crowded field that, let’s be honest, is not renowned for its soaring quality or originality? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to play to this growing legion of whisky fans by touting it’s standout and slightly more powerful flavor profile? Perhaps there was more going on than simple marketing, perhaps it was becoming too costly to produce the blend as it was, and rather than try to succeed at a significantly higher price point, Burn Stewart opted to blend in (no pun intended) more…though they still raised the price. That’s an understandable scenario given that distilleries are being more protective of their stocks, forcing more “independent” blended whisky brands to pay higher prices for their component malts.

Who knows. It’s a moot point now anyway. At least the new flask-shaped, “black” glass, embossed bottle and old-time-y label look actually pretty great. It’s just sad to see an interesting, very affordable, great value whisky disappear as there are fewer and fewer of them out there. It was also a little sad to see Burn Stewart and Black Bottle try to drum up some enthusiasm for the new version with some odd, desperate-sounding, contradictory PR, but I guess that kind of thing is just par for the course these days.

The new Black Bottle has been created with far more Speyside/Highland, malts (no other blends doing that, right?), and far less Islay influence. The one new interesting twist is the “marrying” they’re doing in virgin American Oak casks after blending, though I’ve not read anywhere as to how long this marriage lasts. My guess is not long. Black Bottle’s new black bottle is nod back to the original Black Bottle which apparently came in a black bottle before World War I came around and it became verbotten to use the then German-made black glass. The price, which used to hover around the $20 mark has stepped up to around $25, not a huge jump, but let’s consider what’s in the bottle…

The Nose:  Youngish and sharp but not without charm. Honey, apple cobbler, raisins in rice pudding, a bit of brûléed sugar, and some malty grain. Lots of vanilla bean and cinnamon, some sawn oak, and a little clove. Just subtle hints of peat, and a barely a wisp of smoke if any, the sweetness and spice sort of wash over it.

The Palate:  Lots of brown sugars and honey initially with more of that rice pudding/crème brûlée quality. A touch of zippy citrus leads to more weighty spice than the nose held. Rough, sharp oak, grippy and tannic, greenish clove, cinnamon and black pepper. There’s definitely more peat and smoke here, but it almost seems tacked on to the end of the sip.

The Finish: Lingering, with brown sugar, cinnamon, clove initially, and tannic oak, mild peat and smoke, and little peppery bitterness towards the end.

Thoughts:  In all fairness, the new Black Bottle is not bad. It’s certainly not great. Let’s call it slightly above average. It’s definitely not what it used to be, and that, as I said, is a damn shame. It seems very young and doesn’t have a lot of depth, but it’s a drinkable blend. It’s pleasant on ice and makes a decent Rob Roy as long as you’re using good vermouth. You used to find the old, better Black Bottle for around $20, one of the great values in the Scotch world. The new Black Bottle is far less interesting and lacks a bit of maturity…but at least it’s more expensive.

Black Bottle Blended Scotch Whisky, +/-2014

40% ABV

Score:  78

Whiskey On Ice 2016

2016WhiskeyonIceLast April, Minneapolis played host to the first big whisk(e)y show held in the Twin Cities in a long time, if not ever. With its unique venue and diverse pour list, Whiskey On Ice’s inaugural run was great success. Thankfully, the event is returning in April of 2016 with another afternoon full of golden liquid sunshine to usher in the Spring.

Yes, I know, we’re barely into Fall of 2015. You may well ask why mention this now? How, you may well ask, can one expect to plan for a Spring 2016 event? There could be a foot and a half of snow on the ground. It could be sunny and 65°. It could be sunny and 65° with a foot and a half of snow in the forecast. How does one even begin to look past the holiday season and through the dark days of winter to a lone Sunday in April? One just does. Especially if one wants to attend next years Whiskey On Ice because tickets for the event just went on sale.

Here are the details for next year’s event:

Whiskey On Ice
Sunday, April 16, 2016
  -Master classes begin at 1:30
  -VIP tasting begins at 4:00
  -Main event runs from 5:00-8:00pm.
The Depot
225 South 3rd Avenue
Minneapolis, MN  55401
Tickets available here. 
VIP-$125,  General Admission-$85,  Masterclasses-$25

Bent Anchor Irish-Style Poitín – Review

BentAnchor*Thanks to BC for the sample!

Just for fun, let’s get local and let’s get weird for a moment. Here in Twin Cities, we have a great fish and chips/Irish pub food place called The Anchor Fish & Chips. We also have a fine place called Bent Brewstillery which, as you might guess, is a taproom, craft brewery and craft distillery all rolled into one. Apparently, one evening (or it could have been one morning, what the hell, you never know with these fish & chips and brewstillery types) a meeting of these two seemingly disparate minds came together and hatched a plot to collaborate on some fairly unique booze.

Bent Brewstillery took a boatload of Anchors’ high quality potato peelings, fermented them in a wash with a little molasses, and distilled it all into an Irish Poitín. Poitín, meaning “little pot” in Gaelic and pronounced pot’-cheen, is basically Irish moonshine. It’s a white spirit historically illicitly distilled from that all-important tuber, the potato. Before the “craft” distilling movement began, Poitín had pretty much been relegated to a minor cultural curiosity outside of Ireland, and perhaps even inside. With the advent of the craft distilling and smaller distilleries looking back at more obscure forms of hooch, it’s made a small comeback. Now, admittedly, I don’t know Poitín from Shinola. The only other Poitín I’ve tried was some fairly jagged, shattering stuff purchased at Bunratty Castle near Limirick, but I thought a local mash-up as odd-sounding, yet oddly logical as this was worth a try. Luckily, my friend Bill came through with a bit Bent Anchor’s Irish-Style Poitín.

The Nose:  Hot. A little sweet, and a little sour. Along with some earthy, faintly potato-esque moments, there’s a bit of light brown sugar, and a faint hint of teriyaki(?!). If you ever had the inclination to barely wash a raw, un-peeled potato, sprinkle some powdered sugar on it…and then take a big bite, this would seem to be along those lines.

The Palate:  Hot…but actually not debilitatingly so. This is surprisingly smooth. Lots of confectioners sugar, little to none of the faint sourness from the nose, and a nice subtle nod to the tubers that made this tick.

The Finish:  Fast. More powdered sugar with gentle burnt sugars lingering the longest.

Thoughts:  I don’t really have any reference point for this kind of thing. I didn’t know I needed a new way to enjoy potatoes, but I guess now I’ve got one. Bent Anchor Irish-Style Poitín was certainly fun to try, and I suppose I was pleasantly surprised at how drinkable it actually is. While the flavor profile leans much more towards sugared notes, there are enough hints of those potato peelings to keep things interesting. Definitely an entertaining collaboration from some good local folks.

Bent Anchor Irish-Style Poitín, +/-2015

40% ABV