For those that do like lists…I apologize for this one, it’s a pretty sparse, pretty unimpressive list, and probably will rank pretty high on anyone’s list of the most boring year-end lists of 2013. I enjoyed quite a bit of whisky and quite a few whisky related moments this year, but on the whole, thanks to more important real life stuff, whisky once again played a distant second (or even third or fourth) fiddle.
FAVORITE WHISKY MOMENT: Back in 2010, my wife handed me a gift-wrapped bottle of Ardbeg’s Rollercoaster and told me we were about to embark on a rollercoaster of our own because she was pregnant/knocked up/with child/gestating. This year, after our second child/money-pit/sleep-depriver was born, I decided there was no better time to open this special bottle and toast this new, little, beautiful addition to our family. My wife and I also decided there was no better time to toast the end of our population efforts…two is enough.
LEAST FAVORITE WHISKY MOMENT: Oh, there were several. Watching bottle prices steadily increase; listening to the whisky community bitch and moan and generally forget that the whisky industry is there to make money, not to make fantastic, inexpensive whisky for a relatively small group of people who probably need to get out more; shaking my head at the continued rise of the self-absorbed, mildly pathetic “investor class” of whisky aficionado who would rather hoard bottles than drink from them, and lastly, dropping my jaw over the clueless, tasteless, sexist advertising from Dewar’s (but smiling at the positive end result that a few fellow bloggers helped to bring about).
FAVORITE NEW PLACE TO BUY WHISKY: While the Twin Cities are not a huge whisky mecca by any stretch of the imagination, there are a few decent places to go bottle shopping. Over the last year,
I’ve taken my kids I’ve taken myself to several liquor stores known to have a decent whisky selection. My favorite has to be South Lyndale Liquors. There may be cheaper prices and better selections out there, but South Lyndale takes the prize for not just having a great beer/wine/spirits selection, but for having that great, plank-floored, dimly lit, old-school liquor store ambiance that you don’t find all that often anymore.
FAVORITE DRINK THAT ISN’T WHISKY: Beer. Holy shit, Minneapolis, (and Minnesota in general) you have quite the beer scene going on here. Every time I pull the car out of the garage, a new micro-brewery…sorry, craft brewery/tap room opens up. There are so many stout, bearded guys up here making fantastic beer, I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up writing a bit more about beer next year.
FAVORITE WHISKY THAT DOESN’T EXIST YET: Far North Spirits Roknar Minnesota Rye Whiskey isn’t slated to hit the shelves until late 2014, and while small-barrel, barely-aged whiskies are often looked upon with a bit of skepticism, Far North’s true grain-to-bottle farmhouse distillery has so much going for it (their delicious Solveig gin hit the shelves this December) that I wouldn’t be surprised if they surprise everyone next Christmas with a unique, quality young whisky.
FAVORITE NON-WHISKY, WHISKY-RELATED SOMETHING OR OTHER: 2013 was a year that found me more impressed by the books about whisky that came out than I was about most of the whisky that came out. There were two great books on American whiskey; Michael Veach’s Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey: An American Heritage, and Clay Risen’s American Whiskey, Bourbon & Rye, and two great books on subjects that sorely needed great books written about them; Davin de Kergommeaux’s Canadian Whisky, The Portable Expert, and Fred Minnick’s Whiskey Women: The Untold Story of How Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch & Irish Whiskey. Seriously, if you are at all serious about whisky, these four books are not to be missed. Buy them, and buy them from a local independent bookstore.
FAVORITE NON-WHISKY-RELATED EAR SPLITTING DEVICE: Norway’s incredible KVELERTAK. Perhaps these guys drink whisky, I don’t really know. Regardless, they were my favorite new (to me) band of 2013. Black metal with just the right amount of punk and arena rock. Black metal gets pretty dark (not surprisingly), Kvelertak makes black metal for those of us (or me, at least) who are generally pretty happy and just want to rock out a bit while the kids are out of the house. Ok, back to the whisky.
FAVORITE PLACE TO DRINK WHISKY IF I DECIDE TO SPLURGE AND PAY BAR PRICES TO DRINK WHISKY: Merlin’s Rest in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis. Uninspiring from the outside, serious ode to every kind of British Isles culture you can think of on the inside, Merlin’s Rest is a neighborhood pub as much as it is a British Isles hub. They have an extensive, detailed “whisky bible”, damn good pub fare, and a rollicking trivia night thanks to Bill Watkins and his delightfully booming voice.
FAVORITE “WHAT, YOU’RE NOT GOING TO MENTION YOUR FAVORITE WHISKY OF THE YEAR?” RESPONSE: “No.” Like I said, I drank a lot of excellent whisky this year, Arran’s 1st Devil’s Punchbowl, the 2013 Sazerac 18, that 22 year old Exclusive Malts Laphroaig, the Lot 40 Canadian, for example, but none of them really inspired me to single one out as being the favorite of the year. Maybe I didn’t drink enough whisky. Maybe I’ve become cynical and jaded (though those that love me would tell you it has always been thus). Maybe this year my favorite things were not whisky, how’s that?
Happy New Year, people, let’s be nicer this year.